We may think of wellness as purely physical, but if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that our mental health is just as important as what’s on the outside – if not more so. The past two years have seen us take up new hobbies and, in general, many people have adopted a more flexible approach to both work and life. According to research and new findings, this hybrid approach also extends to fitness, where at-home virtual workouts will increasingly be mixed with in-person bricks and mortar experiences (speaking of which, keep your eyes peeled for the new Fortitude Fitness gym, opening soon on the Island). The secret to staying motivated is variety – and the good news about the fitness industry is that it never stays still for too long.
Here, we’ve rounded up the hottest alternative workouts and wellbeing therapies that will challenge and invigorate – all available to try at London City Island and the local neighbourhood.
CLIMBING THE WALLS
Bored of 5k runs and online yoga sessions? Why not push yourself to the limit, learn a new skill and get involved with a thriving community while you’re at it? Rise Climbing is an independent new bouldering (climbing) centre in nearby Canning Town. Founders Conor Skilbeck and James Skinner, who have been climbing since childhood, are keen to share their passion with a wider audience ‘by making climbing inclusive and accessible for our local community’.
‘Climbing is a fun way to de-stress and is great physical exercise,’ Skilbeck says. ‘It offers the same health benefits as regular gym membership and more. Climbing improves strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. It is a mental challenge and requires problem-solving to work out the climbing routes.’
As well as offering a series of different boards and routes to suit all levels (including complete beginners via introductory classes and family sessions), Rise also features a gym space, music venue, bar and cafe. ‘It’s an inclusive and welcoming community space where you can leave stress at the door and come in for a climb, a coffee, a chat, or all three!’ commented Skilbeck. ‘Our mission is to make Rise feel like your second home.’ rise-climbing.com
If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that our mental health is just as important as what’s on the outside – if not more so
BREATH IN, BREATH OUT
When it comes to learning new skills, you would think that breathing is not something that could be taught. After all, can something that we do 24/7 really be considered a skill? Well, turns out the answer is yes. Sometimes referred to as “conscious breathing”, breathwork training has soared in popularity in recent years. Those who practise yoga and meditation will be well versed in the importance of correct breathing during sessions, but learning to control and tap into the breath is something that has a ‘direct effect on our physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing’, according to teacher Richie Bostock, AKA The Breath Guy. Conscious breathing can have a positive impact on everything from sleep to managing anxiety and cardiovascular activity. Calais Lois, a frequent visitor to London City Island, is founder of The Breath Room, described as a ‘sensory wellness hub for professionals committed to integrating stress management solutions to their working lives’. Calais originally turned to mindfulness as a ‘way to regain power over my emotional state,’ and she is now on a mission to share various alternative holistic therapies with the community. Not only does she host breathwork sessions but she also specialises in sound baths, a ‘passive form of meditation’ that help the participant ‘tune out of the daily buzz and into a beautifully soothing soundscape’. These have been hosted at The Woods Studios on the Island, which also runs regular alternative exercise and wellbeing classes. It may all sound pretty new age, but sound-based therapies have been around for thousands of years and modern studies have shown that there are therapeutic benefits, even potentially on physical ailments, such as through ultrasound technology. thebreathroom.co.uk
One person who knows all about the benefits of sound therapy is Oriana Shepherd. The yoga instructor founded Hum Yoga on London City Island at the end of last year. What sets Hum apart from London’s other yoga and wellness studios is that, as the name suggests, everything is centred around sound. Shepherd discovered this therapy through her former career in palliative care, when she found that patients responded well to singing bowls. These are used in Hum classes at specific frequencies, including the “Schumann Resonance”, AKA the frequency of the Earth, which helps keep participants grounded. The other frequency is associated with gamma brainwave activity. Having been established for less than a year, Hum has already made quite the impression on London City Island and built up a strong community. New activities and initiatives are constantly added to the roster, including, for July, a yoga brunch in partnership with The Espresso Room and English National Ballet, and an upcoming gong bath. You can keep up with all the activity on the newly launched blog section at hum.yoga.
PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
Eastern medicines and therapies have been popular in the Western world for centuries. And in traumatic times, it’s little wonder that people often turn to “alternative” treatments. Aurora Argesi, a yoga teacher at Hum, is an advocate of alternative wellness. After struggling with addiction, she turned to meditation, spirituality and yoga and turned her life around. Today she has 15 years’ experience under her belt as a specialist in Yin Yoga (which focuses on the deep stretching of the connective tissues), meditation and the Chakra system, and as an intuitive healer, Ayurveda masseuse and Reiki therapist. Her focus is on helping others overcome physical and emotional trauma, in particular following the events of the past two years.
‘The body speaks in pain and symptoms,’ she explains. ‘When we numb and suppress that communication, we are silencing the language of the body. Many people feel drained physically, emotionally and spiritually and don’t understand why. When left untreated, trapped trauma, stress and emotion can cause a myriad of issues, pain, disease and dysfunction.’
Argesi recommends “energy healing”, a term that she says ‘covers a variety of alternative healing methods that involve the manipulation of an individual’s energy’. These include Reiki, a traditional Japanese therapy where practitioners use their hands to deliver energy to the body, improving the flow and balance of your energy to support healing, as well as Abhyanga massage. This unique massage is the most popular in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, which involves gradually pouring warm medicated vegetable oil over the body from head to toe. ‘It involves the execution of regular and gentle movements – with more focus on the suffering areas of the body – and is practised with energetic healing by stimulating the main energy centres of the body: chakras and meridians,’ explains Argesi. auroraargesi.co.uk
The Islander is supporting World WellBeing Week 2022 (27 June – 1 July), an initiative that allows us to thank health workers and carers, as well as shining a spotlight on the growing number of practitioners, charities and social enterprises who specialise in their own areas of wellbeing.