Whilst we’re in the midst of COVID-19, it’s pretty difficult to know what we’ll end up with after a brief trip to the supermarket. Luckily however, we now find ourselves at the beginning of Spring, which means there are lots of herbs, leafy greens and edible flowers available in the natural world around us. Whilst it’s really important to know what is safe and what is definitely not safe to eat, if you’re sure of what you’re picking, this is a great time to forage for free, fresh foods.
Wild garlic is abundant near hedgerows and under shaded areas right now, and is a delicious, healthy and versatile ingredient that can make a big difference to dishes. You can of course also use this pesto to spread over toast or home made pizza. Wild garlic is generally young at the moment, and this is a good time to pick it. In a month or so, the leaves will be accompanied by white flowers which make the plant more visible, but signal the garlic is past its best. Have a look at the picture below to see what wild garlic looks like at the moment, and be sure to smell it to make doubly sure it’s garlic. It’ll smell like…. yep, garlic.
This recipe is made even more delicious by adding preserved lemons, which are also very easy to make. Simply sterilise a jar, slice a few lemons into quarters and pack them tightly into the jar. Using coarse salt, pack the salt around the lemons and add some optional herbs and spices like bay leaf, chilli flakes and black peppercorns. Place the jar in a cupboard for 3 months and turn it over each day. Liquid will start to fill the jar as the days go by, so if it looks as though the salt is depleted, add a little more. To make your pesto ASAP however, emit the preserved lemons and just use the juice of 1/2 a lemon plus 2 tsp zest.
- 2-3 large handfuls fresh wild garlic
- 1 handful cashews
- 2 big gulgs of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 a preserved lemon, or the juice of 1 whole lemon + 1 tsp of lemon zest
- A little water, if needed
- Add all ingredients to a blender and whizz, adding a little water if needed.
- Store in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks. Stir into soup or chilli, mix with pasta, spread over toast, and enjoy!
When the world around us right now is unpredictable and ever-changing due to Covid-19, we benefit from focussing upon the things we CAN do to maintain our own health and wellbeing. If you’re self-isolating or social-distancing, if your children are off school and if you find yourself spending lots more time at home, this time can serve as a way to reflect upon how your daily habits and routines contribute to your physical, mental and emotional health. Everything we do has an impact upon us, so how can we make the most of this turbulent time right now to actually make a positive difference to our lives?
Early Morning & Awakening
In the early hours there are high levels of blue light waves in the atmosphere, and these help the body recognise exactly when its morning, therefore kicking the body clock into action. As humans, we’ve evolved for millions of years to react to the sunrise and wake up with it – these morning light levels are literally a natural alarm clock! When we expose our eyes (and also our skin) to natural light in the morning, the body wakes up the digestive system, increases alertness and cognitive function, begins pumping blood to the muscles more efficiently, and helps the body’s circadian rhythms (the body clock) ‘tick’ at the right time.
Each cell of the body has a clock, and in order to work ‘on time’ they require us to interact with natural light in the morning. If we don’t get that natural light first thing after waking however, we’re essentially walking around half asleep, with melatonin (the sleep hormone) still hanging around in body’s systems, and a brain and digestive tract that are nowhere near prepared for the day ahead. Sunlight gives us energy too – if you’re feeling tired and not entirely satisfied by your food choices throughout the day, try to get more natural light and notice whether you start feeling ‘fuller’ and more energised.
For more information on how we can use light levels to benefit us, have a read of this pretty in-depth blog.
The morning is also a key time to set an intention for the day. An intention can help focus the mind’s energy and provide a reference point to return to if we happen to face challenges throughout the day. Your intention can be anything you like, but of course it helps to choose something simple, realistic and positive, such as ‘Today my intention is to be kind to myself and others’, ‘My intention is to focus on the positives today’, ‘I set an intention to notice the little things that bring me joy today’. You could even write down your intention and place it somewhere you’ll easily see it throughout the day.
