Mindful Monday

Mindfulness Meditation

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A mindfulness meditation can be a great way to bring the practice and experience of mindfulness from our formal meditation practice and out in to the world in our everyday lives.

A mindfulness meditation practice seems very simple, but can have very profound effects – and it is not always easy to deal with the thoughts and emotions, which emerge in our minds.

A mindfulness meditation could be exactly what you need this time of year. When everything around us is so busy and bustling, this meditation brings us back to ourselves and lets us know where we’re at in this moment, so we’re able to feel peace within ourselves – not getting caught up in thoughts and ‘mind-stuff’ – which in turn allows us to be more present and free to completely and presently experience this Christmas with our friends and families!

To begin, sit in a comfortable position. Sit however you need to sit so that you can have a nice long spine and feel comfortable.

With the eyes closed or your gaze lowered, take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose, bringing your full attention to taking long, even breaths.

When we sit with ourselves, without any distractions (which may be completely unfamiliar to a lot of people) it can be difficult to deal with actually being with ourselves, and what lies in our minds.

Observe whatever comes up in your mind, whether it be ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and let it be there. Often we try to push away unpleasant thoughts (known as ‘dvesa’ or refusal) and we become attached to pleasant thoughts (known as ‘raga’ or attachment). In this meditation, just let the thoughts be there, observe them just for what they are and then let them go again.

Stay here with your breath, observing, for as long as you have time for, and then when you’re ready to finish, begin to take deeper inhales and bring your awareness back to your surroundings. Open your eyes slowly.

How do you feel? Did anything unexpected come up?

Practice this meditation regularly and you will realise that thoughts and emotions of all kinds are always coming and going, they are not permanent and they don’t have to control you.

This too shall pass.

The only real, pure, permanent thing is your true Self.

Mindful Monday quote of the week:

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
― Mother Teresa

Ayurvedic Spice Blends

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Ayurveda – the ancient ‘science of life’, is a traditional Indian system of medicine, which has been used to treat and cure people for thousands of years. Ayurveda is based on the idea of balancing the body and mind by using herbal treatment, dietary considerations and yogic breathing techniques. Ayurveda presumes our natural state is one of complete health, and that by finding out how to balance ourselves, we will get back to that healthy state we all have the right to be in. Using completely natural techniques, Ayurveda is not only fascinating, but – unlike a lot of western medicine – works to cure the cause, not just the symptoms.

 

The three ‘doshas’ – Kapha, Pitta and Vata determine a person’s body and mind type. Knowing your dosha can be very useful in discovering which different foods will benefit you the most, which type of exercise is likely to be the most helpful to your body, and you’ll also be able to more easily recognise when and why you may feel a little ‘unbalanced’ at times.

 

There are lots of tests available to take in order to find out your dosha, follow this link to determine yours if you aren’t sure yet: http://www.naturesformulary.com/contents/dosha-test

 

When you know your dosha, try making up one of these Ayurvedic spice blends to try out and see how it works for you:

 

Kapha:

As a Kapha-type personality tends to be a little lethargic, tends towards the lazy side, and can be prone to problems with digestion – this spice blend includes stimulating, warming herbs, as well as herbs which aid digestion and have antioxidising properties.

 

Ground Ginger – ginger is warming, and increases Pitta, bringing more heat and evergy to the body.

Coriander – A cooling herb, which aids digestion and helps to purify the blood.

Black Pepper – pepper also helps with digestion and has, cleansing, antioxidant properties. It helps the flow of blood to the brain, and circulation of blood around the body too.

Cinnamon – A warming spice, cinnamon is also very good at balancing blood sugar levels

Turmeric – A very healing spice, which is used copiously in Aurveda. Turmeric helps to detoxify the liver, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, stimulate digestion, support immunity, and is an especially good anti inflammatory. Turmeric actually helps to replicate healthy cells.

Oregano – Containing some of the highest antioxidant levels of all herbs, oregano actually has four times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries!

Thyme – also full of antioxidants, thyme is also great for helping to remove any build up of mucus in the respiratory tract, which is especially useful for Kapha types.

 

Pitta:

Pitta types are generally firey in nature, goal orientated and occasionally short tempered. They’re likely to have a strong metabolism and could use more cooling, calming herbs to balance them out.

