Yoga Panther tries to ‘Just Breathe’

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Yoga Panther tries to 'Just Breathe'

I stared into her eyes for what seemed like eternity. A far-off chuckle caused a ripple effect and soon a cacophony of guffaws filled the British Museum – ourselves included. This proved just how contagious laughter is, and that gazing into a stranger’s eyes in a room of almost 1000 people for 4 minutes is bloody difficult!

Now I’m not great with eye contact – I don’t think I’ve even stared into my boyfriend’s eyes for more than 10 seconds. So when spiritual gangster and leader of the session, Michael James Wong, asked us to ‘do a bit of eye-gazing’, I was filled with dread.

But after composing myself, and going through a few more Mexican waves of nervous laughter, I managed to settle in. I noticed my companion’s perfectly winged eyeliner, her neatly applied mascara and finally her eyes themselves. Afterwards a few people spoke out about their experiences, which ranged from feeling like a rock, to bursting into tears.

Not what I was expecting when I came along to the 8th Grand Gathering from Just Breathe London. I thought we’d just receive some wise words and finish with a meditation.

But no.

As Michael explained, we were going to be human for the night. Something we’ve forgotten how to do in this digital age, especially in the city. We were going to connect with total strangers on a deep level. And that meant putting our phones away and getting quite intimate with people we’d just met.

(Spot my ugly mug at 1.03)

“What lights up your life?”

As we walked into the impressive venue, we were asked to write down our answer to the above question. After finding a cushion to perch on, among the sea of fellow humans, our first task was to turn to a stranger and explain what we wrote. Sounds easy, but it’s amazing how fast we defaulted to discussing our day jobs.

“What do you need to let go of?”

Another exercise involved getting into a group of people we hadn’t spoken to yet and talking about what we could do without. A couple of common themes were ‘worrying’ and ‘self-criticism’. We vowed to go more easy on ourselves and chill out a bit!

Just breathe

Finally, we ended with the meditation (what a relief!). We all sat back to back, so we were physically connected with our neighbours. We used the mantra ‘Just breathe’ – which served as both something to focus on, as well as a reminder to pay attention to our breath.

During the evening we were also treated to beautiful singing, gorgeous piano playing – both emphasised by the British Museums’s excellent acoustics – and immersive dancing. All of which brought us truly into the moment. I left feeling very human and connected with the community.

We need more ‘big talk’

After our group discussion, we agreed that we needed to apply our learnings. Life can sometimes be a tide of small talk, so using exercises that get us to share our hopes and fears, our passions and our weaknesses, would make us more open and better connected.

I dare you to ask your friends, family and colleagues, ‘What are your dreams?’ and ‘What holds you back in life?’ and let the human interaction unfold.

Yoga Panther tries to 'Just Breathe'

You can get tickets for the next Grand Gathering at the British Museum on Monday 18 June – I’d book sooner rather than later as they tend to sell out.

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

 

Top 6 matcha lattes in London

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This guilt-free beverage has been painting Instagram green over the past few years. Those who know me will have noticed I’m partial to obsessed with matcha tea. When I quit coffee 3 years ago, I needed something to fill the void. That’s when this delicious green nectar came along.

If you’re new to matcha or want to know more, read my post 8 ways matcha makes your life better.

Now that’s all cleared up, here are the top 6 places to get your matcha fix. There’s also a handy matcha map of London at the bottom, so you can plot your next latte.

1. The Arty One
Timber Yard: Seven Dials
£3.40

Just look at that frothy masterpiece. TimberYard’s sumptuous specimen has the perfect ratio of matcha to milk and can be quaffed with soya or almond if you prefer. Curl up on a sofa chair of your choice and they’ll bring you your matcha latte on a wooden slab, with a bottle of tap water. The only negative is this cafe is a hotspot for freelancers, so be prepared to sit elbow to elbow at its busiest times.

