Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Domino Effect

Have you noticed how that a lot of people who exercise/eat healthy are also just decent people?

I don't believe this is a phenomenon unique to the yoga world, where there's a good deal of karma-consciousness. For instance, look at this post on celebrity personal trainer Jillian Michaels:

The weight lifting, protein shake drinking, tough-stuff Jillian always keeps spare socks and blankets in her car for homeless people she encounters around LA. Who do you know who does that?

I read something recently in an Elephant Journal Post, 5 Life Changing Lessons From Ayurveda:

"In a more general sense, negativity begets negativity—the downward spiral of addictions of all kinds is a powerful example of samanya vishesha in action. Fortunately, the converse is also true. The more I implement positive choices in my life, the more positive choices I am able implement. Reflecting on the principle of like increases like inspires me to continue to make positive choices in each moment of my existence."

This is so true.

Exercise creates a domino effect in your life of positive changes, transforming your life and being for the better. As Tara Stiles puts it, you become a space maker; you create space in your life by practising ease of movement.

For instance, say you start doing 20 minutes -  just 20 minutes of yoga - first thing in the morning, everyday.

From those 20 minutes, your physique and mind becomes stronger, your lungs work better, you become healthier, calmer, more productive. Perhaps you lose a bit of body fat, lower your blood pressure, fit into those jeans a little nicer. After this short burst of positive movement, you probably start to eat a little better; become concerned with nourishment rather than punishment. You feel great. You look great. You have space. In return, you are happier.

Happiness affects other people. We should all strive for self-care, for the positive effect it has on others. This is not selfish.

This is being a good person, and living life fully.

This is the domino effect of wellness and goodness from one small, 20 minute dedication to positive movement.

And then we have something else. It goes like this:

You need something grounding and comforting. You choose pizza; a big ol' greasy, cheesy, refined flour pizza, maybe with meat and extra cheese, maybe not; at this point, it doesn't really matter.

You start eating it, and it sort becomes hard to stop. You feel full, and satisfied and grounded; you get a rush of dopamine from all that stodgy, oily food. It's nice, but you feel a bit too heavy, you know, a bit too sluggish, and all you want to do is sit in front of the TV and not move.

Yeah, I'm sure all of us have been there at some point. Maybe you never left.

But, you see, it doesn't really fill you up. You could probably do with something sweet after all that salty, fatty cheese. Or maybe you just have a taste for more dense, junky foods; that dopamine hit isn't as good the next time round; you need it sooner, sweeter, greasier, bigger, more...

So, this becomes a regular occurrence. You become tired, and bloated. You don't want to move. Your trousers feel a little tighter, you're retaining a little water; your skin gets a sheen like it's assimilating oil, rather than youthful glow and your face looks puffy and tired. You're moody and irritable, and, you're finding it very, very hard to help yourself.

You feel like shit. You look like shit.
(This doesn't happen to people in sitcoms on TV does it, when they eat junk food?)

This, my friend, is the Domino's effect.

Tell me, which do you choose?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Purple is the New Green

Have you heard yet? Purple is the new green!

Okay, if you're going, 'Wait. What?', or, 'I don't like either of those colours - when were they ever in?', or perhaps, 'is that, like, a really bad spin off?' , then, hear me out.

I'm not talking about fashion. Or Netflix.

I'm talking about food.

Of course!
Green has taken the health food world by storm. Green is sexy. The whole world is in love with leafy greens and green juices and green salads, green anything, (especially if it has kale in it. Hell yeah, kale!)

But, it's easy to get swept up the green-fever and forget about the whole spectrum of plant foods out there. I adore greens; I simply can't eat enough of them!

But, something new, something brilliant has come to my attention:

Purple fruits and vegetables.

These beauties of the vegetable world owe their health benefits to anthocyanins, the powerful flavonoids that give these gems their dark, intense colour.

Anthocyanins are have a supreme ability to reduce oxidative damage to our cells (thus reducing ageing and disease). In one study, anthocyanins were demonstrated to have the strongest antioxidant power out of 150 flavonoids!

Need some proof? In Dr. Greger's Superfood Bargains, purple cabbage, the ruby of the cabbage world, was shown to have the hughest anti-oxidant power out of a range of superfoods tested - plus, they were the cheapest!

Also, take a look at how purple pigments transforms the nutritional profile of potatoes here: Nutrition Facts: The Healthiest Potato, and, get the low-down on the science of anthocyanins with Talia Fuhrman: Rock Your Anthocyanins in Your Diet (simply gorgeous).

So, why should we be concerned about eating an abundance of antioxidants in our diet?

Dr, Greger explains it in this concise article (Nutrition Facts: Add Beans, Berries and Greens to More Meals):
"After we eat, our bodies create free radicals in the process of breaking down our food. That’s why we need to eat antioxidant-rich foods with every meal to counteract this oxidation caused by metabolism (...)  If we don’t consume high-antioxidant plants with breakfast, by lunch we’ll already be in oxidative debt. Let’s say we ate a standard American breakfast at 6 a.m. If we didn’t eat that cup of strawberries with breakfast, by the time lunch rolls around we’d already be starting out in the hyper-oxidized state, and lunch could just make things worse. Since western eating patterns include eating multiple meals a day, including snacks, one can only speculate on the level of biological unrest (...)  Over time, however, these daily insults can lead to problems such as heart disease, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths a year."
Oxidation causes disease and premature ageing, and, if you live by a standard Western diet, you are pretty much in oxidative stress for most of the time. No wonder we're getting sick and look like crap.

