Owning Our Own Bodies

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As children, we’re very connected to our physical bodies – all being well, we move freely, our bodily functions happen naturally. Once our minds start kicking in there’s a sense of disconnection: our thoughts start to take control, we start to care about what others think. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are shaped by everything around us – our home environment, the food we eat, the emotions we experience and the wider influence of the culture and the society we grow up in. When we’re young, most of us are encouraged to be active, but often once we leave school, this falls by the wayside.

I’m a typical example of this. I enjoyed country dancing, going swimming, playing netball, tennis and rounders at school, but this faded away in my teens as I got interested in parties, going to the cinema, boys. By the time I went to college and got my dream job on a magazine, I found myself sitting at my desk writing for long periods. There was a certain amount of running around for interviews, going on photo shoots and appointments, but there didn’t seem to be any time for exercise beyond that. In any case life was so full and fun, I didn’t think about doing any formal classes or activities. In fact, I’d begun to consider myself as no good at sports, and now I can see that I lost confidence in my body and that this had quite an effect not only on how I saw myself, but also how I treated myself. Read More…

No Pain, No Gain

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Recently, three days into a week long yoga retreat I woke up in the morning with my lower back practically seizing up. It was a bit a of shock because I’ve been going to classes regularly for years, and although I’m not the world’s bendiest yogi, I am used a reasonable level of flexibility. Although I managed to get through the morning session moving somewhat gingerly, as the day went on my back continued to tighten and I noticed my mind going into overdrive. What have I done wrong? Did I push too far the day before? Why have I wasted so much time and money on yoga? It all added to the tension to the point where I could barely walk. Luckily, the afternoon session was a meditation – and although I had to lie down because it was too painful for me to sit in the classic cross legged position, I felt it ease off a little as I relaxed. Later that evening, the teacher explained that many students suffer some sort of pain – usually around day three of the retreat and that it was a psychosomatic reaction. It was not something I wanted to hear. I just wanted to relax and take it easy. Read More…

Getting Your Yoga Mojo Back

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Summertime, and the living was l-a-z-y… Does that sound familiar? Somehow, when it’s sunny outside, the allure of our indoor exercise regime dips, doesn’t it? Rather get a bit of extra vitamin D than hit the mat or the gym. I know I’m guilty of it myself, swapping my usual twice-a-week sessions at yoga class for extra-long walks or swims in the sea.

Well, if you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know what it’s like occasionally to lapse. There’s generally a lot of self-reproach that goes on, sometimes a feeling you’ve ‘blown it’, so what-the-hell: why not head straight for the biscuit barrel…? It can be the same with exercise – especially if summer’s left you feeling healthy, and you’re not necessarily panting for it like a dog with a lead in its mouth. Read More…

Understanding Ayurveda

Understanding-Ayurveda

It was when Aveda, the trailblazer of holistic beauty products hit the UK in the mid 90s that I first became aware of Ayurveda. Aveda’s founder, Horst Rechelbacher had been to India in the 1960s and discovered yogic practices to heal himself of his rock and roll hairdressing days and these practices became part of his life. He ended up studying at an Ayurvedic hospital in Himalayas and fed this knowledge into his range of luxury naturals for hair and body, shortening the word to coin the now global brand name.

I remember being intrigued by the word Ayurveda. It comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit (a sort of Indian equivalent of Latin) and has two roots – ‘ayus’ which means daily living and ‘vid’ meaning knowledge. From this, Ayurveda translates as knowledge of daily living, although it’s often referred to as the science of life. Now wellness, green juices and all things yogic are uber fashionable, we’re surrounded by products which use herbs and methods from the Indian holistic medical system. Tulsi herbal tea; Gotu Kola supplements; hair conditioners with Neem Oil; Shirodhara hot oil massage, to name a few. Yet how many of us really understand its origins? 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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Searching for Stillness

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How many times do you hear friends and colleagues saying ‘I’m so busy’ followed in the next breath with ‘I need to switch off’. Or words to that effect. Maybe it’s that life seems to be speeding up. Certainly, we’re multi-tasking and switched on 24/7 more than ever – meaning we are naturally craving peace and quiet.

In the past, that would mean a taking a beach holiday and relaxing for a couple of weeks (if we were lucky), but now that just doesn’t seem enough. For one thing, how many of us take that amount of time off in one go these days? And, somehow lying on a beach no matter how turquoise the sea, white the sand and soft and fluffy the white towels, we’re still distracted by Facebook and emails, Tweeting and Instagram-ing the gorgeous salad we’ve just had for lunch at the chic beach shack. Read More…