We’re taking over ‘The Dome’ for an afternoon of Fiery Summer Asana, Cooling, Soothing Yin Yoga and Deep AromaMeditation!
Date: 8th July 2017
Location: The Medicine Garden, Cobham
Price: £35 in advance
The Dome is set in the grounds of the beautiful Victorian walled garden, surrounded by grasses and flowers and with access to wholesome refreshments at the hothouse and garden pod cafe’s. Soothe your senses and still your mind with us…
To book contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 07763 135146 or email@example.com / 07767391324
For a nourishing bowl of plant-based goodness, feel-good freshness and tantalising tastiness – TRY THIS! Hot off the hob and straight to your bowl faster than you can say ‘virtuousness in the extreme’… Nature gives us some real powerhouses of flavour which I’m in total awe of. Chillis, garlic, ginger… Not just good for us, but they can transform simple whole-food in to really tasty, moreish delights… So here’s a speedy supper, or sumptuous lunch to wrap your taste buds around and power up your day…
Ingredients (serves 1):
Plant Powered Protein Bowl
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic
1 thumb ginger
1/2 large green chilli
2 large broccoli florets
1/3 red pepper
3 medium mushrooms
handful fresh wild garlic
Palmful pumpkin seeds (or almonds)
150g silken tofu
2 tsp tamari
pinch black pepper
2 small handfuls quinoa
1 tsp miso paste
Bring a small pan of water to the boil (about double the water to quinoa), add the miso paste and the quinoa and bubble for 15/20 minutes, but test to find the consistency that you like.
Heat the sesame oil in a wok on the hob.
Crush and chop the garlic, finely grate the ginger and chop the chilli, then reducing the heat, add to the wok. Be careful not to brown the garlic. I sometimes remove the hot pan from the heat temporarily at this point.
Chop the silken tofu in to cubes and add to the pan.
Chop the tops of the broccoli florets, finely slice the red peppers and mushrooms and add to the pan. Stir and return to the heat.
Add the wild garlic and a handful of pumpkin seeds (or chopped raw almonds) and stir through along with a pinch of pepper and the tamari.
Soften the vegetables, but allow them to retain a little crunch.
When the quinoa is ready, drain and stir through the vegetables. Serve Immediately.
A recent small scale study has shown increased quality of life in chronic Ulcerative Colitis sufferers. Those who previously reported a reduction in life quality due to the disease undertook 12 weekly Yoga sessions and subsequently reported greater improvements in their quality of life. Advice from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany states that Yoga is “Safe and Effective” (along with other evidence based interventions) in the “maintenance of remission” for sufferers.
It’s also interesting to read the links now made between inflammation and, not just chronic illness such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease, but also depressive episodes and anxiety as reported by Dr’s Irwin & Slavich at UCLA.
So what is Inflammation?
Simply put, it’s our body’s immune system’s response to a particular stimulus. Importantly, in the case of bacteria entering the body, our immune system works to isolate bacteria, in order to stop it spreading. Perhaps an allergen enters the nostrils and the immune system acts to flush it out as mucous membranes produce more fluid. This helpful inflammation we can probably all relate to…
However some immune responses are unhelpful, chronic and cause the immune system to attack the healthy body. What is the stimulus that causes chronic inflammation, Psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis etc? Usually it’s unknown. My own experience is with alopecia areata, where the immune system attacks hair follicles resulting in patchy hair loss. I’ve had two episode of alopecia, both as an adult, and both times they’ve resolved relatively quickly.
Is Stress the stimulus for chronic inflammation?
Well, yes. Stress, defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”, actually changes our immune cell genes, which as we know, lead to inflammation. In acute situations, such as jumping out of the way of oncoming traffic we need stress, to prime our heart, large muscles and prepare us for injury. At the point at which we perceive stress, in whatever form we perceive it, biologically our bodies become primed, ready for fight or flight. This response has the potential to save our lives. But what if a packed tube is the cause of our stress? What if we work for a difficult boss, and spend 8 hours of our day stress primed in their presence? What if there is a daily struggle to find finances in order to eat, or keep a roof over our heads? What if we experience grief and the loss of a loved one? Or what if the demands of raising a family cause stress? Throw in poor quality food choices, weight loss or gain, and the inability for the situation to resolve and we have a recipe for chronic stress, inflammation, disease, anxiety and depression.
How does yoga help?
