A Grounding Guided Meditation

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It’s the time of year when we could all use a little more rest and rejuvenation. Parties, shopping, social engagments and travel, coupled with the high tensions and expectations that this season brings, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and overstretched. One of my favourite practices to combat these feelings is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that takes you out of your conscious mind and allows the opportunity for deep rest and restoration. It is said that 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of 4 hours of deep sleep.

With that in mind, I have created a 15 minute grounding Yoga Nidra to help keep you steady and centered in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Take a few moments over the next two weeks to come back to yourself, and I think you’ll be surprised at how nice it can feel.

Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season! I’ll see you in the New Year 🙂

 

 

Why Pain is Good

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I’m not a masochist, but I want to challenge the idea that pain is something to be avoided.

In this world, we are told that feeling pain is bad and feeling happy is good. And when I’m teaching yoga, I often tell students to avoid pain in their bodies, as this is our body’s way of telling us that something is going wrong. And I do think, as much as possible, that physical pain should be avoided. Emotional pain, on the other hand, is something to dive into head first; avoiding emotional pain leads to all sorts of discontent and dishonesty (mostly with ourselves).

Emotional pain is an essential part of life. It allows us to see the light and shade of life, and cliched as it sounds, pain is where the growth happens. By avoiding it, we miss out on the realisation of our strength and the understanding of our power.

That’s not to say it’s easy – allowing ourselves to feel pain is one of the hardest things we can do. And we are bombarded by a plethora of ways to avoid it; advertisers have made an art of offering solutions to avoid pain, and technological advances have allowed us to have on-demand distractions which again, take us away from being in that difficult place.

Sometimes these distractions are useful, but not in the long term. When the pain is fresh it can be too much to handle, and sometimes the distraction allows us to keep going, to do the daily things we need to do to survive without breaking and shattering completely. But eventually we need to find some space away from the consumption (shopping, scrolling, over-scheduling) and find a way to feel our feelings.

Allowing ourselves to sit with our pain (much like allowing ourselves to sit with our fear), can have a deep and profound impact on how we go through life, how we show up for other people, how we feel about ourselves and how we approach certain situations (like risk). The first time is the hardest, but it gets easier each time. And while I don’t think any of us would voluntarily put ourselves in a position where life is painful, when these situations occur, here’s what I do:

 

Step 1 – distraction. I binge on Netflix, trashy books, social media, and eat food/drink that I might usually avoid, until I get to a place of acceptance with what’s going on.

Step 2 – stillness/quiet time/meditation. I try to allow the feelings to surface and allow space for tears, rage and/or whatever else comes up.

Step 3 – talking or writing. Both help me to get to the root of the issue, and to understand what’s happening. Sometimes having a sounding board (whether a friend or a blank page) can put things into perspective.

Step 4 – getting into my body. Exercise, massage, reiki, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, etc. I move my body and get outside help (via trusted practitioners). My body and heart know what I need, way more than my mind. Keeping in touch with the physical signals they send helps me to avoid spiralling into negative thought patterns.

Step 5 – reflection/more quiet time. Once again, I try to allow the feelings to be there. More tears/anger/etc.

Step 6 – action. I start to make changes based on what I’ve learned, whether that’s quitting a job, changing friendships, changing personal habits. This step is difficult, but important to me because it shifts me from feeling like a victim to giving me a sense of autonomy over my life. The changes may be small to start, but over time they can make a big impact.

 

This isn’t always a fast or easy process (in fact it’s usually quite slow), and sometimes the steps are not linear (one step forward, two steps back and then a sashay to the side). But this process of listening, feeling and action has been useful to help me feel empowered in my life, even when the pain comes from an external source (like loss or tragedy). It’s also helped me to understand that pain doesn’t need to be avoided; looking back, I always realise that it is times of pain that have made the biggest positive impacts on where I am today. Those times have taught me about my strength, my resilience, my ability to get to the other side unscathed (but not unchanged), and have really made me who I am today. I no longer fear pain. Although I can’t say that I enjoy it, I appreciate what it can do and where it can lead.

For more on dealing with pain in life, I recommend reading Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart”. She explains these concepts clearly and eloquently and offers simplicity to some of life’s complicated stuff.

We don’t always choose what happens in life, but we can always choose how to react.

What are your strategies for dealing with pain? I’d love to hear more – leave me a message in the comments below.

Photo by Ali Schilling Photography.

DIY Yoga Mat Spray

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Keeping your yoga mat fresh in between classes is easy with just a few supplies. The following essential oil cleaning spray is a healthy and natural way to clean and care for your mat.

Melaluca (tea tree) Essential Oil has antibacterial, anti-parasitic, antiseptic and antifungal properties, helping to keep bacteria at bay.

Lavender Essential Oil not only smells good, it too has antifungal and antiseptic properties. It can be used to help balance moods and promote feelings of health, love and general well-being.

