We all know that pregnancy places a huge strain on the body, but it isn't until you actually experience it that you can really appreciate this. It is truly amazing what the body is doing - creating a new life. Everything in the mother is diverted and devoted to growing this new life, so unless you take care of yourself and give yourself a little extra attention then you could potentially become depleted and not be at your optimal. It is important that you eat the best foods that you can in pregnancy for you and your baby.
To start with don't be afraid of fats, getting optimal levels of healthy fats from foods like flaxseed's, avocados, coconut, olive oil, nuts, seeds and low-mercury oily fish is vital for you and your baby. At the same time lowering levels of unhelpful inflammatory fats, found in foods such as processed biscuits, cakes, crisps, margarine and vegetable oils. Cook with healthy fats like coconut oil which has a high smoke point or use virgin olive oil but carefully as it has a lower heating point. Preferably buy raw unheated nut and seed oils in dark glass bottles and only use them as drizzles over salad or stirfry. Heated vegetable oils like sunflower and corn oil are highly refined, bleached, deodorised and rancid, this creates a toxic chemical compound which has been linked to alzheimer's, gastric damage, heart disease and inflammation and so are not oils we should cook with. 
Our western diets tend to be low in Omega 3 fats and high in Omega 6, although omega 6 is important dominance should be towards omega 3 fats. During pregnancy our need for omega 3 increases "to support foetal growth, particularly of the brain and eyes...The richest sources of these omega-3 fatty acids are marine sources, such as seafood and fish oil supplements...Seafood (however) can also contain organic mercury and other harmful toxins (eg, PCBs), which could be harmful to the growing foetus" . For this reason, eating fish is important but the NHS recommends limiting fish consumption to no more than twice a week. If you are unable, to get enough good quality preferably wild oily fish you can also supplement by taking an extra dose of a good quality omega 3. If you are vegetarian/vegan I would suggest taking an Algae oil which will give you EPA/DHA at similar levels to fish oils. Although plant seed oils are great sources of omega 3 the body still needs to convert them into EPA/DHA to be bio-available for the body. "As the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is a prominent component of neuronal membranes, and as the human body is inefficient in synthesizing DHA, we are reliant on dietary DHA" 
As we mentioned earlier a mothers body will devote everything to the developing baby; "women's bodies will preferentially divert DHA to the baby, and the baby will take the DHA it needs from maternal stores. With each subsequent pregnancy, mothers are further depleted"  This is why it is important to constantly replenish our omega 3 prior to, during and after pregnancy.
Omega 3 oils could potentially be beneficial for the much talked of 'pregnancy brain' (forgetfulness) and mood swings. "Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia."  DHA and EPA have been shown in some studies to help in the prevention of post-partum depression and resistance to stress, vital for pregnancy and new mothers. 
Research has also shown that "omega-3 fatty acid consumption during pregnancy either in the diet or via supplements is associated with improved neurodevelopmental outcomes in the child. Investigators have used a variety of tests, such as general developmental milestones, problem solving, and language development, to assess neurodevelopmental outcomes among infants whose mothers were supplemented with fish oil compared with those who were not."  Further studies have indicated that higher levels of omega 3 in the mothers diet can also account for higher IQ, better concentration, learning, reading and writing in later childhood. 
Studies also pointed to fish oil supplementation taken during pregnancy and lactation resulting in a decreased risk of infant allergies  and improving infant immunity 
Finally, it was noted that infants of mothers with higher levels of DHA had a more mature central nervous system which resulted in more periods of quiet sleep. 
If you decide to supplement with fish oil in pregnancy avoid cod liver oil as it has high levels of Vitamin A which can be harmful to the baby. Companies I like are Wild Nutrition, Nordic Naturals, Nutri Advanced and Viridian. When buying supplements check the quality of the products, often companies produce supplements which contain a lot of binders and fillers that the body doesn't need and needs to work hard to dispose of.
To summarise increasing Omega 3 in your diet may:
 Joanna Blythman, 2015, Swallow this, Fourth Estate Publishing.
 Coletta, Jaclyn M, Stacey J Bell, and Ashley S Roman. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy.” Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/
 Kendall-Tackett, A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health. Int Breastfeed J. 2007; 2: 6. Published online 2007 March 30. doi: 10.1186/1746-4358-2-6 http://www.internationalbreastfeedingjournal.com/content/2/1/6
 Kuratko, Connye N. et al. “The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review.” Nutrients 5.7 (2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738999/
 Noakes, P et al (2012) ‘Increased intake of oily fish in pregnancy: effects on neonatal immune responses and on clinical outcomes in infants at 6 mo.' American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jan 4th http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/2/395.long
 Sunita R Cheruku et al. Higher maternal plasma docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy is associated with more mature neonatal sleep-state patterning. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/3/608.long
Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.7 (2008) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/
#Essential fatty acids
#Eating for Health
These Oatcakes are high in fibre, protein and gluten free so make a healthy addition to your day. They are quick and easy to make and making them yourself means you know exactly what is in them.
