Lifestyle

An Ayurvedic Guide To Spring

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Lighter mornings and evenings; the popping up of crocuses and daffodils; the budding of trees –  all the newness and lush growth surrounding us in nature signifies it’s the perfect time to give ourselves a kick-start. However, coming out of winter into spring can feel quite harsh, there’s a sense that we should be bounding with energy, yet we’re not quite in full swing. This is very natural – all holistic health systems recognise the need to support the body during seasonal transition.

In Ayurveda (the Indian ‘science of life’), it’s recognised that our inner systems are affected by our outer environment and the cold, damp air of early spring increases our susceptibility to catarrh, mucus, sniffles and colds as well as allergic rhinitis, hay fever and asthma when trees and flowers begin to release their pollen. This is seen as kapha imbalance – kapha being one of the system’s three doshas; sets of qualities relating to constitution which need to be in balance for good health. Kapha tendencies also include lethargy, water retention and weight gain which makes sense of the sluggishness we often feel after months of hibernating from the cold and dark. We might feel melancholic too, and coming into the brightness of spring light can literally and metaphorically leave us blinking. The good news is the Ayurvedic approach is to adjust our eating, exercise and body care routines subtly so we gently shake off the vestiges of winter and emerge into the longer days slowly and gradually. Read More…

Good Vibrations: The Power Of Sound Baths

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Gong baths, crystal bowl meditation and chanting sessions are shaking off their rainbows and kaftans image and are now firmly on the schedule of London’s best yoga and meditation centres.Recently, the uber luxe Edition Hotel played host to a month of sound healing evenings where the hipster wellness crowd lay supported by Tempur pillows, wrapped in soft woollen blankets with silk masks covering their eyes as good vibrations from singing crystal bowls washed over them. So what’s drawing the in-crowd and how does sound help us relax our body and mind?

We instinctively know sound in all its forms has the power to transport us – we often automatically use it to self-medicate on many levels. Think of a mother’s voice soothing an upset child; singing in unison in a choir, at a festival or concert; the hypnotic rhythm of Tibetan monks chanting. Because sound is vibration, it’s not just heard through our ears, our whole body is affected. And we know this has tangible effects on stress levels. For example, a recent study showed that playing music to breast cancer patients could help them manage pre-operative anxiety when going through surgery, and another showed that stress hormones including cortisol are reduced in audiences at a live concert, producing relaxation effects. Read More…

The Basics of Meditation

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Teaching at a busy meditation school in the heart of London’s Soho, the stresses of modern city living couldn’t be more apparent – the sash windows of the Georgian building offer little protection against the constant buzz of traffic and the clinking of glasses and jollities from local bars and restaurants echoing down the street. Once inside though, the studio is peaceful and cosy – and as we sit in silence, these sounds eventually fade to a distant hum, becoming a comforting reminder that we can always find stillness even in the cacophony of a fast-paced life.

Each day, people of all ages and all walks of life come searching for peace of mind – my last course included a 17 year old student and a 60 something American in charge of 300 men working at a major car factory. Most arrive wanting to ‘stop the thoughts’ – something I know I certainly yearned for when I was first drawn to meditating. The truth is the thoughts don’t ever stop coming, we learn how to manage them, to be more discerning with them. It is a process through which the mind begins to settle so we’re able to re-connect with our own inner silence, eventually allowing us to remain calm despite all the busyness around us.

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Embracing January

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Once all the partying of Christmas and New Year is over it’s so easy to go into a slump or into guilt mode and start on a rigid regime whether that involves dieting, exercising or making resolutions. Going from one extreme to another seems to be a natural response to make up for excess but inevitably it’s not quite as simple as that. Changes in habit take a while to stick, as do the results to show. And at a time when the weather is cold and the days short, embarking on anything punishing will take an iron will to stick to, most probably ending in us giving up before February arrives. So this year why not try a gentler approach – go with the flow a bit more, allow the fun and festivities fade gradually and adjust naturally to the coming months. If nothing else, being kinder to ourselves is a good place to begin to radiate kindness to others. Start by getting rid of negative thoughts and forget the usual New Year ‘to dos’ – here’s a January plan to enhance your mind and body in a positive way. Read More…

Rest And Digest

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So many of us experience digestive issues these days – and this can mean a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, cramping, indigestion to full blown IBS and intolerances. Even more so at this time of year when festivities tend to centre around rich food and the drinks are flowing. Of course, we can always hold back, but a deeper understanding of the subtleties of how our digestive system works alongside some sensible advice can help see us through without being too bah humbug.

We talk about gut feelings, butterflies in our tummy in our day to day, so we instinctively know our digestive system goes beyond just a mechanical churning system – and indeed it is connected to our minds. It is our ‘second brain’, being made up of over 100 million neurons (cells), spread along its entire length which make up what’s called the enteric nervous system (ENS).  The ENS is constantly reacting to the state of play whether it’s hunger, bacterial infection or stress, sending messages to and from the brain via the vagus nerve, a kind of super fast information highway. Read More…

Finding Happiness

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What made me happy recently? Walking in the park through the falling leaves and golden sun of late autumn. Sharing a delicious home cooked meal with family. Teaching a yoga class and seeing the glowing, relaxed faces smiling back at me at the end. There are many examples we could all think of – occasions, fragments of our days which conspire to make our lives happier, more fulfilled, enjoyable.

Of course these are fleeting moments – short lived events which come and go. And as life gets busier, we often ‘miss the moment’, inadvertently neglecting that basic emotional need to be uplifted. Maybe we’re on auto pilot – in Facebook, Tweet, What’s App mode, not taking time to smile and say hello to our neighbours, or to feel the fresh air on our faces. This head down approach can leave us feeling flat, joyless even.

Equally, we can get hooked and find ourselves chasing rainbows, constantly searching for something new, more pleasurable. Like the marathon runner who turns to triathlons for a bigger challenge/high or forever trying out different restaurants and cuisines to satisfy our tastebuds. When we consistently ride happy highs and lows, we get less pay off, leaving us to feel deflated. The upshot is even if we do have enjoyable experiences, reach our goals and generally get what we want – happiness can seem ever more elusive. Read More…