If you do just one thing this week… take a breath

If you do just one thing this week… take a breath

 words by Rose Dahlsen

Breathe

Just as the tide of the waves rock continuously back and forth, so too does our breath. The rhythmic engine of our lungs work ceaselessly to deliver oxygen from the air into our blood, nourishing the trillions of cells that form our beings. We breathe in and out on average 22, 000 times a day. Yet, it’s rare that we stop to consider our breath.

In its natural state, our breathing patterns move in various shapes and forms. The character of our gulps and gasps fluctuate depending on mood, the recent consumption of food, body temperature or thought activity. With the turbulent motion of our lives, comes the turbulent movement of our breath. The bustle, stresses and tensions of our everyday living can manifest themselves in erratic unconscious breathing patterns. The jolt of bad news commonly causes us to gasp in alarm, whilst the onset of stress or anxiousness takes the shape of shallow inhalation. “Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind” acknowledges B. K. S. Iyengar, one of the world’s leading yoga teachers and founder of Iyengar yoga. Our breath may be irregular, but it can be managed.

Pranayama, a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the life force”, is a formal yoga technique to control the breath and lies at the heart of all yoga practice. Prana, the “vital energy” or “life force”, was taught by the ancient practitioners to be refined and nurtured through different breathing exercises. The varying techniques break the instinctive erratic breathing shape, and instead introduce a longer, smoother and more easeful breath. The process of the practice invites a calmer, rejuvenated and more uplifted mind.

Whilst it is recommended that pranayama should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques that can be put into play to re-configure the breath and revitalize a weary mind. Gentle diaphragmatic breathing and various techniques to lengthen your exhalation take just minutes, but can have lasting results.

Put it into action: try this basic breathing exercise…

Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Rest the palm of your hand on your abdomen and begin to breathe comfortably for a few moments. Observe the quality and movement of your breath. You might find it’s tense, strained, shallow or perhaps uneven. Gradually start to take control of each inhale and exhale, introducing a minor pause after each in-breath and out-breath to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible.

Once your breath begins to feel more fluid and easeful, start to notice the movement of the rest of your body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands. As you exhale, notice the slight contraction of the abdomen. Begin to gently expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale. This supports the natural movement of the diaphragm, whilst allowing yourself the delight of a rich, full and relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

Benefits: This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing encourages you to breathe more consciously with fuller breaths. The practice quietens and calms the whole nervous system, reducing stress, anxiety and improving self-awareness.

When: At least once a day, at any time. Incorporate gentle breathing exercises to the start, middle or close of your day.

Image by Jai Mayhew


Lovely Spring Lovage Soup Recipe: Have a Hip and Healthy May Day

Spring Lovage Soup

Spring has sprung and so have all the delicious spring vegetables in our garden including the seasonal herb lovage, featured in this recipe

With a very bold flavour, lovage has been described by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as “parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed and curry”. Intriguing, no?  Oh yes. And it makes a delicious addition to soups, salads, risottos and pasta. Medicinally speaking, lovage is also used to stimulate digestion, get rid of flatulence and aid stomach pains. What’s not to love about lovage!

photo-40

RECIPE

Ingredients:
2 cups peas
2 leeks, diced
2 medium potatoes, pealed and chopped
6 Large lovage leaves
Juice 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
750ml vegetable/ chicken stock (homemade is always best)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a large pan, add the leeks and garlic and sauté in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. When softened, add the potatoes and peas with enough water to cover. Boil until the potatoes start to soften. Add stock, lovage leaves and lemon juice and blend until smooth. Serve with a crusty slice of spelt bread.


Aim for the Spas, Kiddo: They could just solve all your health problems

I am going to tell you a little secret, I say ‘little’, it’s huge: spas are not what they seem. Over the years, spas have developed a threefold reputation as being expensive, decadent, and the predominant domain of women.  In 2013 however, none of these are true unless you want them to be.

Thanks to the proliferation of booking agents and voucher models, not to mention the forced re-evaluation of priorities brought about by recession, spas have responded to the financial requirements of their customers to make health and beauty more accessible.  There are also an increasing number of options where these facilities are available, from leisure venues offering spa areas, to specialist venues.  As for spas being the domain of women, treatments catering specifically for men are a vital part of the modern day spa (for which all of us, girlfriends in particular, are supremely thankful).

This point about decadence is an interesting one however. Key to the traditional perception of spas is the idea that they are simply treats – a luxury for the odd occasion. While I am not going to be so bold as to suggest they are a weekly tonic for life’s trials and tribulations, they can offer a lot more than a manicure and a glass of champagne in the hot tub (although naturally that is available if it’s what the doctor orders, so to speak).

When it comes to health, spas can provide a mine of resources and information. As a society that knows more about health than ever before, it is often the thing that comes bottom of a list of priorities, behind taking the kids to school, work, catching up with your friends, and then dragging yourself out of bed earlier than desired the next day to do it all again. But to ignore health is to shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot.  Taking a little time out to assess how you are and make yourself feel better every now and again can do a world of restorative good; reducing stress, paying attention to any little niggles you have been ignoring, and let’s not forget, having a little fun as well – never underestimate the power of a genuine smile!

