Flying Solo At A Yoga Retreat…

Until last month I’d never been on a Yoga Retreat before. I’d worked at one – Soul & Surf, Kerala in southern India – but I hadn’t been a guest fully immersing myself in the zen.

Nor had I ever been to Ibiza. – So when my first & favourite Yoga Teacher, Steffy White, announced her 2017 summer retreat, I jumped on in.

I say ‘jumped on in’, but was probably a little more hesitant that that.

Not because I was unsure about Steffy’s yoga (I go to 2 or 3 classes with her most weeks so I know how much I love the Yang and Yin she offers). And I need zero persuasion to be get to the beach. The hesitation was the idea of going on holiday on my own…

Steffy was totally encouraging when I asked her about going at it alone and sharing a room with strangers-who-inevitably-turned-friends; reassuring that lots of people fly solo on a retreat – and that I’d be spending a week with like-minded souls, all there for a similar reason.

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So with that I booked my first ever solo holiday.

It was a totally liberating moment, knowing that I’d worked hard enough over the year to be able to treat myself to a trip that was all my own. A chance to spend hours practicing what I love doing most, delving deeper into my practice, relaxing and re-energising – and all with a teacher that I admire and really resonate with…

And of course knowing that I’d be heading off to Ibiza was pretty amazing as well!

Down to the details…

The Retreat was through Steffy’s company White Light Yoga

The theme, Journeying Through The Chakras...

Sharing Steff’s fascination with the subtle energy system of the body and the way in which we can use yoga (yin and yang) breathing and meditation to unblock and rebalance ourselves – the theme of her Ibiza retreat more than resonated with what I am (and my teaching) is about.

I recently furthered my teacher training with a 20-hour course in Mandala Flow & The Elements with The Yoga People. (I will be going on to take the full 100-hour Mandala & Shamanism Course in Goa next March). But thanks to my 20-hour introduction to Jamie and Dulce’s Mandala training, I have some understanding, and come to feel the benefit, of creating yoga and meditation practices and classes centered around the connection between each Element and its corresponding Chakra.

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My key learning from the training, and what I most looked forward to (and subsequently, absolutely loved about Steffy’s retreat) was delving into Chakra and Elemental focused yoga practice and understanding how this offers up an intention to bring healing to our first four energy centres (the lower four Chakras / the lower parts of the physical body), of which each is connected to an element (Earth, Water, Fire, Air).

I knew we would be working deeply (both physically and spiritually), to connect the breath with a still mind and the subtle energies of the body, via creatively sequenced, inspiring dynamic and soothing practices. – With a teacher I couldn’t trust and love to learn from more.

So, what was included?…

Where we stayed

We were so lucky with our villa. Steffy found the most perfect home at the stunning Casa Lakshmi Luz. Casa Lakshmi Luz is a true oasis, a heavenly space that holds the group energy, amidst the peace and tranquility of the beautiful Ibizan countryside.

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The interior is bright, spacious, welcoming and tranquil. A home from home where you can fully relax, unwind and breathe into your retreat.

Step outside onto the pool terraces and chill-out gardens and outdoor yoga deck, with Moroccan influences, there are many spaces to rest your head, siesta, relax and dream – choose from sun or shade, comfy sun lounger or colourful hammock.

Casa Lakshmi Luz is located ten minutes from the golden sands and turquoise waters of Cala Nova and only a 15 minute drive from (now) one of my most favourite beaches in the world, Benirras.

The yoga

We woke up around 7am each morning an honoured a silent hour (Vipasana) – it’s amazing. Spending the first hour of your day with yourself, in silence. Perhaps meditating, perhaps writing your journal by the pool; perhaps making yourself a giant Quinoa Milk Latte and sitting in the hazy early morning sun smiling – rather than sleepily and mindlessly chatting – to your fellow retreaters.

It’s beautiful. Peaceful smiles and morning nods of the head to acknowledge each other, while you’re with yourself and a slow morning mind as you pick up your mat, bolsters and blocks to make your way over to the stunning Shala for 2 hours of insanely amazing dynamic flow.

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I’ve tried at home to keep the Vipasana up with Jamie – just 10-15 minutes of silent acknowledgement in the mornings to meditate, set intentions for the day – and enjoy coffee in bed in peace – sometimes we manage…

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Every morning with the exception of a rest-day mid week, we practiced a two-hour dynamic, creative Vinyasa and Mandala Flow; focused on a particular chakra (moving from root to crown) connected to its corresponding element.

The classes were amazing, inspiring and pushed you (in a kind way) to try the things the mind will often tell you you can’t do – but when in the breath and an open space – the body might just take you.

We played with inversions, closed with Yin and enjoyed a long, sweaty savasana before an amazing breakfast buffet feast of plant based goodness was served.

