Category Archives: Health tips

THE GIFT OF STILLNESS…

“In an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” Pico Iyer, (The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere)

Sometimes when I teach, I see students who crave to close their eyes while practicing postures and movements which require their eyes to be open and gently focused. They are trying hard to relax in what they are doing. Then when I ask them to pause, close their eyes and bring their attention within, those same people crave to open their eyes, as they feel overwhelmed by the tumultuous train of their thoughts. Other times, when I teach long held restorative poses, I see people who really struggle to become still. Sometimes, they don’t even realise that parts of their body are still fidgeting. Their nervous system is trying to recalibrate. Often, these are the students who lead a very busy lifestyle, multi-tasking in the office and at home, glancing at their smart phone every two minutes to see if something new has come up, if they have missed out on something…. At night, they often find it difficult to go to sleep or they wake up in the middle of the night with a head full of thoughts and anxiety. And I remember that a while back, I too was experiencing this, and I could easily fall back into the old pattern if I don’t pay attention…

In this day and age when we are constantly asked to perform and achieve as fast as we can, this can be incredibly depleting on all levels. In addition to have less and less time to do things, marketers and advertisers are always finding more ways to bombard us with unwanted information and images to sell their products. We are constantly encouraged to turn our focus outwardly and to increasingly rely on the use of ‘’time-saving’’ digital devices to manage our lives (online banking, online shopping, online dating, social medias etc.). And in the process, we may lose contact with ourselves…

Have you ever wondered how many hours in a day do you spend looking at your digital devices? And how did you spend your time on before all that smart technology existed ? I am not complaining about the speed of IT progress here, but rather that it is taking far too much space and time from us all… And some of us don’t even realise it, notably the younger generations who grew up immersed in that technology.

A few weeks ago, I attended a training with my teacher Rod Stryker , when he pointed out how the increased time spent looking at our smart phones impacts on our ability to daydream (different to mind-wandering) [1] which is an important function of our brain, stimulating intellectual and creative ability. Professor Jerome L. Singer [2] has researched and produced evidence suggesting that daydreaming (theta brainwaves), imagination, and fantasy are essential elements of a healthy, satisfying mental life. Before the age of digital devices, we allowed ourselves to daydream more frequently and on regular basis. Now, whenever we have a rare moment with nothing to do, most of us tend to look at our phones… By being constantly stimulated in the wrong way, our brains become overactive and in a state of hyper vigilance (hi-beta brainwaves). In the long run, it becomes more difficult to think clearly, and our memory/retention power decreases. If the brain was compared to a hard disk, an IT consultant would say it is time for a good disc clean-up and defragmentation…

When we consider the above, it is not surprising it is so difficult to become still. For those of us who live fast, work and play hard, the key here is in the ‘’balancing act’’ : finding time and space to cultivate the art of pausing what we are doing to become still. In his ‘Art of Stillness’ Ted Talk, travel writer Pico Iyer(3) reflects on the incredible insight that comes from taking time for stillness, also leading to more emotional intelligence :  “In an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

So what can we do to become more at ease with stillness ?
It might not be easy at first, as it will take time to ‘’rewire the brain’’ to form new neural pathways and become more at ease with stillness. So here are a few ideas on how to create and explore stillness in our lives :

Where to start : Here and now. Slowly but surely, take small steps that fit into your life style, so you can make consistent progress which lasts, in your own time.

What next :
G.I.V.E  Y.O.U.R.S.E.L.F  A  B.R.E.A.K and do some ‘’internet detox’ on regular basis. Create time and space when you don’t look at your phone/TV/ computer, for an hour, a day, a weekend, a few days etc… In the evening, stay away from TV or electronic devices at least 2 hours before going to bed (as pixels stimulate your brain activity and might keep you awake). Instead, try and read a good book, listen/play some soothing music, or write in your diary..

Take a walk in nature : take the time to pause, notice and feel within and around you.

Practice mindful breathing : Several times during the day, take a moment to reconnect with your breath : Pause what you are doing and pay attention to your breathing. Hands resting onto your belly, take long, slow mindful breaths, feeling your abdomen expand as you inhale and relax as you exhale. Repeat to yourself, like a mantra, a positive affirmation such as: ‘’I inhale deep calm and peace, I exhale any stress and tension.‘

Go to a Yin or Restorative Yoga class : Long held supported postures with mindful breathing and body awareness, help release deep seated tension. Yoga practices such as Yin and Restorative Yoga activate the para-sympathetic nervous system, and literally help us ‘’re-boot’’ on a physiological, mental and energetic level, increasing our vagal tone(4) hence the ability to ‘’rest and digest’’. By aligning the physical and mental, the practitioner creates the optimum conditions to activate the natural healing process of the body, in harmony with nature.

