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

Yoga Panther Tries: 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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Yoga Panther Tries: Bouldering

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When my friend first told me about bouldering I thought, “Rock climbing, but without a harness?! You’re having a giggle!” She begged me to go to a class with her, but I never did. It just didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. “I’ll stick to yoga” I said.

A couple of years passed and another friend decided to go bouldering for her birthday party. How could I miss it?

So there I was, standing in the bouldering hall at Vauxwall, having signed my life away (literally, the form says you accept that there’s a chance you may die). I had no clue where to start.

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The green holds are the easy ones, so I began with those. I managed to scramble halfway up the wall before giving up and carefully making my way down. I have to say, it seems a lot higher up than it is!

I scouted the room for more easy green routes, only to find that my friends had already made it to the top of the wall and were casually scaling the room. Well if they can do it…

Filled with confidence (and a bit of pressure) and I somehow managed to climb to the top of one of the walls. I got such a rush doing it. Now I get why people do this.

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Looking for a new challenge, we went into another room to find sloping walls galore and people hanging upside down like monkeys. I was entranced by their mad skills. It was like gravity just didn’t matter to them.

We tried a few of the tricky climbs, but failed. I did however manage to do a seated climb where you sit on the floor and pull your way up to the holds. YES arm muscles.

All in all, I was glad to have finally tried it. And I actually went back again! Along with aerial yoga, that’s two new hobbies I have now. Sweet.


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Use liquid chalk: It dries out your hands to give you more grip, as well as making your hands rough to avoid ripping the skin. I didn’t use any, so I got blisters.
  • Think ahead: Don’t just start climbing willy nilly. Look out for other people who might be traversing towards your zone and wait for them to go first.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: Mentally and physically. If you can’t get to the top first time, not to worry. And don’t try anything too risky if you’re new. There’s no shame in attempting a route and coming back down. Better than falling on your face.

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

Yoga Panther Tries: Aerial Yoga

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Imagine being enveloped in a silky hammock, completely weightless, as you float off to your happy place.

This is how I eased into the aerial yoga class at Coco Club in Hammersmith. I’d completely forgotten that I’d turned up late and flustered.

We started off with womb pose (great name). While sat in the hammock like a swing, you have to cock your leg over one strand so that you’re straddling it. You then stretch the silk out over your legs and bring your feet up in front so that your soles are touching. Like being sat on the floor, but in mid air.

By now you’re completely covered and supported by the fabric. Ridiculously cosy. Hence, womb.

I didn’t want to leave the womb.

Aerial yoga

Setting up for womb pose

As we went through a series of poses, I soon realised that aerial yoga requires core strength, coordination…and courage. More intense than classic yoga, the hammock helps you stretch further, and there’s simply more room to manoeuvre when you’re in the air.

Take bow pose. In yoga you lie on your front, reach back to grasp your ankles, and lift off. But with a hammock in the mix, you can hang upside down in the same position and let gravity pull you deeper into the stretch.

There was a lot of dangling upside down. Terrifying to begin with, but once I learnt to trust the hammock, it was so much fun.

We did reclining bound angle (see below), one-legged king pigeon (another brilliant name), queen bee and chandelier (my favourites). Definitely had Sia’s famous track in my head as we did that last one.

The only problem I had was making sure I had the hammock in the right place and spread out enough so that it didn’t dig into my waist (and boy does that hurt). After all you’re entire body weight is literally hanging by a thread.

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Reclining bound angle pose

I also had a bit of trouble getting my head around some of the poses – which limb to put where and so on. And being inverted adds an extra challenge to that.

The teacher was great though and explained exactly how to achieve each pose, or came over to help. Quite a few others were trying it for the first time too.

We ended in the best pose. Savasana. You literally COCOON yourself in the hammock whilst lying flat on your back. You can even have a gentle swing if you want. Total relaxtion.

It was such a good lesson, that I’ve been back several times since. It’s a very decent price at £15, so I treat myself every month. Proof that if you step out of your comfort zone (or ‘the womb’), you might find something you love.

“I’m gunna swing from the chandelier…I’m gunna fly like a bird through the night.” That’s going to be in my head all day.


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Don’t turn up late: It’s not like yoga where you can turn up, grab a mat and go. The teacher has to get the step ladder out and adjust your hammock to your height. So best to be there 15 minutes before the class starts.
  • Prepare to spend a lot of time upside down: Which means all the blood will rush to your head and you’ll feel a bit funny after a while. But if you can manage to stay inverted, it’s so good for you. Do make sure you recover afterwards.
  • Pay attention to instructions: It’s so important to know exactly what you’re doing. So don’t rush ahead with a pose. Watch the teacher demonstrate first and take it slowly. You wouldn’t want to land on your head.

