Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Yoga Selfie Debate: to selfie or not to selfie?

Ah the Yoga Selfie. Such problems you pose me with! To preface this post, I am going to ruin my conclusion and let you know that I am in two-minds about the Yoga Selfie (this would have got me zero marks at Uni; "never sit on the fence" our lecturers would say). But before you click away, now knowing the conclusion, you may want to read my reasons why...and then maybe enter the debate yourself...this is one I really would love to hear your opinions on, because a) everyone loves a good debate, and b) one day I may be able to topple off the fence and actually make a decision.

I confess that I am guilty of posting the odd Yoga Selfie. On quite a regular basis. Okay, fine, on almost a daily basis. [Insert gritted-teeth-kind-of-smiling emoji]. But it's still something that completely divides my opinion. On the one hand the whole premises of yoga is based on letting go of your ego, on going on your own private journey; the Bhagavad Gita tells us that "Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self", and most definitely not "posing for the Yoga Selfie, posting the Yoga Selfie, to get likes of the Yoga Selfie". Sorry, terrible comparison, but you get my point! It really does seem like it's all a vanity game. And I know I play it all too often. Not necessarily because I'm vain, but more because I feel that if I didn't I would be losing out on potential exposure (something which is becoming increasingly important as more and more yoga teachers graduate from their teacher trainings).

It seems as though the yoga world has created this twisted merry-go-round that one feels they have to ride on, but equally riding on it makes you feel nauseous with the feeling that you might be compromising your integrity as a true yogini, but if you don't ride it you will miss out on opportunities and exposure and potential clients, but if you weren't active on social media clients and studios might not take you on because you don't have enough exposure...and so on. Phew. I feel sick just thinking about it. I think we need to break this down into two very simple categories: Pros & Cons.

Pros of the Yoga Selfie
  • It's a quick way to connect with your students. Many of them are now on social channels and actively use them on a regular basis. If they see you posting Yoga Selfies they may be reminded about your class that evening, or may show your pictures to a friend, who may then also become a student.
  • Yoga Selfies help to attract relevant business opportunities. Businesses love social media, and many of them are constantly on the look out for professionals in their field to help promote their brand to their own followers. I have had a couple of relevant business opportunities as a direct result of my Yoga Selfies, mainly being given free yoga clothes and being asked to write two articles for an online health magazine. And the more "insta-famous" (terrible phrase) you become, the greater and more significant these opportunities become. 
  • It's a good way to promote your classes and events. A striking Yoga Selfie will potentially encourage people to sign up for your classes and events - if you catch their attention with a visually appealing photo then they are much more likely to read the blurb below. I've had a few people sign up to my retreats in this way, and also to some of my classes. 
  • They can promote diversity within the yoga community. I will make the counter argument to this in the Con arguments, but there are a few wonderful Instagram accounts with many a Yoga Selfie promoting diversity within the community. Boys of Yoga are doing a great job in showing that yoga is most definitely not just for girls, and the gorgeous Dana Falsetti and Valerie Sagun AKA @nolatrees and @biggalyoga are showing that curvy ladies can have a damn impressive asana practice too. 
  • Yoga Selfies can help to inspire people. If done in the right way (i.e. safe alignment, not putting your life in danger for the photo etc) Yoga Selfies can be super inspiring. They can sometimes be like artwork, such as Nude Yoga Girl's incredible photos, which is a fantastic example of Yoga Selfies done right. They can also inspire people to keep progressing with their practice, to see what they might also be able to achieve one day with hard work and dedication to their yoga practice. 