You might find that they may come out with a slightly green colour, don't be alarmed, you haven't done anything wrong and they are delicious.
Sunflower seeds contain chlorophyll which seems to react with baking soda when heated, which is why you may get a slight green tinge to your oatcake.
Great to eat with hummus, tapenade, nut butter and banana, avocado, baba ganoosh......
I have the privilege of hosting Bhavana for a Kirtan event in Glasgow on Wednesday 26th November. Bhavana are a husband and wife group based in Brighton who travel in the UK and Europe leading kirtans and voicework workshops. Narayani is a BWY IST teacher offering bhakti yoga and yoga in the tradition of Krishnamacharya and the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, she trained in voicework with Chloe Goodchild. Her husband Mat is a singer and multi-instrumentalist, he collaborates with a variety of World and devotional musicians.
Hi Narayani and Mat
Thank you for talking with me.
What attracted you both to the kirtan path? What keeps you on it?
Narayani - I actually discovered I could sing when I led my first Kirtan on my yoga teacher training course. I had only come across it a year earlier at the Sivananda Centre in London and I was hooked instantly. It made me feel amazing. On a long term basis it becomes a very transformative practice so that is what keeps me going.
Mat - I first met Narayani when she was leading a Kirtan and I really loved it. It has been a very natural process as I have been interested in and playing devotional music for many years.
How long have you been doing it?
N - 10 years
M - 3 years
How would you describe Kirtan?
It is a way of coming together and singing, without any need to be tuneful or skilled, just to enjoy singing. Kirtan uses sanskrit & hindi words and mantras, which have a vibrational quality, that help us to feel more relaxed and peaceful, its also a wonderful way of channelling emotions. We are using words that invoke the divine energies at play in the universe and ourselves, that allow us to connect more deeply to the world, ourselves and others and help us move more from a place of love than anger, fear, jealousy and so on.
Have you had any feedback of benefits people have experienced during or after a kirtan?
Yes all the time, people really love it. It makes us feel good, we can come in unhappy and grumpy and leave feeling happy, peaceful and calm. Just today I offered a KIrtan at funeral, with people who are not familiar with it and they were all really moved, in a way that helped them connect to their sadness, grief and joy of the person that they had lost.
Narayani, How did you first get into voice work? Do you still do other types of singing outwith kirtan?
Once I discovered I could sing and that I loved Kirtan, I went in search of every Kirtan singer I could find, that year all the big US kirtan singers came to London - Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Krishna Das. In the middle of this I found myself in a concert with Chloe Goodchild. I was really struck by what she offered. It took me a year, but I signed up to her facilitator training and spent nearly 5 years training with her, I started facilitating after three. I sing a lot without words, Mat and I improvise together all the time, but I very rarely sing words that are not Kirtan. Although that may change....
Mat, what first attracted to you devotional music? How does it inspire you?
Since experiencing tribal music in Southern Africa as a young child and singing in a choir, I was on a search thereafter as a musician to discover a deeper meaning to sound and music, that journey continues and it inspires my music every day.
You run kirtans as a husband and wife team, what has been the best thing so far of working together?
Everything! We just love it! We love travelling together, the adventures, singing together, spending time with the amazing people who host us. and the journey making our new album of course!
What is your favourite mantra? Why? What does it mean to you?
N - I love all the mantras but I am particularly fond of Ma chants, so anything about Shakti, Kali, Durga and so on. It helps me connect to a sense of a higher concsiousness and also the planet we live on. Kirtan works on the basis that it is often helpful for us to have a form to relate to the absolute and that is certainly my experience.
M - Similarly Ma chants and I love the mantra Soham which we often do in workshop. They take me to a feeling of expansion and connectedness.
Does kirtan have a spiritual meaning for you?
Yes, but nothing dogmatic, simply a way of connecting more deeply to our own true selves, love. The name of our new album "Remembrance" is based on that, that it helps us remember our true nature.
Where in the world has this practice taken you so far?
Quite a few places, we have been to a lot of the UK, gradually getting further north which is fantastic, we also have been to the US, Finland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Gibralter and soon Portugal as well and of course India, but we go there to deepen our own practice... We love travelling and go wherever we are invited so we hope it will continue to take us to new places and to meet new friends.
Do you have a favourite experience from one of your trips?
We have lots of amazing experiences, everywhere we go we are shown such generosity and kindness. It is a really special thing to experience.
We are looking forward to your forthcoming kirtan event in Glasgow, Have you ever been to Scotland before?
Narayani - I have but not for nearly 15 years so I am really excited to be coming again
Mat - No this is a first and I am really excited, we are going to take a couple of days holiday as well so we can really appreciate coming.
