Spring Cleansing Part 2: The Cleansing Power of Foods

Veg

“By nature the month of April, can give you a total new lease, eat light and eat right. In spite of the taxes and cleaning the houses and all other stuff, this is one time that you can give yourself a new sprouting energy.” Yogi Bhajan

Our diet should support the body’s natural detoxification processes by ensuring that we are taking in the right balance of nutrients at the same time as not burdening the system with congesting toxins.

So when are considering foods for cleansing, we need to consider what we put in….and what we take out! What this looks like ultimately is an alkalising diet, which is primarily a plant-based, whole food diet, low in animal protein, dairy, processed grains, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. READ MORE

 

Spring Cleansing Part 1: From the Inside Out

Spring flowers

Spring is in the air and everything that meets my gaze from the budding crocuses to the flowering blossom makes my heart sing with optimism. The promise of new growth, a fresh start and a little more warmth in the air stirs us out of hibernation and into action. It’s the perfect time for turning our attention to spring-cleaning within, so the next three blogs will all be around the subject of detoxification, a corner stone of naturopathic practice.

In the first of this detox trio, I’ll be sharing some facts on the importance of optimum hydration and physical detoxification protocols that impact profoundly on the health of our internal organs.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY DETOXING?

Our bodies are constantly under siege from toxins. Some are by products of normal body functions, some are ingested, such as caffeine and over the counter drugs, and then there are environmental pollutants like mercury in fillings or flame retardant chemicals in soft furnishings.

All these factors increase the toxic burden on the systems and organs of our bodies. But I’m happy to report that we can take steps to neutralise and discharge accumulated waste and build up of toxins by supporting the body’s own elimination channels: the bowel, liver, kidney and bladder, skin and mucous membranes, lungs and the lymphatic system. READ MORE

Breakfast Re-set!

Leek, cougette & feta omelette 2

I used to have trouble with a Western breakfast. I can’t abide porridge, muesli leaves me cold, toast leaves me heavy and fruit is somehow not enough. Then a couple of years ago I went to Japan with my sister and my Japanese brother-in-law and found myself in breakfast heaven! Pickles, omelette, miso soup, fish and all sorts of other savoury delights, all exquisitely presented, making my taste buds dance and leaving me completely satisfied. Now I wasn’t ever going to get up at 5am to start pickling the daikon as my brother-in-law’s mother does, but it did get me starting to think creatively about what I wanted to eat when I broke my fast each day. It allowed me to be unshackled from the admittedly self imposed restriction around what breakfast should look like.
So here are some of my current favourites:

THE SUBSTANTIAL BREAKFAST

When I have a little more time in the morning and often when I’ve done a strong yoga practice or have come back from a swim and I feel in need of something substantial, I go for my favourite omelette/frittata. I gently sweat a chopped leek and courgette with a few mushrooms until soft (use a frying pan with a lid) Then I add either some cubes of feta cheese or smoked tofu and 2 beaten eggs and continue to cook with the lid off. Then I pop it under the grill for a few minutes to cook the top, slide it onto a plate and sprinkle with spouted mung beans or have a small side green salad.

THE VIBRANT BREAKFAST

Winter breakfast saladSpiralised courgette, avocado, orange, olives, red pepper, walnuts and seeds make a very delicious, nutritious and satisfying Winter Salad. It might seem a little strange to opt for salad for breakfast but give it a try – if you take the ingredients out of the fridge a while before making so you are eating it at room temperature.

Another option on a breakfast salad is

Yogi Bhajan’s Fountain of Youth

 

 THE ‘ON-THE-HOOF’ BREAKFAST

Bircher meusliOf course muesli not an unusual breakfast choice for many of us, but have you ever tried making Bircher muesli? It’s a great option when you’re short of time. The slow energy release oats are soaked overnight in apple juice and milk of your choice, then grated apple, honey, yoghurt and cinnamon are mixed in and a delicious nutty topping added. The great thing about it is that you can prepare most of it the night before; put the oat mixture into one jar and the dried ingredients into another….in the morning you add the grated apple etc. to the oat jar, tip the toppings in and off you go!

 

THE WARMING BREAKFAST

Banana & Apple SurpriseMy current favourite when I want something warm and comforting with a little bit of natural sweetness is Banana & Apple Surprise – with the surprise being a delicious layer of maca (for energy and stamina) and cacao nibs nestled between a bottom layer of mashed banana and good tahini and the top layer of warm spiced cooked apple.

