Review: The Wellbeing Guide to London

wellbeing-guide

Our guest blogger and fave yoga expert Sally Lovett launched her first book at The Wildfood Cafe in Neils Yard earlier this month. We went along to raise a glass of vodka and fresh berries (naturally) and chat to a glowing crowd of London’s wellbeing experts.

As New Year’s Resolutions and detox fever sweep across the country The Wellbeing Guide to London is a must for everybody looking to achieve every day good health and relaxation within the chaos of the UK’s capital.

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“Increasingly, we Londoners are discovering that we can find our health and happiness right here right now,” says Tessa Watt founder of Slow Down London.

The Wellbeing Guide to London encourages us to do just that through it’s colourful reviews of the best organic eateries, yoga and meditation centres and studios, gyms and pools.

“The sheer abundance and variety of brilliant places featured in the guide… proves that you don’t need to escape to a spa in Thailand to unwind, nourish and revive.” Says Sally.

We couldn’t agree more!

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Priced at a healthy £10 The Wellbeing Guide to London is available to buy online here.

You can keep up to date with Sally’s top tips for wellbeing in the city @Wellbeing_LDN

Yoga for Cyclists: Back to work & back in the saddle by Stretching the City

Although a lengthy ride and blast of fresh air can be just what we need at this time of year, there’s no denying that getting back on the bike after a few weeks of festive fun can be something of a struggle. Thankfully, our guest blogger and yoga teacher, Sally Lovett from Stretching the City is here to share some yoga tips and poses for pain-free pedalling.
1. Standing forward bend
This pose lengthen out the hamstrings and gently stretches out the lower back, which can get compressed from many miles hunched over the handlebars.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and with bent knees gently fold over, hinging at the hips. Let your head drop completely, even giving it a gently shake from side to side to release your neck. Let your arms drop and fingertips rest on the floor, or alternatively grab hold of alternate elbows. Take 5 deep breaths, letting the weight of the head draw the upper body closer to the floor with every exhale. If it’s comfortable to do so on your lower back, start to lengthen the backs of the legs, raising the hips up to the ceiling. For an extra release in the lower back, sway gently from side to side with arms outstretched. Roll up super slowly, restacking the spine as you go and come to stand at the front of your mat in ‘mountain pose’.
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2. Lizard lunge 
Begin by practicing a few standard ‘runners’ lunges before graduating on to lizard lunge to really increase the flexibility and mobility of the hips. A great all-rounder for cyclist’s tight hips, lizard pose stretches the hip flexors, inner thigh and quadriceps.
Come into a lunge with your right leg forward and bent at 90 degrees so that the right knee is tracking over the ankle. Wiggle your right foot to the right and bring both hands on the inside of your right foot. Take an inhale and as you exhale, bend your elbows slightly and start to lower your shoulders – keeping both shoulders in line with oneanother. If it’s available to you, lower on to your elbows and rest your forearms on the floor. Alternatively, stay up on your hands. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat other side.
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3. Cobra
Sustaining the cycling posture of hunching forward over handlebars tightens and compresses the muscles in the back. Maintain flexibility in the spine and open up the chest with this easy back bend.
Lying face down bring your hands underneath your shoulders, so that arms are bent. Lowering your shoulders away from ears and elbows hugging into the ribs, press your hands into the floor and raise your upper body up on an inhale. Slide the shoulders down towards the waist and breathe expansively for 5 breaths using the full capacity of the lungs.
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 Sally teaches drop-in vinyasa flow and 6 week beginners yoga courses in Angel on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The next beginners yoga course starts on 14th and 16th January 2012 and has places still available. Visit www.stretchingthecity.com  for more details.

Stretching the City with Sally Lovett

Backbending for better breathing and perfect posture

Although it depends on the type of bike you ride, most of us adopt a cycling posture of leaning forward and hunching over our handlebars. This rounding of the upper back not only upsets the natural curve of your spine (leading to postural misalignment over time), but it can also inhibit your ability to breathe well. By leaning in on our chest and lungs, we tend to take shorter, more shallow breaths – rather than breathing fully and deeply for a more nourishing and energizing breath.

