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Pilates…I’ve Got Your Back!

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. He was a poorly child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, thus prompting his lifelong ambition to find optimum health. Joseph believed that poor breathing techniques and bad posture were the root of all health issues and started developing his training techniques through studying yoga and forms of martial arts amidst being a gymnast, diver, bodybuilder, boxer and self defence trainer at Scotland Yard. He was interned during World War 1 and provided resistance training for bedridden patients by rigging springs to bedposts, creating the first ‘reformer’ (Pilates apparatus equipment.) He stated that anyone he trained would leave stronger than when they arrived, and the influenza epidemic of 1918 which killed thousands of people but not a single one of Joseph’s trainees is a clear indication that this was a man who clearly knew his stuff.
Pilates is widely used as a popular training method for those looking to strengthen their cores, realign their bodies and elongate their silhouettes. It is popular in dance communities the world over. Joseph and his wife Clara ran their studio from the exclusive New York City Ballet. Many dancers had inadvertently been practicing Pilates without realising it! It was first used by Rudolf Von Laban and Hanya Holmand and is still used in their techniques today.
Physiotherapists refer patients as some of the movements treat certain back ailments, though programmes are obviously tailored to suit each individual’s needs. As a vast percentage of spinal issues are caused by lifestyle (sitting for long periods, carrying heavy bags on one shoulder etc) the act of realigning posture and bringing the body back into balance is a simple way to stop backache becoming a pain in the a*s! The body is worked biomechanically through it’s natural range of movement, targeting areas which are sometimes neglected through more compound work or no work at all!
I first wondered into fitness myself upon discovering that I had scoliosis (an ‘s’ shaped curvature of the spine.) A brace wasn’t an option for me and the surgery would have involved breaking then resetting my back with a 50% chance of paralysis. As I’d always harboured dreams of becoming a dancer and was quite partial to being able to walk, I decided to explore other avenues. I used to experience excruciating pain in the lower back and my clothes hang slightly longer on one side, but for the most part I am 99% ok which I can live quite happily with. As a Pilates instructor I have witnessed many times my participants increase strength and mobility and eliminate pain to the point that they no longer need osteopaths or chiropractors. Again, everybody is different and Pilates needs to be modified for people with disc problems. I advise people with neck problems to sleep flat with no pillow so that the neck is in alignment with the spine. Sciatica sufferers would benefit from sleeping on their sides with a pillow between their knees to keep their hips stacked and parallel, releasing pressure on the lower back. Supplements such as Glucosamine Sulphate strengthen the joints and mimic what is naturally inside the body. It is a sugar found in and around the tissues and fluids that cushion the joints. Arnica oil is a homeopathic muscle relaxant which rapidly eases aches and tension. As does a long hot bath. Enjoy.

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Yogaaaaagh!!! And breathe…✌️❤️

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Some Like It Hot! Bikram Yoga 🔥✌️❤️

So what is hot yoga? More traditionally referred to as Bikram yoga (a type of hatha yoga) which is a series of 26 poses or postures (asana) and 2 breathing exercises (Pranayama) performed in a studio heated typically to 40 C (105 F) or over. There are different types of hot yoga classes to choose from. Power yoga is either in a Vinyasa or Ashtanga style and synchronises movement with breath and is more dynamic.
Vin Yin is power yoga followed by Yin yoga postures which are usually performed seated to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system aids digestion allowing the body to replenish and recover and slows the heart rate which reduces stress levels. This is also where a chemical called acetylcholine is produced which is the key to relaxation.
Flow styles demand more stamina and participants learn and use a breathing technique called ‘ujjayi’ breath.
With the ever increasing demands placed upon us by everyday life, never before has it been more important for us to learn how to de stress and relax. The simple art of breathing slowly, deeply and evenly has an instant calming effect on the body and the mind and is a form of meditation in itself.
There is no ego in yoga so you work at your own pace and take rest in ‘child’s pose’ should you need to. Some of the many benefits of hot yoga versus normal yoga are increased deep stretches (though some argue that muscles are artificially and therefore overstretched due to the increased heat, I would say as in all fitness classes, observe your body and don’t overdo it) detoxification through heightened perspiration, increased oxygenated blood to every part of your body and an increased production of white blood cells making the body efficient in fighting infections. Yoga fuses the body and mind and raises awareness on the emotional, physical and psychological levels. It enables a deeper understanding of self. You learn the art of ‘surrender’ and how to be connected in the present moment without the mind racing to the future or the past. We are , after all human ‘beings,’ not human ‘should be doings!’ By giving yourself kindness and permission to relax and just be it becomes easier to extend this quality to others. At least, that’s been one of my many benefits.
Be sure to hydrate yourself before, during and after a class. Electrolytes (vital salts) are lost during hot yoga classes due to excessive sweating so be sure to have a potassium rich post workout meal or snack and include banana, green leafy vegetables, avocados or coconut water.
And breathe…

