This week we have a guest blog post on how to style for flexibility from She Collective HK, who we are partnering up with for our almost-sold out Flexibility Workshop + Pop Up Event this Sunday 7 May in Hong Kong!

She Collective Hong Kong sportswear

"I'm almost...almost there," my boyfriend gasps, as he strains forward...bending slowly at the hips to reach towards his toes.

He's right: he is almost there. Almost at his knees, that is.

Wearing She Collective HK while doing my yoga backbend wheel pose in Hong Kong
Wearing: She Collective HK
Humans have, in last few decades, become creatures who spend most of their days sitting in front of screens, developing hunched posture, tight shoulders, and stiff hamstrings. For a species that prides itself on advancement, we seem to have forgotten that our bodies weren't made to be sedentary for eight hours a day (aside from sleeping).

Having said that, there has been a recent surge in an appreciation of #healthyliving and all its associations (athleisure, juice detoxes, bootcamp holidays etc) - which has ironically led to a different sort of problem: the emergence of "weekend warriors" (i.e. office workers who exercise rigorously on the weekend) with an increased number of injuries that result from their bodies being ill-equipped for intensive training. One of the reasons for the rise in injuries is a lack of mobility (part of which is flexibility) amongst exercise-enthusiasts, so I've decided to explore a few reasons on why stretching is essential to keep our bodies happy, healthy and injury-free.

Side note: For those of you who are interested in learning how to stretch and develop flexibility, I am hosting a flexibility workshop on Sunday 7 May 2017 in Hong Kong. More details can be found here.

This week we have a guest post by Coco Chan of Maison de Coco, PR/social media extraordinaire and oil mixologist. She sat down to give us her thoughts on her favourite essential oils for de-stressing in Hong Kong, and how to use them.


Coco Chan of Maison De Coco gives us her thoughts on the top 5 essential oils to relax your body and balance your mind

I love Hong Kong and this is the city I will always call home, but it's not an easy metropolitan to cope in when everything goes by so quickly. If you're like me and often find yourself stressed, anxious or having a hard time to unwind, then here are 5 top essential oils to relax your body and balance the mind.

Coco Chan Maison De Coco top 5 essential oils to relax your body and balance your mind lavender oil

Lavender: Calming and soothing. Affects the cardiovascular system, nervous system, helps with emotional balancing and is great for the skin because of it's anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and regenerative properties.

Roman Chamomile: Therapeutic calming effect on the skin, mind and body. It's also said to help one overcome ones negative feelings of disappointment and hopelessness. Promotes serenity in all areas of life.

Coco Chan Maison De Coco top 5 essential oils to relax your body and balance your mind roman chamomile oil

Vetiver: Its calming, grounding and stabilizing properties allow it to help with stress relieving. It's nature's tranquilizer and helps induce a restful sleep. (I always have this next to my bedstand but remember this is a strong oil, so use one drop first to see how it affects you personally. Apply one drop at a time for added effect.)

Valerian: Helps with anxiety, stress and depression. Is an ancient oil that calms and relaxes the mind and body. A root based oil that improves the quality of sleep (great for insomnia).

Coco Chan Maison De Coco top 5 essential oils to relax your body and balance your mind clary sage oil

Clary Sage: Calming to the nervous system. Helps balances emotions. Washes away daily tension and gives a sense of mild euphoria (also great for relieving menstrual pains).

Suggested ways of application

Topical: Choose a base oil of choice (eg. coconut oil, jojoba oil or my favorite sweet almond oil) and add 1-2 drops to one pump of base oil, mix and apply to designated area. For stress related purposes, I suggest to apply it over the heart/chest area to clear the heart chakra and on the back of your neck. 

Breathe it in: Simply add 1-2 drops to your palm, rub it in to activate the oil and cup your hands over your nose. Inhale deeply 3-5 times. 

Diffuser: Add 3-4 drops of essential oil into your 100mL diffuser and let it fill your home or workspace.

Hot compress: Add 1-2 drops of essential with one pump of base oil and apply to desired area. Put a hot towel over that area and enjoy.

Enjoy on the go: Add 10-15 drops of essential oil into a 10mL glass roller bottle and then top off with your choice of base oil. Apply it on the go to your temples, wrists, back of neck or over your heart. 

If you're looking for the oils above or want to make a personalised blend you can contact me directly at hello@maisondecoco.com or ping me for a personal consultation. 

I hope that this blog post was useful and that you learned something new! If you have any essential oil questions that you want answered simply shoot me an email or follow me on Instagram (@cokes) for more updates. If you’re interested in learning more about Essential Oils, I host monthly workshops around town. Until next time my oil loving friends!

Coco Chan Maison De Coco top 5 essential oils to relax your body and balance your mind

**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m just a girl who loves essential oils and wants to share the great benefits of it to the world. All the information provided is not intended to prescribe, diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, nor replace current medical treatment or drugs prescribed by your healthcare professional. The statements made have not been evaluated by the FDA. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and address any health or medical needs you may have with your physician. Please seek professional help when needed.
I was humbled to be interviewed by The Workout Princess, a clothing store that designs funny, quirky and inspirational fitness apparel made in the United States. The original interview is found here, but I've also re-posted it below.

PS. If you want to follow my personal workout adventures, then I'm @aerialjinx on Instagram.

FIT AND FABULOUS - MEET #WORKOUTPRINCESS CARMEN

Carmen has found a way to mix her two passions in life (writing and maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle) in her blog, The Fitaholics. Carmen has traveled, and lived, all over the world and has maintained a consistently fit life. In her most recent workout endeavor, Carmen has found a passion for dance and acrobatics after her move to Hong Kong. 

We are excited to have had the opportunity to interview with Carmen who is one of our inspiring #WorkoutPrincesses and a #bosslady!

@aerialjinx interview with The Workout Princess

1. How did you discover your passion for writing and fitness/wellness? 

 I was born and raised in Australia, which meant that I was always running around doing some sort of sport, including competitive swimming, athletics and tennis. During university, I discovered martial arts, and ended up training in Muay Thai, as well as dabbling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. Since moving to Hong Kong, I’ve been concentrating on pole dance, acrobatics and stretch/flexibility training. All in all, while the activities have changed over time, my passion for fitness and wellness hasn’t! 