The beauty of the modern day spa is that many of them are now home to a wealth of health and fitness knowledge and advice, with specialists housing themselves within the inner sanctum of calm to help guests whether they have specific health issues – sleep problems, skin problems, IBS, menopause, Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), or advice when you are simply feeling ‘not right’.

Grayshott Spa and Hotel in Surrey is a prime example of the services that specialised spa venues are able to offer, with staff who have a wealth of expertise advising on nutrition and lifestyle surrounding the menopause, and also as one of the hubs from which sleep specialist, Tej Samani, operates his clinics for anyone with insomnia or sleep concerns.  Equally, Lifehouse Spa and Hotel, where the spa packages are tailored by in-house naturopath, Sue Davis, combine a relaxed spa atmosphere with the option to discuss specific issues and to address them in an unobtrusive manner if guests would like.

Alternatively, Gleneagles, who introduced their ESPA Life program last year, choreographed by naturopath, Louise Westra, have introduced the initiative to make the facilities and natural surroundings that they have readily available, work a little harder.  Westra provides treatment based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic principles, two of the oldest practices that remain a medicinal standard in China, alongside contemporary knowledge.  Where her expertise is of particular use isn’t just in aiding lifestyle changes and helping with health concerns directly, but also in supporting the body alongside conventional treatments: “I look into why a condition has occurred, and also how to help the body support itself while undergoing treatment – particularly in the case of chronic problems like Rheumatoid Arthritis, where the effects of the medication can be quite unpleasant.”

Of course, spa isn’t necessarily an alternative treatment for many health concerns, but rather something that can complement more conventional advice, or even alert you to a problem and suggest a visit to your doctor if necessary. On a number of occasions therapists have reported that they have found a lump while delivering a treatment to a guest, which they have recommended they have seen to, subsequently detecting cancer in its early stages.  Equally, the likes of Spabreaks.com have created spa breaks specifically for anyone who has or has recently had cancer in order to provide a little respite and gentle care to help guests start to feel like themselves again.

Contrary to our schedules, health isn’t something we can relegate to one day a week, or half an hour a day, it is something we live with all the time. It’s now. However, looking after it doesn’t have to be a 10 mile slog in the rain, and it doesn’t have to be an endurance test.  It can be a swim, a massage, lunch with friends, and a natter with a therapist. Ultimately, this is about time – something supremely valuable that most of us don’t quite have enough of – dedicated to paying a little attention to you and your body, checking in, making sure it’s all ok. No one knows your body better than you do, but sometimes we just need a little space and guidance to hear what it’s trying to tell us, and that is what you find in a spa.

 image: The ESPA Spa at Gleneagles

words by Bonnie Friend, Editor at www.spabreaks.com


What Type of Eater Are You?

words by Dr Christy Fergusson PhD founder of thefoodpsychologsist.com and author of Hot, Healthy, Happy: The 21 day diet to eat, think & drink your way to self-love & skinny jeans and the epitome of all things hip and healthy…

The Emotional Eater

Does food equal comfort? Your brain is a pleasure seeker. Stressed out or depressed it wants those foods that will release mood boosting chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins.

Danger: This type of eating can often lead to excess weight and bingeing.

Top Tip: Balance your blood sugar levels. Eat low glycaemic load carbohydrates, good quality protein & essential fatty acids every 4 hours. Nourishing your brain with vital vitamins, minerals & amino acids will help steady those moods and help you resist the chocolate during that time of crisis.

The All or Nothing Eater

The day begins with great intentions. Breakfast went to plan but someone has brought cake to work. A little turns into a slice and now your diet for the day is ruined. You decide to start fresh tomorrow and spend the rest of the day indulging.

Danger: All or nothing eaters tend to be yo-yo dieters. Their eating pattern is either ‘on a diet’ or ‘starting a diet tomorrow’. This shatters self-confidence and can leave you feeling weak-willed.

Top Tip: Shift your thinking away from your weight to your health. Eating is about nourishment. Forget the all or nothing mentality if you eat something ‘off plan’ then help your body deal better with it by spending the rest of the day filling it with healthy foods.

The Calorie Counter

Do decisions about what to eat revolve around calories or points?

Danger: This type of eating can leave you eating harmful foods just because they are ‘low calorie’

Top Tip: Remember your body does not care about calories all it wants is food that isnatural and unprocessed. Instead of reading the calorie counts focus on ingredients. Avoid those with hidden sugars, sweetners, MSG, additives & preservatives.

Picky Eaters

Are you fussy about your food?

Danger: This type of eating can leave you with a really repetitive diet making you vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies and intolerances.

Top Tip:  The best way to address this is to begin by listing what meals you like. Then slowly begin to incorporate different foods into those meals. Also experiment with preparing the foods in different ways as it can sometimes be the textures of foods which are problematic.

