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

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What happened when I said "yes" to LIVING (and not just to having a life)

Life is a funny thing. If you're reading this article then you have life. But it's not so certain that you are truly Living that life (at least not with a capital L!). It can be so easy to simply exist; to bob through life being swept along by a current that has been created by convention and expectation according to others. You're born, you're educated, you work a 9-to-5 or another conventional job, you get married, you have kids, you retire, you die. I'm not saying that these conventions are all bad (and some cannot be escaped, particularly the death part!), but it can be SO easy to follow this set-out life without even asking our true selves what we really want. But what if, WHAT IF, you did honestly ask yourself what you wanted from life? What would you say? What would you do?

I promise that this isn't about to become preachy, each and every person must live their life how they choose to, but this is a post for those of you out there who may have been thinking about actually Living life how you want to but haven't yet had that moment of "F*ck it. Let's do it". So to give you the extra little nudge I thought I'd share my experience with you...

Without going into too much detail for the sake of respect and what's fair, this time two years ago I was in a very different place to where I am now. For years I had allowed myself to stay in a situation that was making me deeply unhappy. I felt stuck, I wasn't seeing friends very often, I was unsure as to which career path to go down, I hated life, and most of all I was very hard on myself.

But almost two years ago exactly I went on a yoga retreat with my Mum. For at least four years previous to this yoga had already begun to weave it's way into my being - bit by bit I was peeling back the layers and coming closer to connecting with my true self - but on this yoga retreat I gained an even deeper understanding of the harsh reality that I was simply not Living life. I was alive in body but that was about it. My heart, mind and soul were simply existing. I had shut them down over years of disappointment, bitterness and self-hatred. Realising this was the first step to truly Living.


Yoga helped me to realise that I wasn't truly Living life...

A very abridged version of what followed is that I left my relationship, I moved back home with my family, I tried changing my job (to another conventional 9-to-5 city job), I left that job after 6-months, I went to India to do my yoga teacher training, I fell in love with the most incredible man, I worked on friendships, for the last 16-months I've been working on my very own business teaching yoga, and everything is finally in a place where I feel this whole thing might actually work out in reality as well as in my dreams! But it hasn't been easy. I've really had to embrace Living life in a way that is true to me and everything that comes with that - the ups and downs, the emotions, the challenges, the uncertainty, the euphoria...it's already been quite a ride.

Now there isn't a magic cure or formula for Living life, but I think there are a few categories that must be considered: relationships, work, attitude, health, and location.

RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships is a biggie. I truly believe that the quality of your relationships can heavily impact the quality of your life. No man is an island (as the saying goes); as human beings we crave connection and intimacy, and the people we surround ourselves with can really affect our lives. The most important relationships we have are with ourselves, with our family, with our other half (if this is how we choose to live - monogamy is not for everyone), and with our friends. Surround yourself with people who make you happy, who support you, and who genuinely want the best for you. If you treat others well then this is how you should be treated. If you have a toxic friend or family member then either cut them loose or try to learn ways of disconnecting your quality of life from the way they behave.


Connect with people who elevate you


WORK

As I touched on earlier many of us get stuck in jobs that don't set us on fire. We tolerate them, and often do them because it's what is expected of us. I got straight As at school and a first class degree at Uni, it was expected that I'd do something related to my English skills. But this didn't make me happy. Teaching yoga made me happy, and the moment I began to teach I felt like my true self. I had found my satya (my truth). Don't just be a doctor because it's what your Mum wants. Don't just stay in an admin job because no one else believes you can be an interior designer. Don't just be a lawyer if you want to be an entrepreneur. Follow your heart and the rest will come. Starting a yoga teaching business from scratch at the age of 24 was not easy - I had to go back to working in the pub to make ends meet, I am still living in my parental home, I am 100% responsible for creating my own workload - BUT I feel as though I am really Living my life exactly as I want to. The money will come. Happiness will continue.

ATTITUDE

Living life to the full requires the right attitude. If you believe that you're stuck (like I once did) and you believe that nothing can be done to change your circumstances, then you will never live life like you want to. But if you take on the attitude that something can always be done, and that you CAN change your life, then you will. It sounds simple but this mental shift can be really tough, and unfortunately for me only came with time, but keep chipping away at things that make you feel alive and one day a path will become clear. (And if it doesn't take the leap of faith anyway - the universe has got your back!). Truly Living requires a lot of saying "yes" even when the outcome is unclear (but also knowing when to say "no" to protect your energy).