In next week’s ‘Yoga Panther Tries’ I try my hand at bouldering…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

Yoga Panther Tries: Aerial Silks

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Aerial Silks

My hands were clinging on for dear life. Legs flailing as I tried to push myself up. My arms buckled…and I fell to the crash mat.

This is what I put myself through when I tried aerial silks at Flying Fantastic for the first time. I mean, I knew it would be hard, but for a moment I thought I’d be stuck on the floor the whole time.

Climbing up the silks probably wasn’t the best place to start the lesson. First off you need plenty of upper body strength to pull yourself up. And second, you need to know exactly how to flip the silk around your feet (without looking!) in order to execute a ‘French climb’.

I was no good at either of these.

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But once the teacher introduced us to the foot lock, and all the poses you can do, it was actually pretty fun.

Yoga definitely came in handy for the more flexible positions. We did figurehead (top of this post), which was my favourite, and some others that I can’t remember the names of…

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I soon found out that being in a foot lock really starts to pinch! I had to keep alternating my feet so that the other foot could recover. By this time my hands were also suffering from all the clenching.

Aerial Silks

The teacher said I’d get used to the pain if I kept coming to classes. As I looked around the room and saw all the pros flying about the silks, I did wish I could be as graceful as them.

But obviously not that much, as I haven’t been back.

I’m glad I tried it though!


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Wear a t-shirt: In some of the poses, the upper body is entwined in the silks, which can burn your underarms a bit if you’re wearing a vest top.
  • Be prepared for pain: Like I said, foot locks hurt. There’s also a chance of blistering on your hands from over gripping.
  • Accept that you can’t do something: Aerial silks is a very challenging form of exercise requiring strength and coordination. If you can’t do something straight away, don’t fret or push yourself too hard. Simply move on to something else.

In next week’s ‘Yoga Panther Tries’ I give aerial yoga a go…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

8 reasons why yoga is awesome

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Yoga

There’s no doubt that yoga works wonders for both your mind and body – whether it’s a morning sun salutation to energise you for the day ahead, or an evening vinyasa flow to unwind after a hard day’s work.

I’ve been an yogi for about 3 years now and it’s changed my life. Not only am I fitter, I’m less stressed and I’ve learnt to be more mindful.

Here are my top 8 reasons why yoga is awesome:

1)  It makes you bendy

All the stretching involved helps you loosen up your muscles and joints, and this becomes even more important as you get older. I’ve never been the most flexible of folk, but since I’ve started yoga I can do all sorts of cool stuff, like this ‘full wheel’ pose:

10155001_10152431681277321_1445667945298654560_n (1)2)  It gives you strength

Who needs to spend hours weightlifting in the gym when you can use your own body weight to make you strong? It’s so empowering knowing that every session I’m building up stamina and toning muscle so I can do more complex poses like ‘crow’:

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3)  It perfects your posture

If you’re a desk slave like me, you probably spend a lot of time hunched up. In yoga, a lot of poses require you to elongate your spine and bring your shoulders down. And when you apply this to your day-to-day life, you’ll be less likely to get back aches and pains.

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4)  You can do it anywhere

The best thing about yoga is you don’t need any fancy equipment. Just a yoga mat. And yourself. Sometimes you don’t even need a mat:

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5)  It improves your balance

Lots of yoga poses involve balancing. Practicing this can give you better awareness of your body as you’ll learn how to position your muscles and sense where your body needs to be. This will reduce the risk of falling on your face. And it’s not just the physical side – yoga helps you balance your mind too. It’s all about thinking positively.

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6)  It’s fun!

If you’re going to do something repeatedly, you’ve got to enjoy it. I find it so satisfying when I’m flowing into each pose, like a graceful yoga ballerina. And it’s even more rewarding when I can master more challenging poses. Each class is a step closer to that.

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7)  You can relax easier

In my evening yoga classes, I often wish I can be transported from the mat to my bed. It’s just so damn calming! A big part of yoga is learning to control your breathing – slowing it down and inhaling and exhaling deeply – which can be very meditative.

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8)  It makes you happy

“I feel crap” said no one ever after a yoga class. I always leave the session feeling amazing. That’s because yoga releases the hormone oxytocin, which floods your body with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Neat huh?

IMG_0995Namaste bitches.

Yoga panther x