Recipes, rituals and other stories to realign the body and mind

Exercise is a modern invention. I tend to use the word movement when talking about any kind of exercise, although movement and exercise are two very different things. 

The body is designed to move often and frequently. In the modern world, we tend to indulge in long periods of inactivity and if and when we do decide to become more active, we generally feel the need to throw ourselves into intensely stressful forms of exercise in order for it to feel 'worthy'. Modern-day exercise tends to involve long stints at a gym using manufactured machines, or attending an over-priced boutique class that has good marketing and, although can lead to good results, is ultimately unsustainable. These kinds of classes might also involve strobe lighting and loud music with unruly frequencies, which, although distract the mind from focussing on the  challenge of a certain exercise it may be enduring, increased stress levels and can create imbalances in the endocrine system and hormones, which can impede or otherwise effect how your body (and mind) responds to the class.  Both of these options are effective in their own ways, but they can often contain an element of unnecessariness and can have detrimental side effects over time. 

Movement is any kind of activity that isn't a modern invention or a new-wave fitness fad. Movement is ancient; it was here first and we came into the world moving naturally, both as early humans (our ancestors) and, on a more relatable level, as babies. In the womb we moved freely and intuitively, and after birth , we moved by feeling our way around, and figuring out the shapes and strengths of our bodies and how we could use them to support us. Further back, our ancestors would have been involved in daily movement, without over-planning it, and without empty end goals. Nowadays our goals are to look better or to feel stronger, but in those days, daily hunting and gathering, walking, climbing, running, jumping, crawling, lifting, fighting, and so on, were things to be dealt with as and when they needed to be, and they would have been practised with precision, focus, engagement and a strong body and mind connection, which are things that are absent in modern 'training'. 

Overtime and having tried all kinds of classes, I have come to honour variety in my movement regime, and combine a selection of high intensity classes with more primal, natural movement techniques which mainly involve bodyweight. I incorporate a lot of mild movement (such as walking, running, cycling) daily, to keep active even if it's not necessarily seen as a workout. I also value activities that exercise not only my physical body but also benefit my mental health (I find running therapeutic and de-stressing, especially late at night to shake off a long day). I try not to force working out unless I really feel the need to (if I'm getting in shape for big modelling job, for example), and by not forcing it, I come to enjoy it more and find I am more in tune with what my body physically needs. I also feel more engaged when I am doing activities I enjoy.

Read more about natural movement here, and read on below for the gyms, studios classes and other natural movement teachings that I've tried and love:

Blok, London (one of the best places for boxing in London, also great for core classes, calisthenics, cardio, barre fit, and yoga)
Tempo Pilates, London (reformer pilates - just 2-3 classes and the abs are real)
Studio Lagree, London + USA (megaformer classes combining core, endurance, cardio, balance, strength and flexibility)
Calisthenics / The Hunter Technique with Jermaine Hunter, London (calisthenics focuses on primal, animalistic movements using only bodyweight to build strength and enhance coordination and mind/body/breath connection)
F45 Training, London (functional group training - circuit and cross-fit vibes)
Bodyism, London (a varied selection of classes, with small group sizes = lots of attention and guidance from the teachers ((they also do spa treatments))
Ethos Gym, London (a variety of classes, particularly love their TRX classes)
Yogahome, London (my favourite place for yoga, with deeply talented, inspirational and ego-free teachers)
Indaba, London (an inspiring yoga place, one of the places I first ever practised)
Psycle, London (I used to hate spin, but Psycle's classes are fun and functional, and increase strength and stamina)
Aerospace, NYC (boxing go-to)
SLT / Brooklyn Bodyburn, NYC (megaformer)
The Refinery E9, a new favourite local of mine, I am completely crippled by their Ballet, Box & Burn class but keep going back for more. They also have the most varied and next level therapies and treatments to offer too, such as craniosacral therapy, shamanic healing, energy healing, colour healing, ayurvedic massage and so much more, see for yourself.
Equinox Gym + PT, a large gym space in a historic Derry and Toms building, filled with the most up-to-date and innovative equipment. The gym has several studios, an varied selection of classes - including boxing, yoga, pilates and several of their own trademarked methods - as well as the option of personal training. It's a beautiful gym with amazing facilities, including a spa and an incredible cafe / lounge.