LOCAL PORTRAIT: Vanisha of Eat. Sleep. Pilates

Written by: Sophie Taylor

A running injury helped Vanisha Thanawala discover pilates. But when she quit her banking job in the city, her entrepreneurial venture Eat. Sleep. Pilates was born. We met one particularly humid day at Blighty Coffee where Vanisha’s inspiring story unravelled.

Life’s too short. For the first time I have a life that I don’t feel I need a holiday from.

When did you start getting into pilates?

“It was probably about three years ago now. I was training to run the Istanbul marathon and I ran too much on the road. I fractured my leg because I was running too much.”

What compelled you to run the Istanbul marathon? (I ask through a mouthful of carrot cake)

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

“I just thought, that’ll be interesting! A run and a holiday at the same time. But when I got injured I thought, oh dear I’m obviously not running correctly and I need to do something else. I had done yoga since I was a kid but that’s stretching, not strength training. So I got a running coach and started doing a lot more core work. I got bored just doing abs in the gym and trying to do single squats. So that’s when I found pilates and started going to some reformer classes. I really enjoyed them and found they were really helping my running, strengthening up my abs and my glutes. But mostly it was fun.”

And how did Eat. Sleep. Pilates all begin?

“Last year I quit my job. I was working in banking for ten years. I thought, I don’t know what I want to do but it’s not this. I went to Central America for seven weeks. One week was a pilates retreat which again, I really enjoyed. So when I got back and still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do I thought, I’ll sign up for some pilates courses to improve my own technique, learn and see what happens. So I did it and loved it and wanted to share it with people. So hence, Eat. Sleep. Pilates was born.”

It’s your baby?

“It is, yes! So as soon as I finished the course I thought, I’ll just set up a website and see if anyone would be interested in doing pilates with me one on one. I had thought about going through other gyms and becoming another one of their pilates teachers. But, meh, I wanted to do something different.

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

I’d seen a lot of yoga supper club ideas and thought it was nice. I’d always been interested in doing some kind of charity stuff; I’d run a marathon for charity, cycled to Paris for charity, that kind of thing. So I thought this could be a good fit. I thought I could do pilates pop ups for charity!”

We eat, then the money we raise helps other people to eat.

Why did you call it Eat. Sleep. Pilates?

“I wanted it to be like a way of life. You can really build pilates, even just through your breath, into your everyday routine. The Eat part of it is, again, part of our every day. So at every event there is a pilates and eating component. We eat, then the money we raise helps other people to eat. There’s always a learning component too. I’m a geek, I love learning. I know if I wasn’t doing these events I’d be going to similar events to learn. I love London for that. We’ve had a happiness workshop, a wine tasting workshop and nutrition classes. It’s really cool! I’ve met amazing people who run those parts of the events.”

You can go to the gym or an event and be anonymous. I think that’s such a shame.

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

What kind of people sign up?

“Everyone who comes along can learn something and meet new people. Which is really important in London. I’ve got lots of family in London, I’ve always lived here so I’ve got lots of friends but if you come here to work it can be quite lonely. You can go to the gym or an event and be anonymous. I think that’s such a shame. So all the events I run are really small – between 10 and 15 people so hopefully people get to know each other’s names, get a chance to chat, have a glass of Prosecco and talk afterwards. I’ve had a few people who come on their own of course, but mostly people tend to come with friends. But I really want to encourage people to come along and meet new people in a friendly environment. Learn something new and have a good time.”

Do you have a blow out brunch or do you go to the gym? Don’t choose.

“The other philosophy is that as we’re all limited with time if you’re working, you want to see your friends in the evening but you know you should get to the gym. What do you choose on a Saturday morning? Do you have a blow out brunch or do you go to the gym, go for a run on your own? Don’t choose. You can have both. Get a workout, get a nutritious meal and hang out with friends and new people.”

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

What’s the next event?

“We’ve had five events so far. So far it’s going well. In a couple of weeks we’ve got one at The Green Rooms Hotel. I try to keep everything as low cost as possible so it’s accessible for people. Doing them as charity events means I can get the events spaces for free.

Again, if I wasn’t running these events I’d be going to them. Last week I went to a meditation event in North London called The Gathering with Will Williams. Last week they had the Hemsley Sisters, a bit of food and some music. There were about 150 people. At the next event they’ve got Ruby Wax talking. It’s fantastic. I’d say my events are more niche, more intimate.”