So how can we counter act this?

By eating delicious, nutritious anti-oxidant rich plant food!

And, which plants contain antioxidants that are extremely potent at fighting this disease and ageing causing oxidative-stress....

Purple ones! Blueberries. Purple cabbage. Aubergine. Red kale. Purple broccoli... you can get these in your local supermarket, cheaply, easily, fresh, frozen... fabulous.
Whole plant foods are far more powerful than their individual chemical components. We shouldn't simply isolate and focus; BUT, in this age of abundance and choice of healthy foods, and with the power of scientific knowledge, we can make concious, well informed decisions about what we put into our bodies - to our power and immense benefit.

Ultimately, cut out the sugar laden, refined, processed foods and animal products, and eat whole plant foods, and you'll really put oxidative stress in it's place...

...keep it up and through the slow, long process of time,  your heavy smoking, soda drinking, dairy eating friends won't be able to keep up with your fresh, healthy, youthful glow (or healthful body).

It's not the Fountain of Youth, it's the Garden of Youth, you see.

(Need a bit more convincing about the magical anti-ageing properties of plants? Check out: Nutrition Facts: The Anti-Wrinkle Diet. Spoiler alert: plants are anti-ageing due to antioxidant properties, processed foods and animal products are not...)

There's an incredible array of plant foods out there. A whole rainbow. I like to picture it on a bed of green, with earthy, muted tones ranging to incredible violently violet hues. They're all good. They're all powerful. Fresh, picked straight from the earth, these fruits and nuts and leaves are  more valuable than the rarest, most precious stones. Diamonds and sapphires may be beautiful, but plants keep us well; they keep our bodies happy and healthy, our skin glowing, our minds alert.

But, just remember, a little purple now and then, and you can really step up your antioxidant game.

So, eat your greens.

And eat your purples, too.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Why you should date a yoga girl...

Today, in the supermarket, I overheard a conversation between two sales assistants, complaining and rolling their eyes over their mutual health food obsessed, yoga loving friend.

Sound familiar?

You know, we're actually pretty awesome.

Before you roll your eyes while they order a side of kale or rave about the benefits of down dog, check out this article on why you should date a yoga girl. (Even if it is just a friend date, there's a whole other world out there to discover and open yourself up to... we're pretty passionate about it for a reason!)

What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Are You Perfect Yet?

I've been making a vow to myself to practice yoga more; to reap the mental and physical benefits; to build a strong, aesthetically pleasing body from passion over movement, rather than jumping and lifting and forcing my body into a particular shape as defined by work out videos or fitness magazines. 

This is easier said than done. I, like you, I'm sure, want to look attractive and be at my physical best. There's nothing wrong with that; I'm all for enhancing attractiveness (if this is a goal you care about, as I do). But, when we're scrutinising our bodies, wondering why that stubborn area of fat won't shift, or why your waist isn't this size or your ass that shape, stop and think about where that insecurity is coming from.

If you take care of yourself through diet and exercise, the chances are that you are already a wonderful, healthy and attractive version of yourself.  

How did health and beauty become such a narrow, ego-tripping category? Why do we limit ourselves to such constrained definitions, when beauty is, in fact, so gloriously varied? 

And, crucially, why are we plagued by these insecurities, and what do they mean? 

Well, this:

Those body hang ups of yours are nothing. They should be meaningless, if you are healthy (as in, you eat well and move well) and your body allows you to experience the things you love in life. (Or, perhaps your body isn't healthy, but is doing its damned best to be; that power, and how you care for it in that time, should also leave you body-hang up free. It's trying to do something amazing and keep you experiencing this planet, and that's beautiful, right?)

It's this culture of sexual objectification that has us trying to jump through hoops to fit something that was never intended to benefit us. 

I love beauty, I love health. I love eating so that my skin glows and my hair is thick, and moving so that I can create strong legs and a strong core. I'm not denouncing that. I'm denouncing those narrow standards that are the reason your best friend, who is so gorgeous already, looks in the mirror and says, 'not enough!'.

I think we could all do with a little more awareness as we move around the world with the ways in which we are manipulated to think about our own bodies, our own self value, and those of others...
We create our own bodies through our diet and exercise choices, but, we should work with them (our bodies), not against them. 

... so here's to a little self-love and appreciation. 

What amazing, simple, complicated, beautiful things did you experience through your body today?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Crashing Through Chaos.

The internet blows my mind. It truly does. It opens up new worlds, connects people, spawns new subcultures and provides expansion in unprecedented ways.

The internet has transformed my health, providing me with daily yoga sessions and cutting edge nutritional research and trends. But it also breeds extreme, and standards of behaviour that are not, despite what they blazon, healthy.

And so, with great strength, we have to seek a gentler balance from within ourselves. We have to centre. We need this, our souls need this.

"You don't have a soul,

You are a soul, 

That has a body".

I've definitely been feeling imbalanced lately, but am slowly drawing myself back to a strong centre. There are some days at work, though, fighting against the grain of small town minds, when my yogic outlook is less accepting of others and more: 

But despite those days, I know that they are impermanent, and the choice to be mindful remains. As Patanjali, the ancient father of yoga said: developing inner happiness is a long term process, that needs persistence; with yoga and meditation (and, I hasten to say, in this day and age, choosing the media you surround yourself with wisely) you can create an inner peace that crashes through the chaos of the outside world. (Yes PLEASE!)

