Yes, we know ‘New Year, New You’ is a hackneyed old phrase, but sometimes the old sayings are the best, and so it is with this one.  Come the New Year we all start looking at ourselves with fresh eyes. We almost invariably embark upon a programme of getting fit, or at least with the aim of getting trimmer!

Mid-January is usually when people start giving up on their New Year’s resolutions so we would like to suggest a less punishing, more achievable way of getting fit.... 

Be kind to yourself, take time out and ease your way into a healthier way of living. We all know that healthier eating means less carbs and less sugar (whether that’s via less alcohol or snacky, cakey stuff) and involves consuming more freshly prepared foods. Instead of cutting out everything you like, why not choose to follow healthier lifestyle foodstuffs and interesting recipes that you know you’ll love?  And just gradually get fitter that way, without having to resort to the strict counting of calories, ‘sins’ or points? 


We’re enjoying dabbling with north African and Middle Eastern cuisine at the moment. We’re loving Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, ‘Simple’. He has drastically reduced his long lists of complicated ingredients for this book, focussing instead on key ingredients. We’re cooking from this, and we also love Persiana and Feasts (by Sabrina Ghayour). The dishes from these books are truly flavoursome and moreish and are fundamentally healthy. Hurrah! Once you start discovering this style of cuisine, you’ll find that there are many more writers to be discovered out there, from the original trail blazer Claudia Rodin (Arabesque), to Samantha Clark (Moro). What’s more, this style of cooking lends itself perfectly to sharing dishes, which makes entertaining so easy.



Meanwhile, exercise wise, there is a quiet revolution happening throughout the length and breadth of the land. Have you discovered yoga yet? You don’t have to be a gym bunny or a skinny, super fit, ‘bendy Wendy’ to immediately start reaping the benefits from regular yoga classes. You don’t even have to be young!

If you are a beginner, just wear leggings, joggers or leisure pants and as long and loose a top that you feel comfortable in. Yoga teachers are invariably kind, encouraging types and will instruct beginners on how to get the most benefit from different positions without hurting themselves. It’s not a competition or a race, and you are always encouraged to stretch just as much as suits you. There’s no pounding music (OK, there is often gentle music burbling away in the background), no punishing, sweaty exercises. Just lots of flowing, gentle movements that stretch and unlock your muscles, joints and tensions. Usually the lights are dimmed and candles flicker. Often, at the end there is a quiet period when you lie down under a blanket for the most blissful relaxation – we dare you not to nod off, and we guarantee you’ll come out feeling amazing!

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There are three people on the Lily Ella team who are yoga enthusiasts. Jo, who does the hair and make-up on our shoots loves it so much she spent 2 years training to become an Iyengar instructor in London. Stephanie, our merchandiser, goes to a local class called ‘Skinny pigs’ and Karen, who organises our shoots, goes to a ladies gym where one of the classes she attends is full of silver haired ladies. Some of the silver haired ladies are in their 80s, but they are as supple as can be, because they’ve been practising for decades…

One of the things that excites us about yoga is the choice of venues that classes are held in. Venues are often a little bit more interesting than your average gym setting. We know of lots of classes that are held in unusual settings.

Where we are in the north east there is the usual spread of church and school halls, but there are also other great spots to practice yoga in, which add to the ‘spiritual’ aspect of the session. On North Shields Fish Quay there is a yoga group that meets in the ‘Low Light’. This is a recently restored, old square lighthouse, with fantastic views along the river.

Then there is Jasmine Yoga which meets at Tynemouth Sailing Club at the mouth of the Tyne. When the weather permits, classes are held in the fresh air, on the flat roof, with views right down the coast and across the sea. It doesn’t come much more uplifting than this. Then there’s the Beach Yoga class – in our eyes that’s so much better than those outdoor Boot Camps which appeal to the diehard exercise types! Just last week, Jasmine Yoga held a ‘stranded’ yoga session at St Mary’s lighthouse, which is on an island that gets cut off when the tide is in. Bliss! 


These sessions run year-round as we have no choice but to be hardy types here in the ‘grim up north’. Everyone just gets extra layered up when it’s chilly!

If you are already a fit person, yoga still offers so much. Advanced yoga really challenges the body to achieve peak physical fitness and sits well alongside other sports. What we like is that yoga practitioners always have a lovely shape. None of this six pack or defined muscle nonsense, just a healthy looking, well proportioned, fit body. We’ll take that!

So that’s what we’re aiming for this year here at Lily Ella, a healthy mind and body. Wish us luck, and we hope your wellbeing and fitness journey has got off to a great start too.

Our thanks to the lovely Jo Hare from Jasmine Yoga in Tynemouth for the yoga photos.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sabrina Ghayour’s photos are from their Instagram accounts.



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