 

 

 

THE CLASSIC BREAKFAST

Poached eggs on rye with rocketIt’s a classic but such a goody! Avocado on rye toast, with poached egg and rocket. Packed with protein, good fats and healthy nutrient dense dark leafy greens, it’ll set you up for the day

It’s always a good idea to include some protein in your breakfast. Some great sources are eggs, nuts & seeds, lentils & beans and tofu & tempeh. Not only does protein keep you feeling full for longer, but also it is absolutely essential for every function in our bodies.

I’ll leave you with an interesting fact: The glycaemic index is the measure of classifying foods according to their potential to raise blood glucose levels, leading to a surge and then plunge in energy levels. Cooked and cooled rice, pasta and potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than when they are hot, even if they are re-heated, leading to energy levels that are steady and more sustained….so here’s a big-up for eating the leftovers of last night’s dinner for breakfast!

 

 

 

Hunkering Down With One-Pot Dinners

one-pot dinner

There is nothing quite like sitting down to a steaming pot of soup or stew on a chilly winter’s day for instilling in us a sense of wellbeing and contentment. We might find ourselves letting out a little sigh of anticipation for the warmth and satisfaction that we know this dish will bring.

THE MAGIC OF ONE-POT DINNERS

In ‘Foods for Health & Healing’ Yogi Bhajan talks about the benefit of eating both nutritious and sustaining foods for optimal health and wellbeing. Nutritious foods supply us with all the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we need for energy and strength. Sustaining foods go a step further as the nutritional value is added together with the texture, taste, aroma and the way it is prepared – the combination being somehow more potent than the sum of the ingredients. This is the magic of one-pot dinners!

INDIAN THEORY

According to ancient Indian theory, all matter is divided into three categories: sattva, rajas and tamas. The foods that work well in one-pot dinners fall into the sattvic and rajasic categories. Root vegetables, herbs and spices and the trinity of onions, garlic and ginger are rajasic and give us the energy to accomplish what we need to do in the world. Yogi Bhajan suggested that ‘earth foods’ i.e. those that grow below the ground should be eaten more frequently in colder climates and during the winter months due to their high energy releasing carbohydrate content. Sattvic foods include ‘sun foods’ – those grown on trees or vines and ‘ground foods’ such as beans, rice and green vegetables and represent the meditative, etheric quality.

GETTING CREATIVE WITH YOUR ONE-POT DINNERS

  • A fantastic way to begin cooking any one-pot dinner is with the trinity roots of onion, garlic and ginger. The allium family of onions and garlic are of great benefit to human health containing antimicrobial, anti-viral and antifungal properties as well as being anti-inflammatory, lowering cholesterol and being protective against a variety of cancers. Ginger is a digestive stimulant, anti-inflammatory and is well known for it’s strengthening and ‘warming’ properties as it increases metabolism and energy.
  • The reputation of turmeric as a super food and medicine is growing fast. Its main active ingredient curcumin is a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is fat soluble so requires the presence of fat in the meal. Amazingly adding black pepper to turmeric enhances its absorption by up to 2000%!
  • Adding beans and lentils to soups, stews, casseroles and curries provides an excellent source of fibre, protein and nutrients helping to regulate blood glucose levels, prevent constipation and support cardiovascular health.

It is worth noting that most plant proteins are incomplete but some become complete when combined – for instance hummus (legume + seed) and lentils with rice (legume + cereal).

A great yogic favourite is Mung beans & Rice with vegetables – perfect winter food and a complete source of protein!

  • Add brassicas to your soups and stir-fries (e.g. broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower). This group is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (protect our DNA from damage caused by oxidants and carcinogens) and are detoxifying and anti-inflammatory.
  • One –pot cooking helps to keep in as much of the nutritional value of water-soluble vitamins as possible. So steam sauté (sautéing food in oil for a short amount of time and then adding water and covering food until cooked) and make soups and stews to maximise intake of these essential nutrients.
  • Dark leafy greens are a powerhouse of nutrients and are best added to a dish towards the end of cooking. A handful of spinach wilted into a chickpea stew last minute is one of my favourites and brings colour, texture and interest along with the nutrients.
  • In order to increase the absorption of the fat soluble antioxidant carotenoids in red, orange and yellow veg that frequently make an appearance in one-pot dinners, drizzle a little coconut oil, butter or olive oil on your soup or stew at the end of cooking.

