Latest Posts

4-Week Yoga Course for Absolute Beginners

Join Lauren for a 4-week course exploring the very basics of Yoga practice for self-care and well-being.  Lauren is a British Wheel of Yoga Certified Teacher with over 500 hours of training in Yoga philosophy, Meditation, Advanced Teaching and has a strong history with Mind Body connection.

The Course will cover:

  • Basic breathing techniques
  • Common Yoga poses
  • Introductory relaxation & meditation techniques

The course is aimed at absolute beginners of any age.  It runs for 4 weeks and will equip students with the basic knowledge required to confidently move on to either a gentle hatha yoga class or more dynamic hatha yoga class on an ongoing basis.

Dates:  Thursday 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th June 2018

Time:  9.30-10.45am

Location:  The Zen Den, Hersham

Price:  £50

The Zen Den

The Zen Den is a purpose built yoga studio equipped for up to 5 students.  With a heated bamboo floor the den is hand built and clad in Cedar wood, insulated with natural sheep’s wood and finished with non-toxic finishes.

Contact: Lauren@blackdogliving.com / 07763 135146 to book your space.

 

 

An Afternoon with the Goddess Durga

“Warrior Goddess of Protection & Inner Strength”

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Date:  22nd April 2018

Time:  4.00-5.30pm

Location: The Zen Den, Hersham

Booking:  £15 in advance

Durga is the embodiment of the power of love, both gentle and fierce.  Through storytelling, meditation, chant and gentle movement we will connect with the innate power of Durga within us.   Once connected, this power is ours to summon for protection and inner strength throughout all our life circumstances.

To book your place please contact Lauren:  lauren@blackdogliving.com / 07763 135146

 

Hot & Pungent Chilli Prawn Ramen Bowl & the True Benefits of Bone Broth

4653DD84-8F3D-4A56-AB7C-0540F7E5B54DCraving pungent warmth?  This ramen bowl HITS THE SPOT!  And it has lots of health benefits too.  I’m just over a stinking cold and with a fridge full of slow cooked bone broth this recipe gave me a hot hit and all the re-mineralising benefits of the broth.  Although strictly speaking this isn’t a Ramen as there are no noodles, but if you’re not grain free, then feel free to add some!

So what’s all the hype about bone broth?  I was looking for specific mineral analysis breakdowns and found lots of varying and not very promising results relating to what you actually get from bubbling your broth for long periods.  Initially I felt disheartened, but then I remembered the fab smell of the bone broth sitting in the kitchen, the warmth of the slow cooker, the good feeling of using up a carcass and the rich flavour the broth provides.  There’s no question it’s good for the skin and digestion, you feel in once you’ve eaten it, but it seems as though the jury is out on the specifics of mineral breakdown.  What I know wholeheartedly though, is that the mind body connection is where the magic happens.  If we create comfort, warmth and well being in the processes relating to our consumption, then we are already well prepared to extract the maximum nutritional benefit from our food.  This is the magical life enhancing benefit of eating to live … It’s the secret ingredient!  So enjoy!

Ingredients for the bone broth:

  1. 1 chicken carcass (left over from sunday roast)
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 stick celery
  4. 1 palmful of black peppercorns
  5. 1 thumb of ginger
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 500 mls filtered water

Method for the bone broth:

  1. Add the ingredients to the slow cooker and set to low for 24 hours.   (The bones will become soft and start dissolving)
  2. Drain the liquid in to a glass or ceramic container for storage and discard remaining bones and food.

4FD4D7DC-B88A-4368-B666-F31A67BBDAB0Ingredients for the Ramen (serves 2):

  1. 250g prawns
  2. 1/2 head finely sliced pointed cabbage (these made a noodle like alternative)
  3. 1/2 head broccoli
  4. 2 red birdseye chillis
  5. splash fish sauce
  6. 2 tsp coconut aminos
  7. 20 almonds, chopped
  8. 1 pointed red pepper finely sliced
  9. 1 thumb grated fresh turmeric
  10. Handful fresh coriander
  11. 3 spring onions, finely sliced

Method for the Ramen:

  1. Bring the bone broth to a simmer in a large pan on the hob.
  2. Add all the ingredients (apart from the coriander )and simmer for around 5-7 minutes (or until the broccoli has your desired  texture (and your prawns are pink through if they’re not already cooked)