For those yet to experience a kirtan what message would you give them?
Just come, it is something that you only find out if you love by coming, there is no need to be able to sing, or have any experience. Its just fun!
You can meet Bhavana and experience their Kirtan on Wednesday 26th November 6.30pm at Health Rediscovered, 82 Gordon Street, Glasgow, G1 3RS.
£10 (+50p booking)
Low/unwaged by donation.
Booking is advisable, please book your space at www.enjoyharmony.com/events
Aimed at disadvantaged, destitute and traumatised women in the Glasgow area our project will be offering "Yoga" - movement, body, mind, emotions, and soul - to unite and empower women. Please see our website: www.circleofwomenyoga.com
Our first project is aimed at female asylum seekers and refugees. Three questions often seem to arise...why yoga? why women? why asylum seekers and refugees?
Why yoga and why women?
Women play an essential (and often overlooked) role in society as individuals, caregivers, mothers & teachers of future generations. It is therefore important to help women to be able to better cope with these roles, using yoga to show women how to cope with stress, anxiety & depression, how to live healthier lifestyles, to develop emotional resilience, to sleep better & develop better body image, enabling people to feel better in their own skins. This knowledge can then be passed onto their children & families.
Yoga can be used as a therapeutic tool to help survivors of gender-based violence: trauma, rape, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse. As Bessel Van der Kolk, clinical psychiatrist says: "If you are traumatised you are likely to have a distorted relationship to your body. When people are traumatised they become afraid of their own physical sensations: their breathing becomes shallow, they become uptight, frightened about what they feel. While talking, knowing what happened and being able to articulate it is an important part of treatment, the most important part is starting to regain ownership of your body." The project will aim to help women to deal with this through movement and breath, ultimately benefiting society as a whole.
Why asylum seekers and refugees is potentially a more emotive question. I always wonder why not? Rather than looking at asylum seekers and refugees as outsiders who have come to change or steal your society, jobs, money, perhaps we should see asylum seekers and refugees as what they really are...human beings exactly like you and me... but who have suffered the worst kind of trauma, abuse, and conflict. Despite what many people fear most people do not want to leave their lives, family, friends, jobs to come to the UK, yes some people do, but not everyone. Its the same as here, some people want to move to Spain and live a sunny life on the beach, but everyone doesn't want to do that.
Imagine for a moment your life, your family, your friends, your home, your job, your hopes, fears, ambitions, dreams.....
Imagine now that war has erupted, you feel uncertainty, insecurity, you experience and/or you see your family and friends murdered, tortured, raped. Or you decide to speak up against human rights abuses that you don't feel are just, and for this you are imprisoned. Its almost impossible to imagine how you would feel, its not something anyone should have to go through.
Now imagine that, although you might not want to leave your home, friends, family, you have to, so you escape to a far away country which is very different from your own. Here you know no one, you are alone,you can't speak the language, you don't know the culture, the rules, the food tastes weird, you have nowhere to live, no money, and no one believes you, you are scared, you have to repeat what happened to you over and over again, with the threat of being sent back into a troubling situation always hanging over your head. Imagine how this may feel....if this was you...
And now think about how lucky you are to live in a country where you are not imprisoned for your views, there is no war, and you have a passport enabling you to go anywhere you wish. You didn't choose to live here, you just happen to be lucky that you were born here. Why should you have any more entitlements than any other human being just because of your birth place? The asylum seekers who are here are here, and it makes sense to help them to integrate into this society to enable them to deal with the trauma that no one should ever have had to experience, to enable them to exist and communicate in this land, to ultimately make a better more peaceful society.
I am delighted to be hosting Sandra Leigh from Canada for Kirtan this month, Sandra has kindly agreed to answer a few questions so we can find out a bit more about her and what she does.
R: How would you describe Kirtan?
S: I think Kirtan is best described as an Indian musical/devotional tradition of singing of kirtans, bhajans and mantras, in a call and response style and sometimes sung altogether, repeating over and over, sometimes speeding up to help us let go and sometimes slowing right down, singing with all our heart! Kirtan chanting helps us relax the busy mind, rest in the heart, and glorify all of creation.
R: How did you first get into it?
S: I learned Kirtan through Yoga. I was first introduced to singing mantras and bhajans (devotional Indian songs) at an ashram I trained at in Canada. An ashram is a place where people go to study yoga, meditation, health, wellness (ayurveda) and spirituality. That was over 20 years ago and I have since been to India a few times to train in Indian Classical music as well as Bhakti Yoga, which is the yoga of love and devotion. Kirtan is a part of the Bhakti Yoga path. I have also really enjoyed a course I took here in the UK, called Dru Sound, which was in North Wales.
R: What do you enjoy about it?