On top of all that, I have always loved reading and writing. When I was younger, I entered short fiction competitions, would write stories online for fun, and ended up interning in the editorial department at a top women’s magazine. 

Nowadays, my day job as a lawyer involves reading and writing legal submissions, and my nights are spent writing articles for the two blogs that I run (one of which is The Fitaholics). 

2. Who or what inspires you to work out? 

I’m usually quite self-motivated to work out because I genuinely love it. If I’m unable to get a good work out in, I become pretty cranky (and let’s face it, pretty chubby!). 

Having said that, I find that every now and then, it’s helpful to have something that forces you to push your own boundaries: and for me, that’s usually a dance performance, competition or showcase. Having a set date where you’re going to be performing in front of a bunch of random people makes me work extra hard to ensure that I don’t fall on my face on stage (too often). Instagram is also a great source of inspiration - my feed is full of crazy bendy yogis and contortionists, hard-working fitness models, healthy and delicious recipes, and athletic and graceful pole dancers who are constantly coming up with new, innovative moves to try. 

3. What do you think it means to be a #bosslady?

I love this term: it turns the word “bossy” (which is almost exclusively used to describe women - and never men - in a negative light) around and makes it something empowering for women. I think that being a #bosslady means that you are taking control of your life - you’re in the driver’s seat, and you take full responsibility for the ups and downs. It’s not necessarily about leading that perfect Instagram life or having a bunch of minions working for you. Most #bossladies that I know have created something for themselves - even if it’s just a blog that only your mother reads, it’s yours, you own it, so get out there and kill it!

@aerialjinx interview with The Workout Princess dancers pose yogi yoga stretch beach

4. Where did your journey with @thefitaholics begin?

I actually had a fitness/health blog a while ago, but after I had a pretty devastating fall-out with a group of girls (who said some rather negative things about it), I was pretty crushed and closed the entire thing down. But my love of fitness and writing made me come back, stronger than ever. While it had hurt at the time, their criticism actually helped me think about what my blog’s mission and direction should be and how it can be achieved - and that’s how The Fitaholics was born. It’s a fresh start, and a little slice of the world wide web that I can call my own.

5. What does it mean to you to be successful?

Being a lawyer, I have a typical Type A personality, and am well accustomed to being in a competitive environment. I used to measure my level of success against other people’s standards (i.e. whether I measured up in their eyes), but I’m starting to realise that what’s important is actually whether I measure up in my own eyes.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t always make life easier: there have been times when I’ll get great feedback from lovely friends about a performance I did, but I’ll actually be kicking myself because it wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped. On the other hand, I’ll have 12 year old gymnasts commenting on my Instagram account about how they can do a gymnastics walkover better than me - but comments like that just make me laugh because as a 29 year old with no real gymnastics training, I can’t really complain too much about my ability!


@aerialjinx interview with The Workout Princess handspring iron x pole dancer dancer calisthenics girl

6. What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t do without? 

Eating. As much as I understand that fasting has some serious health benefits, not being able to eat is torture for me. Even juice cleanses have me gnashing my teeth (literally)!

7. What is one thing you do to treat yourself? 

Massages. The great thing about Asia is that you can usually find some cheap and cheerful massage treatments that really work your knots out. I also have a bit of a thing for ice-cream and red wine, but I probably have them too often for them to be called treats!

8. If there’s one piece of advice you’d like to pass on to the women trying to pursue a similar career, what would it be? 

Be prepared to knuckle down and work hard, and don’t ever expect things to be easy. Go out there and create opportunities: I’ve lost count of the number of times I have cold-emailed total strangers, some of which have resulted in wonderful opportunities (including this chance to work with Workout Princess!). You’ll always get rejections (and the occasional hater), so make sure that you have equipped yourself with the skills, experience and confidence to handle them - like a #bosslady!

@aerialjinx interview with The Workout Princess splits pole dancer dancer calisthenics girl

xx Carmen
What is a side stitch and why do you get it?

On the weekend, I ran the 5 km AIA charity fun run at Disneyland Park in Hong Kong. I was only about five minutes in to the race, when I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my side, just under my ribs.

It was the dreaded side stitch.

"You've got to be kidding me," I muttered under my breath as I tried to weave in and out of the crowd of runners (many of whom had stopped in the middle of the path to take selfies!!). I had made sure I didn't drink water or eat anything the hour before the race started: in fact, the last thing I had eaten was a couple of spoonfuls of muesli about two hours beforehand.

So why did I have side stitch?

Surprisingly, when I went home to research this, I discovered that no one actually conclusively knows why side stitches occur. Rather, there are a few theories, almost all of which have been challenged by one study or another (helpful, I know).

What is a side stitch pain and why do you get it solution diagnosis treatment cure

1. Increased blood flow to the liver

People generally report that they get side stitches only on the right hand side - which is where the liver is located.

One theory is that is an increase in blood flow to the liver or spleen (caused by an elevated heart rate) temporarily restricts blood flow through the portal vein of the liver. This has the effect of slowing blood flow to the rest of the body, while at the same time, your liver or spleen is dealing with higher levels of pressure from the increased blood, creating pain.

Solution: Stop running, touch your toes for a minute while contracting your abs, and put pressure on the area where the stitch occurs. Not very scientific, I know, but apparently it works like a charm.

2. Decreased blood flow to the diaphragm

The oldschool explanation for side stitches was that they occurred because of ischemia - in other words, reduced bloodflow to the diaphragm, which is one of the main muscles that allows us to breathe. This reduced bloodflow would cause the diaphragm to cramp, causing the pain.

Solution: Avoid consuming sugary products, and don't eat or drink anything that requires effort to digest (such as food high in fiber...like the muesli I ate) as blood will move away from the diaphragm to the stomach to assist in processing it. Also, try to regulate your breathing - keep a steady, easy tempo that matches your running gait.

What is a side stitch pain and why do you get it solution diagnosis treatment cure

3. Irritated ligaments or spine

The idea behind this one is that impact during exercise pulls the organs in your abdomen downwards, tugging on the ligaments in the upper abdomen, causing pain. Similarly, another theory is that side stitches are related to irritated spinal columns - one study found that the same side stitch pain would be felt when pressure was applied to the upper spine vertebrae (which is made worse if you have a curved upper spine...which I do).