From the @nude_yogagirl Instagram page 

Cons of the Yoga Selfie
  • As I touched on in the introduction to this post, yoga is meant to be a personal practice. One which isn't actually at all concerned with how you look on the outside, but much more about how you look on the inside. Yes the asanas are fun to practice, and can be incredibly impressive visually, but their true purpose is simply to help prepare our bodies for a state of meditation. Not to look fancy and show off on Instagram. 
  • Some are outright dangerous. I have seen some appalling Yoga Selfies by some very well known accounts. The problem is that many of these "insta-famous" (again, EURGH) yogis are actually self-taught and don't practice safe form in many of their photos. I am not going to call out individuals as that's not very kind of me, they are only trying to inspire others, but there is one account in particular where I have seen a collapsed lower back, hyper-extended legs, and a knee bending way over the ankle in Warrior II (and this one was even endorsed and reposted by a very well known yoga brand!). And not to mention the photo where she is performing a handstand on the edge of a very tall building. GULP. Unsafe form and risking your life for a Yoga Selfie is not cool. Yes it looks incredibly impressive, but it's not yoga. Rant over. 
  • It encourages vanity. I know that when I post a Yoga Selfie more often than not it's taken 10 shots to find the one I am happy to post. I am even ashamed to admit that the first ever Yoga Selfie I posted I edited my waist to make it look smaller (since then I've never done that again, I felt too awful to be deceiving people - and myself). And then when I post up a Yoga Selfie of course I am keen to see how many likes it will get. Sometimes if it gets a lot I am genuinely happy, and if it doesn't get many I can often feel miffed. Is the asana I'm doing not impressive enough? Do I look too fat? Am I not as good as other yogis? [SHUDDER]. These thoughts are vain and also incredibly sad. And completely unrelated to my worth as a yogini or a human being. 
  • To counter my "it promotes diversity" point in the Pro section, it can also do the opposite. A large majority of the Yoga Selfies we see online are posted by slim, white, young ladies. Of course there are some gorgeous, genuine and talented slim, white young yoginis, but what does this do for the rest of us? There is little body diversity, little race diversity, and it is largely female dominated. The Yoga Selfie may be helping to perpetuate this image and may be putting some people off of trying yoga... 
  • It puts too much emphasis on the asana (physical) practice. The Western world is largely more concerned with the asana practice than it is the other aspects of yoga, and the Yoga Selfie exacerbates this. Of course this is a very sweeping generalisation and isn't true for everyone, but there are so many other aspects of yoga that are equally important - Yamas (ethical observations), Niyamas (social observations), pranayama (breath control), and the 4 stages of meditation, are not emphasised nearly as much. The asana practice is beautiful and integral one to a rounded yoga practice, but it is only one small part. Spiritual enlightenment cannot be achieved through asana alone (despite what might seem otherwise on your Instagram feed!). 
So now I've explored the pros & cons, I'm sure you can see my dilemma. On the one hand if you don't post Yoga Selfies you might be missing out on opportunities, exposure to new clients, and a fun way to connect with existing ones. And sometimes they really are just a harmless bit of fun and genuinely inspiring. However there are some real moral question marks behind the Yoga Selfie - ones which are hard to ignore. So far I have seen them as a necessary evil to help me make a name for myself as a yoga teacher, but I am realising that from time-to-time I lose sight of them as a business tool and they do feed my ego. This is when it's a problem. I suppose the answer is to separate business and pleasure in my mind, but this is difficult to do when your in a business of something you are deeply passionate about. Hmmm. 

It's something that I'm going to have to consider more deeply. So in the meantime do you have any input on the debate? What are your thoughts on the Yoga Selfie? Be brutally honest (but preferably without being mean!). I really would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Love & light beauties, 

L x

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Attitude of gratitude

Is it just me or does it feel as though the majority of the Western world is in constant pursuit of more, more, more? We are sold an image of a future life in which we'll have a nicer home, a better car, an updated wardrobe - it's almost like a competition, keeping up with the Jones's if you will. I know I'm generalising and exaggerating somewhat, but I also know that I'm guilty of sometimes wanting "more", and I feel we could all do with a little reminder from time-to-time that what we have in this very moment is all we ever really need. We could all benefit from being a little more grateful. By my books one can never practice enough gratitude!

Yogi Bhajan says that "An attitude of gratitude is the highest form of yoga" - not practicing asanas (postures), not breathe control, not even meditating - nope, gratitude is the winner. And without making this post all about yoga (I promise I won't!), Yogi Bhajan was a pretty wise guy, and really that sentence could read "An attitude of gratitude is the highest form of life". After all a grateful life is a happy life. If you're grateful about what you do have then you are much less likely to be bothered about what you don't have, and this will surely lead to greater happiness! Something we are all seeking.


And if you need further convincing of why gratitude is essential to your life then have a read of this recent Yoganoymous article on why Grateful People are Healthier.

So, gratitude makes us happier, it makes us healthier, but how do we go about practicing it more regularly and effectively? Here are some of my ideas:

1) Take a little more time over, and show a little more appreciation for, the "small" things (which are actually much bigger than they first seem!). Having a hot shower. Having a snug duvet. Enjoying a cuppa. Become more mindful when undertaking these simple day-to-day pleasures, by taking a little more time over them and saying to yourself beforehand "I am grateful for this shower. I am grateful for this duvet. I am grateful for this drink". Not only are you practicing gratitude, but I can almost guarantee that said activity will bring you even more pleasure than it usually does.