It’s great to show people some really unique and interesting dishes

Do you have regulars?

“It’s early days. I don’t have a brand behind me. Sweaty Betty used to sponsor the events, they were very kind. And Doisy and Dam, the superfood chocolate company. Slowly the brand will build. It’s great to see new people coming along, who were meeting up with their friends anyway and just wanted something different to do together.

North Four, North London magazine, Colombian street kitchen, interview, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

People are usually looking for new and interesting places to go for food, especially if they’re gluten free. It can be tough to find places. The initial menu from Colombian Kitchen for the upcoming event at Green Rooms, for example, had meat and white rice so I switched it up with wild rice and vegetarian options. It’s great to show people some really unique and interesting dishes that are healthy, with different ingredients like kale and pomegranate or simply using aubergine in a different way. I have never had a Colombian brunch and the menus sound amazing. I can’t wait.

We’re going to have grilled vegetable skewers marinated for two days, wholemeal coconut rice and black quinoa coleslaw. The drink will be a homemade tamarind and lime juice, and the desert is pineapple and raw chocolate sauce sprinkled with cashew nuts.”

In everyday life we tend to be hunched over our iPhones

Woah there

“I know it all sounded amazing. I’m ready to eat it right now. It’s so much more inspiring than my old job. I’ve met so many entrepreneurial types since setting up Eat. Sleep. Pilates it’s fantastic.”

When you say body conditioning, is that like cardio?

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

“Pilates can be everything. I try to teach the essence of it. The style I’ve learned has five principles, so we go through these together in the classes. It’s mat based so you’re not jumping around. You’ll work a lot on spine mobility. In everyday life we tend to be hunched over our iPhones, our computers, and sitting on a sofa watching Netflix. So it’s about getting the spine mobile again and working on shoulder and hip mobility. Then we start focusing on the core and the obliques underneath. People want a challenge but to have fun too. I like to keep it functional for everyday life, working on breathing.”

*I discretely try to sit up straight as Vanisha describes crooked spines*

Life’s too short. For the first time I have a life that I don’t feel I need a holiday from.

So it’s just you?

“It is, yes. Venues are always so helpful with sourcing the food. Then I do all the ticketing, the marketing, it’s fun! I’m learning so much; going to talks about social media, instagram and twitter, using tools like canva and pinterest. I’ve developed an alter ego for social media which helps me to share more. I feel much more happier tagging and hash tagging everything as Eat. Sleep. Pilates than I am for my personal use.”

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

If you had to give some advice to someone who isn’t happy in their current job and wanted to pursue their real passion, what would you say?

“Do it. Life’s too short. I’m so much happier now since leaving my job. When I graduated I thought I’ll work really hard for a few years then I’ll have climbed the ladder enough to be comfortable, to coast. And then I’ll have all the time in the world to see my friends, to travel the world. But you realise you don’t. I was working form 7am till 6pm, it was really stressful Monday to Friday in the City, trading for a bank. I lived for holidays. Now for the first time in my life I don’t have my next holiday booked. My friends are confused! For the first time I have a life that I don’t feel I need a holiday from.”

Your life must be a lot healthier on the whole?

“Being a little bit active makes you want to be more active. I see that with my mum. She used to need a nudge to go for a walk in the park and now she’s being really supportive, suggesting long walks herself and learning about all the salads and nutritional side of things. Now she cooks with quinoa where previously she wasn’t sure about it. 

I have had some really good advice from a previous mentor: that Rome wasn’t built in a day and things don’t happen over night. However, if you try to plant seeds in people’s minds – little ideas here and there, those flowers will grow and those trees will grow later. Even if that idea is just to sit up straighter, to be friendlier, meet new people and generally get healthier.”

North Four, North London magazine, Vanisha, Eat Sleep Pilates

What would you say to someone like me who’s never done pilates before but is intrigued?

“Firstly, you don’t need to worry because this isn’t bootcamp. It’s definitely for all levels. I’m not going to rush you through anything. It’s a safe and comfortable environment to come to and learn. I send out a checklist of things to remember and to bring like comfortable clothing, come barefoot, bring a bottle of water and just enjoy it! I use a lot of imagery to help people get the movements, like imagining you’re taking off a top hat to stretch your spine and neck upwards.

You can take the ideas away with you in everyday life, like just thinking about your posture at the gym or walking down the street.”