In the evening we luxuriated into long-hold Yin practices, working with the same chakra. It was intense, soothing and hazy – quieting the mind and surrounding to a deep restorative pose for minutes at a time is the perfect balance to the morning’s yang – leaving you feeling pretty stoned.

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Steffy’s practices are creative, soulful, well prepared, fun, functional and spiritual.

The food

The food was off the chain! Staying with us was Sarah of Bondi Kitchen – who when she isn’t feeding grateful retreaters her homemade Lifechanging Loaf (a vegan, gluten free loaf using seeds), clean, raw peanut butter cups, baked granola, falafel and watermelon gazpacho; is the on-set chef for the likes of Wonder Woman – giving her that paleo power, or cooking at home for Will Smith.

We were utterly spoiled with nourishing, vegan, seasonal, plant-based, locally sourced, heavenly brunches, lunches, snacks and dinners.

The Bondi Kitchen is launching in Wholefoods soon with resealable protein balls – def worth checking out!

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Typical Schedule

  • 7.30am: Teas, coffees and juices
  • 8-10am: Dynamic Elemental flow
  • 10am: Breakfast
  • Free time: beach/nap/sunbathe/pool/journal/explore/book in for massages and therapies/ do whatever your heart desires!
  • On some of the afternoons there were optional inversion workshops, a workshop on creating your own self-practice at home, Reiki massages and a Gong bath.
  • 6-7.30pm Yin yoga
  • 7.30pm: Dinner

During the days we either chilled by the pool, visited the old town or headed to beaches to sunbath (we hired a couple of cars between us to get around). On the last night we watched the sun set with cocktails at Experimental Beach Club.

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I honestly had the best time. In the middle of the week I took myself off to Benirras beach and spent a solid 10 hours moving from sand to sea. (I had aggravated an old injury in my back so wasn’t allowed to yoga for a day).

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I think it was the first day of the entire year that I didn’t have something to do or somewhere to be and while floating around in the sea a whole lot of everything was dropped. It was my favourite day of the year. Utter bliss.

The week was amazing. I’d recommend booking onto one of Steffy’s retreats, either with friends, your lover, yourself – dropping any expectation and being open to everything you delve into on the way.

2018 Retreats will be listed here soon

 

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With specially formulated and inspiring fitness classes running from 6:30am to 8:30pm on week days and from 9:00am to 6:30pm on weekends and bank holidays; the classes at Frame are about guaranteeing incredible results with a laid-back approach, allowing you to drop by any time and try something new, or get fit by doing something you normally wouldn’t (like Bend it like Barbie or Jane Fonda style aerobics).

Frame was created to make working out fun, flexible and efficient, offering five exciting and varied signature workout classes which move seamlessly through exercises; 24 high intensity Cardio classes; eight dance classes to get fit while moving your frame to some great music; 12 yoga options serving as a tonic for your mind and body, relieving stress, tight muscles and anxiousness; 4 pilates classes including a dynamic reformer class; prenatal classes, personal training programmes, bootcamps and Frame holidays.

The dance, fitness and holistic studio is right smack-bang in the middle of the greatest two little suburbs in the entire world; Shoreditch and Queen’s Park and this piece follows part one of my month-long Frame Shoreditch review.

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After my first Saturday morning Cardio Kettlebell class, feeling smug – and the burn – I returned to Frame a week later for a second round of Cardio Kettlebell, followed by a Frame Method class.

Cardio Kettlebell is an exceptionally effective complete body workout using every muscle you have. Participants pick from a range of Kettlebell weights and to the beat of a pumping soundtrack, use the weights to wrap figures of eights round their bodies, add intensity to lunges and squats and swing their arms thin! The combination of mid intensity cardio, fast footwork, body-weight-only press ups and your kettle bells means while you definitely wake up aching, ladies need not worry about bulking up. Expect a slimmer frame and lean limbs.

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Unique to any other fitness classes I have experience, Cardio Kettlebell at Frame not only varies the cardio sequences each week, but the instructor as well; meaning this is a class your body won’t get used to and the results even more visible. Having braced myself for push-ups and to speed up my “figures of eight” after week one, the game was changed with a fast-paced lunge and squat heavy class, never without an 8kg kettle bell in hand, culminating in serious ab work.

What is consistent to Frame’s Cardio Kettlebell class, however, was the generous helping of pumping old-skool jungle, variety and attitude to keep you entertained and motivated. Lead by original instructors this class is designed to push you to your comfortable limit and generate results. That serious burn, lingering for two days post class, means that with such torn and healing muscles, calories will continue to burn in your biggest muscle group, toning your thighs for summer.

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Aided by a combination of small equipment (the ballet barre, Pilates ball, Frame cushion and a yoga strap) and utilising your own body weight. This vigorous, energetic but low-impact class takes place at the barre and on the mat. Channel your inner ballerina and expect gruelling, lengthy periods of pliés, planks and lower ab work. All your muscle groups will be targeted individually with dynamic exercises to the point of fatigue, raising your heart rate and maximizing your hour.

