YOGI BLOG

Cultivating Calm Amidst Chaos

 

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“I’m too busy”, “I don’t have the time”, “I’ve got to get this done”, “I wish I could just slow down and relax, but I can’t”, “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going”, “I’m up to my eyeballs in work/study/family commitments”.

 

These are all things I hear uttered frequently, from people I know well, from snippets of conversation snatched from strangers, and from my own lips more often than I’d like. It’s a shame that these words are more common in our daily dialogues than, for example, “I feel wonderfully calm,” or “I’m content with what I’m doing  right now,” or “I’m happy I took the time to relax, I feel so much better”. However, the point of this post is to draw our attention to common habits which may have a negative impact on our sense of wellbeing, and turn that attention into something positive.

A basic principle of mindfulness meditation is: Pay Attention. By pausing and resting our attention on what is happening right now, we can start to cultivate a stronger sense of how we think and act throughout the day, how thoughts and actions impact our behaviour, and make small but potent changes where needed. In a nutshell, we can cultivate a little bit of our very own calm amidst the constant buzz of life.

 

Here is a simple practice for you to try absolutely anywhere…

– at home, at work, in a shop, at a bus stop, in your car (perhaps not while driving!). It could take you 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 50 minutes. It’s up to  you. No excuses – do it right now, after you’re read the following suggestions:

 

Identify how you feel physically. 

Adopt a comfortable position wherever you are – sitting, standing or lying down. Closing your eyes helps to limit visual distractions. Become aware of your posture and how you are holding yourself. Identify how you feel physically. Use these questions as prompts:

  • What parts of your body are in contact with the ground/chair/bed?
  • Where do you feel you are, physically, in relation to the space around you?
  • Do you feel open or closed in?
  • Do you feel light or heavy?
  • Do you feel connected or disconnected?
  • Is there any tension anywhere in your body? Where?
  • Do you feel physically good or not.

 

Don’t try to analyse the answers to these questions, just state the answers simply in your mind until you feel more physically aware of you body, then move on to the next step.

 

  Become aware of your emotional state.

  • Do you feel energised? Tired? Wired? Settled? Jittery? Anxious? Excited? Indifferent? Content? Wanting? Angry? Envious? Admiration? Love? Hopeful? Unsure?
  • Bring to mind the names of emotions that you can identify with in this moment.

 

Again, don’t get too wrapped up in your emotions; observe them as if you were an outsider, noting down any feelings you are experiencing at this moment, just as a record.

 

Breathe.

This is all you need to do now. Give your full attention to the process of breathing in and breathing out. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Feel the air travel in through your nose, down your windpipe, to the base of your belly and back again.

If you find your mind wandering off in all directions (as it inevitably does), don’t worry about it. As the old saying goes, Mind is like Monkey. It’s nature is to jump all over the place. It needs constant training and a single focus to be tamed. This will take time.

For now, bring it back to the task at hand – the breath – by counting. You can even form the breath and the counting into a silent statement if it helps: “I’m breathing in 1, I’m breathing out 1, I’m breathing in 2, I’m breathing out 2…” Counting up, there is no limit. Continue until a sense of calm starts to develop and grow from within you.

 

 

By incorporating this practice into your day, you are giving yourself the time you need to reconnect with who you are and what is going on at any given moment. By cultivating an awareness of the present moment, you are creating space within your life for the only thing we really have: now.

 

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Further reading:

  • ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now
  • JON KABAT-ZINN, Wherever You Go, There You Are
  • ELAIN FOREMAN & CLAIRE POLLARD, Introducing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): A Practical Guide

 

Start as you mean to go on…

Well, we’ve taken down the decorations and emptied out our fridges of indulgent leftovers from the festive season. Now is a good time to reboot our bodies and turn our thoughts to how we can maintain good health over the winter. The D word is often used (and sometimes abused) at this time of year. The key to detoxing successfully, and safely, is: gently does it. I’m not an advocate of strict fasting and intense cleansing at any time of year, but especially not in these chilly climates. Maybe in the warm and sunny comfort of Southern hemisphere countries, but here in the North, it’s just not advisable. We need nurturing, comforting, and gentle cleansing to keep us in tip top shape until Spring, when again, we can reassess our nutritional and wellbeing needs.

 

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Here are 5 simple tips to help you get your mornings off to a clean start, boosting your energy levels for each day ahead:

 

Dry body brushing

Before you jump in the shower, take a minute (that’s all it takes!) and a good quality natural bristle body brush, and brush dry skin from the feet, up the legs, torso and back towards the heart, and from the hands, up the arms, towards the heart. Make a figure of eight across the chest, and finish with some downward chest strokes towards the heart. This process boosts the lymphatic system which eliminates toxins from the body, removes dead skin cells and leaves you feeling awake and energised. Aim to do it every morning, and it’ll soon become part of your wake-up routine.