Solution: Warm up well, including doing some mobilisation exercises and stretching, as well as strengthening exercises for the core, back and hips. Consider the way you run too - if you're pounding the pavement hard, this may be causing more jostling in your abdomen and on your ligaments.

Happy running!

x
How to get better quality sleep: 5 things you need to start doing

Having come back from a trip in Europe just a few weeks ago, I'm still struggling to settle back into a good sleep routine. While I've tried to be fairly strict about my night time sleeping habits during the week, come the weekend, I'm still trying to sleep all day (something that is unheard of for a borderline insomniac like me)!

That makes me suspect that while I appear to be in bed asleep for the standard 7.5 hours, I'm not actually getting decent quality zzzs, so it's time to remind myself of the best ways to get better sleep.

1. Switch off electronic devices an hour before bedtime

Like most people, this one is a bit of a toughie for me. I have been known to get lost down the rabbithole otherwise known as Wikipedia (Me at 3 am: "Anatidaephobia is a person's fear that somewhere in the world, a duck or a goose is watching them. This sounds like something I need to research further, like, right now.").

But unfortunately our beloved electronic devices (mobiles, computers, tablets etc) emit blue light that tricks our brains into believing it's day time. This light passes into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls sleep activities), delaying the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleep. This then messes up our circadian rhythm, which is the sleep/wake cycle that we go through every night.

On top of that, often what you are actually viewing on your electronic devices will trigger some sort of mental or emotional response (e.g. "Seriously? A phobia of ducks watching you?? Who even comes up with this sh*t?!"), which then kicks your brain into gear and makes it harder for your body to relax.

The solution: switch off your electronic devices an hour before you go to bed. If you can't bear to do that, download a blue light blocking app (for those with Android phones) - and for those with iPhones, you can switch on the Night Shift mode if you have iOS 9.3 or above (I set mine so it automatically comes on at 9pm and switches off at 7am).

How to get better quality sleep: 5 things you need to start doing girl read book tea

2. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual

Okay, so you've switched off your phone a full hour before bedtime...now what? For those of you with the luxury of a bathtub, having a warm bath with some lavender oil and sea salts will help ease tension in your muscles. For the majority of us here in Hong Kong, that isn't an option, so I usually try to make myself a cup of (non-caffeinated, duh) tea like lavender or peppermint tea, and sip it while I read a book or do some light stretching.

Try to spend some time doing something relaxing before bed. If my brain is feeling hyper wired, I'll usually try to sit and breathe deeply, letting my thoughts come and acknowledging (and then dismissing) each one. Usually I'll be thinking of (and stressing about) all the things I need to do, so once I've come up with a mental list of these items, I'll actually take out my pen and paper and write them all down in order of priority, and assure myself that I will tackle all the tasks tomorrow.

3. Be careful about what you consume beforehand

I occasionally have days when I've eaten an early dinner at the office, so by the time it gets to my normal dinner time, I'm not hungry. That's all well and good...until 3 am, when I wake up starving and grumpy. Try to make sure that you're at the right level of fullness before you go to bed - and that includes liquids too, as you don't want to be going to the bathroom repeatedly during the night (or worse, dreaming about going to the bathroom and waking up worrying that you've peed yourself...wait, what do you mean no one else does that?!).

On top of that, caffeine and alcohol are both sleep impairing substances. Studies have shown that caffeine consumed within six hours of bedtime disturbs sleep, even if you think it doesn't. Similarly, while alcohol may initially help healthy people fall asleep faster, it actually has a negative impact on REM sleep (which is the restorative part of your sleep cycle). I've recently found that even two glasses of wine during dinner can make me wake up repeatedly throughout the night, much to my frustration (frustration that is partly about getting crap sleep, and partly because I am loathe to give up my red wine!).

How to get better quality sleep: 5 things you need to start doing girl sleeping relax

4. Make your bedroom all about sex (oh, and sleep)


I'm pretty anal about what I do in the bedroom.

...Wait. That didn't quite come out right.

What I mean is that I don't do anything in the bedroom other than what it was designed for: sleep and sex. That means no working on the laptop, no watching TV, no reading books, no playing with the dog (also because my dog isn't allowed in my bedroom), and no talking on the phone inside my sleep/sex sanctuary. This allows my brain to associate my bedroom with sleep - so as soon as I step inside, it knows that it's time to wind down.

5. Try not to workout before bedtime

Back in the day, I did a fair bit of martial arts training - and sometimes class would finish around 9 pm. What I noticed was that while I was tired that night, my body was also still in "fight or flight" mode, which meant that almost everything, from a noise outside my window to car headlights shining past, would trigger an adrenalin response. This is because intense exercise increases your body temperature and stimulates hormones such as cortisol, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep.

Having said that, this varies from person to person (I feel like my boyfriend can fall asleep even after drinking a coffee and working out just before bedtime), but if you're feeling like your exercise routine has you jazzed just before you snooze, maybe try doing some light yoga instead.

How to get better quality sleep: 5 things you need to start doing girl sleeping relax

If you've got any other sleep tips, leave them here in the comments!

x
Interview with Melanie Piek of Vertical Fusion, a pole studio in Boulder, Colorado
Photo Credit: Terry Ewald Photography.
I met Melanie Piek when I was in Colorado a few months ago, attending the first ever Mile High Pole Camp. Not only is she a graceful, gorgeous pole dancer (and first-time swing dance extraordinaire, alongside her hilariously funny husband Joe), but I found out that she is also a grandmother - which is outrageous given that she has a body that most 19 year olds (and this 29 year old) would kill for.

Mel recently moved her pole studio, Vertical Fusion, from one location to another in Boulder, Colorado. Here she shares with us the 8 things she learned from opening her own pole studio.

1. I can’t go wrong if I always stay true to myself. 

One of the most challenging, but also the most valuable things I ever did for my business was write my business plan. It was a long, tedious process and something I just wanted to skip over. At the time, the only reason I did it was in case I needed to apply for a business loan. 

It wasn’t until months later that I would realize the value of that business plan. 

I was faced with a number of challenges as a new business in an industry that was also new. When faced with difficult decisions, I looked back at my business plan. It served as my compass and kept my vision and goals in focus. 