2) Write Thank You notes. Whether it's a "thank you for my birthday gift", "thank you for having me over", "thank you for being such a great friend", a thank you note never goes unnoticed.  It's a wonderful practice to cultivate as you are openly expressing gratitude to your love ones, meaning you are both practicing gratitude yourself and showing people that their kindness is appreciated. This will create a cycle of gratitude and goodness!

3) Wake up and practice gratitude! Don't miss a beat! Even lie in your bed with your eyes closed and list 3 things that you're grateful for right there and then. If you want a more structured practice then you could hop out of bed, find a comfortable seated position, and spend 5-15 minutes meditating on the things you are grateful for.

4) Thank people openly throughout your day. If a stranger is helpful, if your Mum makes you dinner, if you spouse does something thoughtful, make sure you say "thank you". It might seem obvious but we can often overlook the small things others do for us, and making your "thank you" heard will go a long way.

5) Write a gratitude diary. Whether it's an actual written diary or on a Gratitude App writing a gratitude diary is a great way to practice gratitude (I have said "gratitude" way too much in that sentence!). Even if it's just listing one thing per day that you're grateful for, this practice will cultivate a more grateful, happy you.

These are all such simple, easy things to incorporate in your daily life, and I can almost guarantee that even if you begin practicing them you will become a happier and healthier individual.

Do you have any tips for practicing gratitude in your daily life? And since beginning them have you seen any differences in yourself?

Love & light beauties,

L x


Monday, 1 August 2016

Yoga for Anxiety & Stress

It is no secret that diagnosis of anxiety and stress is on the rise. The Anxiety UK website states on their homepage that "Almost one in five people feel anxious a lot or all the time" - shockingly that's 20% of our population... Either our lifestyles are becoming increasingly pressurised, or we are more equipped (and more willing) to diagnose such conditions - my guess would be that it's a mixture of both. Stress, although often not as extreme as anxiety, is something which is widespread in our society. I can almost guarantee that each and every person who reads this will be able to relate to feeling stressed...sadly it's become part of modern day life.

I have suffered with anxiety (and depression - but let's save that for another day!) since the age of 13. That's half of my life. It was at it's worst when I was 13-15 (brought on by being bullied at school) and then again from 18-23 (brought on by being in an emotionally abusive relationship). I have had a series of minor panic attacks (usually on crowded trains - I'm also rather claustrophobic!) and one more serious panic attack (brought on by my fear of bugs...luckily I can see the funny side to this story now!). And I'm not going to go into my personal experiences any deeper today, but what I can say hand-on-heart is that yoga has been a HUGE part of my healing process. I've also been spurred on to write this post as I personally know at least 5 people who suffer from anxiety - 2 of which have sought me out for private yoga lessons, and so this makes me realise there are people out there who seeking some guidance, and who are ready to stand up and give their anxiety the middle finger!

My opinion is that if you suffer from anxiety it's almost always going to bubbling away under the surface (I may be wrong, but this is my experience); however there are coping mechanisms you can learn and lifestyle changes you can make to enable you to function more "normally" (I use this in the lightest terms: what is normal anyway?!).

"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured" ~ B. K. S. Iyengar. So, without further ado, here are my top yoga asanas (postures) and techniques for helping you to manage your anxiety and stress - I highly advise these are learned under instruction of a qualified yoga teacher.

ASANAS

Balasana - Child's Pose


Jarjar fancied joining in too! Except she was ready for Savasana before we'd even started...!

Why Child's Pose?:
  • Almost anyone can do it!
  • It's a calming pose, one which helps to make you feel grounded 
  • You can focus on your connections to the mat, and on the breath, to help calm anxiety and stress.
Tips:
  • If you feel discomfort between the knees and/or heels place a blanket or block between them. The forehead can also be supported by a cushion or block
  • Feet together with tops of your feet resting on the mat, opening the knees as wide as feels comfortable to you, rest your bottom as close to your heels as you can. Stretch the arms away from you & gently press the palms of the hands into the mat
  • Deepen and slow your breaths - inhale to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4
  • Stay for a minimum of 10 breaths.
Ado Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog


