A recent study has found that women are actually better drivers (ahem, take that sexist jokes), and now new research suggests that when it comes to stamina, women outrank men – and by a pretty considerable margin.
The study from the University of Columbia asked seventeen participants – nine women and eight men – to flex one foot two hundred times as quickly as they possibly could.
The results showed that while the men appeared to be stronger and faster, they became fatigued a lot quicker than women.
One author of the study, Professor Brian Dalton, said: ‘We’ve known for some time that women are less fatigable than men during isometric muscle tests – static exercises where joints don’t move, such as holding a weight – but we wanted to find out if that’s true during more dynamic and practical everyday movements.
‘And the answer is pretty definitive: women can outlast men by a wide margin.’
He explained that while the test was only carried out using participants feet, the stamina theory applies to the whole body.
‘We know from previous research that for events like ultra-trail running, males may complete them faster but females are considerably less tired by the end,’ he continued.
It’s popular in continental Europe, but what is it – and how does it work?
Sophrology isn’t exactly a word that rolls of the tongue, but it’s a term that’s growing in popularity. Why? Because we live in an age where ‘wellness’ reigns supreme – on Instagram with the yoga pros and their impossible back bends; in cafes and juice bars where spirulina smoothies are a staple; in gyms where it’s commonplace to flip tyres and drop fifty burpees.
But the buzzword also encompasses mental health and the idea that we should be looking after our minds. Last year, a study published on MentalHealth.org revealed that 74% of UK adults admit they’ve felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Anxiety UK reports that more than one in ten people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. The 2017 Great British Bedtime Report by Sleep Council showed that only 26% of Brits get the recommended seven hours kip a night.
While there are various treatments and medications available to those who suffer from stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, more and more people are taking a holistic approach to their health – whether it’s using an app like Headspace, reading the best self-help books or taking up yoga.
And sophrology falls into that category.
The sister to mindfulness and meditation, this practice promises to clear and de-stress the mind using a combination of powerful relaxation techniques. A bold claim, indeed.
As someone who practices yoga and meditation regularly, I was intrigued when I heard about sophrology. What is this practice that is being touted as ‘the new mindfulness’? Does it really work? And what exactly does a sophrology session feel like?
To find out more, I spoke to Sophrologist, Wellness Expert and author, Dominique Antiglio.
What is sophrology?
‘It’s a practice for self-development and stress management,’ she tells me.
‘It’s a guided practice, so it makes it much easier for people who have difficulty meditating or staying in silence and focusing the mind. You’re guided through a state of relaxation through breathing exercises, visualisation, body awareness exercises and a type of meditation – so it’s a unique combination of those practices and everything has been designed so that you can tap into your inner resources and bring more awareness to who you are.’
Essentially, the practice is a combination of body, mind and breath awareness which also incorporates physical movement. It’s designed to clear the mind, relax the body, calm your breathing, and focus on connecting all three.
But that sounds rather similar to mindfulness and meditation, I hear you saying. So – what’s the difference?
Difference between mindfulness and sophrology
Mindfulness, meditation, sophrology – isn’t it all just the same thing with three different names?
‘The first difference between mindfulness and sophrology is the aspect of performance. The other one is about positivity,’ Dominique explains.
‘Sophrology is not only learning to be non-judgemental and to look for positive resources – like being more confident, for example. People who practice a lot of sophrology become more positive. They learn to listen to more positive sensations within themselves.
‘We do visualisation to go in the past and look for positive experiences. We don’t often do that; the past is often about the things that have gone wrong and not the things that have gone well, so that aspect of positivity and the fact we work with the future and the past and the present is also a specificity to sophrology.’
Mindfulness encourages you to be more present, to really be aware of everything you can see, touch, hear, smell and taste. If sophrology also involves bringing awareness to the body, why isn’t it the same thing?
‘One aspect is body awareness. We talk a lot about body sensation in sophrology – movement, breath – so all the practices from level 1 to 12 are informed by how you feel in the body, and you learn to dive more and more into the most subtle awareness of the different systems in your body. That’s how you increase your awareness – because you get to know your body in much more depth.
‘The body has got everything, all our good and bad experiences – it’s all stored. So if you know how to access that then you can also release old emotions that you don’t need anymore and program yourself differently for certain situations.’
Instead of being a mindfulness practice, it is actually more meditative and focuses on slowing down the mind. However, where meditation is about silence stillness, sophrology incorporates physical movements, visualisation and is guided.
‘That can be much more relaxing because you know you’re going to be taken through certain steps in a session so a lot of my clients find it much easier than mindfulness,’ she continues.
‘When we meditate it’s extremely difficult sometimes to focus the mind and to let go to be that neutral observer. So we have a step by step practice where we do meditation sitting before being guided into different visualisations, coupled with the awareness of the body and simple moves.
