Florence Swift, ED Recovery + Mental Health Awareness Champion

17 December 2018

For many, Christmas is a time for over-indulging in mountains of food, but for some this time is their idea of hell, when food is nothing but an enemy. Between 600,000 and 725,000 people in the UK are affected by eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa which are considered to be serious mental health problems. Some people attribute eating disorders to media and the increased importance that is placed on ‘needing’ to have a certain body shape or type. Although some see Instagram as a facilitator, one inspirational lady has turned this into a platform to assist her recovery of this terrible illness and by sharing her thoughts, worries, and musings with her adoring followers she is not only aiding her own recovery but helping thousands of people who are also suffering. 
Florence Swift, aka, Swift_Eats is one of Instagram's true gems, with it being so easy to get swept up in a sea of 'body goals' and 'unhealthy detoxes' she is championing being happy, healthy and confident in who you are. 

I caught up with her to hear her story..

At what point did you realise you had an eating disorder and how did you address it at the time?

I realised quite soon into my disorder that I had a problem, I studied Psychology at University so I knew the diagnostic criteria for anorexia but kind of thought I had everything under control and that it didn’t apply to me, so I was totally in denial. Luckily I was already seeing my therapist at the time and we would talk about my anxieties around food and food behaviours. I remember one session she referred to me as having anorexia and I felt so shocked because no one has used those words before and I couldn’t really believed that I’d unknowingly slipped into and full blown eating disorder when it had just started as a diet.
In terms of addressing it, I learnt that my food behaviours were a manifestation of my depression, anxiety and past traumas, so I really did the work to unravel the deeper issue. My ed was a coping mechanism so once I understood what I was using it to cope with I was more easily able to let go of it.


When did you decide to lay yourself bare on social media to help others? How has it helped you?

There wasn’t really a moment where I was like ok I’m gonna start being honest about what I’m experiencing. It kind of just happened. I think the first post where I was really honest about what I’d been experiencing was about 18 months ago. At first I just alluded to the fact that I’d experienced mental health problems. Mental health is such a taboo and I initially felt ashamed talking about my experiences, I didn’t want to put people off and now I don’t give a shit! I’m always talking about mental health, periods, whatever, I don’t care.
It’s helped me come into myself so much. It’s been so empowering. In the past I used to instagram to make it look like I had a perfect life, and it felt so fake, so it’s amazing to be able to be honest and be so accepted for that. My audience are the most supportive, amazing people. They’ve helped me grow and learn so much about myself. I’m so grateful for the space the give me to share and create.

What advice would you give to your younger self and what advice would you say to ignore?

Ah jeez. I don’t even know where to begin! There’s so much stuff I wish I’d know, but I’d probably say:
1. Trust your gut above all else
2. You are your number one priority
3. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will either
4. How you look is the least important thing about you

In terms of ignoring - basically just ignore what everyone else is doing and telling you to do!
I think I knew a lot of this already, but I kind of needed to experience everything before I truly believed it. I had to go through a lot of shitty relationships, listen to a lot of shitty advice first. I guess it’s all just a part of growing up.

In the last 5 years what behaviour, habit or belief has improved your life?

This is so hard because I could honestly list about 20 things but, really, really, going to therapy is the best choice I’ve ever made. It’s changed and honestly saved my life. I’ve been paying to go to therapy for 4 years, which financially is kind of rough, but I’d rather invest in my mental health than buy clothes or go out drinking so for me it’s a no brainer.

What five things can you not live without?

1. Some kind of mindfulness practice - yoga, journalling, mediation
2. Sourdough
3. Moisuriser
4. My support network
5. Chocolate

Follow florence here

Stef Menga, Rocket and Dharma Yoga Teacher

2 December 2018

People come to yoga in different ways, as you will read many times over on this blog, Stef came to the practice when areas of her life were slipping away from her and out of her control, yoga became healing place and has remained a mental and physical safe place.  I've been following this lovely lady for a while on instagram so it's great to have her on the blog to hear her yoga story... 

How did you get into yoga what was the first thing you thought after your first practice?

