Wednesday, 12 December 2012

RELIGHT YOUR FIRE (your love is my only desire !!)




The freezing weather is just not letting up around here and I'm getting that hunched over feeling in the chest and shoulders from huddling against the cold (well and the lap-top to write this). I'm definitely looking forward to my teaching trip to Goa in February with the chance to escape the British winter! Until then I'm planning to practise and teach a lot of energising yoga poses to help get through this cold & darkest time of the year.

Chest opening feels great in any season but it is especially nice in winter to give your heart a chance to expand and relight your inner flame.
LOOK AT THAT SUN !
Wheel Pose (Chakrasana) is one of the best yoga poses for increasing energy and opening the heart. This full backbend is an advanced yoga pose that increases energy by opening the chest to expand lung capacity, improving blood flow to the brain, reducing tension in the shoulders and neck, and increasing the heart rate. The deep backbend also stimulates the adrenal glands above the kidneys, which can function like an energy booster shot. 
Although some styles of yoga place Wheel Pose as the final pose in the sequence, it is best to practice a few cool-down poses before going into Savasana relaxation otherwise, your mind may be racing with too much energy to relax!

GOT TO LOVE THE SAVASANA ! 


NAMASTE 

XXX




Wednesday, 21 November 2012

SQUASH, SWEET POTATO & BEETROOT STEW



INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion sliced 
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
225g sweet potatoes cubed
225g beetroot cubed
1 red pepper, deseeded & chopped
1 butternut squash (about 550g/1lb 4oz), peeled and chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
75g green lentils

METHOD
In a large pan, heat the olive oil, then cook onion and garlic for 5-7 mins until the onion is softened. Add the cumin seeds and paprika, then cook for a further 2 mins. Stir in the sweet potato, red pepper, chopped beetroot and butternut squash and toss until coated with the oil, onion and spices for 2 mins.
Pour in the tomatoes, red wine and vegetable stock, season, then simmer gently for 15 mins. Stir in the lentils, cover with a lid, then simmer for 15 mins more until the vegetables are tender, the lentils are cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.
Serve in bowls topped with a spoonful of Greek-style yogurt and some chopped coriander leaves

Sunday, 18 November 2012

REST & DIGEST THIS HOLIDAY SEASON


You only have to look around the streets of London and you can see that the onset of the festive season is gathering momentum.  Parties, social gatherings and work colleague Christmas lunches and dinners are being touted for by hotels, pubs and restaurants up and down the country.  While the potentially beneficial and lovely qualities of togetherness and gratitude, love and joy are hopefully the main focus of all these social gatherings there is a down side and people can still experience an increase in their overall levels of stress and emotional and physical fatigue at this time of year. 



This can in turn have an adverse affect on out sense of well-being and in particular our digestion. On a holistic level, when we are in physical and emotional balance our digestive systems should theoretically reflect that balance. Our gut has its own enteric nervous system or ‘digestive brain’ which influences the movement and absorption of nutrients from our food as it passes through our digestive systems from the stomach and into the large intestine without any directives coming to it directly from our brains.

Nevertheless there is a relationship between the conscious parts of our brain ie the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and our digestive systems as well. When our bodies and minds are in balance, the parasympathetic portion (PNS) of the autonomic nervous system, supports good digestion. However, when we find ourselves to be under stress at any time of the year but so common during the hectic build up to Christmas, the other half of our ANS, the sympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the ‘fight, flight or freeze system’, exerts dominance over our digestive brain. It is this that can cause a negative effect on the movement of food through our stomach and intestines. There is a reduction in the level of blood sent into the gut for digestion and this in turn reduces the absorption of nutrients often causing the build up of acidity in the stomach and increasing the risk of suffering from indigestion and heartburn.

Some people find that when they are under stress, they will begin to crave complex carbohydrates as they can trigger the release of calming substances in the brain. Since these kind of foods form such a large part of our festive season staples what we often experience is the less desirable side effect of this change in our eating habits and we start to put on extra weight.