Article by Dr Christy Fergusson PhD, CPsychol, MSc, BA Hons, BSc Hons, DHyp, PNLP, MBPS, MBANT, MBSCH – a Chartered Health Psychologist, Nutritional Therapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist & NLP Practitioner find out more about her here: www.thefoodpsychologist.com

Image by: Vogue Italy, taken from Beauty IN Vogue, June 2006

 

 


My Desert Island Beauty Picks: Editor of The Beauty Shortlist, Fiona Klonarides, shares her must have beauty buys

 Editor of The Beauty Shortlist, Fiona Klonarides, shares her must have beauty buys

REN Photoactive Sunveil SPF15 – First up, a daily favourite! No white residue and never cloying, REN’s clever triple action micro-mineral daily SPF15 is sheer genius and it IS sheer – thankfully. Goes on over or under makeup. I don’t leave home without it. £26. www.renskincare.com

Balance Me “Minis” I love a good travel range and Balance Me’s cute little travellers often come with me.  Their Super Toning Body Cream is one to earmark for summer £6. www.balanceme.co.uk

Neals Yard Remedies Garden Mint & Bergamot Hand Lotion – I “cross-utilise” products a lot and this is one of them, which doubles as my hand AND body lotion in warmer months because it’s really light and hydrating,and the fragrance always reminds me of being out in the garden. This sat on my kitchen window last summer and lasted until early September! £12.50/200ml  http://www.nealsyardremedies.com/Garden-mint-and-bergamot-hand-lotion

Dr. Hauschka – Toned Day Cream Three words. “I am addicted”. This popped up during our 2013 Awards last month and at first I found it a little dense because it almost has the consistency of acrylic paint. But I’ve been mixing it with moisturiser and using daily and have yet to find a foundation-style product that gives this kind of radiance factor in 30 seconds. Instant glow for dry, mature or perhaps normal skin (but definitely not for oily). Well worth trying and very conveniently Dr. H. do a £4 mini sample size too. http://www.drhauschka.co.uk/products/face-care/toned-day-cream

Label.m’s Organic Hair Care Range is a new favourite of mine, particularly their Lemongrass and Orange Blossom shampoos and conditioners. The Orange Blossom shampoo £13.95 leaves hair feeling really fresh, the conditioners are rich and silky and the ingredients read like one big Mediterranean fruit bowl: including “Tuscan Mandarin Fruit, Organic Mediterranean Bergamot*, Regal Maltese Oranges, all Steeped in a base of Cypriot Orange Flower Water” http://labelm.com/uk/product/248/label.m-organic-orange-blossom-shampoo

 

 


If you only do one thing this week… Slow Down

words by Gemma Bolton of Buff-Beauty.com

According to Gandhi ‘there is more to life than increasing its speed’ and we couldn’t agree more. Too often days becomes a whirl of racing to and through work, gym, social life and dinner before snatching a few hours of broken sleep. The result? A serious chance of burnout.

Slow your breath
If there’s something a baby has over an adult it’s knowing how to breathe properly; just watch how their tummies rise and fall with each breath. Breathing shallowly from the chest alone is more akin to hyperventilation, keeping your brain in (an unhealthy) fight-or-flight mode. Practise makes perfect: breathe deeply, focusing on pushing the abdomen out on your inhalation and pulling it back in as you slowly exhale. It feels weird to start but, trust us, it’ll feel great when you get it.

Slow your lists
It’s no wonder we’re all hyperventilating when you look at the length of our to-do lists. But does everything really need to be done before your 12pm? It’s amazing how just shuffling your schedule around can free up a spot of brain space. First, take a moment to scale your list in terms of importance: if there’s anything under a seven, push it back to a calmer time. Next, look at your top to-do and break it down into achievable chunks.

Slow your food
Ever scoffed a sandwich without realising? If your eye’s on the inbox or you’re racing to the train there’s a good chance you’ll end up more bloated, more hungry and less appreciative of your food. Digestion starts in the mouth and requires a relaxed tum. Sit down and – just as your mother told you – remember to chew. If you’re stressed out, take a few deep belly breaths before you continue. Lunch will taste so much better!

Slow to a walk
Good news for the jogging-phobic, our scientist friends in the US say walking is just as good for our hearts as running. What’s more, walking gives you the time to actually see and enjoy your surroundings. Grab a friend – canine or human – and get out there. A golden star if it’s somewhere green where you’ll feel the awesome calming powers of nature. A platinum star if you find time to stop for a long and leisurely picnic.

Slow to stillness
Perhaps one of the hardest at first, but the most addictive of all: schedule some time to be still. That’s absolutely still. No Twitter, no TV. Just you, your breath and your thoughts. It feels truly amazing and, as acupuncturist Andy Green (http://shiatsuandacupuncture.wordpress.com/) assures, ‘when the time for action arrives, we are focused and efficient because our efforts are in harmony with the world around us.’ Start with just five minutes a day and see how you go.

Image by Marcus Ohlsson represented by LUNDLUND for Elle magazine, Sweden


Health Speak with Yoga for Grownups founder, Maria Kirsten

 interview conducted by Kate Prince

Maria Kirsten is the creator of Yoga for Grownups, a system of simple, smart and fun movements, which are broken down into steps and which make yoga accessible to all, whatever age. With this system, she helps people to enjoy being in their body while making yoga pertinent to everyday life. Maria’s work is centred on yoga as a form of intelligent movement and looks at how to make powerful poses and practices of yoga safe, simple and accessible to all. She is based in Lennox Head near beautiful Byron Bay in Australia where she runs classes which get people listening to their bodies and finding pleasure and joy in the connection. She has also released a DVD which is available at www.yogaforgrownups.com and is planning to run a workshop in the UK in the future.

