My Yoga Evolution


As you may remember from my Summer Goals post, it was one of my ambitions this year to go on a travelling adventure all by myself! Well, today I'm here to tell you that my mission has been accomplished! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that for the past week, I have been sunning myself in the beautiful Portuguese mountains whilst on a yoga holiday with Yoga Evolution Retreats! The retreat that I attended focused on Ashtanga Vinyasa & Yin Yoga, which was a real learning experience for me as I hadn't previously had much experience with either practice. Despite my yoga-novice status, I had an absolutely fantastic time and came home feeling incredibly grounded and relaxed, so I couldn't resist sharing my experience with you all! Keep reading to find out more about my holiday!

 

🌴 Setting 🌴

As you can probably tell from the beautiful photos, the venue for the retreat was located on a secluded mountainside, a short distance from the small town of Oleiros. The views were absolutely breathtaking! Peter and Sue, our yogis for the week, have restored the once-dilapidated farm buildings into comfortable and welcoming guest rooms. The buildings on-site were very much inkeeping with the rustic setting, including the purpose-built wooden yoga chalet where we engaged in our twice-daily practices. The 15m swimming pool, tucked away down the sloping mountain, was my hub for many of the free afternoons - it provided the perfect spot for sunbathing whilst taking in the forested landscape! One of the optional extra activities offered on the retreat is a herb-gathering walk through the surrounding countryside. I didn't take up this opportunity myself (the sun lounger was calling me!) but many of the guests who went along really enjoyed a foray into the picturesque terrain.

🌴 Accommodation 🌴

Guests at the retreat have the option of staying in the guest houses, a private stone cottage, or in a gypsy caravan or a tent for an experience closer to nature! My room was located in the main house, close to the Moroccan style guest lounge, fully stocked library, and kitchen. One bathroom, equipped with all of the expected modern features, served the four guests residing in the main house but there was never a fight over bathroom use, which is always a worry with communal facilites! You certainly couldn't complain about the cleanliness of the facilities, I couldn't find fault with anything. I really liked the fact that the accommodation felt less like a hotel and more like a guest bedroom in someone's house, which added greatly to the relaxing and homely atmosphere at the retreat.

 

🌴 Yoga 🌴

And now for the reason for my attendance at the retreat - the yoga! Our practices lasted for four hours each day, with Ashtanga yoga led by Peter from 8-10am, and Yin yoga taught by Sue from 6-8pm. At first I was rather daunted by the thought of such long practices, but they went by in such a flash and I felt so refreshed after each one! The Ashtanga practice is physical and energetic, all to do with building your inner fire! Peter guided us step by step through sun salutations and the first standing series. Each day's practice built on the last, which meant it wasn't too overwhelming for those such as myself who were unfamiliar with many of the postures. However, the more experienced yogis on the retreat still seemed to get a lot out of each practice. During our evening session of Yin, Sue took us through fewer postures which we stayed in for a longer time. These enabled us to engage with and work on the bandhas (also known as body locks) and the body's meridians including those attached to the kidneys, stomach, heart and lungs, and intestines, promoting health and wellbeing. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the Ashtanga practices, I feel that I got the most out of the Yin yoga. Sue provided so much useful information about the benefits of all of the postures and I really felt them working their magic on my body!

 
 

🌴 Food 🌴

I could wax lyrical about the retreat diet all day! Selina, a chef and nutritional therapist, looked after us for the week, providing a varied mix of vegetarian and vegan food, all of which was included in the price of the retreat. For breakfast we enjoyed porridge made with nut milk topped stewed fruit, as well as rice cakes with jam or home-made nut butter. At lunch, there was always a mix of salads with fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. A particular culinary highlight for me was the vegan sushi that was served towards the end of the week, which was truly delicious! At lunch as well as between meals, fresh fruit was in plentiful supply. Dinners were again top quality, with a delicious dahl being a stand-out dish for me! The food couldn't be faulted and even those who usually ate a lot more meat in their diets found it easy to adjust to the vegetarian offering.

🌴 My Highlights 🌴

Although it is pretty hard to select just a few highlights from such a wonderful experience, there were a few things that really made this trip special for me! The first was something called morning silence. We practiced morning silence every day except two on the retreat, meaning that in the morning before practice, throughout practice, and during breakfast which was immediately afterwards, nobody spoke. As someone who isn't always a massive talker and often finds it difficult to be the lead person in a conversation, this provided me with some much needed space to breathe, be with my own thoughts, and feel ready for the day ahead. I wish morning silence could be implemented in my everyday life!