 

Love Lemons 

Make your first drink of the day a cup of hot water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice (about half a small lemon). Although acidic in its food form, lemon is actually incredibly alkalising once digested. Adding more alkaline foods into your diet – such as green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, citrus fruits, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic – all help to keep the body in balance. We generally eat too many acid-forming foods, like processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, refined grains and mass produced meat and dairy, so cutting down on these and upping the alkaline foods will ease the body back into a state of balance.

 

Juice it

For breakfast, make a fresh juice or smoothie packed with antioxidant rich fruit and veg – try the Yogiz Get Your Green On recipe – an easy way to push out toxins and refuel with nutrients at the same time. As well as a cleansing juice, make sure you get enough protein in your breakfast. Adding a tablespoon of nut butter, half a ripe avocado and a good sprinkling of flax seeds to your smoothie will make it more of a meal. Alternatively, whip up some eggs and top with avocado, wilted spinach and/or salmon for a protein-packed, slow-release energy breakfast that will keep you satiated until lunch. Starting the day in a healthy way makes you more motivated to continue making positive health choices throughout the day.

 

 Get moving

Take an early morning walk; stretch out; breathe in; jump up and down; dance around; work up a sweat and feel the blood pumping. Just like dry body brushing, physical activity kick starts the lymphatic system into moving out any stagnant toxins, not to mention the cardiovascular, muscular and psychological benefits it brings.

 

Breathe

It sounds obvious, but sometimes we are in so much of a rush to get up and get on with our ‘to do’ lists that breathing gets pushed way down the priority list. By breathing, I mean actually taking notice of your breath and connecting with it.

Try rolling out of bed into a comfortable sitting position (I like sitting on a cushion on my yoga mat in a softly lit room), and just sit for 5 minutes, making your inhales and exhales longer and deeper until the flow of breath is the only thing you’re concerned with. You could say it’s a form of meditation. Starting the day by being present, and checking in with where you are during the day, will help you to stay calm and grounded.

 

 

Incorporating these 5 things into your daily routine is a sure fire approach to feeling lighter, brighter and more energised, ready for anything the day throws at you. Try it for a week and see how different you feel. We’d love to hear your feedback – leave a comment below or contact Yogiz here.

 

Keep your eyes open for more recipes and healthy tips coming soon on Yogiz.

Gluten Free Banana Coconut Bread

 

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This really is a mishmash of different recipes I have tried in the past. The result is a light, fluffy, sweet bread that is delicious on its own, with a wedge of melted butter or topped with your favourite nut butter. The hardest part of all is waiting for the loaf to cool before devouring it! The banana, coconut and vanilla bring a good amount of natural sweetness to the recipe on their own, so I’ve tried to keep the actual sugar content to a minimum.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 60g coconut oil (or unsalted butter), melted but not too hot
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 50g soft brown sugar (or equivalent in maple syrup or honey)
  • 25g dessicated coconut
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • A dash of milk (oat or coconut milk are nice alternatives)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a bread tin with butter or coconut oil.

Place the bananas, egg, coconut oil/butter and vanilla extract in a food processor, whizz for a few seconds, then add the dry ingredients and process until fairly smooth. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a dash of milk until you are happy with the consistency. It should be gloopy, not runny. Alternatively, good old fashioned manual whisking can be employed!

 

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Pour the mixture into the bread tin and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until golden brown and cracked on top. Place a knife through the middle and if it comes out clean, your loaf is ready.

 

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Now the hard part – waiting for it to cool before digging in! Give it a good hour on a cooling rack before attempting to cut the loaf into slices.

 

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This is what happens if you’re impatient like me – it crumbles into chunks….perfect bite-size chunks that have just got to be eaten on the spot!

 

 

Homemade Nut Milk (your mother will be proud of you)

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided against consuming cow’s milk. So now where do you go? The long-life milk aisle of your local supermarket may offer an array of dairy-free alternatives, but take a closer look at the ingredients and you may start to feel a little…cheated. Most shop-bought ‘nut milks’ only contain around 5% nut content. The rest is water and a whole host of other additives that are not altogether necessary.

Yes, it’s easy to grab a carton from the shelf and pour it straight over your muesli. But why not have a go at making your own nut milk? It’s fresh, wholesome and deliciously easy to make. And the bonus is, you know exactly what’s in it, because you made it.

 

Nutmilk

 

Ingredients

  • 200g of your favourite nuts such as hazel nuts, almonds, brazil nuts or cashews. Feeling adventurous? Why not try a mix of several different nuts?
  • 1litre of filtered water
  • Natural sweetener (optional), such as date syrup, agave syrup, honey or pitted dates.

