If you only do one thing this week… Avoid the Winter Blues

words by Kathleen Fleming

The clocks have changed, we have had our extra hour in bed and now we are faced with 6 months of the dark and cold. But the winter doesn’t have to be a reason to lapse into comfort eating and a state of depression. There are a few things we can do to boost our immune system, keep our emotional wellbeing on track and make ourselves feel great all the way through to the next clock change.

Get Your Vitamin D
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression occurring in the winter due the lack of sunshine. It is a very real problem in the UK and when the darkness sets in, so does that winter depression. It has been shown that increasing intake of vitamin D can make a difference to the mental health of those affective by winter blues. Vitamin D is also crucial for bone health and our immune systems. It is a well-known fact that we get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Unless you are lucky enough to afford multiple sunshine holidays, it is possible that you may not get enough vitamin D during the winter months. In order to ensure you get enough vitamin D try heading outside at least once a day, such as a thirty minute walk at lunch time. If the winter weather is not playing ball and walking outside is not an option, you can increase your intake of vitamin D by eating foods such as fatty fish (salmon or tuna), eggs and mushrooms. You can also take vitamin D supplements which are available at most health shops and pharmacies.

Add Lemon
Lemons provide a great vitamin C boost. Vitamin C is vital for maintaining general health and sufficient intake of vitamin C may be useful in staving off those nasty winter colds and the flu. An age old remedy for a sore throat is to gargle with lemon water or drink hot water with lemon and honey. Not only are lemons full of vitamin C they also have anti-bacterial, digestive system and liver cleansing properties. A great way to start a cold morning is with a cup of hot water with lemon. Alternatively add a slice of lemon to your herbal tea or a glass of cold, filtered water.

Soak Yourself
Light a few candles, run a warm bath, add some oils or salts and relax. As well as warming up a cold body, a hot bath has numerous health benefits. A hot bath has a similar effect to a massage and aids deep muscle relaxation which is perfect post-exercise or if you are feeling stressed. Also if your bath is hot enough to induce a little sweating you will be getting rid of toxins, stimulating circulation of blood and drainage of lymph – a full detox. A long, hot bath has psychological benefits too. It allows us to unwind, relax and forget about the pouring rain outside. If you add oils or salts such as coconut oil, your dry winter skin will be moisturised as well as detoxed.

Do Yoga
It is very easy to retreat the cosiness of the sofa when it gets dark and chilly. However, in order to avoid that winter coat of excess weight we need to keep our bodies moving. Yoga tones, strengthens and improves flexibility but what differentiates yoga from other forms of exercise is the effect that it has on our mind. Research has shown that practicing yoga three times a week can help fight off depression, such as seasonal affective disorder. The reason for this is that the practice of yoga boosts levels of the amino acid GABA in the brain which is vital for a calm and relaxed mind. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other anxiety disorders. Even if it is miserable outside, yoga is an activity that you can do without having to leave the warmth of your house. Get yourself a yoga mat and a good yoga dvd, light some candles, put on some relaxing music and do your own practice. Or if you aren’t confident enough to practice on your own, most yoga teachers do private sessions or lead small groups at their clients’ homes.

Eat Soup
Soup is a wonderful winter meal. A hot bowl of healthy soup can warm, comfort and nourish us. Soups are so easy to make and can be incredibly nutritious. You can also make big batches and freeze soup so you have a quick, healthy dinner for when you get home from work on a blustery, dark evening. The best winter soups make use of seasonal ingredients such as sweet potatoes, squashes, leeks and parsnips. Unfortunately a lot of ready-made soups are loaded with sugar, salt, cream and preservatives. However, soups are so quick to make and by making your own you can keep them healthy. My favourite winter soup recipe is below:

* 3 big sweet potatoes
* 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
* 2 big sticks of celery (cut into small pieces)
* 1 big white onion (finely chopped)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon medium curry powder
* 2 teaspoons of garam masala powder
* 4 cups of vegetable stock
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* sea salt and black pepper
* fresh coriander

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Cut the sweet potatoes into thick rounds and place on a baking tray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over them and sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper. Place the garlic cloves onto the baking tray with the sweet potatoes. Place the tray in the oven and bake the sweet potatoes and garlic for around 45 minutes or until they are soft.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, add the remaining olive oil and onion to a pan. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the spices and the celery. Cook for a couple minutes more. Take the pan off the heat.

Boil 4-5 cups of water with vegetable stock in a pot.  Take the sweet potato out of the oven, remove the soft sweet potato from the skin and add to it to the onion/celery mix. Remove the roast garlic from its skin and add to the mix. Stir the sweet potato and garlic into the mix so that they are well covered in spices.

Add all of the vegetables to the stock and bring the pot to boil. Allow the soup to simmer for 15 minutes. After simmering, remove the pot from the heat and blend in batches until it is smooth. Add more water if it is too thick.

shop the look

Vegan Mini Raw Chocolate Orange Tarts

recipe by Saskia Gregson-Williams

Chocolate and orange, in my opinion, are one of the most delicious flavour combinations around. The slight bitter richness from the cacao paired with the sweet citrus orange, is a match made in heaven. It is also a taste we associate with Christmas, making these raw treats the perfect way to stay healthy whilst indulging in the holiday season.

My adoration for chocolate-orange treats stems from growing up with one hand in the jaffa cake tin and the other in Terry’s chocolate-orange box – Yes, this was deliciously indulgent, but very naive and not so hip and healthy. These raw chocolate-orange tarts, are 100% guilt free, light, yet wonderfully nourishing. Packed full of skin-loving omegas as well as being packed with nutty proteins. The medjool dates contain a wealth of fibre and natural fruit sugars making them instantly energising, whilst the protein ensures you maintain blood sugars, which will help you to sustain those energy levels for longer.

The tarts are so moorish, I had to make them into dainty mini tartlets – the absolute perfect one size portion. Let me know how you like yours, and show us some social media love by hashtagging your recreations to #hipandhealthy on Instagram & twitter.


Tart Base Ingredients:
3/4 cup almonds
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil (can omit)

Method: Start by grounding the almonds in a strong food processor/blender. Add the medjool dates and coconut oil and blend until a dough ball has formed in the blender. (you may have to scrape down the sides)  When you’ve taken your base out the blender mould into your tart bases. The size is up to you, I normally make mini cupcake sized portions. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and place in the freezer whilst you make the cream.