Yeah. It's takes practice. It takes work. And I love that, the focus that draws me in, seeking meaning in life through being. This is life. We can shift our perspective, rather than get washed away with the waves life sends our way. You can't be on a 'high' all the time, but can cultivate behaviours that promote inner bliss; a calm, strong, positive outlook can be your default. 

Having recently discovered Ali Kamenova's wealth of free online power yoga practices, I've got something new to focus on, and a new motivation to work at inner and outer strength and balance (I find the two complement each other beautifully).

(Try these if you want yoga that's STRONG... )

It's all about balance.. when you fall out of Warrior III, what do you do? Do you give up? Or get back into balance? If you sway uncertainly in Dancer, do you try to compensate in the other direction, stabilising your core further to draw yourself back and 'dance' on your foot with the movement of your body? Or just let yourself fall? 

When you get knocked off course, seek those influences that realign and inspire your inner calm and strength. They are the core foundations for balancing of your mind.  

The internet can give you crazy, but it can also give you zen like you never knew possible. Browse wisely, think critically.


(Just namaste.)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Kind Approach

Do you recognise this lady?

If you've ever been into 90s pop culture, then you probably have, but you'll remember her as being this:

(Cult 90s film Clueless, encase you're of a different generation...)

Wide eyed, shallow Cher bears no resemblance in person to the kind hearted, intelligent actress and author Alicia Silverstone, who's popularised being vegan (for both health and compassionate reasons) through her book, The Kind Diet: A Simple Way to Losing Weight, Feeling Great, and Saving the Planet.

This is not, absolutely not, a celebrity lifestyle book, but truly something that the actress is passionate about. A plant-based lifestyle is presented in a gentle and informative way; the reader does not have veganism forced upon them, but is offered suggestions on everything from 'flirting' with veganism (and hey, no pressure! But your health will improve, and you'll be benefiting animals and the planet. And yay! New foods!) to being a 'Superhero' (close to a macrobiotic diet; oh boy, you will glow, and you're positively saving farm loads of animals from suffering.... you truly area dietary superhero...)

I've read many, many health books and articles in my time, especially those that promote a plant-based way of eating, but The Kind Diet sticks out in my mind for its wonderful, earthy recipes, the beautiful imagery that shows me of the gentleness and loveliness of the animals we exploit for food (which, I should state, health is my motivating force for eating plant based, but this book compassionately takes me out of this self-absorbed 'just for health zone', reminding me of living creatures that are affected by my actions), and its engaging, informative chapters. I've read health/lifestyle books in the past, only to become infused with a vaguely anxious feeling, as my current lifestyle/diet was 'failing' their suggestions. But with the Kind Diet? Absolutely not. Silverstone is not selling you recipes and bizarre fads to turn you into an airbrushed A-lister look-a-like, she simply informs you that looking good is a wonderful side effect of eating plant-based. You don't need to stress out. The reader is left enlightened and itching for change, without anxiety, only passion infused from Silverstone herself.

When it comes to the recipes, there's certainly a Japanese influence seen in the book, from mochi waffles and umeboshi plum for breakfast to nori wraps for lunch, but the book also features hearty stews, plenty of healthy greens recipes and wonderful healthified treats such as chocolate peanut butter cups...

(Mmm, could you try not wanting these? Impossible...)

So, be kind. Feel and look fabulous as a side effect. Oh, and save the planet, and animals from suffering.

I see why she calls it being a superhero...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Beautiful Ways to Start the Day

September is the time for new beginnings, and what better make to start afresh than...

... first thing in the morning!

So,  I just had to share this wonderful Tone It UP post with you...

I thoroughly agree with the message of this post: starting your morning in a positive way sets you up for the rest of the day. Continue this, day after day, and you create an affirmative action filled, positive life. And all you have to do is start your day in a beautiful way. Why wouldn't you want that?!

For me, there is a clear correlation for how good my day seems to go, with how/what I did first thing. My best days start with anything from 15 minutes (I aim for 30/35 minutes average) to an hour of yoga or other exercise (this also depends upon my work schedule), an 'I am Graceful Green Smoothie', and a satisfying oat breakfast while checking my emails and, ideally, writing on here.....

The beauty of having a morning routine, or pattern, is, according to Sarah Wilson, that you take the ambiguity out of your day, and as a consequence, achieve much more. For instance, instead of deciding whether or not you're going to make your bed each morning, if it becomes a habit, you just do it. No energy wasted on deciding. No days where you don't make it, come back later, and feel bad because your room looks like a tip. Same goes for exercise. Since transferring my exercise routine to the morning, I'm truly amazed at how much more time and space I have for the rest of the day. I don't need to schedule to make room for my exercise, worrying that I might miss it, or have to push something else important out the way - it's already done! My body feels longer and stronger the rest of the day; as I walk, my legs feel powerful and my core pulled in, lifting me higher, my mind calmer, clearer.

And that's a damn good feeling.

Bliss. For the whole day, everyday...

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Got Ultrahealth?

Do you have ultrahealth?

That is, a state of health where you are not simply 'free of disease', but you look and feel your best, where your body is functioning at it's prime and you wake up happy, bright eyed and ready to take on the day?


Well, maybe you need to take a look at your culture.

Okay, wait, let me explain!