What’s the future for Eat. Sleep. Pilates?

“The dream would be to focus on the Sleep aspect, so maybe start with retreats and go on to host trips away abroad, to the beach. At the moment I hope that you’ll be sleeping better after doing the pilates and eating well.”

As our chat draws to a close I realise I’m no longer hunched over the table and feel about 4” taller. Which, at 5’ 3” is something I could really do with. Thanks Vanisha, I’m already feeling the benefits and I haven’t even got off my arse.

Find out more info and book yourself up for an Eat. Sleep. Pilates event why doncha.

Photos via Eat. Sleep. Pilates and Colombian Street Kitchen instas.

North Four, North London magazine, kerb, street food collective, donuts, ice cream, milkshake
Eat & Drink

Kerb’s Guiltiest Pleasures, All Weekend

“He said, I know It’s only arctic roll but I like it like it yes I dooooo” Those are the lyrics right? Well this weekend they certainly are, at Kerb’s Guiltiest Pleasure in Kings Cross featuring an arctic roll of pure indulgence. Over Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd July, the street food collective from your wildest dreams are hosting the most indulgent hits from all their pop ups at Granary Square.

North Four, North London magazine, hivemind, theatre collective, hen and chickens theatre bar, improv show

Theatre of Choice: Stick and Twisted by Hivemind

Hivemind are coming to the Hen and Chickens Theatre this Summer with a cracker of an innovative show. Three directors try to win over the audience with improvised stories acted out by the rest of the Hivemind cast on the spur of the moment. As each scene ends you decide whether to “stick” and see where the story goes or “twist” and let the next director take over. The director who ends up with the least scenes acted out has to pay a ‘terrible forfeit’. Told you it was harsh.

North Four, North London magazine, the lacy nook, stoke newington, balkan fusion, cuisine, bar, restaurant, menu, review, beer garden
Eat & Drink

Hidden Culinary Gem: The Lacy Nook

We have been wondering whether or not to share this secret gem with you for a while now. Having walked past Cazenove Road on many a drunken occasion, we’d spotted The Lacy Nook A Board luring us inwards with a siren’s call of cocktails and beer garden. But unfortunately we’d get the timing all wrong and they’d rarely be open. “Closed at 4am! How ludicrous?” we’d holler, slurring and swaying up the road. Until now. Opening last year, The Lacy Nook is a collaboration between two friends who turned to Kickstarter to help them achieve this culinary dream . Think small and large plates of fusion Balkan BBQ, salads and carpaccio alongside

North Four, North London magazine, NYT, Theatre, new play, playing up, acting course

Playing Up: New NYT Show, Three

This year, Playing Up have commissioned a new play by Sophie Ellerby (HighTide First Commissions Writer and NYT REP Company 2013), Three, which will be staged at the Arcola Theatre from 20th to 22nd July. The urban and domestic drama, directed by NYT Associate Director Anna Niland follows three sisters who fight to keep track of reality as their world is turned upside down.

North Four, North London magazine, amusical, backyard comedy club, comedians, acts, tickets, bethnal green, josie long

Laughable Acts at Backyard Comedy Club

Tonight, on this dull yet sweaty Monday, what you may well need is to show your confectionary based fillings to the ceiling and let it all out with a huge bellowing guffaw about nothing in particular. Let the likes of quick witted Josie Long, surreal twosome Max and Ivan and the downright uproarious Tom Parry help you escape the chocolate lacking reality of 2017.

North Four, North London magazine, staffie, rehoming, dogs, adoption, foster, staffordshire bull terrier, all dogs matter charity

Fur Dates: Lottie is Looking for Love

Registered charity, All Dogs Matter are a dog rehoming centre based in Archway. They use a mixture of foster homes and kennel spaces to house their dogs, who are each looking to be fostered or adopted. Occasionally we look through their profiles of beautiful singletons looking for love and feature one at random. We interviewed one newly single lady in particular called Lottie. A fun spirited character with smooth hair and a huge grin, Lottie was a right laugh.

North Four, North London magazine, jumble trail, vintage clothing, caledonian road, car boot, stalls, bric-a-brac, treasure trove

Get Involved: Cally Road Jumble Trail

Next Sunday it’s the Cally Road Jumble Trail, run by the community. Think a car boot sale but on the street with vintage clothing, accessories, toys, original creations and cakes if you’re lucky. The whole of the trail is set up online over at jumbletrail.com where visitors get a colour coded map to explore and discover all the hidden treasures on offer from your neighbourhood.

