Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Lick Yoga in Brighton, a review

people doing yoga

Let me start by saying that I'm no yogi extraordinaire. I practice at home semi frequently (guided by Yoga with Adriene) and have attended several classes around London over the past few years, but I'd still put myself down as a baby intermediate.

Since moving back down to Sussex earlier this year I've been meaning to try and find a regular class to develop my practice a bit and maybe meet some new people. Last night I finally kicked it off with a class at Lick Yoga in Brighton.


Lick Yoga, The Lick Warehouse, New England House, Brighton, BN1 4GQ, UK


Tuesday evenings, 7:30-8:30pm.


It's run on donations so that anyone can come (hooray!) but they suggest a fiver. You can let them know you're coming via their Facebook page.


Lick is first and foremost a frozen yogurt company. Yeah really. They run this yoga class, along with other community projects, out of their warehouse/office space in Brighton.

Their website states that each class is different and explores different themes. They supply the mats and equipment, although you can bring your own if you like, and anyone is welcome no matter their level or experience. Lovely.

My experience

It took me ages to find the place. New England House is big and ugly and at first glance appears to be long abandoned, but after wandering around it a few times with my bike and reading the website instructions (they do a good job of explaining it if you read it properly the first time) I found myself at an unsignposted door. Thankfully a lady stuck her head out of said door and confirmed that I was in fact at the right place and introduced herself as Dionne.

Dionne, Lick's yoga teacher, has the sort of smile and healthy glow that makes you like her immediately. Her welcome lifted the tension that had been building because of the odd location and once inside another friendly guy (whose name escapes me) said hello and offered to top up my water bottle.

The yoga takes place in their warehouse style office with the desks pushed to one side to make room for the mats and atmospheric little disco lights projected onto the ceiling. I could smell bread baking somewhere in the building which was lovely at first but which then soon started mixing with the smell of someone's feet nearby and became far less pleasant. 

It was a very warm day and the room was very warm too, so Dionne welcomed us all and said that we'd be taking things very slow today with a focus on releasing lower back tension. Sounded great to me. But I didn't quite realise how slow she meant. 

The next hour was spent mostly on my back, making very small movements and stretching my legs with the aid of a yoga strap. I know yoga takes many forms but I'm used to a flow of Hatha yoga poses and this instead left me feeling as though I hadn't done much of anything except lie down and have a bit of a stretch. But hey, that's exactly what some people want from yoga, so I'm not bashing it.

The class ended with some free Lick fro-yo (which was absolutely delicious by the way) and I left the building with a flood of relief to find my bike still chained up outside in one piece.

pot of lick frozen yogurt

Pros and cons

My pros:
  • Cool informal space (once you're in)
  • Approachable and friendly yoga teacher
  • Free fro-yo
  • Pay what you can afford
  • Equipment provided
My cons:
  • I'd like a more typical core practice to build on and I don't think I'll get this with Lick's changing themes.
  • Interesting heat and smells to contend with in the summer.
  • The location wouldn't feel particularly safe to me during the darker winter months.

Lick Yoga is cool, there's no doubt about it. It's friendly, it's creative, it's easy going. It will be exactly what some people are looking for. It's just not what I'm looking for. The search continues!

Photo credits:

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Using exercise as treatment for depression: getting started

Exercise as an aid for depression is becoming more widely talked about, with research suggesting it can be as effective as anti-depressant medication for mild to moderate cases. But if you're struggling with depression, taking the first step into a more active life can feel daunting - especially if you haven't exercised regularly before.

Here are four tips to help you get started:

1. It's OK to start small

Energy isn't something you have in buckets right now, and fitness isn't something that appears over night, so cut yourself some slack and give yourself some time to let it grow.

If you're not sure you're ready to dive in to a completely new routine, you could start off by simply increasing how active you are in your day to day life: taking the stairs instead of the lift, or going for a walk on your lunch break.

Any exercise is better than no exercise.

2. Make it something you enjoy

Some people think getting active means having a gym membership, but that doesn't have to be the case if that doesn't appeal to you. There are so many ways to get active and there's no reason to spend your energy (and possibly money) on something that doesn't suit you.

Other options could include joining a local sports team, going for a run, going on a bike ride, doing a home workout video, playing football in your local park, going to a yoga studio, joining a dance class or even things like rock climbing and martial arts.

If you try something and you hate it then remember that you haven't failed, it's probably just time to try something else. Do what works for you.

3. Make a plan

Depression and anxiety can leave you feeling a loss of control. Creating an exercise plan can be a small but important step in taking back some of that control and giving yourself some care and structure again.

Planning can mean anything from simply writing down when you're intending to exercise in the upcoming week, to following a specific training plan. Again, it depends what suits you.

If you want to give a training plan a go then there are plenty available online for you to pick from and many are available for free. Options include gym and home friendly workout plans (such as Fitness Blender, Tone It UpKayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guides and the Nike Training Club app), yoga practice plans (such as Yoga With Adriene or via the Cody app) and running training plans (such as the Nike Running app or Couch to 5K app). Alternatively you could speak to a personal trainer at your local gym who will create a tailored plan for you.

Whether you follow a specific plan or not, if you schedule in your exercise then you're more likely to stick to it.

4. Don't put too much pressure on yourself

Unfortunately depression doesn't have a quick fix and some days it might be all you can do to just get out of bed, let alone go for a run, and that's OK. If you can't face the exercise you had planned, take the day off or try a 10 minute walk around the block instead, and then try again tomorrow.