Breathing, Biorhythms & the Bija Mantra – How Yoga Heals us…

I don’t know about you, but in the process of wanting to be well I’ve discovered just how disconnected from my sense of self I have been in the past.  Noticing is always empowering, but it’s also frustrating.  When you notice something about yourself which doesn’t conform to the picture you’d like or had subscribed to, your world falls apart, maybe in a small way, maybe fundamentally, it really depends on how much life has been built on flawed foundations.  Take the example of me being a yoga teacher.  It might look and sound to the outside world as though I’m pretty peaceful, but in truth what’s led me to yoga is a lack of peace.  Yoga scooped me up when I was at my lowest, least peaceful stage of life to date.  After leaving a career to raise my children and then seeing both children off to school I felt hopeless and lacked purpose.  I couldn’t relax or find any value in the day to day living of my life.  Anxiety set in, and there in its deepest clutches I found yoga.  In finding yoga I found a shard of peace and clung to it by the skin of my teeth (that’s the amount of peace i knew at the time).  Thank God for strong teeth skin is all I can say.  I hung on until the shard of peace grew large enough to provide a platform, and eventually a stable place from which I could stand up with the most enormous sense of relief and look around at the absolute devastation and emotional disharmony which truly made me up.  Holy Shit.  I was not a pretty picture (despite Instagram images attempting to suggest otherwise) .  This picture coincides, pretty much, with the moment where I was brave enough to look during my colonoscopy and saw the most gnarly, angry looking stage 3 cancer tumour feeding on my sigmoid colon.  I momentarily averted my gaze, you know how it is when you see something really painful or gory.  Then I realised it was in me, and of me and looked really sore.  Emotionally speaking I passed out, the effort of getting to this point was so great that I had nothing left to give, so I let go.  I screamed that I was dying.  I said goodbye to my husband and the following hours and days are a blur, although I do remember the smell of my unwashed self.

At this point Yoga picked me up again, I can’t say it was me because I had no good judgement left.  But a greater force than me scooped up me and my stink and put me down in a yoga class.  People I knew hugged me regardless – those are really good people!  And I moved, remembering how strong the body I was in could be.  During that hour I moved and I breathed and I remembered what life felt like.  Despite total emotional annihilation the thought occurred to me that my body really wanted to be alive, my heart was beating pretty hard, my lungs drawing breath, my muscles engaging, stretching and twisting in a way that my healthy, stink free, non-cancerous yogi friends were aspiring to.  When the class ended, there, as plain as day was myself, sitting on my yoga mat with only the awareness of the huge disparity between my emotional and physical self.  The disconnection of mind and body.  How could I be in two such polar extremities of life at the same time?  This is where I understood the meaning of Yoga for the first time:

‘Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah’ sutra 1.2, which means Yoga is the union of our innate consciousness with our life’s purpose.

Which feels very much like a channelling of all effort and purpose towards a single point.  Whether the point is asana practice, pottery, knitting, motherhood, accounting or anything else we are engaged in.  What yoga feels like is all encompassing, engaging and purposeful to the point of soul nourishing.  And, if we’re lucky, to the degree that it nourishes and becomes of service to those around us by directing those around us towards their own sense of union and purpose.  At this point in my life, aside from being on the page where I suddenly understood what that meant, to all intents and purposes I was living way off the mark.

My epiphany moment was just that, a moment.  The power of knowledge turned in to the frustration of picking up and putting back together a very broken emotional life.  Years of trauma, neglect and abuse had taken their toll and taken a hold in the form of habit, and what felt familiar, what I’d built myself on I now recognised as being part of an unhealthy problem.  I’d built relationships on this stuff.  Holy Shit, how much of my actual life was fake?  Again, I could barely look at the car crash I was experiencing, but at the same time, if I wanted to live I had no choice.