‘The way you’re guided makes you aware of the energy of the mind rather than the sensation in the body.’
Who is sophrology for?
‘People who suffer with anxiety, sleeplessness and stress are the three main types of clients I see. That’s where people start,’ Dominique informs me.
‘Perhaps they have analysed why and how they get stressed, but maybe they haven’t found a tool to actually deal with it.
‘It’s also great for people who are working on self development and lack a real tool to move forward. It’s good for people who are preparing for big events – a competition, speech, interview, giving birth – and I often have people preparing their wedding speech, they are so nervous! It doesn’t have to be used for something catastrophic. It can also be used for a positive day so you can enjoy it and let go of the fear.
‘Sports people on the continent have used sophrology a lot – golfer Seve Ballesteros studied with Alfonso Caycedo (the founder of sophrology), tennis player Yannick Noah, the Swiss ski team prepare with sophrology – it has been really endorsed since the 70s.’
How does a sophrology session work?
‘Usually the client explains the situation and then I tailor a practice to them that’s really connected to what they’re looking for.
‘What is the resource that they’re trying to increase within themselves? Maybe it’s calm, maybe it’s recuperation, maybe it’s confidence, may it’s to have better sleep. Then I tailor a practice and record it as I guide them and send the recording to them so they can practice between sessions. Then next time we add more tools.
‘The method has been created to unveil and to show the resource needed, so it’s a very clever way of working and if people practice they get results. It’s quite mathematic. If you do just one session it’s nice it’s relaxing, teaching a few simple techniques with the breath, but the more you practice it’s like anything – the deeper you go, the more in flow you become in your life.’
So what happens during a sophrology session?
I headed to 58 South Molton Street Wellbeing Centre, London, for an appointment with Dominique. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or if it would detangle the many things going on in my head. I had work deadlines coming out of my ears, I was organising a trip to Australia for my best friend’s wedding and to top it all off I had just been ghosted. My mind was a chaotic jumble.
But before we get started, Dominique explains what will happen.
‘Everything you do is practical and the practice usually starts with relaxation through a body scan. You can practice it standing or sitting, and then we have a set of three exercises that we start with. There is the body scan, the clearing breath and the activation of your tuning into your vital power – which is what I call it in my book.
‘After a body scan you change your position and use the tips of your fingers and connect with different parts of the body, which we call systems. We have five, and once we have located tension or blockages in our bodies we use the breath to clear it through each system.
‘Then we will sit back again, relax and welcome the positive intention. Perhaps it’s calm we need, perhaps it’s joy, perhaps it’s feeling more grounded, or confidence, or energy, and as we learn to couple that positive intention with the breath, we also connect the breath with the body.’
Once I know what’s about to happen, I get comfy and Dominique instructs me to move my thumb to the middle of my eyes before closing them. What follows is a guided scan of the body to become aware of where the tension lies, and a combination of guided movements – placing my fingers on my forehead, neck, chest, stomach and belly button; standing up; flapping my shoulders and co-ordinating my breath. Finally, she instructs me to sit back down and the visualisation comes into play as I imagine my favourite comfort place (Cottesloe beach, Perth – FYI).
Does sophrology work?
After twenty minutes, I open my eyes and am instantly aware of how light I feel. Dominique even comments that I slipped into the relaxation really easily (which I feel pretty smug about, not going to lie).
So did it work?
For me, yes, it did. My mind felt clearer, my body felt softer. Leaving the clinic, I felt a renewed sense of calm which I managed to maintain – even while trekking home on the overcrowded Central Line.
However, I can also see how it might not be for everyone. Guided practice can feel either comforting or uncomfortable, depending on how easy you find it to relax and let go with someone else present. The physical nature of the session may also feel a little embarrassing for some (wiggling your shoulders with your eyes closed in front of a stranger isn’t something you do every day), and trying to halt niggling thoughts can feel impossible if it’s the first time you’ve tried it.
But overall I would definitely recommend a session to anyone who is interested in using an alternative method of relaxation. Just try it once, see if it’s for you – and if you’d prefer to go it alone, then you can always teach yourself at home.
How to learn sophrology
There are twelve levels of practice, Dominique tells me.
‘You start with this foundation practice, and then you can dive into level one. That has to do with standing work, so in this state of relaxation we usually stand and we start to activate the different systems with movement – for example a head rotation while we hold the breath, a shoulder pump or arm rotation, or some walking movements. We tune into each system of the body and we activate them so it brings more awareness. People who are stressed aren’t connected to their body, they are all in the mind, all in the future, all in the past, and they’re not able to feel and connect perhaps through that state of stress they feel.
‘It’s very quick, it’s very efficient, it’s all about being aware of these movements and noticing sensations as they arise.
‘Then level two is all about the mind, so once you’re grounded in your body and you know your body better you’ve created some positive sensations through the practice and you’re ready to discover the mind.