Peppermint Essential Oil, in addition to having antibacterial and antiseptic properties is purifying and stimulating to the conscious mind. It has a clean, fresh scent and is good for clearing the air – energetically or actually.

Supplies and Directions

1 spray bottle

Few drops each Tea Tree/Melaluca, Lavender and Peppermint essential oil

Distilled water

Add the essential oils and distilled water to the spray bottle and shake well. Voila! A safe and healthy spray to keep your mat clean.

You can use any essential oils for this spray, but I love doTERRA’s oils because of their purity and potency. If you’d like more info on how you can buy doTERRA essential oils at 25% off, click here.

*Essential oils are not suitable for all mats (i.e. Lululemon ‘The Mat’ and Liforme); depending on the type of material, it is possible that oils can damage the mat instead of cleaning it. If unsure, test a small part of the mat first.

Natural Remedies

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I’ve so enjoyed sharing my favourite health and wellness practices over the past few weeks, that today I’m adding a bonus health and wellness feature and sharing my favourite natural remedies – the ones I recommend and regularly use when I feel like I’m getting sick (although since seeing and following the advice of the practioners I featured, I rarely get sick anymore … woohoo!). Without further ado, here are my top 10 natural remedies (and ways to avoid getting sick in the first place):

 

  1. Eating Fresh Veggies and Fruit. I don’t really need to explain this one – eating fresh food helps the body to have the power and energy to fight off any bugs, and will keep you in good health most of the time. Make sure you’re having at least 5 servings of fresh (aka, you chopped or peeled them yourself) fruits and veggies every day, and your life will be amazing. For real 😉
  2. Drinking Fresh Lemon and Ginger Tea. This one is pretty easy to make and I love it so much that I drink it regularly, not just when I’m getting sick. To make, cut a few pieces of fresh ginger root (I peel mine) and steep in hot water for 10-15 minutes or more. I love putting the hot water in a travel mug with the ginger pieces so I can enjoy it throughout the day. Before adding the lemon, allow the water to cool slightly so that the heat of the water doesn’t destroy the delicate properties of the lemon juice. Add together and drink as is, or add a small amount of raw honey to taste. Lemon helps to alkalize the body, and aids the liver in detoxifying. Like garlic and oregano oil, ginger helps to boost the immune system and has a whole host of benefits. For an additional boost, try adding a small amount of tumeric root when you’re steeping the ginger. Tumeric has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for centuries to aid healing.
  3. Avoiding Sugar. I know this sounds difficult, but just 1 teaspoon of sugar suppresses the immune system for up to 6 hours, so if you’re eating sugar then your immune system can’t rid itself of the stuff that’s making you sick. I still eat fresh fruit and occasionally raw honey for its antibiotic and antioxidant properties, but all other sugar (including dates, dried fruit, agave, maple syrup, alcohol and all processed food – most of which contains added sugar) gets put on hold. I’ve noticed that my body heals much faster when I do this, and I can get on with my life without feeling like crap.
  4. Eating Raw Garlic. When I need a boost, I take a shot of raw garlic in a very small amount of water before bed. It’s pretty horrible, I won’t lie, but I can pretty much feel it working as soon as it reaches my stomach. Raw garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial elements which are great for fighting bugs. I learned this little garlic-shot trick from Sarah Britton of My New Roots, who has some great tips on how to do this with the minimum amount of discomfort.
  5. Taking Oregano Oil. This is an amazing oil, and like raw garlic it’s hard to take, but boy, is it powerful! Like garlic, oregano oil is highly anti-microbial, and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. I recommend putting the drops at the back of the tongue so the impact is minimized, and have a glass of water or juice ready to wash it down. Don’t overdo it on the amount – a couple of drops once or twice a day is all it takes, and more can actually be harmful or cause stomach upset. And only take it for a short period of time so that the bugs you’re fighting don’t build up resistance. Ensure also that you get good quality oil – doTERRA is a brand that I recommend as the oils are very pure and distilled in a way that retains their theraputic properties. To buy doTERRA oils click here, and for more on other uses for Oregano Oil, click here.
  6. Gargling with Salt Water. Gargling with salt is a remedy that was passed on from my Granny, a nurse and woman ahead of her time. Whenever I was sick as a child, the first thing she asked was if I had gargled. She recommends gargling every hour, on the hour, but if your schedule doesn’t allow, a few times a day works well. I find this very soothing when my throat is sore, and like me, my Granny rarely gets sick, and has an incredible social life, even at the impressive age of 90!
  7. Using a Neti-Pot or Nasal Rinse. When I’ve had a cold and I’m trying to keep things moving and clear, I love, love, love my neti-pot. It literally gets rid of all the gunk from the nasal passages and is great during or after colds and also for seasonal allergies or hayfever. I use this one (which you can get in most pharmacies), and I find it most effective after a shower when my nose has opened a little from the heat.
  8. Having a Steam. When my nose is blocked or I’m having trouble breathing, I love filling up the sink with boiling water, adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender oil (the latter two are also great for skin health), covering my head and the sink with a towel and breathing in the steam. This usually helps clear up the airways for a little while and I find it relaxing. You can also diffuse some oils in your room while you sleep, which for me, allows more rest.
  9. Taking a Salt Bath.  Sometimes when I’m run down, my body just needs a little bit of extra care. If I’m feeling achy and tired, a bath with epsom or himalayan salts works really well to make me feel better.
  10. Resting. Often illness is a message from our bodies to our brains, telling us to slow down. And when we don’t listen, we get sick. If I do finally succumb to illness, it’s usually because I’ve been doing too much, and I try to honour the message I’ve been given and spend more time resting and recouperating. The body repairs and heals itself during sleep, so this is one of the most effective ways to get better.