S: I like that Kirtan chanting helps bring people into their heart. It helps us to connect with each other and to our world. It offers the world positive vibrations (pure sound), so with the right intention, Kirtan singing can be very powerful and can even help us grow spiritually. When we are chanting together, we are creating a positive collective consciousness. I love being a part of something that helps the world and all it’s precious beings. We need it now, more than ever, too.
R: Yes I agree. So you started the Vancouver Give Peace a Chant! Community, can you tell us a bit more about it?
S: I was chanting with friends in my tiny apartment on Friday nights for a couple of years. We were learning some difficult but beautiful mantras and bhajans. Then, Sept 11, 2001 came and we were moved to take the chant night to the yoga studios and make them public. We called it “Give Peace a Chant Kirtan” and added a few English songs for peace to try to build a gathering that focused on bringing “peace through music”. It was an opportunity for people to come create positive vibrations for the whole world, in service to the highest in ourselves and each other, to bring us into unity. That was 14 years ago! We rarely sing in English any more. People seem to prefer Sanskrit chanting, it’s true.
R: Yes I must admit I do too, I feel more self-conscious somehow singing in English even though some of the Sanskrit words get me tongue-tied sometimes.
What is the ‘Kirtan Scene’ like in Vancouver?
S: The scene on the west coast is growing, blossoming, and flourishing! There are many, many yoga festivals that include Kirtan. In the summer time we play at a Kirtan Festival, called Kirtan Vancouver; it’s right on the beach! Our Kirtan group (we use the acronym GPaC) play once or twice a month, now. We usually get 60 to 80 people coming to chant, meditate, or volunteer for helping with the production. Even dancers come and snacks show up for after, then we really celebrate!
R: Wow that sounds great, I hope that something similar will be built in Glasgow. What bought you to Scotland?
S: My Yoga group (Dru Yoga) is based here in the UK so I try to get here often for trainings and to visit friends I’ve met through the yoga … and also, I love Scotland!
R: Have you had any feedback from people about benefits they have gained from chanting?
S: Yes, over the years so many people have sent thank you notes and gifts for experiences they have shared, or they request to come take harmonium and vocal lessons, or they want to volunteer, play, and help out and be on the team. That’s the best, is to offer your service and be a part of it all. It’s all teamwork, after all.
R: If there are people out there who have never tried Kirtan before, what would you say to them?
S: Maybe to know that you really don’t have to be a “good singer” to enjoy the experience. Many friendly people come and more shy people, too. Most everyone just love being there (in the BHAV), singing what they can or even just meditating in the sound vibes. So come, relax your busy mind, ease into your heart, be open to enjoying the experience. Pure sound vibrations are powerful and very healing for us. Also, on the practical side, you might want to bring water to drink, a cushion to sit comfortably (we usually have some chairs for those who don’t sit on the floor), comfy clothes, a warm shawl kept just for your chanting practice, and also, consider doing some yoga with Rox before to limber up and let go of any stress you might be carrying.
R: Thank you so much for your time. I am really looking forward to the event.
S: Me too. I am stoked for an evening with new friends and some familiar faces, too… all our friendly voices, lifting each other up. This world needs our positive vibrations and heart connections. Thank you, too Rox !!
Mantra Circle & Kirtan
Friday 25th July 2014
7pm Yoga (Must be booked)
8pm Kirtan (Please bring a cushion and shawl)
Health Rediscovered, 82 Gordon Street. Opposite Central Station, Glasgow.
This is a relatively quick, easy and highly nutritious superfood breakfast.
Drinking Lemon in warm water first thing in the morning will slowly wake up your digestion, get digestive juices going and help flush out toxins.
Raw Almond Milk
Soak the almonds overnight
Peal the skins off
Blend all ingredients together
Sieve through a muslin cloth to collect the smooth milk.
Use within 12 hours of making.
Raw Superfood Muesli
What a wonderful weekend workshop with Christine Borg. Christine's energy and enthusiasm makes it impossible to not want to flow like water as you move your body into shapes. Her yoga encourages you to find a lightness, to play with what the body can do, not bound by externally imposed limitations, not forcing your body to do as you want, but allowing it to unfurl rather than unfold, finding its own path. dancing to its own rhythm. Her hands-on approach guides the body to undo, lengthen and release and her boundless energy and individual attention make you want to befriend your body, to listen to its needs, its song and its wisdom. As I experiment with the spirals the fluidity and play with the movements my body can make, I am reminded to slow things down, to enable the separation and connections to happen. I hope to be able to encourage this same trusting of our own internal knowledge with my students. And Look forward to Christine holding a workshop in Glasgow soon.