Chocolate-Orange Cream Ingredients:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
1/4-1/3 water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tbsp raw agave nectar
1/4 cup raw cocoa powder

Method: Drain the cashews and add all the ingredients to your blender. Blend until smooth. Spoon a dollop each into your raw tart base and place back into the freezer. When ready to eat remove from the freezer and let sit for 5-10 minutes before eating.

orange tarts

Inside Your Headspace: We chat to, Founder, Andy Puddicombe

We talk to the Founder of the meditation app Headspace, Andy Puddicombe about the power of the mind, setting up a business and meditation

Headspace has become such a successful app and a great way for everyone to introduce a bit of meditation into their lives, what motivated you to start it?

I wanted to demystify meditation, to make it accessible, relevant and beneficial for as many people as possible. Along with the help of my partner Rich Pierson, we were able to create Headspace, which has enabled us to share the useful tools that meditation equips you with and really make an impact on peoples lives.

What do you feel are the main benefits of meditation?

Meditation is simple to incorporate into your everyday existence but substantial enough to change your experience of life. The benefits are physical, emotional and mental. If you want more peace of mind, better sleep, to be more productive at work, to feel happier or to have better relationships with others meditation can help. Scientific interest in mindfulness has exploded recently, with the number of academic publications published on the topic increasing by nearly 300%. This research has shown that the brain can change in response to experiences and training such as meditation, further illustrating the benefits.

When did you start meditating? And why did you start?

My mother introduced me to meditation when I was 11 years old and its quite funny in retrospect. When I was in university I was going out with a girl who read a lot of books about Buddhism. To be really honest, I wasn’t listening too intently. But some of it must have gone in because one day I just turned around and said, ‘You know what? That stuff you’ve been talking about? That’s a brilliant idea. I’m going to go away and be a monk’. I wanted to better understand how to stop the endless chatter inside my mind.

Do you believe that you can do anything you set your mind to?

Yes, and I think that people are capable than far more than they realise and are just yet to tap into their capacity. A research study into meditation proposes that the change in brain function that occurs due to meditation represents the development of an ‘approach state’; this is characterized by a moving towards, rather than away from challenging external situations or internal experience. This can therefore help people combat the challenges that lie in front of them head on.

Like you, a lot of our readers have started their own business or are hoping to, what were the initial challenges when you embarked on setting up Headspace? How did you overcome them?

We had to overcome 2000 years of bad PR to change the perception that meditation was all about chanting and sitting in a lotus position. We introduced animations that were user-friendly to help teach people how meditation can be relevant and beneficial in day-to-day life.

What do you love about running Headspace?

I love that we now have just under 1,000,000 active users. It’s great to know that it is having an impact on so many people. We get wonderful emails and letters from our users too – they are the reason we all get up in the morning and go to work.

When did you know you were onto a winning idea?

We initially started informing people about meditation through events, but we soon realized this was not the most effective way to reach people. There was such a wide audience and we wanted to be able to share the concept with everyone. That’s how the idea of developing the app came around. As it grew we started to realise the true impact and reach Headspace could have.

Does meditation help you in the running of your business?

Yes. By practicing mindfulness I am able to tackle the everyday stress that comes from any job. In not letting things overwhelm me I am able to better manage the demands of work and therefore help reduce my level of stress.

How has meditation helped you in other areas of your life?

Meditation is inseparable from every aspect of my life. Meditation is a way to familiarise oneself with the qualities of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the intention to be present in the here and now, to be fully engaged with whatever is happening, free from distraction or judgement, and with a soft and open mind. This translates into all areas of my life, be it focus at work or my personal relationships. They are all impacted.

When do you think is the best time to meditate during the day?

The best way to meditate it to make it part of your routine, if you find it easiest to meditate in the morning before breakfast, try to stick to that. It is whatever feels right for you. It is better to do several shorter sessions rather than attempting one long marathon session. What is great about the app is that you can take your meditation anywhere so if you have a particularly busy schedule you can squeeze it in as a mid morning break at work or even on the bus on the way home.

Do you workout?

Yes, I particularly love surfing and do it as often as I can.

What is your day on a plate like?

Being in LA I drink a lot of fresh pressed juices and have as much fresh food and veg in my diet as possible

Where is the best place you have ever meditated?

There are lots of places but I was recently on my honeymoon in Hawaii and meditated at sunrise. That was pretty special

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I meditate and surf. It can be tempting to wake up and jump straight onto your email, especiallygiven that we have an office in the UK 8 hours ahead. However, I think it’s important to resist and get the day off to a good start.

What is your favourite food?

Currently any kind of juice (and chocolate, I have a serious weakness for expensive chocolate!)

Who / what inspires you?

My wife Lucinda, she is a fitness instructor.

Download the Headspace App here:  www.headspace.com

Fierce Grace: Move over Bikram, there’s a new hot yoga system in town

words by Samantha Whitaker

Earlier this year, Hip & Healthy met Michele Pernetta, one of the UK’s leading yoga teachers. Having brought hot Bikram yoga to the UK 15 years ago, and after teaching the 26-posture regime for 19 years, Michele is ready for something new. ‘With our increasingly busy lifestyles, my students were asking for shorter classes, more variety and some were ready for more advanced yoga,’ Michele explains. ‘We’ve created some great yogis and I wanted to offer them progression and choice within my studios.’

Drawing on her vast knowledge and experience, together with cutting-edge research on attaining optimum results in the minimum time, Michele has created a brand-new and totally unique hot yoga system: Fierce Grace. There are five classes based on a series of core poses, but each class has a different emphasis, duration and intensity to suit your experience, fitness, schedule, energy level and mood on any given day.

Classic (80 mins) – a simple and fairly traditional hot yoga class that has a similar feel to Bikram, but with more poses and variations for a more varied workout.

Fierce Grace (80 mins + 10 mins optional meditation) – a challenging class that combines Bikram, classical hatha and Ashtanga yoga, with music to aid mindfulness and relaxation.

Fierce, aka The Beast (105 mins) – a longer, advanced class to take those who have practised for a while to the next level.

Core (75 mins) – a slower-paced restorative class that focuses on deep stretching and attaining correct alignment. With more hands-on correction, this class is good for beginners, the stressed-out, or those recovering from injury.

The Fix (50 mins) – a condensed version of all the classes, this is an intense, super-efficient but user-friendly class for those wanting to stay fit on a tight schedule.

Fierce Grace balances male and female forces: strength and flexibility, effort and surrender, intensity and relaxation – both in mind and in body. All five classes focus your mind, develop awareness of the breath and work every inch of your body from your toes to your brain, while the selection introduces variety and progression. ‘I don’t think it’s possible to cover absolutely everything in one class,’ says Michele, ‘so as most people will be in the general classes for a few years, it’s nice to have four to choose from and a wide variety of poses to keep things interesting and work the same areas of the body from different angles.’