Whether it’s a quick few minutes or a substantial set amount of time, a meditation practice first thing in the morning can serve as your way to start the day from a place of being more connected to yourself, aware of how you’re feeling, and with less chatter in the mind. Your morning meditation practice doesn’t have to be difficult to do – in fact, try to make it as easy as possible so you’ll be more likely to do it often. When you wake up, sit up in bed and take a couple of slow breaths in and out. As you do this, observe the feeling of the air flowing in through the nose and expanding the lungs, ribs and stomach. As you exhale, consciously relax your body. Continue focussing on the rhythm of your breath for a few minutes. If you mind wanders or chatters, simply notice what it’s chattering about, acknowledge it, and then re-focus on your breathing. The key is to not become attached to any particular thought, but to actively choose where you place your focus. The more your practice, the more you’ll be able to translate this into the ability to choose where to focus your mind throughout the rest of the day.
Learning from ancient wisdom traditions like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine can give us very effective insights into how the different times of day support different activities. According to Ayurveda, the hours of 6am-10am are governed by Kapha energy. Kapha refers to the sort of energy that holds things together; it has the qualities of being heavy, dense, cool, soft, stable, slow, loving, cohesive, loyal and enduring. Think of a thick muddy puddle during Springtime, a beautiful big-eyed, curvy aunty, the muscles, ligaments and fat tissue of the body, and the sensation of having a mucus-y cough. All of these things – even though they may seem different initially – are all representations of Kapha energy.
As Kapha’s slow and steady energy governs 6am-10am, it’s especially important to do something active to prevent too much ‘heaviness’ from building up and turning into lethargy. Take part in an online class if you’re staying indoors, head out for a jog, dance around in your kitchen, or step into your garden to move in a way that feels good to you. Consuming bitter herbs like dandelion root or Spring greens, spices like cayenne and ginger, and things that are stimulating like tea or coffee are also best tolerated by the body at this more stable time of day, so use this to your advantage.
Our digestive power (known as ‘agni’ in Sanskrit or the metaphorical ‘fire in the belly’) follows the arc of the sun. As we approach midday and the sun is highest in the sky, we’re more able to digest bigger quantities of food. Because of this, most holistic wellbeing traditions suggest consuming the largest meal of the day at lunch. If this works for you, cook up something delicious and seasonal to consume at lunch. If you really value sitting down to a full dinner with your family in the evening however, there’s another way to make the most of your digestive capacity here: By choosing not to snack at all through the day (therefore not spiking your blood sugar levels and weakening insulin resistance every few hours) and consuming slightly bigger meals. You can also consider which of the foods you eat that are difficult to digest (like raw foods, cold foods or heavy proteins) and consume them here.
The Chinese medicine body clock reveals that the afternoon is when the small intestine and bladder respectively are most active. What this means is that in order to feel our best, our actions ‘should’ go towards supporting the actions of these organs and not getting in their way. When the small intestine is absorbing food after lunch, we have a natural dip in energy levels (reflected in the dip in our natural circadian rhythms), which is conducive to doing something restful like light reading, napping or a slow walk. When we move towards 3 and 4pm, the bladder is more active, which means our energy levels may be restored and we feel drawn to creative tasks or studying.
The way we utilise light is again really important during the evening. Just as we want to expose our eyes and skin to bright light in the mornings, we want to stay away from it at night. Bright lights from screens and artificial lighting prevent the body from releasing melatonin (the sleep hormone) so we benefit from trying to turn off lights or limit our exposure to them. (iridescent lightbulbs, phone and lap top apps that dim screens and blue light blocking glasses are all effective ‘hacks’ you can use if you’re not able to turn off lights and screens). Remember; we’ve evolved for thousands of years to either be exposed to darkness or the natural red light waves of fire in the evening, so try to find ways of mimicking this as much as you can.
Slowing down and creating a barrier between work and home / leisure time is especially important now too – especially if your work is now happening within your home. Try taking a walk outside to mimic ‘walking home’ from work. Change your clothes, put on some music, or dedicate some time to an activity that signifies to you the end of a working day. Even more important now is to turn off your work emails and leave work duties alone until your next working day. The world is stressed enough right now, there’s no need to put yourself through any more of it!