Why Downward Facing Dog?:
  • It's a great pose for waking up the nervous system - and although this might seem counterproductive (why would we want to wake up the nervous system when we feel anxious?), our anxiety can be brought on when the nervous system has weakened or confused it's "fight or flight" response, and so by "training it" in a positive pose such as DFD we are encouraging it to be stimulated in a healthy way
  • It builds strength and softness - something anyone dealing with stress and anxiety needs to build. You ARE strong enough to cope with what your facing, and you ARE soft enough to grant yourself grace when struggles come up. 
Tips:
  • Prepare a strong base. Hands planted shoulder-distance apart, fingers spreading wide, pressing firmly through every part of your hand, with the elbow creases turning in to face one another. Your feet should be hip-distance apart
  • The important thing in this position is to have straightness in your back - NOT getting your feet flat to the mat! A bend in the knees can help to encourage a straighter spine if your hamstrings don't feel very open 
  • Soften your shoulders away from the ears 
  • Stay for a minimum of 5 breaths, a maximum of 15.
Vrksasana - Tree Pose


Why Tree Pose?:
  • It requires focus! And when we focus on something such as balancing it is much easier to calm any symptoms of anxiety and/or stress
  • You can challenge yourself by squinting or closing your eyes, and by adding that element of the unknown we become accustomed to putting ourselves in situations where we feel challenged. And we quickly learn that even if we fall, we can bounce back and try again. 
Tips:
  • Strong foundation - spread the toes on your standing leg wide, making a wide base. Press through the foot into the floor & engage the muscles in your legs. 
  • Rest the other foot on your ankle, calf, or inner thigh - avoid the knee joint!!! (Unnecessary pressure on the knee joint is highly unadvisable). 
  • Relax your shoulders!
  • Hold for as many breaths as you can balance for!
Virabhadrasana 2 - Warrior 2


Why Warrior 2?:
  • It's a pose which requires us to embody strength. Virabhadra was one of Lord Shiva's strong and fearsome warriors - he could take on anything! And this is what we embody and embrace when we come to this asana. 
Tips:
  • Ideally the thigh will be parallel to the mat (so deeper than in my photo), and the knee will be directly above the ankle. An easier version with the knee behind the line of the ankle - as in the above photo - is acceptable, as this is still safe. But you must NEVER bend the knee over the line of the ankle else you will put pressure on your knee joint
  • Imagine your arms are being pulled in opposite directions, but keep your shoulders relaxed!
  • Keep your body in the mid-line - i.e. not leaning forward, not leaning backwards
  • Engage the muscles on your back leg
  • Keep your gaze over your front middle finger
  • Hold for 5-15 breaths. 
Inversions 

                     

Why Inversions?
  • It can be scary going up-side-down! And whenever we face something that scares us this helps to equip us with tools we can use when we come across a situation off the mat which brings up fear, anxiety or stress
  • Inversions are when the feet are above your heart. This helps to slow the heart rate and to regulate it. Something which may help in reducing your anxiety or stress, as it's common in these situations for heart rate to increase.
Tips:
  • Please only practice shoulder stand and headstand (centre photo and far right photo) under guidance of a qualified yoga instructor unless you are advanced in your practice. The pose in the far left photo can be practiced by almost anyone
  • Avoid inversions if: you have low blood pressure or you are pregnant. Some people prefer to avoid shoulder stand and headstand if they are on the first three days of their cycle. (This list is not conclusive)
  • Hold for 10 breaths minimum. Your maximum will depend on your level and experience of practice - again, please seek guidance of a qualified yoga instructor. 
Savasana - Corpse Pose


Why Savasana?:
  • It's everyone's favourite pose!
  • Savasana requires us to surrender. To be present. To consciously rest. It is the perfect opportunity to relax and to give yourself space. 
Tips:
  • Make sure you're comfortable! The traditional way to do Savasana is with legs extended, feet mat distance apart, toes falling to the sides. But if you have any pain in the lower back you can either wrap up another yoga mat and rest it underneath your knees, or you can bend your knees, plant them mat distance apart and then let them fall together to touch. Blankets are also a great way to ensure maximum comfort!
  • Focus on your breath. Focus on how your belly gently rises and falls. Focus on the feeling of the breath running in and out of your nose. Even repeat to yourself "I am aware of the inhale. I am aware of the exhale". By focusing on the breath, you will help your mind to stay present
  • Stay for a minimum of 5 minutes. No maximum length! 
Meditation