Yoga can help by soothing the ‘fight, flight and freeze’ part of our ANS and activating the ‘rest and digest’ part.  Yoga poses and breathing techniques to help us to relax and unwind can bring us back into better balance and thus help to improve our digestion and see a reduction in those unwanted symptoms like heartburn, indigestion and bloating. 

So slow down from time to time during the build up to Christmas this year, do some restorative yoga, take care of what you eat and drink and enjoy your digestion during the festive season ahead.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GROUNDED


There is a lot to be said for keeping both feet firmly on the ground. In the fast moving 21st Century, the virtual world of the web is changing the way we live. It's a far cry from our ancestors who lived in a natural world in rhythm with our planet's cycles and seasons.  In reality, our physiology has not yet evolved to cope with the stress and strain of this modern age.  Our nervous system still interprets everyday stress in the same way it would have responded to a predator pouncing in for the kill. Essentially what this means is that many of us find ourselves almost permanently caught up in the 'fight, flight or freeze' stress response.

For many it comes as no surprise to know that stress is recognised today as one of the major contributors to ill health. However less well known is the fact that the nervous system doesn't distinguish between the many different types of stress.  This means that when we are glued to an adrenaline inducing computer game in the small hours while drinking our third cup of coffee; when we are unable to pull ourselves away from an all consuming work project; have our ipod pumping up the volume; or find ourselves on the edge of our seats stimulated by the thrill of the latest James Bond, we are putting our nervous system under huge levels of stress. This in turn can end up affecting our emotional balance, our cognitive abilities, digestive and immune systems and sleep patterns.

 

In contemporary Western culture where stimulation and information overload is our everyday reality, it is quite clear that now more than ever we need to reconnect to the ground beneath our feet.  To afford ourselves time and space to take stock and catch our breath.  Literally bring ourselves back down to earth and become more grounded. We need the tools to free ourselves from the zombie like trance inflicted by our modern lifestyles. The ability to root ourselves in the here and now.

The imbalances of the mind and body greatly contribute to ill health and a feeling of disconnectedness in so many people. A fundamental detachment from our physical and emotional needs is caused for the most part by living in our heads.  We have lost the connection with our body and in doing so lost have that connection with an integral part of ourselves.

Our body is an incredibly sophisticated organism hot-wired with an innate intelligence, whose primary function is for us to thrive and survive.  Emotions, feelings, sensations and intuitions are all expressions of our needs. We ignore them to the detriment of our health and well-being. By becoming more grounded we are taking the first step on our journey towards getting back in touch with those needs and becoming more unified - more whole.

For thousands of years the benefits of grounding have been enjoyed through meditation, yoga, tai-chi, chi-gung and different forms of energy medicine and healing. Essentially they all use the ground to earth and realign the body and mind to facilitate a state of balance. Meditation practitioners take their awareness down into the body and to its connection with the ground beneath it. By engaging with that connection they allow everything else to occur naturally. 

To set yourself on this path it is important to pause every so often during your day. Begin by feeling the ground beneath your feet, descent with your sense into your body, exhale down towards the ground and bring your awareness to your surrounding. Become aware of what actually happens when you do this.try using this sense of rooting down, sense of grounding and re-establishing your foundations as a daily natural life tool to rediscover your balance again. Only once you truly have your feet firmly planted on the ground can your awareness be fully immersed in the stillness of each present moment.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

YOGA FOR SCIATICA



Sciatica is a condition that is frequently raised by yoga students and is a very common condition with usually with two underlying causes. 

Usually when their patients come to them with sciatic pain doctors often look for a herniated discs in the lumbar spine, which may be pressing against the sciatic nerve. This is a significant problem, and it’s especially important to have your discs checked out by a doctor if you are experiencing pain in your mid-lower back, painful electric shocks down your sciatic nerve, and/or tingling, burning, weakness, or numbness in your legs or feet. These can be signs that an acute herniated disc is pinching the nerve, which is a much bigger problem than sciatic pain alone.