What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? 

I drink hot lemon and water. I love the feeling of the warmth moving through me and hydrating and cleansing my system first thing.  I am convinced it keeps my system ticking over nicely.  After that, I roll around on the floor to stretch out.

What do eat you for breakfast?

Either bircher muesli which I make the night before, with grated apple, loads of seeds, and sometimes a drizzle of maple syrup.  I am not a big fan of dried fruit, so I cut fresh fruit and berries onto it in the morning for a beautiful contrast of flavours. I love yogurt or avocado and scrambled egg on gluten free toast.  All our produce is local and free range and spray free.

What is your work place like?

It is amazing, with the ocean one side and a tea tree lake the other, wooden floors, and the ageing charm of an old Australian surf club.  It has a very calming feel and is perfect for yoga.

What do you eat for lunch? 

Not much, fruit, nuts, or I make a late lunch my main meal of the day…  I like to eat two main meals a day rather than three, so I will have breakfast, small light lunch and dinner, often when my kids get home from school. We all seem to be starving at about 4 pm and happier if we eat then.

Do you snack? If so, what on?

Almonds, apples, and crunchy veggies, which I chop up and carry in my bag however, sometimes dark chocolate as a lovely treat.

What do you have for supper? 

I have salad and something with protein. I eat animal protein because I get really low in iron if I don’t, but the family loves tofu and tempeh as well.  I like my food light and fresh in summer, but wholesome in winter.  I love a winter risotto. My mother-in -law taught me a beautiful simple, lemon risotto, with a few greens through it and flaked almonds.

What is the healthiest thing you do every day?

I do yoga every day, whether that is doing yoga poses or sitting in meditation.  I swim in the sea almost day, either in Lennox Head or across Byron Bay.  I love the feeling of gliding through the water and the rhythm of the breath.  It makes me feel like a dolphin.

Why did you create Yoga for Grownups?

To provide a true beginner experience for middle-aged householders to help them to discover yoga and become empowered to be their own therapists.  I realised, after years of teaching, that instructing people into poses was not what was needed; I needed to teach people to explore poses. I try to get people to switch of their intellect and really feel what is going on for them. It is wonderful to watch them start to trust themselves again.

How does Yoga for Grown Ups differ to other yoga programmes?

We always start with breathing and rolling around on the floor to get people connected to their bodies before things get hard.  I love to encourage people to laugh and have fun, close their eyes, forgo the pressure to perform, and to find a work completely without pain.  That doesn’t mean things don’t get intense, but people need to learn that pain in the joints is a sign of faulty biomechanics and potential injury.

What do you like best about yoga?

How simple a tool it is to help me look after my body and mind; it makes me happy.

What is your favourite yoga pose/movement?

I do a wide legged easy twist and an arm opening twist every day, but when I have had a juicy long practice I love revolved triangle pose and shoulder stand.

What is your least favourite pose/movement?

Kurmasana, otherwise known as Tortoise which involves dropping your chest to the floor and putting your arms under your leg, it totally messes up my upper back. I no longer even try.  I am also opposed to silly dangerous poses that put people at unnecessary risk.

Is there anything you do every day without fail?

A good quad stretch.

Which celebrities would you like to have in one of your yoga classes?

It would have to be American yoga gurus Jason Crandell, and Judith Lasater, Colin Farrell or Meryl Streep.

What is your biggest luxury in life?

I treasure time with my family and a wonderful monthly massage.

What are the three things can’t you live without?

My family, my yoga practice, and my mental capacity.

And what do you go to bed thinking about?

Nothing, I am lucky enough to be a good sleeper. If I am thinking, I either get up and do whatever I need to, or do a practice in the dark and then climb back into bed.

What is your motto in life?

“Do a little a lot instead of a lot a little.”   I find that often people either do nothing they do too much.  I am a big fan of doing a little something every day.  I walk as much as I can, rhythmically and joyfully, and I try to do a short yoga practice every day; I think of my yoga practice as a small act of love for myself.

 


Home-made Beauty: Beauty Fixes from your Fridge

Violet Hudson investigates the power of her fridge when it comes to all things bright and beautiful

About a year ago, Victoria Beckham – she of the talon-nails and ballpoint pen-heels – admitted that sometimes she slathers some mushed up avocado on her face. What, cried the tabloids, is wrong with her? This is a woman with many millions of pounds at her disposal, who could bathe her epidermis in the umbilical cords of unborn cashmere goats if she so chose; and yet she goes for the humble avocado?

What they failed to pick up on was that Victoria, pouty, expensive, glossy Victoria, has a point. Yes, yes: picking something from the fridge and then squishing it into a magic elixir is usually the preserve of children making potions from rose petals. But, hey, lots of high-tech beauty products use plant extracts, so what’s the harm in going back to the original?

I decided to start with something small, something easy. A porridge bath. Basically, a handful of oats shoved into a clean tea-towel, which I then tied around the tap so that the water would run through it. Aveeno, whose brilliant body moisturisers I swear by, use oats: what’s the difference? The bath is super easy to run and was a pleasing milky colour when I get into it. Afterwards, my skin felt soft and plump. It has worked a treat: although the tub did need quite a thorough scrub afterwards. Ease: 7/10. Effectiveness: 9/10.

