After the success of last year’s Yoga at Exmouth beach, I’ve scheduled two beach yoga sessions for this year.

Sun 12 July, 7.30am

Sun 16 August, 7.30am

No need to book, just come along!  Everyone welcome.

Attendance for each session will be by donation to raise funds for charity.  This year I have selected two charities to support:

Nepal Earthquake Appeal
On Saturday 25 April a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. It severely shook the lives of at least 8m people and left many homeless.  Nepal’s major cities, including the capital Kathmandu, have been badly damaged and rural areas near the epicentre have been completely cut off by avalanches.

DEC member agencies and their partners are working urgently to provide emergency shelter, food, clean water and blankets.  Once immediate, life-saving needs are met they will work with individuals, families and communities to support them to rebuild their lives.

Ramana’s Garden Children’s Home
Ramana’s Garden Children’s Home in Rishikesh, India is home to over 60 at risk children and a free school for over 160 students from Ramana’s Garden and local underprivileged families. The school provides classes from kindergarten to eighth grade.

We’ll meet at the new Lifeboat Station on Exmouth beach towards the far end of the beach.   There is plenty of parking along the seafront.

Please bring your yoga mat and water.  You may wish to wear layers and bring a warm blanket in order to be prepared for varying weather conditions.  Remember that the format will be slightly different to regular class so please be prepared to go with the flow!

Wet weather plan: If heavy rain is forecast then the session will not go ahead.  I will check the weather and post updates on my Facebook page in the week leading up to this session.

Contact me if you have any queries.

Finally my blog is back online!  Following recent upgrades to my website, the whole website crashed. This turned out to be a major issue requiring a full website rebuild. Over the last month my website has been rebuilt and upgraded meaning that I have been unable to blog during this time.

This website issue has coincided with the Mercury Retrograde which began on 18 May and will end on 11 June.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

It occurs several times a year when Mercury rotates slower than usual giving the illusion that the planet is moving backwards.

From an astrological standpoint, the Mercury Retrograde means issues with all forms of communication, legal contracts and technology. Those who believe in astrology would be advised by astrologers not to make any big purchases or major life decisions.

“Mercury rules all types of communication, including listening, speaking, learning, reading, editing, researching, negotiating, selling and buying,” wrote Susan Miller of Astrology Zone on her website. “Mercury also rules all formal contracts and agreements, as well as important documents such as book manuscripts, term papers, agreements, deeds, contracts, leases, wills, and so forth. Included under this planet’s domain are all types of code, including computer codes, as well as transportation, shipping and travel. When this planet retrogrades, these areas tend to get scrambled or spin out of control.”

Of course, this is not really a difficult time. Mercury retrograde wants us to reflect, look at things differently, review the past and to take our time. This has definitely been the case for me this month. I was rushing hoping to get my website back up and running but I soon realised that was not going to happen so I just had to let things unfold in their own time.

This has been a time for introspection, reviewing what areas of my life work and which need a little more work, time to be creative and to work on new or unfinished projects, contacting old friends, de-cluttering, taking time to rest.

Mercury retrograde wishes us to align spiritually. Major breakthroughs can happen during this time. This really is a time to “go with the flow” and to be kind to yourself.

We are now nearing the end of the Mercury retrograde, some astrologers recommend allowing a minimum of two days after Mercury moves forward before you initiate new projects, make big purchases or finalise legal contracts. The more time you allow the better.

I’m now planning ahead for my busy summer of retreats, workshops, classes, festivals, yoga at the beach, writing and filmmaking.  Upon reflection, this Mercury retrograde has been most useful!

Visit my Events page to find out What’s On.

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The reasons people choose to go on a yoga retreat are many but here are some of the popular reasons:

  • Deepen your practice

And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” ~ Rumi

Developing your practice can be challenging especially when you have a busy life and schedule.  Being on retreat gives you the chance to attend 2 classes per day, you will notice the progress and the positive effect this is having.  Distractions are limited so you can be sure that you fully focus.

I have had the honour to teach retreat guests who have only ever attended one yoga class before going on retreat choosing a retreat setting to begin to explore their practice, through to the more experienced yogi who seeks the space to focus more intensely.