However I have noticed that more commonly sciatica is caused by tightness in your hips primarily the piriformis - a small but significant muscle in the hip. This is often referred to as piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is one of a few small deep hip rotators that you use to turn your thigh out. It also extends your hip when you walk, and abducts the thigh  (takes it out to the side) when your hip is flexed. The sciatic nerve is sandwiched between the piriformis and the small hard tendons that lie against the bone of the sacrum and pelvic bone. If as is so often the case your piriformis muscle is tight it exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve and pushes it against the tendons beneath it, which can cause excruciating pain.

The best way to tell if you are suffering from this form of sciatica are here:

Pain and a pins-and-needles sensation down the outside of your calf to the webbed skin between the smallest and fourth toe. 
Difficulty walking on your heels or on your toes.
A burning sensation in the back of your thigh and calf down to your heel, with stiffness in your legs. Although  in some cases this can signal a problem in the spine instead of the piriformis muscle.
Pain from sitting, accompanied by a tingling sensation at the back of your thigh. The pain may be relieved by standing, but you still experience numbness in all of your toes even when standing.
Buttock and sciatic pain from exercising or sitting for long periods of time, with or without sensations of numbness, weakness, or tingling. While the pain may appear during standing activities, it gets worse when you sit down.

Another way to tell whether you have this form of sciatica is by lying on your side with the affected leg on top and notice if it is painful in your hip to have the top leg bent with the knee resting on the floor in front of you.  Then try to lift your knee away from the floor against a small amount of resistance or weight - ask someone to put a little pressure on the side of the knee with their hand. If you experience sharp pain in the hip is a sign that the piriformis may be causing the sciatica.

Yoga can help but you need to proceed with caution

If the source of your sciatica is a herniated or bulging disk, a yoga practice that progresses from gentle poses to basic poses like standing postures and downward-facing dog will align, lengthen, and strengthen your lower back. A herniated disk does not always require surgery, and yoga can help you manage and reduce the problems caused by the herniation, sometimes even reducing the herniation itself. However, it is very important for you to get you doctor to assess the severity of the herniation as some cases surgery may be required.




























However if the source of your sciatica is pressure on the nerve due to a short, tight piriformis, focus on stretching this muscle. Your approach should be gentle and progressive you want to be careful not to overwork the piriformis since this may lead to spasms and deep buttock pain, sometimes accompanied by sciatic pain.

Below are some poses that target the piriformis:

Seated Twist
A simple half spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana) gives the piriformis a mild stretch that encourages it to release and lengthen, and the intensity can be progressively increased as you approach the full pose. Stretching the muscle too aggressively can provoke sciatic pain, so it’s important to proceed carefully and make sure that both of your sitting bones are supporting you equally - sit on a block or folded blanket if necessary. You can also extend the lowest leg out in front of you.



























If you don’t feel a stretch in your left hip, gently pull your left knee across the midline of your body toward the right side of your chest, keeping your sit bones equally grounded, and resist your thigh slightly against the pull of your hands. This action will help keep your sit bone grounded and increase the stretch to the piriformis.

Stay in the pose anywhere from 20 seconds to a couple of minutes, then repeat on the other side. Do two to four sets at a time. As your piriformis muscles stretch out over time, gradually decrease the height of your blankets until you can sit on the floor.

Cowface Pose
Take padding under the sitting bones if necessary and place a strap over your shoulder to take hold of between the hands if they do not meet behind your back.
Slide yours knees to the centre and stack your right knee directly over your left. (It may be helpful to come forward onto the hands and knees to align your knees). Then separate the feet and come back to sit between the feet. Bring your left arm up towards the ceiling. Bend the left elbow, bringing your left hand down the center of your back. Bring your right arm out to the right side, bend the elbow and bring the right arm up the center of your back. Hold hands behind your  back or take hold of the strap or your clothing if they don't meet.. Draw both elbows toward the center.