Next up: the lemon juice nail whitener. Lemon juice is a natural bleach, so after my hands had gone Lady Macbeth red after making a beetroot risotto, I needed a way to make them lily-white again. No amount of scrubbing with fairy liquid was getting rid of those stains. Half a lemon squeezed onto my fingers and a bit of gentle rubbing later, my hands were back to normal. Although I had forgotten about a paper cut. Ouch. Ease: 10/10. Effectiveness: 8/10.

Now time for a slightly yucky one. My hair, though fine, is also a bit brittle and can get very split-end-y after a cold winter. So I decided to try the age-old trick of making a hair mask out of olive oil and egg yolk (yes, basically mayonnaise): the combination of protein and moisture is supposed to do wonders. It feel slimy and gloopy as I smoothed it over my damp hair. Usually with a hair mask I’d put on a shower cap to let the steam make the mask sink in; but that obviously wasn’t an option here, unless I wanted an omelette on my head. Afterwards, and after about 18 rinses, my hair did feel silky smooth. But it got greasy again very quickly, and the hassle of making this combined with the ick-factor means I won’t be trying it again in a hurry. Ease: 3/10. Effectiveness: 5/10.

I’ve always had blotchy, sensitive skin so an entirely natural face-mask made of honey and yoghurt seemed like just the trick. They’re both known for being soothing and anti-inflammatory, while honey is mildly antiseptic. I slathered it on, left it for ten minutes and then washed off. Easy as pie – although I did get some yoghurt in my hair. My skin looked fresh and didn’t feel at all tight, although there was still blotchiness and the odd pimple. I think this one felt better than its actual results – but it was a lovely, fragrant treat. Ease: 9/10. Effectiveness: 5/10.

Back to olive oil. I have exzcema and have always used it on my skin: as a balm for particularly dry bits, as a post-bath moisturiser or simply as a hand salve when I’m in the kitchen and can’t be bothered to go upstairs. One thing I can’t really use, due to my sensitive skin, is exfoliators: they tend to bring me out in an angry red rash. So a body scrub made of olive oil mushed together with some sea salt offers the perfect solution. It took two seconds to put together, and worked a treat, sloughing away dead skin and leaving me baby-soft, if a little shiny. Ease: 10/10. Effectiveness: 10/10.

And finally: the Posh Spice avocado face mask. I bought some ‘ripe’ avocados from the supermarket. Of course they were hard as rocks. So I bought some more, from a different supermarket. Them too. Finally I found some suitably squidgy ones in the corner shop, but by that point I was losing enthusiasm for the whole project. Posh allegedly sleeps with her mask on, but there was no way in hell I was turning my pillow case into a guacamole pot, so I applied the mushed-up avocado onto my face midday and waited for 15 minutes. It felt horrible – slimy, lumpy, cold. Vicious green when I had applied it, by the time I looked in the mirror after letting it work its magic, it was a dull oxidised brown and looked properly revolting. After rinsing off – and rinsing the sink many, many times – I must admit my skin looked and felt lovely: plump, clear, even-toned and bright. But it was so revolting that I’d rather just eat an avocado any day. That’s the thing about these fridge-tricks: they’re great for when you’re broke or if you’re trying to only use natural products. But I can’t help but think they’d all be better eaten. Ease: 2/10. Effectiveness: 8/10.


Braving Bikram: What are the real benefits of Bikram yoga, our writer finds out

Francesca Londoño-Brasington tries Bikram yoga with the very person who brought it to London in the first place, a good place to start we think.

In recent months I have become a firm Pilates convert after having previously tried and failed at becoming a ‘yogi’.  In fact, I had recently reached the conclusion to give up yoga and forgo all aspirations to become the Zen yogi I secretly always wanted to be. But in truth, there’s remained a teeny, tiny part of me that still really, really wants to be good at yoga. I want the lithe body and the flexible limbs!  Although Pilates has been fantastic for my core and helped me enormously, I’m still terribly inflexible. So upon being invited to trial a Bikram class, I thought, perhaps it was time to give yoga one last shot.

The class I was kindly invited to trial was at one of Michele Pernetta owned Bikram studios in Primrose Hill. Michele is responsible for bringing Bikram to London and kicked off the trend in 1994, long before I’d ever heard of it.

For those of you who don’t know, Bikram is a 26 posture series performed in a heated room (approximately 105 degrees) designed to move oxygenated blood to every single joint, muscle, organ and fibre of the body. The thinking behind the heated room is to ensure the muscles relax, are thoroughly warmed up and can therefore stretch further and safely thus making it easier to perform the postures. The benefits of Bikram are staggering and include an increase in muscle strength, flexibility, fitness and stamina. Google it, and thousands of pages appear promoting its benefits including countless tales of people being restored back to health through practice after serious illness.

Bikram first appeared on my radar about four years ago, it was all the rage and with such a huge celebrity following, my friends and I all rushed to try it. Although I did find Bikram the best form of yoga I’d tried because I loved the heat, I still found the classes frustrating – you’re packed head to toe into a vast, soulless studio which isn’t relaxing. After trialling a number of classes in various different locations around London, I lost interest.