‘And then level three we bring the two together. We have more practices with different postures, it comes from the zen Buddhist practice, and we do other exercises that bring the two components together. It’s about learning to understand through experience what the mind body connection is, and how you can use it in your daily life.’
But if you’re someone who doesn’t have time to get to a clinic and practice sophrology with a guide, there’s good news – you can also practice it at home. In The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, Dominique shares her wisdom so that anyone can become familiar with the practice, and once you have the correct tools it’s easy to implement them in your daily life.
‘I show all the five core principles of sophrology and readers will be taken through a simple step-by-step journey of ten minute practices,’ she says.
‘By the end of the book they’ve already practiced the foundation and level 1, and some ‘super tools’ I call them, which are practices I tailored for the most common issues I see in my practice. They focus on sleep, confidence and success, and you’ll see every time it’s only 10 to 12 minutes. I think in these days of stress your practice shouldn’t have to be too long, and you can extend – but as a starting point ten minutes is enough.’
To book an appointment, or for more information about Dominique’s online sophrology course, visit www.be-sophro.com.
To mark the release of Rudolf Nureyev biopic, The White Crow, Victoria Fell started four weeks of intensive ballet training – and the results were amazing
Surprising fact: I never attended a ballet class as a child. As a slightly more robust kid, I gravitated more towards climbing trees and pony camp, where I spent rainy afternoons eating packed lunches in old caravans.
So ballet, which is often a rite of passage for young girls was something I never got into: no tutu, no pink tights, none of those impossibly tidy hair buns. Apart from a two-month foray into the world of classical dance at the age of 11 when I had ambitions of becoming a musical theatre sensation, my experience with the art form is zero.
Which is why when offered the chance to train with Bennet Gartside, I jété’d (sorry, not sorry) at the chance. A Principal Character Artist of The Royal Ballet, who also runs Everybody Ballet, Bennet coached Ralph Fiennes leading up to the production of his new film based on the life of ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev, The White Crow, so that he could get a better understanding of the art form. Safe to say then, that I would be in good hands.
Would I be sugar plum failure, or would it turn out that ballet was the pastime I was born to do? Only time would tell.
Week 1, Day 1
I am anxiously lurking outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and I’m pretty sure that at this point, I’m the personification of imposter syndrome. However, Bennet is an absolute pro at making even the most inexperienced beginner (me) feel welcome. We start with the first few basic positions of arms, then move on to legs, and I am immediately using muscles that have pretty much lain dormant for the last 26 years, AND using them all simultaneously. By the end, I had managed a plié and learned what turnout is, and how important it is. Not bad for Day 1.
My first picture – it might look like I am merely standing on my tiptoes, but I am thinking about at least 6 different posture-related matters at this point.
Week 1, Day 2
Ballet takes mental, as well as physical strength, and the fact that I’m up at 6.30am to do a class before work proves this. After a quick warm-up, today we ventured into the realms of tendus and battements – the latter involving lifting your leg off the floor. It’s so much harder than it looks, and I feel a wave of pride when I manage to bring my straight leg and pointed-ish toe to the heady heights of about 5cm off the floor.
Post-class, I am raring to go for the work day ahead. Outside of classes, I’ve also started thinking about my posture more – the muscles in my back are frankly, killing me, but I already feel that I am sitting and standing more upright.
Week 2, Day 1
The muscles in my back are finally back to normal, but the fact that it’s taken a week is a pretty worrying sign of how bad my posture actually was before. Today’s class was filled with jétés, battements, and even the odd grand battement, but the most fascinating thing for me has been seeing how my body has responded to the training. Bennet has been catering for an old injury in my left knee (I sledged into a wall on a Norwegian mountain aged 9, as one does), yet ballet is the only sport I’ve undertaken where my left leg has a noticeably weaker side… it’s no exaggeration to say that ballet uses every muscle.
Big thank you to the team at Bloch, who put up with my many questions about ballet shoes and have the most social media-friendly packaging ever.
Week 2, Day 2
Today we moved away from the safety of the barre into no man’s land, where we worked on jumps, and this is some serious cardio. Thankfully, having played netball at school definitely helps with the jumping, however the muscle memory for flailing my arms around (interception queen) also remains, which isn’t particularly balletic.
Leaving the class, I felt pretty positive about my new-and-improved posture, but then I see actual Royal Ballet company members gliding into the studio incomprehensibly gracefully as I leave, and realise that I definitely need to keep on practising.
Week 3, Day 1
Today we faced a milestone in my ballet training: the pirouette. However, like most things in ballet, the effortless appearance of these spins is very, very deceptive. The checklist of muscles to keep engaged is lengthier than usual, so means that pirouette prep takes a lesson – there is balancing, there is turnout, there are toes that need to be pointed. This element of ballet is as much as a cerebral workout as it is a physical one, and I’ve noticed that the mornings where I have my ballet lessons before work are often the most productive.
