Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No I'm not a bin man, I'm a bloody Yoga Teacher!

So apparently the NHS have this idea that if they give everyone between 40 and 60 a health check then it will scare a few of the unhealthier amongst us to get their act together and sort out their diet and exercise habits, therefore alieviating the strain on the NHS in the long run.

Its definitely an option that I wanted to take advantage of so I signed up, as did my Sister and my Brother. Louisa and Matt had their MOTs last week and were pretty happy with the results, no sign of the dreaded diabetes, low cholestoral, normal bood pressure and average BMI.
Of course, they are both healthy eaters who exercise regularly and keep an eye on their weight.

I had mine yesterday...

Well, first of all, I had to fill in a form. It was a box ticking type effort!

Do you cycle more or less than 3 hours a week? How many hours a week do you spend doing housework, less than  10? Is it more than 5 hours that you spend gardening per week? How active is your job? Very active ie: bin man, not very active ie: office worker?

Are you thinking what I was thinking...How relevant is this to my life exactly? I am not a bin man, I don't own a bike and housework is not my strong point!

Anyway, after filling in the form, the nurse arrived to collect me. So at that point I should have realised what a joke this was. The nurse would have made Aretha Franklin look like a waif! A tiny lady, as round as she was tall, who I had to wait for at the top of the stairs as she puffed and panted and waddled to what must have seemed the peak of Everest to her.

Was she really the best the surgery could drag up to convince people that their health was a priority?

After practically falling into her extra wide chair and perusing my form the nurse peered at me through her sallow complexion and stringy hair and announced that I was moderately active!


Mrs dance/dynamic yoga teacher who teaches over 20 classes a week, 5 of them lolloping around like a loony persuading 6 year olds that skips need pointed feet, 3 of them sweating my bollocks off in a hot studio and the rest jumping in and out of flows and postures in between moving bodies into good alignment, plus my own personal practice.

"Yes Ms Free, but you see, you ticked the boxes saying you don't cycle anywhere and you don't do any housework, so that puts you on the lower end of the active scale"
After several minutes explaining that even though I didn't work on the bins, my job was incredibly active and hearing her tell me that she was svery surprised when she had the same result in her own test (shocker!) despite the fact that she walked up and down stairs daily, I gave up. She did however concede to doctor the results as a favour!!!!!!!

Ok so then there was weighing (I almost had to threaten to confiscate the nurse's bacon buttie if she told me what I weighed. I spent nearly ten years as a dancer being weighed weekly and it stressed me out so much that I vowed as soon as I didnt have a weigh-in clause written into my contract I would never weigh again!) and height. She measured me at not quite 5'5""! Another bit of comedy as when I got home I got the tape measure out and I was 5'7" again!

So once all the figures were plugged into the terribly crude and un-sophisticated NHS software (CentraStage you should be planning your NHS attack!) it turns out that I have a 1.4% chance of having a heart attack in the next ten years.


I know I have been a little harsh on the good old NHS but in theory, I do think these health check ups are a good idea.
We should all be taking responsibility for our own health and not eating ourselves into a hospital bed or even a coffin prematurely.

If you are in the UK and over 40 then go and get a general check up. You may be surprised at the results (or at the very least, surprised at the amount of fat nurses) and it could give you a chance either to chill a little bit knowing you are in good shape after all, or it may just give you that kick up the bum that you need to get yourself fighting fit again. And let me just say that doesn't mean a six pack and killer biceps, it means you get up and move about to get your heart racing a couple of times a week; it means you  have a healthy and balanced diet with more fresh produce and less processed food, it means taking time to analyse your lifestyle and find time for you once in a while rather than the billion other things you do for everyone else!