One example was back in 2012: my studio had been open for less than a year and most pole studios were female-only. I had a gentleman express interest in taking classes at Vertical Fusion and I had to make a decision that I wasn’t prepared for - was I going to be a female-only studio or co-ed? Going back to my Mission Statement, which I wrote as part of my business plan, I was reminded that "Our mission is to make Vertical Fusion the preferred pole dance and alternative fitness studio and sanctuary for transformation by providing personalized service, committing to continuous improvement and innovation, fostering a diverse and accepting community..." The answer was right there, and it was a mission I had to focus on repeatedly when challenged by others in regards to my decision. 

To this day, it was the right decision for Vertical Fusion.

Interview Melanie Piek Vertical Fusion pole studio Boulder Colorado things to learn pole dancer
The old Vertical Fusion studio in Boulder, Colorado.
2. I need to have thick skin. 

I am a sensitive woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and wants to please everyone. This is without a doubt a recipe for disaster when owning any business, but especially one that provides a personal service that is more effective when there is a connection with one’s clients. 

Although it sounds ridiculous, in the beginning I truly believed that I not only could make everyone happy - but that I should. Of course, devastation set in when I realized that some people were not as concerned about me as I was about them. Realizing that sometimes the respect and compassion I gave was not given in return, at one point caused me to consider walking away from it all. Gradually, I picked up the pieces and finally realized that it is impossible for me to please everyone. 

When faced with this challenge today, I focus on taking the emotion out of a situation by looking at it objectively such as, "this is not personal; this person didn’t show up for class and now there are repercussions and that is why she is unhappy."

3. I have a lot to offer and I must honor my value. 

As I mentioned before, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I also believe that pole should be accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, pole studios do not simply just exist. Like any business, resources are required to keep it afloat. 

Admittedly when I first started, I believed there could be some sort of compromise between being revenue-driven and heart-driven. In the beginning, I also lacked confidence that what I was providing was actually amazing and should be paid for. It took some tough financial times and some extremely wise and caring friends to help me realize that what I offer is amazing and that I should be paid fairly for all of the training, hard work, sacrifice, and passion I’ve put into this business. To satisfy my charitable side, I instead utilize the business to hold fundraisers and similar activities to give back to the community.

Interview Melanie Piek Vertical Fusion pole studio Boulder Colorado things to learn pole dancer
Photo Credit: Nick Altiere Photography.
4. I am stronger than I thought. 

Owning a business is hard. Owning a pole studio is hard. Pole dancing is hard. I have thought about getting out of the business numerous times. It has now been five years since I opened my very first pole studio, and I am happy I saw it through. When I look back on the last five years, I’m not sure how I managed to do it, except for the fact that I have always been surrounded by the most amazing people cheering me on, offering support, and believing in me. 

5. Being a pole studio owner will impact relationships in unexpected ways. 

The stress, sacrifice, and time commitment required will strain your marriage and familial relationships. Conservative friends will cut ties. Parents might not allow their children to play with yours. Friends with jealous girlfriends/wives will unfriend you and cut ties. Friends and family members who are embarrassed or ashamed of you will cause strain and possibly resentment in the relationship. Friends who said that one time that they really wanted to come take classes at your studio, but then never did, will avoid you like the plague - regardless of whether you bring it up or not. You will feel bad about what your teenage son’s friends say about you, bringing guilt into that relationship. Friends of your kids’ will become addicted to pole and then you will feel bad when you hear stories about how disappointed their parents are. The list goes on...

6. For the sake of my sanity and my business, I MUST ignore rumors. 

Rumors about you or your studio are rampant. The first time someone told me that they heard someone was about to open a studio in my area, I freaked out! I became obsessed with wanting to know more, scrutinizing everything about my business, paranoid about who was possibly spying for the other person/studio, and even started strategizing my exit plan. 

The studio never opened and the precious time and energy I spent was for naught. 

Interview Melanie Piek Vertical Fusion pole studio Boulder Colorado things to learn pole dancer
Photo Credit: Nick Altiere Photography.
Rumors about the competitors I do have also make their way to my ears - and at first, they would occupy my thoughts, and even impact my plans and decisions. Rumors about why a student left my studio created unnecessary stress and exaggerated emotions about the situation. Rumors about why a student started coming to my studio would unfairly influence my perception of them and ultimately our relationship. Rumors that an employee was breaking trust or being disloyal became downright toxic to everyone. Rumors breed fear and fear causes us to react - usually not in rational or productive ways. I learned this the hard way! 

I have gotten to a point that when the feeling of fear hits my gut, I step back and evaluate what it is I’m actually afraid of, what’s the worst thing that could happen, what I actually do and don’t have control over - and then by that point, the fear either dissipates or I have a response that I feel is rational and effective. 

7. Do not overcommit. Do not overcommit. DO NOT OVERCOMMIT! 

I opened three studio locations within 18 months. At one point I was teaching 20+ classes per week. I was saying yes to every performance and/or promotional opportunity that came my way. To say I had a tendency to overcommit is a huge understatement. It’s still something I am working on to this day, but I have definitely gotten better about evaluating investment versus benefit when it comes to performance and promotional opportunities. I have closed one location and franchised a third and am currently managing just one. I’ve learned to trust that the studio will still thrive if I’m not there 24/7 nor teaching every class possible. I’m still working well over fifty hours per week, I still do not have time for my own training, but I am getting more time with my family - and that was my first goal in getting better at managing my time and commitments. 

Interview Melanie Piek Vertical Fusion pole studio Boulder Colorado things to learn pole dancer
Photo Credit: Nick Altiere Photography.
8. First and foremost is GRATITUDE! 

I’ve learned many, many other important and difficult lessons over the past few years. I’ve gotten past the pain, the shame, the regrets, and the fears. Regardless of how difficult the challenges were, are, and continue to be, I am open to receive them with gratitude, because I know it will eventually evolve to serve me and my studio. 

Most importantly, I have learned the importance of reflecting upon all the amazing people who have believed in me, inspire me, show up every day, support me, and do all they can to ensure Vertical Fusion continues to be the amazing place and community that it is. Every single day I reflect upon them with immense gratitude and humility, and acknowledgement that I cannot do this alone - nor do I want to.