My second highlight was an excursion to a nearby river that Peter and Sue kindly organised for us on the penultimate day. A picnic was packed for us and we headed to the river (about 20 minutes away from the retreat centre) for an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing. This provided some gorgeous photo opportunities as well as another venue for relaxation and I had a wonderful time!

 
 

🌴 Was it worth it? 🌴

I paid £475 for my single room occupancy at the retreat and I can safely say that it was worth every penny. This was the best value yoga retreat that I researched online, and the glowing reviews that Peter and Sue receive on their Facebook page is testament to the amazing experience they provide! I would highly recommend that anyone interested in a yoga holiday checks out what's on offer on the Yoga Evolution website - I'd love to go back!

Have you been on holiday this year? If so, what did you make of it? If not, where is your dream holiday destination? Share with me in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

Home Office Heaven*


"You don't gotta go to work, work, work, work..." Anyone else still obsessed with the Fifth Harmony song Work from Home? Maybe it's just me! By contrast, if you regularly shun the office and work from home, you're certainly not alone! In 2016, an estimated 1.5 million people worked from home - a far larger figure than I was expecting when I first started researching for this post! Although, I am confident that pretty much every blogger reading this post will be able to relate to working from home, as most people (myself included) run their entire blogs from the comfort of their bedrooms, and perhaps the occasional coffee shop. So, when the office interior design experts at the Penketh Group invited me to share some home office inspiration, I leapt at the chance! If you want to find out what makes a heavenly home office, just keep scrolling!


 ✏️ Why bother with a home office? πŸ’Ό

It's super tempting when working or blogging just to snuggle up in bed to get your latest post done, am I right? However, trying to be productive in a space that is most importantly used for sleep can be detrimental. Firstly, being in a relaxing place can keep you from focusing, leading to procrastination! Secondly, working in your relaxation space can prevent you from sleeping and chilling out in the evening, as you start to subconsciously associate that place with thinking and working! So, what's the solution? Not all of us have a spare room to craft into our perfect home office, but there are simple things that you can try! You can still divide your space between work and rest - just having a desk designated for work in the corner of your bedroom can really help focus your mind when you sit down there!
 

 ✏️ Let's get down to business... πŸ’Ό

TO DEFEAT THE HUNS! I'm sorry, I couldn't resist! Aaaaanyway, to furnish your office space, you can find blogger-friendly white desks at relatively inexpensive prices on Amazon. Perfect for blog photos as well as productive post writing! Kitting yourself out with an ergonomic chair which supports your back and a footrest to props up your tootsies is another must - although a little bit of yoga can really help soothe any aching muscles, prevention is way better than cure. You may also consider investing in a storage unit or filing cabinet for your paperwork and files. If you want to channel your inner Barbie during your organising process, you can even buy a bright pink filing cabinet! Who said that office supplies had to be boring?! So, now we've sorted the basics, let's get a little more creative!

 ✏️ Make your Space (P)Interesting! πŸ’Ό

(Get it? I laughed too hard at my own joke!) Just because your home office is a place for productivity doesn't mean that it has to be bland and boring! My lovely blogger friend Ellis, who works from home full-time as an illustrator, says that although her home office is the place where she gets her business head on, she still makes it very personal: "I love having little things like a cushion on my chair with a fluffy blanket draped across the back just in case I get a bit chilly. I also have a moodboard above my computer where I pop other people's business cards, photos, or inspiring artwork, and I have some art on the walls too." Making your home office warm, inviting, and Pinterest-worthy is definitely an essential as it'll mean that you're even more motivated to sit down there and get your shit done! Get some photos printed for free using the FreePrints app to personalise your office, or pay a visit to Ellis's shop to nab yourself a beautiful print!


✏️ Staying Motivated πŸ’Ό

It's all well and good having a gorgeous home office setup, but keeping up your motivation to work can still be tricky at home, as there are always distractions! Using an app like Toggl which runs in the background of your computer, tracking exactly how much time you're spending on certain programmes (INCLUDING FACEBOOK *cough*) can show you where you're wasting time, so you can work to avoid it. Setting yourself a schedule, or even just having a rough to-do list of what you want to achieve each day can also be really handy. The simple act of getting dressed can work wonders for your motivation too - although sitting in your dressing gown can be tempting, dressing like you mean business can really help you feel professional and power through! Working with the pomodoro technique is another winner in my book: set a timer giving yourself 20 minutes to work, followed by 5 minutes break, and repeat until the task is done! I get things done so much faster with this trick!

