The day I signed up for Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga

It has been a while since the last post. It is time for me to catch up with posting and today I am posting about a “life experience” rather than a trip! Who knows it may give you some ideas to try it as well.

So here is the thing… I have been keeping a “life list” where I write down the experiences and trips I want to take. It is indeed very close to a bucket list, however, but as I was discussing with my better half, we agreed that a life list is a much more exciting, positive and lively name than the “bucket list”. Closing this “parenthesis” – I am getting back to the main topic of this post.

As I was living in London, I had heard so many times about “hot yoga” and its benefits, but I had never tried, until one of my colleagues found a “hot yoga” studio and invited me to join.

“Hot yoga” is better known as Bikram Yoga, and consists in a set of 26 postures sequence selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) with a humidity of 40%. The benefit is that every part of the body are worked, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.

I will always remember when I enter the room: a group of 40 people, of which a third was in swim suit, making daunting and loud breathing exercise as a warm up.As I was kindly trying to quietly lay my mat on the floor and get started for this new adventure, I just told my self :  “what have I signed up for”.

In order to feel a bit more comfortable, I looked up for the teacher. SURPRIIIISE !!!!! I crossed his look and found out this skinny man, standing on top of the stage (in a tight swim suit too) – speaking in a headset microphone, deeply inspired by “this tremendous energy in the room”. When he saw my  WHAT AM I DOING HERE look, it took him less than a second to realize I was new.

90 minutes later, after twisting my body in positions I had never thought about, and losing 5 litres of water, I proudly and happily ticked one of my “life list event”.

After this epic adventure, I came back home, drank a lot of water and got a very low key but relaxing day. The day after was a bit more challenging as I was a bit stiff – though I realized this was a hell of a great workout !!!

My situation at the time made that I was too busy to continue hot yoga, but this experience definitely triggered my curiosity and made me want to try again later. After this experience,

I liked:

  • The great deep and full workout I got after doing this 90 minutes session,
  • The idea of ticking one of the items on my list

I did not like so much:

The daunting atmosphere in the class, whereby it look a bit elitist : people with years of practice would show off, while people who were new did not look so welcome by the teacher… This made me feel quite uncomfortable as I was trying my best.

Note:

I was just unlucky, and the fact of picking a Central London Yoga club may be partly the reason why I felt as such. I joined another club outside of London and teachers are just fab : fun and chilled, walking over the room and trying to help as much as they can.

2 years after this intense experience, as I moved in a new town I found a Birkram Yoga studio and decided to try again. This time, I came in a swim suit too ( Thinking people would not notice I am a beginner… I assumed that coming dressed up like the 1st row was during my first class in London would be a great way not to be spotted as THE beginner – SMART THOUGHT ! What I did not anticipate was  that the teacher would start the class with an “Ok folks : we have a new student today… Can you raise your hand so I see where you sit?” – My subterfuge vanished 🙂 )

Anyway… I felt a bit rusty at the beginning of the class but body does not forget and by the end of the session I was able to do almost all the positions. I then decided to come over for 4 more classes and really started feeling the benefits of this practice. I love running and I noticed my cardio was getting better and better : breathing just comes naturally and I am not feeling pain at all, even after running my 10k finishing the race up a hill… Muscle recovery is also faster. The cherry on the cake : I am overall much more relaxed since I do Bikram Yoga. Breathing exercise must help for sure.

Then comes the non-visible effect – and yet probably as important as the rest. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room with mirrors at the front row so everyone can check their body alignment. For 90 minutes, it is a matter of focus, meditation and rigor: facing at yourself, twisting your body until you get to the right position. Living in a society where “selfies” and Photoshoped pictures rule the “world”, where the press and internet release pictures of girls with body proportions going beyond Mother Nature laws, the image and relation one can have towards our own body may be a tiny bit shaken up. Last week, as the class was full, I ended up taking a spot on the first row : facing the mirror. Thanks to the practice and time spent at the studio I was able to look at myself in the mirror, straight in the eyes, not feeling discomfort and appreciating the results this discipline gave me, without thinking “ Dear! I should consider buying fat free Nutella” or “ Shall I tell them their mirror is flawed… “ 🙂

In a nutshell , if you want to have fun time, get healthy and fit, try Bikram Yoga. It is a great way to get a good body and mind workout at once.