Attend a Yoga and Meditation class : A fine sequence of asanas and Pranayama prepares the body to become still and sit in a comfortable position. Meditation gives the opportunity to observe the process of our thoughts and emotions and let them pass, without getting ‘’caught in the story’’, the ability to choose our thoughts more purposefully and find more lasting calm and peace within.

Try Yoga Nidra : Often underrated, the profound practice of Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep with a slight trace of awareness) is an ancient and life-changing approach to complete relaxation. It has been studied in clinical settings and has been found to treat various afflictions ranging from sleeping disorders to chronic pain, anxiety, and even low self-esteem. Neuro scientists say that Yoga Nidra helps access the brain rhythms (theta and delta brainwaves) that signals the deepest rest. By cultivating stillness and effortlessness, a more subtle awareness unfold, soothing the mind and body down to the cellular level. Yoga Nidra is also a way to build up Ojas, the ‘vital nectar’, the essential energy of the body, which will strengthen immunity and vitality.

What to expect : At first, it might be challenging to change any agitating, distracting habits which no longer serve you. So, please be patient with yourself : as you become more used to creating ‘’pockets’’ of stillness in your life, you will find it increasingly enjoyable. With consistent practice, it will soon become like having a shower in the morning and you will look forward to those moments of peace and quiet which allow you to check in with yourself. You might even surprise yourself feeling a new sense of joy and satisfaction for the most simplest things. And at best, it might even become contagious to those around you…


[1] There is a distinction between day-dreaming and mind-wandering, where you think of things other than the task you are doing, and daydreaming when, for example, you are on a train doing nothing and detach yourself from the world around you.

[2] Jerome L. Singer’s research produced evidence suggesting that daydreaming, imagination, and fantasy are essential elements of a healthy, satisfying mental life. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Yale School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Sciences. Singer is to be considered "the father of daydreaming" and he "has laid the foundations for virtually all current investigations of the costs and benefits of daydreaming and mind wandering" https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00626/full

[3] Pico Iyer has spent more than 30 years tracking movement and stillness — and the way criss-crossing cultures have changed the world, our imagination and all our relationships. In twelve books, covering everything from Revolutionary Cuba to the XIVth Dalai Lama, Islamic mysticism to our lives in airports, Pico Iyer has worked to chronicle the accelerating changes in our outer world, which sometimes make steadiness and rootedness in our inner world more urgent than ever. In his TED Book, The Art of Stillness, he draws upon travels from North Korea to Iran to remind us how to remain focused and sane in an age of frenzied distraction. As he writes in the book, "Almost everybody I know has this sense of overdosing on information and getting dizzy living at post-human speeds ... All of us instinctively feel that something inside us is crying out for more spaciousness and stillness to offset the exhilarations of this movement and the fun and diversion of the modern world." https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_the_art_of_stillness

[4] Vagal tone (Wikipedia definition) : Vagal tone refers to activity of the vagus nerve, an important component of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This division of the nervous system is not under conscious control and is largely responsible for regulation of the body at rest. Vagal activity results in diverse pleiotropic effects, including: lowered heart rate, changes in vasodilation/constriction, and glandular activity in the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. Because the vagus nerve is importantly involved in heart rate regulation through its action on pacemakers in the heart, vagal tone is easily assessed by heart rate. In this context, tone specifically refers to the continual nature of baseline parasympathetic action that the vagus nerve exerts. While vagal input is continual, the degree of stimulation it exerts is regulated by a balance of inputs from both divisions of the autonomic nervous system and reflects the general level of parasympathetic activity. Vagal tone is typically considered in the context of heart function, but also has utility in assessing emotional regulation and other processes that alter, or are altered by parasympathetic activity.

KAPHA SEASON : Time to boost the inner-fire and refuel the energy

According to Ayurveda, at this time of the year when winter brings colder and wetter days, we move from the Vata to the Kapha season. Condensing the Earth and Water elements, the Kapha dosha* is a rather “sticky”, cold and muddy combination… so how does this affect us ?

