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Hot Yoga

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So for a month or so I’ve been going to a thing called “hot yoga” (otherwise known as Bikram yoga) with a girlfriend of mine. She’s been doing it for a while and finally persuaded me to go along with her. Bikram yoga is like regular yoga, only in 40c heat and 40% humidity. And also, where in normal yoga the routine changes each time depending on the students, Bikram yoga uses the same 90 min set every time.

If it sounds scary, that’s because it is scary. The first time I went, the teacher told me that if I feel dizzy, like a want to vomit or black out, I’m doing it right.

So why am I doing it??

In actuality it’s not that bad. Often, going into the pose I feel really ill but once I’m there and I’m breathing as the teacher is telling me to, I feel stable and not like I’m going to throw up. And I sweat. Everyone sweats. You have to bring a full towel to cover your yoga mat because you will sweat so much it’ll be as wet as if you’ve dunked it into a swimming pool by the time you’ve finished.

I went for the first time because I was looking at lots of photos of yoga people on Tumblr and I decided I wanted to be cool like them. I am ridiculously influenced by things I see around me. I’ve just finished painting my nails green after seeing a girl at work with green nails and deciding I want green nails too. I made the boyfriend a strawberry – avocado – spinach sandwich the other day because I saw a photo of it online and decided I wanted one. And so with yoga, I decided I wanted to be the people in the photos and so I joined my friend in her class.

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that while mental pictures of me being cool and flexible were what brought me to Bikram yoga, it is the changes to my body that keep me going. Sure, it’s water weight. But you burn about 1000 calories each class, and I do see a difference the morning after every session. My legs look amazing. So amazing I just go out wearing knee high socks and I don’t even care. I’m 26, I go to the gym often, I eat well and now I have this one thing that boosts my confidence and my legs look amazing and I don’t even care if I’m not “meant” to wear knee high socks.

The other reason why I keep going back is that I have pretty weak knees and the heat in the room makes the exercises a lot kinder to my joints. I’m a lot more flexible in the hot room, and my knees aren’t nagging me nearly as much any more. I feel they are much stronger which is great.

The downside is that it IS super scary. Being told that wanting to pass out is normal is usually a sign that you should get the hell out of there. I still can’t do the whole routine through. There’s this pose called the camel pose which looks simple but comes towards the end of the routine and I can’t even start to bend back – I just want to vomit. The best I can do it kneel “Japanese style” and wish for the day that my Bikram sea sickness goes away.

The last scary part is that the routine and the teachers push you. If you clicked on the camel pose video above you’d have heard the teacher say “it’s supposed to hurt”. Things like that are said often. They want you to push yourself beyond your boundaries and stretch that little bit more but often it’s said in ways that sound like they don’t have your health as their priority. However, when doing this kind of yoga you really need to just listen to your body – you know your limits – and use your common sense.

HERE is a nice video showing each of the poses in the routine. It’s pretty positive. But if you search you can find lots of negative things about the yoga and its founder. Personally, Bikram yoga makes me feel better about myself and as long as I look after myself, I don’t see it having a negative impact on me.

Thoughts on Vegetarianism

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On the first date with the boyfriend, we went for sushi, and he sat down and told me that he’s vegetarian. I’ve never dated a vegetarian before so I freaked out wondering what the etiquette is and ended up ordering the same veggie sushi set as him, even though I love fish based sushi so very much.

As we got to know each other more, and when it was obvious that we would end up together, I made the decision to be vegetarian when I am around him – if I was the veggie one, I would think it gross to kiss someone who had just eaten a load of meat, and also I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable so it just made sense to me. What’s more, at home I rarely buy meat and the only time I eat it normally is when I’m out for a burger or some German food.

Since making this decision, I’ve seen food in a new light. Checking food labels all the time is kinda a hassle and finding that things I thought were clean actually having animal products in them makes me sad – things like Worcestershire Sauce and kimchi. I’d say that overall, Frankfurt is pretty good with vegetarians but still sometimes there are places with only one or two options. That kinda sucks too, especially when I’m restricted by my gluten allergy as well.