The most important thing Michele hopes to achieve with her new regime is to encourage more people to try hot yoga: ‘Yoga can get so very serious,’ she says. ‘Even though we’ve come a long way with yoga in the UK, if you talk to people who haven’t tried it yet, they still think that it’s just bendy girls stretching a lot – especially men. I’m pushing to break down that image because it doesn’t have to be like that. It shouldn’t be. You don’t have to arrive at a class and turn into someone else. It should be fun and you should have a laugh. Everyone has the same struggle on the mat and no one should feel excluded.’

To die-hard Bikram fans who may be reluctant to change their routine, Michele says that widening your experience only makes you better: ‘You can’t judge anything until you have tried it for three months. Not just three classes – three months of classes. It’s the same for anything new.’ Michele owes a lot to Bikram – he was her teacher, and then trained her to be a teacher, but now both Michele and her students are ready for more. ‘A good teacher teaches from their own reality, they’re not trying to be someone else. You’ve got to find your own voice.’ Fierce Grace has been designed to be the next step in hot yoga, offering practitioners a wider choice and a wider yoga vocabulary, explains Michele: ‘As students evolve, teachers need to evolve, too, in order to offer the classes, support and environments that students want and deserve.’

Fierce Grace will initially be available exclusively at Michele’s four London studios (see here for more details on where) from November, and classes cost from £4-15, depending on duration and membership type. Visit www.fiercegrace.com for class times and studio details.

Michele Pernetta

Healthy Aubergine and Squash Curry

recipe by Saskia Gregson-Williams

‘Curry night’ has become a tradition here in the UK. Unlike this Hip & Healthy curry, the take-away curry nights we are all use to are predominantly made from sugar, salt, dairy and red meat – needless to say it is no wonder we all feel a little dodgy afterwards! My family were always incredibly health-aware but even we indulged in the odd take-away curry. Curries are just one of the most perfect meals for this time of year, they are so warming and the mixture of the sweetness, cream and spice is the ultimate comforting combination. Curry nights are popular globally, which is why I created the perfect taste-bud pleasing, mouth-wateringly yummy curry thats nutritionally beneficial too! This Aubergine and Squash Curry is so much lower in calories and saturated fat that you can help yourself to seconds and even thirds without any guilt, and you’ll feel even better for it the next day!


400 grams asparagus, chopped

1 lb butternut squash, cubed

2 aubergine, small cubes

140g mushrooms, sliced

1 cup coconut milk

3 cups passata

1 tsp tumeric

2 tsp cumin

2 shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 thumb sized cube of ginger, grated

a handful of toasted cashews or almonds to sprinkle


Prepare all the vegetables. On a roasting tray drizzle the aubergine with olive oil and roast at 190 degrees for 25 minutes until well cooked. For the squash, you can also roast this, however I suggest adding it to a pan of boiling water and boiling for 15-20 minutes until soft. Heat a pan with a little olive oil and start by adding the chopped shallots, minced garlic, grated ginger and spices into the pan. When cooked and aromatic add the mushrooms and asparagus, once they are cooked finally add the cooked aubergine and squash. Pour in the coconut milk and passata and let simmer over low temperature for 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice or lemon infused quinoa. Top with toasted cashews.


The Sugar Diaries: Beauty Editor, Frankie, says goodbye to the sweet stuff

Beauty Editor, Frankie Rozwadowska, goes sugar-free to put a stop to her apparent sugar addiction

Hi – my name’s Frankie and I’m a sugar addict. I’ve been clean for precisely 14 days, 3 hours and 7 minutes, and I can tell you now – it has not been easy. Sounds like I’m talking about an illegal substance, right? Well I may as well be. Just like drugs, sugar is unbelievably addictive. There’s a reason it’s in pretty much every food – it keeps you hooked. Ever intended to eat ‘just one cookie’ or ‘just a square’ of chocolate, only to end up eating all, if not most of it? Exactly. This seemingly innocent substance causes heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, ADD, dental cavities, yeast infections, weakened immune systems…you get the gist. SUGAR? I hear you cry? That delicious, sweet tasting treat we enjoy in the form of fluffy pink-iced cupcakes, creamy ice-cream and crunchy candies?  Yes, that’s the one. Just Google ‘dangers of sugar’ and you’ll soon believe me.

But it’s not just in the obvious chocolates and sweets, sugar is in pretty much everything. Don’t believe me? Go look in your cupboards and your fridge. Pick up that pasta sauce or box of cereal – I can almost guarantee sugar is in there. Check your bread, salad dressing, and seemingly healthy ‘fruit juice’. Yes, it’s probably hiding in them too. Sugar is cheap and easy to produce, it leaves you wanting more and it can be added to anything and everything – a manufacturer’s dream.

Despite being added to food, sugar gives us nothing and in fact robs us of goodness our bodies need. The process of refining it involves extracting the juice from the sugar cane plant, which is then thickened through a boiling process before the syrup is removed. It is then washed and filtered, dried, packaged and pumped into our food – by which point, any fibre, vitamins, minerals or enzymes have been destroyed. Leading Nutritionist and Health Food Expert, Vicki Edgson, strongly advises limiting your sugar intake – especially as we consume 12 times the recommended daily allowance! She also told me some startling facts about the sweet-stuff… “Sugar is a serious poison found in most of our pre-packed and processed foods and condiments. It provides no actual nutrients – it is simply the ‘quick fix with serious consequences’. It has now been identified as being the major cause of high cholesterol, diabetes, Syndrome X (or Metabolic syndrome – a precursor to Type II diabetes), and this link to metabolic disorders results from insulin resistance that occurs when the pancreas is repeatedly challenged to increase its output of insulin throughout the day – e.g. commercial packet cereals for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, biscuits and treats at tea, and pasta for supper.  All these products emanate from refined carbohydrates that are cheap to produce, quick to eat, and seriously disrupt our blood sugar levels, leaving us hungry for more, with peaks and troughs in our energy levels.”

If that hasn’t convinced you enough of the sinful side of sugar, how about Vicki’s biggest revelation – that it not only feeds your ever-growing waistline, but also cancer. At the time of writing this, scientists from the University College of London revealed that through experimenting with MRI scanners sensitised to specifically look for glucose (a form of sugar) in the body, they were able to see cancer tumours feeding from it – consuming twice as much glucose than normal, healthy cells. A high sugar diet provides a conducive environment for cancer cells to grow. They multiply rapidly which requires a lot of energy, and that is why cancer cells LOVE sugar. So the more sugar you eat, the higher your risk. The pancreas responds to high sugar levels by secreting insulin, and high levels of insulin put you at greater risk of developing a whole host of health problems, including breast cancer. No wonder Vicki said, “knowing all this, give me one good reason to consume it – it’s just as bad as heroin.”