2. The One of Many Colours
Farm Girl: Portobello, Chelsea and Soho
£3.70 (£4.10 for hibiscus or butterfly lattes)

Before I get distracted by all the pretty colours, Farm Girl’s matcha latte is made with organic Japanese matcha powder and tastes perfectly creamy with almond milk. Although not technically matcha, why not try their blue ‘butterfly latte’, made from the dried flowers of a butterfly pea plant? Or their pink ‘hibiscus latte’? The downside of the Portobello cafe is there’s usually a queue (they don’t take reservations), but it’s definitely worth the wait.

3. The Trendy One
Palm Vaults: Hackney Central and Soho
£3.50

Palm Vaults do take reservations, and they’re essential. The first time I rocked up to a full house and had to ‘make do’ with a matcha to go – a very respectable latte served in a seriously trendy cup. Palm Vaults is definitely the most Instagrammable on this list, with their retro theme and pink and green colour scheme. The next best thing to their matcha is their Thai butterfly tea named ‘blue moon’. Or if you’re caffeine fiend, try one of their colourful coffees like their ‘red velvet latte’ or ‘violet latte’.

4. The Authentic One
Lagu: Clapham
£2.70

Imagine a Japanese restaurant, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It has a minimalist vibe with an air of calm. The owner of this gem, Atsuko Inoue, was inspired by her father and grandfather who ran a hotel in Tokyo. So of course an authentic establishment such as this would make a mean matcha – and very reasonably priced. Be sure to try some of their matcha ice cream while you’re here.

5. The Specialist One
Tsujiri: Chinatown and Soho
£4 (£4.80 for O-matcha)

If you’re matcha mad like me, Tsujiri is a must. From sundaes to shaved ice, it’s the only place I’ve come across selling exclusively matcha products (and a bit of mochi). Their latte is mouth-wateringly good, as you’d expect, but for a taste of the tea houses of Japan, sample their more traditional option. The ‘O-matcha’ – I can only assume the ‘O’ means ‘original’ – is prepared with ceremonial grade matcha from Uji, Kyoto (the good stuff). There’s no milk in it, so only attempt if you appreciate its bitterness.

6. The One
Tombo: South Kensington, Fitzrovia and Soho
£3.85

This is my absolute favourite. An utterly divine matcha. And you get quite a lot of latte for your money. Tombo’s extensive list of matcha treats rivals Tsujiri’s, but also brings cake to the table. The matcha gateau is something else. You can also enjoy a Japanese take on afternoon tea, with an tantalising selection of sushi and matcha desserts. To top it off, it has a warm, friendly vibe and exquisite Japanese food.


Why are you still here? Go get yourself some matcha…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

What happened when I tried a 30-day yoga challenge

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Yoga is an education in the human spirit. Yoga is not about the perfect pose. Yoga is about waking up to the truth of who you really are.

– Kino MacGregor

I recently completed the ‘30 day yoga living challenge‘ set by yoga goddess Kino MacGregor. I feel partly accomplished, partly relieved.

The challenge

A healthy habitual task with free yoga? Count me in. It involved 26 online yoga classes from OmStars – the ‘Netflix for yogis’ co-founded by Kino.

She led one session a week, while the rest were taught by a plethora of brilliant yoga teachers on OmStars. The other four days were rest days, which included nutritious recipes and meditation.

As well as the actual yoga, you had to take a photo of yourself in the pose of the day and pop it on Instagram.

Here’s how I got on:

Week 1

It started off nice and easy – there was even a spot of chair yoga. And with minimal plans in January (because Dry Jan) it wasn’t hard to keep up the daily classes. Having a different yoga teacher every day, and focusing on something new every day, really kept things interesting. So far, so good.

Week 2

From yummy yin yoga, to calming the vagus nerve (never heard of it either), things were still fairly gentle. I found the encouragement from my friends and the yoga community on Instagram very motivational. I also connected with as many of the teachers as I could – and some of them even reached out to me too. Such a supportive, soulful tribe are the yogis.