The point at which we decide to go to a Yoga class, is probably also the point that we decide something has to change. Perhaps subconsciously we want to get fit, claim some time for ourselves or are actively looking for respite from pain or stressful life circumstances. Whatever the reason we find ourselves in a Yoga class though, the outcome is usually the same once the class is over. We may experience a reduction in mental activity, a less tense body. We may feel we can breathe more easily, or that we’ve stretched out tight muscles. Often we sleep better following a Yoga class and have a sense of feeling refreshed. If you came along for respite, you’ve probably found it!
What are we doing in Yoga class to reduce stress?
All good Yoga teachers will lead students to their breath. The breath can be seen as an indicator for stress. When we experience short or restricted breath it can be due to physical tensions, mental stimulation, fear, anxiety and stress. As we connect to the quality of the breath, and begin to lengthen and smooth the breath, our bodies begin to receive the message that we are ‘safe’ and that there is no perceived threat.
With practice comes skill and the ability to bring this message through the breath and in to our Asana (the shapes, and poses we make on the mat) and each pose can bring relief to different parts of the body.
In finding ourselves in new shapes, usually very different to our habitual patterns of movement, we have the opportunity every time we move, to bring the breath with us, and with it the signal that we are ‘safe’ ‘secure’ and doing something restorative for ourselves.
Again, good teachers will lead our bodies to the subtleties of our experience, such as how grounded we may feel, leading us to the effects of gravity and the support of the earth and returning our mind’s focus to the breath often.
And then there’s the ‘let go’ whether it’s the Savasana at the end of the session, a guided relaxation, breathing exercise or meditation. Yoga teaches us how to let go, unload, release ourselves from our day, week, lifetime’s habits or simply from the physical practice we’ve just taken. We practice letting go, and when we first allow ourselves to let go… there is no going back, it’s just too good to not return to!
Reading the emerging research and science relating to inflammatory conditions and how Yoga is proving beneficial is not surprising. I believe my own experiences with stress, Alopecia, and with anxiety and depression have be resolved by acknowledgement firstly, which included a trip to the GP, through CBT and subsequently through a regular yoga practice.
10-minute breathing practice
This short breathing practice is designed to bring awareness to the quality of the breath in the body. And to experience the effects of practicing an extended exhale.
You’ll need to find a comfortable upright seat, either on a firm chair, or sitting cross legged or kneeling either side of blocks, a bolster or a supportive cushion.
Recent research from Boston University School of Medicine is showing Yoga to be more beneficial than other forms of exercise in improving mood. Their studies relate to Anxiety and Depression specifically and measured increased and rising GABA levels (low levels of which are associated with depression and anxiety disorders) in the brains of their test groups. In another study Yoga and deep breathing taken twice a week was shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of depression. It’s promising and reassuring to hear the science emerging on the relationship between Yoga and mood, particularly as I have personal experience of how profoundly Yoga can change the mind… and with it the physical body…
Garudasana ‘Eagle Pose’ requires balance, focus and strength. The stronger the inner mental qualities, the stronger the outer physical qualities.
As a yoga teacher I watch people leave my classes every week with a glow, facial tension having eased and often standing taller. Feedback from clients is showing that a weekly class can effectively manage back pain as well as stress. Many clients report improved sleep after classes too. These are benefits I can relate too.
It’s harder to share the benefits which relate to our inner landscape though. Particularly if that landscape is damaged, suffering or is seemingly at odds with the world around us.
Having spent many years looking around me and seeing women who seem happy in their jobs, able to balance work and home life or coping happily with young families, I’m very aware of the sense of shame this type of comparison can cultivate. My own struggles with anxiety and depression have often stemmed from comparison. Taking these thoughts on board as my own truth and beating myself up constantly in order to reach impossible ideals has been mentally exhausting, resulting in crashes in mood or anxiety to the point of panic attacks. This has been my inner landscape for many years. Talking therapy and CBT gave me coping tools, but didn’t change the inner landscape I was experiencing. It wasn’t until I took on a regular Yoga practice that things really changed. Not only did I have a physical outlet for the way I was feeling, I also had an opportunity to stop and breath, I found inner space for the first time in my adult life. With this sense of inner space came greater perspective on my mood and the thoughts that fuelled it. The landscape didn’t change, but the horizon seemed much wider, my perspective broader.