So get creative and hunker down with a one-pot dinner to bring wholesome healing, joy to the taste buds, satisfaction to the stomach and an overall feeling of warmth and wellbeing on these long chilly winter nights.

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Wishing you a very merry healthy festive season!

thumbnail_IMG_9353Our relationship with food can be complex and the festive season is likely to be a time when the deep-rooted entanglement between food and emotions rears its head. Stress, complicated family dynamics and overwhelming gastronomic stimuli can cause us to fall into unconscious ways of eating.

Maybe that manifests in overeating – swiftly followed by dieting. Or beating ourselves up if we feel we may have given in to temptation and sullied our ‘clean’ palates.

In an ideal world we would all practice the ancient Japanese art of Hara Hachi Bu, (most famously practiced by the Okinawans of Japan who are renowned for their longevity), which advises people to eat until they are 80% full.

Or alternatively if you can catch the urge to overeat before the deed is done, then Yogi Bhajan suggested left nostril breathing, holding the breath at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale for as long as you can. Even 3 minutes of this pranayama would give you enough ‘breathing space’ to become aware of your actions and take the heat out of the situation.

Eating sweet foods is of course a huge part of many of our Christmas festivities and the problems of excess refined sugar intake are well documented. As well as sugar being massively addictive as it releases huge amounts of dopamine in the brain, there are further issue with it: The first is that once absorbed, sugar is broken down into glucose and fructose and the excess is stored in the liver. If stores here are full, then the residual is converted into fat stores, which is why high sugar intake coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity.

The second is that sugar is quickly absorbed and can raise blood glucose levels. This can lead to the highs and lows in energy levels and mood that are often associated with sugar intake. And the third is that if blood glucose levels are often erratic, then insulin receptors on cells become immune to stimulation. This can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes.

However, happily it is actually possible to make, eat and share truly delicious treats that are also nutritious to eat.

The ‘Raw Chocolate Guru’ and Yogi, Danny Bridgeman promotes the making and eating of raw chocolate treats with the motto ‘share the bliss’. I have been lucky enough to sample Danny’s ‘sweet treats’ and can attest to both their scrumminess and their high vibration – they leave you feeling energised and totally satiated.

Here he is enticing us with one of his latest creations!

There are several recipes that would make perfect Christmas treats or gifts with the simple addition of Christmas spices.

This year, I am looking forward to some delicious kombucha – my partner tells me that his latest brew is like a fine wine! As well as being a wonderful alternative to sparkling wine during the festivities (please note that the fermenting process does produce trace alcohol – around  0.2 – 1.2 %), it is absolutely packed full of goodness. Having good gut bacteria is paramount for both healthy digestive processes and essential for balancing the immune system. Most of us are familiar with probiotics but prebiotics are equally important as they feed the good gut bacteria and kombucha is a prime example. You can buy bottled kombucha but ideally, try home brewed. You can get a kombucha scoby or ‘mother’ to start you off online but even better would be to get it from someone that you know and spread the kombucha love!

So as I raise a glass of Kombucha to you all and tuck into a divine and wholesome chocolate treat, I wish you all a very merry and healthy Christmas and New Year!

 

 

 

The Egg and The Orange or The Natural Wisdom of the Body

The egg and the orange - square copy

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the seed of my interest in nutrition was planted.

When I was in my early teens I noticed that when I ate a boiled egg, I always felt like eating an orange afterwards. Other than noting this, I didn’t think too much of it until years later when I discovered that when we eat iron rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables, dried fruits and eggs in the same meal as vitamin C rich foods such as kale, kiwi fruits and red peppers, a wonderfully clever biochemical action occurs – the amount of iron that we can absorb in the gut actually goes up. Iron and vitamin C make a prefect partnership…..and my body actually already knew this without me having to rationalise it!

My second eureka moment came a few years ago when I gave up working in the way that I had been for many years and took some time out. Without the imposition of the socially structured norm of breakfast, lunch and dinner slotted around the working day, my true hunger patterns began to emerge. I discovered that actually, I wasn’t really hungry until around 11am and that often I only needed two meals a day rather than three, I found that my digestion was happier when I ate less grain based carbohydrates and swapped cow’s cheese for goat’s or sheep’s. It was as if a light had been turned on and so I began to listen to other clues that my body was giving me. Soon I began to feel in tune with my body in a new way – as if we were talking at last, and that in turn brought me a new sense of wellbeing. Yogi Bhajan observed:

When you do not consciously relate to your body, your mind does not relate con­sciously to you.”