It's also important to remember that exercise as an aid for depression helps some people, but others need a completely different approach. So if you've tried a few different things but are still struggling, it's still important to try and keep active, but it might also be time to consider other treatment options with your GP.

Mental health charity Mind offer further advice, support and treatment option information via their website.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The strategy of pairing

Strategy of pairing

If you're anything like me, chances are you have something on your regular to-do list that you keep putting off such as going to the gym, catching up with household chores or dealing with emails.

I've come across something so simple and genius in it's approach that it's changing my life, one boring task at a time.

I first came across the 'strategy of pairing' (aka Premack's principle) whilst listening to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast earlier this year. The idea is: you take an activity you don't like and one you do like, and entwine them to make yourself more likely to do (and possibly enjoy) the very thing you've been putting off.

The example given in the Freakonomics podcast was centered around a common issue - people who struggle to go to the gym. They discussed a study at a university in the U.S. which gave students gym-only access to tempting audio novels, the idea being that they'd get hooked to the book and want to go to the gym to continue listening. The study reported impressive results.

The idea came up again recently in the book I was reading, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, in which author Gretchen Rubin gives several pairing examples, some of which I've listen below along with my own:
  • Doing the washing up during advert/commercial breaks.
  • Listening to an audio book or podcast whilst walking to work/going for a run.
  • Watching your favourite TV show whilst catching up with the ironing.
  • Filing/clearing your inbox whilst listening to your favourite music.

Pairings are, of course, unique to everyone - it's all about what fits in to your life and what you enjoy. The most successful pairing I have is related to fitness: I watch specific Netflix TV shows only during my daily 5:30am workout at home. I look forward to watching those addictive shows and not feeling bad about the screen time, plus it gives my brain something to focus on other than the time left on the clock during a grueling workout.

Do you have any pairings in action already, or any you're now planning to adopt? Comment below!

Additional Refs:
Gretchen Rubin's blog: The Strategy of Pairing

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)

It's no secret that I love to read, but recently I've been struggling to find the time. A few years ago, I used to read at least one book a week, now it's more like one book a month. Friends of mine who also love to read complain that they struggle to pick up a book at all.

Life is busy, and there are often a lot of things on our to do lists that we consider 'essential', like catching up on work or paying bills. Unless we have all of those things ticked off (does that ever happen?) it can be hard to let ourselves switch off the screens and pick up a book.

I am currently in the midst of planning a wedding and have found that since I got engaged, my reading pace has slowed a lot. My pointless internet surfing, however, has increased. That's the issue: even if you're procrastinating and not doing what you're meant to be doing, you'll just pass the time doing other things to distract yourself and the next thing you know, you're neither doing what you should do, nor what you want to do.

In my book club, we are currently reading Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (which is equal parts fascinating and irritating... but that's a post for another day) and a few days ago I came across a very brief mention of the DEAR campaign, which until then I didn't know existed.

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) is an American campaign run by children's author Beverly Cleary and supported by many organisations including National Education Association (NEA) and HarperCollins Children’s Books. The campaign is a national month-long celebration of reading, held each April, designed to "remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives".

The campaign couldn't be simpler, and involves teachers simply scheduling time in to their students day (or as homework) to drop everything they are doing and pick up a book. There are also events and free resources to encourage students to analyse what they're reading or try their hand at creative writing.

Just the very notion of dropping everything and reading really struck a cord with me. Of course it could be that simple outside of a school setting too. By simply allowing myself a slot in my day or week to make reading the priority it should be, I could get back the reading time I've been cheating myself of.

Reading, after all, is so important. Especially with several recent surveys indicating that reading for pleasure among the younger generations is in steep decline.

Literacy campaigner and iconic author, Neil Gaiman, recently gave a lecture for the Reading Agency in London during which he explained why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens. The lecture was edited in to an article which you can read here.

"I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing."

To read more about the DEAR campaign and how it's implemented in schools in the US, visit

The National Literacy Trust here in the UK also runs a series of campaigns to improve literacy for all ages. Find out more at

Monday, 12 October 2015

Using exercise to fight depression

Globally more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and many people don't seek treatment for a variety of reasons. I am one of those people and I struggled for years, but luckily I discovered a way to feel better that was manageable, cost free and most importantly for me at the time: private.

I have never been an active person. I was never in to sport at school. It was never a priority for me and I was always naturally slim growing up. Only in my late teens and early 20s did I start to notice my body changing and inevitably realise that no, I probably can't get away with doing no exercise for the rest of my life, and so I started to consider how to make a change.

I tried to get myself active multiple times, but it was also over these years that I had started to struggle with depression, and my state of mind and lack of confidence made it impossible to imagine going to a public gym.

It was only through stumbling upon a very structured, fun and home friendly online exercise programme that I found something that stuck and very quickly I noticed not only my physical health improving but, to my surprise, my mental health too.

I've since learned that people with depression often feel a loss of control over their lives, and doing exercise gives them back control of their bodies and can be the first step in gaining back control elsewhere. The structure of the plan was exactly what I needed.

I also discovered that when you exercise, your body releases serotonin and endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Hence that little buzz at the end of a good workout, or the famous "runner's high". In fact, studies have shown that physical exercise can be as affective as anti depressant drugs, with none of the scary side affects.

This isn't to say that exercise is a 'cure' for depression - simply an effective treatment, and one I believe should be more widely talked about.

Have you had an experience with treating mental health issues with fitness and exercise? If so I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.