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

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Baby, you should go and love yourself

2015 was the year I became a Belieber. I didn't think it would ever happen, but as soon as Love Yourself hit the radio I knew I just had to buy the album...and now I'm hooked! But as much as I love that song (and I really love it!), the line "Baby, you should go and love yourself" highlights a big problem for me. It implies that loving yourself isn't a good thing, and reiterates how it's ingrained in our psyches that to love oneself can sometimes be perceived as negative.

If you read my January post you'll notice that I'm all about encouraging self-love. It's something I've struggled with for a long, long time (and to be honest still do), and I know I'm not the only one. So let's explore this further: why do so many of us find it hard to love ourselves? Or if we do why is it such a bad thing to vocalise it? 


LOVE <3 image source

It seems to be that self-hatred has become more socially acceptable than self-love. When we hear someone say "oh I look so bloated today", "don't look at my bad skin", "my hair is a mess" etc, our initial response is one of compassion and we instantly say something to build them up and put aside their self-criticism. We show empathy and we see them in a positive way.

However when we hear someone complement themselves or speak positively about themselves (a rare occasion), we are taken aback and often respond with thoughts of "wow, you must love yourself" - and this is often not meant kindly. It's not our fault. It's how we've always been. Perhaps it's a bigger problem in British culture as we are somehow programmed from a young age to over-apologise and self-deprecate (we do say "sorry" a lot!). And because we don't internally approve of this in others, it is no doubt much harder to internally approve of ourselves too. 

But this attitude must change. To love yourself is not the same as having an inflated ego. Inflated egos are not attractive, whereas self-love is. There is a huge difference between the two. Self-love is about knowing you are worth your love, being kind to yourself, and appreciating all your wonderful goodness. An inflated ego believes it is the most important person in every situation and that it is the centre of everything. I'm not here to put down inflated egos - we're all on our own journeys, working through our own messes, and I have no right to pass judgements - but I think it's really necessary to point out that there is a BIG difference. Realise this and hopefully you can begin to shift your thinking: it is okay to love yourself.

In yoga-speak I'd like to introduce you to one of the yamas (ethical codes) of yoga: ahimsa, meaning non-violence. Of course this means non-violence to others, but ahimsa also means non-violence towards oneself. The reason for this? Everything is OM. Everything is One. If you are violent towards yourself, you are indirectly being violent towards others. So really, according to yogis, it is your ethical obligation to love yourself ;)

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough. You deserve your love as much as anyone else does. Once you learn to love yourself, you'll find it easier to love others too. Love cultivates more love! It's a pretty good cycle to be in! And it's a crucial part of being Beautifully Healthy, inside and out. 

Need some tips on how to actually learn and grow self-love? Check out my January post to learn more. 

I'd be really interested to get your thoughts on why we find self-love so hard and your tips for combatting this thought process. Please do comment to let me know!

Love & light. Namaste,

Lucy x

Monday, 4 January 2016

Forget New Year New You ~ 2016 is all about New Year Love You

I am sick and tired of the phrase "New Year New You". It implies that the old You isn't good enough and needs to somehow be replaced. Not only is this damn silly it's also downright impossible. You will never be "New". You are a complex being that has been formed by your experiences and thoughts, you are constantly evolving and developing, each and every part of your body, mind and soul is a beautiful myriad of your life so far, and no matter what you do this can never be made "New". And why would you want to be? Why would you want to erase everything your body, mind and soul has learned and achieved over the years? When you really stop and think about it I'm sure the answer is that no, you wouldn't want to.

And please believe me when I say you do not need to be made "New". You are exactly where you need to be at this exact moment in time and you're doing a wonderful job. Yes, it is more than likely that over the years you've picked up bad habits and have neglected good ones, but this is no reason to believe that you need a "New You". So let me present you with a new phrase that I believe everyone should be using: "New Year Love You".