✏️ And now for some pure fantasy... πŸ’Ό

By now we've covered all of the practicalities of designing your dream home office, so it's time for a little bit of daydreaming! Let's talk about the office features that you really want, such as a shirtless Zac Efron lookalike to feed you chocolate when you get peckish, or a desk chair that massages you as you type! That'd be pretty great, eh? While we're at it, I'll ensure that my home office is in fact located on a beautiful desert island with an unlimited supply of cocktails - feel free to join me!


And there we have it - my home office heaven is now complete! A huge thank you goes out to the wonderful Ellis for helping me out so much with this post, her insight as a full time home office aficionado couldn't have been more valuable. I'll hopefully be bringing all of this to life (without the Zac Efron lookalikes, *sob*) in October when I start my PhD, as I like to do most of my writing in my flat! Wish me luck!

Do you have a home office setup? If so, what are your essentials? Please share in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post with the Penketh Group and contains affiliate links

A day out: Oxford

Having lived in Oxford as a student for the past four years, I thought it was high time that I penned a blog post all about the city. I've really loved my time in Oxford and I'm sad that I won't be living here permanently throughout my PhD, but I will certainly be back as regularly as I can! Oxford is a beautiful city and I encourage absolutely anyone who is keen on exploring England to visit. Most of the big "things to do" such as seeing the Bridge of Sighs and taking a trip on a punt are well known to most visitors, so today I thought I'd share a few attractions that you might not necessarily think of on your trip to the city. Ready? Let's go!

 ⛪️ Climb St. Mary the Virgin's Church Tower ⛪️

Oxford is the city of dreaming spires, and nowhere are you able to appreciate this more than from the top of the University Church tower. It costs just £4 to make the short journey to the top (less if you're a student) and the views are simply stunning. Prestigious All Soul's College and the Radcliffe Camera are just two of the sights that you'll be able to pick out. I'm very glad that I was able to do this before graduating, as it's one of my favourite Oxford sightseeing memories.

🎁 Visit the Covered Market 🎁

 
Even if you don't intend on doing much shopping in the city (I don't blame you, it's pretty pricey!), I would nevertheless recommend a trip to the historic Covered Market. The Market building, housing numerous little shops and cafes, dates back to the 1700's. You won't be able to find produce that is sold at the Covered Market anywhere else, and it's wonderful that so many independent retailers located together in the city centre. My must-visit locations within the Covered Market are Georgina's Cafe, a quirky venue with delicious hot chocolates, and Fresh Clothing, where I may or may not have splurged on a few 1950's style tea dresses during my time! The Covered Market is a great place to soak up the Oxford atmosphere.

πŸƒ Wander Around the Botanic Gardens πŸƒ

 
If you're looking for a beautiful green space in which to take a breather, or just a space to lay your picnic blanket, the Botanic Garden is the place to go. Located just off the High Street, the Botanic Garden is an oasis in the busy city, where you can explore exotic glasshouses with a glittering array of green life. There is plenty of outdoor space too, where you can sit beneath the blossoming trees and watch the enthusiastic students swan by on their punts! Students can get discounted entry too by showing their student ID.

πŸ“š Explore Blackwell's Bookshop πŸ“š

From the outside, it doesn't look like there's anything terribly special about Blackwell's Bookshop. However, once you wander inside, you'll see exactly why I recommended it! I took my lovely friends Jess and James to visit this shop on their visit to Oxford, and you can see their reactions in their vlog! Located on Broad Street, Blackwell's is the largest academic booksellers in the UK and the stock in their Oxford store more than lives up to that title! Their basement room, called the Norrington Room, is simply palatial - if you can't find something you like here, you can also try the other three floors, stacked with books! You can even take a virtual tour of the shop to get an even better feel for it!

 πŸ° Discover Merton College 🏰

   
Everyone who comes to visit Oxford wants to visit the big, famous colleges where Harry Potter was filmed: Christchurch and Magdalen are at the top of most tourist hit lists. But by only visiting these big names, you're actually missing out on one of the jewels in the University of Oxford's crown: Merton College. I studied here as an undergrad and as a Masters student and waking up to these beautiful surroundings every day was truly amazing. The college is the oldest in Oxford, over 750 years old, and it is home to the world's oldest working library. You can visit the historic chapel with an amazing painted ceiling, the glorious gardens, and the oldest quad in Oxford - the design that inspired all the rest! Even though I'm totally biased as one of their students, Merton is well worth a visit.

Have you ever visited Oxford? Which of these attractions would you most like to explore? Comment down below!