Interview Melanie Piek Vertical Fusion pole studio Boulder Colorado things to learn pole dancer
The new Vertical Fusion studio in Boulder, Colorado.
For those of you who live in Boulder and want to give pole a go, check out Vertical Fusion, run by the lovely Mel! 

x Carmen
A few months ago, I performed an acrobalance dance performance (otherwise known as adagio) on stage with my partner, John. It was an awesome experience, I had a ton of fun, and I learned a lot from it (including the fact that old habits die hard, because I flying kneed John in the face and broke his glasses at one point, a throwback to my drunken brawling Muay Thai days).

In this interview, I chat with acrobalance teachers Teddy and Vee about what acrobalance / adagio actually is, and why everyone should give it a go. These two are the pioneers of teaching this style of acro in Hong Kong, and they have hosted free classes (open to everyone) before. For more information on their workshops, check them out here.

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got into acro.

T: My name is Teddy. I grew up on an unhealthy dose of competitive video gaming, and only recently joined the circus. Several years ago, I got into Crossfit and movement training quite seriously, and began to open my mind to all facets of fitness. Last March, one of my good friends, Emily Tan, invited and challenged me to perform an adagio piece with her on stage as part of a large circus production. It was probably one of the most nerve wrecking moments of my life, but I fell in love with it - and I'm now constantly attempting to better myself as a performer. I met Vee around the same time, as she was the director of the production.

V: My background is competitive gymnastics until the age of 10. I took up pole and aerial arts at 18 years old, and got into acro yoga first, before doing adagio with Aerial Arts Academy. After Emily introduced Teddy as her partner in the circus production, I approached him to train for a potential showcase - and we hit it off from there!

What exactly is acro - and how is it different from acroyoga?

T: Acro is a very general term these days, and the definition will probably differ depending on who you hear it from - whether it be a dancer, gymnast, yogi, etc. We consider ourselves practitioners of adagio (otherwise known as acrobalance), and the main difference is that we practice with the intention of performing. Adagio appears in the circus, as well as in other activities like ballet and ice skating, and you often see the base varying between positions of standing, squatting, kneeling etc. 

On the other hand, acroyoga is a combination of what I've talked about - plus yoga. It is newer to the acrobatic scene, dating back just to the late 1990s and early 2000s. Acroyoga is essentially a form of acrobalance in which the base is almost exclusively supine (i.e. lying face up). Acroyoga practitioners will explain that there is a lot more to it than this, but this is the most obvious distinguishing feature.

Why do you do it - what inspires you?

V: Together, we are able to weave movement patterns and create beautiful shapes that otherwise would not be possible. It also allows us to tell a story through physical movement, something that we find can be very powerful. Finally, we believe that through our performances, we can inspire others to challenge themselves and go beyond their limits.

T: I can't get over the thrill of being on stage, wowing the audience, and performing feats that most people would consider impossible.

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

Is it hard? Is it dangerous? Can anyone do it?

V: Acro is a very demanding, but at the same time, its a rewarding sport. As you can probably see from most pictures, there is an inherent danger for both parties if something goes wrong. That's where trust and communication are incredibly important. Like most other things, while acro can be learned safely by almost everyone, we do recommend a baseline level of conditioning. To be successful, you need to be patient and practice a lot.

What challenges have you faced and overcome when doing acro?

T: The main challenge that we still face today is a lack of proper instruction in Hong Kong. We have no one to teach us new techniques, or even check to see if we are doing things correctly. We are almost completely self-taught, and our method of learning new tricks involves rewinding YouTube videos over and over again...as well as someone getting dropped a lot.

However it has been a blessing in disguise, as we've learned a lot about teaching and what not to do! We will be traveling overseas more to learn from proper coaches now that we are pursuing adagio more seriously.

What is the worst injury you've had (or the worst blooper you've made)?

T: Fortunately for us (*touch wood*) we have not had any serious injuries from acro, but we get a lot of bruises, cuts and burns. This is something that comes as part of the sport. As a base, its my duty to keep myself between my flyer and the floor, meaning that if something goes wrong and Vee falls, I am supposed to be her cushion. Naturally, this has resulted in me getting kicked a couple of times in the face - but it also gives us the trust in each other that we will both be safe even when sh*t hits the fan.

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

Where can I learn it in Hong Kong or Asia generally?

V: In general, all forms of acro are quite new to Asia. From our knowledge, there are no dedicated acrobalance classes in the region yet. However, Teddy and I are working on this, and will be hosting regular workshops and classes. Please follow us on Facebook (see above) to keep up-to-date for schedules and events. The next workshop will be held at the Arnold Classic Asia this weekend!

What is one thing you wish you knew before you started acro?

T: As it is a performance, everything must be developed to perfection. Since starting acro, I have had to spend a lot of extra time practicing ballet, contemporary dance, flexibility, capoeira etc on top of strength and conditioning.

What are your favourite acro positions?

T: At the moment I'm really liking the Titanic pose (see picture below). This one holds special meaning to me because it was one of the poses we tried to put into our original choreography years ago, but it was too difficult. Now we use it as a warmup!

V: I like the neck-to-neck pose - its a big crowd wower - and similar to what Teddy said above, it took us a while to understand and figure out this move too. It was a very rewarding feeling when we were able to do it constantly, and even started playing around with different variations of it!


What do acro performances involve and why do you choose to do them?

V: When people see acro performances, they usually remember the big lifts or acrobatic patterns. While those are certainly highlights and something we work hard to develop, we also try to tell a story through our acts. We also spend a lot of time fine-tuning our transitions and micro movements: everything has a purpose, and while those individual moments may not be memorable to the audience, it's what creates a smooth performance.

What is your training schedule like before an acro performance? How do you put together the piece and where do you get concepts/moves from?

T: Most of our inspiration and move sets come from YouTube, Instagram or other previous performances that we have seen in person. We have a whole library of moves that we try to chip away at, and it keeps growing larger as people tag us on social media to try this or that!

V: When we don't have shows on the horizon, we usually train twice a week, and that ramps up to three or four practices leading up to a performance. We have had preparation periods where we would practice six out of seven days of the week as well - it all depends on how we are feeling. As we have been experimenting with different moves for a while, we have a general understanding of how one pose can flow to the next. From there, its just selecting a song and piecing it together bit by bit like a puzzle. We often go through many iterations of different sequences to create one act - but that's also a very enjoyable process.