I started yoga following a recommendation of a friend after the tendons on the back of my knees got badly inflamed in 2015. In September I then randomly joined a Rocket Yoga class at my gym and the first feeling I had was that of pure body and mind empowerment. Soon after that, I received the terrible news that the most important person in my life, my Grandma, would have slowly be taken away by an awful cancer. I immediately found in yoga a safe, physically and mentally, healing place. I then decided to join a Yoga Studio attending classes almost every day, mainly Rocket and Dharma.

In the last years what new belief, behaviour or habit have you most improved?

Through two dynamic, physical, but also very spiritual practices, like Rocket and Dharma yoga, not only has my body became stronger and healthier, but I have also learned to accept the present and to deal with mental pain. I learnt and am now a strong believer that suffering can be turned into positive energy. There is an inner happiness in everyone’s heart. That could be unlocked by being kind and bringing happiness to ourselves and other people. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future by working hard in the present. This is what Yoga teaches us. When you first start your practice, you may not be able to do any pose, but if you work hard, one day you will get there. The present is all what we have, and we have to make the most of it, by being happy. Happiness is possible for everyone.

Favourite yoga teachers?

My huge gratitude goes To Emi Tull for building my body strength and for teaching me the value of compassion and acceptance. Helen Russell-Clark, Melissa Zelaya and Katarina Rayburn for teaching the monst mentally and physically empowering yoga sessions. Marcus Veda and Leon London for teaching me the body alignment and engagment during the practice.

Morning routine?

I tend to get up early to do my yoga practice or going for a run before I do anything else.

What would you say your soul animal is?

Tiger: Symbol of strength, power, and energy. Tiger also stands for passion and sensuality.

Five items you can't live without?

Yoga mat, homemade lunchbox, phone to stay connected with my friends (some of my best friends live abroad and I speak to them very often as I cannot see them) and obviously with my beloved IG yogi community ;), running shoes, watch

Alix, Dharma Yoga Teacher

25 November 2018

This weeks story is with the gorgeous yogi, Alix, a 500 hr Dharma teacher trained by Sri Dharma Mittra in New York, Mark Khan in London and a vinyasa teacher trained by Stewart Gilchrist and Amanda Denton. Once a lawyer in the City, after practising yoga more regularly realised there was more to life than the daily grind and became a teacher. Drawn by the physical challenges of the practice and even more because of the effects Yoga had on the mind and wellbeing, she wanted to share all these benefits with others.

You'll find her teaching in London studios such as,  Power Yoga Company, More Yoga, as well as Chelsea Harbour Club.

I caught up with her on what may have been the last sunny day of Autumn on the streets of Westminster.

One word to describe the first time you practiced yoga?


What books have inspired you?

First it was The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is the first Yoga book I read and I was hooked from the first page. I have now read 4 different translations, two of which several times. I have summarised the comments on each sutras in two of the books. My favourite version is by Edwin F. Bryant. I always go back to the Sutras.

The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar is amazing - so easy to read, so clear.

I loved Self-Knowledge (AtmaBodha) by Swami Nikhilananda, which I intend to read again soon.

My constant reference is also Yoga Wisdom by Sri Dharma Mittra.

It is the philosophy that drew me and actually keeps me drawn to and makes me passionate about Yoga even more than the physical practice. When I was 16 I wanted to be a philosophy teacher, it is all I was reading. I knew I would come back to philosophy. The scriptures are my teacher and I constantly go back to them, I think it is the Yoga path I am made to be on.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

Whether we are referring to the physical, mental or spiritual practices in Yoga, what matters for each and all is constant practice. There is no failure, there is just progress and evolution.

This is true for the physical practice of course. I have failed over and over again for some poses until I did the full pose. The day it happens it feels like it’s magic, when in fact it is every single attempts that have allowed me to progress and reach it. Of course depending on our natural abilities some poses will come quicker than others, but for those other poses, the same applies: repeat! There is no secret: you have to do the practice and not be discouraged. The ego works that way too - to make us think it’s not for us, the body can’t do it. This is the mind tricking us. We must persevere.