Week 3

Things definitely ramped up. I hit a metaphorical wall during a really hard power yoga session. I wondered how I would keep this going for 2 more weeks. That all changed later in the week; I tried some new poses I never knew I could do, and made great progress with headstand. This was all inspired by Koya Webb on day 19, who said:

Just give yourself permission to go further whenever you’re ready. So you’re always moving forward in your yoga practice…and in your life.

Week 4

The experience level jumped massively with six sweaty days of Ashtanga yoga. Kino eased us in with a shorter session, introducing the concept of ‘one move for one breath’. But as the week went on, the classes got longer, the pace picked up, and the asanas became more advanced. I attempted some of the poses beyond my level, but mainly I just gave up and gazed at the screen, in awe. These ‘encouraging’ words from by David Robson on day 26 really sum up how taxing it got:

1…2…let the suffering in…3…don’t try to pretend, 4, 5.

It’s supposed to be hard…1…no one’s ever died here!…2…but it feels like it might happen right?…3…just stay with that feeling…4…5.

Week 5

I didn’t complete the last few Ashtanga classes. I physically had nothing left. The only session I did this week was meditation. But what an experience it was. Dennis Hunter‘s loving-kindness guided visualisation was so emotional that I had tears running down my cheeks. I still carried on with the photo challenge, despite not doing the classes. For the grand finale, I did a headstand without the wall – for the first time ever!


What I learnt

  • Sticking to one healthy habit helps you stick to others: Throughout the yoga challenge, I also meditated and wrote in my diary every day, got up earlier and ate healthily. The structure helped me develop a good routine, which I’ve managed to keep up since. Self-discipline is just like a muscle – you need to exercise it.
  • Perseverance is key: To begin with, I looked forward to my daily dose of asanas. But when things got harder, and life got in the way, the yoga started to become a chore. But I kept at it. Even if I couldn’t practice one day, I caught up the next. I was so glad I did, because now I feel stronger, more flexible and happier than ever.
  • The importance of listening to your body: During Ashtanga week, I was so achey I just had to give myself chance to rest. And since finishing, my hip has been hurting a bit, so I’ve been a lot more mindful of hip-openers. Even in group classes where I often feel the need to push myself harder, I’ll take good old child’s pose whenever I need to. Yoga is for you, not for anyone else.

Thinking of taking on a yoga challenge?

If you get chance to take part in one, I definitely recommend it. Not only will you improve your practice and reap the benefits of yoga (read 8 reasons why yoga is awesome), you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Much like a yoga retreat, but in the comfort of your home.

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

 

8 ways matcha makes your life better

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If you’ve never tried it before, I know what you’re thinking…

‘What exactly is this green goo?’

You know green tea? Well matcha is its wholesome, powdered companion. Instead of chopping up and infusing with hot water, the green tea leaves are ground into a delicate powder. When mixed with water, you get the same goodness as you would drinking 10 cups of regular green tea. That’s because you’re ingesting the entire leaf, not just the watery dregs.

Made uniquely in Japan, this miracle elixir has been part of their culture for hundreds of years. It’s no coincidence that the Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world. Now we’ve caught on, it’s becoming the top superfood across the globe.

Premium grade matcha powder I bought in Kyoto (the real deal)

‘What makes it so special?’

The green tea leaves are grown in the shade, so they produce lots of chlorophyll, giving them their characteristic green colour. That means they’re absolutely bursting with nutrients. The luscious young leaves are picked, steamed, air dried, de-stemmed and ground on stone grinding wheels. It’s a tireless process, which the Japanese have been perfecting over the past 1000 years.

‘Why should I drink it?’

People say you should always eat your greens, so why shouldn’t you drink your greens too? Basically: it’s ridiculously good for you.

   1. Boosts energy

It contains caffeine, but not nearly as much as coffee. Combined with its other nutrients, this makes you feel energised and focused throughout the day. So no jitters or afternoon slumps.