I believe that one of the main reasons many of us get into bad habits - smoking, eating unhealthily, neglecting to exercise, drinking too much, not sleeping enough - is because we don't have enough self-love to truly believe that we deserve looking after. Please don't misunderstand me when I say this - no, I don't believe that just because you smoke you don't love yourself, or just because you get drunk every Friday night you don't think you're worth it - but what I do believe is that more often than not we develop these habits out of carelessness. We think to ourselves "oh, I only have one crazy night a week, it's a treat to myself after working so hard, it can't hurt". But times that by 52 days a year (plus a few added days for birthdays and the festive season) and you begin to realise that actually, maybe it can hurt. There will be people who drink / smoke / overeat because they don't care enough about themselves, these problems are common and these people definitely need self-love and are most likely aware of that; but those of us who develop bad habits without even realising must also wake up and notice that we must show ourselves more love.

So what does loving yourself look like? In my opinion it is feeding the body nourishing and wholesome foods, drinking plenty of water, sticking to a regular exercise routine, getting enough sleep, allowing yourself time to rest, making time to play, doing your best in your school/work life, not being too hard on yourself, knowing that sometimes it is okay to treat yourself, and laughing on a regular basis. Yes, this list can seem a little long, so here are 8 simple steps I've put together to help you achieve this.



1. Make you own personal mantra and repeat it to yourself on a regular basis. This can be anything that is personal to you and that will help to remind you to cultivate self-love. For example: "I am perfectly imperfect. I'm doing the best I can. I deserve my love as much as anyone else". Put a few simple words together, write them down wherever you like (your phone, your fridge, your bathroom mirror), repeat them to yourself often, and you will begin to believe them.

2. Build in quiet time. Whether it's a quiet cup of tea at the start of your day, listening to your Headspace app on the tube, or making time for meditation, try to schedule in at least 5-minutes of quiet time every day. This time is for you and you alone. By spending time with yourself you learn what you need to look after yourself.

3. Set your exercise routine and stick to it. Now is the perfect time to set yourself an exercise routine. Check out your local gym, check out local yoga / Pilates / dance / boxing teachers, have a look at sports teams you may want to join, Google boot camps in your area - basically have a look at anything that might interest you, try a few different things out, and then commit to settling on a routine by the end of January. Once you have it set that Tuesday morning is yoga, Thursday evening is bootcamp, Saturday morning is Zumba, and Sunday you have a nice long walk, then you'll find it much easier to stick to your routine. Maybe even find a buddy for each activity to help keep each other motivated. Whatever you choose just make sure it's something you enjoy so that even when you least feel like going you'll still show up because you know you'll have a great time once you're there.

4. Be organised with your meals and snacks. Take a little time each weekend to plan your meals for the following week. Commit to eating a healthy, wholesome and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then make sure you that you have all the ingredients you need. There are so many pieces of advice I could give on this section, however I'll have to save it for a couple more blog posts else this will become an essay, but when I'm looking for healthy meal inspiration I find people like Madeleine Shaw, Mel Wells and Deliciously Ella particularly helpful. They take the attitude that diet is NOT dieting, diet is all about ensuring that your body is getting all of the nutrition it needs to function properly, and this means eating well, healthily and happily.

5. Schedule in water breaks. If you're like me then you'll often forget to drink water (I don't know why but I just find it so hard to remember!), and if this is the case be sure you schedule in regular water breaks (even put alerts on your phone if it helps!). Half an hour before each meal it is advisable to have a good glug of water, and the benefit of this is that you'll also eat less as we often over-eat when we're dehydrated.

6. Set yourself a bedtime in the week and allow yourself at least one lie-in at the weekend. I don't really need to explain this one as I'm sure you've realised by now how important sleep is. When you don't get enough sleep you feel rubbish. Both our bodies and minds rejuvenate and recover as we sleep, so why deny yourself of this? Sleep is amazing! Find your optimum number of hours and give yourself this gift each and every night.