Progression: Keeping your spine long come into a forward bend over the less but don't force and don't let your sitting bones lift from the floor. You can either keep your hands connected behind your back or reach your hands forwards along the floor ahead.














Other Helpful Hip Openers

In general, sciatic pain is helped by poses that passively stretch the hip with the thigh externally rotated. See these suggested poses below but proceed with caution - always listen to your body!






































Pigeon Pose Pigeon pose is the strongest of the piriformis stretches. Bring yourself only to the edge of the stretch, so that you can remain there, breathe, and allow the piriformis to release. Start on your hands and knees. Bring your right knee forward and out to the right. Bring your right foot forward as well, until your heel is in line with your left hip and your shin is at about a 45-degree angle. Keep your foot flexed to protect your knee. To stretch the right piriformis, lean your upper body forward, tuck your left toes under, and slide or walk your left leg straight back, allowing your right thigh to rotate out passively as your hip descends toward the floor. Keep your hips level to the floor and square to the front of the mat; don’t let your pelvis turn or fall to one side. Support your right hip with a blanket if it does not reach the floor, and remain in the pose for anywhere from several breaths to a minute. Experiment with leaning your upper body forward over your shin, and with bringing your torso more upright to vary the stretch to the hip.

















If you find this pigeon pose stretch too intense or difficult, try a variation: Place your right leg up on a table and lean forward, using your hands on the table for balance, as you walk your left foot back.














Hamstring stretches also play an important role in relieving sciatic pain, because tight hamstrings can gang up with a tight piriformis to constrict the vulnerable sciatic nerve. Sciatic pain caused by a tightening of the hamstrings and surrounding muscles often comes from activities such as driving for long periods, especially when the car seat encourages a slumped or rounded posture, or during athletic activities. Down facing dog is one ( see it pictured above and also with the use of a chair) - but here are a few more suggestions.































Before coming in Savasana (Corpse pose) to complete your practice come into Apanasana (pictured below) & roll over your back muscles a few times with your head resting on the floor before bringing your head up to greet your knees in a little ball.















There are many other poses that when practiced mindfully you can progressively work into. These are just a small selection and sometimes I the photographs represent a stronger version of the pose than you will be reaching. However work to the level that is appropriate to you and proceed gently and with humility for your body.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

CLEAR THE JUNK FROM YOUR TRUNK


We frequently forget about the tension in our hips. It’s easier to recognise when tension manifests in our necks and shoulders, and often easier to release that tension (especially if we’re treated to a massage). Hip tension caused by too much sitting, and even by being active if you’re a runner or cyclist, can lead to low back pain and physical and emotional stagnation. Sweep away the tension from the lower part of the body regularly, and you’ll be more balanced.
The hip area has lots of deep muscles that can be difficult to access. That’s why the longer you hold hip opening poses, the more you’ll be able to break through accumulated tension. We keep a lot of junk our trunk - stuff we really don’t need. Having a good old de-clutter and letting go of that junk can be an uncomfortable and intense process sometimes. You have to give yourself a chance to open, to let go, to breathe it out, which is where some long help hip openers such as this one come in.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

THE WORLDS BEST COLD & FLU REMEDY



          

After suffering with the cold and cough from hell I'm optimistic that my immune system is now pumped and up to the challenges of the rest of the winter.
Try this healing elixir packed with anti-inflammatory spices and detoxifying lemon.
Add the juice of one lemon, a splash of cayenne pepper, some turmeric powder, grated fresh ginger, pinch of black pepper, some cinnamon & honey then pour on hot water & stir.

JOIN ME FOR YOGA IN GOA!


   
         A little taster of my February yoga holiday in Goa https://t.co/LW4MYo2w 
                Just one cottage now available see www.elisawilliamsyoga.com

Sunday, 21 October 2012

AUTUMN WARMERS AUBERGINE STEW

Inspired by our recent yoga holiday to Turkey we cooked this warming autumnal dish for my one day rural yoga retreat in The Chess Valley. I promised that I would produce the recipe which I have scaled down to serve four to six people.