 

5 simple steps to heavenly nut milk:

1. Soak your chosen nuts overnight in a bowl of filtered water. This softens them ready for blending, and also makes their nutrients more bioavailable to us by decreasing the amount of phytic acid they naturally contain. (Cashew nuts will need less soaking time – about 3 hours. Brazil nuts don’t need soaking.)

2. In the morning, drain and rinse the nuts, place in a blender and add 1 litre of filtered water (less if you want a thicker milk). If you want a sweetened version, add a tablespoon of date syrup, agave syrup, honey or 3 large pitted dates. Another option is to add in a tablespoon of raw cacao or  good quality cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey kick.

3. Blend for 1 minute. In the meantime, prepare your straining device. A muslin cloth, placed over a sieve, placed over a bowl works well.

4. Strain your mixture. Pour just enough mixture into the muslin cloth so that you can bring the four corners up to meet and squeeze the liquid out through the sieve (you could say it’s a bit like milking a cow…if you’ve ever milked a cow). Shake out any dry mix (the ‘nutmeal’) into a separate bowl. Do this until all the mixture is strained.

5. Et voila! You now have at least a litre of smooth, fresh nut milk, that can be stored in a glass bottle for about 5 days (although I challenge you to make it last that long!).

 

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But wait! Don’t discard the leftover nutmeal. Here are three suggestions to make your nut-milk-making-experience even more worthwhile:

  • Nutmeal makes a great porridge (soaked, funnily enough, with your home-made nut milk), topped with a sprinkling of flax, pumpkin and hemp seeds for added Omega intake, and a drizzle of date or maple syrup to sweeten.
  •  You could follow the recipe for energy balls (coming soon!), and create delicious, protein-packed snacks for on the go.
  • Alternatively, use it to make your own nut flour (as a base for baking wheat-free bread and pastries). Spread the nutmeal out on a baking tray, and place in a low-heat oven (100°C) for 2 – 3 hours. Once the mix has dried out, place in a coffee grinder until it resembles flour. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

 

 

 

Check in to Yogi Kitchen for more ideas on delicious ways to make the most out of your ingredients.

Easy EggyVeggie Breakfast Muffins

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I have the beautiful and knowledgeable Hemsley sisters to thank for this gem of a recipe (from their book, The Art of Eating Well). It is so easy and so nutritious that I just had to share it. It’s basically 50/50 egg to veg, so packed with protein, good saturated fat and a whole heap of vitamins and minerals to start your day on the right track. They are a colourful twist on a classic breakfast omelette, and made as muffins the night before, are easily transported in lunchboxes to school or work. I’m normally one for a sweeter start to the day, but when I feel like a savoury breakfast, these hit the spot and do a brilliant job of keeping me topped up until lunch. They are even builder-approved (devoured in an instant by the hardworking builders working on our house!).

Adding grated cheddar, parmesan or crumbled feta cheese adds even more flavour and fullness to these muffins. Either mix the cheese in with the vegetables, or sprinkle on top of the muffin mix before they go in the oven.

 

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):
• 8 eggs, cracked and whisked into a bowl.
• The same amount of raw vegetables, chopped finely.

I find a mix of 1 large grated carrot, 1 large grated courgette, 1 chopped red pepper, half a diced onion, a handful of peas (fresh or defrosted) and 5 or 6 cherry tomatoes, halved, is enough. But use whatever you have available that will taste good lightly cooked.

• 50g of grated cheddar, parmesan or crumbled feta cheese
• A small handful of fresh herbs, such as basil (goes well with tomatoes and feta), mint (best herb friend of peas) or oregano (lovely with cheddar or parmesan).
• 1 tsp of paprika
• Sea salt and black pepper to taste (the more cheese you use, the less salt you need).

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Method:
• Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 12-portion muffin tray with butter.
• Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
• Spoon the mix equally into the greased muffin tray. If you prefer, keep the cheese out of the mix until this point, and sprinkle on top of the muffins before putting in the oven.
• Pop in the oven for 15 minutes until the muffins are lightly browned on top and just set in the middle. Remember, egg keeps on cooking while it is hot so be careful not to dry them out.
• Take the muffins out of the tray to cool on a rack.

 

Enjoy them while they are still warm or wrap them up in parchment paper to take with you to work, school, the gym, hiking, cycling…whatever you do in the morning that requires a good EggyVeggie muffin to keep you going!

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What is health to you?

We are constantly informed by various media outlets, institutions and individuals what we should or shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy and live long, prosperous lives.

But what actually is health? More importantly, what is it to you?

Perhaps being healthy means being free of disease. That’s a good place to start. So how do you ensure you are building and maintaining a disease-free body?