If I had needed any more convincing, these wise words did the trick. I knew I had a problem when I actually couldn’t pass a supermarket without having to buy at least one chocolate bar, or I’d spend all day thinking about the Ben & Jerry’s siting in the freezer – only to then go home and eat the whole tub. After a meal I had to have something sweet, and if there was sugar anywhere near me – I’d eat it. All of it. My extreme sweet tooth meant I was always lethargic and lacking in energy (but I couldn’t sleep), my skin was dull and I started getting breakouts, I was putting on weight and finding it hard to shift it, and I was feeling pretty damn miserable. Enough was enough. Sugar and I had to break-up, or I was going to end up a fat, moody, spotty sociopath. So I made the decision to not eat anything that contained added sugar – for two whole weeks – and see what happened. Although one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I can honestly say the last 14 days have changed my life.

First step was to rid my kitchen of anything remotely processed (or not) that contained added sugar. Which (unsurprisingly) was almost everything. I then replaced my baking books with body bibles ‘The Clean & Lean Diet’ and ‘The Clean and Lean Diet Cookbook’ – a plan developed by über health king James Duigan. It consists of little to no sugar and the sweet treats it does allow are all in the forms of natural sugars – fruit, dairy etc. James has trained superstars around the world, including Elle MacPherson, David Gandy and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, so I had no doubt that he knew what he was talking about.

Asking him to describe sugar in three words, James replied “not so sweet”. According to the Clean & Lean plan, sugar is the most toxic substance you can put into your body – making us fat, tired, unwell and wrinkled. A habit we seriously need to break. James recognises that in today’s day and age, one of processed foods and ready meals, this is not an easy feat. “Sugar has a similar effect on the brain to pain-killing drugs like morphine. It produces an instant feeling of pleasure, calm and satisfaction, making it incredibly addictive. Many people turn to something sugary for “energy” – and technically it is a form of energy, but a bad type. Yes you will get a quick burst after eating a chocolate bar, but about ten minutes later you’ll feel even more tired than before”.

When asking James his advice on how to curb my cravings and finally kiss goodbye to the sweet stuff, one interesting tip he gave me was not to use sugar as a reward. “Oh I’ve had a bad day, I deserve a chocolate bar”, “I was so good and only had a salad for lunch so I can totally have that cake”. Sound familiar? We are all guilty of it. We often turn to sugar for comfort or to reward ourselves for something – when in fact, it will most likely make us feel even worse shortly after eating it. James suggested I buy myself a beauty treatment or a new book instead – at least they weren’t going to make me fat and ill!

He also told me to up my chromium intake from foods like eggs, nuts, asparagus and whole grains, and include more protein from nutrient rich dark meats (beef, lamb, chicken legs) to suppress my sweet tooth. If I really, really had to have something sweet, I was to have a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts (the protein stops the natural sugars in fruit from hitting your blood stream so fast) or a small piece of organic, dark chocolate – which is actually good for you in small doses as it’s packed with antioxidants. Some good news at last.

I won’t lie or sugar-coat the truth (no pun intended) but giving up added sugar is by no means easy. For the first few days I felt great, heaps of energy and I barely thought about it. But by day four I was seriously struggling. At a friend’s barbeque I ended up with a piece of meat on a plate and that was it. The buns, condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard) and cheese slices all contained sugar. I also had to apologise for putting them all off their apple pie whilst I watched them eating it – staring, mouth open, and practically salivating all over the table.  But amazingly, once you allow the craving to pass – you realise that actually, you don’t really want it, you just think you do. There was also having to put up with people passing off what I was attempting as being nothing of importance or difficulty.  “Oh I could so do that, that’s nothing. Giving up sugar, how hard can that be?” I soon shut them up after asking them to tell me everything they’d eaten that day, to then inform them that if they were me – they couldn’t have eaten any of it.

14 days later and I’ve been sleeping like a baby, my skin is visibly brighter and clearer, my energy levels are high, my stomach is flatter and there is a new spring in my step. I feel like a different person, and all from saying see-ya to sugar. I’m sure I will slip up now and again and give in to the temptation of a Dairy Milk or a Mojito (I’m only human), but right now – I couldn’t think of anything worse. And that sure is sweet.

If you only do one thing this week… De-stress

words by Molly Jennings

What is stress? Stress is an emotion human’s feel when they can’t cope with pressure. Life has many forms of pressure like demanding jobs, relationship problems, financial worries (we’ve all been there!). All these stresses trigger different kinds of responses in our bodies. Emotional stress can disguise itself in the form of depression or difficulty making decisions and physical stress can be related to sleep deprivation, weight fluctuation and even muscle tightness. Ever wondered why you always have a stiff neck or back? Consider that it might be down to your lifestyle. So sit back, relax and find out what the H&H team do to de-stress.

It might sound a bit backwards but exercising has been shown to decrease stress levels. It’s all to do with a little thing called endorphins (happy hormones). Exercising leads to the release of endorphins, making us feel happy and elated. But be careful not to over do it – light exercise like pilates, yoga or simple walk are among the best choices.

Stress, surprisingly, causes magnesium deficiencies, so including some magnesium-rich foods in to your diet may really help those struggling to manage stress. Magnesium has been found to have a calming effect on our nervous system, and some people call it the “natural tranquilliser” as it’s also known to improve sleep. Add some dark leafy greens to your meals like raw spinach or add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and some chopped banana to your morning smoothie or porridge for a stress-relieving breakfast.

Stretching is such a great way to alleviate stress. It increases blood flow around our bodies, improving our circulation and relieves muscle tension. It’s also a good time to practice deep breathing, which can also lead to releasing any emotional stress you may be hanging on to. We love downward dog position for an all over stretch or child’s pose for a relaxing lower back stretch.

Listen to music
Listening to some slow, relaxing music can have a very relaxing effect. It’s great for people who find it hard to switch off, mentally. Sparing a few moments in the day to listen to something soothing can help lower blood pressure and the heart rate.

Learn to say no
Saying no is more difficult than you might think. Us woman especially find it particularly hard. The phrase “you can’t please everyone” is so true. Spreading yourself too thin can wreak havoc on your stress levels and can leave you feeling totally exhausted. Know your limits on how much you can fit in, and if you really struggle to say no, we advise to take a day to respond. Ask yourself, “does this fit in with my current commitments?” If not, don’t be afraid to use the power of “no”. An “I’m not sure” can be wrongly misinterpreted as “I might do it later”.