A lot has changed since the 1980s, when Leslie Kenton published 'Ultrahealth', a predecessor to the health books that flood our current market. None, however, have ever been so visually striking, or as ahead of their time, as Ultrahealth. Kenton touches upon something that many books/websites etc. seem to overlook, and that is images of worseness in the media. 

'Worseness', you say?

While I'm enthralled by wellness and the habits that cultivate it: healthy eating, yoga, meditation, exercise, stress management, natural cosmetics, a clean environment - you name it! -  there are the habits that promote the opposite of wellness: drinking, smoking, drugs, bad foods, excessive work, sedentary lifestyles, chemicals, pollutants, and, believe me, that list is a long one. It's also the list that most people do or surround themselves with the items on, and it's also the images you see in popular culture.

So, while 30 years ago, Kenton was pointing out that cultural norms such as smoking and drinking are considered the height of urban sophistication, not much has really changed.

Maybe the vices are a little different today. For instance, despite growing scientific evidence suggesting that dairy intake is, absolutely, not good for human consumption, causing problems such as cancer, osteoporosis, inflammation, practically irreversible acne if consumed during key puberty years (see: nutrition facts for a break down of contemporary scientific studies), celebrities are still paid huge sums of money to endorse dairy consumption, claiming that it's good for you, implying that it's normal and cool and sexy, and that you can't achieve these things without a tall, cold glass of milk. (Oh, and yes, as someone who follows a plant-based diet in a small town, I can personally say that not consuming it does make you weird, but, when you look around, do you really want to do what everyone else is doing?).

So often, on TV shows, characters are obsessed by certain junk foods - for argument's sake here, let's just say cupcakes - and will apparently consume vast quantities of them, while not participating in any wellness behaviours. The actress/actor playing said character, however, clearly does not do this. They clearly go to the gym. They clearly eat well. But, if you're not obsessed with health, rather than sugary foods, what's the main thing you take away from this?


I'm not saying don't eat cupcakes. Or drink alcohol. Or whatever. Just, that, sometimes we need to re-evaluate what normal is.

Right now, 'normal' is not going to make you look good in your shorts. Nor is it going to stave away illness and have your body functioning at it's best.

Normal isn't giving you peace of mind.

So, take a look at your cultural norms. If you don't like them:

Create new ones.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Yoga makes you beautiful.

I'd like to write about something that I believe to be true, and that is the deeply transformative power of yoga.

I'm obsessed with beauty, I confess; an obsession that often feeds off insecurity and feelings of inadequacy; I have spent many hours looking in the mirror and being dissatisfied with the reflection, seeking a solution but also secretly figuring it a lost cause (in those darkest moments). Regardless of what the mirror is showing,those are some pretty ugly thoughts. And, sadly, I'm sure I'm not the only one to do so.

But this brings me to how yoga makes you beautiful:

There are the physical health benefits: yoga makes you strong, it (the chances are) will help to balance your weight, sculpting and lengthening your body from whatever you started with into something even more amazing. I'm not saying yoga turns you into the epitome of physical beauty defined by our culture, turning you into a fitness magazine model or cover girl. But it makes you strong, flexible and healthy, from wherever you're at. And that's hot.

And, it will make you feel amazing: a real, honest, deep yoga practice breaks down those barriers separating your body from your mind. You stop seeing your physical being as something - somehow - separate yet unwillingly attached to yourself, to be punished and bullied for not conforming to your desires.

It's not as simple as 'yoga makes you accept yourself', but that, through the union of mind and body created by practice, you open your heart to yourself, and the world; not only do you recognise your own beauty, but that your body can be, and is, through your actions, what you desire. No punishment/punishing routine needed. You are one.

In Sarah Rodrguez's article, 'So, you want to be hot?' from her blog (Roots, wings, and pretty things), she talks about hotness and how, on days when your look in the mirror and see what can only be described as hotlessness, you need to open your heart.

"[lipstick] can't cover up our hearts, nor is it meant to"

Step your focus away from your own warped demons, and let that truth shine through.

And finally, because I've been focusing on outward beauty, which, while is something immensely important to me, does not mean that I've lost sight of the most significant beauty of all: inward beauty.

Yoga, I believe, can make you a good person (yes, I know that not everybody who practices yoga is a saint). But, as something that draws your attention inwards and necessitates self-reflection, yoga can make you consider your impact on others and the world around you. On a day-to-day level, practising makes me calmer, kinder and happier, positively affecting the environment around me. If you look at other forms of yoga than physical practice, you will see that a non-violent stance is taken (known as ahimsa). And that's beautiful.

Yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti's video 'Thrilling Instead of Killing' about saving whale sharks demonstrates this beautiful, compassionate, spiritual (or call it what you will) self, cultivated by yoga. (And I just think the video is wonderful and inspiring and a beautiful reminder to be kinder to the world around you)

As Ippoliti states at the end of the video:

"the yoga community is very sensitive to what's going on in the world, mainly, I think, because they have a practice; a practice that brings them into their breath; a practice that brings them into their body; a practice that inherently makes them more sensitive to what's going on".

It's this practice, I believe, that makes yogis more sensitive to the world and their own bodes, halting cycles of abuse to both. Truly, our spiritually cultivating and physically sculpting Western hybrids of yoga (that I love) promote a healthy attitude and a healthy body. 

So, I'm going to say it: yoga makes the world a better, more beautiful place. Including you, and your world. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Fierce Yoga

I love a good yogi, and right now, I'm super-inspired by Sadie Nardini.