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Vegetarian

Go Vege ✌️❤️

One of the things clients often say to me is, ‘I’d love to be a vegetarian but I can’t live without meat.’
More and more people are turning their backs on the meat and dairy industries, be it for health or ethical reasons or to make a stand against animal cruelty.
The meat industry is a large contributor to global warming and deforestation which is required to breed the copious amounts of cattle required for their meat and milk. The toxins from gas emissions in excessive animal waste are one of the biggest contributors to diminishing the ozone layer.
Take away the ethical fact for a moment that all living things deserve a life and not a hellish existence, animal meat and produce is often pumped full of steroids and antibiotics. It’s long been known that cutting meat from your diet reduces the risk of cancers, heart problems, diabetes and high cholesterol to name just a few illnesses.
Vegan bodybuilders prove time and time again with their amazing physiques that protein can be readily obtained from fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains, completely dispelling the myth that meat equals muscle.
It’s also cheaper to fill your weekly shopping basket with ‘blood free’ produce where the only thing slashed is your bill!
I appreciate that the thought of jumping from fully fledged carnivore to vegan can be a little daunting at first. Many people transition by first going ‘pescatarian’ (diet excludes meat and poultry but includes fish and dairy) ‘vegetarian’ (no meat or fish, sometimes dairy) and work up to ‘vegan’ (no meat, fish or dairy.) There are many delicious alternatives. Try swapping milk with almond, rice, coconut or soya milk. All of your favourite meat dishes can be made using Quorn (contains egg white and milk protein) which is a good starting point. I have often cooked chilli, ‘sausage’ dishes, ‘chicken’ curries and spaghetti bolognese for my carnivore friends who didn’t even realise that they weren’t eating meat!
As an animal activist I love the fact that being vege saves approximately 95 animals a year. As a wise man once said, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’
Here is a chilli with quinoa (high protein grain which is an excellent alternative to rice) ‘chicken’ honey mustard pitta, ‘chicken’ curry with quinoa, and ‘sausage’ sweet potato hotpot.

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Exercise – my drug of choice. Let’s get high!

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The Weight Is Over…

Ok, so your hips don’t lie but the scales do! Check out approximately 5 lbs of fat on the left versus 5 lbs of muscle on the right.
Scales also don’t show you what percentage of the overall weight is fat, muscle, water or skeletal.
Use a tape measure or do a weekly trouser test instead for a more motivating way to track your progress!
For more fitness tips, recipes and workouts get your copy of my fitness book ‘Can’t Fry Me Love’ now at Amazon or Smashwords on the following links:

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Every Inch A Woman 💄💋

Kiss And Make Up (The ‘F’ Word)