Why Meditation?:
  • Meditation and mindfulness are often prescribed for people struggling with anxiety and stress. There are differences between the two (which I won't go into now), but in yoga we practice meditation
  • You are forced to focus on your mind. To turn inwardly. And often to people with anxiety this is a scary prospect. However this is why it must be done. As with inversions we must do things which scare us to be able to move past them. And sometimes we must let things come up - emotions and thoughts - to be able to deal with them properly. Mediation forces us to sit and face them, rather than just bumbling along trying to ignore them. Once we let something surface we can then let it go.
Tips:
  • Sit comfortably! You can use blocks or bolsters to make your seated position more comfortable, or even rest against a wall. Just try to ensure your spine is straight
  • Eyes closed to block out any visual distractions
  • Visualise your shoulders, face and arms relaxing. Try to let go of any tension in these areas of the body
  • Focus the mind on something. It can be anything. Breath. A place. A person. A memory. But choose just one thing and focus on it
  • Start with short bursts - 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. And gradually over time you will be able to sit for longer. Set an alarm on your phone so you know when your time is up (else you'll just be sat wondering how long you've been there for and will be tempted to open your eyes to check). 
Nadi Shodhana - Channel Cleansing Breath


What on earth is my human doing now?!

Why Nadi Shodhana?:
  • It requires full attention on the breath, and as mentioned previously when we must focus on something fully, we are much less likely to be consumed by our anxiety and/or stress
  • Breath control is a well-known, solid technique for helping to deal with panic attacks and stressful situations (we all know the phrase: "Take a deep breath...")
Tips:
  • Assume a seated position as outlined in the meditation section
  • Rest your right peace fingers on the bridge of your nose. As the breath commences you will use the thumb to plug the right nostril and the fourth finger to plug the left (when I say "plug" I mean to lightly block the entrance of your nostril - not to forcefully press the nasal passage in)
  • Close your eyes
  • Begin by closing the right nostril, leaving the left one open. Deepen the breath to a steady count - start with counting to 4 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale - 1 x inhale + 1 x exhale = 1 round. Repeat between 6-12 rounds. Repeat by closing the left nostril, leaving the right one open
  • Progress to alternate nostril breathing: inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, exhale through the left nostril - this = 1 round. Repeat 12 rounds
  • I highly advise this is done under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.  
My parting message to anyone living with anxiety and/or stress is that you are not alone and it is nothing to be ashamed of. We need to create open channels of conversation around mental illnesses so that we can help to alleviate the stigma. And if you are in the midst of what seems like a never-ending cycle of anxiety and/or stress please know that there is light. This will not define you. You ARE strong enough to cope with it. 

If you are interested to find out more about any of the asanas, mediation or breathing techniques then please get in touch. And if you are local to Ascot then please know you are welcome to any of my classes (all levels welcome!), you can find out more about my schedule here. Or even enquire about private sessions if you're not sure a group class is for you. 

Love & light, 

Lucy x

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Dear World, what the f*ck is happening?

Dear World,

What the f*ck is happening? Sorry to begin this letter in such a blunt and rude way, but I just don’t understand how we have arrived at the point we have.

Terror attacks are almost a daily occurrence. Syrian refugees are destitute, some even dying. Innocent people are being ruthlessly murdered ALL over the world. Hate is spreading like wild fire in America. The European Union is breaking up. People are killed in favelas on a daily basis, usually as a result of drug trafficking. Nigerian girls have been kidnapped and many haven’t been seen since. Millions of children live on the streets in many different countries. Young black males and policemen are being killed in America. The gay community have been targeted, some murdered, whilst out enjoying their lives as all are entitled to do. And that is only to mention a tiny fraction of the HUMAN inflicted terror and pain that is being suffered by millions. There are so many more cases…more than I can even bear to imagine…World, how has it come to this?

World, those of us who have (so far) come out unscathed “can’t imagine” what it would be like to be caught up in such a scenario. We say “how awful” and then separate ourselves from it by banking it in the “news” section of our brain…of course this is a defence mechanism - to take in and to properly feel the depths of grief in each situation would most likely destroy us.

There is so much darkness. So much hatred. World: we so often feel helpless.

Because of you World, whether we like it or not we are intricately and inextricably linked with one another and with everything around us. Any decent human responds to these events with a feeling of sadness and empathy to varying degrees. I myself know I feel these things all too deeply. Right to my core. I have more of an understanding of what Ram Dass said than I really wish to at this current time: “We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another”.

The beauty of you, World, is that you are full of unique beings, all with freewill to live how they choose – but not all have the freedom to do so. Terror and hate are prevalent even in the most “developed” societies. All beings should be entitled to religious freedom, equal rights, and basic human rights of safety, shelter, food, water, education and opportunity. So why is this not the case?

World, how can we cure ourselves of the disease of hatred? I personally believe the only way is through TOLERANCE, RESPECT, and LOVE. These three things will breed peace, harmony and a better world for all.