Note It goes without saying that practicing hot yoga may not be good for everybody, so make sure you are in healthy condition. I do not practice more than once per week, because I want to avoid any veins or blood circulation issue.

Last but not least, I am very well aware of some critics and lawsuits that have been associated to Bikram Choudhury ( founder of Bikram Yoga). This post is only to discuss about the practice and the benefits I found in practicing, and not to get into a discussion about the lawsuit and controversy around Bikram Choudhury. 

I hope you enjoyed it and that it gives you some motivation to try (at least for the one who have been contemplating trying : just try – you will be surprised of the results)

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (2)

Avocado SaladSo how do you feel after eating that fresh homemade Tzatziki? I bet you feel amazing, and you already start feeling the Pamela Anderson (Or Justin Beiber for you gentlemen) growing in you….

As I am very nice, and want to be part of your “transformation”, here is another 5 minutes healthy and tasty recipe: Spinach & avocado salad.

On a more serious note, I am sure some of you experienced the same as I did when growing up: having to eat disgusting mushy soggy spinach at the canteen. (The cook would keep on staring at me and doing dark eyes until I finish the last leave in the plate). Yikes. I can still feel the iron after taste… You know that delicious taste you get when the vegetables have come directly out of the can! Later on, I realized that spinach are actually very good, and can be also eaten fresh (like the recipe I am giving you today). I also realized that eating spinach would not make me have the same arms as Popeye, and I will then have to go to the body pump class on a weekly basis…

You can eat the salad for a light dinner or as a side to a white grilled meat for instance.

Recipe for 2 servings :

2 big handfuls of fresh Spinach leaves,
1 avocado,
1 tomato,
Half a red onion,
1 table spoon of sliced almonds,
The juice of half a lime,
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar,

Turn on the oven, heat at 180◦ Celsius. When hot, spread the almonds in a tray and let them roast for few minutes in the oven until they get a nice light brown color. When done, take them off the oven and let cool down.

Wash the spinach leaves. Dry them with kitchen roll.

Slice the avocado and the tomato..
Slice very thinly the red onion with a mandolin; roughly 2 mm thick.

In a salad bowl, put the spinach leaves. Add the tomato, the avocado and the lime juice.

In a bowl, mix 3 table spoon of olive oil with 1 table spoon or balsamic vinegar. Add a bit of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Mix.

Drizzle the salad with vinaigrette and toss to coat (quantity of vinaigrette depends on your taste…).

Serve immediately with a slice of toasted sourdough.

Ta-da !

Unfortunately the picture is not mine as I did not think about taking a pic of the salad when I was done… but at least there is Spinach and avocado on it 🙂

The picture is from this website: http://www.heatherlikesfood.com

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (1)

Tzatziki

As soon as Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are over, our favorite magazines, TV shows and internet sites release their first subject of the year: how to look like a mermaid (or a body builder for you gentlemen) for the next summer holidays. By that, you need to read : how to get rid off the muffin top you got last winter after eating jars of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream while watching the full seasons of “Downton Abbey”, you little lazy and weak creature ! I won’t mention the turkey, Christmas cakes, chocolates and other delicatessen you got between Thanksgiving and December 31st. 🙂

Golden rule for this challenge: If you want that amazing body, you will have to eat healthy. Ban all processed foods, cook fresh and tasteful home-made recipes. To help you, a team of nutritionists put recipes together. At that point in time, you are super excited and already see yourself wearing that amazing red bikini, highlighting your nice curves, running on the beach like Pamela Anderson (and you gents, proudly showing your 6 packs, and smiling with the brightest smile ever, ready to make all the chicks on the beach fall in love with you.)

HUM … Well… this was before you and I check the ingredients required to cook those healthy meals! After that, the mermaid/surfer look vanished and became a mirage.

SERIOUSLY, who has at home and ready to be used: chestnut flour, Jamaica pepper, purple potatoes or donkey milk ?

Do you really think that the supermarket at the corner of the street I live sells black tomatoes?

Do I look like a girl who can eat cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

And you reader, do you have time to cook a delicious home-made fresh spring roll, with a papaya salad when coming back home after an 8 hours working day ? 😉

If you can find and/or do all of the above, I admire you ! On my side, I decided to try easier recipes that require “boring” ingredients (just kidding), because tt is time to Demystify the myths of healthy food recipes. Last week I had the opportunity to try 3 recipes that were very easy and tasty. I thought I would share them with you.