Going to Yoga classes gave me a lift. I wanted to refine and improve my physical ability in classes, and in doing so I came up against my own tensions, resistances and habitual patterns of movement. As I held my attention with these physical sensations I felt comfortable in asking my body for greater flexibility or strength. As I worked through these physical sensations I began to notice that I was either free of, or better equipped to work through emotional and mental situations I found myself in. There too my perspective was broader, and the landscape seemed less terrifying or less hopeless, if only a little bit. It’s taken a committed practice over several years, but I’ve recently found myself in a place of direct relationship with my thoughts and emotions. I am free of fear and subsequently anxiety too. I am able to feel depression, hold it close and provide the attention it needs, which is usually a rest, in order for it to pass freely.
Urdhva Danurasana ‘Wheel Pose’ requires fearlessness and flexibility of mind and body.
My own practice (inner and outer) is the result of commitment and determination, I know how hard it is to acknowledge what it is we are truly thinking and feeling, but I can safely say that there is nothing more terrifying in facing our thoughts, than the thoughts themselves and in the process of doing so we build a lasting strength and resilience which really does begin to change our inner landscape and the possibilities of our lives.
I wonder how low my GABA levels were when I was beating myself up, and how they’d look on MRS imaging now? I suspect I’m experiencing exactly what the test cases from the Boston University research is showing. I’m not a Yoga teacher because I’m good at Yoga. I’m a Yoga teacher because I was very very bad at Yoga, physically and mentally, and if Yoga can turn my life around, then there’s hope for us all!
Yoga Poses for Depression & Anxiety
My favourite yoga poses to lift the mood have become heart openers. These are strong and require the guidance of a confident teacher, but the simple action of lifting the heart, or lifting the sternum at the front of the chest, I have found can also lift the mood.
Urdhva Danuransana ‘Wheel Pose’
Ustrasana ‘Camel Pose’
Anjaneyasana ‘Low Lunge Pose’
My favourite yoga poses to combat anxiety are those which challenge focus and balance. These poses require an inward focus and help to ground the senses and energies.
The crisp cold and frosty season is well and truly upon us. The air is cold and the sky is blue, which can provide light relief from the January blues… The stillness of winter reminds us how important rest is though. Pacing ourselves, and taking time to be still, whether that’s sitting with a warm drink, or switching fast paced exercise for a more restorative yoga practice. Stillness in winter can be a way to reconnect to our sense of vitality (or lack of) and preserve our energies, it can also be a place where we begin to feel stagnant, where coughs and cold creep in and it becomes hard to move at all. Balance is key (Not just tree pose -but it helps!)… One thing this time of year requires, however you’re feeling, is warming hearty food…Good nourishment and extra calories.
This is a vegetarian shepherd’s pie recipe that’s hearty and rich, warming and comforting! Just what’s required in the middle of winter…
Ingredients for the Filling:
Deliciously Hearty Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
1 Red Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Sticks Celery
1 knob butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
200g Button Mushrooms
1/2 Butternut Squash
1/2 Cup Red Lentils
1 x 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
200mls Red Wine
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 tsp Herby Zaatar (or dried mixed herbs)
Salt & Pepper
Ingredients for the Topping:
4 large potatoes
50g Cheddar Cheese
1 tbsp butter to mash
Pre-heat the oven to 220C.
Peel and cube the butternut squash, add to a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven or around 20 minutes or until the squash is soft through
Melt a knob of butter and a tbsp olive oil to a pan on the hob.
Finely chop the onion and celery, cube the carrots and crush and chop the garlic and add to the pan, add a pinch of salt and the maple syrup and soften for around 10 minutes.
Add the lentils, red wine and tinned tomatoes and bring the ingredients to a simmer. Add the sprig of thyme and simmer on a gentle heat as the liquid reduces.
Add the zaatar mix (or dried mixed herbs if you don’t have this).
Finely slice the mushrooms and add to the liquid.
As the lentils cook through the liquid will reduce so just add a little water now and again to keep the mixture loose.
When the butternut squash is cooked through, add it to the pan, stir and simmer.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt.
Peel and cube the potatoes and boil for around 10 minutes until soft.
Drain the water and add the butter to mash.
Place the butternut squash mixture in an oven proof dish and top with the mashed potato using a fork to press down.
Top with grated cheddar cheese and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is beginning to crisp.