  • Create a new perspective

The trees, the flowers, the plants grow in silence. The stars, the sun, the moon move in silence. Silence gives us a new perspective” ~ Mother Teresa

We all benefit from going to a new place, seeing the world and ourselves through different eyes.  You will have time to contemplate, to review what is out of balance and where you need to action change in your life.  This safe space will allow you to grow and learn.

  • Navigate life changes

It’s a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Life is in constant change, some of which can be challenging.  A retreat allows you to step outside of your everyday life, to gain deeper understanding and create clarity.

It may be that you consciously decide to attend a retreat in order to work through change in your life or the outcome of a relaxing retreat may be a new perspective which leads to change.

I know for me personally, attending yoga retreats has enabled me to make big life changing decisions, to feel supported in that space and to know that I had the courage to make the changes I was being called to make.

  • Time to meditate

In meditation we return to where we already are – this shifting, changing ever-present now
If you wish to take up meditation, it must be now or never.” ~ Steve Hagen, Meditation Now or Never

You will be away from distractions, feel relaxed and ‘in the moment’ leading to a peaceful space in which to develop your meditation practice.  This is a perfect time to develop new habits.

  •  Take a digital detox

Spending the majority of our waking lives experiencing reality through a screen, endlessly plugged into our devices, is taking its toll… and we’re realising it’s not the answer. The era of burnout, multi-tasking, tech dependence, fatigue, ‘social media everything’ and information overload is coming to a close” ~ thedigitaldetox.org

By switching off your technology you can find space and balance.  You can evaluate your relationship with technology and develop a more balanced approach.  Understand that you can press pause, reconnect with yourself and those around you, saviour your life experiences and feel recharged.

  • Rest and Relax 

Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream”  ~ John Lennon

On retreat you have the permission to fully relax.  You can tune into your body, rest when you need it, allow your body and mind to de-stress.  You are free to replenish as you wish, you are free from demands.

  • Eat well

Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food” ~ Hippocrates

All of the hard work is done for you, you will enjoy nutritious and delicious meals.  It is an opportunity to review unhealthy habits and to develop new behaviours.   Healthy food, yoga and rest will re-energise your batteries and assist the body’s healing process.

  • Make new friends. 

Every person needs a time out, away from stressful jobs, pressures from employers or clients, home responsibilities….  Everyone deserves to enjoy, visit unknown places, try other things, meet a lot of new friends, and feel at the top of the world. Life is full of fun, excitement, and adventure. Thus, vacation is an experience that’s worth remembering for a lifetime. It heals a weary mind and soul”  ~ Alon Calinao Dy

You may travel as a group or solo but it is guaranteed that you will meet like minded people on retreat.  Retreats are perfect if you are travelling alone, you have the choice to spend time with others or enjoy your own space if you wish.

I have met lifelong friends on retreat including my Aloha Yoga collaborator, Jackie Dorrian.

 “Little did we know that 4 years after meeting on a Yoga Retreat in Kerala that our lives would be completely different and we would be working together to deliver “Aloha Yoga Retreats and Workshops”. Whilst we teach different yoga styles and our therapies are from different parts of the world, we have common aims and our work complements each other.  We have some exciting plans in the pipeline including a Summer Retreat on Dartmoor, Music Festivals and a Retreat in Spain.” explains Jackie.

  •  Who needs any more reasons? 

Seriously no-one needs to justify going on a yoga retreat.  Why not join us for our Aloha Yoga Retreat in Spain and experience the benefits for yourself!

 “This is my first yoga retreat experience, and it has been simply wonderful. Super location, fabulous company, great food and beautiful guided meditation and yoga. Opened my eyes to new possibilities and practices. Amazing. Peace and Love” ~ Aloha Yoga Retreat 2013 Guest

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Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 August 2015, Brecon Beacons, Wales.

I have just been confirmed as an In-House Massage Therapist with Wild Wellbeing  in the Nature Nuture Healing Area at the Green Man Festival.

Leap, walk or crawl into the new Wild Wellbeing’s space at this year’s Green Man and discover our rejuvenating program featuring a vast selection of yoga classes, treatments and facilities all focused on your inner wellbeing.