The first one I am going to share with you is the Tzatziki. It is a Greek recipe, made of Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and fresh mint. It takes literally 10 minutes to do.(The other recipes will follow in future posts)

For roughly 4 people (as a starter, or 2 people for a light dinner) , you will need :

450 grams of Greek Yogurt,
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated
2 to 3 cloves of garlic crushed,
2 table spoons of fresh chopped mint,
2 table spoons of Olive oil,
The juice of half a lemon,
Salt, pepper and smoked paprika (optional, only if you like spices)

1. Wash the cucumber, peel it and deseed it. Grated it to have very thin slices (almost about to melt in a mouthful). Place the cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with salt. Set aside and allow the juices to escape.

2. Mix the yoghurt, cucumber and mint. Add the garlic, lemon and olive oil to the mix. Season with pepper. Garnish with mint and smoked paprika before serving.

Tzatziki is better when served chilled. Do not hesitate to keep it in the fridge. Sometimes it is even better the day after as all the ingredients infused in the yogurt. I served it with some toasted sourdough bread slices with a dash of olive oil on top.

PS : In all honesty, I am kidding, I am very happy about the food I got over winter, and would not starve myself just because I want to look good in a suite… instead I go to the gym so I can enjoy good food, but remain and look healthy.

The picture in the post comes from the site “Food people want”. http://www.foodpeoplewant.com

The Fabulous Baker Brothers

Fabulous Baker Brothers

Alright ! Some of you may know, I am a real foodie. Last winter, I spent many hours in front of cooking shows, as I did not get many opportunities to go outside (the blame is on the weather). I am based in UK, so I tend to follow local chefs: Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage; and a duet that is not as famous as the first ones: The Fabulous Baker Brothers (Tom & Henry).

One is a butcher the other is a baker. They travel across UK to meet with the owners of restaurants that have experienced a decline in frequentation (most of the time). During the show, those 2 guys revamp the menu, creating new recipes and revisiting some of the restaurant’s favorites. The good thing is that you can find all the recipes from the show on Channel4.co.uk website.

In this show, it is all about comfort food: easy, savory recipes made using local products.

I like the Fabulous Baker Brother because the recipes are simple, and the 2 guys cook live: so you can see step by steps how they prepare the meal. It helps demystifying cooking: thanks to it, I realized that it does not take hours to make a nice soup or bake a delicious sticky toffee pudding.

 You can find the shows and the recipes on the Channel 4 website: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-fabulous-baker-brothers

 Hope you will like it and find inspiration for the next meals you’ll cook,

The hidden power of smiling

Smiling dog

Almost every day, websites, newspapers, women magazines release “wellbeing” and “how to be happy” advices. Very popular themes. We probably glanced at one of those articles at least once in our lives. Some are real good; others are just a pretext to advertise a new product to buy. Yes, philanthropy has been superseded by capitalism in many areas.

I recently came accross an article that gives a simple and free advice on how to head towards fulfillment , and as I’ve experienced what this article is about, and experienced its benefit and sustainability, I want to share it with you.   

In The untapped power of smiling,Ron Gutman explains the power of smiling, and how this can change yours and others’ lives.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2011/03/22/the-untapped-power-of-smiling/)

Smile is an international means of communication and one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans. Smiles are cross-cultural and have the same meaning in different societies: whether you are in Europe or in a tribe in the Amazonian jungle. In 1967, Paul Ekman conducted studies in Papua New Guinea among the Fore tribe. Even if this tribe was totally disconnected and isolated from Western culture (Fore members’ were particularly known for their cannibalism rituals) – they attributed smiles to descriptions of situations in the same way you and I would. Smiling is commonly considered as an expression of joy and satisfaction.

Smiling makes me feel “lighter” but have never been able to say if it was an “impression” or if it actually happens. I found the answer to my question in this article.

In “the facial feedback response theory”, Charles Darwin explained that smiling is not only the result of us feeling good, but it also contributes to make us feel better. German researchers injected Botox to inhibit smiling muscles and used fMRI imaging to measure the brain activity before and after the injection. The results of the experiments showed that the facial movement modifies the neural processing of emotional content in the brain and were able to demonstrate that smiling stimulates the brain reward mechanism “in a way that even chocolate — a well-regarded pleasure inducer — cannot match.” (That is quite a good deal if I can be happier than when I eat chocolate without the inconvenient of putting on weight 🙂 )

Smiling is contagious. People I went to school or worked with say I am a smiley person. I do smile quite often and noticed how it positively influences my life. When I smile, people smile back and the same way, I cannot keep a straight face if someone genuinely smiles at me.