Go Sugar-Free
As some of you may know, last Thursday saw the start of The H&H 10 Day Sugar-Free challenge. It’s all about giving your body a break from sugar before the joys of Christmas really get under way. We know sugar is bad, it spikes our insulin levels and disrupts our hormone levels, but can sugar cause stress to our bodies? The answer is yes. Sugar is an inflammatory substance that lies very high on the acidity table and has even been linked to many inflammatory conditions such as IBS and bloating. These conditions are our body’s way of showing us that we are stressed and may need a bit of a sugar detox. So say goodbye to the sweet stuff, it could be one of the best things you could do for your stress levels!

Image from Hush UK (one of our fave cosy-wear websites!): http://www.hush-uk.com/nightwear/all_nightwear/polka_dot_nightshirt_dark_navy_white.htm

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The Hip & Healthy 10 Day No-Sugar Challenge! Join Us…

Ditch the Sweet Stuff in favour of a Better You

 Alice Mackintosh, The Food Doctor Nutritionist, talks us through why a sugar detox could be exactly what you need!

A friend of mine, a mother of two boys, recently told me that her children need sugar whilst they are growing. When I asked her why, she responded simply – ‘for energy’. Of course in many ways she is spot on – we all need energy and sugar is fuel in its most basic form for the body. The speed at which we produce energy from sugar occurs more rapidly than any other food and so when our levels are dwindling, it is sugar which will help bring us back to life. The irony is that sugar and other stimulants such as caffeine, simple carbs and to some extent sweetener, are more often than not the reason why our energy is low in the first place. This is largely because the rapid increase in blood sugar that occurs when we eat these foods, will in turn lead to a sharp drop, leaving us hungry and tired – cue your five year-old’s tantrum and tears in the supermarket.

It’s not just our energy and appetite that is affected – concentration, mood, hormone balance and sleep patterns are but a few of the other things impacted on by the roller coaster that sugar laden foods can have on our body’s glycaemic regulation. A special mention should also be given to weight, as many people do not realise just how efficient our bodies are at converting sugar into fat. Put your blood sugar above a certain threshold therefore and you can bet some of it will be converted to fat. From this perspective, it is easy to see just how counterintuitive low-calorie yet high-sugar snacking (cereal bars, yoghurts, cereals, puddings etc.) is for weight loss programmes.

It seems therefore that high-sugar diets make work for more people than just dentists, and though the drinks and food industry still hotly contest it, a scientific consensus is now emerging that fatal problems can be traced back to excessive high sugar consumption.

Where does it come from?

So where does all this sugar come from and do we really get as much sugar as everyone is making out? If the statistics are correct, in the UK we eat and drink around 70% more sugar than the government says we should, which is easy to believe given that the RDA is 90g, the approximate amount of sugar found in one portion of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. As most health experts suggest that 90g per day is a gross exaggeration of what is safe, the situation is perhaps even graver than we think.

The problem is that as much as we try to avoid it, the white stuff is hidden in so much of what we eat these days that it is estimated that over 20% of our diet contains added sugar. That’s not to mention all the carbohydrates (grains, bread, pasta etc.) dairy products, fruit and vegetables that all eventually break down into sugars naturally in the body.

Interestingly a survey was recently done in which participants were asked to rank foods based on their sugar content. Unsurprisingly, the ones ranked highest were the can of cola, chocolate bar, sweets and a chocolate flavour cereal. What was more surprising was just how high the levels were in other supposedly ‘healthy’ foods. Fruit smoothies were almost as high as the cola, the muesli was almost as high as the chocolate cereal and the cereal bars were not too far off the chocolate bar.  Sure we all know that these foods contain sugar, but the shocking thing is just how high the levels are compared to the conventional ‘sinful foods’.

Different types of sugar

It is important to be more specific because sugar comes in many forms, has many names and many origins. Don’t be deceived by this however, because ultimately sugar is just sugar, it does itself grow on trees; and just because it comes from a bee or a lovely piece of fruit doesn’t mean the effects will be all that different to those made on the production line at Skittles factory. The difference is that the foods that naturally contain sugars generally also contain fibre, antioxidants and nutrients; and are not normally as disproportionately high in sugar by weight in comparison to sweets or chocolate. Nature doesn’t keep topping up the sugar bowl, and whilst that is not to say that these foods can or should be consumed in excess, they are warranted occasionally owing to the goodness that comes with the sweetness.

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit and honey, is also sweeter than regular table sugar (sucrose) by gram, meaning that less of it can be used to give the same taste. Though it will still put blood sugar up very quickly, fructose also has a lower glycaemic index (a figure given according to how quickly sugar from a food will reach the blood stream) than simple table sugar making it a slightly better option. Be cautious however, as many foods and drinks have added ‘high fructose corn syrup’, a highly concentrated manufactured sugar that is truly the worst of the worst and should be avoided at all costs.

The real enemy here therefore is the sugar that is added into foods in a disproportionately high level, being often devoid of fibre, protein or nutrients to slow it’s absorption into the body.  Whether it’s in the form of sucrose or fructose, our organs simply cannot cope with a constant stream of it and the long term effects are surprisingly far reaching.Unfortunately, the list of foods containing added sugar is rather extensive and so cutting it out completely can be a bit of a shock to the system. Don’t let this put you off though because as we already know, the more sugar we have the more we want. Luckily, breaking this cycle can work both ways and people not only notice that sugar cravings reduce when they cut it out, but that increased energy, better concentration and weight loss are too welcome a side effect to pass up.

Hip & Healthy’s campaign against added sugar has been the driving force behind this challenge, in which we encourage readers to ditch sugar for 10 days and see if it makes a difference to their lives. Though it is likely to have a positive effect on how you look, this isn’t just about weight or other superficial concerns; no no, this goes far deeper.


Giving up sugar can for many seem like a daunting prospect but in fact if you stick to some basic rules, you may find it easier than you think. The Food Doctor recommends the following guidelines for helping to keep the cravings at bay whilst keeping energy balanced.

Keep Cravings At Bay: In order to supply yourself with balanced energy throughout the day, you require regular small meals every two-and-a-half to three hours, each containing a combination of protein (meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, pulses, tofu) and complex carbohydrates (the dark, fibrous, savoury carbs as supposed to sweet, fluffy, white sugary ones). This ensures efficient blood sugar management, and helps to prevent the highs and lows in energy often experienced during the normal day. It is at these lows when you are more likely to want the sort of sugary foods that you know won’t help you.

It is vital that you don’t skip meals or snacks, or replace meals with coffee or tea, so make sure you have a regular schedule. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just practical.