Night time & Sleep
All natural health research points to the benefits of getting to bed around the same time each night – and the optimal time for that is about 10pm. Of course, humans haven’t always slept for eight hours straight, and in fact lots of anthropological data shows that lots of cultures sleep in a couple of smaller blocks of time, often waking in the middle of the night to be creative, to pray or meditate, or even to have sex. Sleep is so important for every single aspect of our minds and bodies. When we sleep, our cells repair, our brain consolidates memories and new learned skills, as well as processing emotions, which can help prevent trauma from being stored in the body. Especially at a time when we all know we need to look after the immune system, make sleep a priority. Effective advice for getting a good night’s sleep includes:
- Sleeping in a cool and well-ventilated room
- Stopping all work at least 2 hours before bed
- Not eating too close to bed time. If you struggle to sleep however, a healthy and carbohydrate-rich food like banana can help relax the mind and muscles and promote healthy sleep.
- Try magnesium to help relax the nervous system and aid in maintaining healthy muscles
- Opt for herbs like nutmeg, lavender and chamomile to help induce sleep. Add them to warm milk and sip before bed
- Stay away from any heated debates or emotional conversations before bed, as they can stop the mind from relaxing in time for sleep
- Practice box breathing to help get to sleep quicker: lay down comfortably in your bed and visualise the four sides of the bed. Linking the breath and your visualisation together; inhale as you slowly draw your awareness up one side of the bed. Hold your breath as you draw along the top edge of the bed. Exhale as you visualise drawing down the other side, and hold as you draw your awareness along the bottom. Do this until you fall soundly asleep!
As thousands of people in the UK and all over the world are self-isolating right now and working from home, it’s more important than ever to focus on what we CAN do to stay well, rather than focussing solely on the problems we’re facing. For those of you spending more time at home, this could be the perfect time to reflect upon your morning routine, your daily habits and any positive changes you want to bring into your life. To get things started, here’s a short and simple yet effective morning movement practice to boost your mood, enhance circulation and lymph flow, and awaken your brain for the day. If your children are at home now too, this may be a great opportunity to introduce them to the benefits of movement and yoga!
Videos will be uploaded for you every couple of days, so stay tuned and stay well!
At this time when each day is unpredictable, we’re not sure how much of an impact the CoronaVirus is going to have, and when the supermarkets have run out of toilet roll, it’s more important now than ever to be self-sufficient and use our own tools for effective holistic health. Start with this simple paste to prevent illness. Oregano oil has very powerful compounds that help protect the immune system, and works a little like an antibiotic (without the antibiotic side-effects!) All the ingredients are far more successfully absorbed when consumed with a healthy fat, so there’s a good dose of beneficial coconut oil in this recipe too, but you could also use ghee if you prefer.
To make one small jar
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp oregano oil
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- Add all ingredients to a jar and stir well to mix
2. Store in a cupboard and add 1 tsp to warm water – consume every other day, or every day if you’re considered ‘high risk’ when it comes to COVID
Seasonal, easy to make and with big immune-boosting benefits, this soup provides plenty of plant protein, as well as important compounds that help to fight off illness and infections (and possibly COVID19….) Whether you’re self-isolating or reading this at a time when there’s no threat of illness of a pandemic proportion, this is a great go-to early Spring soup that helps prevent Springtime colds and sinus blockages too….
- 2 courgettes
- ½ packet of frozen peas
- 1 inch piece of grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 sprig fresh time of oregano
- Pinch of salt & pepper
- 1 + ½ litres of stock
- Tsp coconut oil
- Heat the oil, ginger and garlic in a large pan
- Chop the courgette and add it to the pan along with the peas
- Stir to coat in oil and cook until the courgette has softened
- Add the stock and fresh herbs, and simmer for 15-20 minutes
- After simmering, turn down the heat and add the coconut milk, salt and pepper and more dried herbs if desired. Oregano has very powerful antiviral effects and works well as a natural antibiotic too – without the antibiotic side effects.
- Bring the pan to a light simmer again for a few minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Allow the soup to cool enough so you can blend it with a hand blender or larger blender
- Optional: Sprinkle with immune-boosting turmeric & black pepper and cayenne to rid the body of any sinus blockages.