Until next time,

A x

#TheModernMarriage*

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Were you one of those little girls who kept a scrapbook full of magazine cut-outs, showing exactly how you wanted your wedding day to be? Were your Barbie dolls married in lavish plastic ceremonies to your brother's unwilling Action Man? Do you even now have Pinterest boards dedicated to big white dresses and princess-worthy castle venues? I may be in the minority when I say that I wasn't one of those little girls, nor am I now, as a 22-year old woman, entirely sold on the idea of marriage. So, when Slater and Gordon, family lawyers London got in touch with me to ask if I'd write a post on what #TheModernMarriage means to me, I thought this might provide an interesting opportunity to talk about why getting married isn't really something that features highly on my priority list. Let's go!

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πŸ‘°πŸ» Now vs. Then πŸ‘°πŸ»

I'm sure most people would agree that in 2017, marriage is not quite the essential rite of passage it was in times gone by. We no longer live in the age of Jane Austen, where it was a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Today, couples can live together without marriage being a necessity, women aren't obliged to take their husband's name, and in many places, marriage is FINALLY open to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, many of the traditions of yesteryear continue in modern marriage, especially when it comes to the all-important wedding ceremony. 

The wedding takes place in a church. The bride wears a big white dress.
The bride walks down the isle, arm in arm with her father.
The happy couple recite vows and the groom kisses the bride.

I have attended very traditional wedding ceremonies in the past, where all of this took place, and they were absolutely magical. The bride was beaming from ear to ear, and everyone was having a fantastic time. However, for me, this kind of wedding day is pretty much my worst nightmare. Having all eyes on me whilst walking down the aisle in a big white dress that symbolises my virginity (LOL), being "given away" by my father (YUCK) makes me feel seriously uncomfortable. But, that's the joy of the modern marriage, because these days, you have the power to completely make it your own...

πŸ‘°πŸ» Doing Your Own Thing πŸ‘°πŸ»

One of my most memorable wedding moments actually came when I was working behind the bar at a wedding reception. The bride and groom began their first dance in a super-traditional way, swaying to the beat of a romantic song, UNTIL a minute or so in, the song cut out and Gangnam Style began to blast from the speakers! The bride and groom leapt into a fully choreographed dance routine, to the whoops and cheers of their shocked guests! This was such a fantastic moment, all caught on film by the wedding photographer - it has stuck with me for a long time and I always chuckle when I remember the look of surprise on the father of the bride's face! I loved how the bride and groom took a usual wedding custom and totally made it their own, something that I would also like to do if I ever opt for a more traditional ceremony.

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 πŸ‘°πŸ» Money, money, money πŸ‘°πŸ»

Another thing that really scares me about the traditional wedding ceremony is the cost. One of my Dad's pals is getting married soon and has already blown £35,000 on the day, which for me is just incredible. When you add up the price of the venue, the meal, the flowers, the dress etc. etc. it seems that the cost can easily spiral out of control. However, one of my good blogger friends, Ellis Jade, has really shown me that you can have your perfect wedding on a budget. Like me, Ellis wasn't one for being the centre of attention at a massive, elaborate service, so she and her husband James opted for a small ceremony with minimal guests, flowers from eBay, and a simple yet beautiful dress from Forever 21. I really admire Ellis for doing exactly what she wanted for her wedding day and for having a wonderful ceremony at a fraction of the normal cost!

So, what is #TheModernMarriage? For me, it's optional, adaptable, and most importantly, open to all. Will I ever get married? Maybe. (If an appropriate Benedict Cumberbatch lookalike comes along). But what I do know is that my wedding day, if and when it comes, is going to be very ME!

Would you like to get married? What does your dream wedding day look like? Tell me in the comments below! Or perhaps you've already had your perfect wedding day! Please share your memories in the comments and let me know if there's anything about it that you would change!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post with Slater + Gordon

Meet my August Advertisers

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Welcome to August! A month of many marvellous things, such as meteor showers, Women's Equality Day, and Notting Hill Carnival, not to mention a whole host of new advertisers on my blog! As always, I have seven lovely ladies to share with you. Advertising packages on my blog start at just £1, and I have now opened bookings for October, so if you're interested in being featured in a blog post just like this one (as well as getting lots of other benefits besides!), get your booking in quick! Without further ado, let's meet the stars of the show in August!

🌟 www.sunshinesarahxo.com 🌟

It's a huge welcome back for my first August Advertiser, the gorgeous Sarah! Sarah has been absolutely killing it with her blog lately, sharing everything from book tours of the most exciting new releases to city breaks and small business success stories! Everything that Sarah writes conveys her infectious sunny personality and friendly charm, reading her blog is like sitting down and enjoying a cuppa with a good mate! Sarah also isn't afraid to get serious on her blog, and she has opened up about her struggles with self-acceptance, which I found down-right inspirational! If you don't follow Sarah, you're missing out!