By avoiding the most evident health-robbers, such as cigarettes, alcohol and processed sugar, you are setting the foundations for a health-promoting lifestyle. But how do you protect your body against those nasties that you just can’t avoid? Antioxidants are little powerhouses of nutritional defence that fight against free radical damage from environmental pollution, toxins and stress. They are found in all fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in the dark, rich coloured berries, red onions and leafy greens. So take heed with the ‘5 a Day’ message, which in the UK allows canned fruit and highly processed juices, and aim for at least five portions of fresh veg, with an extra two antioxidant-rich fruit portions. This is more in line with Australian public health guidance, and much better for your long term health.

You may feel physically fighting-fit if you play sports, lift weights or practice any form of exercise regularly. But how do you look after your mind? Mindfulness meditation advocates being present and giving your full attention to what you are experiencing right now. It is a powerful tool to enjoying and appreciating each moment, and prepares you to better deal with stressful situations that may arise.

Perhaps health to you means feeling ‘good’, as opposed to ‘not feeling 100%’. But this raises yet another question; What does 100% feel like?

So many of us adapt to the stresses and strains of modern living by accepting those niggles that prevent us from experiencing true health. A pinching tension in the shoulders; a dull ache across the forehead; feeling  ‘down’ and ‘grey’ without being able to pinpoint why; that persistent cough that just won’t go away, or a constantly runny nose that in the winter is put down to ‘a cold’, and in the summer becomes ‘allergies’.

What would it feel like to be free of all these background demons? To wake up each morning feeling refreshed and ready to face the day ahead with a huge store of mental and physical energy that doesn’t flag by mid-morning coffee time?

 

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From a naturopathic approach, ‘health’ means maintaining the delicate balance (homeostasis) of the body’s internal environment to ensure it is functioning optimally, from a cellular level all the way up to a systemic and whole body level. A naturopath would take a holistic approach when trying to bring the body back into balance after illness, or to maintain a healthy state. They would look at the whole person; their lifestyle, diet, past medical history and family health patterns. Step by step, a picture emerges that can be reworked and edited into something more vibrant and longer lasting than previous short-term attempts at health improvement.

Optimal health encompasses the best physiological functioning of the body, as well as our psychological and emotional wellbeing, from early development right the way through to natural aging.

This, my friends, is what real health should look like. It should be abundant, free-flowing and unstoppable. It should power everything you do, from personal goals, professional development and daily tasks, to kicking back and enjoying the simple things in life. Health should be our number one priority which fuels the lives we lead and the people we become. Let’s give our health some attention.

Check in with Yogiz regularly for news, recipes, videos and tips on all things healthy!

Get Your Green On – your daily nutrient-boost juice

This had to be my first recipe post. It’s just an unrivalled winner when it comes to a super boost of nutrients, along with hydration, flavour and colour.

If green is not your thing, shut your eyes for a moment and imagine a shot of pure vitamins and minerals entering your body, activating your digestion, cleansing your blood, repairing your cells, improving your skin, boosting your energy, building your immune defence and making you shine from inside out. Now open them and get over your green phobia. This juice tastes great, and can be adapted to include a range of colourful vegetables once you are feeling adventurous.

I use a cold-press, masticating juicer as my preferred method of extracting the juice (let’s save the what’s and why’s for another post), but any juicer that separates the juice from the pulp is fine. I’ve also given options for blending if you don’t own a juicer – just bear in mind how powerful your blender is, and whether it’s up to the job of extracting the juice out of tougher vegetables.

 

 

The following makes at least a pint of juice (this can be diluted with water or ice to make it go further):

Essential ingredients (for juicing): 

  • 3-4 generous handfuls of kale or spinach
  • 3 apples / 250ml cold-pressed apple juice
  • ½ small cucumber
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • ½ a lemon, squeezed in at the end
  • 1cm cube of fresh ginger

 

If blending:

  • Baby spinach is easier to blend.
  • Use not-from-concentrate apple juice from a carton (look out for cold-pressed versions appearing in shops now; they are unpasteurised and therefore the sugar content is not as high as pasteurised or concentrated versions), or try using coconut water instead.
  • Leave out the celery, unless you have a powerful blender.
  • Grate ginger finely, or use 1 teaspoon of ginger powder.
  • Add in half an avocado (or a small banana if you prefer it sweet) for a thicker, silken texture.

 

Supercharge it!

Add ½ tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp of a any ‘super food’ green powder such as spirulina, chorella or wheatgrass (be careful – wheatgrass can be very bitter and overpowering if overused!), 1 tbsp ground flax seed

 

Method if using a juicer:

Chop all the ingredients to the appropriate size for your juicer (some juicers require more preparation than others), and feed through. Transfer the juice to a flask or jar (with a lid), squeeze in the lemon, add any Supercharge! ingredients, and shake well.

 

Method if using a blender:

Add the liquid first, then the spinach, cucumber, grated ginger, avocado and/or banana. Squeeze in the lemon, add your Supercharge! Ingredients, and blend until smooth.

Serve your juice straight away, or decant into jam jars to take with you. Get your green on and go,go, go!