Cut out any food that has added sugar from your diet – read the label on everything you eat, things that you wouldn’t think contain sugar often do, such as pasta sauces, sweetcorn, tinned beans, yoghurts, breads and even juices.

Eat protein with complex carbohydrates – this will ensure that the glucose created from the food is consistent and avoids ‘flooding’ the cell with more glucose than it can absorb leading to excessive insulin production.

Eat every two and half to three hours – even if it’s only something small and even if you aren’t especially hungry.

Eat breakfast – never skip breakfast, you can have any protein with any complex carbohydrate you want. (Ideal breakfasts include – Eggs with rye bread / berry smoothie with protein sources such as cashews or protein powder / porridge oats with chopped nuts and dollop of coconut yoghurt / avocado, smoked salmon and oat cakes / sugar free muesli with berries and sunflower seeds)

Avoid refined (white) carbohydrate foods – where you can, replace white/refined carbohydrates with complex carbs. For example, wholegrain brown rice for basmati rice; quinoa for cous cous; sweet potato for white potatoes; following this plan should help reduce sugar cravings, but avoiding sugar will itself help balance glucose levels and also reduce the craving for sugar. This will help create consistent energy levels.

Fruit to avoid – for now avoid honey, banana, mango, grapes and dried fruit and opt for less sugary fruits such as berries, apples, pears and citrus.

Avoid alcohol – most alcohol is incredibly high in sugar. In fact, it effects blood sugar levels so much that you’ll still be craving sweet things for the entire next day. Plus this is a health challenge people so lay off the booze before party season really sets in!

Replace sugary biscuit-type snacks with convenience health foods – such as miso soup (sachets available from supermarket), nuts/seed blends, protein rich smoothies, and /or hummus/crudités. Eat two snacks per day and aim not to leave more than 2-3 hours without having eaten.

The challenge starts on Thursday November 21st. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] and either we, or Alice, will get back to you as quickly as we can. Keep us updated on your prgogress by talking to us on twitter: @hipandhealthyuk, instagram: hipandhealthyuk and Facebook: Hip and Healthy


We have also teamed up with two of our FAVOURITE healthy London Restaurants, The Good Life Eatery in South Kensington and Retreat in Parsons Green, where they are highlighting their sugar-free dishes on the menu so that you can still eat sugar-free on the go! Be sure to check them out!


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Fuel yourself like a ballerina: How to sustain your energy without adding sugar…

words by, ballerina and H&H Food Editor, Saskia Gregson-Williams

As your energy starts to flag, whether your working hard at your desk or power walking to your next meeting, the urge to grab a high-fat, empty-calorie chocolate bar can easily overpower everything you know about superficial sugar-enduced comas and energy crashes. Now, with so many healthy and organic options on the market there really is no excuse for you not to fuel up well and perform (in any activity) to your optimum.

Training as a ballerina I dance an average of around five hours a day, with a break of half an hour in between lessons. Dancing continuously for this length of time can be incredibly knackering without the most efficient fuel to power me through. As my hours increased and I started to feel the pull I experimented with snacks that would sustain me without making me feel heavy or bloated (not preferable whilst wearing a leotard!). Through trying and testing, I have compiled my favorite energy boosting snacks that compliment your everyday ventures.

The Sweet

Gourmet Raw Brownies: Healthy brownies? Oh yes. These organic raw naturally high-mineral brownie bars are made with the superfood cacao, cashews, dates, almond butter and many more low GI, high-energy foods. Protein rich, nutrient dense, another case of an indulgent tasting yet brilliantly healthy snack. http://www.gourmetraw.com/products/brownies (DF, WF, GF, SF, VG)

Nakd Bars: What you see is what you get with these natural dried fruit and nut bars. My favourite from the Nakd Wholefoods family is the Cashew Cookie and Cocoa Orange bars with 4 grams of nutty protein goodness. Although all the bars are delicious, my pick packs that extra nutritional punch with the best balance of protein to carbohydrate. www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk (DF, GF, WF, SF, VG)

UpRaw: These tasty, protein-rich ‘chocolate’ flavoured nibblets supply lots of wholesome energy with 100% raw natural ingredients, including cacao, coconut, walnuts and cinnamon (yum, I know!). Unlike even some of the ‘healthiest’ sugar-free sports bars these babies contain absolutely no e numbers, thickeners or additives that are normally added to increase shelf life or to help consistency.  After snacking on these not only is ‘hitting the wall not an option’, but an impossibility! http://www.up-raw.com/what.php (WF, GF, SF, VG)

The Savoury

Clearspring Organic Roasted Seeds, Soya and Goji Berries: Clearspring’s organic snacks are incredibly tasty and always make it into my shopping basket. Their new Roasted Seeds, Soya and Goji Berries has to be my favourite of their flavoursome combinations. Roasted Soya beans are a great vegan source of protein, merely one cup provides 68 grams, eight times the amount of protein in a glass of milk! Pumpkin seeds are a good source of blood-building and energy-boosting iron, essential when trying to maintain strong lean muscles. The goji berries add another taste as well as an extra nutritional element to this already wonderful mixture. Goji berries are one of the most nutritionally dense foods, hence their rather famous superfood ranking. Not only is this sweet berry an energy booster for the athletic but also contains the compound betaine, which helps build strong muscles and aids the prevention of tight and aching muscles due to inflammation. www.clearspring.co.uk (DF, GF, WF, SF, VG)

Gourmet Raw Red Pepper Crisps: ‘Crisps’ in general are not raved about in the health food industry, since they are often loaded with saturated fat and weird, unnatural additives, definitely not the gas you want pumped into your engine! Gourmet Raw have taken on the stereotype of the crisp, and created this raw powerhouse of a 100% chemical and preservative free natural snack. Ingredients include sprouted buckwheat, flaxseed, carrot, red bell pepper and lots of natural seasoning. High in vitamin, omegas, protein and fibre this munch will propel you into action! http://www.gourmetraw.com/products/healthy-crisps-delicious-satisfying-and-guilt-free (DF, WF, GF, SF, VG)

Rude Health’s Rye Oaty Buscuits: These sustaining Rye & Oat biscuits come in bundles of four, the perfect portion size to fulfil your hunger pangs as well as restoring some vava-voom to your body and mind. The deliciously dense and nutty flavour of the rye can compliment any pre- or post- workout meal, but is totally delicious on its own. I like mine with almond butter. Heaven. http://www.rudehealth.com/our-food/snacks/rye-oaty/ (DF, WF, VG, SF)