Music is a great way to access the emotions. It’s there in high times, low times and the everywhere in-between. The sounds of our musical peers reminds us that we’re not alone, whatever we face. For every mood, there’s a melody, and for every social movement a distinct sound to define it… So for me, music and yoga go hand in hand as a form of self-expression. Where words fail me music very often speaks, where life overwhelms me and I become stuck movement and dance allows me to flow. Often, music triggers unexpected mood, memory or emotion and at times can be an inspiration.
Using music in Yoga practice can be controversial though. It’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s not always for me. I would never practice Ashtanga to music for example. The repetitive flow of the Ashtanga series can be deeply meditative. A Place where we come up against ourselves in whatever state we are in. Music here can be a diversion away from our inner experience, and the point of this kind of practice is to find and be present for our deep self. The places we rarely access, the emotions we prefer not to stir, the human experience in all its varied glory.
In lesson planning and explorative flow though, music can add colour and depth to the process, triggering emotion and inspiring pace and mood… Music here can be the access point for deeper exploration, it can lead us in to the unknown in the most gentle of ways, and here is where we find our deep inner self. Music can simply be another teacher, guiding us on our unique and invidivual journies. So listen up!!
Here’s what I’m flowing to now, in no particular order, old and new, the artists and songs which I’m grateful for hearing and connecting with, and which I feel are worth sharing:
Gayatri Mantra, Deva Premal
Shanti, MC Yogi
Strong, London Grammar
Say You Love Me, Jessie Ware
Green Garden, Laura Mvula
Radio Silence, James Blake
Survive It, Ghost Poet
Cold Little Heart, Michael Kiwanuka
Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka
I Remember, Saint Saviour
The Magic, Joan As Police Woman
Riverside, Agnes Obel
Laura, Bat For Lashes
To Survive, Joan As Police Woman
Tilted, Christine and the Queens
State Of Mind, Goldie
The Isle Of Arran, Loyle Carner
Soothing, Laura Marling
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Yoga practice with or without music? And also what you’re listening to? Let me know your recommendations…
Happy New Year! Happy New You! So strictly speaking there’s nothing much detoxifying about these truffles, but if like me you’ve overindulged on the sweet stuff this holiday, you might be noticing how hard it is to go cold turkey (ahem, pun not intended). So you’ve either binned the excess holiday food in a fit of ‘I can’t take any more’ or you’re still working your way through it steadily… just a bite here and there (which is better than chocolate from breakfast again, isn’t it?!)… Either way the cravings don’t go away immediately… So – in a bid to transition from holiday overload to New Year lean mode these truffles provide a sweet hit, with all the whole food nutrition of dates, chia seeds and raw cacao… They’re just sweet enough and just virtuous enough to hit the spot any time of day, and they went down a storm at yesterday’s New Year Yoga Escape… So here’s the recipe for all those gorgeous Yogis who joined Zone in Yoga and I and the Harmony Centre in Walton yesterday:
Ingredients (makes around 30 truffles):
400g Pitted Medjool dates
125g 100% peanut butter
125g 100% almond butter
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp maple syrup
Around 100g raw cacao powder for dusting
Remove the stones from the dates and set aside.
Add the dates, nut butter, chia seeds and maple syrup to a powerful food processor.
Pulse gently (so not to overhead the motor) until the mixture is relatively smooth and firmly blended.
Dust a clean surface with cacao powder.
Take tea-spoon sized measures of mixture, roll in to a ball in the palm of the hand, then roll in the cacao powder.
Traditional Hawaiian Ahi Poke recipes call for raw tuna, which, try as I might I’m just not keen on. But in this poke bowl recipe you could absolutely switch out the tofu for tuna, or salmon. The recipe is filled with warming spice and rich toasted sesame flavours, and the good old English Autumn’s staple green vegetable Cavolo Nero toasts up as fantastic seaweed substitute. So sit on the couch, close your eyes and imagine you’re on an Hawaiian beach… See, I bet you’re feeling warm already!
Serves 2 ~ Preparation 10mins ~ Cooking time 30mins
5 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
Finely sliced cavolo nero makes a gorgeous seaweed
250g Sushi Rice
6 Cavolo Nero Leaves
2 White onions
1 large red chilli
1 thumb ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp Tamari Soy Sauce
1 bulb fennel
1 dstsp Agave nectar
1) Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Wash the rice in a bowl of water, rinse, drain and repeat 3 times. Bring 350mls water to the boil in a pan on the hob. Add the rice. Simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand, with the lid on, for a further 30 minutes.