It is the same for the other aspects of the practice. Non-violence for instance. We fail to be nice to someone over and over again, we get angry and can’t control our temper. Yoga is on and off the mat. When we notice ourselves being unkind, there is a beautiful Sutra that says we must cultivate the opposite concept, which means we must go to the root of why we are unkind/angry etc, reflect on it and cultivate the opposite. So we fail, then reflect, and then change. I practise this and it has help me so much. Everything in Yoga is about increasing our awareness. I think Yoga makes us smarter. But most importantly, constant practice makes us kinder human beings, more compassionate.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it with a message on it — what would it say and why?

‘You are stronger than you think!'

I am referring to inner strength as well as outer strength. Never be discouraged. Don’t let the ego tell you you can’t do it. If you have the right mindset, the willpower and the love for what you do - or even better the passion, nothing can stop you, the strength within will come to light.

Yoga has help me find more of both types of strength.

Strength to follow a passion and a path, which could have seemed unusual for the ex-lawyer that I was, strength to ignore other people’s expectations of who they thought I was. I knew I would never be a lawyer for the rest of my life, working long hours at a desk, reviewing contracts. I fell in love with Yoga and very quickly knew I wanted to be a teacher. I followed my passion rather than a very well paid job. And yet at first I thought I would never be able to teach a public class but only private classes as I am very shy and terrified to speak in public. It is my passion for Yoga, the hours spent on my mat, studying a lot, reading a lot that made me find my inner strength and confidence to teach and follow my passion to make it my job. And now I juggle being a Yoga teacher, doing my daily practice and raising three young children. It is a challenge but again I know I have the strength to do it all!

Inner and outer strength - Yoga has made me physically so much stronger. A strength I never thought I would have and actually never sought. Strength is built!

Do you have favourite yoga teachers and studios in London you can recommend to fellow city yogis?

As much as I love my self-practice and is what I mainly do, I practise weekly with my Dharma Yoga teacher in the places he rents to teach (Fitzrovia Community Centre, The Glasshouse in Vauxhall).
I also practise in a few studios from time to time: Indaba, The Power Yoga Company (my very first studio, that I love and where I teach a lot), Triyoga (Chelsea or Soho).

If you could be an animal what would you be and why?

I would be a bird who can fly very high - how amazing it would be to be able to fly!

For the latest news, classes and retreats from Alix, click here

Sarah, Yoga Teacher. AKA Yogi Grogie

11 November 2018

Sarah, the beauty behind the Instagram handle Yogi Grogie (what a name!!), is the kind of person you meet and within seconds feel like you’ve known for years! She’s great to be around and is exactly the reason I love to meet people within the wellness industry.

Sarah came to yoga in a similar way to many people - out of necessity, following years in a job that overwhelmed her being. After 7 years as a stock broker she took herself off to a hotel in Spain called La Crisalida that hosted yoga and found her love for it there. In her first class she was so exhausted from work and life, she fell asleep! (You all know you’ve done this in savasana once or twice!)

When she got back she knew she needed to get into yoga, so YouTube was her answer. She watched videos before work just to keep her balanced for the day. Finally, she plucked up the courage a year ago to leave her job and embark on a career in yoga and she's never looked back! 

We caught up on the streets of Shoreditch for a coffee and chat about her life in yoga...

One word to describe the first time you practiced yoga?

Meh. But that was when I was back in university. I wasn’t that impressed with it, so didn't come to do yoga again until my mid-twenties when I was stressed at work and in search of a release. Then it instantly had an incredible calming effect, so I guess the word I’d use for the first time that I really practiced yoga was 'Calm'.

It was a 5 day retreat. The first class was a yoga nidra class. I was so exhausted that I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until everyone had left the room and the teacher gently gave me a shake! Yoga didn't resonate with me the first time I practiced because I didn't need it. I truly believe you find the practice when you are in need of it.

What’s books have inspired you?

The China Study – This book was eye opening for me on the merits on a plant based diet. I’m not totally vegan anymore but, for me, thinking with a ‘plant based’ frame work makes me feel a lot better. The Goddess Pose, by Michaele Goldberg about Indra Devlin who helped yoga to the west. To Kill a Mockingbird is still one of my favourite books I’ve ever read.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? 
I've noticed a pattern that I often mess up the first time I try something! I 'failed' my first interview for an Investment bank 10 years ago. Similarly, I messed up my first ever audition for a yoga studio. While seemingly failures, both were opportunities to learn and I’ve not failed an interview or an audition since!