 

Chamomile – it is widely known that chamomile is calming for the nervous system, but it also helps to cure muscle cramps, can clear up skin irritations (which could be useful for Pitta-types), and also helps with stomach complaints – even helping to calm symptoms of IBS.

Fennel – full of antioxidants and also containing high amounts of vitamin C, handy in maintaining a strong immune system

Turmeric – A very healing spice, which is used copiously in Aurveda. Turmeric helps to detoxify the liver, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, stimulate digestion, support immunity, and is an especially good anti inflammatory. Turmeric also actually helps to replicate healthy cells.

Cumin – Helpful for digestion – often calming stomach pain, and is also an antiseptic, which helps to boost the immune system. 

Coriander – Coriander has a slight sedative effect, which is known to be helpful with treating anxiety and promoting good memory, perfect for fast thinking, fast moving and often anxious and feisty pitta types

Cinnamon – A warming spice, cinnamon is also very good at balancing blood sugar levels

Basil – Derived from the Greek word ‘basileus’ meaning ‘king’; Basil is also referred to as ‘l’herbe royale’ (royal herb) by the French. Many regions of the world believe it has strong beneficial properties. What I know, is that it helps to reduce inflammation and has anti-aging properties too. Basil is also known to be calming, and contains a good amount of antioxidants.

 

Vata

Often suffering from anxiety and a low immune system if unbalanced, vata types are usually creative and often a bit ‘up in the air’ – they’ll benefit from warming, grounding herbs and spices.

 

Cardamom – cardamom is a warming spice, used a lot in Indian cooking, it also helps to open up respiratory passages

Ginger- improves circulation, very good for digestion, and is warming for the body

Cinnamon – helps to balance blood sugar levels (could help with that dizzy and lightheaded feeling a lot of Vata types are prone to.) Cinnamon also helps boost blood circulation.

Nutmeg – Also great for digestion, nutmeg is warming and very comforting, especially for Vata types in colder months.

Asefoetida – Helps to combat bloating and flatulence! (consider adding this to your next big blow-out meal) This spice is also anti-viral, and a great anti-inflammatory.

Black pepper Warming and full of antioxidants –  a good addition to the spice blend for Vata types as they are likely to suffer from a lower immune system and catch colds easier than most in Winter months. 

 

Depending upon your dosha, blend a selection (or all!) of these spices together from either the Pitta, Vata or Kapha list to sprinkle over roast vegetables, in soups, tea, cook in to curries, or anything else you can think of!

Your body: a prison or a paradise

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There is a big difference between living in your body, and living with your body.

Your body is not a cage. Not something to escape and run away from. If we treat ourselves badly though, it will feel like a prison.

Your body is your best friend. Treat it well, it will be with you for your whole life. Treat it as you would treat others. And how should we treat others? As we would like to be treated, ofcourse…. Treat yourself well, and your body will transform from a prison to a paradise.

Take the time to listen, to notice how we move, how we feel in different situations.

Most importantly, know that your body is unlike anyone else’s. Ever. It needs different things than other bodies need – it is supposed to look different to everyone else’s. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all looked the same wouldn’t it?….

Find what works for your body. Fill it with good things, move it the way it likes to move. Do the things you truly enjoy, let your self know you are good enough. 

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” – Oscar Wilde

Mindful Monday

Multitasking Madness

Are you one of those people who wears ‘busy-ness’ like a badge of honour? Feeling that ‘busy’ means ‘successful’ or happy? While we all need to do what our lives require us to do – there’s a way of doing them that doesn’t include the frantic and often actually stressful ‘busy-ness’ that our modern Western culture seems to holds in such high regard……….

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So it’s that time of year again; presents to be bought and wrapped, cards to write, food to prepare, family to organise, decorations to put up, and a little Christmas peace for yourself wouldn’t go amiss either. With a seemingly endless to-do list, we tend to find ourselves rushing around and doing about ten things at once in an attempt to get everything ready in time for Christmas.

The problem is though; when we’re just doing things to ‘get them done’ we don’t do them nearly as well as we would if we did them for the joy of it. There is so much magic at this time of year, and it’s all to easy too miss it if we hurry from one task to the next, stressing about what we must do next. We may think we’re doing everything ‘right’ if we’re rushing from one thing to the next, getting things done – but multitasking really is the opposite of mindfulness, and mindfulness is how we learn to live life fully.