Think about it Freedom Lovers.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I was reading an article recently about people's favourite yoga postures.
Well, when I say people, I don't mean the likes of you and me, humble earthly people but you know, those Karmically committed, super bendy, awesomely strong, raw food eating, Kirtan performing, flip flop wearing, sutra spouting, fantastically famous, cool fizzin, international yoga teachers. The likes of Jason Crandell, Amy Ippoliti and Kathryn Budig.
Now these inspirational teachers and contributors to the article from Yoga Glo, surprisingly weren't all about the really bloody hard poses that they float into without a care in the world, that Jo Blow can only dream about but in fact they are having love affairs with some fairly ordinary postures. Jason Crandell was digging Dancers Pose (with the help of a belt), Tiffany Cruikshank is all over Warrior II, Noah Maze rocks out in Downward Facing Dog, and my favourite of all, kathryn Budig whose adverts for ToeSox make you just want to roll up your yoga mat forever, loves Savasana more than any other pose.
I am so happy that they didn't all say, "well actually I love the one where you wrap your leg round your head whilst balancing on one hand and tucking the opposite knee into your armpit, you know the one, hardasf*#kasana!"
Because lets face it we all have a most hated and an equally most loved pose. I think my most hated is Dancers Pose. Ironic, I always think as I have been a dancer my whole life! I find it so challenging, trying to keep your working hip down and relaxed through your shoulders all the while pressing your foot back into your hand, lifting your thigh and feeling like at some point you should really breathe but if you do you will probably collapse in a heap on your mat!
And my most favourite, lets see, probably a wide leg forward bend. I always feel so stretched in this posture with long backs of the legs, sitting bones drawing away from each other, and the weight of your head allowing you to come a little closer to the floor, feeling a big opening from tailbone to crown and butt to heels. A really great stretch!
OK so seeing that in black and white and knowing my body, its easy to see why I hate Dancers Pose and why I love a forward bend. I have a rubbish back and stiff shoulders but super long hamstrings and achilles. Its a dream to do hamstring stretches, I 'm good at them! My back on the other hand is not my best asset, and dancers pose is all about the heart opening back bend.
Aha, so I think my mission this summer solstice, a time of personal reflection on the past and thoughts of your journey into the future, is to start to embrace my physical limitations and learn to love and therefore get the most out of the poses that I am not so "good" at!
Here I come, Camel. Beware Bow. Watch out  ghomukasana and marchyasana 1, 2 3 and 4 or how ever many hundreds of variations of you there are.
Having said all of that, out of every posture that I have been rocking this year I am struggling most with handstand, yet not once have I stuck two fingers up at it and fallen out of friends with it. Handstand is super challenging and frustrating and I don't know if I will ever be able to hold it for more than 2 seconds, but I will never stop my romance with this incredible asana!
How about you?
Whats your fave?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Red String of Fate

Have any of you been  watching the new American TV show "Touch"?

Love it...well, loved it! I watched the big 2 part season finale last night and it was a goodie!

OK so let me explain for those of  you who have no idea what I am gibbering on about.

"Touch" is about a Father, Martyn Bohm (played by Mr 24 himself!) and his son, Jake. They live in New York City and Jake's Mother died on 9/11 in the Twin Towers. Jake is emotionally challenged has never spoken and communicates only with numbers. The story goes, (and be open minded here people because it sounds whacky) that Jake can predict the future through these number sequences. Well, more specifically, the series of number are like a map that his Father follows to make events happen, perhaps to bring people together or even to avert disaster. The numbers connect people and events across the world, each one effecting the next and allowing for generally wonderful and positive outcomes.

Of course your first reaction is of the "incredible coincidences". For example the encounter Martyn has with a firefighter in a train station caused the fireman to miss his train but meant that he was right there when a bus full of school children overturned and was able to save them. It turns out that this was the same guy who had carried Jake's Mother down thirty flights of the world Trade Centre during the attack in 2001.

Of course as the series continues, you realise that what you are being told is that they aren't coincidences at all but alludes to the interconnectivity of humanity as envisioned by the Chinese legend of the red string of fate, whereby actions, seen and unseen, can change the fate of people across the globe for the better. Jake is supposedly one of the few who can feel the pain of the universe and is able to take action to relieve that pain.

FASCINATING, albeit incredibly complicated.

The Red String of Fate or the Red Thread of Destiny got me thinking. According to this myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to meet each other in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way.
This is a bit like soul mates in Western thinking. But that is mainly thought of as a romantic involvment and I think this goes further than that. All the encounters we have whether minor or major can have a bearing on how our day/month/life turns out. Work, relationships, you name it!
I think it means that whatever road we take, our destiny is already predetermined. You know when you say things like "Well, if I hadn't done that then I would never have met X"? Now I think that it was probably your destiny, your fate to meet X and that would have happened no matter what road you had travelled. And "X" could be a lover or a complete stranger!

Pretty interesting right?

I am also inclined to believe that everyone you meet is there to teach you something. Whether it is a positive or a negative something. Its the knowledge we need to take us onward in our journey.

So the next time you find yourself saying, "Bloody hell, that was a waste of time!" or "I wish I had never met him/her!" remember the red string and Jake and Martyn Bohm and keep moving forward, grateful for the unseen forces in the universe, wondering where that next piece of the puzzle fits in!