Looking at the world through the lens of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda gives us a rich and broad language to use when describing the way we feel, the different seasons, and the many ways we can get well and stay well naturally. Whist we can all intuitively feel a difference between each season of the yearly cycle, Ayurveda classifies each season as having a different energy and therefore affecting us in different ways. Knowing the various qualities each season holds, we can tune into how the weather, amount of light, the seasonal food etc is making us feel, and how we can align our daily activities with what’s happening out there in nature.
Ayurveda’s wisdom often refers to the five elements: Earth, water, fire, air and ether (or space). Everything in nature is made of the elements and the specific qualities of each element are mirrored in our bodies. The earth element shows up as our bones and muscles, the water as our synovial fluid, the water in our systems, our sweat, urine and tears; the fire element is our digestion and all the processes involving heat; air is our breath and the movement of circulation and nerve impulses, and ether is the space in our bodies and minds. Each season is also governed by certain elements, and from an Ayurvedic perspective, Spring is all about Earth and Water, which together for the dosha or ‘type’ known as Kapha.
Earth & Water
Kapha dosha – being made of earth and water – is the dominant energy during Spring, which means all of Kapha’s characteristics tend to show up during this season. The primary characteristics of Kapha are: Heavy, slow, cool, loving, loyal, strong, consistent, cohesive, sticky, wet, prone to routine, stable, growth, abundance, endurance, and sweetness. Spring presents these characteristics in the wetness of rainy days and April showers, the abundance and growth of plant and new-born animals, the stickiness of mud, the heaviness of the air, which can often be damp and pollen-filled.
We can also recognise when Kapha season arrives because we may start to feel different within our bodies. Digestion during Spring can be a little slower, as can metabolism of both food and water, making us a little more prone to water retention and puffiness or oedema. Clogged pores and cool, oily skin are other signs of having a build-up of Kapha in the body, as can a thick white coating on the tongue (suggesting slow digestion, indigestion or an accumulation of ‘ama’ or ‘toxins’ in the digestive tract). Feeling heavy and lethargic, unmotivated, being prone to emotional eating and feeling overly attached to material possessions, people and memories are typical signs of harbouring excessive Kapha energy.
Strength & Softness
The news isn’t all bad, however! Whilst an excessive amount of Kapha doesn’t feel good (just as an excessive amount of anything doesn’t feel good), this dosha comes with some valuable chaacteristics that we can really make the most of come Springtime. Kapha is all about unity and togetherness, meaning we may feel more loving towards others and enjoy spending quality time with family and friends. In the very same way; that unity and togetherness refers to the body, as our tissues tend to be stronger and more resilient at this time of year, making it the perfect time to start a new exercise regime, take on a challenge or heal aches, pains and niggles. Endurance is a key aspect of Kapha energy, so anything that requires a commitment and lasting effort (such as a marathon, triathlon or a long walk in the countryside) is supported during this season. Kapha’s strength also shows itself in the immune and reproductive systems too, meaning that even though allergies and sinus issues can manifest in Spring, the body is less likely to catch an illness or infection, and we’re generally a little more fertile than in other months. A craving for sweet foods may show up during this season – especially if you already hold a lot of Kapha energy – so be mindful of when your body has had enough.
Stay Well This Spring
Knowing all of this and becoming more aware of how we feel on a daily basis can all help the body and mind stay in a state of good health and balance. A daily routine or specific practices focusses on balancing Kapha energy during Spring can also be a great way to align with the season and stay well. Try the following and notice the difference:
Redefine Your Relationship with Light: The way we interact with light is essentially the exact opposite of what nature intended. Before we were able to stay indoors for the majority of the time and light up our houses at the flick of a switch, we had a far more natural and beneficial way of working with light from the sun. Living in tribes in close contact with the earth (as some parts of the world still do), our circadian rhythms (the body’s clock) would be perfectly balances and in tune with the arc of the sun. We would wake just before or just after sunrise depending upon the season, and go to bed a couple of hours after sun set. The important factor isn’t just the natural waking and sleeping times we would have experienced; it’s the way we used light during those times. In the morning, the natural light outside contains lots of blue light waves, which essentially tell the body clock to wake up, start revving up digestion, releasing hormones and getting us ready for the day. At dusk, that blue light is replaced by more red light waves, which help us wind down for sleep, eventually leading into darkness. Today however, the light we expose ourselves to indoors is nowhere near as bright as the outside light, meaning we don’t properly ‘wake up’ until we spend some prolonged time outdoors in the morning. At night, we tend to miss out on those red light waves and natural darkness, because we switch on lightbulbs and screens that emit blue light waves, preventing us from releasing the necessary hormones required for healthy sleep. If we want to feel well, the number one thing we can start doing this Spring, is to get outside in the morning and absorb that morning light, and try having less ‘light pollution’ entering our eyes at night.