Bringing the act of mindfulness in to our lives – especially at this time of year – allows us to get everything done, do it well, and enjoy ourselves while we’re doing it. We also engage more with the world around us, so we can appreciate the extra time to interact with our family, appreciating them rather than ‘putting up’ with them.

So, for the next 10 days (maybe 11 if you’re having the relatives to stay for boxing day too), lets all start the day by taking a deep breath and actually properly opening our eyes to the world. Let’s think of the people lovingly who we buy the gifts for, let’s write Christmas cards that contain a meaningful message for once! Let’s appreciate how long these Christmas decorations have lasted, how magical they make our houses look, let’s prepare our food healthily and with kind thoughts, taking a minute to think of all the people who were involved in allowing you to have this food in front of you right now. And of course, make sure you have time for yourself, to do something that that makes you feel good and is just for you every day. Whether that be for a matter or minutes or hours – when you have enough love inside of you, you’ll have endless amounts to give to others.

Mindful Monday Quote of the Week:

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” -― Maya Angelou

Vegan Brain Food

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Especially around the Christmas season, it seems as though there’s a hundred things to remember and to plan for. Because of all the business and temptations of sugary treats around, it can also mean our health takes a bit of a back seat. If you’re a vegan too, it can be difficult to know exactly what will benefit your brain other than eggs or fish, which are often recommended. So, to make sure you’re still getting lots of lovely nutritious foods and boosting your brain power so you can remember all of those things on your to-do list this holiday, take a look at this list of vegan brain foods!

While veganism is linked to a wide range of health benefits, including lowering risks of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, hypertension, type 2 diabetes,  it is important to ensure we’re still able to consume and absorb all the necessary nutrients we need to support a healthy mind and body.

While carbohydrates, sugar, wheat and grains in general have been linked to the onset of Parkinsons disease and less severe but none-the-less concerning poor brain function, it is often grains and sugar that we turn to when confused about what our bodies need.

Fat and cholesterol are two words that most people will have been avised to stay well away from. But there are different kinds of fats and cholesterol, and 60 per cent of the brain actually consists of fats, it is important to know the good and bad types of fat, cholesterol, and other brain enhancing foods.

GOOD FATS

(Yes, there is such a thing….)

Walnuts:

While all nuts are found to be very beneficial for us, containing important protein, antioxidants, vitamins, mierals and omega-3 fatty acidsThe doctrine of signatures  (a fascinating pre-modern system which has discovered that plants which grow to look like a certain part of our bodies are actually very beneficial to that which they resemble) confirms that the Walnut is brilliant for brain health.

Containing essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help make up the grey matter – the part of your brain responsible for cognitive function, and also helps with vision!

Avocado:

 Avocado is another source of good fats. The fatty acids in avocados  – known as oleic acids – helps to build up myelin, or the ‘grey matter’ of the brain. Higher levels of this grey matter in the brain are linked to the ability for our brains to process information quicker. Likewise, low levels of these essential fats lead to poorer cognitive performance. So make sure you’re consuming these very healthy fats to ensure your grey matter is well cared for.

 

Flax:

Helps to improve the workings of the cerebral cortex of the brain – which processes sensory information such as taste and touch

Almonds: Nuts have been well researched to lower the risk of heart disease and lower the levels of ‘bad cholesterol’. Almonds also include essential nutrients which boost brain activity, and their healthy fats help to protect cell walls.

FRUITS

Blueberries:

As most of us know, blueberries are extremely high in antioxidants – essential for our health as they combat free radicals which tend to damage cell walls and DNA. Blueberries have been found to improve memory and general brain function. A very healthy addition to any diet, blueberries are best consumed raw. Other dark berries like blackberries (which are very high in vitamin C, also proven to improve mental agility), as well as pure, organic pomegranate juice, also contain very high levels of antioxidants.

Red Grapes:

Referring back to the ‘doctrine of signatures’ once again, we notice that red grapes  most closely resemble red blood cells, and they have actually been found to be very good at keeping our blood flow healthy. They are brilliant for improving blood circulation, which keeps the brain well oxygenated and fullof nutrients. Red grapes also help to raise good cholesterol levels, and lower bad cholesterol!

Bananas:

It’s quite likely that you’ve been advised to eat a banana before an exam…. But why?

The potassium in bananas can help to increase alertness, and the B vitamins it contains help to calm the nervous system – which is pretty much perfect preparation for any test!