She's also known as the 'fearless yogi'; her attitude to life is very different to the one I naturally take, and I find that inspiring. Check out her facebook feed for her inspiring updates, like these:

I've been doing Sadie's Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga on my days off from work... wow. For someone who loves exercise and enjoys a workout, I can honestly say this is a beautifully sculpting yoga programme, without losing the feel, integrity and serenity of a true practice. I can see muscles developing, whereas other workouts have had me at a plateau.

Sadie is a self-professed 'alignment geek': you won't injure yourself with her 'workouts', and you'll get even more than you bargained for from them. I can't stand a routine where the instructor doesn't guide you on alignment. I need the guidance, and frankly, I think everyone does, even if they haven't injured themselves in the past. After a strong practice with a focus on posture and strength building, you will float through the day, feeling tall and strong and flowing energy... and that's a beautiful thing. That's what I want, to feel, everyday.

Also, the woman isn't afraid to call bullshit on what she sees as unethical practices within the health and wellness sphere, as you can read here on Elephant Journal, re: wellness figures and the hidden commercial forces behind them (also including the ridiculous cost and mark up of programmes like teacher trainings).

Check out her amazing  'Detox and Core Strength' (isn't that something we can all benefit from?) two week plan on Udemy (it's transformative), and her wealth of YouTube workouts, including:

So if you're after a killer yoga routine with a fierce, kind-hearted role model, then go Sadie! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Different Perspective: the Anthropology of Sleep, or, "Sleep is for Dreaming".

Like the working day, the entertainment industry, and the economy, the need for eight hours of undisturbed sleep a night is a man-made construct; a force against which we cannot escape. In our modern lives, there's hardly a second to spare in the day; we must be working, getting organised, cleaning, exercising, socialising, caring for our families, commuting... we're cramming more minutes into 24 hours than rationally possible, and something has to give -

   - and more often than not, it's sleep. You try to get to bed at a reasonable hour, but it's just not happening. 

   And then we get stressed, because everybody knows that we need at least eight hours sleep a night, otherwise we're slashing our health, lifespan and mental/physical performance in half. Not to mention, they don't call it 'beauty sleep' for nothing.

   Okay. Let me stop you there. Calm down, and grab a cup of chamomile tea, breathe in some Origins Peace of Mind or Aveda's Stress Fix, or just old-fashioned lavender oil, and take a full, deep, cleansing breath. 

   We're made to feel bad by the health industry for all the things we're not doing right. It's a profitable industry to do so. And you know what? Sometimes they're right - sometimes, you need to shift your priorities, make some radical changes in your life. However, worrying about all the things you're not doing right is more harm than good. Focus, instead, on what you already are doing, on the changes you can fluidly put in place, and, here's the crucial one: shift your perspective.

   Less than eight hours sleep a night is fine. There will be days when you get more. There will be days where you get less. 

   Do you have trouble getting to sleep? Carve out calming, sleep inducing rituals. Drink sleep easy, surround yourself with aromatherapy. Watch these succinct videos:

Do you find that you wake in the middle of the night, worried, unhappy? Yeah, been there. But, regardless, a straight eight hours sleep a night - with no room for alternative - isn't a 'natural' and indisputably reality, or even a necessity.

We have the capacity to sleep in different ways; in the past, in our culture, and amongst some peoples today, sleep is segmented. Luhrman illustrates this in her recent NY Times article, 'To Dream in Different Cultures', where she describes how the inhabitants of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island, never sleep alone, and have 'punctuated' sleep. When a child calls, someone is sleepless, or people are shifting and turning, others wake, and chat, and attend. This is not a cause for concern: sleep is interrupted; this is how it is. When this happens, dreams are more likely to be remembered, and are remembered more vividly. 

Feverishly, deliriously, magically, dreams and wakefulness merge in a way our Western, time choked lives never allow. 

Let's stop looking at sleep as something to anxiously pencil into our day, to stop ourselves from falling to pieces. 

Shift your perspective:

Sleep is for dreaming.

Sleep opens up your world; it is an exploration of the possibilities from within you, that you never knew you had.

What do you dream about?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Meditation: Everything Already Is Okay.

I've simply got to share this with you. It's beautiful. It's out of this world. It'll keep you together, when life feels like it's getting in the way of everything.

Sit comfortably, take a deep breath, and delve into another world:

Thank you, Positive Magazine! Also check out their whole range of unbelievably good meditation videos -  they're all just ten minutes long! (C'mon, you have time for one). I've gotten into the habit of playing one or two every evening; a practice that is wholly centring and cleansing.

I've written about diet. I've written about exercise and body image. I've written about beauty. But wellness does not, by a very, very long shot, stop at the physical.

If there's one practice that the whole world can benefit from, it's meditation. And I get it - it's not easy to simply make yourself meditate; to decide to just sit there and clear your mind (or whatever your version of meditation is). A guided meditation, however, is pure bliss. Someone is taking care of your wayward thoughts for you, guiding you to pure peace. 

Everything already is okay. Practice as you will. Transform your being.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Beauty, naturally.

Dr. Hauschka, I have to say, is a god send.

If you're not familiar with that name, you may be picturing a greying German man in a white doctor's coat. But no.

This German brand delivers natural, effective skin care and beauty products. And by natural, I mean, the ingredients lists are BEAUTIFUL, yet the product itself resembles luxury, top quality brands, not a kitchen cupboard concoction, or, an 'I made this myself' Lush tub of something wittily named.