HEALTH

To me looking after my health is such an important part of truly Living life. If you have health you have life, and if you have life you can be alive. Eating healthy food and doing regular physical activity gives you energy (and most people even grow to love it!). I feel most alive when I'm running in the park, practicing yoga in the sun, being swallowed by a wave when surfing, walking in the forest with my boyfriend, whizzing down a ski slope...you get the picture! For me I love the combination of exercise and the outdoors. These examples aren't for everyone, but find what makes you happy and helps keep you healthy and make sure that you include it in your life as often as you can.

LOCATION

Some people are fascinated by cities, others need greenery, others need a daily boost of vitamin sea (sorry, terrible pun!), others need to see their family regularly, others prefer having no fixed abode. We are all different in where makes us feel most connected to life, but what's amazing is that your location never has to be permanent. It may feel that way, but if you truly want something then where there is a will there's a way. If you're a free spirit run with the wind, if you're a home-bird make your nest. Place yourself where you most feel happy. (I fully understand that this point is easier said than done, but hopefully it's food for thought...).

So I really hope I haven't offended with this article - I fully understand that for many people a conventional life may be truly what they want - but for those of us who feel there is another way, know that you CAN do it and the life you want can be achieved. It won't be easy. There will be blood, sweat, tears and more sweat - but boy will you feel alive along the way!

I know there are so many things I've missed out, so if you have any further comments or suggestions please do write them in the comments section below - I really love hearing your tips and feedback.

I'd like to finish this post with one of my favourite quotes:

"Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive" ~ Howard Thurman

Love & light, Lucy x

Thursday, 28 April 2016

How I improved my acne prone skin (finally!)

This month's post is of a slightly different nature. I am a firm believer in the fact that we are all beautiful exactly as we are; however from my own personal experience I know this can often feel impossible to see from an insider's perspective when we have "imperfections" that make us unhappy and unconfident. For me my top two "imperfections" have always been my weight and my skin. Let's leave the weight alone for today...that's another issue for another day...however, let's get down and dirty to talk bare naked skin...

It all started, as it does for many of us, in my very early teens. As soon as I hit 13 I'm sure my face blew up over night! And I have suffered with acne prone skin from thence on! Looking back I know it could have been worse - I was never quite bad enough to be prescribed roaccutane (although this was probably avoided mainly because of my recurring depression and anxiety, but again, another topic for another day!), but it was bad enough that it hugely dented my confidence growing up, and sometimes still does to this day. 

At any one time I would have anywhere between 10-4 big red blemishes on my face, and this is how it was until I was around 21. It did calm down after that, with an average of 6-1 big blemishes at any one time, however even up until last summer (when I turned 25) I was still having confidence-crippling issues thanks to my pesky spot prone skin. Thanks to clever make up and Instagram filters I managed to damage-control what others saw, however it was an issue that I was becoming increasinginly depressed about and frustrated with. Even though my condition had improved slightly with age, I was having constant thoughts of "But I'm in my mid-twenties, I'm no longer a teenager, I'm not supposed to have spots!" 

Over the years I have tried many, many things. Constantly seeking advice from doctors, taking the pill (one prescribed specifically to help with skin problems), investing in serious skin-care products, trying less invasive pills such as sulphur (a doctor once told me it would help, but it wasn't much use to me), spending money I didn't have on facials etc. But somehow, in the last year I seem to have stumbled across a formula that works for me. My skin still isn't (and probably never will be) perfect, however even if just some of this advice helps anyone else with skin issues then I will be super happy. 


Now - with zero make up on (#nofilter !!!)


Aged 18 (not a very clear photo, but you can see some spots along my jaw-line and chin. I didn't much like photos then, so couldn't find many others to show you!)

1. Milk Thistle

For about a year I have been taking one milk thistle capsule every morning and I am convinced this has had a huge part to play in helping my skin to clear up. I am so lucky to have stumbled across an article via Pinterest that suggested milk thistle could help (I just wish I could remember where that article was!). It explained how more often than not, adult acne is a result of an imbalance of hormones. Our liver is responsible for keeping our hormones in check, and milk thistle is the best supplement for supporting the functioning of the liver. It isn't too expensive, I get mine from Holland & Barrett, and I can honestly say it has done wonders for my skin. 

2. La Roche Posay skincare

Talking to friends about your issues can really help to find solutions! (Who wouldda thunk it?!). And after complaining to a friend about how I was spending so much money on my Clinique skincare (supposedly a range for spot prone skin, but it never helped mine), she suggested I try La Roche Posay as it had really improved her skin and was that little bit cheaper. I have always been religious about my skin care routine, and as my Clinique products just didn't seem to be helping, I thought "why not, it's worth a shot!"...I think I've been using these three products twice a day for around 9-months now and I'm certain they've really helped to improve my skin. I would like to find some natural products to try too though, so if you have any suggestions please do share! 

