THE SUPERMAMA SERIES

SARAH BENTLEY

MADE IN HACKNEY

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I’ve been lucky enough to know Sarah since we were at uni together. We met as girls with completely different lives and interests, thrown together as flatmates in an East London pad. Sarah was a spiky haired, music loving, rave machine; working for edgy magazines like Sleazenation and DJ. I was a completely-out-of-my-depth girl from the beach who liked posh shoes and white eyeshadow, hell bent on a career in fashion journalism. Sounds like the start to a trashy rom-com right? Well it kind of was.

 

As we grew we found we had more in common than we thought and actually liked each other a lot. Fast forward 20 years (yikes) and we’ve grown together through our love of good food, ethical living, surfing, our children and of course yoga.

Surf trip stoke in Portugal

Surf trip stoke in Portugal

Always a devout vegetarian, Sarah took her passion for plant based food to the next level when she founded her award winning charity Made In Hackney. Set up in 2012, it’s a community kitchen and cookery school that inspires and gives people the skills to eat healthy, affordable food that's good for people and planet. The first of it’s kind, the school promotes food that is local, seasonal, organic and most importantly 100% plant-based.

 

Since it’s set up, MIH has worked with over 13,000 people, 98% of which surveyed said that their class had encouraged them to eat more healthily, with 93% now eating less processed food and 100% more likely to cook from scratch. In 2017 Sarah was honoured to deliver a TED Talk - Why The World Needs Community Kitchens. She’s spoken at Vevolution Festival and appeared in print from Vogue to the Guardian and everyone in between.

 

Not least she’s also mum to Rowan, now 5.

 

And I’m thrilled to get 5 mins out of her busy schedule to chat to her as part of our Supermama Series – amazing mums with inspiring stories to tell.

 

Hi! Please introduce yourself.

‘I’m Sarah Bentley, founder of MIH, black belt auntie to Gigi, 22, mama to Rowan 5, enthusiastic but inept surfer. I’m walking through Abney Park in Stoke London in the blazing sunshine with a Made In Hackney matcha, this is not what life normally looks like!’

 

What is Made In Hackney?

‘It’s a community cookery school whose whole mission is to get people growing, cooking and eating more plants. What’s great is that no one can argue that what we all need for our health and the planet is to eat more plants. You can get into an argument about different kinds of diets and whether they work. But plants are good for us. End of argument. What people tend to struggle with the most is making things taste nice, and getting kids to eat well; that area needs the most needs attention and love.’

 

I once remember you existing on tomato sauce sandwiches at uni, how did you go from that to being the culinary vegan Goddess you are today?

‘I met and fell for an Ital food chef in Jamaica and when he came to visit I needed to impress in the kitchen, he wasn’t going to eat cheesy chips and ketchup sandwiches, I was a pretty unhealthy vegetarian at the time! I found the Good Housekeeping veggie cookbook and chose a recipe every night and learnt to cook from that basically. I also went to the Viva! vegan event for inspiration, and there and I was like ‘OMG - the state of the dairy industry!’ It was just not on my radar. I went vegan, in the end, not for the Rasta chef, but for the animals. It took me a couple of years to go fully vegan as there wasn’t the options back then, but I’ve never looked back.’

 

Back in 2012 when you launched, veganism was still vilified to an extent, how did you get around that with your charity?

‘We didn’t say it was vegan ever. We used to say to other charities who were bringing people to visit, ‘they’re going to learn to cook healthy food for them that’s healthy for the planet.’ We made sure they had a great time and tasty food, so when they’d realise there was no meat or dairy, it didn’t matter. If they had a fun and banging food, they came back. We kind of tricked people thorough the door! Only now it’s acceptable to be vegan; we shout about it for our master classes and supper clubs but in our community classes we still don’t.’

 

What is your life mission?

‘Two things actually. Firstly, the climate crisis. I just hate feeling helpless watching us burning up our divine planet and not doing enough. Something I wanted to contribute to with my skills. Secondly, I’m a real lover of people, I want them to thrive and be happy and to do that they need to be healthy. I’ve always been interested in food, I’m a whole foods vegan, feeling and seeing the benefits of this way of life. I remember reading about people having limbs taking off because of type 2 diabetes, and thinking you can cure that with food or at least greatly improve the symptoms. It’s no coincidence that the planet is fucked and people’s health is fucked and for some reason we tackle them individually. The health of planet is equally important to peoples health.’