   2. Helps you relax

L-Theanine, an amino acid in matcha, produces dopamine and serotonin. This helps to calm your mind without making you feel drowsy. Fun fact: Buddhist monks drink matcha to help with meditation as it keeps them alert yet calm.

   3. Detoxes

The high concentration of chlorophyll helps flush chemicals out of your body.

   4. Stimulates metabolism

Drinking matcha can help your body burn calories four times faster than normal, with no negative side-effects.

   5. Anti-ages

It’s loaded with antioxidants (137 times more than green tea and 17 times more than blueberries). These reduce inflammation, to help you look and feel younger.

   6. Fights cancer

It’s the best source of catechins (a type of antioxidant), specifically EGCg, which is widely known for its cancer-fighting properties.

   7. Strengthens the immune system

It provides plenty of potassium, vitamins A & C, iron, protein, and calcium. The catechins in matcha have also been shown to have antibiotic properties.

   8. It tastes good

Matcha’s distinctive leafy flavour is tasty on its tod, lovely as a latte, and can even be added to desserts for guilt-free gluttony.

‘Where can I get some?!’

We can’t all go galavanting off to Kyoto for ceremonial grade matcha. But you can buy reasonably priced powder from Wholefoods, Holland and Barratt and plenty of online retailers. My favourites are Clearspring and Teapigs:

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Go traditional and get this 40g pack of powder for £10.99 (whisk sold separately) at Clearspring

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To make a matcha latte, get this kit for £23.20 at Teapigs

Or…you could just go and buy a cup someone else has made. There are plenty of places in London to get you matcha fix. Stay tuned for my ‘Top 6 matcha lattes in London’ post…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

2017: A year of firsts

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It’s that time of year again. A time to reflect on the past 12 months and make resolutions for the New Year. My year has been a whirlwind of new stuff: I’ve entered unknown territories, tried things for the first time, and discovered new exhibitions and conventions in London.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt from all this, it’s that trying new things opens your mind to other cultures, different ways of thinking, and can be a great source of inspiration. Doing new things that scare you, in particular, can challenge you to confront your fears. Often our fears are based on the unknown or misconceptions, but it can actually turn out to be really exciting if you just take the leap.

Here are some of my highlights…

New experiences

Learnt to swing on a flying trapeze

I never dreamed I’d be flying around on a trapeze this year. But one of my friends had tried it before and took me with her…so I just went for it. Here’s the post I wrote about the whole terrifying (yet amazing) ordeal at Gorilla Circus.

Face your fears with flying trapeze

Learnt to ride a horse

Here’s another thing I’d always been too scared to do. But on a trip to Loch Ness with my friends who’d ridden before, I thought I’d give it a go. I was in safe hands riding ‘Bilbo’ – one of Highland Riding Centre‘s most docile horses. After a quick lesson, we were off on a trek! And once I’d got the hang of it, it was actually quite relaxing riding around in the beautiful Scottish highlands.

Tried mermaid pose

I’ve reached the stage where I don’t need to master every pose to enjoy my yoga practice. Just the simple fact that I’m breathing in the moment, thinking of nothing else, is enough for me. Trying a new asana is just a by-product of turning up to the yoga studio. That’s how mermaid pose happened…

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Tried bubble waffles

Also known as egg waffles, this Hong Kong delicacy became one of the top food trends of 2017, with stores popping up all over London. I went for Hatch Waffles in Soho and had them with matcha ice cream, red beans and mochi – very filling but absolutely delicious.

Tried making sushi

I was lucky enough to win an Instagram giveaway for this Clearspring Luxury Japanese Sushi Kit, so I made sure it was put to good use…

New holidays

Liverpool

This was an eventful one. Our journey there was almost thwarted by Storm Doris – instead of a three-hour train journey, it took us an entire day. But that didn’t stop us from packing in The Beatles Story, Albert Dock, The Cavern Club and creative hub the Bluecoat. We even found matcha lattes at Leaf, snuggled up with cocktails in Cosy Club and danced the night away in Alma De Cuba – a Brazilian club inside an 18th-century church!