The Beverage 

Beet-It Organic Beetroot Juice: Beetroot Juice is widely shown to have major benefits in helping and improving athletic stamina due to its high nitrate content. Nitrates rapidly bring increased levels of oxygen, nutrients and blood to muscles, essentially easing the task at hand. This applies both to athletes and non-athletes that are effected by limitations in their various activity. As research continues, it has further been shown that beetroot juice may provide the necessary nitrates to substantially increase muscular endurance. Although, it has to be said, it’s not the tastiest drink, grin and bare it because its benefits surpass the beety taste. I alternatively enjoy adding it to my breakfast smoothies. Add the juice shot, kiwi, half a banana, one cup coconut water/oat milk for a creamier substance. Or add to a cleansing Beet, Carrot and Apple Juice. Experiment! www.beet-it.com (DF, WF, GF, SF, VG)

Jax Coco Coconut Water: Rehydrate after your workout with Jax Coco. Coconut water is low in calories but extremely high in rehydrating, nourishing vitamins and minerals. Jax Coco coconut water is naturally isotonic, restoring five essential electrolytes to your body after a sweaty workout. It contains the same amount of potassium as a banana, and nearly 14 times the normal sports drink! Potassium is a brilliant cramp preventer and plays an essential part in  regular muscle contraction. With no added sugars, this 100% natural coconut water is the perfect Hip and Healthy post-performance pick me up! www.jaxcoco.com (DF, WF, GF, SF, VG)

the KEY to eating well:

DF – Dairy-Free

WF – Wheat-Free

GF – Gluten-Free

SF – Refined Sugar-Free

VG – Vegan

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London’s Hottest Yogis…

Best For Boys: Nick Higgins of Hot Pod Yoga (www.hotpodyoga.com)

How long have you been teaching: 2 years

Why do you love yoga: It’s amazing how my relationship with yoga has changed. I tried hot yoga initially to sort my back and knees out which had come from playing a lot of sport when I was younger. That had an impact almost immediately, but then I began to enjoy other benefits – benefits, i’m still discovering. Not only has it had a big physical impact on me, it’s also now a huge part of how I feel mentally. In short, I love it as it make me feel how feel I should – clear, balanced and buzzing, both physically and mentally.

Favourite pose: Half Pigeon.

Favourite type of yoga: Hot Vinyasa Flow

Yogi Mantra: Do what makes you happy, and find a balance in life to fit in what’s important.

Best For Experience: Jane Kersell (janekersel.com)

How long have you been teaching: 20 years

Why do you love yoga: It gives me the complete “juice” that no other activity has ever delivered so far for me. It works on all levels – mentally, physically, emotionally, energetically and spiritually. It’s also taught me so much about how to love and honour myself.

Favourite pose: Any hands or head balance.

Favourite type of yoga: It changes depending on my needs – if i’m feeling my life is too fast then i’ll slow it down and do a practice with lots of alignment to keep my mind quiet and focused, if i’ve been doing lots of sitting at a computer all day i’ll turn the heat up high and do a big flowing, breath led practice to get the stagnant lymph that has been pooling in my legs and butt moving.

Yogi Mantra: Har Haray Haree Wahe Guru”  is a beautiful mantra for creativity. Often we block our creativity because we are just too busy thinking, doing things, that we don’t make the space to allow creativity, new ideas to germinate. Har means the seed potential of infinite creativity. Haray means the flow of the creative energy. Hari is the manifestation of the creative energy. Wahe guru is an expression of joy and wonder at the beauty of the process of creativity. It’s like repeating to yourself  “I’m ready, bring it on, here it is”.

Best for Ease: Emma de Mornay Davies ([email protected]>)

How long have you been teaching: I first qualified with Sivananda Organisation in 2008 and have been teaching ever since! I started by covering friends classes and then began my own regular weekly class in Hackney in 2011. In 2012 I moved my classes to Holistic Health: a lovely little alternative health centre on Broadway Market in Hackney. I’ve been teaching there ever since. It was in 2012 that I also started teaching privates. My clients range from all ages and across all abilities. I teach dynamic challenging classes or hatha yoga which is slower and involves more stretching and breath-work, depending on the needs of my client.

Favourite pose: It’s hard to say what my favourite pose is as I love all of them and my relationship with the poses changes from day to day! I’d say my old favourite has to be downward dog. It may not be one of the more glamourous poses! But you can never stop aligning yourself in downward dog. There is always somewhere further to go in this pose.: Are my hips floating up to the sky? Are the tops of my arms rolling out to help draw my shoulders down my back? Is my stomach engaged to create further lift in the pose? I love it!

Favourite type of yoga: My favrourite type of yoga would be a dynamic challenging vinyasa class. I love to get sweaty in a class and have my boundaries really pushed by my teacher. You may not think it but dynamic classes can have a spiritual aspect too. By challenging our body we are learning to deal with pain and difficult situations. We are pushed past what is comfortable for us. Life sometimes does this to us also and yoga is practice in which we can learn to deal with these challenging situations in a more graceful way.

Yogi Mantra: Practice, Practice, Practice and all will come! – This was Pattabhi Jois’ saying. He was the founder of Ashtanga yoga. The Vinyasa style that I teach was born out of Ashtanga yoga. Vinyasa means ‘To flow in a special way’ and a typical vinyasa flow class will lead you from one pose to the next in a graceful flowing sequence. This mantra is so important because it is so easy to get caught up in the theory of yoga but it is in the practice that we learn and grow. It is also reassuring to know that you just have to keep going with your practice and all will come to you!

Best For Philosophy: Julie Montagu (www.juliemontagu.com)

How long have you been teaching: Since 2009 , so nearly seven years.

Why do you love yoga: With 4 kids between the ages of 7 and 15 and the chaos that brings, I need space, time and healing for me and only me. Yoga gives me just that. When you listen to the heart and you hear that pause before the beat, that’s the heart actually feeding and taking care of itself before it pumps the blood around the body in order to take care of and feed the entire body. The heart is an amazing example to follow! If I don’t take care of myself first, I can’t take care of those around me.

Favourite pose: Hands down, Natarajasana (dancer pose) – I’m literally obsessed by this pose. When the hand and foot connect, it reminds me of relationships in my life – equally amounts of energy and love needs to be given both ways or, well –  you’ll fall out.

Favourite type of yoga: Vinyasa Power Yoga.  I’m all about moving a lot, breathing a lot and sweating a lot!

Yogi Mantra: Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Best For Stress Busting: Rachel Giffin (www.purebalanceyoga.co.uk)

How long have you been teaching: 3 years 4 months and I love every minute.