Somewhere along the line our relationship with our bodies has become fractured, we have become strangers to ourselves. We no longer hear the messages that our bodies are sending us or we choose to over-ride them.

So we are back to the whole idea of conscious eating. In a lecture in 1992, Yogi Bhajan taught a special kriya called Bhoj Kriya, which he prescribed to bring greater awareness to the experience of eating and our relationship to food.

https://www.3ho.org/articles/bhoj-kriya-how-eat-consciously-good-health

In his thought provoking book ‘The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets & Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self’, Charles Eisenstein talks about shifting trust away from an outside authority and introducing oneself to a higher authority aka: your own body. It’s not always easy when we are busy and rushing around to keep that connection intact, but if we can just keep our ears open a little way we may hear the body’s call to balance and harmony.

When we begin to explore the relationship between our whole health and what we eat and the manner in which we eat it, we may discover a new response to our needs around food that is more intuitive and individualised and therefore more nutritious and nourishing on all levels.

It’s a journey well worth embarking on.

 

 

We Are What We Eat – Right?

IMG_3710

Well actually maybe that’s not quite right. It might be more accurate to say, ‘We are what we digest and absorb’.

The quality of the food we put into our bodies is extremely important, but let’s not under estimate the other factors that contribute to good digestion. We want to maximise the nutrients and energy we get from food whilst putting the least stress on our bodies and keeps us feeling well and comfortable.

Our digestive system is really just one long tube from mouth to anus with different actions occurring at different locations along the way. If any of these locations are blocked or failing to function optimally, then the associated task is hindered and reduced in its efficacy.

Yogi Bhajan had lots to say about diet and yogic eating. Let’s take a look at the science behind some of his wise words:

“Eat only in a pleasant, relaxing environment.”

We don’t always find ourselves in the ideal environment, but taking small steps to create a little peace and relaxation around meal times can go a long way towards ensuring good digestion can take place.

So why is this so important? Bodily functions are controlled by either the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest). Psychological stress due to busy lives and long to-do lists puts us frequently into ‘flight or flight’ mode causing our digestive systems to suffer. Because we are effectively in survival mode, our gut motility (the propulsion of food through the digestive system) and our gastric secretions are reduced. Conversely, when our parasympathetic nervous system is triggered and we are in ‘rest & digest’ mode, gut motility and secretions are high.

One way of switching us into our ‘rest & digest’ mode is to breath deeply a few times before a meal. Aha! The wisdom of chanting Sat Nam 3 times before a meal – a pause, a moment of gratitude for the gift of food and then three deep inhalations acting as a trigger. Now we are ready to receive, digest and absorb.

 “Prepare your food with love and care.”

The process of digestion begins with our eyes, nose and brain even before we have put food into our mouths.

The sight, smell and anticipation of food triggers salivation and gastric juice secretion produced in readiness for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. A hurried sandwich wrapped in plastic and eaten on the hoof denies us the vital initial cues for the digestive process to begin.

When we give our attention to the food that we are preparing or receiving, we are laying the foundations for optimal gastrointestinal function.

“Chew well, the stomach has no teeth.”

Digestion begins in the mouth. When we chew (a minimum of 6–10 times) we are breaking down food to reduce the burden on stomach digestion.

“If you do not mix saliva in every morsel of your food, you are eating poison.”

Salivary glands produce digestive enzymes that begin the process of breaking down fats and the starch in carbohydrates.

“Eat less and meditate more.”

Eating slowly naturally leads to eating less as it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you are full.

The action of eating itself can become a meditation if we eat with awareness. When we savour and appreciate the food that we eat, we not only increase its nutritional benefit but also our overall sense of wellbeing.

“Develop a habit to nap after meals.”

Lying down after eating can improve digestion but if this is not possible then at least staying calm and relaxed after eating will go a long way to supporting good digestion.

And don’t forget sufi grind, rock pose, baby pose and knees to chest – all excellent asanas for aiding digestion.

Developing conscious eating habits can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of common problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, cramping and constipation.

A happy digestive system is the foundation for all round good health.