My physical yoga practice at this point left me.  I couldn’t seem to move with any conviction or with any sense of purpose.  But what emerged in its place was something far more gritty.  Something which required much deeper and more fundamental strength, the kind of strength which leaves you feeling nauseous, weak, exhausted and broken through and through.  The kind which swells your face to twice its normal size leaving you with small slits for sore eyes to peer through.  The kind which ejects salty water spontaneously from the eyes, primal howls from the throat and snot from the nose at a rate of which 1 pint water per minute could not satiate, cuing a dull thudding headache which goes on for days.   The habits of practicing yoga that I’d formed led me to my mat, but what happened when I was there was something different.  Physically I was frozen.  Instead I began to look at myself on the inside.

This inner landscape looks really beautiful, but as you look at the paradise beach in the distance, what dawns is the awareness that the only way to get there is to walk, across lava, through earthquakes, and into storms.  Climbing emotional mountains and encountering what feels like choking fog, deadly snakes and false ‘short cuts’ to the psyche.  It’s a case of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.  I couldn’t go back after all.

So here I am, 3 months post surgery and somewhere on the emotional journey towards my paradise beach which, for now, is pretty forgiving.  Like a meadow in Spring, but with the knowledge the this too will pass as life’s cycles promise.  I’m talking about my own biorhythms of course.  My own awareness of the ups and downs, round and rounds of my emotional landscape.  I have no idea if I’ll ever get to the beach, and, whilst it’s promise keeps me moving forward, the idea of arriving becomes less and less important.  Instead the moment I’m in is what I’m truly interested in.  I’m becoming a seasoned emotional explorer and adventurer even.  Becoming ever more familiar with my unique pace and rhythm of life.  And, whilst I have picked up a devoted physical practice, moving in a way which honours each moment with true love, and total admiration for a body which has endured and carried me this far, it continues to be my breathing and meditative inward focus which is most strengthening and enlightening.

Connecting with the breath & our own biorhythms through the Bija Mantra:

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It’s often the case that simple stressors disconnect us from our selves.  The expectation of a boss, hungry child, train timetables and work deadlines.  All accumulate in daily life and affect us more deeply than we are often aware of.  The breath can be shallow and quick, like a choppy ocean.  This is fine of course, providing that the ocean finds respite and the waves can subside.  Continual restlessness though can be damaging and here’s where our society needs a break, and where Yoga so often can provide respite.

The Bija Mantra offers us 7 sounds with which we can anchor our breath and awareness on.  Each sound resonates with 7 different points along the spine.  It’s along our spine that the nervous system is operating receiving and sending messages to and from our brains, cells, organs and limbs.  Connecting systematically, through sound and with awareness we can bring a sense of calm and relaxation – essentially easing ourselves back towards our natural, more peaceful biorhythms.  The science behind this links breathing ratios of 5.5-6 even breaths per minute with greater heart rate variability (HRV).

“Nearly a quarter-century of clinical research has shown that when HRV levels are high, a person experiences low levels of stress and greater resiliency. When HRV levels are low, this is an indication of greater stress and lower resiliency.”

“Breathing at a rate of 5.5 breaths per minute with equal inhalation-to-exhalation ratio increases heart rate variability” 

Using the Bija Mantra and it’s 7 sounds, we can successfully bring about this breathing ratio:

  1. Inhale for the count of 5, exhale the sound (either mentally or verbally) ‘LAM’ for 5.  This relates to the space at the base of the spine.
  2. Inhale for 5, exhale the sound ‘VAM’ for 5, relating to the space at the navel.
  3. Inhale for 5, exhale the sound ‘RAM’ for 5, relating to the space at the solar plexus.
  4. Inhale 5, Exhale YAM, relates to the space at the heart
  5. Inahle 5, Exhale HAM, relates to the hollow of the throat
  6. Inhale 5, Exhale OM, relates to the space between the eyebrows
  7. Inhale 5, Exhale OM again, relates to the space above the crown of the head

This practice will take just over a minute to complete and can be repeated over for as long as feels beneficial.  The link below to MC Yogi’s version gives you each of the sounds.

Coming to this mantra and practice for me usually brings about a transformative state, even if I think I’m pretty relaxed to start with.  I often experience my eyes tearing up, yawning, and a deep sense of connection.  I find it brings me a sense of slowing down, loosening up and a feeling of weight in my body, the reassuring connection of myself with the earth.  With that sense of connection to earth comes the reminder that I am here.  Connected to myself and not just the emotional journey in front of me, but the physical path too, whether that’s teaching a yoga class, writing a blog post or loading the dishwasher, I understand (and am still coming to learn) that these things are my work, my purpose and have equal importance in my life.  This is the purpose which is stoking and fuelling my inner fire and my passion for life.  These things fuel and sustain me and therefore each and every living moment should be cherished and honoured.  It’s true, Yoga Heals!