Until we try something we simply don't know what we don't know. By trying, we understand what is needed and can focus our efforts in the most efficient way. I don't like the feeling of failure, and without a doubt, that is a driver for me.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it with a message on it — what would it say and why? 
God this is tough! I’d love a whole sequence of them saying – ‘Let Go’, ‘Believe in yourself’, ‘You are enough’.

I have spent the past year working on all of these. Letting go of a previous career and relationship. Letting go of all the self-doubt that can creep up during such a big transition, replacing those feelings with self-belief and knowledge that I was doing the right thing and setting myself on the right path.

Do you have favourite yoga teachers and studios in London you can recommend to fellow city yogis?

We have sooo many great teachers here! Marcus Veda was my first teacher and one I practice with regularly. He introduced me to the Rocket and was the person who gave me the courage to do my TT. Kat Rayburn is another fave, along with Aram Raffy (Yogasana), Emi Tull (Dharma), Harriet Bone (Jiva). I recently discovered Naoimi Absalom and Celeste Periera. I love the studios I teach at - Another Space and Psycle. Triyoga and Yotopia have nice vibes and good teachers.

If you could be an animal what would you be and why? 

One of those migrating birds, who travel the world to wherever it is summer!! Haha! Seeing the world is one of my biggest passions and I don’t like the cold at all!!

Sarah's retreats are a must check out! www.rocketrelaxrestore.com

Helen Morris, The Wellness Marketing Guru

30 October 2018

I met Helen a while back and was instantly inspired by her attitude to life and work, and also impressed at her marketing agency targeting the wellness solely, which stands alone with their mission. In the past few years Helen has started her own company, Samsara Communication, hosts panel talks with key figures within the industry and this is all before she has even hit her mid thirties! 
I caught up with her for tea and to hear all about how it started.. she's super inspiring and definitely a wellness pioneer to follow!

Firstly, do you remember when you first came up with the idea behind starting a communications agency for the wellness industry?

I was at my corporate marketing job and was becoming increasingly immersed into yoga and meditation, spending most of my spare time at wellness events and reading any, spiritual. personal development and entrepreneurship I could get my hands on. I started thinking about how I could work flexibly, doing work I was passionate about and using my skills to make a positive impact.
One day I was speaking to someone on the phone and she asked me what my dream job was. The words 'I want to run a marketing agency for small wellness brands' came out of my mouth for the first time - so I did it!

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? 

I guess I thought I’d failed when I was going through major depression three years ago. I thought ‘Right, that’s it for me’ - I had to stop working, leave London and stay with my parents and to be honest thought my life was over at the age of 29. Now retrospectively, I can see that the universe had something else planned for me. It was my Saturn's Return, redirecting me onto my current path, albeit it in a fairly painful and dramatic way.

Not long after, once I had recovered and with a new lease of life, quit my corporate job, quit drinking, put all my energy into getting healthy and started freelancing for a mixture of wellness and corporate clients, qualified as a yoga teacher and eventually set up Samsara Communications in February 2017, which grew 400% organically in its first year. This year I've expanded the business to incorporate 'How To Build Your Wellness Business' panels which have all totally sold out, launched mentoring and career coaching and I’m also writing a book. Everything I do through work is about helping to empower and inspire anyone with a wellness business, whatever stage they are at. I think 'failure' is essential for evolving into the truest versions of ourselves.

What's are your favourite books which have inspired you or have simply left you with a smile on your face?!

Daring and Disruptive by Lisa Messenger
The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
The $100 Dollar Start Up and The Art of Non Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle - easier to read than The Power of Now!
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
NW and White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Latest wellness panel event hosted by Helen

Helen's wellness panel helping people along the path to their dream job!!

Morning routine?