What's the toughest thing about performing?

T: The fact that you only get one shot on stage. We could have ran our act flawlessly 10 times in a row during practice sessions, but a mistake on stage is a mistake that everyone sees and remembers. There was always something we could have done better on stage, but we have to walk away and accept that what is done is done.

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

Who are your top three acro performers or what are your top three acro performances?

1. Duo Iroshnikov: They are so beyond my level that I can't do them justice. Everything in this routine is insane, performed at the apex of stages, Cirque du Demain.

2. Fire and Ice: Aside from the very trippy and over-the-top background action, this pair has impeccable execution. We have taken quite a few moves and inspiration from them, but we're still striving for their level of fluidity. Not to mention they are hanging off a cliff for most of the act!

3. Ali and Klodi: One of the first videos that I kept relying on when I started acro! Contrary to the others, this one is a little more dance-like. I love the choreography and how it matches the music. Although there are less crazy "wow" moves in this act, it is one of my favorites because it looks perfect.

What do you always have in your bag before a training session / performance?

T: Can't live without chalk! A lot of our poses are make-or-break based on grip, and its not limited to just chalking our hands! Sometimes shins, legs, hips get chalked - wherever we need to grab.

What sort of cross training do you do or recommend for people looking to get into acro?

T: I'll speak for bases. Olympic lifting and Crossfit has definitely made everything easy for me. A lot of the lifts are very similar in knowing where to produce the force from. Dance training and gymnastics will also be very helpful as you begin to put performances together.

V: Flexibility, dance, and aerial training all have a very strong overlap with acro. The flyer's job is to get into both an aesthetic and efficient position for lifts, so having mastery over body position is so important.

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

If I wanted to try acro, how would I go about doing it?

V: There's no better way than coming to one of our workshops and jams. Acro is not a solo activity, so meeting like-minded people is key. Sooner or later, you will need to find yourself either a base or flyer (depending on which role you will be playing yourself). So start partnering and getting used to moving with someone else!

What should I bring / wear to my first acro class?

T: Yoga pants in general are not the most conductive for acro. The more skin there is, the better, as it is necessary for grip. For guys, you will want to try to increase grip around your shins, shoulders and legs (hence why you see a lot of practitioners topless). For girls, grip around the waist is very important.

Does the flyer always need to be flexible or the base strong?

T: On the first day, no - just like everything, its a process and you will become more flexible and strong over time! I must stress that it is just as important for the base to be flexible and the flyer to be strong as well. Keep in mind that you may not get permanently locked into the role of being a base or flyer - in our routines, there are several poses where Vee will base me as well.

How do I choose a partner for acro? What should I be looking for in a base / flyer?

V: Definitely don't choose the guy with the biggest muscles! Choose the one with the biggest heart and passion. The most important thing is finding someone you can trust, who will prioritise your safety first. Partners must be patient with each other and have open communication. Finally, you're probably going to be spending a lot of time together in some pretty intimate positions, so make sure you're comfortable with that too. Find someone you can laugh with, who is willing to play around and try crazy ideas with you.

T: Err...someone who isn't too heavy...? :P

Describe your perfect/ideal song to perform acro to.

T: I want to try something epic like from a movie, but these are always very difficult to pull off.

V: Next time we're going to try a song that's not in English - that might make for interesting dynamics!

Interview with Teddy Lo and Vee Lea from Aerial Arts Academy on acro balance dance yoga adagio

Big thanks to both Teddy and Vee for their time. If you have any questions, contact them through their Facebook page.

xx
Top 4 Things to Eat for Extra Hydration Lemon Mint Water

A friend once fondly said to me, "you sweat like balls" - to which I replied, "as long as I don't smell like them..."

But let's face it, I'm a sweater. No, not like a cardigan (for the British readers) or a jumper (for the Aussie readers) - but more like someone who walks around in 38 degree heat wearing a cotton t-shirt and shorts, but looking like they are wearing a cardigan / jumper.

I've always been envious of those girls who looked like they were so effortlessly cool despite the stifling humidity that seems to follow me around and envelop me in my own personal cloud of perspiration. For those of you who have the same problem (sweaty high five, sisters!), maybe try nom-ing down on the items below to help you chill out. After all, you want to be as cool as a cucumber, right?

Why is water important?

Water helps regulate body temperature, cushions joints (great for those who like intensive stretching), and transports nutrients. They say that losing just 2 to 4 percent of body water reduces muscular strength and endurance.

On the upside, one 2009 university study (that everyone quotes but I can't actually seem to find) found that having a watermelon or cucumber after finishing an intense workout could hydrate your body twice as effectively as a glass of water, and more effectively than sports drinks, or water itself. 

Top 4 Things to Eat for Extra Hydration Watermelon

1. Watermelon

As the name implies, this fruit is for more than just tucking under your shirt and scaring the bejesus out of your mother on April Fools (oh...am I the only one who does that? I mean...did that...*shifty eyes*).

Watermelon is made up of approximately 92% water, with vitamins A, B6 and C, lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. Top tip: let the watermelon get ripe, which will increase lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient that promotes heart and bone health, reportedly assists in preventing prostate cancer, and protects skin from sun damage.

2. Cucumber

This food is for more than just tucking into your pants and scaring the bejesus out of your mother on April Fo- oh...okay. I've gotta stop doing this shit, I'm seriously getting too old. But it's so godamn funny.

Made up of 96% water, these bad boys (ha!) have no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are high in vitamin K, vitamin B6 and iron.  They also contain polyphenols called lignans, which may lower the risk of various types of cancer like breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. If you're not a fan of the taste, you can make these guys into a chilled cucumber soup and mask the flavour with some spices and fresh herbs - mint and cucumber go down a treat! If you're bad like me, you could also make a wicked cocktail out of cucumber, gin and mint like this one here.



3. Celery

God. I remember the days when I tried to eat this shit to lose weight. I'd heard rumours about the fact that it was a "negative calorie" food item which meant I would expend more energy trying to digest it than the kilojoules I actually got out of it (more on that another time) - but I'd end up consuming far more calories because I had to dip these in copious amounts of peanut butter in order to make it taste like something other than what a tree had pooped out.