Attempting an arabesque (note the intense concentration).
Week 3, Day 2
Last lesson’s prep came to fruition today… well, sort of. I spun, and I spotted and I almost succeeded at a pirouette (again, see the Marie Claire Insta channel for the evidence). I don’t think I’ll be able to master pirouettes by the end of the challenge, but trying to is amusing enough.
From the way my clothes are fitting me, I am seeing the toning effects of ballet first-hand. This is only with two sessions a week: imagine what the professionals go through, working and training six days a week.
Week 4, Day 1
The final week is here. The pirouettes are still as hard as they were the week before, but my muscle memory has developed to the point where the mental checklist of muscles to squeeze and tighten is being ticked off so much quicker than at the beginning.
Today also saw me attempt what can only be described as ‘speed tendus’, which illustrates the general position I find myself in with ballet, where my mind understands what I need to do but my body just won’t play ball. Having said that, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my stamina and my consistency, which makes doing 14 of these moves in a row a fraction easier.
Week 4, Day 2
We went all out for our last sessions: think jumps, think turns, think chassés across the diagonal of the floor. All this in The Clore Studio, an incredible rehearsal and performance space in the Royal Opera House, which has hosted such names as Princess Margaret in the audience… no pressure then.
An hour of putting what I’d learned into action, and the mental checklist that I went through with every balance and tendu was getting quicker and quicker. It’s also probably rose-tinted glasses, but in this session, it felt like I was able to balance for longer and could lift my legs higher and more accurately than even the session before. And with a final chassé smiling at my imaginary Royal audience, our final lesson was over.
The Clore Studio
So, what did I learn?
Even in four weeks, a lot. Firstly, a huge thanks to Bennet Gartside, whose knowledge and patience made what could have been a fairly embarrassing challenge (I am that clumsy) so much fun. Post-challenge, my posture is noticeably better and I have so much more awareness of what each muscle in my body controls and is capable of doing: even something as simple as trying to stand in the middle of a tube carriage during rush hour without taking anyone out is easier.
Add on to this a somehow even greater respect for just how intense ballet is, and just how much effort it takes to make an art form so intensely difficult look so breathtakingly easy, and I’m sold.
If you’ve got a dog, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like a snuggle on the sofa while binge watching Queer Eye and eating your body weight in Easter eggs (yes, the official day isn’t for a good few weeks but who’s to say you can’t get your chocolate fix early?).
But back to dog talk. We love them. If you take a look at the best alternative festivals of 2019, there’s even a dog event (called Dogstival, naturally) that sounds like an absolute dream. Plus, they look adorable when they’re sleeping, our entire camera roll is basically delfies, and they give the best cuddles.
The latest scientific study by Dr. Christy L. Hoffman, a professor in Animal Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation at Canisius College in New York tracked sleeping habits to find out whether sleeping next to a pet affects women’s sleep patterns.
And the results showed that those who slept next to a dog reported a better, more restful sleep than those who slept next to a cat, or another human. Apparently, dogs are less disruptive and we experience feelings of comfort and security when cuddling a pet pooch.
Dr. Hoffman told Broadly that the ‘keyword here is perception, this study is based on individuals self-reporting how they feel their sleep is affected.’
She added that it is ‘important to note that this is based on aggregated data and an average of responses, so getting a dog won’t solve everyone’s sleep problems.’
If you haven’t got a dog, don’t worry – this is probably the most perfect excuse to get one.
Superdrug has announced that they will be offering their customers free breast cancer checks and consultations in stores, and they have become the first high street shop to do so.
As part of a new partnership with breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!, they’ll be rolling out the new service from Tuesday 20th March across their 56 in-store health clinics nationwide. After pre-booking an appointment, customers can talk to a trained nurse who will be on hand to advise them how to check their breasts for cancer symptoms.
For anyone who is unsure – or doesn’t feel confident – examining themselves, it’s an opportunity to learn how to check your breasts properly and be able to spot anything that isn’t quite right. The nurses, who have been trained by CoppaFeel!, offer non-contact breast cancer checks, instead offering support and advice so that you will be able to check yourself regularly at home.
Superdrug surveyed 2,000 women and found that a staggering 82% of participants didn’t feel comfortable talking about any changes they noticed when it comes to their breasts. They hope that the new service will support over 100,000 women in the first year.
Sophie Dopierala, Director of Education and Health Comms at CoppaFeel! said: ‘Our annual research shows for most women who aren’t checking their breasts, knowledge on what to look for remains the main barrier.
‘We are delighted to announce our partnership with Superdrug. Using their trained nurses to encourage people on how to check their boobs or pecs will ensure we are reaching a whole new audience with the breast awareness message.’
Dr Pixie McKenna, Superdrug’s health and wellbeing ambassador, added: ‘Once you know how simple checking your breasts is, it can save your life.