 

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Calling All Women – Weekend Summer Retreat

I wanted to let you know about a weekend retreat that I thoroughly recommend especially for us gorgeous womenfolk!

 It is being hosted by 3 teachers from i-Sky teacher training  – all of whom I know to be particularly fine teachers. It takes place at Ufton Court in Reading from 6pm on Friday evening 16th August until 4pm Sunday 18th August. Cost is £165. Ufton court is a slightly faded glory, but nevertheless charming tudor manor house near reading Berkshire. Everyone either stays in dorm style accommodation sharing rooms from between 3-8 people approx or camping in the lovely grounds. There is a certain amount of Seva (selfless service) to ensure the smooth running of the weekend – in other words everyone mucks in a bit, however 2 lovely men have offered to cook for us all weekend – lovely veggie food.
There will be Kundalini yoga, Shakti dance ( the dance of Kundalini yoga), martial arts, sharing, laughing and generally doing what we women  do so well….. which is hanging out together celebrating our feminine energy. It is a very relaxed, supportive atmosphere with all ages and levels of experience.
So if this sounds like something that you might be interested in ,then visit http://www.i-sky.net/ for more info or phone Sharon on 01635 523900.

Fancy getting way from it all?

If you feel the need to get away for a while and are looking for somewhere that is peaceful, beautiful, friendly and affordable, then I recommend the retreat that I will be teaching on this May in the beautiful Apennine Mountains just near Bologna in Italy.

I taught on this retreat for the first time last year and am delighted to be returning. Ali and Mike are wonderful hosts and the relaxed informal nature of the place allows you to gently unwind. There is Kundalini yoga on offer twice a day lead by Malcolm or myself, along with gong bath relaxations, singing and dancing.

The scenery is stunning so whether you want to lie in the hammock and appreciate the stillness or take a leisurely stroll around the open land, you really feel the benefit of space and nature. You can stay in the charming rustic house or camp in tents supplied in the lovely field nearby.

It’s a short flight from Stanstead or Gatwick  to Bologna from where you catch a bus to Vignola to be met by Ali or Mike who will drive you to Casa Taddeo in the village of Castellaro di Sestola. The whole retreat runs from Tuesday 14th – Sunday 19th May so ideally you would fly Monday-Monday to get the full benefit of the retreat but if you can only get away for a shorter time then it’s quite possible to make it a long week-end. Delicious vegetarian food, Kundalini yoga, music and nature – what more could anyone want?!

For more details click on the flyer and email me with any queries. Visit the website http://www.apennine-retreat.com

Yoga in a Yurt, Anna Ranprem, Anna Browne Malcolm Medley, Mahan Deva, May 2013, Italy

My first White Tantra experience

I had heard about White Tantra several years before I actually went along to it. I had always been intrigued but also terrified at the thought of it.  My mind kept presenting me with obstacles and questions – Who would be the there? Would everybody else have done it before and know what to do? Who might my partner be? What would happen if I couldn’t do a particular meditation?

When I did finally pluck up the courage to go, I had the most extraordinary day. I knew there would be other people there that I knew but I didn’t go with a partner. When I arrived, I was met with a sea of smiling faces all dressed in white and helping each other with tying head coverings or finding partners. There was a tremendous sense of excitement, anticipation and above all a powerful sense of community.

During the day of Kundalini meditations you sit opposite a partner and follow instructions given by Yogi Bhajan via video screen. A facilitator clarifies the meditations. Ideally, you would have a partner of the opposite sex but the important thing is that the rows are male and female so if you end up with a female partner as I did the first time then one of you just represents the male. My partner for the day was chosen for me by one of the monitors and as we introduced ourselves, I felt myself relaxing into the experience. There is no doubt that I was challenged greatly by some of the meditations but with the support of my White Tantra partner and the incredible energy of the group I managed to sustain meditations that I would not of imagined that I could. I emerged from my experience feeling powerful, cleansed and euphoric. If you are at all interested in doing White Tantra I would highly recommend that you set your fears aside and dive into the experience.

 White Tantra takes place on Saturday 26th January 2019 in Kensington Town Hall. For more information and booking go to www.kundaliniyoga.org.uk .

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    "Kundalini Yoga is the supreme technology to awaken your awareness and take you into your original Self. It is a natural unfolding of your own nature" Yogi Bhajan
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