7. Work hard play hard. When we work hard we achieve results, and when we achieve results we feel good about ourselves and realise our worth. But we also must give ourselves time to play. I know lots of people work so hard that they don't allow themselves enough time off, and this is also a sign that we need to show ourselves a little more love. A night in with friends, a trip to see our favourite movie, a weekend break in the countryside, going to see an exhibition, doing something really silly like bubble football or paintballing, taking a well-earned holiday in the sun - whatever it is, make sure you take time to do it and enjoy it. Life is short, you never know what's around the corner, so do the things that make you happy with the people who make you smile. You deserve it.

8. Know when to treat yourself. Yes it's good to stick to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise routine, but if you really fancy a few squares of chocolate on a Friday evening then eat it, if you enjoy a nice glass of red with your Sunday roast then drink it, if you've been doing too much cardio and your body needs a restorative yoga session then do that instead. It's no new notion that life is about balance, so be healthy but also know that this means treating yourself from time-to-time. Life isn't about rules, it's about enjoying the process of looking after ourselves so that we can make the most of our time here.

So out with the "New" and in with the "Love". You are exactly where you need to be right now, all you need is a little extra love. So forget being "New" and just focus on loving "You".

And of course, as a yoga teacher I believe that yoga can play a huge part in self-love, so if you live in the Berkshire area and are interested in finding out more about my classes then please don't hesitate to contact me. I can be reached on lucyvicjackson@gmail.com or you can check out my website.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to a love-filled 2016!

Namaste, love Lucy x

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Delicious Autumnal sweet potato & carrot soup

The days are noticeably shorter, the weather is positively Autumnal, and the trees are shedding their gorgeous golden leaves. Autumn is definitely in full swing. And I'm sure you're feeling similar to me: lethargic, a little low on energy, and having to use every tactic possible to keep those Autumn bugs at bay. (They nearly got me earlier this week but I think I've managed to fight them off with good food, lots of ginger and lemon tea, and early nights!).

But fear not! Eating well and listening to your body can do wonders to help you stay fit and healthy during the Autumn and Winter months. One of my greatest weapons in helping me do this is soup! And in particular this gorgeous sweet potato & carrot soup. I can safely say hands-down that this is my favourite soup of all time. It's absolutely delicious, nourishing, full of vitamins, filling, and soup-er easy to make (sorry...terrible pun!).

I first stumbled across it on Madeleine Shaw's website about two years ago, and since then it's been a failsafe recipe that I've come back to time-and-time again.

Ingredients to make 5-6 bowls:

3 sweet potatoes
3 carrots
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 chopped onion
500ml veggie stock
Chunk of raw ginger (I added this to the recipe for even more tummy-loving goodness!)
Flaked almonds & pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top


To see how Madeleine does it click here

My method is pretty much the same:

1. Prep by peeling & chopping your onion, garlic cloves, ginger, sweet potatoes & carrots (I always leave the skin on my carrots for extra goodness!)

2. Pop the chopped onions into a pan with coconut oil & a pinch of salt for 5 minutes

3. Add the sweet potatoes & carrots and sauté for for 3 minutes (keep stirring!)

4. Add the veggie stock & chopped ginger and allow the ingredients to simmer for 30 mins

5. Once the sweet potatoes & carrots are completely softened the pan can be removed from the heat, and whizz the ingredients into a purée using a hand blender.

6. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and pomegranate seeds for extra protein, texture and taste

Serve and enjoy! 

I really cannot recommend this recipe enough, so if you're feeling like Autumn is doing it's best to bring you down then definitely give it a go. 

Also to help you stay Beautifully Healthy this Winter remember to keep exercising (I will be bringing you a special "firing up" yoga practice to help you heat up during the colder months...watch this space), drink lots of warm drinks & water, and keep nourishing your body with good quality food - plenty of vegetables and fruit! 

Let me know if you give this recipe a go :)

Love & light! Namaste y'all. 

Lucy x