I am so lucky to know so many beautiful people who bring such light and love into this world. Among them are atheists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, yogis, people of all races and people of all sexual orientations. They have suffered, they have been through hardships, they have been discriminated against. And yet all these people have continued to bring TOLERANCE, RESPECT, and LOVE into the world on a daily basis. World, we need people like this to continue what they are doing, and to amplify it as loudly as they possibly can. It is through these people that you will heal, World.

If you are reading this and you are one of those people – someone filled with love, but feeling bruised and helpless after recent events – do not give up! You are the light in the darkness. The World needs YOU to shine that light brighter than you ever have before.

And World, I’m not calling on these people to travel to refugee camps, to go in search of kidnapped girls in Africa, or to give up everything to help children on the streets (yes, some AMAZING people will and are doing this, but it’s not for everyone), but what I am calling on every decent person to do is to spread TOLERANCE, RESPECT and LOVE wherever you go. To start small, to show love on a daily basis whenever possible – even a smile at a stranger is a good place to begin – and to continue loving the sh*t out of everyone you meet wherever you go. You may not feel as though you’re doing much, but a tiny drop in the ocean can make big ripples. Be the helping hand to someone who is being marginalised. If you see someone being racist or sexist, SAY something (calmly and without putting yourself in danger – but try not to just sit back).

World, I know something more than this must be done. But I feel this is a good place to start. And I don’t have any further solutions at this moment in time. Things cannot stay as they are. So many of us cannot bear it any longer. Show us a way to come together. Let people with good ideas speak up and help to UNITE us. Let people who are spreading hate have their hearts changed through love.

World, we are heartbroken. Let’s help to heal each other.

Love & light,

Lucy x


P.S. I am aware this post may not seem directly related to health & wellbeing, but my soul is aching and my heart is broken. And it’s not just about us as individuals being healthy and well, but it’s about the world as a whole being healthy and well – in every sense of the word. My work as a yoga teacher is not just to teach people movements, it is to help show them the light that is within them, and to encourage them to shine brightly in this world. And this is very much what I hope this post will do. We all have so much good within us, but sometimes it becomes hidden, distorted and diseased. As a yogi I cannot sit back and watch the world be consumed by hatred. Love will always win, and I am on Love’s side, so must fight a Love-filled fight.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Natural Skincare: Brown Sugar & Almond Body Scrub

Most of us are already aware that sugar is a big no-no. Bad for our teeth. Bad for breakouts. Bad for our intestines. We are also becoming increasingly aware that what we put on our bodies is almost as (if not equally as) important as what we put into them. You would never drink a whole load of manmade chemicals...(actually, perhaps some of us do...I daren't look at the back of a Diet Coke can!!)...so why do we plaster them on our skin on a regular basis? Our moisturiser, deodorant, make up, suncream etc are all filled with nasties. Your skin is an organ, in fact it's the biggest one we have, and whatever we put on it is absorbed into our bodies. More and more people are turning to natural alternatives...and our old nemesis sugar is often included when it comes to natural skincare. It may be bad for our insides, but for our outsides it's the perfect natural ingredient!

About 18-months ago I became increasingly aware that I needed to begin the transition of switching to more natural skincare. I've not made as many changes yet as I would have liked to (lack of research and being stuck in old habits have held me back somewhat - really I just need to be more proactive!), but one product that I have successfully "ditched and switched" is my body scrub. It's a good one to start with as it's ridiculously easy to make and the ingredients are all affordable and easy to buy online. So without further ado, I introduce you to *drum roll please* the glorious brown sugar and almond body scrub!


Some mini pots of brown sugar & almond body scrub I made for the Day of Happiness yoga retreat in July with the wonderful My Happy Body

Four very simple ingredients:

Brown sugar - 1 cup (as fine or as chunky as you like on your skin)
Almond oil - 1/2 cup 
Vitamin E oil - 1/2 tsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

I originally found this recipe on the Wellness Mama blog

The amounts of ingredients can of course vary depending on how much you'd like to make. In the above photo I made way more than this (I think I used 1.5kg of sugar for 12 pots!), and just judged the oils by sight and texture. This is not like a recipe in the kitchen, it doesn't have to be exact. 

The body scrub leaves you feeling AMAZING - exfoliated and oiled up all in one go; and knowing that it's all natural and nourishing for your skin makes it even more wonderful. The other bonus is that it's so much cheaper than the posh ones in the shops! (I used to indulge in the Sanctuary ones which cost over a tenner, but this one probably costs me a pound or two per pot!). 

If anyone has any further advice on natural skincare I would love to hear it! I've dedicated myself to gradually phasing out unnatural products that may contain hidden nasties. I already use a couple of Lush products and have recently tried Beauty by Earth suncream, but I'd love to hear your ideas too (particularly if you can make them at home!). 