I therefore approached the trial at the Primrose Hill studio with my usual reticence – it was a freezing Sunday morning, I was feeling grouchy, tired and slightly worse for wear after drinking a little too much wine that weekend. However I was intrigued, I’d read a lot about Michele Pernetta and decided that if I was ever going to be converted to Bikram, it would be at one of her studios. And luckily for me, I wasn’t disappointed. The Primrose Hill studio has a lovely, village feel which is warm and welcoming without any pretence. I was greeted upon arrival by friendly staff who were more than happy to answer any questions. The studio itself was a breath of fresh air; far superior to any studio I have been in before. Not only was it clean but it didn’t feel like a ‘studio’, it was beautifully decorated with gorgeous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling – much more the environment I had envisaged for getting in the yoga zone.

The class was taken by a fantastic teacher, Michael, who had a friendly, relaxed approach and didn’t make me feel completely useless for not being able to perform all the postures correctly.  He even asked someone to demonstrate one of the postures which was incredibly helpful for my own visualisation especially being at the back of the class and not being able to see in the mirror.

Normally when I practice yoga, I become annoyed and frustrated by my own inflexibility. I hate being so bad at something and I am truly terrible at yoga. I’m not quite sure how to pinpoint what made this class different, I think it was a combination of great teaching alongside beautiful surroundings. Plus my mind set had shifted, I didn’t expect to be good but to take it slowly and move at my own pace.  I therefore managed to let go of my frustration and relax into the postures.

I can honestly say I came out of that class feeling 100% better, my bad mood had lifted, my muscles felt stretched and relaxed…and dare I say it, I felt almost ‘Zen’ like!

After enjoying the class so much, I was desperate to hear directly from Michele herself.  I wanted to find out a bit more regarding her background and if she ever got bored practicing the same moves (something I thought I’d struggle with in the long term!). Michele kindly agreed to answer my three burning questions to share with Hip and Healthy readers…

Let’s hear it from Michele Pernetta herself…

theclass_web

What led you to setting up your own practices in London?

I was living in Los Angeles, working as a fashion designer. I was an avid martial artist and was training for my Tae Kwon Do Black belt. l had two badly damaged knees, one of which needed surgery.

I heard that there was a yoga teacher called Bikram who was known as “the knee guru” so I went to see him in an attempt to avoid surgery, believing that there must be a way the body could heal.  I had been in constant pain for two years and had been told that there was no chance of the torn cartilage ever repairing itself.  Bikram said, “Don’t worry honey!  I’ll fix your knees in 15 lessons!” He was as good as his word, my knees are better than they were before the injuries and that was 19 years ago.

After 4 years of almost daily practise with Bikram himself, Bikram suggested I should teach his yoga. I was not interested at all, as my fashion career was everything to me. After returning to the UK from LA I looked around for a similar yoga class to the Bikram classes I had been doing with Bikram in LA. I tried everything. Nothing came close (this is 1994!) so myself, my husband and a couple of friends who had been to LA and done Bikram Yoga there started doing it in my sitting room a couple of times a week with the fire on! Soon they brought a friend or two and we didn’t have the space for them, so between us we rented a room nearby and did it there. After a few weeks people began bringing their friends and I kept having to turn around and correct them. Soon the room was completely full and so I took the room another night a week and soon a third night. Once all three nights were packed and another teacher (6 years later) had trained we opened the first Bikram studio in 1999, Bikram North. So, the way I started teaching was really a response to demand.

How many times a week do you practice and how do you keep motivated?

I try to practise the beginners class 3 times a week and the advanced class once a week, plus a gym visit to get out of my usual yoga environment, but some weeks are better and many are worse, depending on travel and workload.

Many people ask how it is possible to practise the same poses year after year for 19 years. It is normal after about 3 years to go through a period of apparent boredom, and go off and try Ashtanga or some other yoga system (I did, and ended up doing a teacher training in Ashtanga which I enjoyed immensely) but I never stopped my Bikram Yoga practise. However this boredom is simply something changing and the transition takes a little time and it would be in this period that one needs to be with an experienced teacher who can guide you through it. Many give up yoga at this time. One changes from being physically motivated to dropping that seeking. This is a big transition, not just in yoga but in our lives. The desire to improve the postures, get better, be healthier, lock the knee, get a deeper backbend, all the egoic goals we come in with, is deep patterning. It will eventually change over to the more internal practise which is about meditation, breath and riding the breath throughout the class. If one can get past this transition, ones yoga practise begins to flourish. It is never, ever boring. I am no longer motivated to achieve things in class, other than to do my best that day and mindlessness for 90 minutes. In fact I find myself pulling my poses back, to get the best alignment possible, often going less deep in some poses, as I no longer care how it looks, but how it feels. That is how it stays fresh and exciting for me.

What benefits do you find from Bikram in particular as opposed to other types of yoga?

Bikram Yoga is Hatha Yoga sequenced into 26 postures and 2 Pranayama breathing exercises performed in a heated room. The benefits of this yoga is that it works every muscle and joint, organ, fibre and system in the body, cleansing and oxygenating the entire body for 100% health and increased vitality through a strenuous yet relaxing stretch. The heat allows one to stretch safely and aids in the healing of injuries. It also promotes sweating which is very healthy.

