Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of the studio had a very on point message. Sweat. Chill. Repeat.

With a really frantic few weeks moving into my new flat, when I got a mail in my inbox inviting me to try a class at Sadhana Yoga studio, I thought – YES BLOODY PLEASE! I need all the zen in my life. When I found out it was close to where I had just moved into, I really did think Christmas had come early.

So what’s the deal with me and yoga? Well, yoga has been part of my life on and off for many years. I was actually first introduced to it by my Mum back when I couldn’t have been older than 12 years old, when I desperately needed some distraction and relaxation. She took me to a class at a local leisure centre and I loved it – I had never felt such a serene feeling sweep across me when I was in the class. I loved the breathing, the feeling of totally letting go of stress from the day and just having that sacred five minutes at the end of the session to focus on your breathing and relax.

Since then I have never quite kept up consistent yoga practice, even though I know I love it. I have taken some yoga classes at various places and done a couple of beginners courses of 6 weeks – but it always seems to fall off my radar. When I saw that Sadhana was located so close to where I lived and was a studio dedicated to all different types of yoga classes, I thought yesss, this is when I can get back on this horse!

Sadhana Yoga and Wellbeing studio is based near Clapham Junction and is literally walking distance from the main train station and bus stops. The choice of classes is vast – everything from Bikram Yoga, to Vinyasa and even ‘Dynamic Body’ yoga. I had a look at the class descriptions on the website before deciding which one to go for – and decided that I would push myself out of my comfort zone and go for something different. So with that, I booked into the ‘Dynamic Body’ class, which was described as a core muscle work out, with strength building in the upper and lower body. The class will culminate deep stretches to encourage the body to open and release any lasting tension’.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of Sadhana, on what was a bit of a rainy day in London. Immediately forgot about the weather as soon as I stepped in the door!

I arrived on a Saturday morning for the 1030 class and the interior of the studio were just beautiful.  The vibe was very relaxed and the front staff were really helpful, giving me a short form to fill out. This is of course quite normal for a yoga studio, so they have your next of kin details and also can be made aware of any injuries you have.

I had looked up on the website the night before to see if I needed to bring my own mat – which they did advise, although you can rent a mat if you need to when you’re there. I headed into the class five minutes early and it was already quite full. People lay with their eyes closed and it became clear that people came to Sadhana very regularly – these people looked utterly relaxed just lying with their eyes closed, whilst we waited for the teacher.

The instructor was Letitia Wilkinson, a professional dancer and what I quickly found out during the class, was this was very much about core strength – of which I massively struggle with due to so much abdominal surgery! Letitia was a fabulous teacher though, very gently motivating as we moved our bodies into many strength positions – from the plank to balancing on tip toes. I realised about 10 minutes in that the reason everyone else was just in yoga pants and a sports bra was because this is a SWEATY class. It really did push my body.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

Internal scar tissue in my stomach means I really struggle with core strength exercises – but the instructor was very patient and encouraging. Which is always nice!

I am always weary of my core strength when I enter into classes like this – because mine is disastrously weak in comparison to other people’s. Lots of scar tissue has meant I’ve consistently never engaged that part of my body, always opting for work outs which focus on my lower or upper body instead. There was no where to hide in this class when it came to core strength, and Letitia was totally patient and encouraging. I spoke to her after the class and she gave me some fabulous tips about how to engage my core better in the plank and other core based exercises, and I walked away feeling like I had some tangible tools to move forward, whilst also feeling good that I can completed a very challenging class.

I can’t wait to try some of their other classes next and I would definitely recommend this yoga studio, offering  such variety and also something different in their strength and movement classes. Sadhana means ‘disciplined and dedicated practice or learning’ – so I guess I will just have to keep on going!

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**I was gifted the class for free, but was not paid to write this post. All reviews and opinions completely honest.**

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This blog post has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. Well, since my gastro consultant told me for the first time in my entire life that I’m in ‘clinical remission’ from my Crohns Disease. Big announcement. Big two words – two words I wasn’t expecting to hear, AT ALL! (See below for what remission means)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be in remission and how my body feels and I think it’s important I share this. Let’s rewind quickly first though… why was being told I’m in ‘clinical remission’ such a big deal – yet such a surprise at the same time? I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of four – which now at the age of 25, is a staggering 21 years ago.

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Loving the liquid diet life back in April 2016…