 

So there you go! My top 10 natural remedies to help prevent illness and boost the immune system. I’d love to hear if you have any home remedies too! Send me a message or let me know in the comments. And in the meantime, stay happy and well 🙂

New Year Ritual

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Each year, with the onset of Christmas and the end of year fast approaching, I feel the urge to reflect, reset and contemplate on what lies ahead. Sometimes I do this formally, taking a couple of days to think and write and ponder – other times it’s more intuitive, the planning and reflecting taking place in my head. On New Year’s Eve, after the festivities and indulgences of Christmas, my husband and I usually spend a quiet night at home, chilling and chatting. Over the years we’ve developed a little ritual that leaves me feeling grounded but excited for the upcoming year and a fresh start. It doesn’t take long, but allows for some reflection, some planning and a release so that the year starts new. Here’s what we do…

Take two pieces of paper and on the first page:

  • Write five things from the past year for which you are grateful.
  • Write three things from the past year which you’d like to let go.
  • Write three things that went well
  • Write three things that you would do differently (and how that might look)

On the second page:

  • Write three things for the upcoming year that you’d like to see, do or accomplish.
  • Write three things for the upcoming year that you’d like to feel or be.
  • Write three things for the upcoming year that you’d like to stop doing or finish.
  • Take a few moments to think about how the choices you will make in the next year can align with these intentions.

Take the first page and set it (responsibly) on fire, honoring the gifts you received and the lessons you learned. Let that shit go.

Take the second page and place it somewhere you will see it often (bathroom or kitchen are often good choices); revisit a few times throughout the year as needed to revise or update. Keeping it close will remind you of what you want for the year when faced with difficult choices or when you get off track, but also how much you can change in a short amount of time.

I wish for everyone, a peaceful and happy holiday season, and a fantastic 2017. See you in the new year!

 

 

Meditation Playlists

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When I first started meditating, I wasn’t sure how to do it, or if I was doing it “right” (I know now that there isn’t really a right or wrong way when it comes to meditating). In my quest to learn more about it and how to do it, I found a few resources that really helped me discover what worked for me and what I enjoyed, and I use these resources still now, especially when I’m tired or in need of support.

My favourite resources for meditation:

Sonescence

(http://www.sonesence.com)

Tahlee makes music for meditation and it is MAGICAL! I have listened to her albums Allied Forces and Spectrum countless times, and they never fail to help me chill out and find a bit of peace. Her new album Luminous is uplifting and relaxing at the same time. Check her out and be prepared to be blwon away. Make sure you use headphones when you listen.

Claire Obeid

(http://clairobeid.com/)

Claire’s album of guided meditations take the guess work out of meditating. There are basic meditations and meditations for a specific purpose, and they are all around 10 minutes long. She also has lots of resources on her blog about meditation and often runs a yearly meditation challenge. I’ve found her tracks really helpful in determining what kind of meditation works for me, as well as using specific meditations for something I’m working on. You can find the album in her shop.

Yoga Nidra by Swami Pragyamurti Saraswati

(https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deep-Relaxation-Yoga-Nidra-Vol/dp/B001J9I4RM)

While slightly different from traditional meditation, yoga nidra usually has the same effect for me, so I include it in my “meditation practice” category. This is a great CD with several different tracks so you won’t get bored of them. I always feel really refreshed after listening and often use yoga nidra for relaxation when travelling or for an energy boost when I’m tired. It’s said that a 30 minute practice of yoga nidra is equivalent to a few hours of quality sleep, and I love how I feel after listening. Swami Pragyamurti also has the most beautiful voice.

Meditation Made Easy by Stephanie Brookes

(https://www.amazon.co.uk/Meditation-Made-Easy-step-step/dp/1782491104/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1473431289&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=meditation+made+easy)

This is a great book with lots of different meditation options. A good transition for when you want to meditate without a guide, but still need guidance. There are lots of tops about how to meditate, different kinds of meditations, and meditations for specific purposes. It’s easy to understand and laid out in a way that you can easily dip in and out or read the whole book cover to cover. I refer back to it often, both for my own practice, and to get ideas for teaching.

I’d love to hear about any meditation resources you’ve found! Let me know in the comments, or use #meditateoctober.