 

How was pregnancy and birth for you?

‘How was it for me? Pregnancy varied! I did have the beautiful power mama stage, the earth mama Goddess vibe, and then I had a lot of time when I didn’t feel like that AT ALL. I had terrible problems with my hips, if I couldn’t have had acupuncture – 3 times per week, I’m convinced I would have been on crutches. In the third trimester I was desperate to float in water the whole time, I couldn’t sleep and was deranged with discomfort. I remember going to the Aquatic centre at 9.30pm one night, even though it officially shut at 9.15pm for admissions, but there was no way they weren’t letting me in that pool. I would have taken the girl on the desk down! I actually climbed over the turnstile when she refused me – she wasn’t able to stop this pregnant woman. The hip issues continued after birth but a Latin American hip closing ceremony helped a lot. I had one when Rowan was 1 ½, I was so desperate and it was life changing, a beautiful mixture of ritual and manipulation.’

 

How important was your yoga practice in pregnancy?

‘I didn’t do loads of pregnancy yoga when I was pregnant, I was quite naïve and thought that healthy body equals a healthy baby – I had no fear of miscarriage. I just went to normal classes, mentioned my pregnancy to the teacher and carried on. Actually now I would worry about going to a non pregnancy class. I’m more anxious as I’ve had a miscarriage post Rowan. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for it, I had wrongly associated miscarriage with being unhealthy, but it can be part of the journey. So I would be more nervous now and would go to a proper pregnancy class.’

 

And how do you feel it helped you postnatally mentally and physically?

‘It’s 1000% beneficial, I think I would have lost my mind without it. Yoga is a must. As a mum you must do something that brings you mental and physical peace.’

 

What was your favourite yoga pose in pregnancy?

‘Goddess pose. I had one teacher that would get us to rub our bumps at the same time and her script was just magical.’

 

How did having a baby change you/ your work, if at all?

‘The first 6 weeks were a nightmare with the whole breastfeeding initiation thing that no one tells you about. I really struggled with it, it was borderline horrific! But after that it was dreamy and it was worth every minute of confusion and sleeplessness, I just needed to make it over the hurdles. And after that I found personally, and not to put pressure on anyone, that I could get a lot done when he was a baby. It was when he was crawling and walking I found it really hard. I needed my maternity leave when he was 10 months to 2 years. In the early months I took him to meetings, did a talk holding him, collected an award, he was dope and versatile as long as he had the tit. I thought, ‘OMG I’m officially superwoman and then he started to crawl… In one meeting he knocked over 3 plants and killed someone’s laptop and I had to stop. Once he was mobile I timed everything around his naps and I would time my team appropriately- I’d do loops with buggy and give people work to do when this was happening. I was lucky I was in charge of my own work destiny.’

 

How does Rowan inspire you in your work?

‘He makes me work quicker and be as efficient as I can be. Kids make you ruthlessly prioritise. With the bigger issues, I just can’t look him in the eye and not do anything about the planet. There’s always more to do, we have 11 years left to save our world, Rowan and all the young people didn’t ask for this shit, neither did we, but our generation has been too slow to get on it. Young people today are really on their game and are really inspiring.’

 

Where do you get your energy from?

‘I don’t always have any, let’s be honest. I eat really well, a colourful varied plant based diet, mainly organic, and I exercise regularly. When I don’t, I don’t feel I can cope with life. I need to get my blood is pumping and I feel like I can do anything.’

 

What would you say to the sceptics of raising vegan children?

‘Rowan is 95% vegan, sometimes he’ll eat what I call backyard eggs. If we’re away and I know the hens are doted on and get to live their lives happily, he can have them. He has no tolerance to any animal secretions like milk as he’s never had them and doesn’t need them.

People are really scared of feeding a child a vegan diet, and they do need to take precautions. You can totally raise a healthy vegan child but you must learn to cook and you must learn basic nutrition. You can’t just replace meat with processed vegan substitutes, they are shit. Novel, yes, and fun to try, but not for eating regularly. Be a bit of a foodie, get into it, go to classes, buy books. You owe it to your kid. Your doctor or family centre won’t be able to help you with a vegan based diet. Rowan is a fussy eater, it’s hard to get lentils and legumes etc. into him, he doesn’t eat like I eat, he eats like a kid.’