Founded by Pip Black and Joan Murphy, Frame Shoreditch launched in 2009, the ethos being to create a fitness space that is fun, sociable and flexible enough to fit around a hectic lifestyle.

 

As one of London’s trendiest fitness hot-spots, Frame Shoreditch, (with a second site in Queens Park) is THE place to get your fill of dance, HIIT and conditioning fitness classes, holistic practices such as Pilates and yoga, and tongue-in-cheek fitness programs, such as Bend it Like Barbie, Jane Fonda Tribute.

With an inspiring range of classes to choose from, as a Frame-moving- newbie I opted to trial all encompassing class Cardio Kettelbell. During the class participants pick from a range of Kettlebell weights and to the beat of a pumping soundtrack, use the weights to wrap figures of eights round their bodies, add intensity to lunges and squats and swing their arms thin!

The combination of mid intensity cardio, fast footwork, body-weight-only press ups and your kettle bells means while you definitely wake up aching, ladies need not worry about bulking up. Expect a slimmer frame and lean limbs.

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So taken by the satisfactory post-class burn that lingered for a couple of days, I decided to book on to the same class every Saturday morning for the next month, followed by Frame Method to report on the results.

Frame was founded by Pip Black and Joan Murphy, and launched in 2009 with the ethos being to create a fitness space that is fun, sociable and flexible enough to fit around a hectic lifestyle.

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By understanding a Londoners’ need for rat-race-proof efficiency, both the time-pressed, and beginners to the Frame way of life should start with the 5 Frame Signature classes, specially formulated to provide a selection of exciting and varied workouts which moves seamlessly through exercises.

Frame signature classes include one-stop-body-shop, Body by Frame, an hour long combination of continuous low impact cardio, interspersed with high energy intervals to lift your heart rate, boost your metabolism and shed fat; expect light weights, innovative sequences, exhausted muscles and a pumping soundtrack.

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The lively and dedicated team at Frame are completely committed to getting you incredible results, so have devised a programme of unique signature classes which combine the best of everything on offer at Frame “to give you long, lean muscles and a rather smug feeling.”

It’s not all about getting you in and out as quickly as possible, and fitness junkies may want to hang out all morning in the uber trendy, converted warehouse space with juice bar soon to come, communal hang out area and pop-up shop space selling Lulu Lemon wear, Jaxx Coco and Deliciously Ella cookbooks, nestled right into the back streets of Shoreditch.

Equally, as much onus is placed delivering classes which are designed to push you to your comfortable limit and keep you engaged, whether your ambition is to tone, gain strength, lose weight or de-stress.

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Cardio Kettlebell. On twice daily on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cardio Kettlebell is a fun, gruelling complete body workout, using every muscle you have.

With classes at the respectable time of 9:00 Saturday morning, a weekly weekend Cardio Kettlebell session in the lead up to summer may be you need to get fit for summer.

You’re going to ache the next day, but your new body will make it worthwhile!

Frame Shoreditch Address

As originally written for Mi Business Mag

 

The Green Room Restaurant Review as written for Mi Business Mag
A garden-like oasis in SE1 may sound like a paradox, but new neighbourhood restaurant, bar and garden, The Green Room, a uniquely ethical and culinary collaboration with local social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders, is just that.

This urban dining retreat, with its own stylish and sustainable garden, is housed in a beautiful, glass-walled green house, tucked behind The National Theatre on London’s Southbank.
Bringing a welcome, delicious and grassroots offering to an area too well-known for its high street restaurant chain offering, The Green Room serves up ethically-sourced British diner food in a spacious and contemporary setting.
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Mirroring the refreshingly sustainable approach to its menu, The Green Room’s eclectic, up-cycled interior makes for a stylish, eye-catching setting, featuring props and scenery recycled from National Theatre shows; in which you will enjoy good, honest food, executed well at reasonable prices.
Expect well-informed, friendly staff to guide you through a four part menu comprising, “Pick It Up,” “Knife and Fork,” “On The Side,” and “The Big Finish,” patiently on hand to take your food order as you pick on everything from paprika popcorn, through to Salt cod croquettes and Spiced salami sticks.
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Main courses include classic fanfare such as cheeseburgers with Montgomery Jack cheese, BBQ Pork Ribs and Peppercorn Steak with chunky chips. There’s also a few innovative vegetarian/vegan dishes worth trying, such as the mouth-wateringly piquant Spicy vegan sloppy Joe, rich with black beans and brought alive with jalapeños and chipotle; or the Grilled calamari with pesto and slow cooked winter vegetables.
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Accompany your mains with side dishes such as chunky chips rustling in the bowl, thus cooked to perfection, guiltily dunked in creamy coleslaw; and light, zingy English wines like Three Choirs ‘Winchcombe Downs’ from Gloucestershire’s vineyards.
If you can squeeze in dessert make it a honey sponge and cream layer cake topped with honeycomb with coffee cream. Delectable, and of course lovingly made with locally supplied National Theatre Honey; or a classic Creme Brûlée, arguably the dish any and every restaurant should be judged on…
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If the tasty and ambitious menu doesn’t leave you warm inside, then perhaps knowing that all profits from this restaurant support the National Theatre and local communities; Double the reason to both check this place out, and return again and again.
This creative, ethical and culinary hub was designed by the recently graduated architect Benjamin Marks and maintained by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust with volunteers from the theatre and local area.
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The Green Room is already gaining momentum in popularity, likely to increase over the summer when the Southbank spills with weekend visitors and guests will be able to dine alfresco on the lawn; therefore although booking ahead isn’t essential, it’s recommended to avoid disappointment.