Love & light beauties,

L x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The importance of R & R

When was the last time you gave yourself time for some real Rest & Relaxation? For many of us I think the answer will be "I'm not sure...". Somehow we've created a society where we're always busy, always doing, never just allowing ourselves to just "be". We feel we must always be seen to be filling our days - working full time, exercising before or after work (which overall is a positive thing, but sometimes we can take it too far), always filling our weekends with socialising, making sure our homes are unrealistically clean and tidy (again, not a bad thing, no one wants to live like a slob, but sometimes we should cut ourselves slack), and trying to keep up with the Joneses. In fact if we're not "doing" many of us feel guilty. The internal voice begins to say "I really should be doing something right now...".

Those of us who have found yoga, meditation and mindfulness often do find it a little easier to let ourselves just "be" from time-to-time. We make time in our week to practice "being", but more often than not it can be too easy even in these times of "being" to let our little internal voice start creeping in..."when I get home I must put the washing on...WHY did I say that to the boss today?!...what do I need to organise for tomorrow?..."

For so many of us our minds are always in the past or the future, often oscillating between the two, and we drag our bodies from A to B to C. We rarely, properly, RELAX and REST both body and mind. But what if we did? What if we took time for some real R & R? AND didn't feel guilty. In fact we loved every moment. Well, this was my challenge on my recent holiday to Crete with my boyfriend. In the weeks and months leading up to this holiday I had been working my ass off (big time!). I love my job, and I'm always teaching others to take time for themselves, but it's something that I rarely get a chance to do myself. It was time to practice what I preach. (And when you have your own business this is even harder!). But I knew I had pushed myself almost too far, it really was time to rest and relax...


The holiday could not have come at a more perfect time. In the first three weeks of June I taught as many (if not more) classes than I usually would in a whole month. I was happy, but exhausted both in body and mind. The journey to our holiday wasn't the most restful (thank you traffic and the stress / sadness of the referendum result...), but as soon as we got to our hotel at around midnight local time, our heads hit the pillow, no alarm was set, and I immediately settled in for a week of R & R....

It was pure bliss to wake up the next day in our own time, knowing that we had zero responsibility. We had no plans other than to enjoy each other's company, to lounge on the beach / by the pool, and to eat and drink whatever we pleased. Now I'm not going to launch into a long description of our week, this isn't a post about going on holiday, but what we did do was completely relax and rest. I did take my yoga gear and running shoes with good intention, but the most I did all week was 15 mins in the mornings of yoga in my pants, doggie paddling in the pool, and strolling alongside the ocean. We took one boat trip and ventured out of the hotel one evening to eat at a divine restaurant (if you go to Crete I HIGHLY recommend Votsalo in Gouves - best restaurant EVER!), but aside from that we did sweet F all and had the most wonderful week. I have never felt more relaxed, more rested and more happy (we laughed a lot!!) in my whole life.


And aside from picking up a cold on the plane home, I can tell that this week of R & R has been a much need boost for both my body and mind. It's like magic. I now feel more positive, more energetic, more full of love, and I'm bringing those vibes into my teaching and daily life.

But our holiday only comes around once or twice a year (if we're lucky, some years we must go without). And yet we know we need more of it. How else can we build R & R into our daily lives? Well lucky for you I've had a little think and here are some of my ideas...

SCHEDULE R & R

Actually plan it into your day / week / month / year. Maybe even write it into your calendar. And never, never skip it because you end up being too busy. If you really have to miss it at the time you had planned, make sure you move it to the not-to-distant future. It is essential for your health and wellbeing.

PLAN IT

So you've set time aside...but what will you do in that time? Some of us find it impossible to just sit and meditate, and that's okay, but what else can you try? I suggest the TV should be avoided as a form of R & R...this might be controversial but mindlessly sitting in front of a screen is not resting that will rejuvenate you (the same goes for our phones). Reading is a good option (but not anything to do with your studies if you're a student! This is time to rest!). Mandala colouring books have recently become popular. Taking a gentle walk. Spending quality time with a loved one over a cup of tea and really checking in with one another and listening to one another. It doesn't have to be complicated, in fact it's imperative that it's not, but just find a simple relaxing scenario and commit yourself to it for your scheduled time.