After I get I use my Ayurvedic tongue scraper (I know that sounds disgusting but it's really good for you!), meditate for 20 minutes, maybe do some yoga or Kundalini breathing exercises or go for a run. Make a matcha latte with oat milk, cacao and maca (which is like rocket fuel without the coffee comedown). Then get to work!

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

"MEDITATE" - it would elevate the entire consciousness of the planet. Learning Vedic meditation four years ago with Will Williams (who was also my first client and still is today) changed my life and has made me happier, healthier, more productive, self-compassionate, creative and resilient. I want everyone to experience that.

Will Williams and Akala at World Meditation Day
Photo credit: Richard Heald Photography

Five items items you can't live without

My friends, my passport, my black tourmaline necklace and moonstone ring that my parents gave me (crystals for protection and feminine power), cacao - I drink it every day and have had some amazing experiences with it at ceremonies.

Maria Amiouni, Yoga and Reiki Practitioner

21 October 2018

Maria Amiouni is a London based yogi, who like many of us was enchanted by the world of yoga soon after she finished her first class, 4 years on she quits her job and dives into yoga full time. I interviewed her recently on how she started and how the practice has changed her outlook on life. She shares with us a note to her yoga self which is beautifully heartfelt and the words are some which we can all relate to.

How did you find yoga and what was the first word you thought when you first practiced?

I found yoga a few weeks before graduating university back in 2014. At the time I had heard of yoga through my mom and some friends but I didn’t know what it was really about. It was only when my trainer at the gym became a yoga teacher that I decided to go to her class. I remember leaving the class feeling like I was floating on a cloud and I couldn’t stop smiling all day. It was literally love at first try and it’s been in my life ever since. 

What three books have influenced your life or are just your favourites!

This is a tough question. I love reading books since I was a kid. If I had to pick 3 books that influenced my life and that I would recommend anyone to read: 

- The power of Now - Eckhart Tolle 

- The mind-gut connection - Emeran Mayer 

- Becoming Supernatural - Dr Joe Dispenza 

If I can also add a couple of others that changed my life: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and the Magic by Rhonda Byrne.

What are the yoga studios in London you love? 

I mostly do self practices at home these days but when I do go to classes I go to Triyoga, Sangye, and Equinox since I’m a member there. Some of my favorite teachers actually teach there and they’re my favorite classes. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

This is what I would say to my younger self: 

Dear Maria, 

Although you can’t see it just yet, I promise things will get better and you will get stronger. I wish I could tell you to not care about what other people say about you, that the words that are thrown your way don’t always define you. That the pain you hold in your heart will heal. That the story you tell yourself about yourself and your life can be changed. 

However to be honest, you will figure this all out for yourself when the time is right. You will learn how to let go more easily. You will learn to peel off the layers that you think make you, you. You’ll stop letting other peoples opinions bother you as much. You’ll recover from the heartbreaks and losses you endured. There is much growth waiting for you and it’s all thanks to what you are going through right now. 

If I could tell you one thing today is that don’t think you need to change anything about yourself. I’m proud of you and I love you, exactly the way you are. 


Favourite yoga pose and why? 

My favorite yoga pose changes depending on my mood, or what I’m currently working on. These days, I’m very into inversions and especially forearm stand. But inversions ranges from downward facing dog, and forward folds to headstands and handstands. I love inversions because on a physical level, my heart is now above my head and it reminds me to get out of my head and into my heart space. For me it’s a way to think less and feel more. Inversions remind me to keep following my heart instead of the mind. It also changes my perspective and literally flips my mood and my world upside down. If I’m feeling down or low, an inversion can literally flip everything around and make me feel brand new again. 

Follow the lovely Maria on instagram ... true yoga candy! 

Jen, Yoga Teacher aka Blessed Yoga

10 October 2018

I couldn't believe it when I first met this lovely lady and she told me how she came into yoga... most people practice for a while and the embark on yoga training, oh no not Jen, whose first yoga class was on her teacher training!! Which just shows when you open your mind to new challenges and really go for it wonderful things come about! 

Jen, the beautiful yoga also known on instagram as Blessed Yoga caught up for the shoot and interview on a day which felt like the real start to the winter here in London, and in true Brit style we persisted come rain (and there was A LOT) or shine (which there was none!!!)...