Many of the benefits come through systematic compression and release better known as the tourniquet effect, literally squeezing out old blood and bringing new oxygenated blood to every part of the body.

We start with Pranayama which oxygenates the blood followed by strengthening poses intended to warm us up, raise the heart rate and increase respiration. Bringing up body temperature results in increased blood and nutrient flow and allows the joints and muscles to function optimally without inducing injury during this intense 90 minute cardiovascular workout. The heat allows us to work deeply as the muscles and ligaments are worked at their ideal temperature and are stretched, simultaneously allowing us to re-align our skeletal and muscular systems whilst detoxifying through sweating which many find cathartic both physically and emotionally. The heat thins the synovial fluid, which can now carry nutrients deeper into the joints as we open them.

Two sets of each pose in front of a mirror allow for you to go deeper into the second set and improve strength and alignment on the first set and flexibility and energy on the second set, whilst the pauses following each pose allow you to absorb the benefits of the high speed blood released back into the area from the tourniquet effect, which carries away toxins and brings nutrients into the area. Having the class always be the same provides mental relaxation, as you can flow through not wondering what pose is coming next and it reduces injury as your body gets used to this basic sequence of poses.

Michele has four studios based in London, please visit the following websites for further details:

www.bikramyoga.co.uk

http://www.bikramyogaprimrosehill.com/your-studio/

There is currently an introductory offer of 20 classes for £20 at Primrose Hill or 30 classes for £35 at North, West and City studios.

 

 


Best of British Beauty: Patriotic and Proud, Hip and Healthy reveals its favourite home beauty brands

Let us start with a quote from one of our fave beauty brands – “We’re proud to be British and even prouder to be a London-made brand. So much of the world’s beauty products are made by just a few big cosmetic powerhouses in France and the USA. Cosmetic manufacture is not something Britain has previously been known for but we are famous for innovation so when the two come together you get something altogether different and forward thinking.” Sarah Brown, creator of Pai Skincare

Great Britain is, well, pretty jolly great. Who else can do drama like Made in Chelsea (or Towie for that matter), invent Marmite, or make a cuppa quite like us? Exactly. But it’s British beauty brands that are really something to be proud of. So, in celebration of St George’s Day, we are celebrating all things beautifully Blighty.

Jo Loves
If you haven’t heard of Jo Malone, then seriously – what rock have you been hiding under? Having sold her self-titled luxury brand nearly 15 years ago, in 2011 she was back with a new fragrance line – Jo Loves. Inspired by her love of cooking and playing with food, flavours and colours that she had never used before, Jo Loves is a celebration of smells that evoke emotions or memories from her life – be it the scent of her husband’s cologne, a horse’s saddle or the rain in New York.

Top Pick: Pomelo – £95.00

Clean, crisp and fabulously fresh – Pomelo is fast becoming our new scent obsession. The first fragrance Jo created in over 5 years, it’s a citrusy cologne that’s as refreshing as having a glass of iced fizzy water with a big old slice of lime. With base notes of suede and patchouli, middle notes of clove and vetiver and top notes of pink pomelo and rose – it also has a masculine side, perfect if you don’t want a super sweet scent.

This Works

Founded in 2003 by International Journalist and Beauty Expert, Kathleen Phillips, This Works is a range of high performance products made from the finest, highly concentrated and naturally active ingredients. All for being straightforward, honest and real – there are no false promises here. These products deliver and, you guessed it – they work.

Top Pick: Perfect Legs Gradual Tan – £38.00

A lover for your legs (and indeed your entire body) this streak-free serum develops over a few days to leave you looking sun-kissed and golden. Free from nasty chemicals, colours and fragrance, it contains Vitamin C and E to even out skin tone – combating imperfections for pure pin perfection. A true summer essential.

Borealis Natural Skincare

Only a year old, Borealis Natural Skincare is a baby in the beauty world – but it has seriously caught our attention. From cleansers to toners, body lotions and cellulite busters, they have it all. 100% natural, organic, fair-trade and handmade in the UK – how could it get any better? We predict big things.

Top Pick: Rose & Geranium Rejuvenating Face Oil – £22.50

Developed to aid the healing process for damaged or over exposed skin, this oil not only smells amazing (it contains rose, geranium and lavender) but it helps reduce signs of aging and helps to balance and harmonize. Vitamin E, kiwi seed, rosehip and evening primrose oil firm and smooth skin contours for a rejuvenating revelation.

Aromatherapy Associates

Founders, Geraldine Howard and Sue Beechy, have been leading experts in aromatherapy for over 30 years, and since joining forces in 1985 their creations can be found in leading spas and hotels throughout the world. Their aim? To share the true power of essential oils and show how they have incredible effects at a therapeutic level. These products use active botanicals and expertly blended essential oils not only to keep skin healthy, but to transform our moods and aid our emotional state.