2) Finely slice the onions, crush the garlic, and chop the ginger and chilli (leave 4-6 fine slices of chilli to serve at the end) adding them to a food processor along with 4 tbsp sesame oil, agave nectar and 1 tbsp tamari. I use a nutribullet with the small cup attachment, but a pestle and mortar could work well. Blend to a smooth consistency.
3) Finely slice the cavolo nero leaves, using a really sharp knife or Asian Cook’s Knife. Place around two leaves worth on a baking tray. Place the tray in the oven and gently roast for 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the leaves for a further 10 minutes before removing.
4) Cube the tofu in to approximate 1″ cubes. Add a tbsp of sesame oil to a pan on the hob, heat and add the tofu, sesame seeds, remaining cavolo nero and a splash of tamari. Stir fry until the tofu is gently brown on the outside and the cavolo nero is cooked through. Approx 6-8 minutes.
5) Finely slice the fennel and avocado ready for serving.
6) Give the rice a stir, it should be sticky and cooked through.
7) To serve layer the rice, then stir-fried tofu and cavolo nero, with avocado and fennel on top. Pour the sauce on and top with crispy cavolo nero from the oven and chilli on top!
It’s not all Matcha do about nothing you know… (Ahem!) If you’re not already supping on the green stuff, or turning your food green for halloween with it, then there are plenty of reasons why you should be… I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Teapigs founders Nick & Louise, who taught a group of brilliant food bloggers how to taste tea (the slurp really does take some mastering, and also makes a huge difference to the taste… who knew?!)… So once I could tell my Oolong from my darjeeling and my green tea from my jelly & ice cream infusion (!) I became quite taken with the virtues of matcha…
And it’s true, it’s a buzz without the jitters and crashes of coffee… and there’s a soft sweetness to its taste, which makes quite a lovely latte… So, inspired I’ve gone about sourcing some of the best recipes using Matcha, from the best bloggers I could find so check out links below along with my own matcha recipes here, and of course, feel free to leave your own favourite matcha recipe links in the comments below:
Matcha Latte with Almond Milk & Cinnamon
This is warming, creamy and cosy start to an Autumn morning…
1 Sachet Teapigs ‘on the go’ Matcha
1/3 mug boiling water.
2/3 mug steamed almond milk
Sprinking of Cinnamon to Serve.
Matcha Green Tea & Pear Breakfast Oats
1 handful oats
1 chopped (cored) pear
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 sachet Teapigs pure organic matcha ‘on the go’
Add the ingredients to a pan on the hob. Top with water, simmer until smooth and served with a dollop of peanut butter and tbsp maple syrup…
Sometimes, only pasta, baked in cheesy sauce will do. Laced with nutmeg, layered with smooth seasonal roast butternut squash and herby tomato sauce… Served with baby spinach and rocket and eaten until it’s gone… because really, it’s never as good tomorrow, and I probably wont fancy it then anyway… digging my fork in the dish at the end might even be the best bit… “just one more mouthful” I’m thinking… “and then I’ll stop”…
Ingredients for the cheese sauce:
2 tbsp butter
50g plain flour
1 pint organic milk
50g cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
350g Lasagne sheets
1 butternut squash
4 sprigs of sage
Extra Cheese for grating
1) Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel and slice the butternut squash in to discs around 1/2cm thick. Place on a baking tray drizzled with olive oil, cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of fresh sage leaves. Roast for around 20 minutes or until tender. Keep the oven on.
2) To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan on the hob. Once it’s melted whisk in the flour to create a thick sauce and begin slowly adding milk as you continue to whisk, Add cheese when around half of the milk has been added and bring to a light simmer on a low heat. Continue adding milk until the sauce is thick but can be poured. Remove from the heat.
3) To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on the hob. Finely slice the onions and crush the garlic. Soften in the pan for around 5 minutes before adding the rosemary. Sizzle for a couple more minutes before adding the tomatoes, maple syrup and salt. Stir as the sauce reduces slightly, then add a little extra water to loosen it up. Remove from the heat.
4) In a large lasagne dish begin layering lasagne sheets, then butternut squash discs, tomato sauce, then cheese sauce. Continue layering until the ingredients are used up, and finally top with grated cheddar cheese.
5) Cover the lasagne dish with foil, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes to brown the cheese. Check the lasagne is cooked through by inserting a knife… And serve with a side of salad greens…
How do you have your lasagne? Anyone got any recipe links they’d like to share?