Based on the above example, once you raised a smile, the smiling effect keeps on rolling : You smile > You feel good > People smile back > Their turn to feel good…

I can give you a personal example to illustrate it. Not so long ago, we faced tough time at work. I had a chat with my boss to see the best way to overcome the challenges. Two days later, he thanked me for keeping smiling and being positive, saying that my smile kept the team going despite the turmoil. I will never forget, and consider this as the best advocate of a smile’s power. Smiling does not require much from you. In challenging time, smiling will have a much better impact than someone sulking and complaining. I do not live in Carebears world, and sometimes I feel more like punching my face against the wall than smiling but then I stop and realize that by making a small effort, I can get where I want in a less painful way for me and people around.  

If you are still doubtful about the benefits of smiling, a Penn State University study revealed that when you smile you not only appear to be more likable, but you also give the impression of being more competent. Well…If I were a recruiter, I do not want a person to look competent; I want the person to be competent. So, the way I read it is that one would probably not get a job only by smiling but may have more chances to go through the full recruiting process than others who do not smile. 🙂

 So Keep Smiling !

PS 1: I included a link with Ron Gutman’s speech at TED.

PS 2 : The picture in this post. It is Riley “the smiley dog”. The cutest I have ever seen!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/7497224/Pictures-of-the-day-22-March-2010.html

Le meilleur du pire des conseils beauté et bien-être

LADY GAGAAlors que je prenais l’avion, je me suis mise à lire le magazine “duty free” qui se trouvait sur mon siège. Au sommaire, des articles et conseils pour expliquer aux femmes comment se relaxer, être épanouie, aimée, et belle. Tout un programme ! (Oui – je suis sarcastique)

Alors que je lisais les articles, je suis restée bouche bée face à la superficialité du contenu, qui pour moi était un manque total de respect envers les femmes. Mais pour que vous puissiez juger par vous-même, je vais vous livrer quelques extraits.

Le premier article expliquait que le bien être spirituel est devenu un véritable “accessoire de mode” (???) S’en suivait une digression sur les chakras, et la façon dont ils influencent votre vie et contribuent au réalignement de votre mental avec votre physique. Je ne suis pas contre le concept, mais j’ai commencé à douter un peu de l’article quand 2 lignes plus bas il était expliqué que le meilleur moyen de parvenir à cet état était d’acheter un petit bracelet pour la modique somme de 45 euros. Ce bracelet incarne l’amour, la compassion et l’altruisme, et grâce à lui vous pourrez bénéficier de ses vertus mais également être ” tendance”. D’ailleurs si vous n’êtes pas convaincus, vous pouvez aller feuilleter Elle et Vogue : MEME Sienna Miller, Cheryl Cole, Kanye West et Jude Law l’ont adopté…On marche sur la tête! Moi qui croyais que la sagesse et le bien être étaient le fruit de la médiation, de longues heures passées à lire des écrits philosophiques ou Gandhi. Mais en fait non… Il suffit d’avoir un bracelet à 45 euros.

Après avoir compris comment être une personne équilibrée et spirituelle, j’ai tourné la page pour aborder l’étape numéro 2. Etant donné que de nombreuses stars ont créés leurs propres routines bien être : Pilate, sites dédies au bien être, création de produits cosmétiques; il semblerait que nous ne pouvons-nous y soustraire! Nous voici donc au cœur du sujet : comment rester jeune sans avoir recours aux injections ?

Quelle chance! Pour faire simple, mesdames, si vous êtes à la recherche de la jeunesse éternelle, ce n’est pas compliqué !! Il vous faut juste acheter des produits de beauté à base d’ingrédients naturels, grâce auxquels vous pourrez bénéficier des vertus de dame nature. Pas de panique si vous n’êtes pas experte, le magazine a fait une liste des produits phares : le sérum visage à 130 euros, un crème contour des yeux pour 110 euro et enfin la crème visage pour la modique somme de 166 euros. Pierre Bellemare n’aurait pas dit mieux. Mais attention ! N’oubliez pas de porter votre bracelet Chakras petites étourdies que vous êtes autrement le traitement perdrait en efficacité!!