In any case, celery is 95% water, extremely high in fiber (yay tree poop!), and rich in minerals like potassium and vitamin K. It also has a lot of anti-oxidants, and is one of those rare types of food that manages to maintain most of its nutrients when it is steamed.

Top 4 Things to Eat for Extra Hydration Lemon Mint Water Lettuce

4. Lettuce

To be honest, I'm kind of reluctant to talk about lettuce because (a) it's not sexy at all; and (b) it's actually not as nutrient-dense as other types of veggies. But hey, not everyone is a superstar like kale, so for everyone who is feeling a bit average about themselves, grab a lettuce and hug eat it.

Lettuce has 96% water content and extremely low calorie content (20 calories per serving), plus it has some level of Vitamin K and A. It's also easy to pair with other vegetables in a salad, and tastes great with some dressing.

xx Carmen
The moment I set eyes on Katie Rebekah's blog, I kinda fell in love. She writes great, funny posts on everything from her ridiculously cute galah (it's an Aussie bird - only Australians could come up with a name so absurd and yet endearing) who is called Thor, to reviews of the latest lifestyle products. Plus, she's gorgeous.

So I was really chuffed when she generously agreed to allow me to re-post her article on her favourite work out items, below.

Aussie Blogger Katie Rebekah on Her Favourite Work Out Items
Image Credit: Terry Lok
As a fitness, Fitbit and flatlay fan I thought I’d share the top things I reach for when it comes working out. I initially wrote this piece whilst working on my blog collaboration with Fitbit Australia – writing my Little Bit of Fit blog [Carmen's note: we'll be re-posting this great article of Katie's soon!]. I liked it so much, and received so much great feedback on it, I thought I’d elaborate on the details and post it as a mini blog update :)

I hit the gym for Body Combat and Pump 3-4 times a week, with a Yoga/Pilates session thrown in for good measure and a coastal run/hike if I find the time. Having the right kit with me makes working out so much more fun – and, okay bearable for those days when you’re lacking in motivation.

Aussie Blogger Katie Rebekah on Her Favourite Work Out Items

1. Science In Sport GO Electrolyte 

Feeling a little tired but really need a work out? I swear by this stuff – just half a sachet dissolved into your water bottle really gives your energy and fitness levels a boost! It’s also a amazing hangover cure. Yes, I actually really enjoy working out if I have a grumpy hangover – I find it to be the best cure!

2. Tunes 

So in love with my Beats headphones. They’re the best in the winter as they keep your earlugs cosy too! My latest beats are Beyonce’s Lemonade and Drake’s Views. My definitive work-out and fitness albums have got to be any Ministry of Sound Running Trax and always, always Triple J’s Hottest 100. How did I cope without knowing about Triple J in Britain?!

3. Water Bottle 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The best exercise advise I can give. Even if you’re running out of your class to pee halfway through (guilty!), being hydrated is way better than starving your body of fluids. I love the Camelbak water bottles – they took a bit of getting used to at first, but I find them to be the most hygienic (using Q-tips to clean out the squishy nozzles once a week) and less likely to leak – yes, we’ve all been there, grrr. I love the Lorna Jane fitness slogan bottles and have three which I rotate between at the gym, home and work.

4. Neon pieces 

I love working out in bright, layered colours. It helps to lift my mood and motivation. I’ve always loved to layer anyway, but especially when working out as you can easily react to your body temperature. I totally adore this hot pink cotton boyfriend tank from Running Bare. I think maybe just two of my zillion sports bras are plain black, the rest are crazy bright and patterned – and look super cute peeking out of your workout tank or vest. My work-out tops actually tend to be a little more plain, but still in bright and block colours – with shorts and tights off the hook with wild patterns and neons.

5. Lorna Jane Mercury Tights 

I’m a hopeless fan of Lorna Jane and just obsessed with these beauties from the A/W 2016 collection. I actually bought them for Yoga, but have been using them for beach runs in this chilly Winter, as they’re just so darn cosy and comfy! When it comes to Combat though, I have to wear shorts – I sweat too much otherwise! It has to be baltic for me to rock up to a class in tights.

6. Fitbit Alta 

My favourite work-out buddy. I love seeing how many steps I’ve taken, how many active minutes I’ve recorded and setting myself exercise goals. It’s also a great way to keep track of how much you’ve drank – and how well you’ve slept after a monster work-out!

7. Nike Runners 

These Air Zoom’s were a recent purchase from Foot Locker. I try to switch up my runners once every six months – and always rotate between styles to literally keep myself on my toes and not too dependant and comfortable with one set style/fit. I’ve suffered with Shin Splints in the past and they really are horrible. I’ve found that by rotating between runner styles and investing in footwear suitable for my high arches, running and gym class training and workouts, I’ve kissed goodbye to shin aches and pains once and for all.

8. Berocca 

I love to hydrate with one of these post-workout, when my body needs fluids more than ever. The Mango & Orange tablets are my fave flavour – and they taste awesome mixed into a fruit smoothie too… Like a little injection of goodness into the soul!

PS. Don't forget to check out Katie's blog for more awesome content!
Review of H-Kore in Hong Kong, a Lagree Fitness studio

I overheard someone once describe H-Kore as "pilates on crack - and not the shitty quality stuff either, the good stuff."

Having never done either pilates or crack, I wasn't entirely certain what this meant, so I dutifully signed up to an introductory offer of two classes for a total of HK$350 (including special H-Kore socks, which I'll get to later).

I chose to register first for a "H-Kore Basics" class (usually held on a Saturday afternoon), which is designed to assist newbies by breaking down the techniques needed for signature H-Kore moves. This class, led by yogi Steffi, was described as being slower paced than regular classes on the website - but I quickly came to realise that slower did not mean easier.

In fact, slower meant the opposite of easier.

h-kore hong kong lagree fitness studio pilates intense resistance training workout

This is because H-Kore is essentially a Lagree Fitness workout, which focuses on slow and controlled movements without the use of momentum, constant tension in the muscles, and the use of resistance to make things more difficult (but fortunately not more difficult for your joints).