Here is how one very talented yoga came in the world we all love. 

What was the first thing you thought when you practiced yoga?

The first time I practiced yoga was actually on my yoga teacher training, which I know is a bit insane. I think the first thing I thought was “oh goodness, I hope I’m doing this right” and then I was like “who cares, I’m loving it.” I honestly fell in love with the physical practice of yoga from the moment I started.

Favourite yoga pose and why?

My favourite pose is pigeon because magical things happen there. For me it feels like a safe space to open up through a very vulnerable part of the body (the hips) and just let all those crazy emotions go.

Craziest place you’ve practiced?

On a walk around the coastal cliffs in Cornwall, I wanted to get a cool picture on one of the cliff edges. I was too scared to go right up to the edge, but still it felt pretty crazy. But the place that felt the craziest for my actual practice was on a beach in Dubai really early in the morning when it was so foggy that I couldn’t see past the end of my mat. It honestly felt like I was in part of fairytale, it was beyond magical.

Instagram is thought of as a valuable tool to promote yourself as a teacher, do you agree and if so what tips can you share to build a community?

I totally agree that it can be an extremely helpful tool for promotion, but there is definitely a fine line. I’ve heard stories of yoga teachers promoting their Instagram in savasana at the end of class, which is just totally not what its about for me.

For me Instagram has been an amazing opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, who are like minded, supportive and just amazing. My tips would be to follow people that are at a similar stage of their journey to you. These are the kind of people you will be able to relate to. I think often people fill their feed with “insta yogis” that they think may inspire them but actually end up making them feel unworthy or bad about their own practice. If you open your Instagram and feel worse after, then you’ve got some unfollowing to do.

I would also encourage people to get involved in one of the many yoga challenges out there on Instagram at the moment because I found that it really helps to find people that share similar experiences to you and is a great way to get connected.

Where do you sweat, breathe, refuel?

I don’t actually workout. At the moment, walking and yoga is my only form of “exercise” because it suits me best. I mainly have a home practice, but if I do go out to a studio I go to Alchemy Yoga in Essex because they have an amazing rocket yoga class that I honestly just love. There are so many amazing places to eat in London, but I often find myself in Natural Kitchen on the Marylebone high street for a quick bite or a smoothie before I go to teach clients.

Tips for anyone starting yoga or trying to improve their practice?

I would say to start off, find a really nice local studio that do a beginner’s class and go to that instead of going to a really huge fancy class where you may get swallowed up or feel intimidated. I personally feel most comfortable in those kind of small personal classes. I would also say if you don’t have time to get out to a studio, find a teacher on YouTube that you like and try getting into it that way.

For both beginners and for those trying to improve their practice, I would always stress that consistency and patience are key. Even if you practice once a week for an hour, or more often for just five minutes, it will make a huge difference. There’s no hope in going on a crazy hype of yoga for a week and then forgetting about it for the next two months. Build it into your routine to get consistent. Also being patient with yourself is so important because one practice you may feel totally in touch with your body or nail something you’ve been working towards and then the next time you practice its gone again. This happens to me ALL THE TIME and I’m telling you now it’s a test! It’s a test for you to check in with your ego and not let it get the better of you. So yes, consistency and patience for me have been a winning combo.

Five items you can’t live without?

This one really got me thinking because I’ve been working hard on practicing the art of non-attachment, especially to material things, so my brain now automatically goes “don’t be silly Jen, you can live without everything.” But if I had to answer I would say…

iPhone: Shameful, but true. When I don’t have it on me I feel a bit lost. Quite literally, because I have no sense of direction and use maps to navigate everywhere

Earphones: I have always been obsessed with music, I spend most of everyday listening to it

Shiva Linga crystal: I have this big round lump of it and it helps me massively to stay grounded

Nail polish: I’m embarrassed at myself to even say this because it is really superficial, but I’m bare foot most of the time because of teaching and it’s nice to have my toenails painted

Dressing gown: There is truly nothing better than putting on your dressing gown, especially in the winter in London

Follow Jen on her wonderful journey here.
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