Seasonal Eating: Nature tends to provide us with the exact nutrients and vitamins we need in our immediate environment, and trees even give off specific scents from their essential oils that benefit us in different seasons! As the season changes, head to your local market, farm shop or browse the ‘seasonal foods’ section of your local supermarket and try adding in more of those foods wherever you can.
Be Bitter: Kapha’s heaviness can soon be relieved and cleansed by consuming more bitter foods, which help increase digestive strength and ‘scrape’ toxins from the digestive tract. Choose foods like lemon, rhubarb, dandelion root, milk thistle, green and black tea, lettuce, sorrel and turmeric.
Spice It Up: Adding warming, stimulating spices to your meals can really help enkindle the digestive fire and prevent that lethargic, heavy feeling in the abdomen. Ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ajowan, fennel, turmeric and black pepper are all great ways to spice up sweet and savoury dishes.
Experiment With Intermittent Fasting: Whilst we need enough calories to feel strong and resilient, as well as of course making time to enjoy meals with friends, the body does benefit immensely from brief periods of fasting. Intermittent fasting tends to be most easily practiced overnight, leaving a 16 to 18 hour gap between dinner and breakfast. During this prolonged break from food, the digestive system starts digesting any ‘leftovers’, and cleans up the intestines. With less energy placed upon the process of digestion, the body uses this extra energy to repair injuries and rejuvenate cells, thus helping increase longevity and wellbeing. Not everyone is able to fast or will enjoy fasting, but if you’re able to, Spring is a great season to practice it.
Boost Circulation: With Kapha’s tendency towards sluggishness, keeping circulation moving is important during this time of year. Enhancing circulation not only helps the body’s processed work efficiently, it also helps the immune system fight off illness, particularly chesty coughs and Spring colds.
Body Brushing: Another way to boost circulation; body brushing involved using a bristle brush in a circular motion all over the skin, paying particular attention to the armpits, chest, inner thighs, abdomen and lower back. Start on the legs and brush upward towards the heart.
Spring Cleaning: As simple as it sounds – de-cluttering our environment can seriously help de-clutter the mind. When we see things around the home we’ve been meaning to sort out for a while, or things that are broken and still haven’t been mended, it all creates subconscious clutter in the mind, and becomes an addition to the ‘to do’ list that never quite gets ticked off. To create calm and clarity in the mind, schedule a few hours to de-clutter, fix and Spring clean your home.
Take on a physical Challenge: Kapha’s qualities of strength and endurance are supportive of taking on new challenges this Spring, and as the weather becomes a little warmer and brighter, it also contributes to feeling more motivated. Have you always wanted to start running, join that outdoor bootcamp, or climb a mountain? If you have a physical goal in mind, this is a great time of year to start working towards it, especially if it involves getting outside.
Choose Your Colours: Balance out any heaviness and lethargy by embracing those bright Spring colours. Vibrant reds, orange and even violet can help increase energy and motivation. Try wearing these colours, having them around your home, or switching your phone and computer home screen to match these energising colours.
We already know that sound has a big impact upon us, because we each have favourite songs or genres of music, and we each have sounds that make us feel uncomfortable. Indeed, the entire universe is actually made up of soundwaves, vibrations and frequencies that we aren’t even aware of.
All sounds are waves and are produced by the vibrations of material objects. If you clap your hands together, this creates a vibration and thus soundwaves and frequencies. If you strum a guitar, the vibration of the strings sends out waves, heard as frequencies. These vibrations are transmitted through air, or they move through other mediums such as solid, liquid, gas or plasma. When vibrations reach the ear, they are converted to electrical impulses in the brain, which we interpret as sound. Lower frequency sound vibrations can also be felt by the body.