Nestled just beyond the gentle gaze of the Green Man in a secluded glade of ancient Welsh oak trees, Nature Nurture is the perfect place to mellow out, stretch and release those last drops of stress.

Revamped for 2015, the Nature & Nurture healing garden is open from 7am to 11.30pm every day offering dedicated treatments – from qualified therapists, exercise classes (including yoga and Pilates) to simple, carefree indulgences such as a glass of wine in one of our glorious hot tubs.

The family-oriented yoga program runs from 8am until 8pm, for those seeking invigoration or to wind-down. There is something for everyone; acro-yoga, beginners yoga, family classes, kids sessions, pregnancy yoga, hot power yoga and restorative yoga.

Enjoy the luxury of pre-booked ‘Nurturing Relaxation Massage’, by a highly qualified therapist using natural massage oils or indulge in a treatment from the ‘Alternative Pitch Therapies’ – all of which can be pre-booked here.

Full 2015 line up information can be found here.

The last five months have been an immersion into self study and absorbing as many spiritual books as I possibly can.  My reading list seems to be getting longer by the day and at times I find I have up to five books on the go!

The catalyst for this time of such dense reading was “The Path of Practice” by Bri Maya Tiwari.  My roommate at the Anand Prakash Ashram recommended it so I headed off to one of the many bookstores on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh to purchase a copy.  It is probably the best 295 rupees I have ever spent!

This is one of the simplest introductions to a step-by-step practice of sadhana for the uninitiated…. Her methods incorporate the healing nature of sound, food and breath and are easy to understand and follow to be in tune with natural rhythms.” – Book Reviews

The Path of Practice” is an honest sharing of Maya’s experience of healing from her diagnosis of ovarian cancer at the age of 23 to her journey using Vedic healing practices.  She undertook to heal herself through meditation, the healing of her ancestral heritage, sound healing, silence, creating sacred space, breathwork and food sadhana.  This was a deep process taking Maya from America to Rishikesh where she became a practising Vedic monk devoted to developing and sharing her knowledge of healing techniques.

The book is an easy to follow, step by step guide which is part auto-biography and part healing manual.  For me the book gave me many “aha” moments, enabling me to journey deeper into my yoga practice, understand some of the practices that I was intuitively being drawn to.  We were practicing many of the sadhanas at the Ashram so it was useful to be practicing as well as intellectually understanding the processes.  Our sadhanas included full moon ceremonies to bask in the essence of the moon to heal shakti prana (feminine energies), holding ancestor ceremonies on the banks of the river Ganges, attending fire puja (rituals) to burn away impurities, chanting for healing and eating a sattvic (pure) diet.

We are wellness. We are consciousness. That is our natural state. Disease is an impostor” – Bri Maya Tiwari

This book is designed for women by a woman but it does not preclude men.  Maya states that this book is a “course in healing and in living.”  She maintains that “all pain is a reminder that we have strayed from the natural rhythms of life,” and this book acts to guide us back.  An easy to follow programme containing a wealth of knowledge and the depth of experience.  It’s a profound read and calls us to get in tune with deeper universal rhythms.

My yoga students raised some very good questions at class last night regarding breathing.  Why do we get into bad habits? When do we go from breathing properly to taking on these bad habits? What is the proper way to breath? How should it feel in the body?

As I prepared to write this post on the subject of breathing, I came across this comprehensive and useful article.  I thought it would be beneficial to share this informative piece covering the importance of oxygen, the importance of breathing properly, the problem with fast and shallow breathing, the importance of breathing through the nose.

The Importance of Breathing

Breathing is important for two reasons. It is the only means to supply our bodies and its various organs with the supply of oxygen which is vital for our survival. The second function of breathing is that it is one means to get rid of waste products and toxins from the body.

Why Is Oxygen So Vital?

Oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. It is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. We can do without food for weeks and without water for days, but without oxygen, we will die within a few minutes. If the brain does not gets proper supply of this essential nutrient, it will result in the degradation of all vital organs in the body.

The brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. If it doesn’t get enough, the result is mental sluggishness, negative thoughts and depression and, eventually, vision and hearing decline. Old people and those whose arteries are clogged often become senile and vague because oxygen to the brain is reduced. They get irritated very quickly.