If you have never been to Findhorn, I recommend that you go. It has a magical feeling: a microcosm of inspiration, beauty and fine weather. The long sandy beaches disappear with the strange tides, the beautiful curious seals watching you from just off the sea shore, Gregorian Chants in the nearby Pluscarden Abbey, narrow wiggly paths leading through the village and to the beach, pretty gardens, the laid-back peaceful ambiance, and the higgledy-piggledy houses in both the village and foundation draw you into Findhorn.
It was the perfect setting for a workshop with Diane, an inspiration to many teachers. She weaves through the class encouraging questions - both externally to ask her for guidance and internally through observation and awareness, exuberantly moving bodies, opening spaces long forgotten. The seals of Findhorn act like muses for the practice - graceful, inquisitive, peaceful yet playful.
I like this soup because it is quick and easy to make and doesn't take a lot of ingredients.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan
- Add some onions to the pan with 1-2 teaspoons of cumin and 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook until the onions become golden.
- Add one fresh chopped chilli if desired to give it a bit of a kick, I wouldn't use a very strong chilli.
- Add one chopped leek (optional).
- Add 700g chopped fresh tomatoes and let them cook for a bit until they become mushy. Alternatively used 2 tins chopped tomatoes.
- Add salt and pepper to season
- Add some Kale or Spinach, about a handful.
- Add 200g of red lentils
- Pour in vegetable stock
- Let it all simmer until the lentils are soft.
This will make quite a thick soup and you can eat it like this. If you want a more runny soup you can add some more stock (enough to cover what's in the pan). You can then blend the soup if you like, so that the consistency is smooth.
Spoon into bowls and serve with some chopped fresh coriander or parsley and a dollop of live natural yoghurt on the top.
Why this soup is great:
Tomatoes: Antioxidant, with vitamin C, good for the heart, circulation and prostate health.
Red Lentils: High soluble fibre, so good for digestion and constipation, also help to remove cholesterol from the gut.
Live Yoghurt: Contains probiotics - great for good bacteria in gut.
Kale: High in calcium, so good for bones. Rich in magnesium, which helps muscles relax, so great for muscle cramps or spasm.
Spinach: Good source of vitamin C, iron, protein and fat soluble antioxidant which helps protect collagen and elastin in skin.
Onion: High in quercetin which is a natural antihistamine.
Leek: High in prebiotic strengthens the stomach good bacteria, providing better defence.
Cumin: Good for indigestion.
Enjoy Harmony lunch time yoga classes have now moved. You can find us at:
82 Gordon Street
Opposite Central Station, next to RBS.
Drop in £6
Block booking £30 valid for 6 classes can be used for Wednesday and/or Friday classes, valid for 8 weeks.
I hope to see you at class.
I am ordering an organic veg box from Go Wild. It's kind of an experiment, as I am convinced that even though I am spending a little more to get good quality seasonal organic veg, not going to the supermarket to buy my veg will in fact save me money in the long run, as I can't be lured by any of the supermarket advertising and end up buying unnecessary products. I'm also hoping that this will help to widen my recipes as I make dishes primarily using the veg from the box. Furthermore, I have just got a bread-maker and have already begun to experiment with organic 'fancy' bread - cheaper than buying from a shop and I know exactly what is in it. I will be posting some of my creations here and letting you know how I get on with this experiment.
Today's bread is Olive, Oregano and Rosemary.
The changing season is upon us. The dark nights are beginning to draw in, as the weather starts to get colder, with our bodies and mind under stress, it is a time when we start to feel run-down, when our bodies begin to submit to having 'a cold'. It is important at this time of year to boost our immunity and overall wellbeing to enable us to fight off infection.
We can do this in a number of ways. It is vital that we take control of what we are putting into our bodies, the right fuel can help the body to fight off any potential infection. Key immune boosting ingredients to add to your diet: garlic- anti-viral, ginger - anti-inflammatory, chillies - decongestant, goji berries - support immune system and vitamin C, sweet potatoes - mild anti-inflammatory, prawns - packed with zinc which helps the body improve resilience from infection, coconut - anti-viral, shiitake mushrooms - powerful immune supportive, omega 3 fatty acids - help the body make its own anti-inflammatory compounds, and plenty of water - as colds and flu often dehydrate the body. (source: The Medicinal Chef)
Our bodies are unable to fight infections if we are feeling stressed, over-tired and generally run-down. Try and find ways to relax, perhaps take up a new hobby to enable you to take your mind off day to day matters. Include moderate exercise in order to get your body moving, circulation flowing and to avoid stiffness. Learn to breath properly, this may sound silly, but often people are so stressed that they don't realise they are breathing only into the upper chest areas. Try and become aware of your breath, slow it down, breath deeper - this will automatically calm you down. If you can develop this ability to slow and deepen your breath you can start to become aware of it when you are stressed and your breath has become shallow and fast, you will have the knowledge of how to moderate that breath and stress.