‘I am so pleased to see Superdrug nurses will be taking this initiative to all patients, everyone should be able to check whether on themselves or a partner, or even talking it through with a friend – the more conversations the better!’
We already know that this is the luckiest star sign, and that this is deemed the most intelligent star sign (proof is in the Nobel Prize winners, okay?) – but does your star sign have an impact on how much sleep you should be getting?
Apparently, the answer is: yes.
Australian bedding company BedThreads has explained how much sleep you actually need, whether you’re Capricorn or Cancer.
Those who need the most sleep are Taurus, Libra and Pisces. But if you’re Aries or Virgo you can easily get by on just six hours kip.
So let’s see which star signs need the most shut-eye, and who can keep going on as little as possible…
Aries like to get as much done in the day as they can, meaning that they can get by on the bare minimum six hours a night.
Heavy sleepers and lovers of a lie in, a Taurus can easily clock in up to nine hours of sleep a night.
Two sides of the same coin, they’re either cruising by on six hours, or snoozing for nine.
They love their warm, cosy bed, and can nod off for up to eight hours at a go.
Leos may find that their sleep pattern is disrupted if they’re on their own, but when they’re ‘spooning their partner or curled up with a best friend’ they’re more likely to catch the z’s.
Similarly to Aries, they can get by on barely any sleep due to the fact that they’re busy perfectionists who see sleep as ‘a barrier to getting stuff done’.
Libras should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night so that they can fully recharge.
They find it hard to nod off, but once they do they can enjoy a full night’s kip.
It’s low on the priority list for Sagittarius, apparently, but sometimes more shut eye is necessary, meaning that they can function on as little as five or six hours – but their ideal figure is eight.
They need their rest, making eight hours the perfect amount of time for Capricorns.
‘Always on’, Aquarius will average about six hours but will squeeze in seven or eight whenever they can.
‘They’re the dreamers of the zodiac so it’s not surprise that Pisces need their sleep the most.’ They’re getting their eight hours, no matter what.
‘My body was exhausted from doing rounds of 360° squats, jumping lunges, push ups and planks with shoulder taps’
I discovered boxing at my local gym and I occasionally would go to a class. I really enjoyed the sessions, but they weren’t part of my workout routine (not that I really had one). So when I came across KOBOX, a boxing club that looks more like a nightclub than a sports club, I knew that I had to try it.
KOBOX offers 50-minute workouts that include rounds of boxing combinations on a bag (a plus for me because my boxing partner once hit me in the face), as well as rounds of strength training using free weights, resistance bands, slam balls, landmines, gymnastic rings and other equipment.
After a quick search on their website, I learn that they’re offering a limited 12-round challenge; 12 classes in four weeks. So that’s how I find myself at their Baker Street studio, signed up and ready to start a month of doing the most exercise I have done in years.
To ease myself into it, I decided to start my first session on a Saturday. I’m not going to lie – it was hard. There were squats, burpees, high planks, low planks and mountain climbers involved, as well as weights, slam balls and, of course, boxing. The upbeat tunes kept me going, but I had to pause a couple of times to take a deep breath and gather my strength.
My second class, focussing on upper body and core, followed on Tuesday morning. Using 10kg weight plates, dumbbells and suspension bands. This session was particularly hard on the arms, but I was having fun, and that made it a lot more bearable.
I scheduled my last class of the week, a full body/bodyweight one, on Thursday morning. We didn’t use any weights during the circuits but we did enough push-ups, burpees, crunches and lunges to make up for that. I am also really starting to enjoy the workouts, so that’s promising for the weeks to come.
Kicking off my second week on Monday morning, I have to admit that I had some trouble waking up at 6am. We used TRX suspension straps for all our wall exercises (think jumping squats, single leg squats and pull ups all while holding onto the handles) and during the boxing rounds; we focussed on our hooks – or number 3 and 4, as KOBOX calls them.
In contrary to the Monday class, we didn’t use any equipment on Thursday. However, after 50 minutes my body was tired from doing rounds of 360° squats, jumping lunges, push ups (I have to note that I still can’t do more than 2 of these successfully) and planks with shoulder taps.
I initially regretted booking my last class of the week on Saturday morning. I even checked if I could cancel the class, but I would have lost my credit so I went ahead anyway. Afterwards, I was actually quite happy that I went because a former professional boxer taught the class, so there was a lot to learn from his technique. The rounds of strength training were tough – I was definitely sweating more than usual – but I felt great afterwards.
I’m starting to believe that starting off the week with a KOBOX class is the right thing to do. That’s why at 7am on Monday morning; I’m at the Baker Street studio again for another full body/bodyweight class.
My Wednesday session, focussing on lower body, was probably the hardest class so far. It’s the part of my body that needs the most training and after the first couple of rounds of leg exercises, I couldn’t feel my knees anymore. Other than that, a good week.
