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.

Yoga for Cyclists by Sally Lovett

Releasing hunched-up shoulders

While some Pashley Princesses may take a more upright seat, the majority of cyclists lean forward over their handlebars – rounding the  upper back and closing in on the chest. This folded-forward position collapses in on the lungs, making it hard to breathe a strong, full inhale and the rounding of the upper back can also create tension around the neck and shoulders – already an area susceptible to holding stress.  Try these simple yoga poses to relax and release your shoulders, open up your chest and counter-act the effects of hunching-over handlebars.

1. Simple chest stretch
Standing tall, interlace your fingers behind your back, with your palms facing towards you. Keeping your spine straight and core engaged, lift your hands away from your body. Take five deep breaths, gently trying to move the hands further away from you on every exhale. You can take this a bit further by softly bending your knees, hinging at the hips and folding into a forward bend. As you lean forward, you should able to lift your hands a bit further. Hold the forward bend for a further 5 breaths and slowly roll up to release your hands.
2. ‘Cow Face’ Arms
This pose will really release tight shoulders. If you can’t grab hold of your hands in this pose, don’t worry – you’ll still reap the benefits by using a strap, or the belt of your dressing gown will do. Standing or sitting with a straight spine, raise your right elbow in the air, so your right fingertips point down towards your waist. Your right tricep should be alongside your ear. Take your left hand behind you, with your elbow pointing down and your left fingers either locking with the right fingers, or grabbing on to the belt. Breathe here, lifting your chest and trying to keep the right elbow alongside the right ear. Hold each side for a minute.
3. Neck and shoulder rolls
Release tension and maintain motion in the neck, shoulders and upper back by gently ‘rolling’ the neck and shoulders. Take an inhale and as you exhale, lower your right ear to your right shoulder, drawing your left shoulder away from your left ear. Inhale back to centre and exhale to the left. Inhale to centre, exhale lower your chin to your chest and feel the lengthening of the back of the neck. Repeat this sequence again.On the next repetition, as you bring your right ear to your right shoulder, use the exhale to gently roll your chin towards your chest and your left ear over to your left shoulder. Continue to repeat this ‘semi circle’ movement, extending to a full ‘circle’, taking your head back and raising your chin to the air – if it feels ok with your neck.
To roll your shoulders, place your hands on your shoulders so you elbows stick out at the side. As if swimming front crawl, roll the shoulders forward and back. It’s better to let one shoulder follow the other, rather than moving both at the same time. These rotations will create synovial fluid – a natural lubricant which should prevent the joints from getting sore and stiff.
Sally is running a ‘Yoga for Cyclists’ workshop on Saturday 17th September. Quote ‘Cyclodelic’ when booking and save 10%. For details of the workshop, as well as other drop-in yoga classes Sally teaches around Hackney and Islington, visit www.stretchingthecity.com

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

 

Stretching the City with Sally Lovett

New guest blogger, cycling yoga guru Sally Lovett from ‘Stretching the City’, joins us each month with a special post on yoga for cycling.

Yoga & Cycling

While the rhythmic and repetitive motion of cycling can be deeply meditative, the downside of this action is that the continuous cylces of repetitive motion tax one set of muscles while under-utlizing the rest. So, for example – cyclists tend to have strong quads and glutes, but their hip flexors are tight and weak. By crouching towards their handlebars, cyclists can also be prone to rounded shoulders and back. Over time and distance, these can all create muscular imbalances that can lead to misalignment and injury.

But it’s not all bad news! Through dedicated yoga postures you can stretch and strengthen any problem areas and also gain a greater awareness of any niggles and injuries. Here are four ‘asanas’ (postures) you should try performing regularly after a ride:

1. Low lunge

The low lunge opens the hip flexors, which can be very tight in cyclists and the slight backbend opens up your chest and releases your upper body which is likely to be tight from hunching over your handlebars or carrying a backpack.

2. Downward Dog

One of the most recognised yoga poses, downward dog will stretch out stiff hamstrings and calves, reduce tension in the neck and elongate your spine. Push your heels to the floor and your tailbone to the sky to really increase the stretch.

3. Pigeon pose

Gradually lean your weight forward over your bent leg to enjoy this intense stretch and classic hip opener. . Don’t tolerate any knee pain in this pose – placing a cushion under the buttock of your bent leg should help.

4. Supine bound angle pose

Say goodbye to hunched handlebar syndrome and open up the chest with this supported back bend. Lie on your back with a rolled blanket or bolster under your tordo. Outstrech your arms, bring the soles of your feet together and your heels away from your groin to wherever feels comfortable. Place suport under your knees if need be. Stay here for 5-10 minutes focusing on the breath.

Yogic breathing

Yoga also helps prevent injuries simply by teaching you better body awareness. By being more body-aware, you can get into the habit of self-checks, to see how you’re holding yourself on the bike and any niggles or injuries you may be causing.

Sally Lovett is a London-based yoga teacher, teaching general and beginner level hatha yoga classes under the name of her company ‘Stretching the City.’ Students can join Sally for adhoc drop-in classes or take part in a bespoke 6 week beginners course. The next beginners course starts in Angel on Tuesday 26th October. Visit www.stretchingthecity.com for more info.