But when we cook together, it’s amazing. I’ve learnt that there are two types of vegetarian food – one type that pretends to be meat with all the fake mince and fake bacon and whatnot, and the other type that is just meatless by nature. He’s been teaching me lots about cooking the second type of food, though when I cook for myself I still like a good slab of pineapple curry flavoured tofu to replace the chicken I would have had otherwise.

I enjoy this new way of eating and I don’t feel like it’s a negative choice, or that he is forcing me to do this. However, I have been surprised by some people’s reactions to this small change. People turn their noses up at food I’ve chosen because it has no meat in it, even when it’s still veyr yummy. In this day and age where I can go to a bakery in Germany and get gluten free bread and where there are whole supermarkets dedicated to people who have special diets (Denn’s… you are heaven!), it should go without saying that you can live as vegetarian and still really enjoy food. But it seems that even now people sometimes treat vegetarians like they are just being that way to be difficult. It’s pretty shocking, really.

The only worry I have is that some day, I’d like to take the boyfriend to Japan and show him my “hometown” and all the places I used to go – Japan uses fish stock in pretty much EVERYTHING. So it will be a challenge like no other. But we’ll see. Maybe it’ll still be do-able…

Thoughts on Smoking

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I was with a friend trying out a new burger restaurant in town. It was a gorgeous day, so we sat outside. The restaurant serves healthy burgers and really wholesome food. My veggie friend and I were looking forward to a really nice dinner.

We were sat on benches, across the table from each other. Just after we’d ordered our food, we noticed some young girls looking for a place to sit, then pointing at our table. We motioned for them to come and join us, so they did.

The food was delicious and I was taking my sweet time. However, towards the end of my meal, one of the girls lit up a cigarette and started smoking. I looked over to her and said “I’m still eating. Would you mind not doing that right now please?” They are giggled and bitched in German under their breath.

To my annoyance, the second I put my knife and fork down to finish, they lit up again. I was so angry.

People here just don’t think it’s rude or gross or bad at all to light up around people eating. It affects the taste for me – after all, taste is whatever % smell, right? But it happens so often here. Back in Japan, too, it wasn’t uncommon to have people smoking at the next table along from you. I always put it down to Japanese men being stubborn because most of the time it’s men and not women who smoke.

Germany has this super clean and conscientious image but when it comes to smoking it can be pretty behind the times. A lot of great bars in Frankfurt are let down by there being smokers there. And the one thing I miss the most about British life is being able to go out for a drink and not having stinking jeans and hair afterwards.

I just don’t understand why *I* must be uncomfortable when out eating or drinking just because some people want to smoke. It makes me pretty angry…

Maybe I’m in the minority with this kind of thing and most people just put up with it?

Critical Mass Bike Ride

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One sunny Sunday my flatmates told me there’s a big bike ride happening in Frankfurt, and would I like to join? I love bike rides so I said I’d join up with them after my Japanese – English meetup. I’m so glad I did.

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You see, this wasn’t just any bike ride, this was a Critical-Mass bike ride. Critical-Mass are a group who like cyclists’ rights, and according to German law, when there are lots of bikes together on the road, they can forget the crappy bike paths occasionally laid out for us and act like a car. One massive car. That is made up of 100 cyclists.

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The seasoned members (for there is no leader – otherwise that would be a protest and the police wouldn’t be happy) do their best at blocking cars when we get to junctions so that everyone can pass through without being mowed down. I saw some pretty hardcore moves by them, often milimetres away from crashes.

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But what is it like cycling normally in Frankfurt? Well, it’s ok. I’ve seen worse. But it’s certainly not an ideal situation. Where I live on Kaiserstraße I can get into the centre of town on a nice bike path leading me right there. But at other parts of town you have the choice of joining the scary, honky traffic or being a nuisance to the pedestrians and biking on the path. One part in particular, around the Metropolis cinema, is my worst nightmare. There are bike paths in certain places here too, but none of them seem like safe routes to take.

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So this bike ride was really amazing for me – to be able to bike along the roads freely without worrying about cars getting aggressive is a real treat.

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And the best part? It happens every month! Twice a month, in fact! You can join this bike ride from Alte Opera on the 1st Sunday of each month, from 2pm. And again they have another one the following Friday.

For information about Critical-Mass, check out this link, which is in German.

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