My August picks from Sarah's blog:
  1. Accepting Myself Just The Way I Am
  2. Indy Luxe Makeup Brushes: A Success Story
  3. My City Break to Edinburgh
Follow Sarah on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

🌟 www.theenglisheverygirl.com 🌟

My second August advertiser is a true blogging veteran! Sian has been blogging for over three years and she has been doing an absolutely fantastic job! What I love about Sian's content is that it's super relatable. She shares her latest cruelty free makeup purchases and Brand Focus posts on her favourite cosmetic retailers, allowing you to pick up a new product with confidence when you spot it in Superdrug! Another of Sian's series that I adore showcases her addition to all things stationery, she finds the cutest Etsy shops out there and shares her ever-expanding sticker collection! Definitely stop by Sian's blog and explore her content for yourself!

My August picks from Sian's blog:
  1. My Three-Year Blogiversary: Some Home Truths
  2. Dear Dad, Love Sian
  3. Brand Focus: E.L.F.
 Follow Sian on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

🐝 www.simplyadrfit.com 🐝

Drumroll please for my first Bee Advertiser of the month - Jordon! Jordon runs the oh-so-slick book blog Simply Adrift, where she not only reviews her latest reads but covers lifestyle and travel too. Blogging tips and tricks are also featured, including some incredibly useful tips on starting your blog, as well as staying motivated. I love the colour scheme and in fact the entire aesthetic of Jordon's blog, it's easy to spend ages scrolling from beautiful post to beautiful post! 

My August picks from Jordon's blog:
  1. How to Write Kick-Ass Content for your Blog
  2. How I Fell in Love with Reading
  3. So You Like to Read Fairy Tales?
Follow Jordon on Twitter, Instagram, and BlogLovin

🐝  www.teainthetub.com 🐝 

A big welcome also goes out to Helen, my next Bee Advertiser! Helen's blog covers lifestyle, beauty, food and loads more besides! I really admire Helen because of her strong cruelty-free ethics, she only features CF products on her blog and she is a fantastic advocate for animal friendly living. One of my favourite series on Helen's blog is her Fleabag Fridays, where she allows bloggers to introduce their adorable pets on her blog! Check her out for sure!

My August picks from Helen's blog:
  1. Think Pink Ballistic - Lush Review
  2. Five Ways to Get Back Into Running
  3. What I Bought at Britsol Veg Fest 2017
Follow Helen on Twitter, Instagram, and BlogLovin

🐝 www.kayleighzaraa.com 🐝


Also back for a second month of advertising is the wonderful Kayleigh! Kayleigh has recently celebrated her blog's second birthday, and her little space on the web is going from strength to strength. As well as her regular posts featuring her goals and her wishlists, Kayleigh has been loving Pinterest lately, and I have really enjoyed her recent blog about her Pinterest dream home! If you want to get inspired yourself, head over to Kayleigh's blog now!

My August picks from Kayleigh's blog:
  1. My Pinterest Dream Home
  2. The Paper Gang June Box
  3. 50 Blog Post Ideas
Follow Kayleigh on Twitter, Instagram, and BlogLovin

🌹 www.teawithgi.com 🌹 

It's my pleasure to introduce recent graduate and Gibraltar-native Giana as my first Rose Advertiser for August! Gi's blog covers her university experiences, beauty reviews, and her travels across Europe and beyond! Each post is accompanied by her gorgeous photography and is packed with personality! Her Instagram is pastel perfection as well, definitely check it out!

My August picks from Giana's blog:
  1. Why Life After Graduation Can Be Your Best Yet
  2. 12 Ways You're Doing Better in Life than You Think
  3. My Summer Pool-Side Essentials
Follow Gi on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

🌹 www.mademoisellewomen.wordpress.com 🌹

The lovely Lydia is behind the helm of my final August blog! Lydia writes a fantastically varied blog, covering everything from TV shows and tags to personal posts about her Aspergers Syndrome. She also runs regular box swaps with fellow bloggers which are such fun to read about! I definitely recommend connecting with Lydia and her fantastic blog!

My August picks from Lydia's blog:
  1. Bloggers Ball: What Just Happened?
  2. Here's Why I Love Having Aspergers
  3. Productivity Tips: How to be Organised and Get Stuff Done!
Follow Lydia on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest

And there we have it, another crop of gorgeous advertisers for you to lust over this month! Do leave me a comment down below and let me know what's coming up for you in August! What blog posts do you have planned? Any exciting events coming up in your life?

Until next time,

A x
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