Finally you can help boost the bodies defences by including good quality supplements into your daily routine Be careful not to buy supplements which are laden with fillers and other non-essential ingredients. Here are a couple of supplements/herbs which may help you: (source: NYR training)
Vitamin C helps your immune cells mature, improves the performance of antibodies and macrophages and is antiviral.
Elderberries are high in vitamin C and Iron. They can be used as a prevention and also for treatment of a cold as they have anti-viral and immune boosting properties.
Echinacea enhances the immune system by boosting white blood cells. It has a powerful lymphatic action that clears congestion and swollen lymph nodes. It is great taken at the first sign of a cold to shorten its duration.
Olive Leaf helps to inhibit the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
Thyme has a warming quality which aids the circulation and helps to throw off chills. It is great to drink as a tea through the winter if you are susceptible to colds, coughs and infections.
We can also use essential oils in a burner or mixed with a carrier oil and either massaged onto the skin or added to the bath. Oils such as:
Eucalyptus which is antiseptic and antiviral. A few drops can be put onto a hankie or added to a steaming bowl of water, breathing it will help to decongest blocked sinuses.
Ravensara is distilled from the leaves and twigs of the tree in Madagascar. It can be used at the initial signs of chills, shivers and tiredness as it has antimicrobial and immunomodulant actions (amplifies the immune system).
These essential oils, herbs and supplements can help to boost your immune system, but don't forget the power of the mind on your health. Stress, grief and depression all have negative effects on our health. Stress produces corticosteroids which cause the adrenal glands to push excess sugar into the blood stream initiating our fight or flight response = more stress, and this in turn depresses immune function. Too much exercise can have the same effect. Moderate exercise like Yoga, Tai chi, or walking outdoors can boost your immunity, research suggests by up to 40%. These moderate exercises also help to improve your quality of sleep, as poor sleep can deplete our natural resources and our bodies ability to fight infection. Massage can also help by relaxing your body and mind and improving sleep.
Get ready for winter - what will you do to boost your immunity this year?
Disclaimer: Non of these suggestions are a substitute for medical examination, diagnosis and treatment. Do not discontinue any medication without consultation with your own doctor. If in doubt please check with your doctor.
I’m going to diverge a bit from the normal yoga blog and write about my recent trip to Iran. I did attend a yoga class in Iran which was described by my Aunt as “The Spiritual Yoga Class.” Unfortunately, most of this got lost in translation for me as I couldn’t understand a lot of the spiritual dialogue in the class. After the class, I discovered that we were seeds, growing, moving with the wind and changing with the seasons. I simply followed the movements which had aspects of traditional asana but with the flowing movements and hand gestures of Persian dance. I lay in silence listening to this spiritual women speaking during the final meditation. And left feeling a little sad. Later, my Aunt told me that this happens a lot; as this teacher speaks her voice brings up and clears old wounds and hurts from the body, expelling them with sadness or tears, ready to be replaced with new insight and light.
Yoga has in fact also taken off in Iran, and like in the west it has been embraced by women. Driving around you see the occasional Yoga studio sign and adverts in places like the museum in Tehran advertising Yoga classes for female employees. And with a country where at least 60% of people suffer from stress, yoga is needed to give people a moment of calm. It is, however, a shame that the men are missing out on this. When you spend some time in Iran you can understand just how high these stress levels are.
Forget what you hear in the news about Iran being anti-West, don't get confused with the events happening in the middle east - suicide bombers and crazy extremists, Iran is not currently at war and the whole of the Middle East shouldn’t be put into the same bag! Some Iranians are more like Hollywood stars, just hidden under a black cloth. They wear expensive fashionable clothes and shoes, trendy dark glasses and blingy gold purses. All under a black cloth. Of course there are people who are religious and want the country to remain an Islamic state, but there are also many others who are not and they want the freedom to express themselves. This is why there is a constant battle with women’s clothing in Iran, with monteauxs getting shorter and shorter, arms starting to appear and head scarves inching further and further back, sometimes falling off for a brief moment. In addition, nose jobs are becoming almost an essential activity, with boys and girls sporting new “cuter” noses. On the other side of the battleground, the religious morality (fashion) police stalk the streets pointing out these indecencies in clothes, sometimes arresting young couples.
The Lonely Planet guide tells you that Iranians are some of the friendliest people that you will meet; they will offer you their homes and their hospitality. Friends who have visited Iran have said the same. As a half Iranian I see this hospitality in a slightly different way, sure we are invited to various relatives homes, for dinner, for ice cream, to be taken on a tour of the city, but this causes a great deal of debate amongst our immediate Iranian family. Mothers are phoned, grandmothers consulted...what is the right response, is this Taarof? (this is a form of Iranian civility, it covers a range of social behaviours, including hospitality. Here the host is obliged to offer the guest anything they may want, the guest is obliged to refuse the offer, this goes on several times before they each decide whether the offer or refusal are genuine.) It’s always hard to determine what is the right response - do they really want you to go to their house for dinner? Would they be offended if you didn't or would they be put out if you did? This cultural aspect takes a lot of navigating with the help of the immediate family.