In our northern hemisphere, from late winter till spring, the cold temperatures and humid weather influence our “inner-atmosphere”, creating more dampness in the body, disturbing our energy levels, our moods, our digestive and immune systems.
When Kapha soars up and gets out of balance, the body is likely to create more mucus, making the body more susceptible to colds and coughs, respiratory disorder, congestion, and sluggish digestion. On the mood level, it can also translate by stagnation, sluggishness, feeling less inspired, less spontaneous, a difficulty to “get going” and complete the tasks we set for ourselves.

When in balance, Kapha is the principle of stabilizing, grounding energy, it governs growth in the body and mind. It is concerned with structure, stability, lubrication, and fluid balance. So what can we do to make the most of the season and balance Kapha in our body ?

If you haven’t got a very active lifestyle already, it is a good idea to practice some kind of “yang” activities which stimulate the cardio-vascular system, increase the blood circulation and boost the metabolism. These can range from power walking, running, dancing, martial arts or some form of flowing Hatha / vinyasa yoga, encouraging dynamic asanas, including gentle warming Pranayama techniques such as the Ujjayi breath (also known as “ocean breath”), or kapalabhati (“skull shining breath”), stimulating the physical or digestive fire (Jathara Agni).

As we look after the body, it is just as important to soothe and balance the nervous system, so that we cultivate inner-calm, feel replenished and nourished inside. This can be achieved by practicing Yin activities such as Yin and  restorative yoga.

As we get our inner fire going, it is also crucial to create more “fuel”, also known in Ayurveda as “Ojas” (‘the sap of  life energy’’, one of the three vital essences which generates and maintains physical vitality, mental clarity, and overall health). In order to build Ojas, a very effective Abhyanga massage can easily be practiced from home. Amongst its numerous benefits, this self-pampering technique helps nourish the entire body, lubricate the joints, increase circulation, improve sleep and calm nerves. Another wonderful way to increase Ojas is to regularly practice Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness), deeply calming for the mind and the nervous system.

During the Kapha season, it is also a good idea to pay attention to what we eat, reducing sugar and eating warm, nourishing food. Depending on which dosha is prevailing in one’s body constitution, some of us can really benefit by adding warming spices to broths, soups and stews, such as ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper. As a winter warmer and good alternative to coffee, you can also try a DELICIOUS TUMERIC LATTE which is a great alternative to coffee. So here are a few ideas to think about and see what works best for you during the Kapha season. Enjoy !

Dosha* : literally means ‘’that which tends to go out of balance’’. According to Ayurveda, the doshas are three bodily Bioelements that make up one’s constitution : Pitta, Vata and Kapha. They are highly unstable and always fluctuating in the body.

WINTER BOOSTER : Delicious tumeric latte

Also known as ‘’golden milk’’, this is one of my favourite winter booster!
A delicious ayurvedic recipe which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties..

Ingredients
–    1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk, preferably almond or coconut milk
–    1 cinnamon stick
–    1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
–    ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder
–    1 pinch of crushed saffron
–    1  fresh small turmeric root, unpeeled, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
–    1 small piece of ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
–    A pinch of black pepper (to activate the turmeric anti-inflammatory properties )
–    Ground cinnamon (for serving)

–    Optional :  a teaspoon of raw honey

PS : If you drink the above in the evening, before going to sleep,  it is best not to add the ginger which can be too stimulating.

Preparation
–    Whisk the milk, with the above ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a low boil.
–    Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
–    Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into mugs and top with a dash of cinnamon.

Optional  : to add a  bit of sweetness, when a drinkable temperature is reached, add 1 teaspoon of honey (raw preferably)

You can froth the above preparation to  give it a ‘cappuccino’ like effect.
Quickly done and so delicious ! Enjoy.

VERY BERRY SMOOTHIE FOR A BURST OF ENERGY …

Photo 10-08-2016, 08 31 21

This is probably my favourite smoothie when I have an early start and don’t have time to prepare a more consistent breakfast. It contains red berries which are packed with antioxidants. I have also added Chia Seeds (great for digestion) and Maca powder to boost energy.

Place the following ingredients (organic preferably) in your blender :

  • a good handful of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries
  • a generous spoon of goji berries (which are a great source of essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E, linoleic acid, selenium, germanium, and more beta carotene than the common carrot)
  • a handful of  spinach
  • a banana
  • a quarter of lime or lemon
  • a medjool date (remove the fruit stone)
  • a big spoon of chia seeds
  • a small spoon of maca powder
  • a small spoon of cinnamon
  • a glass of almond milk

Optional : To make it more consistent, I also like to add a handful of pure porridge oats.

spring energyBlend well, sit back and enjoy this delicious breakfast smoothie which will keep you going until lunchtime.

