Your Body Knows

Your Body Knows

When it comes to looking after ourselves, we often hear the expression ‘listen to your body’. In fact, I find myself repeating it often. But do we know what it really means? I’ve always believed in the mind/body connection, but for years have understood it on an intellectual level without truly experiencing it. Looking back now, I can see I wasn’t listening to my own body until fairly recently. Mostly because, in my 20s and 30s, I was lucky enough to be able to rely on natural resilience to remain healthy. Throughout my career as a Beauty & Health Editor on magazines, I researched all the new fitness and nutrition trends, and would road test the latest things – a new herbal tincture here, superfood powders or coconut water there. A few weeks of boot camp Pilates or a phase of jogging round the park in ‘barefoot’ trainers. However, I wasn’t sticking to a balanced, healthy regime a lot of the time, and I took it for granted that I could bounce back from late nights and pressure in a full-on job with constant deadlines.

That all changed in my late 30s when it started to become obvious my bounce back ability wasn’t so strong anymore. It would take me two days instead of one to recover from a big night out; my digestion began to play up and I felt like I needed to move more to deal with the tension stiffening my body. I was running on empty. So, I began taking care of myself on a physical level, being mindful over the food I was eating and what I put into my body generally, as well as taking up yoga regularly. Read More…

Feet on the Ground

Feet on the Ground

At an Ayurvedic retreat in India recently, it was recommended that I walk on the grass barefoot. Later when I was wandering around the garden, post thunderstorm, it felt a tad awkward to discard my flip flops, but when I did, it felt so good. Surprisingly good in fact. The grass was velvety and springy underneath me, my feet and toes free to spread, my legs and whole body open to move naturally. I had this plugged in sensation and was totally energised as a result. It wasn’t just physical, but emotional too. It reminded me of all the long hot summers as a child being able to run around barefoot – the freedom and joy it gave me. Back then, the Doctor had recommended to my mum that both my sister and I walk around without shoes and socks whenever possible as a way to exercise our feet and toes, to develop strong arches. The Indian Ayurvedic Doctor had advised it more as an emotional experience – to feel connected to the earth – for a sense of grounding.

The idea of ‘grounding‘ is much talked about in yoga. That each posture works by a gravitational pull – feet rooted to the floor, the weight of the lower body from pelvis down pushing into the earth, the rest of the spine extending upwards towards the sky (or it might be hands and feet on the ground, sit bones reaching upwards in the case of Downward Facing Dog, the classic ‘v’ shaped inversion). Yogis call this the two way stretch, and it has a deeper spiritual meaning too – transcending our earthly selves to higher consciousness. The Lotus flower being the visual analogy, with its roots extending deep into the mud beneath the water, disguised by its flat leaves floating on the surface and beautifully exotic petals opening up to the light.

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Mind Set: Healthy

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As the New Year rolls on, our resolves to get fit and healthy tend to fade away and all too soon we lapse into our old ways. Why is it that we seem doomed to failure when we begin with all good intentions for clean living? A big factor is the seemingly unavoidable spin around new diet books, juice detoxes not to mention fitness fads – all promising we’ll be lean and lithe in no time. When you add in the allure of the latest celeb weight loss and body transformation, the pressure is huge – no wonder it’s so easy to fall for the hype. We begin the kale juice diet on a Monday morning, only to give up by the evening and decide to have wine with dinner, and so the guilt trip continues in a vicious detox/retox circle.

Trouble is the ‘new trends’ we’re bombarded with (rarely new in any case) usually have nothing to do with our own aspirations let alone goals, often meaning we launch into something we don’t like doing and can’t keep up. It’s as if we’re trying to live vicariously through someone else’s – usually luxe – lifestyle. Someone who has an organic chef and seemingly all the time in the world. When we do this, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure then look for other solutions, bouncing from one fad to the next and never really addressing our own bodies. Read More…

The Good Morning Routine

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When it comes to looking after ourselves, it’s always tricky to break old habits and change our morning routine. For me, the breakthrough came when I started to get up a little earlier in the morning to make sure I could have some precious time to myself before launching into the day. Previously, I had a more chaotic approach, jumping out of bed just in time to shower and get ready for work, having coffee on an empty stomach before grabbing breakfast on the way to the office (usually something not so healthy). This would mean an adrenaline rush before launching into the working day – no wonder I felt stressed.

I knew things had to change as I was running on empty, and so one Spring as the mornings turned lighter, I used the opportunity to carve out some extra time for me. I began by getting up just 15 minutes earlier to do a mini yoga routine. Also, Read More…

Happy In Our Own Skin?

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Or maybe the question is, can you think of a time when you didn’t feel uncomfortable with your body? The thing is, most of us are on a negative feedback loop when it comes to our bodies – which generally translates as a feeling not being happy in our own skin. The bigger picture of this is that we spend a lot of our time worrying about what we do/don’t eat, how much we do/don’t exercise. In short, we have our heads full of body neuroses.

I’d already decided to write this piece when I read an article in the Guardian Weekend supplement written by young feminist writer, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (co-founder of the website vagendamagazine.com a rant-y, free thinking, sometimes funny backlash against the increasingly purile gossip nature of glossy weeklies). In her Guardian piece, Cosslett writes about battles with her own body, only too aware of the irony: feminist writer with body issues.

She goes on to mention the phenomenon of ‘almost anorexia’ or undiagnosed eating disorders which affect the majority of women in some form of unhealthy body image or anxieties with food. Also, orthorexia nervosa, the so-called obsession with eating healthily, not to mention ‘fitspiration’ the in-your-face social media fuelled craze for achieving the perfect body through exercise. That there’s a generation of women who don’t want to be seen to be dieting as such (in fact, they’re anti-diet) but are using the smokescreen of green smoothie, flaxseed, juice detoxes instead. It all adds up to the same thing. The longing to be thin, have the perfect body ends up making us all too hard on ourselves. Read More…

How Are You Eating?

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Most of the time, I eat in an extremely hurried way. I try to start the day with a leisurely breakfast, but that rarely happens (need to get to work, deadline to meet, phone calls to make, bills to pay…..). From there, I’ll grab lunch on the go, and evening meals are more often than not a social get together with friends which usually means chatting more than concentrating on eating. If I’m home, often, I’ll be too tired too cook, so it’s more about assembling the easiest, healthiest option. It wasn’t until I went on a silent retreat recently that I realised this rush, rush, rush was a big part of the reason I often feel sluggish, bloated or dissatisfied after a meal.

At the retreat, I’d eat totally alone, continuing my silence. The table would be laid out with a proper table cloth, co-ordinated napkin, place mat and fresh flowers for each meal, and a candle lit in the evening. I had the time to take in the details and that was just one way my eating experience was enhanced. Also on the table was a little manifesto – a kind of step-by-step on how to eat a meal mindfully. I read this sheet every day (well I had no one to talk to!!), and faithfully followed the routine. To begin with, sitting, relaxing and taking full, deep breaths. As the meal arrived, taking time to contemplate where the food was from, appreciating the work which had gone into the growing and preparation and being thankful for all those things. Then, savouring each, small mouthful, noticing the textures and flavours to enjoy the food to the maximum. Read More…