3. Diet tweaks

For years I've been making tiny tweaks to my diet as I've had various digestive issues. But the changes I've made in the last year have been a) most successful in improving my digestion and b) I'm almost certain they've helped my skin. The main one has been giving up meat (I'm sorry meat lovers, I love bacon as much as the next girl, but my tummy is so much happier without it!). Of course when your digestive system is working efficiently it's getting rid of toxins as it should, which helps to keep skin clear. But another reason why I believe giving up meat has helped is that I no longer unwittingly eat the hormones that are unfortunately pumped into so much of the meat we consume in the Western world. I would never tell anyone what to eat, but always try to be informed about where your food comes from and what exactly is in it. What we put into our bodies can clearly be seen on the outside.

4. Matcha Green Tea powder

Last June I started drinking matcha green tea powder every morning to replace my morning coffee. (I loved it so much that I dedicated a whole blog post to it back in July!). And not only has it become my main source of caffeine, but I think it's also helped me to lose a little bit of weight and helped my skin to be clearer. Matcha has a very high level of antioxidants which are proven to improve the appearance of skin, making it look more radiant and clearer. I would highly recommend matcha as a staple supplement to a healthy diet for feeling and looking healthier. 

5. Bare minerals

For years I spent a tonne of money on high end make up designed to help spot prone skin. But I'm almost certain it made my skin worse. About a year ago I'd been reading about how what we put on our skin is as important as what we put into our bodies. I'd heard of Bare Minerals before and loved how all of their products are made with natural ingredients. I decided to give it a go, and haven't looked back since! My top 3 products are the concealer, the tinted primer and the finishing powder - they are all totally gorgeous and I wouldn't put anything else on my skin now. 

6. Sleep! 

I'm not sure if it's just because I'm getting older, but I've got really good at sleeping! I seriously enjoy going to bed on time and getting my full 8 hours almost every night! This one is most certainly a pleasure and not a chore (and a no-brainer! Sleep is scientifically proven to help improve skin - your cells rejuvenate in your sleep and after a good night's sleep you wake up with noticeably fresher, glowing skin). 

So if you're also someone who struggles with spot prone skin I'd highly recommend trying at least one or more of these ideas. Of course everyone is different, and different things will help different people, but as someone who suffered for so many years with bad skin I know that it's always worth trying new things. You never know what might work for you.

It's so important that you feel confident and beautiful, and you are worth investing in both inside and out, so never be afraid to do things to make you feel gorgeous!

My skin is still not perfect, and it probably never will be, but I am feeling so much better in my bare naked skin than I ever have. One thing I still need to get better at is drinking more water...I don't know why I find it so hard!

What are your top skin secrets? I'd really love to hear. 

Love Lucy x

P.S. I'm not medically, nutritionally or dermatologically trained, and this advice is simply from my own personal struggles, testing and experiences. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Street Child Games 2016: the volunteer experience

To anyone who is friends with me or who follows me on any kind of social media, it will come as no surprise that I have spent the last few weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will also come as no surprise that my purpose for the trip was to volunteer at the inaugural Street Child Games with Street Child United (which so many of you kindly sponsored me for - thank you so much!). Judging by my Instagram feed it was a jolly ol' trip and I had a great time. However in reality - as is so often the case with social media - there is a much deeper tale to tell. Yes, I had a really great time - it was hard not to working with such a wonderful bunch of young people, SCU staff members, and my amazing fellow volunteers. But it was also rather hard work and a very eye-opening experience.

Before I launch into sharing my experience, you may be wondering: "but why is a wellbeing blog talking about volunteering?". To which I would answer that volunteering your time and love to others is not only a very worthwhile use of our skills, resources and time, but it is also good for you (not that we should need this excuse!). And don't just take my word for it, according ICM research in 2004 nearly half of all volunteers (47%) they asked said volunteering improved their physical health and fitness. The research also show that volunteers felt less depressed (48%) and less stressed (63%) by taking part in their chosen volunteer role. Find out more here.

In terms of yoga, volunteering fits nicely into the karma yoga ideology: yoga of selfless service. And this definition leads me nicely on to introducing my fellow SCU volunteers. Each of them relentlessly, passionately, and selflessly carried out their volunteer duties throughout the whole ten day period. These are not people who volunteered to get something back - they quite clearly volunteered out of love and a sincere hope that we were doing everything we could to ensure that the former street children were the stars of show. We carried tonnes of water to and from various locations, we played volleyball in the pouring rain, we were the enthusiastic welcome committee, we cheered until our throats were coarse, we did our best to coach beach football, we got sunburn, we sweated (a lot!), we put up banners, we created flags, we served food, we clapped our hardest, we sung Shosholoza as loud as we could, we were high-five machines, we laid out hurdles, we timed races, we marched to samba rhythms, and we smiled the entire time. We had an amazing time, but my goodness was it tiring!