Poor oxygen supply affects all parts of the body. The oxygen supply is reduced to all parts of the body as we get older due to poor lifestyle. Many people need reading glasses and suffer hearing decline in old age.

When an acute circulation blockage deprives the heart of oxygen, a heart attack is the result. If this occurs to the brain, the result is a stroke.

For a long time, lack of oxygen has been considered a major cause of cancer. Even as far back as 1947, work done in Germany showed that when oxygen was withdrawn, normal body cells could turn into cancer cells.

Similar research has been done with heart disease. It showed that lack of oxygen is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and cancer. The work done at Baylor University in the USA has shown that you can reverse arterial disease in monkeys by infusing oxygen into the diseased arteries.

Thus, oxygen is very critical to our well-being, and any effort to increase the supply of oxygen to our body and especially to the brain will pay rich dividends. Yogis realised the vital importance of an adequate oxygen supply thousands of years ago. They developed and perfected various breathing techniques. These breathing exercises are particularly important for people who have sedentary jobs and spend most of the day in offices. Their brains are oxygen starved and their bodies are just ‘getting by’. They feel tired, nervous and irritable and are not very productive. On top of that, they sleep badly at night, so they get a bad start to the next day continuing the cycle. This situation also lowers their immune system, making them susceptible to catching colds, flu and other ‘bugs’.

Oxygen Purifies the Blood Stream

One of the major secrets of vitality and rejuvenation is a purified blood stream. The quickest and most effective way to purify the blood stream is by taking in extra supplies of oxygen from the air we breathe. The breathing exercises described in here are the most effective methods ever devised for saturating the blood with extra oxygen.

Oxygen burns up the waste products (toxins) in the body, as well as recharging the body’s batteries (the solar plexus). In fact, most of our energy requirements come not from food but from the air we breathe.

By purifying the blood stream, every part of the body benefits, as well as the mind. Your complexion will become clearer and brighter and wrinkles will begin to fade away. In short, rejuvenation will start to occur.

Medical Science Verifies Oxygen’s Importance

Scientists have discovered that the chemical basis of energy production in the body is a chemical called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). If something goes wrong with the production of ATP, the result is lowered vitality, disease and premature ageing.

Scientists have also discovered that oxygen is critical for the production of ATP; in fact, it is its most vital component.

Yoga permits us to tap into this vital nutrient.

Importance of Healthy Breathing

We know how to breathe. It is something that occurs to us automatically, spontaneously, naturally. We are breathing even when we are not aware of it. So it seems foolish to think that one can be told how to breathe. Yet, one’s breathing becomes modified and restricted in various ways, not just momentarily, but habitually. We develop unhealthy habits without being aware of it. We tend to assume positions (slouched positions) that diminishes lung capacities and take shortened breaths. We also live in social conditions that is not good for the health of our respiratory system.

As discussed above, scientists have known for a long time that there exists a strong connection between respiration and mental states. Improper breathing produces diminished mental ability. The corollary is true also. It is known that mental tensions produce restricted breathing.

A normally sedentary person, when confronted with a perplexing problem, tends to lean forward, draw his arms together, and bend his head down. All these body postures results in reduced lung capacity. The more intense the concentration, the more tense the muscles become. The muscles in the arms, neck and chest contract. The muscles that move the thorax and control inhalation and muscular tenseness clamp down and restrict the exhalation. The breaths become shorter and shorter. After an extended period of intense focusing, the whole system seems to be frozen in a certain posture.

We become fatigued from the decreased circulation of the blood and from the decreased availability of oxygen for the blood because we have almost stopped breathing. As our duties, responsibilities and their attendant problems become more demanding, we develop habits of forgetting to breathe.

Try an experiment suggested by Swami Vishnudevananda. Focus attention upon the ticks of a clock placed at a distance of about twelve feet. If you get distracted, try concentrating harder until you experience the ticking with undivided attention. If you fail at first, you should try again and again until you succeed in keeping the ticking clearly in mind for at least a few seconds. What happened? The majority of persons who took part in this experiment reported that they have completely suspended the breath. The others, who had less concentration, reported that they experienced very slow breathing. This experiment shows clearly that where there is concentration of the mind, the breathing becomes very slow or even get suspended temporarily.