A fusion of plant science, raw materials from their own medicinal herb garden and a passion for natural beauty, let me tell you: I am in love. Honestly, for using their Quince Day Cream, my skin has never looked or felt better; this cream sinks in like a dream, and gives a smooth, clean appearance. And, with the most divine fragrances, every facet of their products will make you feel healthy, beautiful and amazing.

My recommendation for the summer: lighten up your chemical load, and look fabulous.

I'm a fanatic ingredient reader. Ever since I was a teenager and I made the connection between what I put in my body and how I felt/looked, I've been obsessed with knowing and understanding these sometimes scary and lengthy lists. If you want to be healthy, this is a must. Many people still overlook this, don't know or simply don't care, which is why so many products out there are still so full of artificial crap. This is not good for our bodies, ravaging our health and our looks.

This ingredient reading habit isn't so unusual in a supermarket. In a drug-store, however, you can get quite a few strange side eyes, or bewildered comments from friends, "what are you doing?" It's not always easy when society is rolling it's eyes at you, but read anything on this (for starters) and you'll wonder why these horrific concoctions, sold to us as health and beauty care, haven't been banned - or at least plastered with warning labels (I'll give you a hint, and it's to do with profit). Descriptions such as 'penetrates deep into the skin' should send chills of terror down your spine.

It ain't cheap living the natural life, however (unless you're not a compulsive beauty addict), so, if you can't afford to have a whole arsenal of quality, divine natural products (I have my fantasy bathroom all planned out in my head.... oh, one day...), I employ this rule: if it sinks into your skin, then invest!

Knowledge is power: moisturiser, foundation, liquid eye-liner... next time you're shopping for these, read their ingredients. How many of these ingredients do you recognise? How many don't you? Take three. Google them.

I dare you.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Magic Brew

Next time you're stressed, put the kettle on.

No, really! I'm not just saying this because I'm British.

If you're anything like me, then stress and anxiety are your go to emotions. They can be overcome, but it does take a fair bit of work and conscious thought/action, at times, to keep yourself together.

So, what if I told you that there are two drinks, in particular, you can sip on all day to get your zen on? Best of all, these drinks are proven to work by altering your biochemistry to fight stress and anxiety, demonstrated in scientific studies. There's (almost) nothing I like more than good, solid scientific proof that natural is not only healthier, but powerfully so.

So, what are these magic drinks? Rooibos and Camellia Sinensis, otherwise known as, tea.

Want the proof? Thanks to Dr Greger on, you can find the information beautifully and succinctly presented, here:

Camellia Sinesis

In short, Rooibos, a deep, reddish and comforting tea, lowers the production of cortisol (produced by your adrenal glands; yes, you know, it's that stress hormone, that turns you into a wreck and makes you gain abdominal fat). Seriously, not a drug, but an herbal tea, significantly lowers cortisol production. Drinking this lessens the physical effect of stress on your body. Needless to say, I have been drinking this stuff constantly.

Camellia Sinesis, on the other hand - the most popular drink in the world - (good old black tea, or green tea, to you and me) is number one for a reason: you are, essentially, drinking a big, relaxing cup of deep meditation. Deep meditation increases alpha wave production in your brain; that alert but intensely calm feeling. However, it increases alpha wave production only slightly. Tea, on the other hand, contains L-theanine, a chemical compound that enters your brain and floods it with the production of alpha waves. Hence the world's love affair with this wonderful drink. Need more proof? Try matcha green tea.

In the past, whenever I've drunk matcha (1/4 tea spoon of matcha being equivalent to 15 cups of green tea), I've been overcome with the most beautiful sense of tranquillity, my body and my mind instantaneously transforming into a clean, blissful calm... I put it down to some kind of intense superfood chlorophyll magic, but now I know better....

My current anti-anxiety, anti-stress motto?

Practice yoga. Eat well. Drink tea.

Trust me, it makes life sweet.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Sacred Moonchild Chic

I'd like to dedicate a post to the alternative.

I don't think of myself as alternative. I think of myself as healthy. I think of myself as reasonably stylish (to various degrees, depending on mood, occasion, states of readiness).

But then again. I like to take inspiration regarding health and wellness from online communities, usually from people who live in California, to which I've never been, but, from what I can tell, has a vastly different culture to the one I know, and is full of a lot more extreme lifestyles and habits. I love doing this, with a passion.

But, I can tell you now, it's not normal. Not here, in my hometown, at least.

I'm also a Social Anthropology graduate. That is, I studied the 'different'. Anthropology opens your eyes to the possibilities of living in the world... almost everything we think of as being innate to our being can pretty much be contested with an obscure example from an anthropological study.

Take your vision. We live in a world where aesthetics, whether we like it or not, are paramount. Whether we give a shit about the way we look, our surroundings, etc. - unless we have a disability - we consider vision to be our primary sense. It's how we connect with the world. It's how we make sense of it. Think about it.

I mean, how else, right?


Take the Onge people of South East Asia. They manoeuvre the world using their noses. Their sense of smell is their primary sense for connecting and understanding the world around them. Instead of saying "how are you today?", their equivalent is "how is your nose today?", and they describe things in terms of having a heavy or light smell.

Well, the first time I heard that, the world as I knew it turned upside down. Amazing. And, on a three year degree, it was one of many.