Try bridge pose for an invigorating back bend which will counter-stretch a hunched-over-handlebars upper back, release tension in the body and open up the chest to make more room for improved breathing.

Begin by warming up the body with a few sun salutations and standing poses. Then, lying down on your mat bend your knees and with feet flat on the floor bring your heels a few inches away from your buttocks. Take your arms down along the sides of your body and move the shoulder blades away from the ears. Press down through the feet to lift the hips away from the floor, draw the tops of the shoulders under the body and interlace the fingers. With fingers interlaced press your triceps and blades of the hand into the mat below you. Try to raise your hips higher with each exhale, keeping the knees parrallel to the hips and breath deeply to open your chest on every inhale.

Stay in the pose for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly onto the floor. Finish by hugging your knees into your chest as a counter-stretch.

Always be mindful when practicing backbends – listening to any sensations which arise and not pushing beyond your bodies limits.

If you’d like some more yoga tips for cyclists, Stretching the City will be hosting a ‘Yoga for Cyclists’ workshop from 3-4.30pm on Saturday 19thMarch at Pop Up Yoga in Angel. For more details and to book your place visit http://stretchingthecity.com/Workshops.html

 

Stretching the City – Part 2

It’s that time of year when our fair-weather friends abandon their bikes and consign themselves to a few months of cramped buses, tubes and trains. So, for those of you that are braving precarious potholes and peeling freezing fingers off your handlebars, I take my hat (or helmet) off to you – and bring you a yoga ‘sun salutation’ sequence to to keep you warm, flexible and full of energy.

Comprising of 12 flowing postures, Surya Namaskara (the sanskrit term for Sun Saluation) is performed in a single, graceful flow, whereby each movement is coordinated with the breath. It’s traditionally practiced at the beginning of each yoga session, but it can also be a fantastic practice in itself if you haven’t got time for anything else. A single round consists of two complete sequences: one for the right side of the body and the other for the left. Try and work up to five repetitions on each side – you’ll really notice the difference. Different styles of yoga perform the Sun Salutation with their own variations. However, the flow presented below covers core steps used in most styles.

Begin by standing nice and tall in ‘tadasana’. Feet are hip-width apart, spine is lengthened and arms alongside you or hands in prayer position at your heart. Take a few deep breaths here.

Inhale, raising your arms above your head and bring you palms to touch one another. Gaze up at your thumbs and gently arch your back, as feels safe.

Exhale as you bend over, folding forward at your hips. Bring your hands to the floor alongside your feet, bending your knees if necessary.

Inhale and step your right leg back into a lunge, closely followed by your left leg.

Retain the breath as you hold plank.

Lower yourself to the floor on an exhale – first lowering your knees to the floor, followed by your chin keeping your elbows pinned by your ribs and then scooping forward so your chest comes to the floor.

Inhale up to cobra, a light back bend. Use your arms to lift your torso and only bend back as far as feels comfortable and safe. Keep elbows bent.

Exhale, lifting from the hips and push yourself back into downward dog. Push away with your hands and feet – as if trying to rip the mat in two. Raise your tailbone up to the ceiling.

Inhale and step the right foot forward into a lunge.

Exhale, bringing the left foot to join the right and fold forward into a forward bend.

Inhale raising up slowly, keeping the arms extended.

Exhale, and in a slow, sweeping motion, lower your arms to the sides. End by bringing your hands up into prayer position. Repeat the sequence, stepping with the left leg.

 

If you’re keen to learn more about yoga and develop your practice, why not sign up for a 6 weeks beginners course? The course will explore the key postures, principles and philosophies of hatha yoga in a small and friendly group. Courses start in the new year in various locations around Shoreditch and Islington. Find out more and book your place here: http://stretchingthecity.com/Beginners_Courses.html

 

 

Namaste,

 

Sally x

STRETCHING THE CITY