Top Pick: Inner Strength Bath & Shower Oil – £39.00

Created by Geraldine during her treatment for cancer, Inner Strength was born out of a need for strength, courage and positivity. Clary sage uplifts, frankincense helps to focus and calm the mind, cardamom and rosemary fortify physical strength, rose and vetivert calm and heal, whilst geranium helps to balance emotions and stimulate circulation. 10% of all proceeds go straight to the ATK Foundation (of which Geraldine is a patient), which is working on developing a new cancer vaccination. A truly powerful product for a powerful cause.

Pai Skincare

After years of battling skin allergies, ex-PR guru Sarah Brown decided to take matters into her own hands and in 2007 she created a range of organic, chemical and irritant free skincare. Ideal for those with sensitive or problem skin, Pai focuses on natural, active ingredients with proven therapeutic properties, that has not only won us over – but has the likes of Natalie Portman as one of its supporters.

Top Pick: Kukui & Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator – £20.00

Exfoliators can leave skin irritated and aggravated, but this super gentle formula de-flakes and polishes skin without damaging cells. A gel that transforms into a silky milk, it’s rich in omegas 3 & 6 and vitamins A, D & E to lock in moisture, while jojoba seeds lift dead cells and surface impurities. Use after the Camellia & Rose Cleanser and you will be refreshed and radiant in a jiffy.

by Frankie Rozwadowska


If You Only Do One Thing This Week… Do a Daily Detox

words by Caitlin Sammons

6 Simple Ways to Detox Everyday: Daily cleansing habits that can boost your metabolism and promote healthy weight loss

Detoxing involves cleansing the body with certain foods and supplements, whilst also reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. The toxins from our food, beauty products, antibiotics, and medicines can overwhelm our bodies. Taking simple actions and building healthy daily habits can go a long way in helping to cleanse your body from all the toxins it must fight off everyday.

The best way to initially cleanse your body is to avoid the toxic substances you have control over, such as coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, hydrogenated fats, sugars, and chemicals from hygiene products. Reducing the stress in your life will also help your body cleanse itself from toxins.

Here are six other simple ways that can help you detox everyday:

Hot Water & Lemon for Breakfast: Lemon helps your body fight off disease, stimulate digestion, and cleanse your liver. In the 1940’s, naturopath Stanley Burroughs first discovered the detoxification benefits of lemons while searching for a cure for ulcers. Burroughs believed that disease originates from toxic build-up in the colon. He introduced a lemon detox as a way to eliminate toxins in the body and prevent diseases. Going on a full-lemon cleanse can be a bit daunting, but by replacing your morning cup of coffee with the healthier alternative of hot water and lemon, you can reap the detoxification benefits of lemons everyday.

Get a Massage: Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years, and its benefits include better circulation, reduced fatigue, and an improved immune system. Massages physically move the toxins out of your body by pushing them through and out of muscles. Schedule a weekly rubdown to reduce your stress level and assist in ridding your body of toxins. Be sure to drink extra water post-rub to help flush out your system.

Eat More Fibre: Fibre binds to toxins in your gut, helping your body eliminate them. The British Nutrition Foundation estimates that the average adult intakes 14g of fibre per day, but the recommended daily dose is 18g. By increasing your fiber intake, your helping your body rid itself of toxic build-up and flush out waste. However, you should be cautious not to raise your daily fibre intake drastically, as a sudden increase will put distress on your digestive system. Add more fibre to your daily diet by eating 5g extra per day over a period of three to five days, until you reach 18g.

Load Up on Vitamin C: Vitamin C is arguably one of the most important elements of a healthy diet and is crucial to successful detoxification. It acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage from free radicals. Vitamin C also helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins. Help your liver function properly and make sure you get a sufficient amount of vitamin C from foods like fresh peppers, broccoli, oranges, kiwis, and strawberries.

Drink Water: Your body is composed of between 60%-70% water. Every day, your body loses fluid and it needs to replenished in order to maintain optimum health Water should be considered a nutrient that your body needs to survive, and it also can literally help flush your system. Staying hydrated helps your body rid itself of waste and toxins. Try to drink between eight to twelve glasses of water per day. There’s no better way to detox than water.

Sweat it Out: Saunas are traditional heat therapy for the Finnish, and studies have shown that they have benefits in treating chronic bronchitis and asthma. A daily visit to the sauna can help you eliminate wastes through perspiration. Hot air helps your blood vessels open up and improves the flow of toxins and wastes through your body.

Caitlin Sammons is passionate about natural health and regularly writes for www.timetocleanse.com, a respected detox and weight loss website. On the website you’ll find a free “time to cleanse” quiz, practical articles, advice from wellness experts and reviews of the Isagenix Cleanse.  


What’s Hot in The Snacking World

What’s Hot in The Snacking World

Healthy Snacks

Snacking gets mixed reviews. However, a recent study has revealed that those who do snack are healthier than those who don’t. In fact, those with the healthiest diets consume on average 36% more snacks. We at Hip and Healthy like to munch our way through the day on healthy bites that keep our energy levels consistent, our blood sugar stable and that taste delicious. Here are a few of our faves:

Rude Health Pumpkin Bar

Inspiral “Cheesie” Kale Chips

Spirulina Bounce Ball 

Urban Fruit Golden Apricots

Nosh Raw Fruity Shots

Pop them all in the Very Healthy Snacks Lunch Box which we think is pretty fab!