Yes, I like to consider the alternatives to the 'every day' life I'm confronted with in my hometown. And back to health: I do live an alternative lifestyle when it comes to my views and how I care for and nourish myself. Living away from the city, and meeting new people in a small town, I am reminded of just how unusual my habits and outlooks are (though, maybe it is different in California?)

And you know what? It can be pretty lonely. Not enough to make me move back to London, but still.

As a future Ethnobotany Msc student (the study of plants and human culture... I just received my acceptance today!) I am fascinated by plant use and properties. So, in a twist from academics to celebrity culture, I was thrilled to read about the actress, Shailene Woodley, in Gawkers 'Your Guide to Shailene Woodley, America's Sacred Moonchild'. (Yes, I did watch 'Secret Life' until it got too bad to continue, but I though she was awesome in it).

Your Guide to Shailene Woodley, America's Sacred Moonchild

Here's someone, my age, firmly entrenched in Hollywood culture, yet who goes foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms, makes her own toothpaste, has a herbalist, talks about Gaia, the meaning of aloha, and feels connected to nature and, in particular, woods (I hear you, Shailene). She wears second hand clothing, rather than mindlessly consume. But, to me, critically, she still looks glamorous while being so ... alternative.

I love it. Embrace the earthly spiritual eco chic - and look red carpet hot while you're at it.

Yes, she sounds like a giant hippie. And I love it. As an introvert, I love to embrace nature. I love the natural, wholesome and 'different' to conventional society. Maybe because I've spent a lot of time around people like this at my hippie university. But maybe because it's a part of me, just not so obvious. But if Hollywood brings out more of this? I say bring it on. If there's one thing this earth needs, it's more tree hugging, Gaia-loving hippies.

Note to self: embrace the alternative.

So, thank you Shailene.


Just Like Riding a Bike

So, I've recently discovered a new freedom.

I'm a little late to this. Some of you will be pretty familiar with it, I know. But seriously. For the first time in ten years, I got my bike out and went for a good, long bike ride.

They say that you should do one thing a day that scares you. Well, I don't know if I can handle that, personally, but getting up on a bike and expecting to... balance... definitely sacred me! As an adult, these things can be more daunting. It's easier to fall over as a kid. It's never nice, but it's part of childhood. As an adult, however, we expect ourselves to be able to do everything. Because we have to. The stakes are so much higher. If we can't, if we fall over, the consequences as so much bigger.

But, then again, it's just a bike. And I did it - I did learn as a child, and as they say... it's just like riding a bike...

And oh wow... the speed, the freedom to zip past the ambling pedestrians that I used to be, the exercise - and cycling isn't just aerobic exercise, believe me (I think those who say it is live in flat country), I can definitely feel  my quads, glutes and, strangely, biceps (probably from lifting the huge metal frame), despite the fact that I am regular exerciser, whether power yoga, running, walking or (okay, light, but effective, think TIU) resistance training. I have a friend who cycles as her main mode of transport and I've always marvelled at how muscular she is for someone who does no other conscious exercise. Now I know.

I've cut my commute time in half, freed up time on days off instead of lengthily walking into town, and feel the freedom to take routes that, as a pedestrian, I probably wouldn't, given the extra speed (within limits, of course, I don't condone taking risks with personal safety).

And how did I get into this time saving, heart racing, muscle boosting form of transport?

Ever stylish and perceptually (and sometimes terrifyingly, in a sky diving, shark infested water swimming way) active Sarah Wilson, the Australian health queen of the moment:

You may have heard of her. If you haven't, you'll probably have heard of the health movement she's fore-fronting - I Quit Sugar.  While I don't altogether agree with the sugarless trend (processed and added sugars, NO, but fruit? One of the most wholesome things you can eat...), Sarah Wilson is definitely a role model of mine at the moment - healthy, compulsively active, stylish and also somewhat of a worrier (I can relate). An avid cycle enthusiast, she's even given up her car in favour of this healthier form of transport - and looks fabulous at it. What more inspiration do you need to dust the cobwebs off your bike? 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Balancing Act

I would like to dedicate this post to my favourite Yogi: Kathryn Budig.

Yes, yes, you've heard of her, I know, but she's such an inspiration, I just want to share some of her awesomeness here today.

If there's one truly amazing thing that Kathryn promotes, it's this: balance. Life is a balancing act, whether you're on the mat, or in daily life. It goes like this: don't get stressed trying to be perfect in everything you do. You are imperfectly perfect; you are you, so celebrate it! Being healthy isn't just about exercise and drinking green juices, it's also about being good to your soul. That means a really good yoga work out, balanced with a cocktail while you catch up with friends; it means drinking a delectable green juice, and having an equally delectable dish of pasta for dinner. Let go of rigidity; it doesn't create wellness, only mental unease; embrace nurturing every aspect of your being, instead.

I recently saw a status update by the yogi queen on facebook:

Student: Master, how do you become wise?
Master: Good choices.
Student: How do you make good choices then?
Master: Experience.
Student: And how do you get experience?
Master: Bad choices.

Relax. You don't have to be perfect. Be good to yourself, explore, discover and have fun!

Monday, 3 February 2014


I've spent FAR too much time procrastinating on Buzzfeed in the past, when I should have been studying/working/just plain being constructive. So I've decided to turn that time around into research, and I made my own BuzzFeed list on.... you guessed it, health!