Kiwis:

If you’re not a banana fan, consider getting your potassium from kiwi fruits – less filling and very close to bananas in the amount of potassium per 100g!

VEGETABLES

Tomatoes:

Technically a fruit, but we’ll just put them in the vegetable category for now….

The powerful antioxidant lycopene helps to protect cells from free radicals, and because of this is particularly effective in warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Beetroot:

The natural nitrates in beetroot increases blood flow to the brain

Green leafy vegetables (like spinach or kale) and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli or cauliflower): have been proven to slow the rate of cognitive decline

HERBS

Sage:

The compounds in sage help to prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are responsible for learning and memory

Rosemary:

Just the scent of Rosemary can boost memory by up to 75%! Rosemary also reduces levels of cortisol in the body (the stress hormone), helping lead to lower levels of anxiety

Oregano:

Move over blueberries…. Oregano has four times the amount of antioxidants as the super fruit. The antioxidising effects help to keep blood circulating healthily around the body and brain.

These are just a few tips on how to boost your brain power with the foods you’re likely to have at home already. Share your own memory boosting power foods to the comments section below!

Mindful Monday

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The act of mindfulness has come in to mainstream discussion more and more in recent years – used as a tool to help us focus more, eat less, get to know each other better, and appreciate life. Mindful meditation, mindful eating, mindful speaking, mindful thinking…. It’s true that practicing mindfulness allows us to engage more with the people around us, it stops us from making unconscious unhealthy food decisions, and it makes us able to view our thoughts without getting caught up in them. This is all very useful, but it is when we start to make mindfulness a part of our lives that everything changes.

Living with mindfulness allows us to approach each situation for just what it is, without judgment and open to the possibility that our fixed beliefs are not the only ‘truth’. We notice our habits; the ones that serve us well and the ones that don’t, so we can change for the better. Living with mindfulness encourages us to finally open our eyes to what we’ve been missing while we were living in our minds. It’s like taking off a pair of glasses that only let you see half of what is going on. Mindfulness allows us to live in the now, where we can fully experience life, rather than in the past or the future where our minds like to drag us to. Waking up to now allows us to see the world and everything in it – including ourselves – for the miracle it really is.

 Mindful Monday Quote of the Week:

‘People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle’ – Thich Nhat Hanh

Yoga For Musicians

 

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“Yoga is like music.

The rhythm of the body,

the melody of the mind,

and the harmony of the soul,

create the symphony of life.” – BKS Iyengar

 

The benefits of yoga are widely known and have proven themselves upon the millions of people who choose to practice it worldwide. (Right now, around 15 million people in the USA alone are practicing yoga, and this figure is growing rapidly). Well known artists such Alanis Morisette, Moby, Ziggy Marley, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Sting and Madonna have already shown how effective yoga has been for their bodies, minds and lives. (You can follow this link to read an interview with some of these musicians about their yoga practice: http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/3134)

 Life brings with it highs and lows. It is easy to get caught up in everything going on around us, especially within the music industry where everything is so fast paced and continually evolving. Through the practice of yoga, we learn to tune in to our breath and body, lowering cortisol levels (the ‘stress hormone’) and creating a more balanced state of mind. The breathing practices, combined with movement and postures brings us to a more focussed and positive place.

 Yoga is known to greatly enhance mood levels for long periods of time. In a culture where the majority of people look to drugs, alcohol or coffee for a ‘quick fix’ to temporarily improve their mood, yoga’s benefits are deeper and more profound. You definitely don’t have to change your way of life or quit your habits to practice yoga, this is an opportunity to discover alternative ways of feeling great without the side effects!

 Habitually sitting for long periods of time in class, driving long distances on tour, while working or at the mixing desk, all contribute to tight muscles of the torso and hips, decreasing mobility and freedom of movement. Lifting heavy amps and constantly carrying heavy equipment and instruments puts strain on these muscles which is likely to cause back pain – the leading cause of disability amongst those under 45 years old. By practicing yoga – improved strength, flexibility and a lengthening of these muscles can be noticed dramatically, and often pain in the body starts to heal and disappear. Strengthening the core muscles also helps to protect the back from injury, and makes performing on stage less tiring, safer and more enjoyable.

 Yoga is known to very much improve self confidence, especially as the physical practice develops and we begin to trust our bodies a little more. Through moving in ways that are new to us, we start to ‘get to know ourselves’ a little better. This greater sense of self confidence and positivity can make a big difference when stepping up on stage in front of large crowds, which is a big turning point in a performance career.