North Four, North London magazine, wimbledon, tennis, screenings, lifestyle, list, article, what to do, white socks
Lifestyle List

Top Four ‘What the Deuce!’ Wimbledon Screening Spots

You’ve got your socks pulled up but no Cliff Richard in sight. You’re all white shorted up with nowhere to go. It’s time to find out where your white headbanded self will fit in. Here's our top four Wimbledon screening hang outs to try this Summer.

North Four, North London magazine, yield n16, cheese, wine, newington green, wine, wine tasting
Eat & Drink Events

Midsummer Fizz Masterclass at Yield N16

Until five minutes ago I would’ve believed Pet Nat was a holistic dog food brand / veterinary business in Wood Green. I’m half right actually*, but in the boozios world it’s a fizzy wine. Pétillant Naturel is light and fizzy, usually pretty low on the alcohol scale and rather sweet. Think the opposite of a dry red wine.

North Four, North London magazine, stoke newington, abney park, dogs, dog walking, dog training, north london
Eat & Drink

World Foods Market, Abney Hall

Abney Public Hall is hosting a market of world food delicacies next weekend, having gathered together the creme de la creme of planet Earth’s cuisine. Prepare for a mass fusion of cultures, great food, drink and music just off Stoke Newington Church Street.

North Four, North London magazine, avocado, brunch, eggs, breakfast, gentrification, city

Quiz: How Gentrified Are You?

Otherwise known as the shoredification of London, there are four stages of denial when it comes to dealing with the inevitability of gentrification. Are you a dilapidated ol’ boozer clinging on to the same threads since 1989, or more of a craft beer-swilling/moustache-bearing pop up type propping up the bar at a cookie dough cafe? Let’s find out before your bedroom’s transformed in to a pop up belfie gallery.

North Four, North London magazine, the literary hour, supper club, wind in the willows, kenneth grahame, themed event, dining, food, drink
Eat & Drink Events

Poop poop! Supper Club Banquet at Toad Hall

Poop poop! Get your driving gloves on and tweed jackets ready, for Toady has invited us down to Toad Hall for a banquet on the riverbank. Join The Literary Hour for their all new immersive supper club experience this Summer. It’s the eighth in their series of book themed events with multi-sensory five course meals featuring additional surprises… Ooh ratty!

North Four, North London magazine, open mic night, the mosutache bar, stoke newington, events, comedians, acts, music, singers, actors

Comedians, Rappers, Actors: Open Mic Night in Stokey

Every last Thursday of the month a motley crew of performing acts shuffle off to the skinny little Moustache Bar on Stoke Newington Road for a night of microphone hogging. It’s Open Mic night and the stage isn’t just available to acoustic guitar yielding crooners. The floor is open for all you comedians, rappers, poets, hell even actors are welcome to come tread the boards at Moustache Bar this Thursday 27th July.

North Four, North London magazine, stoke newington, walking tour, history, guided tour, event, to do, streets, shops
Events Lifestyle

Walking Tour of Stokey's Rebel History

Ah Stokey. You chilled out little rebel of North London. The seemingly easy breezy, laissez-faire attitude that appears to exude from every award winning eatery and baby clothes shop of Church Street is all but an organic hessian veil over it’s anarchic and rebellious history. Nonconformists, anti fascists and dissenters built the area as we know it.

North Four, North London magazine, joginders supper club, punjabi cuisine, eating, dining
Eat & Drink

Eating North London: Punjabi Supperclub Recipe

Trying our luck, we decided to ask the wonderful Raina and Saira of Joginder Supper Club to give us some unseen insight in to their centuries old Punjabi recipes. Amazingly they agreed to shed some light on one of their most tasty dishes: the Bhoolghobi Tamatar (cauliflower with tomato and potato). Over to the experts...

North Four, North London magazine, tour de france, tour de north london, cycle tour, food tour, french cuisine, review
Culture Eat & Drink Lifestyle

North London Bike Tour: Tour De North Four

So this July 198 cyclists head over to Germany to start the Tour de France. If you think that is weird, wait till I tell you it started in Yorkshire a few years ago. Anyway after the three days of the Grand Depart the spectacle of the world's biggest sporting event heads back to France and the action really begins.