Some of my amazing fellow volunteers at Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro

But did the tiredness matter? Of course not. We were there to support the amazing project leaders and SCU staff to create a platform for the voices of street child ambassadors to be heard. We were joined by 31 former street-connected children from 9 different countries. This event was theirs, and quite rightly so. For too long street-connected children have been routinely ignored and denied their basic rights. The amazing young people who joined us spoke eloquently and passionately about their rights, took part in some wonderful arts activities, and strongly competed in the inaugural Street Child Games at the stunning Urca athletics track (where we even got to see Fluminense FC train one day!). Most importantly they created the Rio Resolution  - a document in which the young people discuss the issues they face and the rights they demand, with particular attention to legal identity, protection from violence and access to fair education. On Friday 18th March, the young people presented this document to city officials, national governments and the United Nations. Please find out more about the Rio Resolution here


The Street Child Games at Urca. Image by Kylie Milne

Another huge part of this experience was staying in the community of Babilônia favela in the Leme part of the city. From the outset of the event it was clear that the community supported the SCG being based in their community - SCU t-shirts could be seen on taxi drivers, restaurant waiters, children, shop keepers and hostel workers - they wore our logo with pride and very quickly became part of the SCU family. We were split between 3 hostels - the young people and project leaders in the one at the entrance of the favela, and the volunteers in two nearer the top. We were made to feel incredibly at home. 

Babilônia is one of the safest favelas in Rio - along with Vidigal - very little trouble occurs there. The police and the community seem to coexist with little trouble. However whilst we were there we were faced with the unnerving uncertainty of the reality of living in Rio. For 3 consecutive days there were spurts of gunfire near the top two hostels. This is unheard of for Babilônia and it was clear that the community was shaken. No volunteers or anyone related to SCU were hurt, but there were sad reports of a few local deaths. According to one of our local sources, there are two well-established drug gangs in the city of Rio (each with their set territory), but recently a third has started to rear up and this is causing trouble in some of the most peaceful parts of town. Sadly it seems that Babilônia was their next effort. Despite everyone we knew of being safe and well, this was still a hugely eye-opening experience. I've never heard uncontrolled gunfire in real life. It was rather scary, but equally enabled us to see a glimpse of what it could be like living in some of the more dangerous favelas in Rio, helping us to understand just a tiny bit more as to what some of the young people may experience. 

Another eye-opening moment for me came at the famous Lapa arches. They are a Rio landmark, and are often visited by tourists. However it's also a prime spot for being smacked in the face with the reality of Rio's drug and homeless problems. Living under the arches are some of Rio's crack addicts. It is a heart-wrenching sight to see. We were there to support a local children's shelter, and they provided an amazing display of capoeira and samba for the SCG young people to experience and to join in with. Part way through the event a female crack addict joined the dancing. SCU is all about arms-wide-open, but it was such a sad thing to see. Her dress had ridden up and her backside was completely on show; she quite obviously wanted to dance with us, but her rhythms and movements were so disconnected and distant from the beat of the drums that she stood out for all the wrong reasons. Crack is a terrifying and nasty drug. 

To lighten the mood a little before I sign off, another of my duties at the SCG was to teach yoga to the volunteers who wanted to take part at the start of each day. It meant getting up rather early (sessions were 6-7am!), but it was the perfect way to start the day. As you may have noticed, there was a lot to take in each and every day, and yoga was the perfect way to start the day to ensure we had the focus and energy to do our best. And the sunrise was just incredible! Definitely worth the early starts!


Sunrise yoga overlooking Babilônia favela

I apologise for my whistle-stop account of the last few weeks, but there is so much to say and I don't want to bore you with an essay. If you are interested in learning more please do comment below or email me at lucyvicjackson@gmail.com. If you would like to support me further I still have a little bit of fundraising to achieve and I would be grateful for a donation of any size! This is my JustGiving page

The most important messages I would like to share with you are as follows: You are Somebody. You are important. Everybody is Somebody. Your words and actions are important. You deserve love and respect, and you should give love and respect. We are not in this world just to live separately from others, we are here to connect and to help one another grow. Show kindness and compassion. I'm not telling you to go and live in a favela, but what I would like to urge is that you show love each and every day in your own way, in your own community. Only then will the world be a better place. Love wins!

Love & light. Namaste y'all! Lucy x