TREAT YOURSELF

Of course we'd all love to treat ourselves on a regular basis, and for some of us we can, but if you're a bit strapped for cash (as I am!) then it can feel impossible to justify spending money on relaxing... If this is the case then you must acknowledge to yourself that this time is integral to your wellbeing and you deserve to be WELL. And things don't have to cost a bomb. Some things are even free - e.g. going for a walk in the forest. One obvious way is to treat yourself to a spa day, and of course these can be super expensive, but they don't always have to be if you do some research... for example a Time Out Monday - Friday spa experience at Nirvana in Wokingham is only £35 for 3 hours of pure indulgence!

A less obvious option may be heading to a sound therapy session such as a Crystal Singing Bowl or Gong Bath experience. My good friend and fellow yoga teacher Chloe Watts does regular Gong Baths in the Berkshire area, you can check out her upcoming events here. They aren't pricey and are a really incredible way to spend an hour - on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, listening to beautiful and indulgent sounds. Pure bliss!

So these steps are all very, very simple, but sometimes all we need is someone to remind us that we are allowed to rest and to almost give us permission. So just in case you need it, permission from me: YOU are special. YOU are must look after yourself. YOU are allowed to rest and relax. YOU are worth it (sorry L'Oreal!).

Or course I fully understand that all of this gets much more difficult once children are thrown into the mix, but all it takes is a little more planning and some communication with your partner. Acknowledge that you both need time to rest and work out a tag-in tag-out situation where you both get your time. And if you can make time to also rest together - grandparents / Aunties / Uncles / older siblings and cousins are there for a reason!

Do you have any further tips on how to make sure you get your R & R? Or any other ideas for R & R? I'd love to hear them!

Love & light beauties!

Lucy x

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Yoga in the clouds

Yoga at nearly 800ft might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but for me it was the perfect way to start my 26th year! My very clever (and lovely) boyfriend arranged it as our anniversary gift (extra "awww" points as it was at the top of the Shard that he first asked me out), but seeing as it was a Saturday morning and I usually teach at least two classes myself every Saturday, the only weekend I felt justified to take off was my birthday. (Don't feel sorry for me, I really couldn't love my job more!). So on Saturday 11th June at 8.15am we ascended to level 68 of the Shard...



These kind of yoga events take place at the Shard (and in other significant London locations) on select Saturdays throughout the year. We booked ours via Virgin Experiences but the event itself is run by Yogasphere. We were therefore a little surprised when we showed up that the event didn't seem overly organised...no one quite knew where to queue or even if we were standing in the correct location (we assumed that the array of 50 different coloured lycras indicated we were in the right spot though!). Even when an event organiser did show up it was still rather muddled...we definitely accidentally queue jumped as she turned to our side of the queue first and let us all in, even though the other side had been waiting longer...(it was a complete accident though, I promise!). 

The staff from the Shard, however, were wonderful - they smiled us all the way up to the top and we found the right room with ease. We were lucky to be some of the first ones in,  and so we got top pick of which view we wanted! Whilst the other students filtered in we were lucky enough to have some time to take a few photos of the stunning view. Despite being up there once before it was a huge novelty and I just couldn't get over the excitement that we were about to do a yoga class up the Shard! Lucky duckys! (I'm not sure Chris was so excited!). 



The yoga soon began and I tried my hardest to sit with my eyes closed, knowing the beautiful view was all around me. The teacher opened the class in a rather surprising way...she didn't introduce her name or the class, but opened with a line about getting our collective energy going. I am all for working as one and spreading the love, but this was a little bit of a surprise! I was expecting a class that was accessible to people who were fairly new to yoga - to me this kind of yoga experience is something that people who aren't overly into yoga would do for the novelty factor, or because their girlfriend wanted to do it (sorry Chris!). But this was serious yoga time...

It was a great class, quite difficult, and not overly beginner friendly, but I did really enjoy it (I also got a great adjustment which is always wonderful). The teacher was obviously very experienced and a wonderful yogi, but I did feel a little bad for those who were struggling around me. (I know, I am such a terrible yogini - definitely should have been focusing on my own practice and not what those around me were doing, but it's so so hard to switch off from yoga teacher mode especially when you see people shaking in a dodgy downward facing dog - I just want to help them!). 

After the class there were further opportunities to take a few photos and to grab a goodie bag to take home. All-in-all it was a really wonderful experience and it really was the most amazing way to start my 26th year. But I would say if you're planning to try it just go with a really open mind, and don't worry if you can't keep up with the whole class. Go with a smile and simply enjoy it! (If it all gets too much you can always pretend you're popping to the loo and just go up a floor to enjoy the view!). 

Has anyone else tried yoga up the Shard? Or in a similar situation? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Love & light,

Lucy x