I skipped a class last week (I moved house over the weekend which, if you have ever tried to move an entire wardrobe, you will know is basically a workout), so I needed to fit 4 sessions into my schedule this week.
The first class – apologies if I’m starting to sound repetitive – is a full body one on Monday morning. I want to give a quick shout out to Jay. His classes include a ‘beastmode’ round and believe me when I say; these will wipe you out. However, thanks to his enthusiasm and volume, as well as a great song selection, I’m always motivated to push through.
I opted for another lower body session on Wednesday. After doing four rounds of lunges, squats, pulses and wall sits with 10kg weight plates, as well as high knees and burpees with a resistance band around my waist, my glutes and hamstrings were burning – in a good way.
I managed to squeeze in another session on Saturday morning, using 10kg weight plates and medicine balls. After 4 weeks, I still struggle to complete the reps that require using a slam ball, so I had to endure these 50 minutes of squats, lunges, bridges and high planks.
Technically I cheated, scheduling my final class of the challenge on Monday, but I just didn’t think I could go to KOBOX two days in a row. It was another intense session, combining burpees, jumping squats, bear crawls and planks with shoulder taps with 4 rounds of boxing and the dreaded ‘beastmode’ round.
I have to mention that I didn’t change my diet during this challenge. Yes, I love the occasional can of Coke Zero and I should probably eat some more vegetables, but I don’t consider my eating habits to be unhealthy. The one thing I wanted from this challenge was to finally get back into a workout routine.
After 12 rounds of KOBOX, I didn’t lose any weight. However, my body looks more toned and I feel better both mentally and physically.
One of the most surprising effects it has had is on my sleeping pattern. I go to bed earlier now (I have to wake up at 6am for the 7.15am session, so I go to bed before 11pm), sleep better and no longer have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
But I would recommend KOBOX for the studio changing rooms alone. I’m talking rain showers, plush towels, REN toiletries, ghd hair dryers and straighteners and the oversized mirror of course – basically everything you need to get ready in the morning.
If you’re thinking about booking in a session, KOBOX offers a pack for first timers; £25 for two classes at any studio and a pair of boxing wraps.
Period poverty affects one in ten women and girls, according to research by Plan International. Their 2017 study found that 12% of those 1,000 surveyed had used alternative materials during their period – such as socks and tissues – because they couldn’t afford sanitary items.
And the stats are even more shocking when you take a look at research by Big Bloody Brunch, who recently found that almost quarter of British women had experienced period poverty at some point in their lives. It also revealed that over a quarter of schoolgirls and women affected have missed school or work because they’ve been unable to afford sanitary products.
Now, secondary schools throughout England will offer students free sanitary products in a bid to tackle period poverty.
Details about the new government initiative are expected to be released this week by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, at Wednesday’s spring statement.
It has already been praised by campaigners and has the support of Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler, who called it ‘a victory for all those who have campaigned for an end to period poverty.’
‘It’s a disgrace that period poverty exists in the sixth richest country in the world,’ she said.
Charity Red Box Power also said they were ‘delighted’ by the proposal, tweeting: ‘We’re absolutely delighted to hear that @GOVUK will fund free & universal access to menstrual products in schools (although we know from our work this needs to be in primaries as well as secondaries). A huge testament to everyone who has campaigned.’
It is believed that the scheme will be fully funded by the Treasury without restrictions, much like the current scheme running in Scotland to ‘banish the scourge of period poverty.’
But there are so many different types of yoga to choose from that, if you’re new to it, you may not know where to start. And if you’re a seasoned pro, you may be looking for a specific type of yoga you want to develop.
From Vinyasa to Yin & Yang, keep reading for the best yoga classes London has to offer. You’ll have mastered the art before you know it.
Chroma combines traditional yoga with colour therapy and light frequencies for a ‘multi-sensory’ approach. Coloured light, projected into the studio from the ceiling and filling the room, is combined with essential oil blends and relaxing music to compliment the goal of the class – red for power and strength, blue to regulate sleep, yellow for energy and so on.
Classes are available at all levels, though a bit of practise and understanding of yoga is helpful, and the orange classes have more of a ‘workshop’ structure to help you learn and develop your skills. The instructors are encouraging and friendly, and will help you on your way to perfecting each pose. You’ll leave feeling stretched out and refreshed, like you’ve just had a really good workout.
Where is it?
You’ll find Chroma Yoga’s studios in the heart of trendy Shoreditch, based at 45 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3DP.
The Bank studio is tucked away behind the bustling streets of London, making it a calm oasis in an otherwise hectic city – the perfect spot for a bit of early morning yoga. You’ll be given a number when you check in which correlates to a number block in the studio, so no need for that awkward trying-to-find-a-space shuffle while you lug a yoga mat around. That said, when the classes are full you’ll have very limited space. And if it’s busy, expect things to get pretty hot.
