Archive for August, 2020

Balancing Yoga and Calisthenics: Filling The Gaps

Posted on: August 28th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

James arrived at Aspen after hearing about the Handstand Classes from a friend. He was seeking a means of improving upon the weakness’s that had become apparent through his extensive Yoga practice. After attending some of the classes he identified aspects in both the Strength classes and Handstand classes that crossed over with what he wanted for Yoga and gave him a path to make some improvements.

James began with no prior experience and without the confidence to enter a freestanding kick up handstand. He was unable to catch and hold a consistent handstand, over-kicking & falling out on a regular basis.

It didn’t take him long to make considerable improvement after just a few classes. His willingness to learn and absorb advice became evident from early on, as he adopted a regular daily practice combining classes at Aspen with self-guided handstand sessions at home.

After one month of attendance, James’s effort saw him develop the press to handstand, a significant achievement. He had the benefit of already possessing the range of motion required to achieve the skill but lacked the scapular strength and understanding of the movement to achieve it. His consistent exposure to our Strength classes and Handstand classes, allowed us to help him pull everything together.

6 months later, he now touts a very consistent kick up, with solid holds that average between 20 and 30 seconds.

All seemed to be going well until late June of this year, when James had a fall that saw him land awkwardly on his foot, breaking the bone in his heel. This required immediate surgery and a considerable amount of time in plaster cast.

He was understandably devastated at the thought of no longer being able to maintain his Yoga and Handstand practice, especially after the rapid progress he had been experiencing in the months prior.

We were quick to reassure James that there were many things he could continue doing during his recovery.

Given the circumstances that came as a result of his injury, James begin to work privately with Aspen Coach Paul Twyman to cultivate a daily practice that would keep his mind and body strong during the recovery.

They set some goals, found new a motivation, and started to build his upper body strength.

Taking advantage of his time off work, James would sometimes spend 2-3 hours at Aspen, slowly moving (hopping) about, stretching, and implementing the regime given to him.

“It’s been 8 weeks now since I injured my heel and I’ve noticed a significant improvement across the board…”

Even though his Yoga practice has been put on hold, James has taken massive strides in progressing his strength and gaining a deeper understanding about how his body functions.

Since his injury, he can now chin up and dip with 15kg of added weight, hold an unassisted tuck planche for 15 sec, perform tuck back levers, has learnt to skin the cat on the rings, and while filming for this interview he pulled a strict ring muscle up, for the first time, out of nowhere.

James doing a 'skin the cat'

James doing a ‘skin the cat’

James’ attitude and consistent work ethic has paid dividends throughout his journey with us so far. He hasn’t let his injury obstruct his ability to keep healthy and fit, in fact, it has given him a massive opportunity to broaden his practice and develop a more rounded understanding of his body.

At the rate he’s progressing, James will be in better physical condition after his recovery than he was before it.

How dangerous are the oils you use?

Posted on: August 21st, 2020 by Analeigh Brown No Comments

Earlier this year we spent 3 weeks travelling around the south island of New Zealand and stayed in a few caravan parks during that time. Camp kitchens are a really good place to meet other travellers and hear their story, and for someone like me who is obsessed with food, it’s a great place to see what other people are eating. The main thing I noticed was that the majority of people were cooking with vegetable or canola oil, which really worried me. It highlighted the fact that most people aren’t aware of the dangers associated with vegetable oils so I thought it would be worthwhile writing about it in the hope of spreading the word.

I feel these oils are up there with the worst of the worst when it comes to the toxic foods we’re ingesting today. For years these oils have been portrayed as a healthier option because they are low in saturated fat and have a high smoke point, but there’s a lot that we haven’t been told. It’s worth noting that there are numerous studies showing that vegetable oils contribute to disease while saturated fats DO NOT.

I’ll start by telling you how they’re made and hopefully that’s enough to make you vow to never eat anything cooked in these oils again. Keep in mind that olive oil is made simply by pressing the olives to extract the oil.

Are you ready for this shocking truth…?

How vegetable oils are made

Firstly, oil is squeezed from the seeds at high pressure leaving behind the protein portion called ‘seed cakes’. Some of them can also be processed at unnaturally high heats which oxidises the oil meaning they go rancid even before you buy them.

The ‘seed cakes’ are then washed in a vat of chemical solvent (usually petroleum) to extract the remaining oil.

The oil is sent through a refining process where it’s washed with sodium hydroxide or lye which is an extremely harsh chemical used in soap making (which is another whole blog post in itself!). While bathing in the sodium hydroxide it’s spun in a vat so the centrifugal force separates the impurities and the by-products of it are sold to soap manufacturers.