Budapest

A raving recommendation from a friend lead us to splash out on the world-famous Hotel Gellért with its Art Nouveaux style and extravagant spa. Think ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. We spent a fair amount of time bathing in its delicious thermal pools, before soaking in the Széchenyi Baths across town. Out of the water, we also explored the Jewish Quarter, the ‘ruin bar’ Szimpla Kert, and took a boat up the Danube to the picturesque Margaret Island.

Scotland

Starting in Edinburgh, we ticked off tourist spots like the castle and Diagon House (Harry Potter shop), spent a day enjoying free comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, and scaled Arthur’s Seat. A few of us then went on a road trip up to Loch Ness; we arrived at nightfall and woke up to a spectacular view of the loch itself. Here we went waterfall chasing, horse riding (see above) and Nessie spotting on the lake. On the last night we even made a camp fire, and I may have taken a dip in the water…

Ibiza

My friend and I popped our Ibiza cherries with a relaxing break in Cala Llonga. The average guest age at our hotel was about 40, but we thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet. The Palladium Hotel Cala Llonga is built into the cove itself, so has a stunning view of the sea at all times. But it wouldn’t be Ibiza without partying, so of course we went to see Kygo play at Ushuaia.

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Florida

Okay I may have been to Orlando a few times before, but this was the first time with my boyfriend. And so much has changed, it was almost a different place. What with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (truly magical!); the recently built water park, Volcano Bay (awesome); and the new Pandora area in Animal Kingdom (absolutely amazing). Another scary first was driving a hire car – an automatic – on the other side of the road. So weird.

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New conventions

Fare Healthy

The Truman Brewery on Brick Lane played host to this festival of all things food, fitness and wellbeing. I enjoyed a hilariously fun class from the Boys of Yoga, heard some inspiring talks from the pros and picked up plenty of healthy freebies and matcha goodies.

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First ever Comic Con

When I found out that my idol, director and podcaster Kevin Smith, was coming to the UK, I had to get tickets to the London Film and Comic Con. Not only did we get to see him do a live podcast with Scott Mosier, we actually got to meet him!

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First cosplay at Comic Con

Having enjoyed the first one so much, we returned dressed in cosplay. I was such a geek about it I planned my costume months in advance…and spent a pretty penny on all the paraphernalia. My favourite part of the day was all the kids waving at me – and the little girl who wanted to take a selfie with me made my day. Thanks again to the guy who turned my cosplay photo into fan art…

 

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New exhibitions

Orchid Festival

On my first ever visit to Kew Gardens, I went for the annual Orchid Festival. This year’s display took inspiration from India, with flowers arranged in the shape of peacocks, elephants and tigers. Oh my!

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Art of the Brick – DC Superheroes

Who knew you could make such beautiful comic book art out of Lego? From Aquaman in the bath (or you could say ‘in his element’) to Superman in flight, the exhibits were absolutely bricktacular.

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The Fan Museum

This Greenwich attraction was the venue for my friend’s birthday – and what a hidden gem it is. After admiring a range of ornate and imaginative fans, we had a spot of afternoon tea in the Orangery, with its beautifully painted murals.

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Adventures in Moominland

This experiential exhibition at Southbank Centre was made even more special by the fact that photography was prohibited. It now exists only in my mind. After literally stepping inside a Moomin story book, our enthusiastic and knowledgable guide took us on an immersive journey through Moominland, punctuated along the way with various original sketches and artefacts.

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Japanese House

As a lover of all things Japanese, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the culture at this Barbican exhibition. It was a satisfying combination of perfect diaramas, both miniature and life size. And, as someone who’s in the process of decluttering, I was totally inspired by the minimalism – a carefully placed plant or trinket can be all you need to decorate a space.