INGREDIENTS

60ml/4tbsp olive oil
2 potatoes cut into bite size chunks
10ml/2tsp crushed coriander seeds 
2-3 garlic chopped cloves 
400g can chopped tomatoes
10ml/2tbs tomatoes puree
15ml/1tbsp sugar
2 large aubergines cut into bite size chunks
2 green peppers seeded & cut into bite size chunks
small bunch coriander
small bunch dill
salt & ground black pepper

METHOD

Heat oil in heavy pan or casserole stir in potatoes - soften & brown for 5-6 minutes
Stir in crushed coriander seeds and garlic
Add tomatoes, puree, sugar followed by aubergines & green peppers.
Cover with enough water to surround vegetables & bring to boil
Cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
Remove lid and put into oven for a further 10-20 minutes to brown and thicken
Season with salt & pepper and stir in half chopped coriander and dill 
Transfers into hot serving dish and top with the remaining herbs
Serve hot with an optional dollop of creamy Turkish or Greek yoghurt, flat bread or rice

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

SUPERBERRY IMMUNE BOOSTING SMOOTHIE


INGREDIENTS

1 BANANA
a handful of BERRIES, i used BLUEBERRIES and BLACKBERRIES 
150ml MILK
(to keep it dairy free you can use SOYA MILK or light COCONUT MILK)
ICE CUBES
a tsp HONEY

put all the ingredients in a large cup, and blend with a hand-blender/ swizzle stick
to make it look pretty i drizzled the top with a bit of extra MILK

RECIPE TESS'STUDENT KITCHEN

Friday, 21 September 2012

ONE DAY RURAL YOGA RETREAT


  

I am planning another of my popular one day rural yoga retreats in the Chiltern Hills on Saturday October 20th at Latimer Park Farm.  These days have been really enjoyable to organise and from the feed back we get all the participants have a lovely time too! So why not join us this autumn for a  relaxing day of yoga, lunch and a hike in the countryside. Here's the link! One Day Rural Retreat. Please don't be put off if you don't drive by its location outside London - Transport for non-drivers is usually possible to arrange out of and there are regular trains from Baker Street and Marylebone Stations to Chalfont and Latimer station nearby. However participants aren't restricted to those of my students who live in Central London over the past few retreats we have also begun to joined by people who live locally so whether you live in the country or in the city these yoga days are a great day out for everyone! 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

YOGA FOR KIDS



As a mother of 5 I won't ever forget how exhausting small children can be.  Yoga really helped me with the ups and downs of bringing up a large family and continues to help me today even as they rise through their teens!  I often find myself suggesting to my students who have young children that they try out practicing yoga with their children.  

A yoga session with your children will not necessarily be time for a 10 minute savasana.  Although its always worth encouraging children to play sleeping beauty/lions and at least get them to rest for a few moments!  Most importantly though a yoga class with young children needs to be fun and a method of releasing energy, tension and having a giggle with your children.  



Start off with a round of sun salutations. Many children are already being taught yoga in their infant and primary schools so you may be surprised to discover that they already are familier with some of the poses.  My own youngest daughter was able to confidently tell me when the next movement in the sequence was even when she was quite young.   Children love the names of the poses too and love to name downward dog, plank, cobra and child’s pose.  Even when you have children that are too young to sequence the movements they still like to try out one or two poses interspersed between crawling around the others and enjoy having fun with the family in a playful setting.