As the oil contains natural waxes from the seeds it has a cloudy appearance so it receives further treatment. The wax is used to make margarine (another item you should AVOID!). To do this they use a process called hydrogenation, during which trans-fats are created.

The newly created oil is treated with more chemicals to improve the colour.

Finally, the oil is washed and filtered before it is bleached.

After all these processes it unfortunately has a harsh smell,  so the final step is for it to be chemically deodorised.

As if this isn’t enough, the oil is then funnelled into plastic containers, many of which contain chemical additives to give the plastic more durability. Plastic is known to have negative effects on both the environment and human health such as disruption to the endocrine and immune systems.


Vegetable oils and the ones to avoid:

Canola oil
Soy oil
Sunflower oil
Corn oil
Cottonseed oil
Rice bran oil
Grapeseed oil
Peanut oil
Safflower oil
Margarine (and any vegetable spreads that are an imitation of butter)

Mass production of these oil means the price is driven right down. You will find them on the shelves of every supermarket for only a few dollars per litre. And this fact alone means that they end up in nearly all processed food… salad dressings, sauces, biscuits, chips, cakes, crackers, frozen foods, even some drinks contain them!

You don’t eat processed foods? Great! But, you’re still not in the clear. Most feta, sun-dried tomatoes, olives are all bottled in the same toxic oils. ‘Healthy’ marketing on food packets, gluten free rice crackers, expensive gourmet chips, dips and more can all contain these same toxic oils.


Don’t be fooled!

Awareness is the first step. Now next time you go shopping at the supermarket, turn the package over and check out the ingredient list. This is the only way to know what’s in the food you are eating. Learning to read the ingredients list is the only way to ensure you’re avoiding them.

You’ll notice that vegetable and canola oils have a 5 star health rating (higher than olive oil!). Hopefully this begins to highlight the fact that health star ratings are not to be regarded with any trust, along with all the marketing of food products.

Most restaurants will unfortunately cook in these oils too, especially when serving deep fried things as it is way too expensive to use healthy oils in those deep frying vats.

These oils are linked to inflammation and an increased risk of cancer, whereas olive oil is shown to increase heart health plus has many other benefits. With the massive rise in production of these oils over the last 20 or so years, it’s no wonder we are facing a health crisis with alarming rates of cancer, obesity and other chronic illnesses.


So what oil can you use…

The only oils we should be using are:

Olive oil
Coconut oil
Avocado oil
Macadamia oil
Walnut oil
Alternative good fats include butter, ghee, animal fats such as lard, tallow and duck fat.

Hopefully this information has helped you to have a better understanding of the broad term of ‘vegetable oil’ and why it should be avoided at all costs. If you know anyone who still uses it, be a good friend and pass them this information in the hope that it will change their mind and improve the health of those you care about.

If you’d like to have a conversation with me about this, i’m all ears and would love to help guide you towards a healthier low tox life. Get in touch via email or find us on Instagram.

Enduring Severe Depression: A Story Of Mental Health

Posted on: August 13th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

In August of 2018, Gabriel was admitted to hospital after attempting to take his own life. He was battling major depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder that left him feeling lost and hopeless.

After eventually being realised from hospital, Gabriel’s brother convinced him to come down to Aspen and meet the team and community.

Having always worked out at home due to an anxiety of exercising around other people, Gabriel was understandably very hesitant. But he decided to push through this blockade and try Aspen for a week.

“I joined thinking I’d just give it a week or two…I spent about a week here and loved it and haven’t looked back since…”

From day one, Gabriel felt a welcoming and warm environment at Aspen, and the Aspen community has played a large part in his change and growth.

In the past, Gabriel would primarily focus his training on developing his strength. It wasn’t until he came to Aspen that he began realising the importance of balancing his strength with flexibility and mobility. It took some convincing, but Gabriel has made remarkable progress with regards to his flexibility during his time at Aspen.

Like many people, Gabriel was initially hesitant about bodyweight-only strength. He was under the impression that he would lose strength transitioning from barbell and dumbbell exercises, to predominantly bodyweight movements.

Two years later, and he now realises this to not be the case. Gabriel is now stronger than he ever has been. He is also significantly more mobile, with his body much more balanced than before.

Gabriel has also become a consistent participant of Aspen’s handstand classes. His drive in this area found him recently achieving his first 30-second freestanding handstand – quite the achievement for someone who had never even tried a handstand before joining our community.

“if I told myself three years ago what I’m doing now I wouldn’t have believed myself…”

Today, Gabriel is almost unrecognisable from the shy and nervous person who walked through the Aspen doors two years ago. Armed with a smile on his face, he’s always keen to have a laugh with other members and the coaches during his almost daily visits to Aspen.

“the biggest positive that I can see coming out of that experience is the whole community at Aspen…it’s just a very welcoming community…”