Feminism. The ‘F’ word. There, I said it. Whilst we have come a long way since the Suffragette’s movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, sometimes it feels like the costumes have changed but we haven’t progressed at all. Women still have to fight for their place at the proverbial table (after laying it lovingly with food that they have bought and prepared themselves and then clean up afterwards.)
‘Bring Back Our Girls’ – a terrifying unthinkable plight for some who weren’t lucky enough to be born into the ‘free world.’ Did we actually bring back the girls or merely move on to the next celebrity fuelled headline after a few weeks of tut tutting and saying how awful it was? Out of media sight, out of mind?
The lenient judgement in the Oscar Pistorious trial for the murder – sorry – ‘culpable homicide’ of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
O.J Simpson flashback anyone? Are we to derive from this that those with enough money are quite literally a law unto themselves, or that a woman’s life is simply not as valuable as a man’s?
Let’s move onto India where the Indian minister Narendra Modi said that rape is ‘sometimes right, sometimes wrong.’ A rather dismissive attitude for an official to have in a country where two girls were gang raped and hung from a tree. Not to mention the seven year old who met the same fate back in July, and those are just the cases that we are aware of.
Acid attacks are highly reported in this part of the world (acid is thrown into the victim’s face resulting in disfiguration, blindness and even death.)
Mercy killings, female circumcision, domestic violence – the list goes on.
We are blessed to live in a country where we have a voice to vote and say what we like, and pretty much do what we like. Nowhere is completely without it’s problems.
Dressing a certain way will always evoke stereo typical statements and pre judgement. Of course there is a time and a place for everything, but is it fair that women are subjected to lewd comments made on a misguided judgement that she is ‘gagging for it’ if either her skirt is too short or top is too low? Why is it that women in some industries are still paid less than men even though they are just as qualified (and sometimes more based on my experiences and that of some of my friends?) Why do women have to fight harder for the same rights and need to prove themselves time and time again? It’s a lose lose situation that doesn’t leave a nice taste in one’s mouth when such assertion earns a woman the title of either a venomous bitch or a man hating lesbian, and a man is merely ‘motivated’ and usually rewarded for his efforts.
The saddest part for me is that whilst we will happily sign petitions and donate to help our sisters abroad or over here, on a daily level it sometimes feels like there is little solidarity or love in the sisterhood. Has society set us up to be intolerant of each other re the life choices we make and in general, and have we played right into their hands? As a thirty something single woman I have chosen and derived from my earlier mistakes that I would rather be single than to settle in an unfulfilling relationship. You would think that not adding to an already overpopulated planet just for the sake of ticking motherhood of your life’s ‘to do’ list would be commended, but no. Apparently if you are happy, positive and living your life as a single woman without the need to cling to either a man or a baby, you have a missing gene and are some kind of misfit. Whatever you have achieved on a personal or professional level is disregarded with a sympathetic, and let’s be honest, somewhat patronising, ‘Oh, are you still single?’ thus wiping out any kudos you may have had in one fell swoop. When did London turn into Noah’s Ark with this compulsion for everyone to walk in the rain two by two? I, and many women like me, have realised that our identity is not tied up in a relationship.
We are branded with our names from the off, firstly by our fathers and then by our husbands. Women who don’t get married are titled Miss and are spinsters but a Mr’s a Mr the whole of his life. Hashtag, go Ms!
My life is not a distraction to fill time that I will drop as soon as the ‘right man’ comes along. If you look at the stats, most households are single, but rather than rebound from relationship to relationship I’d rather wait for the real thing. Again, an honourable trait you would think. Wrong! Why aren’t I dating? Don’t I want to meet someone? Of course. Do I want to waste my time in an unhealthy environment with no longevity? Hmmm…
Understandably men are confused by the mixed signals of feminism and equal rights but it’s as simple as this. I would like to have my own opinion and still have the door held open for me. I take pride in my appearance but applying lip gloss doesn’t slash my iq level or the ability for my brain to function. I can be tough because I’ve had to be. In the same way that men can feel emasculated in today’s society, women can also feel stripped of their femininity in a world where it’s compulsory to fight, because sadly only the strong survive.
I think that Marilyn Monroe was probably the greatest business woman ever. She poo – poo – pee – doo’d her way into our hearts and had enough savvy to mix her sex appeal with a vulnerable, (not so) dumb blonde persona, thus making her a ‘single’ threat. Everyone knows that you can’t be beautiful AND smart AND talented, right? There’s always a ‘Surely she slept with someone to get that promotion,’ or ‘Everything was handed to her on a plate,’ or some other negative connotation for those women that ‘have it all.’ And the worse perpetrators of such allegations? Other women! In some cases, whilst the above may be true, for the vast majority of us it isn’t. So come on ladies. Let’s kiss and make up. There’s enough hate in the world without us adding to it. We’re better than that. I personally would like to see feminism working for all of us in terms of equality and rights, based on capabilities and not gender, race or anything else. But just like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll worry about that tomorrow…
That clink you just heard was me jumping off my soapbox and landing in my stilettos. I paid for them myself.

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