Namaste Yogis, Enjoy your rides…

Follow me on Instagram for real life Yoga (not just the headstand or splits – move over fake perfect life, here comes reality)

 

Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat…5 Life Enhancing Food Choices

I was about 10 when I heard my granddad say this.  I didn’t fully understand what he was saying as a child, I totally forgot it as a teenager of course and as an adult turned it on its head and lived for every sugary snack, pizza, glass of wine or bag of crisps I could get my hands on.  In more recent years I switched those indulgences to ‘organic’ or ‘high end’ products.  My focus was mainly on eliminating chemicals and preservatives.  I enjoyed eating healthily but I most certainly enjoyed the extras too.  That was B.C. (Before Cancer).

Cancer drops like a bomb in the centre of your life, scattering its parts far and wide… Those parts of me were and still are scattered.  Pulling my life back together is currently my life’s work.  To go back to what was though, to live relatively carelessly would be to deny what has happened, it would undermine my gratitude for being alive and well, and I just can’t do that, but equally I can’t live in fear of the ‘what if’s’.  Cancer remains my life’s most powerful teacher.  Even with the all clear.  Every decision I make is illuminated by the light of gratitude for living.

Life is uncertain.  Now is all we have.  Making the conscious choice to feel the best we can, mind body and soul right now, is the best we can do with whatever time life allows us.

Eating well for me isn’t disease prevention any more and it isn’t a guilt fuelled compromise.  Eating well is about gratitude for life, the understanding that my body sustains me and so in return I choose to sustain it (not abuse it).  An infinite flow of feedback between us, eating well makes me feel well, which leads to healthier choices.  Taking food back to basics is worth every single life enhancing meal to feel vibrant, oxygenated, nourished and energised.   Free of guilt, free of brain fog, free of hangovers, free of cravings and with all the energy that the day requires.  I’ve gained not just a sense of vibrant well-being, but the capacity to think more clearly, which is just a reflection of a more ‘clean and clear system’.  In thinking more clearly I’m less stressed, less likely to flair up, hold a grudge or ruminate on something someone said or did.   But in facing stress, my body resolves and returns to balance more quickly than it has in the past.

By now I’m sure most of us have heard of the gut being referred to as the second brain?  Apparently 90% of the cells of our body are made up of the bacteria which inhabit the gut (which we put there of course)… It’s also the case that the wrong kind of bacteria (which also come from what we put there) can cause us health problems.  In my own ponderings I wondered how much of my own anxiety and depression over the previous years was simply my mind registering an imbalance?  And I wonder how much of my emotional eating stemmed from the cravings of those bad bacteria and pathogens?  There is lots of exciting research happening, but in the mean time Dr Emily Deans, in ‘The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness & Disease’ says:

All in all, the gut is a terrific place to start helping humans be as healthy, resilient, and robust as we have evolved to be.

I live by a few simple choices which I know allow me to feel well and function well.

My Life with food now involves the following principles:

  1. A Plant based diet with eggs and animal protein from chicken and fish as and when I feel I need it.  This seems to work best for me in terms of sustained energy levels, glowing skin and an ability to face my mental processes, emotions and situations.
  2. Going Sugar free.  Because sugar is a drug and it’s only purpose is to sustain itself and the businesses that exploit and manufacture it.  I will use honey, but no more than 2 tsps. a day and a little fresh fruit every day – this has led to an experience of sustained blood sugar throughout the day.  More energy all the way to bed time and less headaches.  Turns out I’m not a crazy psycho, I was just a sugar addict (My husband may disagree).
  3. Caffeine free.  For reasons as above.  My energy comes from not eating sugar or drinking caffeine.  Those things serve their own purpose and it’s only to sustain themselves.  Eliminating them means not being at their mercy.
  4. Alcohol free.  Because if life is this uncertain and short, it’s not worth the hangover.  What I thrive on is time with friends, chatting, enjoying food and tea together, enjoying our collective wisdom, love and mutual appreciation of one another in a social situation without ending up falling over, eating junk and writing off the following day to nurse the hangover.
  5. Processed food and Preservative free.  Those chemicals are not there for our wellbeing, they’re there for the purposes of shelf life and the profits of the people that make them.  Your one precious and vibrant life does not need that stuff.  Your one short, uncertain life deserves precious earth bounty, full of life and vitality.  Anything less is a self-inflicted diss.