 

What tip would you give to a parent for healthy eating?

‘Don’t give them anything out of a shiny packet until they are at least 3, so they don’t associate food with shiny packets. Even if you want to feed them some crisps or whatever put them in a zip lock bag, so they don’t get the association with the shiny packets and branding.’

To find out more about Made In Hackney and to get involved check out madeinhackney.org

See Sarah’s Ted Talk on why the world needs community kitchens here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7ab3eN9qPo

Sarah and gorgeous son Rowan

Sarah and gorgeous son Rowan

5 Easy-To-Pull-Off Pregnancy Yoga Poses

If you’re new to yoga (HI!) or just looking for some straightforward, beneficial prenatal postures, then these 5 easy to do poses promise to challenge, rest and restore.

GODDESS POSE

Utkata Konasana

How to: Stand lengthways on your mat and take the feet about 3 feet apart. Keeping the knees over the ankles turn out your feet. Slowly bend into the knees. Bring the hands into prayer at the heart centre.

 

Benefits: Helps to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor, whilst also working the inner thighs, quads, calves and core. This is also a great position to adopt during labour, with support, to help create space in the pelvis for baby to move down.

 

Variations: Either hold the posture or pulse up and down working the pelvic floor simultaneously, squeezing it up on your exhale as you squat and releasing on your inhale as you straighten your legs. Or come up on your tip toes for extra balance practise.

 

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CAT COW

Bitilasana Marjaryasana

How to: Coming to all fours, make sure that your wrists are stacked under your shoulders and your knees are stacked under your hips in box position. As you inhale extend your bum to the back of the room and gaze forward, as you exhale round the spine and push up. Keep the integrity in your waist by drawing your bump up a little to support it.

 

Benefits: This wonder move mobilises the whole spine and can help to relieve back and shoulder pain. A great one to do first thing to wake up the body gently.

 

Variations: Keep the movement fluid with your breath. Move instinctively here, taking the stretch to where you need it. Perhaps moving back and forth or in a circular motion. Whatever feels good here, do that!

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WALL SITS

How to: Sit against the wall with your knees over your ankles and your thighs as parallel to the floor as you can. Keep the natural curve in your lower back against the wall. Work up to holding for a minute each and doing set of 3.

 

Benefits: Yes, I know, these are torture treatment in some countries, but they are also great for birth prep. I like to hold for a minute at a time and imagine I’m breathing through a surge; keeping the breath deep and the mind calm to get you through. Well, I say ‘like to’ you know what I mean, I think my face says it all!

 

Variations: These can be challenging! So work on sitting for longer and adding more into your set, if you are a glutton for punishment. 

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LEGS UP THE WALL

Viparita Karani

How to: Laying on your back with your bum as close to the wall as is comfortable, swivel round so your legs extend up the wall. As you progress into your 2nd and 3rd trimesters make sure you prop your torso up with a large pillow or yoga bolster and block (as shown in the picture) as this will be much more comfortable. Allow the legs to soften and put a soft bend into the knee. Stay for as long as you can, but 10 mins is a great quick fix. Close the eyes and focus on the breath. Bring your hands to your bump and connect in with baby.

 

Benefits: An amazing posture to relieve tired legs and swollen ankles. This can also be beneficial for sciatica and is a great quick chill out.

 

Variations: This isn’t a stretch for the legs, it’s much more of a restorative pose, so make sure you can stay here comfortably by taking your seat back from the wall a little if it’s uncomfortable on the hamstrings.

Note: I had to take this picture in a bit of a rush! Do your best to centre your bolster on your block so you don’t roll off!

Note: I had to take this picture in a bit of a rush! Do your best to centre your bolster on your block so you don’t roll off!

WIDE CHILDS POSE

Balasana

How to: Keeping the toes together, take the knees wide enough to accommodate your bump and take your bum to your heels. Take the arms out in front and allow the forehead to come down.

 

Benefits: A gentle stretch for hips, thighs and ankles, this pose also gently relaxes the front body whilst passively stretching the back body. Bliss.

 

Variations: Extend the arms out in front with the upper arms off the mat for a more dynamic pose. Alternatively, you can make fists with your hands and rest your head on top, place a block under your forehead or take the arms by your side for more restorative vibes.

 

Keep your knees wide enough to accommodate your bump.

Keep your knees wide enough to accommodate your bump.