If you want a fiery flow to rev up your Sunday morning, give the Yoga 90 Yin & Yang class a go. It’s an hour of sweaty Vinyasa followed by thirty minutes of restorative poses, and you’ll walk out feeling considerably lighter. Each station is already set up with blocks, straps and a sweat towel, so all you have to do is turn up and find that sweet spot in downward facing dog.
Where is it?
Yoga classes are available at Another Space’s Covent Garden and Bank studios.
If you’re looking for a yoga haunt that oozes cool without being pretentious, FLY LDN is the one for you. Wave goodbye to the bright and airy reception and head straight into the light-less studio. But before you panic that you’ll be stretching in the darkness, the room is lit up by the huge screen playing soothing videos of stunning scenery, from gorgeous remote lakes to snowy ice caps, and it perfectly silhouettes your teacher so that you can still see what you’re supposed to be doing.
Base Flow is great for anyone who is new to the mat. A lovely slow Vinyasa flow, it’s perfect for those who are new to the mat or simply want to go back to the fundamentals of their practice. The movements are broken down into bite-sized pieces so that everyone can give Chaturanga a go.
Where is it?
FLY LDN is based at 24 Creechurch Lane, London EC3A 5EH.
The Broadway Market studio is a hipster yogi haven. If you find yourself there on a Saturday morning, grab a coffee across the road while you wait for your class to start. The studio is big and bright, but there’ll be a lot of people turning up to stretch so get there five minutes early to secure a decent spot. With your teacher in the middle, it means that you’re not lost behind a sea of arms and legs.
Dynamic yoga is a great class to try if you’re looking for a strong flow that’ll fire up your body quickly. Expect to try out a lot of poses, and don’t feel intimidated if the person next you to is nailing a headstand while you’re getting to grips with dolphin. It’s a great class for beginners and yoga pros alike.
Where is it?
Studios are located at Broadway Market and Columbia Road.
One writer put a booze ban – and the Fibroscan – to the test
How much do you drink on an average night out? Two glasses of Prosecco? Three? A bottle – or two?
No judgement here. Personally, I fall onto the latter end of the scale, and add a couple of Tequilas for good measure. I’ll readily admit it – I’m a binge drinker. I’d never buy a bottle of wine to drink on a school night, but as soon as the weekend hits it’s a different story. I’ll spend Saturday evening knocking back the bubbles and Sunday afternoon glued to the couch eating toasted sandwiches and gulping down mugs of gravy (it’s a cure, don’t @ me).
And I’m definitely not alone. The UK has a bit of a bad rep when it comes to alcohol; according to a study by Drink Aware, 27% of Brits were identified as binge drinkers because they consumed more than six to eight units (between two large glasses of wine to four low-strength pints) in a single session. The Office for National Statistics found that 7.8 million people in the UK binge drink.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that there are so many campaigns to get people cutting out alcohol for a month. Whether it’s to offset the effects of an indulgent Christmas period, or simply to ‘detox’ and improve our health, 4.2 million of us vowed to quit drinking (for thirty days, at least) this January.
Giving up your favourite tipple for just over four weeks of the year can reportedly aid weight loss, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of diabetes. On top of that, it’ll supposedly give you a healthy glow, shiny eyes and a new lease of life.
Waking up one morning with no memory of getting home and an empty bank account, I decided I wanted to try going dry. I was desperate to see if a month without shots and bubbles would really make a difference to my health.
My life might be wildly different. I could smugly run 10ks on a Sunday morning, and I’d never avoid reading my Whatsapp sent messages again.
But first, I needed to know what was going on inside. I had to find out what state my liver was in.
I headed to the London Digestive Centre to talk to Consultant Hepatologist Dr. William Alazawi about whether a month off the sauce can really make a difference to your liver health.
‘Let’s say it’s Friday night, how much would you drink?’ he starts.
I cringe and consider offering a conservative estimation instead. We work out that my weekendly two-and-a-half bottles of Prosecco plus a couple of tequilas gave me a grand total of 26 units. Add to that what I’d drink if I had mid-week dinner plans and my average weekly total, rather worryingly, became 30 units.
For context, the recommended weekly is fourteen. FOURTEEN. I start to panic a little about what I’d been doing to my poor liver for the last 10+ years. How much does an individual have to drink before it starts having a negative impact?
Unfortunately, he tells me that there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
‘What we know is that continued harmful drinking at a very high level in excess of those recommended limits increases your risk of developing liver problems. But that’s not to say that everybody who drinks more than that is going to end up with cirrhosis,’ he explains.
So can thirty booze-free days really make a difference if you’ve spent as many years as I have torturing the poor organ?
‘If you stop drinking for a month, I can’t guarantee you that every last wisp of scar tissue will go away, I can’t guarantee you that the fat will go away, so I can’t guarantee you that your Fibroscan score will get better,’ Dr Alazawi admits.