What’s left?  Three meals a day, no snacks!  Chicken, Fish, Eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, herbs & spices.  Survival food, real living vibrant food, the food that has sustained human kind since forever.  Eating this way makes me feel ALIVE because what I’m eating is nutrient dense!

The bottom life for me, is that whether the cancer returns or not, the time I have between now and my final exit I hope to be filled with life, and to truly appreciate life it needs to be treated and honoured as the gift that it is.  The experiences I have in the world are a direct consequence of the condition of the senses I perceive them through, and if those senses are impaired then so is my experience.

As my wise granddad said “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”

A Gut-Brain Bowl of lunchtime Goodness…

This was a satisfying lunch.  I was hungry so had an appetite for it, and afterwards I felt happy.  Not in a dopamine hit way (the kind you get from a bar of chocolate), but in a gut happy way which filled me with warmth, satisfaction and vitality.

4FD6383A-B6D5-4CA7-9FE7-4394A76B0CE4Ingredients (serves 1):  

1/4 head broccoli

1/4 head cauliflower

1/2 large courgette

2 cloves garlic

10 almonds (soaked in filtered water overnight)

Handful of sprouting lentils

1 tbsp. ghee

50 mls filtered water

2 tsp coconut aminos

pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Add the water and ghee to a pan and bring to the boil
  2. Crush the garlic and add to the water, along with the coconut aminos
  3. Chop the courgette into cubes & the broccoli and cauliflower in to small florets and add to the water.
  4. Add the olives, almonds lentil sprouts and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer with the lid on the pan for around 7 minutes (depending how well you like the broccoli done!)
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

Sweet & Sticky Fig & Pistachio Quinoa Porridge…& Eating Intuitively

“The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…”

This line generates a feeling of warmth within me… not just that it connects me to my own inner fire, or Agni as it’s known in Yoga.  Tuning in to our own inner Agni can connect us to feelings of internal physical warmth, we might also refer to it as ‘the fire in the belly’ or our passion for life… it could also relate to our metabolism and the way in which our digestive fire transforms our food in to fuel.

Fire is transformational by nature.  Turning matter in to gas and ash.  Untamed, fire can be a destructive force at one end of the spectrum (Think ‘burn out’ in the metaphorical sense) or a damp smouldering smoky non starter at the other end (a lack of passion or a ‘non starter’).

Keeping our Agni burning just bright enough is the work of our yoga practice, and I don’t just mean Asana, I mean our true connection with ourselves.  The mind and body working in union.  The mind listening to the intuitive voice of the body, interpreting it’s voice and nourishing it, daily with food, movement, mental awareness and rest.  As opposed to overruling that intuition and doing what is ‘expected’ of us, or following a set of rules which have worked for someone else, in the hope they will also work for us.

It takes time to tune in to our deepest needs.  It took the shock of a cancer diagnosis to wake me up from a semi-toxic slumber.  But it’s taking the discipline of daily rituals and practices in order to sustain this connection.  Listening to my body and resting when really I want to be clearing up the laundry / dishwasher /kids bedrooms / replying to emails or whatever else distracts me from myself.  Equally understanding how and when I need to eat.   It genuinely takes time to cultivate a little hunger, and then to tune in to what kind of hunger I’m experiencing, whether it’s thirst, or warmth, something fresh and light or something dense and sweet and then preparing it for myself.

Food can be deeply satisfying when eaten this way.  It doesn’t just fill a hole, or sustain a little energy – it has the power to warm the heart and soul, a deeper form of nourishment.  It has the power to sooth a tetchy mood and ultimately to sustain those feelings and energy until the next meal, this is when the fire can be delightful.   Food eaten without this connection though, can ultimately fuel the body in the opposite way, too much sugar, too much caffeine and processed food – what is it we are fuelling?  Usually a superficial energy hit, until the next crash, metaphorically speaking it’s stoking the fire quickly and burning out quickly which doesn’t generate any sustainable warmth or energy.  It doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to truly nourish ourselves, body, mind and soul, and ultimately that is the only way we can sustain true vitality and well-being.