New Year’s Resolutions: blog more often and write shorter posts…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

Face your fears with flying trapeze

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Face your fears with flying trapeze

I have never been so frightened of doing something in my whole life. Entire body shaking, I slowly make my way up the cold metal ladder.

“I’m really scared! I’m not ready!” I protest, as I shuffle along the tiny platform. I realise just how high up I am when I have to put my feet partially over the ledge.

Up until now, I’ve been fairly confident in this Level 1 class with Gorilla Circus Flying Trapeze School, volunteering myself first to try the trick on a low bar. But that assurance has long gone now that heights are involved.

“Grab the bar with your right hand…and now the left,” says the trainer next to me. I reluctantly obey, still trembling. “Now push your hips forwards,” she says – and I have to trust that she’ll hold on to me.

When the other trainer shouts up to me “READY” – it’s not a question – it’s a command. I bend my knees and prepare to jump off the edge.

The next order is “HUP!” which means jump NOW. I hesitate for a second, and step off the platform, clinging on to the trapeze for dear life as it swings down and up, and then backwards. Meanwhile, I let out a piercing wail of pure terror, which lasts a few oscillations.

I don’t hear the orders the trainers shout at me, even after I stop screaming. All I focus on is my heart racing, my fast breathing, and the daunting sensation of being pulled back and forth, while seeing the cavernous warehouse whiz past. It feels so high.

Eventually I remember I need to do something, so I let go and collapse into the net. The impact is minimal though, because I’m wearing a harness and the trainer is supporting my weight; falling isn’t that scary after all.

“The first is for fear, the second is for fun”

That’s what one of the trainers told me when I got back on the ground. This filled me with determination to try the trick again (and maybe even enjoy it?), now that I’d got that out of my system.

It’s psychological, after all. Once you’ve conquered the fear, you can do anything. When I got back up on the platform, I said “Let’s try again. I’m going to do this!”

And I did…

Trick 1: Leg hold 


This goes to show you can get a lot done when you focus on the task at hand. It felt so surreal, but I just followed the instructions, and somehow my legs made it up and over the trapeze. I just had to trust that the trainer (and gravity) would help me out.

You can see that I get a bit disorientated and almost bring my legs down the wrong way – I blame being upside down. It felt so unnatural.

But I got such a rush when it was over. There was also a second part to this trick involving a tuck and backflip dismount. I never managed to get my head around that one…

Trick 2: Leg hold, legs off


This was the next step to learning the final catch trick. It was quite disconcerting to be told to just “unhook your legs from the bar”, but in fact it was quite easy, especially now I’d got into it and wasn’t afraid of falling.

Trick 3: Leg hold and catch!


And there you have it – I successfully completed the catch on my first try! What a feeling. I couldn’t quite believe it when I was suddenly dangling from the trainer’s wrists.

I definitely recommend giving this a go if you want to face your own fears, or if you’re simply after your next ‘high’.


3 great things about this class

  1. Excellent trainers: They gave really clear instructions and had a healthy throw-you-in-at-the-deep-end approach. After each jump, they gave constructive feedback and were very encouraging.
  2. Lovely students: I’ve never felt so positive after a class. The more experienced students were really supportive and everyone would clap if you successfully completed a trick.
  3. An amazing, unique experience: There really is nothing like flying through the air on a trapeze. And if you get lots of videos, they serve as great mementos (and proof) of the crazy thing you’ve just done.

3 things to be prepared for

  1. Body aches: The next day I ached in places I’ve never ached before (chest, arm pits and knee pits?). As I’m writing this it’s 4 days later and I STILL ache. Make sure you warm up and warm down with some full body stretches to minimise this.
  2. Blisters: My hands were very sore afterwards and probably would have blistered if I hadn’t used chalk. I also broke the skin a bit on the back of my right knee. Bruising can also occur. But don’t let that put you off. It’s totally worth it!
  3. Getting the bug for flying: Now that I’ve progressed to Level 2, I’m already planning my next class. Highly addictive.

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

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