Raw Vegan Mini Christmas Puddings

It’s not long until Christmas! Time to experiment with some alternative nutritious nibbles for everyone.

We all know that you are what you eat. Would you rather be made of pre-packaged, sugar filled, artificial snacks? Or natural, healthy, filling and delicious treats?

I know what I’d rather be made of….

So here is the recipe for some very delicious and nutritious Christmas themed treats!

Mini Raw Vegan Christmas Puddings

 I am not a very accurate measurer, so this recipe mostly uses ‘handfuls’ and ‘some’ as guidelines! Basically, if you want more, use bigger amounts, if you want less…. Use less!

 The sort of amounts I used made 5 or 6 balls that were bigger than a conker but smaller than a golf ball….

Ingredients:

 – Handful of raw cashews

– Handful of raw almonds

– Handful of dried coconut pieces

– Pinch of pink Himalayan mountain salt (or whatever salt you have!)

– 1 small carrot, grated

– Handful of raisins

– 5 prunes (stones removed!) or dates…. I could only find prunes in my house at the time, but at least they’ll keep you ‘regular’ if you know what I mean….

– Small pieces of other dried fruit like dried mango or pineapple or something like that if you have it

– A few dried cherries

– Zest of an orange

– Tsp cinnamon

– Pinch of nutmeg and allspice

– You can add a couple of little spoons of honey, although that doesn’t make these strictly vegan anymore

For the top decorative part:

 – Icing sugar and lemon juice mixed until it looks like there’s enough (obviously these will be healthier without the icing sugar but they won’t look very Christmas pudding-y and it is only a tiny amount of sugar.)

– Chopped cherries for the berries

– A little bit of a mint leaf for the holly

Instructions:

–        Put the nuts, coconut pieces and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until they’re all finely chopped.

–        Add the carrot, dried fruit, orange zest and all the spices and pulse again until everything is finely chopped and starting to come together

–        If you’re using honey, add it now. If your mixture isn’t sticky enough without the honey, add a couple more dates or prunes

–        Wet your hands a little and roll the mixture in to balls

 For the decoration on top:

–        mix some lemon juice and icing sugar together to form a thick paste and drizzle over each rolled ball

–        chop up some dried cherries in to little bits and pop them on top to resemble red berries

–        add a little tiny bit of mint leaf (or any green edible leaf really) to resemble holly

 Put these in the freezer to set for a little bit and then they’re ready to eat!

You can store these in the freezer for a while until they’re ready to be eaten too

There are 15 million Americans practicing yoga right now…. why?

There are countless blogs ‘out there’ telling you why yoga is good for you, why you should be practicing it, and what you might experience.

The truth is, everyone’s experience of what yoga is to them differs a little. Yes, we are all agreed on the definition of yoga, derived from the root word ‘yoke’ meaningto unite’ – so by many people’s accounts, yoga means ‘to unite’. But ‘to unite’ with what? Some say, with the divine, others to a higher power. To me, and to many others, it means to unite with who you really are. Your ‘true Self’.

I can’t tell you what you will experience, I can’t tell you why it is good for you, I can’t even tell you why you should be practicing it. I can only tell you what it means to me:

‘Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodaha’. In the well known philosophical texts the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, yoga is said to calm the fluctuations of the mind’. The first time I ever remember my mind stopped going at 100 miles-per-hour was in one of my first yoga classes. Yoga has transformed my mind and body from weak and fearful to strong and positive. It allows me to actually live in the present moment, rather than caught up in thoughts about the past or future – concentrating on the breath, moving and listening to how we feel in a particular moment allows us to fully be there in reality, instead of somewhere in our minds which doesn’t even exist. It teaches me to trust myself and the decisions I make. It has taught me that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. It always teaches me that the most important moment is now. It has taught me that everyone is so different. It is not about touching your toes and doing handstands. It is also not about lying down and shutting your mind off. It forces me to listen to things I have been ignoring. It has opened my eyes to more things than I thought possible. Yoga makes me want to share everything I have learned so far, so I trained to teach it to anyone and everyone. It puts me in the most unexpected circumstances. It brings me back together. It has taught me all of this and about a thousand more things that are unexplainable. It can teach you too if you’re willing to learn.

I want to share everything I have learned and continue to learn about living fully, healthily, honestly and in the present moment. 

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