Why do you love yoga:  Seeing the positive impact yoga has on my students lives, both on and off the yoga mat, is incredibly rewarding. When it comes to my own personal practice, I love the way yoga is so good at cleansing my mind and body, building strength and flexibility. It creates space to be a little calmer, more intuitive, have a greater clarity. Yoga shows me how to be a little more enquiring, it trips me up when I get ahead of myself. Yoga keeps me on my toes, grounds me, lifts me, leaves me feeling whole; complete and a better kind of neighbour/partner/friend. Yoga helps me to shine a light on my best self and how to accept my worst self, that’s why I love yoga!

Favourite pose: Urdhva dhanurasana. (To you and me that means wheel pose with one leg lifted off the ground).

Favourite type of yoga: So hard to decide as I love to mix it up and practice different styles depending on my mood, vinyasa usually , sometimes Jivamukti, or Dharma mittra, just recently I’ve started practicing Forrest yoga, which I love and I will always have a soft spot for Sivananda which is a complete balm for the senses.

Yogi Mantra: Approach life with extreme enthusiasm, don’t be afraid of failure and smile at strangers!



Yoga Retreat in Spain… Reviewed

words by Jen Grieves

What’s your idea of staying healthy? Eating right and sweating up a storm? That was my understanding, until I tentatively shunned pumping iron for a week in favour of a holistic, vegetarian lifestyle at Kaliyoga in Spain…

Being a fairly active lady who is used to clocking hours in the gym and pounding the pavement, I initially approached yoga with some caution. It looked wonderful, but would I be bored? Would I feel any tangible benefits? I imagine this is the trepidation of many thinking about giving the downward dog a chance, but I was feeling the effects of spending many hours a week hunched over my desk and knew that a week of turning off my work emails and escaping the rat race would do me no harm. But my week in the Andalusian mountains had more of an effect on me, my lifestyle and my outlook to my health than I could possibly have prepared for.

Enter Kaliyoga – aka paradise. As soon as I stepped off the plane and felt the Spanish heat on my skin I was greeted with a warm hug from my transfer host, Julie. Instantly my shoulders relaxed. Through the two hour drive to the small town of Orgiva, tucked away in the hills of Sierra Nevada we chatted away and I already felt myself yearning for the happy and simpler life that Julie led. As we pulled into the Kaliyoga resort I barely had time to appreciate the breath-taking surroundings before I was given another warm hug by the wonderful hostess Jane, who greeted me with a beaming smile and a light in her eyes that left me in no uncertain terms that I was in for a wonderful week.

Kaliyoga was set up 12 years ago by an English couple and has fast become one of the go-to resorts for the increasingly popular yoga holiday. Jane told me that the majority of their clients were single women in their 30s and 40s who were looking to reconnect with themselves after devoting time to children or work for decades. There were 14 of us staying in the resort from all corners of the world.

The small but bustling nearby town of Orgiva has a relatively large British expat community, and every one I met during my stay was full of joy at being alive, finding pleasure in things that we are generally too busy to appreciate – the sun rising and the abundance of the earth, for instance. It was refreshing, and infectious.


My accommodation for the week was a delightful teepee, and although single, twin and double rooms are also available I was more than delighted with my adorable and comfortable abode – the highlight being the shared outdoor shower complete with stunning view. Kaliyoga hosts no more than 15 people for each six day stay. I was signed up to the Dynamic Vinyasa Relax week, but Kaliyoga also offers juicing detoxes, hill walking retreats or raw superfood stays for those looking for that extra oomph.

Kaliyoga bills itself as ‘an antitode to exhaustion and stress’ and this ethos exudes from everything you encounter at the resort – from the people to the setting to of course, the twice daily practice. Led by English teacher Lely Aldworth (another wonderful influence of both tranquillity and positivity), they were set in an absolutely stunning yoga shala that looked out over the Spanish mountains – a slightly different start to the day than my normal dashing around bleary-eyed and getting squashed on the morning commute. The ever-calm Lely was patient with us as we developed our practice and allowed us the flexibility and freedom to work to a level that was comfortable for each individual, all the while passing on her exceptional knowledge of Ashtanga and Yin yoga in a way that steadily rejuvenated the connection with my body and mind. We moved through a sequence of postures during the two hour session, as well as practicing static poses and inversions, all of which I felt confident enough to practice at home by the end of the stay. In just six days I went from being tentative in my practice to fluid and empowered. Thanks to the emphasis on using the body, mind and breath connection as a seamless enabler of inner peace and calm, I managed to unlock a huge sense of inner-contentment that I wasn’t even aware I was lacking. I couldn’t have imagined ever experiencing something like this through my practice back at home, and was worlds away from shouts and screams of ‘Keep Going!’ that I was used to in my regular gym classes.

The yoga encouraged me to listen from within, and for the first time I became aware of what my body was trying to tell me; my senses were heightened and I left each session feeling like I was gliding through the air. It left me with a real need to look after and nourish my body from the inside out; to appreciate it and do everything I can to take care of it, rather than taking it for granted and filling it with toxic substances (this still sounds ridiculous to me as I write it, so if you’re raising your eyebrows as you read this with a glass of Malbec – don’t worry, I hear ya).

The food at Kaliyoga was plentiful and varied; far from being sparse plates of limp lettuce I had once envisaged vegetarian fare to be. An abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains were presented to us at each meal, with the three-course evening meal being a social highlight of each day.


In between classes we were free to soak up the sun and relax by the pool, but many of us took advantage of the diverse optional holistic treatments on offer. Curious to open my mind as much as possible while I had the chance, I shunned the more traditional treatments like aromatherapy and sports massage for a foot reading and reflexology treatment. This was an extremely transformative 90 minute therapy that shed light on slight but consistent imbalances I’d been experiencing for some time. We worked through letting go of issues that I had let cloud over me from years back, and I left feeling calmer and more at ease than I had for years.

I was absolutely dumbfounded by the change in myself when I left Kaliyoga. I’d arrived thinking I wasn’t particularly stressed, angry or unhappy; knowing I enjoyed a vibrant, busy and plentiful life, but the benefits of stepping back from this for a week and looking within have changed me immeasurably. I experienced so much more than a holiday – I was a complete convert to a calmer, more holistic approach to life and vowed to continue my learnings back in the UK. I’ve since added a trip to the health food store to my regular weekly shop and have yet to feel the need to eat meat!

At the very least Kaliyoga will offer you gorgeous surroundings, great company, wonderful food, fantastic yoga practice and a chance to give yourself some me time. At most it can absolutely change your entire approach to health and wellbeing for the better.

The Kaliyoga Dynamic Relax Week starts from £795pp including all meals except Wednesday evening, yoga and transfers to and from Malaga airport. Optional therapies cost between 50 and 80 euros per treatment.