So this recipe truly stoked my inner fire the other morning.  It felt like central heating first thing, not only that it generated an internal warmth which kept me feeling cosy in the cold.  The figs and sweet spices really indulge the warmth factor and the quinoa provides a higher source of protein (being a seed, not a grain) than other porridge grains.

Tune in to your own intuition here.  Notice whether this recipe makes you salivate or repels you.  Think about what you might change about it to make you salivate (in the context of whole food choices of course!).  Maybe it makes you want to eat a salad instinctively!  Perhaps your body is already running warm and you need to cool down?  Whatever you do, take the time to tune in and Eat Intuitively.   And if the food doesn’t work… scroll down for a frank Sinatra hit!

CEC22F9D-A134-4397-B7FE-E968482A48FDIngredients to serve 1:

2 Tbsp Quinoa

1 Cup Almond Milk

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Crushed Cardamoms

1 Star Anise

1/2 tsp Turmeric

2 Fresh Figs (Quartered)

1 Tbsp Pistachios.

Method:

  1. Add the ingredients to a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes or until the quinoa is soft and cooked through.
  2. Enjoy!

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Join us on Retreat…

Transform & Restore

Friday 19th – Sunday 21st October 2018

TILTON IN THE DOWNS MASTER

Tilton House, East Sussex

Join Hannah & Lauren for a transformative autumnal weekend yoga retreat.  Mirroring the season of letting go we will be working with meditation, chant, asana and sankalpa to release old habits and patterns which no longer serve us and to nurture and restore body, mind and soul, ready for the winter months ahead.

Staying at the beautiful Tilton House, East Sussex (voted by The Guardian as one of the top Yoga retreats and holidays), the house is set in the South Downs National Park, immersed in nature and history.

From 3pm on Friday – 3pm on Sunday, our weekend includes 5 full Yoga sessions, all vegetarian food sourced from the orchards and kitchen garden, accommodation comprising twin or double rooms (and one triple room).

In addition spa treatments can be booked at around £60 per treatment and house wine purchased at £12 per bottle.

Total Price:  £375

Booking is on a first come first served basis via a non-refundable deposit of £100.  The remaining £275 to be paid in full by 31st August 2018.

For more info on Tilton House, please visit their website:  www.tiltonhouse.co.uk

To book or discuss payment options please Email Lauren

 

Sacred Sleep, 5 Powerful Sleep Aids for Improving Vitality

Sacred sleep… Are we getting enough?  And how does sleep deprivation impact our daily lives, our sense of vitality and our overall health?

I’ve slept a lot recently.  Having been stopped in my tracks by critical illness, I’ve transferred my energetic focus away from the mind, its thoughts and fancies, and towards the body and its needs.  It seemed obvious that, following surgery, I would need to sleep.  But in fact what I have noticed in prioritising sleep, is the mind’s ability to convince the whole body that what it thinks, fantasises about, fancies and fixates on, is actually more important than the needs of the organic organism which houses it.   The mind can be like a child, who doesn’t see the importance of clearing up, washing up, putting things away, or taking care of things and instead just does whatever he or she pleases.  The body has its own voice, which is led by feeling and being – this deeper more intuitive voice is often drowned out by the busy mind child, clanging away at some activity or other.  It’s a dramatic shift in focus, to move away from the mind child and prioritise the needs of the intuitive body.