The drivers in Iran are some of the craziest I have seen in the world. There are no rules – whoever dares, wins. This includes crossing the road, which is like playing chicken with the cars. Red lights mean nothing - there are hardly any anyway, and there are not many road markings at all. Driving on a roundabout, for example, takes skill as no one seems to have the right of way. On one occasion we saw a driver driving with a baby on his lap, on another we were driven home in a “disco” taxi with blaring western music, speeding around cars. We saw cars reversing down the motorway, driving in the wrong direction (especially motorbikes), wedding cars with friends driving alongside literally hanging out of the window to film the bride and groom. We had a taxi driver pouring tea and offering us a cup whilst driving, we were offered Shiraz wine and Arak (firewater) whilst being driven around by family friends - "we party in our car, it is the only place apart from our homes where we can be free" they said, and then "many times we have had to escape the police driving very fast to get away." The penalty for being caught with alcohol is severe, so no one seems to stop if the police lights flash behind them.
This may all sound negative, but some of the problems are a result of the underlying tension caused by the politics of Iran. People are genuinely nice. Family is vital, revered. Everyone takes time to be with their family, helping each other, when someone is ill everyone joins together, people live in close family communities to enable this. Although women are hidden behind their scarves they still work, drive, manage, study. Food is another fantastic part of Iran, the food is truly delicious – fresh, using lots of herbs, garlic, yogurt, turmeric, saffron and made with love. These can be seen in the everyday phrases that are used. For example, the response to telling someone that the food is lovely is “thank you, I hope this food energises your life-force”. Iranians are proud of their culture, their rich history, poetry (poets are revered in Iran, poets like Rumi and Hafez underpin Iranian culture).
All of this serves to illustrate how there are so many wonderfully different cultures in the world. It also serves to remind us of many of the things we take for granted in our daily lives. Things we do not appreciate until we are faced with a culture where such things are not commonplace: freedom to wear what we want, to drink what we want, to speak to whoever we want to whenever we want to. Freedom to surf the internet and shop on ebay. Freedom to order and read books from Amazon. Freedom to say what we think, to live in a country without economic sanctions. And just as it is easy not to appreciate these things, it is also easy to get wound up in our daily problems, making mountains out of mole hills when our broadband connection is down or we are stuck in traffic. It is easy to get lost in the daily routine and pointlessly lose our centre.
Take a moment to think of all the things you are thankful for, all the little things that have annoyed you today – could you have dealt with things differently? Acknowledge this, learn the lesson and then forgive yourself and anyone else, let it go. When you start to feel yourself being pulled from your centre, take a moment to pause, become aware of your breath, notice: is it shallow? Take a deeper breath, this will help to calm you, and perhaps in this moment of pause, perhaps, you will have a new perspective on the current moment and instead of simply reacting, you will be able to act out of kindness.
Fantastic day in the the beautiful setting of Tir-na-nOg holistic centre: Yoga, chanting, meditation and a Shakti new moon fire. The weather was fabulous, so we were able to practice our first yoga session outside. We started the day with tea and biscuits in the sun.
Through the day we worked with the energy of the new moon; a good time for introspection, resting, meditation and setting intentions. As we moved through the day we kept in mind our clear intention for the next moon cycle. When we do yoga we are in a space of calm and focus, our mind is more receptive to change; moving beyond the ideas and thought patterns we have established. This is why it is a good time to keep in mind a positive intention or affirmation, so that we may move beyond the limitations we have set on ourselves. When you are setting yourself an intention or affirmation it is important that it is clear, definite, something that makes you feel joyous and harmonious and is thought of in simple, precise, present-tense language, creating the image or feeling that the intention has happened. The new moon symbolises the always present void, that we can change things at any moment, we can let go of any ideas that are not helpful and plant new positive seeds.
Hatha Yoga is a dance between the sun and moon, a dance of balance and equanimity. We search to find unity with the breath, the body, the mind and the spirit to achieve the state of Yoga. There are many paths to achieve this, and in the afternoon we used Bhakti yoga - using sound and chanting as a why to quieten the mind, uplift the spirits and bring us to the state of unity.
The afternoon practice focused on the energy of the sun, strength, heat, power, the energy of summer. The practice was still introspective, being aware of how we were feeling. But focusing on working from the core - the centre of our being - strengthening our connection to ourselves, our own sense of self and our own inner fire. Everything moves from the core. Our goal poses were Natarajasana - the lord of the dancers and Shiva Natraj - Shiva's dance of Bliss, representing the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction, birth and death. Yoga teaches us that duality and separateness are an illusion no one can avoid the cosmic cycle, we are all united in the dance.