So, here you go:

The Epidemic of Self-Sabotage

Here's an amazing article on Gwenyth Paltrow and Tracy Anderson's new show, where they explore what happens to women before they embark on a healthier path in life. And guess what? It's not vanity, but the realization of the impact that caring for yourself has on your life. It's pulling yourself up in life by the understanding that you, your physical and mental health, really matter.

Tracy Anderson offers her own personal and insider perspective on society's attitude towards celebrity bodies:
The celebrity obsessed aspect of our culture is a curse. A lot of these celebrities are not healthy in real life. Why they get put on the cover of a healthy magazine like they are the picture of health or why they get airbrushed in half to look like they achieved something that isn't realistic? I think it's disgusting; I have major issues with it.
This, I find, is fascinating, as I had always assumed Tracy Anderson was someone who was fully immersed in this culture; it's also refreshing, and somewhat liberating to hear, as it's easy to be sucked into a world of 'I'm not this, so I'm not good enough'. She laments that, despite being in the fitness business for fifteen years, no one is interested in actual sustainable health, but simply being 'red carpet ready in 10 days'. I have to say I agree; while aesthetics are important to me, it feels that we live in a society where people have the need to be better than everyone else; look better, have a better career, family etc., and make others feel bad/insignificant in the process.

But, this sabotaging of others comes from our own insecurities and (perceived) inability to see that we can be anything other than what we are now. Anderson laments that people self-sabotage: they're afraid of improving themselves; of taking a look at their lives, habits, diet, and deciding what they really need to change to be healthy. Note: not perfect, not a human form of air brushing, but fit, attractive, healthy for them.

Like I said, aesthetics are important, and I find it strange when people deny that. But it's not about being perfect. It's about what you think looks good, not what people tell you does; it's about taking care of yourself, through diet, movement, whatever, and loving the shape that your body takes. That's the beauty of true health, not fad or fear of not being 'celebrity' good enough. The honor and celebration of who you are through your habits and choices.

And the best side effect of being healthy? You're going to look smokin' hot.

So, put your magazines and conceptions of Hollywood bodies aside and go take care you yourself. Go discover your own aesthetics. Take a look at what you can be doing differently to start being sustainably healthy today.

You'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Jasmin Valium

I've just finished reading Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin, and while I am a plant person anyway, I have just been reminded of their true power to impact our lives. (Yes, I am aware the the book is an amazing work of fiction that makes you want to travel to the rainforest and meet a beautiful Mexican man who is very much in touch with the natural world, of course). So, I thought I would do a little research into something that does, on occasion, trouble me, and what plants can do about it.

As a frequent insomniac, I've tried everything (natural) to induce sleep, and, while I've discovered very little works other than being in a very good mental place (a difficult feat when anxiety and stress seem like the natural resting place for your personality), Sleep Easy tea, with it's good (but not overwhelming in regards to taste) dose of Valerian works wonders for a deep sleep (when you eventually get there). Lavender, of course, has its reputation for a reason, with the wonderful sense of calm, the deep restorative sleep it induces.

I love plants - there's something about that connection to nature, the rewards of their growth and beauty that fulfills a spiritual part of your being. Maybe because we are so dependent on them for life, and yet so removed of this fact, that the simple act of keeping a plant in your house can bring you happiness. So, what about plants to actually keep in your room? Living, breathing, life-giving plants to keep in a sunny, light spot, to help send you off into glorious sleep...

It may sound crazy - I mean, how can just keeping a plant in your room help you sleep, when you're not eating or drinking it, or extracting oil? It just sits there, right? (I am aware life isn't actually like a Margot Berwin novel).

But, you may be surprised. Jasmin, beautiful Jasmin, rivals some of the most fierce anti-anxiety drugs, you'll be thrilled to hear.

I remember, when I was very young and I lived  in a tiny terraced house with my family, we had a small sunny patio filled with plants. But what I remember most, even as a four year old, was the lovely, sweet smelling jasmin running up the wall by our back door. I thought it was the most beautiful flower in the world, as even though we moved away about a year after that memory, throughout my childhood Jasmin was my favorite plant.

Maybe this was a sign predicting my future insomniac self, as the scent of Jasmin flowers have been proven to be powerful aids in calming the mind and promoting restorative sleep. Attesting to the scent of Jasmin and the power of aromatherapy is Dr. Bryan Raudenbush (see here for details):
Research shows that odors have significant effects on the human nervous system (..,) even in the absence of attention and awareness to these odors. Therefore, it was reasonable to expect that the human body may respond to odors presented during sleep.
The scent of jasmin has been found by one German study (published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry)  to have the same effect - that is, the same molecular action - as Valium and Diprivan. According to the study, the effect on the neurotransmitter GABA is as strong as the conventional medication, so, essentially, Jasmin fragrance can be used for sedation and anxiety and aggressive relief, and without the dangerous side effects of conventional treatment.

The power of plants truly amazes me. But, what amazes me even more is that people belittle the use of plants. You know the type: you'll have encountered someone, at some point, who declares that a largely plant based diet is one that consists of 'rabbit food'; that no meal is complete without steak. If eating a simple, everyday grapefruit can affect medications and produce dangerous side-effects, or that eating hemlock (Why? may be the question here) or the wrong wild berry can actually kill you, the why can't we acknowledge the power plants hold to affect our bodies; if they can alter our chemical structure so drastically as to harm us (excess side-effects of medication in grapefruit consumption), surely, then, they can alter our bodies in a way as to cure us.

For now, I'm going to continue eating my rabbit food. And invest in a Jasmin plant.

Wait, make that many.