The class revolved around Steffi showing us how to use the machines (similar, I'm told, to a pilates reformer machine) which had multiple yellow (light) and blue (heavy) coiled springs that were hooked onto the front of the moving platform of the machine to adjust the resistance.

With three yellow coiled springs, Steffi had us doing bicep curls, lat rows, single leg bridges, upwards kicks, and a punishing core workout - all designed to work our arms, legs, and midsection. We were encouraged to move slowly through each movement, counting to four and using our breath to guide our timing - and while the painstakingly slow movements all look easy, they are...well, painstaking.

This was a full class, and the energetic Steffi walked around, demonstrating movements, encouraging us and correcting our technique through her microphone headset, in between bouts of loud music.

Don't let the "Basics" part of the class description fool you - while I managed to slack off completely catch my breath when Steffi was off correcting other students, there was nothing easy about the movements. If you are really struggling, you can drop down to fewer coils in order to release the resistance.

h-kore hong kong lagree fitness studio pilates intense resistance training workout

After the first class, I signed up the following week for Geoff's Monday night class. I got to the studio early, carefully selected a machine tucked anonymously away in the corner and waited for the other students...who never arrived. Given that there was a typhoon approaching, it turned out that I was the only student (one person came in halfway through)!

So much for hoping to slack off completely catch my breath between rounds!

h-kore hong kong lagree fitness studio pilates intense resistance training workout

I thought that the session would be easier, as Geoff asked me to use only one yellow spring (as opposed to the three the Steffi asked us to use), but I was sorely mistaken - emphasis on the sorely. He put me through rounds of crazy difficult side crunches to work my obliques, lunges with my feet on the moving platform to get the hamstrings and glutes going, pike handstands that involved drawing my legs in on the moving platform as my hands were on the still part of the machine, mountain climbers, lat pull downs, and opening and closing of standing straddles. Geoff was excellent in demonstrating proper technique and offered hands-on adjustments while making sure my movements didn't aggravate my hamstring injury, which was super helpful.

I found that H-Kore left me trembling like crazy and sweating up a storm - but much to my surprise, there was no muscle or joint pain the following day.

Top tip: Remember to bring your special H-Kore socks - you won't be allowed into class without them!

Who it's for: People who like hardcore pilates...and sweating. Lots of sweating. Also great for gymnasts, yogis and dancers.
Location: 3/F Wincome Centre, 39 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong.
Length of class: 45 minutes.
Price: Drop-ins are HK$350 but classes can go down as low as HK$280 each if you buy a package.
Level of intensity: 8.5/10.
Bring: Your H-Kore socks and water bottle. Shower facilities and towels provided.

h-kore hong kong lagree fitness studio pilates intense resistance training workout

x

Discover how mindfulness is a drug of choice with powerful benefits.

I asked my friend (and yogi) Adriel Ho if I could re-post his recent, well written article on mindfulness. If you can't be bothered to read the whole post, then at the very least, read this pull-out quote because it's funny: "Put in a crude way, if you have one foot in the future and one in the past, you end up shitting on what you have right now."

In all honesty, I kinda thought that just meant you end up doing some pretty badass middle splits - but I guess if you have a bowel issue, then shitting yourself is a definite possibility. And without further ado (but with that imagery in your head, you can thank me later), here is Adriel's article.

Mindfulness, a drug of choice

What’s with all the hashtags on social media about staying in the present? Why should I “develop a sense of gratitude” towards my job when the cost of living is increasing faster than my salary? And how can merely listening to my breath have a positive effect on my health? 

The answer to these questions can be found in the mindfulness movement – a meditation practice that, when applied correctly, is as good as a drug. At its core, the practice seeks to direct one’s attention away from the future (to avoid creating anxiety) or past (which results in depression) and focus the mind upon the moment at hand i.e. “be in the present”. 

Put in a crude way, if you have one foot in the future and one in the past, you end up shitting on what you have right now.

mindfulness benefits meditation relaxation view

Other important aspects of mindfulness include developing a sense of gratitude, practicing self-compassion, and accepting life on life’s terms. Presumably, all of this supposed to make a person happier, healthier and more successful. Sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? Well, there’s an actual science to it. 

Through the use of fMRI, scientists have been able to prove that the practice of mindfulness has a direct effect on the dopamine pathways in our brains. According to Sarah Robers in the Berkeley Science Review, the increased dopamine levels brought on by meditation has led to “increased present-moment awareness” and “greater productivity as a result of improved attention”. Exactly like a performance enhancing drug. 

Unlike most drugs though, practicing mindfulness has numerous health benefits – it can lower your stress and anxiety levels and improve the quality of your sleep. It assists with the treatment of heart disease and cancer, reduces chronic pain, and improves overall gastro-intestinal health. In dealing with mental issues, psychotherapists now regard mindfulness meditation as a quintessential element in the treatment of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, OCD, and relationship issues.

mindfulness benefits meditation relaxation view

A drug of choice 

With practitioners at all levels of society, the many benefits of the mindfulness movement have not gone unnoticed. Mindfulness courses are popping up in academic institutions and business schools – Harvard, Stern and NYU, to name a few. One of the toughest schools in San Francisco was transformed by the power meditation alone. Huge corporations such as Apple, McKinsey & Company, Deutsche Bank and Procter & Gamble have implemented such courses for its employees. Google has even developed a mindfulness/emotional intelligence training program called the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute with the aim of helping professionals and management teams adapt and evolve using the framework of mindfulness.

With everyone seemingly practicing mindfulness, you might be thinking of getting on board the train yourself. Thankfully, technology has made the practice of mindfulness accessible to the masses – all you need to do is download a meditation app such as Headspace and follow the instructions.

Some of the things that the app tells you to do may sound deceptively simple, such as noticing the length of your breath and labelling your thoughts as either “thinking” or feeling” (a process called “noting”) – but if you keep an open mind and allow the process to unfold, the science has shown that you’ll emerge from the process feeling happier, healthier, with a heightened sense of well-being. Hell, your increased productivity may get you that raise you’ve been wanting.

Finally, take the advice of Kung Fu Panda: “You have to let go of that stuff from the past, because it just doesn’t matter – the only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.

This was originally posted on readrice.co. Thanks to Adriel for allowing us to re-post this here.

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