YOGINI GONE GREEN…
 THE NUMEROUS HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHLOROPHYLL

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As the cold days settle and with less sunlight,  I feel the need to boost my immune system and build up Ojas (essential energy of the body / sap of one’s life energy) , detox and restore deep inside…

So, I make my Yoga practice more nurturing, with a bit more forward bends and twists, holding the postures longer. I also allow more time for deep relaxation, with long Savasana at the end of practice or even better, indulge in the most “delicious” Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep with a slight trace of awareness – see my FAQ section to read more about Yoga Nidra). In addition, I also look at my diet and eat more warm hearty food, with plenty of ginger, garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper here and there.

Lately, a friend has introduced me to the many benefits of Chlorophyll and it has become one of my favourite nutrients to mix with water and drink throughout the day.
Apparently, its molecular structure is almost identical to haemoglobin except for the centre atom: In haemoglobin this is iron, whereas in chlorophyll it is magnesium. As a result, Liquid chlorophyll (or “plant blood”) helps to rebuild and replenish our red blood cells, boosting our energy and increasing our wellbeing almost instantly. It is very alkaline and has the power to regenerate our bodies at the molecular and cellular level. I love drinking it first thing in the morning, mixed in a cup of lukewarm water and after practicing Yoga. It makes me feel even more energised and ready to get on with my day.

Looking into it, it appears that other Liquid Chlorophyll Benefits include :

Anti Carcinogenic: Chlorophyll protects against a whole host of carcinogens found in fungus-laden foods such as grains. It blocks the metabolism in the body of harmful chemicals known as pro-carcinogens that damage DNA.

Antioxidant & Anti-inflammatory: containing high levels of the vitamins A, C and E, liquid chlorophyll has strong antioxidant capacity and has also been found to help reduce inflammation.

Chlorophyll and Heavy Metals: chlorophyll has a particular way to bind to and remove toxic heavy metals such as mercury makes it an extremely powerful healer.

Anti-Candida: recent research has also shown that chlorophyll is effective in fighting Candida albicans (an opportunistic fungus – or form of yeast- that is the cause of many undesirable symptoms ranging from fatigue and weight gain, to joint pain and gas), thanks to its highly alkaline properties.

Get rid of Bad Breath : Chlorophyll has a double-action remedy for bad breath. Firstly, as a deodoriser, it will eliminate odours in the mouth and throat, but secondly (and more importantly) it promotes a healthy digestive tract – which is the primary reason for bad breath. in addition to keeping a healthy and balanced diet, I also like cleaning my tongue with a cloth after brushing my teeth in the morning ( an effective Yogic/Ayurvedic cleansing ritual).

Wound Healing & Antiseptic: while liquid chlorophyll doesn’t actually have antiseptic properties of its own, it remarkably seems to have the ability to aid our body’s tissue in destroying germs. By strengthening tissue, it increases the disease resistance of cells and, at the same time, prevents the growth of bacteria! Research apparently also suggests that chlorophyll greatly assists in wound healing and prevention of reinfection.

A good source of Magnesium: chlorophyll is rich in magnesium, which is a highly alkaline mineral and so consuming chlorophyll rich foods has a highly alkalising effect on the body. Magnesium is very important as it helps to deliver much needed oxygen to cells and tissues, bone formation, nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is most important for our cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands, and brain.

A good source of vitamin K, C, folic acid, iron, calcium, protein: which are all also essential in building and repairing red blood cells and boosting our immune system.

So the first step is to add plenty of good organic green vegetables to your food, juices and smoothies. If you wish to take it to another level, in a more concentrated way, I like the Liquid Chlorophyll from Nature’s Sunshine which is really pleasant in taste (no strong minty taste, more of a fresh herbal natural flavour). I usually add a few drops to water, juices or smoothie

When I was a child, my immune system was not so good and I used to develop cold and flu every so often. At that time, I was regularly prescribed a course of antibiotics and as a result, it affected my immune system/ natural resistance and my digestive system (food absorption and elimination). So, in my twenties, I became more and more interested in natural remedies and alternative ways to strengthen my immune system, boost my energy levels…Hence, another reason why I also decided to explore the Yogic path…. It is trully amazing to observe how much is available in  Mother Nature when we take the time to investigate, and I love to share what works for me. So, see how green suits your diet  ;-). Enjoy !

You can read more about the liquid chlorophyll and order it from : http://www.onlygoodhealth.co.uk/liquid_chlorophyll_%28473ml%29