Its important that a yoga session with young children encourages freedom of choice and that children are able to select their own poses.  There are some great yoga books around these days with illustrations of children practicing yoga movements that they can choose from. These books provide excellent photographs and also songs and rhymes for parents to sing with their children while practising yoga together.  The children love copying whats in the pictures and naming what pose they plan to do next. 
Lion's Breath
Breathing is a perfect way to release the tension that tantrums build both in the parents and the child.  If children are in the throws of a temper tantrum you can try the pranayama breathing technique lion's breath. Becoming a lion is fun for all ages.  In this breathing exercise, encourage children to roar out their anger and really stick out their tongues to the tips of their chins while looking down towards the tips of their noses. Encourage the children to really roar out their breath on the exhale- the louder the better! Make sure you roar with them as it will work for you too!  Having fun with this will help you all to let out the negative energy. You can do this seated or kneeling or lying on your bellies in sphinx pose.
'Happy' energy and 'Bad' energy
In this activity, focus on using another pranayama breathing technique, fully breathing in positive energy and releasing negative energy.  Talk about breathing out the 'bad energy' using different terms for the word bad, angry, black, yuck, nasty, horrid or whatever term your child comes up with.   Then talk about letting in the good energy.  Take a full breath with your children and absorb the happy, excited, positive breath into your bodies.   Children will often come up with different terms to let out the bad energy and let in the good.  And as an additional benefit, all this deep breathing is relaxing for everyone involved.



Rag Dolls and Swiss Rolls
There is no better pose to end a yoga session than savasana, the corpse pose.  Try and make this time into a game of 'sleeping lions' - always a real godsend at children's parties to quieten them down before tea time. However so often in the intimate setting of a family yoga session and without the element of competition (and a party prize) it can become a time when everyone  piles up on top of mum and dad.   So another alternative could be to end a family yoga session with some music and dancing.  Start with some energetic jumping  and fast dancing, encourage the children to feel the beauty of the music and allow their body to naturally move.   At the end of the session slow down the tempo and the movements - by all means try savasana (with optional prize) or hang in rag doll pose which is always calming or roll up the children like swiss rolls in their yoga mats. 

Never lose sight of the fact that the whole point of a family yoga session is to have fun, forget all the rules and to get in tune with your children's imagination, their love and laughter. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

OLYMPIC LONDON IN A DAY


Since we have been renting out a spare room through the website Airbnb we have found ourselves becoming unofficial tourist guides to London.  In fact our latest guests, a lovely family from California here to support their steeple chase son rented our entire home for the middle 7 days of the Olympics. They had tickets to watch his event but with 6 more days in the capital asked me for some suggestions for the rest of their stay in London. Resplendent in its Olympic party hat, quieter than usual and with Londoners never more welcoming there has possibly never been a better week to be a visitor.

This is just a one day suggested schedule that have I found that give tourists without Olympics tickets the full London2012 experience.

10.00am While this is not an official part of the London 2012 programme, the Wellcome Trust's 'Superhuman' exhibition is a great example of how a leading medical research institution finds a link to the Olympic content. Given the achievements of Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius, it also seems fitting that Wellcome presents us with work that explores humanity's biological limits. The gallery is just outside of Euston station as well, so a nice gentle start into the city.

Nearest tube: Euston square
1045am - Head for Stratford By this time, the commuter traffic should be long gone, so try taking the number 9 bus south east to get an overground view of the city. Alternatively walk to Kings Cross to take the new speedy Javelin train direct to Stratford. Or The Circle, District or Metropolitan line underground train from Euston Square and head east to Liverpool Street. Once there, change to the Central line eastbound for Stratford. (journey approx 30mins)

Tickets into the Olympic Park are sold out - so it's really not worth trying to find a way in. However, you can get a sense of the atmosphere by walking around the area near the station. You can also glimpse the Park from around the area - and on the underground train leading into Stratford, so have cameras ready.
Just one word of caution about Westfield shopping centre, they have been restricting access to the shopping centre itself to ticket holders and accredited people, due to numbers, but you should still be able to walk around the nearby streets.