‘But by stopping drinking, it can give a bit of breathing space. If someone is otherwise healthy, eats well, has no underlying genetic abnormalities that may predispose you to liver disease, then stopping drinking can help.’
It was time to bite the bullet and see what was going on.
So what is a Fibroscan?
A Fibroscan is essentially an ultrasound of the liver to test its condition and get a good idea of how fatty and stiff it is. It’s non-invasive, instead checking for inflammation using high frequency sound waves. The quicker the sound bounces back, the more supple the liver, and the more supple the liver, the healthier it is.
‘The most common thing we find when we do a scan is a bit of fat in the liver,’ Dr Alazawi explains.
‘Fat in the liver may represent being overweight, it might be associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol – or it might be related to alcohol.
‘Over time, what can happen is that the liver can become very fatty. While that in itself doesn’t harm the liver, in some people the fat and alcohol can injure the liver cells themselves. So they’re no longer just sitting there with fat inside them but they’re actually now being damaged.
‘There’s inflammation because that’s our body’s response when there’s any damage, and if the injury doesn’t go away then you get scar tissue, and that scar tissue is called fibrosis and the extreme end of this is called cirrhosis. The scar tissue is harder than normal soft, supple liver tissue and that’s where the Fibroscan comes in.’
Dr. Alazawi began the examination by lightly knocking at my right side, attempting to find a good hollow point. Thanks to some rather inconveniently placed ribs, it took a little longer than expected to find the sweet spot. But once we got there, it was over in just a few minutes.
Using a pen-like device, he gently prodded the spot where my liver could most easily be examined through my awkwardly positioned bones and the readings began appearing on the screen. With every light pulse, new numbers and images appeared that I couldn’t decipher, but they were rating my liver for fattiness and scarring/inflammation.
After ten light pops, it was done. Easy. So what did it tell me?
As expected, the Fibroscan detected that my liver was a little on the tough side. Slightly stiffer than it should be, but nothing to be too concerned about, apparently. Phew. Maybe I could reverse the damage after all. But could I do it in a month?
The results of not drinking for a month
Photo by Konstantin Planinski on Unsplash
I decided to conduct this experiment during a month when I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to drink – December. As my family and friends knocked back flute after flute, I was sipping on soda waters with fresh lime.
But I did it. A month without drinking – I felt like a new woman. I was sleeping better, I was more sociable on the weekends and my skin definitely looked brighter. Not to mention the money I saved. I was happy to bow out early at parties, meaning no costly 3am Ubers, and I was free of ‘The Fear’.
Satisfactorily smug, I skipped back to the London Digestive Centre to see Dr. Alazawi and find out if my booze-free month had made a difference to my slighter-tougher-than-it-should-be liver.
And the results were surprising. The Fibroscan read that my liver had indeed softened up dramatically after just thirty days – but the test also revealed that it was fattier. Huh?
The reason for this, Dr Alazawi explains, could be that the tests are not usually repeated so close together and the amount of fat in the liver does vary a lot from day to day. Also, when it comes to excessive fat it’s usually down to a combination of things: a healthy diet and lifestyle also come into play. So while cutting out alcohol over an extended period of time can help a fatty liver, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only cause. While the Fibroscan is used as an indication of liver health, it’s not an exact science.
‘The other issue is it’s not just your liver,’ Dr Alazawi explains.
‘[Alcohol] can affect the heart, the skin, the reproductive system, the brain, your kidneys. There are a lot of ways that alcohol can affect your body.’
But if thirty days booze-free doesn’t make that much difference to your liver, should you bother with these ‘detoxes’ or are they all just a fad?
‘If by stepping away from the booze for a month you also think about your diet, more exercise, if it makes you sleep better, gives you a better sense of wellbeing, makes you more positive, whatever it may be…. then it’s probably a good thing,’ he continues.
‘People might think about how they feel when they drink less, and that may well have a resetting beneficial impact throughout the year.’
Who should have a Fibroscan?
According to Dr Alazawi, NICE recommends that if a woman drinks more than 35 units a week, and a man 50, and they’re worried about their alcohol consumption, they should have a Fibroscan.
However, it can also give a good indication of what else is going on with your body – as I found out.
A week after my consultation, I got a phone call from Dr. Alazawi. Something had caught his attention after our meeting. Following the Fibroscan, I had several blood tests under his instruction just to make sure that everything was okay, and they detected that I potentially have an underactive thyroid which would need to be monitored regularly and could result in me taking lifelong medication. It’s something that affects my mum and sister, but without having the test done, I would have been none the wiser.
So whether you’re a binge or heavy drinker, or just want a peek at what’s going on with your liver, the Fibroscan can be used as a tool to see inside and get a good glimpse of your health.
For information, prices and to book a Fibroscan, visit www.hcahealthcare.co.uk