Here’s the thing.  We’re all stuck in various and differing ruts of our own making.  Perhaps we ‘always’ have a glass of wine when we get in from work.  Perhaps we ‘always’ get a take away on a Friday night.  ‘always’ go to the gym, ‘always’ go to bed at 10pm.  Perhaps we do what we ‘think’ is good for us because we read it, heard it or our friends are doing it, but do we actually listen to our bodies?  Or are our actions dictated by the patterns of our mind and society?  On the whole, we don’t question these patterns, particularly if life seems to be working out for us.   But the times when life throws us a curve ball we truly sit up and listen.  This kind of perspective in daily life is pretty rare.  But it can be cultivated.  And it’s possible that we can become aware of the patterns of the mind in a way which enables us to choose between what we ‘think’ is the right thing (e.g. what we’ve been taught, practiced and told by the outside world) and what we ‘know’ to be the right thing (e.g. our inner perspective, how those actions feel emotionally and physically).  Using the mind child analogy again,  Children will often eat the sweets in favour of the wholesome food because they are colourful, sugary and the sensation of eating them pleases the brain.  But as parents or responsible adults, we know those sweets have no nutritional value to the living body.  In fact they actually work against the rhythms of the natural body, raising blood sugar, plaque acids and spoiling genuine appetite.  So as responsible adults we intervene.  We say no and we moderate.  The work we do with our own inner mind child and body needs to be the same in order to manage and sustain vitality and good health.

Sleep discipline…

So you get the idea of applying awareness and moderation to our own minds.  But why?  And why should sleep be a priority ?  

According to the Sleep Foundation, adults require around 8 hours a night of quality sleep.  Quality sleep contributes to a healthy immune system, and research at Harvard University has shown that poor sleep is associated with lower life expectancy.

“Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.”

Aside from the benefits to immune function, quality sleep regulates hormones relating to appetite and fullness.  Lack of sleep can lead to over-eating.

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Getting a good nights sleep is vital for the physical repair of the body, whether that’s recovery from exercise, injury or surgery.  It is also vital to the brains cognitive function,  sleep consolidates memories and processes information taken in throughout the day.  Allowing our bodies and brains these vital restorative functions is crucial to how we feel the following day.  “The third of lives we spend sleep, far from being unproductive, plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be”.

It may be an effort initially to overcome the mental processes which prevent good sleep.  We may ‘think’ (mind child) that a glass of red wine and a box set is good for us before bed, but to our bodies the physical stress of the raise in blood sugar and mental stimulation and light from the TV can actually set us up for a disturbed night, which can in turn lead to poor health choices the following day such as increased caffeine and carbohydrates, lack of exercise due to fatigue and another night repeating the patterns of the night before.

Let me state here, for the record – I love a good box set and a glass of wine!  But… I am also aware of how sacred sleep is and how fundamental to good health.  So start with 1 day a week which you dedicate to sleep.  And notice whether any of these sleep protocols actually ease you in to a good nights sleep:

1-Day A Week Dedicated to Sleeping Well

  1. Avoid caffeine & alcohol after 12pm on your sleep day.
  2. Avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  3. Take a bath with magnesium salts .  Most of us, due to poor diet (processed foods, alcohol, carbonated drinks) and high stress are magnesium deficient., and magnesium deficiency can lead to poor sleep (amongst other symptoms).  Bathing in magnesium can be a more efficient way of replenishing your body’s supply than taking it orally, esecially if gut health is compromised.
  4. Breath well.  Extending the outbreath until you feel  muscles contract and shoulders release.  Breath in through the nose for the count of 4.  Hold for the count of 4 and exhale through pursed lips (like blowing through a straw) for the count of 6 or 8 (depending on breath length) then hold for a count of 2.  Repeat 3 -5 times.
  5. If the mind is still whirring, use a guided Yoga Nidra exercise to focus the attention inwards, click link below: 

Be mindful the next day,, notice whether you wake naturally.  Notice your immediate thought process when you wake, is it conducive to a productive day?  Or do you wake already overwhelmed?  Start with just one day a week dedicated to sleeping well and see how it goes?!  Let me know…

More:

The Six Benefits of Yoga for Severe Sleep Deprivation

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Turmeric Lattes and Living with Cancer

The wonderful news is that the biopsy results on the lymph nodes and tissue taken away during my Anterior Resection of the bowel (the surgery which took half of my colon away and stapled it back together), show clear.  No cancer cells were found.  In terms of living with cancer this is a victory.  What is means is that there are no visible tumours in my body, and the tissue around the tumour which was taken away is also healthy.  I’m really pleased, and enormously grateful that, for now, it looks as though I don’t need chemotherapy.  But there’s a but, you can feel it coming…  What it doesn’t show is that this body is capable of creating cancer.  This body already turned on itself.  For some reason, despite relatively good health, fitness and a healthy diet, the ‘C’ bomb trigger was pulled.  Whilst the disease itself may be gone, I hope never to return, there’s no getting away from the fact that this happened. that it was even possible.