I recently candidly told my story for the first time for World IBD Day, which was featured in the Huffington Post. You can see the article here.So 21 years of fighting, dealing with medication, being cut open time and time again… until spring 2016 when I found myself in the middle of ANOTHER FLARE. All I could think was geez, not this s**t again.I was told outright I needed to go on high dose steroids to get things under control and I just couldn’t do it. I made the decision to go on a four-week liquid diet – which turned out to be a massive turning point in my entire Crohns journey. You can read about my liquid diet journey here.
So fast forward a year, and I’m sitting opposite my consultant who has seen me through thick and thin since I was 17. He’s a straight talking man, but a man I know has a lot of time for me (it’s a personal challenge every single appointment to make him crack a smile! I succeed every time, obvs). We run through the usual things and out of nowhere, he says ‘well, it looks like to me you’re in clinical remission’. There was a long pause, until I said, ‘well, nobody has ever said that to me before!’ Cue the smile from Doc and he said I’m by far the healthiest he’s ever seen me. He let me go after agreeing to reduce my adlimumab injections to every fortnight and told me to enjoy the summer.
I walked out the hospital in a complete state of disbelief. CLINICAL REMISSION – WHAT THE F**K? How did that happen? How did I not even see that coming? I still suffer stomach pain, bloating and fatigue. Whilst I’m not passing blood, I still have to manage my lifestyle to contain my symptoms. I evaluated the past year since the liquid diet and it finally dawned on me. This remission isn’t a result of adlimumab , a drug I have taken for over 7 years now. This remission was a result of me changing my diet and lifestyle. As I travelled back into London from my specialist hospital in Oxford I thought – I BLOODY DID THIS. And how have I gone 21 years without anyone telling me to evaluate my diet and lifestyle sooner?!? I felt weirdly elated yet frustrated that I could have done something a lot sooner if I had known what impact a year of change would make.
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I continue to feel extremely lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life, but I still won’t be lured into feeling secure. I have had a few people say to me now ‘oh you’re in remission? Well brilliant, you’re alright forever now then!’ Well no, that’s not quite how it works. As we all know, IBD (I’m talking Crohns & Colitis here) is a chronic condition and can rear its ugly head at any time. A fact that I’ve been conditioned to never forget (although I wish I could!) Additionally, being in ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain, bloating and extreme fatigue. I still have to very carefully manage my life and diet. Eating one thing that disagrees with me, being too exhausted or stressed can quickly send me in a little downward spiral. Self-management and self-care doesn’t stop at the phrase ‘clinical remission’… the journey never ends!
Having said that, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the medical professionals don’t always know EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible support from my Gastro team at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, but it was my decision to do the liquid diet and make a lifestyle overhaul. That being said, it’s not always easy and there may be a lot of trial and error. What I’m saying is try different things, do your research and know that you can make a difference to your illness.
And for me – I’m going to live life the fullest and continue sharing the journey with you!

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Sunning in Marbella with my favourite people and smiling because I can!

**So what is ‘remission’? Achieving remission means stopping symptoms as well as inflammation. Another way to think of remission is as a span of time when your disease becomes inactive or quiet.**
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
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BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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January is the month of new years resolutions. ‘Eat less cake’, ‘don’t eat chocolate’, ‘eat more vegetables, ‘lose weight’…. the list could on and on. Whilst I whole-heartedly support all efforts to get your health back on track post Christmas, I often find these kind of New Years resolutions a silent trap. They are unrealistic and will inevitably make you feel completely demotivated when you don’t see them through by the second week of Jan. What I would suggest is making a few simple changes to help get your health back on track. Easy steps to leave you feeling happier, healthier and most importantly – motivated!

  1. Exercise

Yes, I’m going straight in with this one. Get yourself back in the gym! This is the first sure way to get you feeling healthier post Christmas season. There are so many ways to get that body moving. First of all – find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy!20x30-BRIT1658 Take up a new yoga class, try out zumba, go swimming or go for a run in your local park. Trying something you’ve never done before is an excellent way to reignite the exercise excitement! I’m going for yoga this January!  Why don’t you take a friend with you? Combining a bit of social and encouragement is another way to spice up your exercise routine. Finally – why not purchase some new gym gear?! Try some colourful leggings or new trainers… going shopping always seems to motivate me..!

  1. Rethink your diet

Rethinking my diet was one the most positive things I ever did and I feel so much better for it every single day. Often we eat the same things out of habit – but this January I challenge you to evaluate what you put in your body! What things could you eliminates and replace with something healthier? Perhaps it’s your sugar filled coffee, love of biscuits or tendency to graze on processed snacks. There are so many gorgeous vegetables in season in January – including iron filled kale and vitamin packed carrots. Why not crisp your kale up with some olive oil in the oven for a healthy snack or dip carrot batons in humus. There are so many delicious herbal teas, which act as cleansers (green tea or peppermint are particularly good – I adore Pukka teabags). Whatever it is – I challenge you to find an alternative for your guilty pleasure this January.

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Cutting out gluten and dairy has completely rejuvenated my quality of life 

  1. Pledge to learn 3 new healthy recipes

In hand with the previous point, I urge you to get yourself in the kitchen and get creative! Get out that recipe book you’ve never looked at or use your imagination! Perhaps you could go for one meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. Or maybe a breakfast, lunch and dinner! However you decide to do it – make sure you do the following. Replace your olive oil with coconut oil – it has less trans fats and cholesterol. Use at least two vegetables or fruits in your dish and a good source of protein. This could be meat, fish, tofu or beans if you’re a vegetarian. Try to avoid hard carbs – opt for sweet potato or a grain.
Try my Cinnamon Rice Flake PorridgeCrispy chicken with garlic greens & creamy mash or The super stir fry.

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The super stir fry! So easy and delicious

  1. Give social media a break or a cleanse

We live extremely hectic lives – all of us, every day. We work super hard ALL THE TIME!! and the pressures of day-to-day life can be further exaggerated by the constant access to the internet and social media. Perhaps it’s not something you realise is impacting your life, but why not giving social media a break for a few days? You might find you have more time for yourself and others if you’re not distracted by the online world. You might be surprised by the results…

  1. Look after your skin

The cold winter weather can be extremely harsh on the skin. Low humidity and brisk winter chills can leave skin feeling dry and chapped. Look after your skin this January by making sure you exfoliate at least twice a week, finding a face wash that works for your skin and remembering to moisturise twice a day! Make sure you keep hydrated to keep your skin from drying out – this could be from drinking water or eating vegetable with high water content, like cucumber, celery, orange or watermelon. Try whizzing up one of these in a smoothie for a morning boost!
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