NASSA have uncovered soundwaves in space too, known as stellar sound waves, with a technique called asteroidseismology. They say that; “The biggest stars make the lowest, deepest sounds, like tubas and double basses. Small stars have high-pitched voices, like celestial flutes. These virtuosos don’t just play one “note” at a time, either — our own Sun has thousands of different sound waves bouncing around inside it at any given moment”. The universe is literally made of sound, and we benefit when we start using sound on a therapeutic level.
Our Vibrating Planet
Everything we can see and touch (i.e. every material object in nature or man-made) is made of vibrational frequencies. Matter is vibration, and the quality of that matter – solid, liquid or gas – depends upon the frequency its vibrating at. Everything has an impact upon frequency, including size. As the mass of a vibrating body increases, its frequency decreases, but as the tensionincreases the frequency also increases, thus balancing the body’s vibrational sound frequencies. The earth has a natural frequency pulsation of 7.83 hz (humans can hear between 20hz and 20,000hz). Note: ‘hz’ means the number of repeating vibrations that occur within a second.
Autoimmune disease specialist Christina Sessmus says; “Humans have an optimal frequency–as does everything else in the universe–that occurs when each of the cells in our body vibrates at the frequency it was designed to. Bruce Tainio, famous researcher and developer of Tainio Technology, found that a healthy body resonates at a frequency of 62-72 MHz, (MHz takes 1 ‘hz’ and multiplies it by a million) and when your frequency drops to 58 MHz, that is when disease starts. Bacteria, viruses, and disease each have their own, low frequency that influence your energy field”. As your frequency drops due to environmental and physiological factors, your immune system is compromised and opportunistic bacteria and viruses are able to wreak havoc on your body–making you more susceptible to disease. Trapped emotions stored in our organs, muscles and tissues as pockets of electromagnetic energy also have a negative influence our wellbeing. Disharmony and imbalance in the body’s energy field shows up long before it becomes a physical problem.” The lower the body’s frequency, the less healthy the body becomes.
Raise Your Vibration
As we know, holistic health and healing isn’t just about working with the physical body, it’s about working with every aspect of life. Our vibrational frequencies are what we might call ‘energy’, ‘prana’ or ‘qi’, and everything we do or come into contact with can affect our energy and vibrational frequency.
What Decreases Your Vibration?
Intuitively, you’ll be able to feel when you’re vibrating at a lower or dissonant frequency. To put it simply; stress lowers the body’s vibrational frequency, and relaxation raises it. The following things are likely to lower the body’s vibrational frequency and decrease wellbeing:
- Toxins in the environment
- Processed food
- Foods that are heavy and greasy, or that you cannot digest well
- ‘Toxic’ relationships
- Too much time indoors
- Traumatic Memories
- Negative Thinking
- Noise or a general ‘hum’ from construction work or traffic that causes discomfort
What Increases Your Vibration?
The more we look at high-vibrational experiences and objects, the more it becomes clear that mostly, the things we enjoy and that genuinely fill us with positive ‘vibrations will help maintain a healthy and harmonious frequency.
- Chanting and toning
- Listening to music you enjoy, or specific binaural beats / frequencies
- Organic and unprocessed foods
- High grade essential oils
- Spending time with people you feel safe, happy and comfortable with
- Enjoyable exercise
- Pranayama (breathwork)
- Meditation and positive visualisation
- Using and being around crystals (specifically clear quartz, watermelon tourmaline, jade, selenite, celestite, shungite, hematite,
- Using organic herbs in cooking
- Earthing and going barefoot
If you want to start making more positive life changes, begin paying more attention to the sounds around you and consider how they make you feel: do you often spend time in a room that has a constant low humming sound or a high pitched note? How does that make you feel, and how do you think it could be impacting your vibration? Perhaps start listening to sounds and songs that uplift or relax you, or focussing on reducing the amount of ‘low vibration’ things you’re exposed to and including more ‘high vibration’ activities in your life.