Cet article fut la cerise sur le gâteau. Dans quel monde ce journaliste évolue? Comment peut-on écrire des choses pareilles, lorsque – simple remarque – l’Europe est en crise depuis 4 ans , les impôts et le taux de chômage ne cessent d’augmenter et les aides aux ménages sont revues à la baisse; en France nous en sommes au stade ou certains supermarchés mettent des antivols sur les barquettes de viande pour éviter qu’on ne les vole…

Est-ce de cette façon que les femmes veulent être considérées aujourd’hui? Sommes-nous réduites à dépenser sans compter pour les beaux yeux des industriels de la beauté qui utilisent la quête de la jeunesse éternelle pour accroitre leurs profits. Est-ce cette conception de la beauté que nous voulons inculquer aux adolescentes et aux jeunes filles en fleur?

La beauté consiste avant tout en l’écoute du corps et de l’esprit. Les traiter avec respect et douceur. Depuis des siècles, les femmes d’Afrique utilisent l’huile d’argan et le beurre de karité comme produits de beauté et certaines d’entre elles ont l’air plus jeune que les femmes ayant eu recours à la chirurgie ou aux injections. Le bonheur et le fait d’avoir une existence comblée ne sont pas proportionnels aux montants dépensés dans les accessoires et les produits de beauté. Tout est une question de confiance en soi. La bonne nouvelle et que nous sommes les propres maitres de notre épanouissement… Alors les filles, la balle est dans votre camp !

The best of the worst beauty & well-being advice

LADY GAGA

As I was taking the plane, I read the duty free magazine provided by the airline. In that magazine, journalists provided advice to women on how to get relaxed, fulfilled, loved, happy and pretty…what a program! (Yes you can feel the sarcasm in my ton…)

Going through the articles, I was just choked by the superficiality of the content as it was for me a lack of consideration for nowadays women. So you can judge by yourself, I am going to give you bits of the articles I read.

The first one explained that spiritual wellbeing became the ultimate accessory (???) followed by a deep dive on chakras on how they influence life and aid mental and physical alignment. I am not against that idea at all but I started to be a bit skeptical when I found out that to access this, it was recommended that you buy a 45 euros bracelet that represents the tenets of love, compassion and altruism, and “serves as both a reminder of the quest for balance and as a stylish accessory”. (if you are not convinced,  just go and check Elle magazine and Vogue… EVEN Sienna Miller, Cheryl Cole, Kanye West and Jude Law had this bracelet!)  I mean, are we serious?! I thought wisdom and wellbeing could be reached by meditating, reading inspiration books from philosophy or Gandhi… But actually you just need to have a 45 euros bracelet.

So now that I knew how to be a perfectly balanced and spiritual woman, I turned the page to tackle the second step of the challenge: how to remain young looking without using Botox or fillers. The article explained that as many stars had their own well-being habits: Pilates, lifestyle website, create their own cosmetic brand… holistic health became a “must do”, including anti-ageing beauty routine.

Lucky me! In nutshell ladies, if you want to look forever young it is not complicated!! You just have to buy some cream and cosmetics filled with nature miracle powers, and that only cost 130 euros for a facial serum, 110 euros for the eye balm, and 166 euros for the face cream ( BUT , Do not forget you chakra bracelet , you little distracted woman!! else it would not work!!)

This was the cherry on the cake. In which world does this person live, and how can one e possibly write this when –  I would gently remind that Europe has been on crisis for more than 3 years, taxes and unemployment rate keep on increasing, household subsidies got cut and in France we reached a point where some supermarkets put anti-theft tags on steaks , to make sure nobody steal them…

 Is it the way women want to be considered: cash cows for the cosmetic industry who use women’s race against ageing to build their wealth? Is this the way we want to teach teenagers and young girls what beauty and well-being is about?

Beauty is all about listening to our body and mind, treating them well with natural products. Cosmetics do not need to be expensive to be efficient. Women in North Africa have been using for ages Argan oil or Shea butter to moisturize their skin and hair and some of them look younger than stars who got fillers injections.  All that to say that beauty, happiness and fulfilled existence do not depend on the amount of money we spend on gadgets and creams. It is all about building self-confidence and accept ourselves, and nobody else than us can do it. We are the owner off our happiness.