So while my supporters get back to work, and life around me resumes as normal, I’m left with the thought that, if life pre-cancer caused my cancer, will picking my life back up again also trigger its return?  How do I pick up the wholesome, nourishing elements of my life, the life affirming, life giving elements and leave behind the destruction.  Am I attuned enough to my own body, mind and soul to walk that path?  I feel like one of those rats in Cambodia which sniffs out landmines.  Their training and sensory awareness means they can navigate through minefields safely, it seems like an impossible task.  I’ve heard people say ‘cancer is random’, ‘its not your fault’, but I don’t entirely believe it.  If that was the case, statistics wouldn’t have changed so dramatically over generations.  My belief, based on my own experience, is that this is a disease of lifestyle, with many factors contributing to it.  And by lifestyle I don’t just mean, what you eat and how much you exercise.  I mean how stressed you are day to day, how enriched, or more likely how stretched thin you feel day to day.  I think our emotional wellbeing and unresolved traumas can be a trigger, our psychology and our work life balance.  How well supported we feel and how well we love, our ability to absorb love, as well as our food choices, and physical condition.

Given that almost half of us will be affected by Cancer (and it turns out there are a whole lot more people around you right now who have survived than you are probably aware of), this is a disease that we are all living with to a greater or lesser extent.  I don’t think we’ve all woken up to the reality of it actually.  I know the friends around me have felt the impact, the shock that the diagnosis brings.  Some of them may even be making lifestyle changes based on that.  Whether it’s a deeper sense of gratitude for life, or its the reason for a new health kick.  Or maybe it’s taken them to the Dr’s to check out those ‘niggles’ that have been there for a while now and are ‘probably nothing’.  Whatever it does needs to wake us up in the wider sense, to our overall well-being, body, mind and soul.

Identifying those patterns which nourish us and those which work against us can be easier said than done, but here’s my view:

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So moving forward with my life there are some fundamental changes I need to pick up and run with.

Body:

  1. Stress Management: Rest is as important to productivity as work – this is fundamental and rest needs to be scheduled.
  2. Sleep is Sacred:  Make it comfortable, sensory experience that looks, feels and smells as enticing as a good meal.  The bed is my new church.  I worship good sleep, and the time leading in to and out of it needs to be blessed with calm.
  3. Food is my fuel:  Every cell of my body is fuelled with what I eat and drink.  That fuel needs to resonate with the organic structure that I am… i.e. it needs to be natural, not processed.  My water needs to be filtered, either mineral from glass bottles, or filtered and free from chlorine.
  4. Sugar is a drug and I say no to drugs.

Mind:

  1. Check in with what’s going through my mind.  The Headspace app is a great place to start.
  2. Notice when self talk is productive and enriching, and when it holds me back and talks me down.  Make choices about which inner voice to act upon.
  3. Talk about all those inner demons, they’re really ugly sometimes, and can also be shocking, alarming and plain twisted.  Share them with friends, or share them with a therapist, get them out though!

Soul:

  1. Instinct knows best.  It’s a built in guidance system.  LISTEN UP.
  2. Express all that is bubbling away on the inside.  Live your truth!
  3. Self – Love and appreciation.  This takes in all of the above.  The reality that life is precious, that I value being alive and I want to remain alive, means that I have to honour my life choices, and notice every one of them as either life enriching, neutral or life depleting.

Finally!  Turmeric Lattes are here to stay…!!  You’ve probably heard that turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has anti-oxidant properties.  It’s also been shown to actually disrupt the development of cancer.  And since this recipe tastes good and feels heart warming, It’s now a daily staple for me.

Turmeric Latte (SIBO friendly)

A64D0FC8-7BB6-4B01-AAF6-4EC2BE5A048E200mls Almond or coconut milk

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp pure organic clear honey

Crack of black pepper

sprinkle of nutmeg to serve.

Method:

  1. Bring all the ingredients to the boil in a pan on the hob.
  2. Turn down the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour and serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

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