The day ended with the Shakti Fire. Working now with the feminine and earth energy to purify and strengthen. Encouraging the female aspect in us all to claim its place within the world in order to bring love and harmony to the earth. A beautiful ceremony offering rice to the fire to release a thought, action, state of being that no longer serves. Singing “Om Shakti Jay Jay, Om Swaha Jay Jay” which translates as “May the female power be successful”
Thank you to all the participates for sharing their beautiful energy with us.
A beautiful evening of acapella-style Kirtan with James Boag, who was here from Mysore India teaching a weekend workshop at Merchant City Yoga. There was a great turn out from participants, who chanted and sang whole-heartedly, leaving looking radiant and joyous.
Really enjoyed Knockengorroch this year, and so glad that the yoga classes were scheduled a bit later :) Seemed to make a difference for numbers too, as there was a fantastic turn out each morning. Thank you to all those who came the class. The sun was shining and the wind died down and festival site was full of happy people bopping to some great music. Lovely food too for a festival. This year I went to some workshops - Tai Chi (http://9wavestaichi.org/) and Belly Dancing (http://bobbybeakbane.com/wordpress/)- both were great. Watch this space for a yoga and belly dance collaboration event, very exciting.
A highly enjoyable event, starting with Yoga, followed by a Sound Bath, moving onto Tibetan Bells and then Chanting. There was a beautiful atmosphere as the chants and harmonium flowed around the room and everyone forgot their inhibitions, letting their voices sing out. We held a circle as we let our voices pour out, creating a harmonious sound bath consisting of a simple sound. The weird almost alien-like sound of the Tibetan Singing Bells left the hall buzzing, whilst the uplifting chanting raised the energy and vibration in the room. Tea, biscuits and chatting ended what will be a repeated event :)
I was invited to work in a Women's Refuge, teaching Yoga once a week. I was exited, inspired by the work of The Trauma Centre in Brookline who use yoga as a somatic therapy to help people who have suffered from trauma to reclaim their bodies. I felt that yoga would be of great benefit to the women in the refuge to help them cope with what they are going through.
The Wellbeing Officer at the Refuge was also hopeful that it could help, telling me she would be happy even if one person attended the class. At this time of crisis in their lives, many women are trying not to stop, not to think, not to have a moment of silence or to reflect. Yoga then, is very difficult as it requires us to stop, tune into the body, quieten the mind. In her opinion, any activity she could provide to give some relief, relaxation, a moment of tranquillity, that might help even one women was a success and worth a try. I had to agree.
As you might expect the population of refuges is always fluctuating as women move in and out of the flats depending on their current circumstances and needs, this obviously creates a difficult environment, as the women's lives are in a state of flux. Yoga however aims to help us all deal with the many fluxes and changes in our daily lives by giving us the opportunity to find space to be calm and relaxed even if only for an hour.
Why Yoga? How can it help the women in a Refuge?
Reclaiming Your Body after Trauma
Yoga is an age old practice whose aim is to unify the mind, body, breath and spirit, balancing mind and strengthening the body, aiming to keep people in the present moment through movement, breath and stillness of the mind. Yoga enables people to reconnect with their bodies, to regain control of them and the sensations they feel. The asana begin to allow the person to open, starting by physically opening the body. This helps to create the change from survival mode to inner safety, calm and coping.
Yoga can have effects by inviting change, adaptation and growth on all levels – motor, sensory, emotional, immune and psychological. It helps to reach a parasympathetic state. This state helps to activate coping hormones, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, enable the immune system to function better, enable digestion to improve, reset the nervous system; reducing stress and reactivity. As new research is constantly done on the benefits of yoga and exercise in general, researchers are finding what people feel naturally - that movement in general is great for the body, mind and spirit helping people to cope better with daily stress.
"Scientists found that the levels of the amino acid GABA are much higher in those that carry out yoga than those do the equivalent of a similarly strenuous exercise such as walking.
Although all exercise stimulates serotonin, what makes yoga different is the added element of keeping the mind quiet and focused, connecting the breath to movement. In fact, yoga can be thought of as a state, a state of union where everything is connected - mind, body, breath, spirit, so a 'state of yoga' can be achieved in many ways. The yoga that we practice today uses these particular postures to get us into that state. But these postures also help us to open the body, to free the restrictions within it, develop flexibility and strength and reconnect us to ourselves.
Finally yoga can help to develop a sense of community, strength and solidarity through practising together as a group, so for people who may have lost their sense of community this can be a great aid.
I feel privileged to be able to work with this group of women and look forward to my next session with them. It will be interesting to see how many of the same people turn up and if they attend regularly, whilst they stay at the refuge, what benefits they notice.