12.15am - Head south to North Greenwich 
From Stratford underground, jump on the Jubilee line and head south for North Greenwich, the location for the North Greenwich Arena or the 02 Arena as most people know it and  the Millennium dome for those who go back even further). Around the arena is also a new cable car, which you can ride quite easily if you have an Oyster card, otherwise the queues are very large. The site itself is worth seeing, just to get a sense of another London region during the Games.
1245am - Bus south to Greenwich Site of the Equestrian events, Greenwich is a lovely place to visit at the worst of times and during the Games will offer a nice glimpse into London life. Take the number 188 bus to get there (about 20mins). It's also a nice place to have lunch and don't forget to visit the famous Greenwich market.
2pm - London Bridge From Greenwich, get back on the Jubilee line and head west to London Bridge, iconic place for London city. Just to the west of the underground station is Switzerland House, one of the many national houses in the city during Games time. Try the Lindt Chocolate and walk west towards the Tate Modern gallery. 
230pm - TATE Modern Free events are taking place in many cultural venues around London during the Games, many of which are connected to the London 2012 Festival, the Games time Cultural Olympiad celebration. One such place is The Tanks, a new space for TATE Modern which showcases some really edgy work and brings a whole new way of encountering the galleries. While at the TATE, you can also experience Tino Sehgal's 'live art' in the main atrium, Turbine Hall, the London 2012 Olympic poster exhibition and Damian Hirst's retrospective, all part of London 2012 Festival.

315pm - Crossing the Thames 
Walk from TATE Modern across the millennium bridge to St Paul's to experience the cathedral up close. Lots of photo opportunities around here.
345pm - West to Oxford Circus & Piccadilly Circus To visit some of the classic tourist spots in London, head west on the Central line from St Pauls to Oxford Circus. Walk south down Oxford circus and you will pass the famous Hamley's toy store (on the left) for any Olympic or Paralympic mascot needs. You can also duck into Carnaby St a cute shopping district on the same side of the street. Eventually, you'll end up in Piccadilly Circus and it's worth walking further east to Leicester Square, where all the UK blockbuster film premieres take place just to soak up the atmosphere. You will also get a feel for how high street businesses are celebrating the Games through their numerous window displays that allude to Olympic themes - a worthy photo set in its own right!
4:45pm - Royal Opera House From here, you can also visit Covent Garden for a drink, but also make sure you stop by the Royal Opera House, where 'The Olympic Journey' exhibition will take you back to the ancient Olympic Games and into the origins of the modern Olympic movement, ending with a display of iconic memorabilia, from torches to medals and a selection of inspiring athlete stories.

6pm - Now for some sport! Now, you've experienced a lot of the city, what about some sport? You don't have a ticket, but you can visit the free live sites around the city for evening performances and big screens showing live coverage of what's happening within the competition arenas. They are a great way to round off the day and you might even get an Olympic champion drop in showing off their medal. Here are three nice options in different parts of the city, but if you happen to arrive into London for the Closing Ceremony, some livesites are ticketed, so check first.
Hyde Park
This enormous park was also the site where the Olympic torch relay's final evening reception took place with the Mayor of London receiving the torch on behalf of the city. There are plenty of affordable food options around, but you might want to bring a blanket or something to lay on.
Victoria Park
Another big park attracting thousands during the Games, this is very similar to Hyde Park, but is in the east of the city near Hackney Wick.
City Hall
Set with a lovely back drop of Tower Bridge with the enormous Olympic rings suspended for all to see, there is also open air theatre taking place on numerous nights and many places for dinner. This livesite gets very busy, so grab your food and drink before settling in on the grass for a couple of hours. They were restricting access on Jess Ennis night! This is my favourite pick and the London south bank is a great experience at anytime.
8pm - now a Show

If you are able to stay in London overnight - try Airbnb! - then try to see a show. If you fancy some Chariots of Fire, cinemas around the city are showing this, but a more exceptional option may be to go to the theatre. Various performances are connected to the London 2012 Festival and will require pre-booking. Check their website for more information. Needless to say, there is far more than just a day's worth of activity happening around London during the Games. Even if you hope just to experience the London 2012 Festival of cultural and artistic work, you could have two weeks here and still not be done.