 

 

New Year’s resolutions are supposed to be good for us; a chance to reflect on the past and a good excuse to set the bar for the year, declaring what you want for the future.

Resolutions can be tricky to keep if they are too specific or too unachievable, inevitably abandoned early in the year, so I mix up things like health aspirations and financial plans with my travel, career, photography and writing ambitions.

 

As health and seem to be a big focus for most of us in January, I have rounded-up a few reviews of my favourite workout classes across London, from the gruelling Skinny Bitch Collective, favoured by A-listers, to more calming yoga sessions at the top of The Shard, to hopefully inspire a more fun approach to exercise in 2015…

The Skinny Bitch Collective

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The Skinny Bitch Collective  is an elite, intense 50-minute circuits style class, championed by a commando squad of body con beauties including Millie Mackintosh and Suri Waterhouse. The classes involve whipping, crab walking and bear crawling and is spearheaded by personal trainer, Russell Bateman.

From January 2015, you too will be able to get in on the Skinny Bitch action as Russell launches a program of 360 online daily work out videos including signature moves from his classes (that’s crab crawling and upside down burpees) at an annual fee of £240.

While a one-off fee of £240 may appear pricy, when you compare this to the average price of a monthly gym membership (£50 / month), this is not only incredibly good value for money, but a work out you can do in your own home, using your own body weight, discipline and determination.

Barrecore

Barrecore Review Sweaty Betty Bianca Capstick www.picapicastyle.com

Born in Chelsea, and with a second site in Mayfair, in by Niki Rein, who brought her passion for barre and dance based fitness from the US over to London in November 2011; Barrecore is a ballet-Pilates hybrid focusing on isometric movements (small, pulsing motions repeated at intervals to build muscle).

Don’t be fooled by the graceful nature of the name, however! Barrecore is more single leg squats on your toes, while balancing a small squidgy ball between your glutes, and bicep curling a 1lb hand-weight in your hand, than gentle demi-pliés and stretches over a barre.

Barrecore mirros the same balletic work out techniques which gives ballerinas their enviably strong and toned physiques, using concentrated pulses and isometric holds to work those seemingly un-toneable areas – the inner thigh, glutes and lower abs. So while Reim’s regime may be grueling, it certainly achieves results.

The studios are clean, stylish and fragrant, the Mayfair site in very close proximity to Oxford Circus, with warm showers, soft towels and superbly stocked washroom (bobbles, dry shampoo, combs and hair straighteners are all at your fingertips); as you’d expect for a high end, rewarding regime that could set you back up between £250 to £2,900 annually.

The variety of memberships also include £28 for a single class, bulk class packages and newcomer special offers.

Yogasphere

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While yogis of past have tried to levitate to higher spheres, Yogasphere is literally bringing sky-high yoga to London with eight weekly classes on the 72nd floor of The Shard.

As the tallest building in Europe at a height of 1,016ft, Yogasphere at the Shard offers yoga classes with unrivalled 360 degree views of the capital’s skyline at £40 a session. If practicing yoga 800ft about London at 8:30am doesn’t wake you up, then nothing will!

Mats are provided for your use and goodie bags are given at the end of the class.

£40 advance booking

Blue Cow Yoga

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Blue Cow was created by former professionals with passion for yoga and a simple intention: to build an inclusive community within the Square Mile that’s committed to improving lives through health and wellbeing.

Blue Cow was created because the City deserves great yoga.  Yoga that’s for everybody.  Yoga that’s inclusive, accessible and fits into our busy lives no matter who we are or what we do.

Yoga taught by passionate instructors who care what makes us tick, why we’re here and what we’d love to get out of it.  Fun yoga that lifts us up and gives us a lasting slice of balance without the smells and bells.

Blue Cow Yoga is running a two-week trial for £20 in January!

 

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