What’s Wrong With The Way We Breathe?

Our breathing is too shallow and too quick. We are not taking in sufficient oxygen and we are not eliminating sufficient carbon dioxide.  As a result, our bodies are oxygen starved, and a toxic build-up occurs. Every cell in the body requires oxygen and our level of vitality is just a product of the health of all the cells.

Shallow breathing does not exercise the lungs enough, so they lose some of their function, causing a further reduction in vitality.

Animals which breathe slowly live the longest; the elephant is a good example.

We need to breathe more slowly and deeply. Quick shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.

Our Breath – Fast and Shallow?

There are several reasons for this. The major reasons are:

  1. We are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern.
  2. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply.
  3. We get too emotional too easily. We get excited easily, angry easily, and most of the rest of the time we suffer from anxiety due to worry. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and shallow.
  4. Modern technology and automation reduces our need for physical activity. There is less need to breathe deeply, so we develop the shallow breathing habit.
  5. We are working indoors more and more. This increases our exposure to pollution. As a result, the body instinctively inhales less air to protect itself from pollution. The body just takes in enough air to tick over.

As we go through life, these bad breathing habits we picked up become part of our life. Unless we do something to reverse these habits, we can suffer permanent problems. The good news is that these are reversible. The bad news is that before we can change these habits, we should recognise and accept that our behavior needs to be changed. This means that we see for ourselves the benefits of good breathing techniques.

Certainly, yoga is not the only way to cope with the stress and the resultant drop in oxygen supply to the brain brought on by the constricted breathing. A coffee break, a trip to the restroom or a good laugh may all result in some readjustment of constricted breathing patterns. These can be thought of as “mini-yogas”. We can benefit by taking or seeking more breaks, trips or jokes. But for those whose occupations continue to be highly stressful, something more will be needed. Deep breathing exercises and stretching of muscles, especially those primarily concerned with controlling inhaling and exhaling, should be sought. Participation in active sports also will be useful. Going for a walk is very good. For those experiencing restricted breathing at night, morning exercises should be actively pursued.

The Effects of Shallow Breathing

  1. Reduced vitality, since oxygen is essential for the production of energy in the body.
  2. Increased disease. Our resistance to disease is reduced, since oxygen is essential for healthy cells. This means we catch more colds and develop other ailments more easily. Lack of sufficient oxygen to the cells is a major contributing factor in cancer, heart disease and strokes.

With our ‘normal’ sedentary way of living, we only use about one tenth of our total lung capacity. This is sufficient to survive and just tick over, but not sufficient for a high vitality level, long life and high resistance to disease.

The ancient yogis knew the importance of correct breathing and developed techniques not only to increase health and life span, but also to attain superconscious states.

The Medical Viewpoint on Fast, Shallow Breathing

Modem science agrees with the ancient yogis on the subject of shallow breathing. An editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that fast, shallow breathing can cause fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, stomach upsets, heart bum, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain and heart palpitations.

Scientists have also found that a lot of people who believe they have heart disease are really suffering from improper breathing.

Importance of Breathing Through The Nose

The first rule for correct breathing is that we should breathe through the nose. This may seem obvious, but many people breathe principally through the mouth. Mouth breathing can adversely affect the development of the thyroid gland. It can affect the mental development of children.

The nose has various defense mechanisms to prevent impurities and excessively cold air entering the body. At the entrance to the nose, a screen of hairs traps dust, tiny insects and other particles that may injure the lungs if you breathe through the mouth. After the entrance of the nose, there is a long winding passage lined with mucus membranes, where excessively cool air is warmed and very fine dust particles that escaped the hair screen are caught. Next, in the inner nose are glands which fight off any bacilli which have slipped through the other defenses. The inner nose also contains the olfactory organ-our sense of smell. This detects any poisonous gases around that may injure our health.

The yogis believe that the olfactory organ has another function: the absorption of prana from the air. If you breathe through the mouth all the time, as many people do, you are cheating yourself of all this free energy (prana). The yogis say this is a major factor in lowered resistance to disease and impairs the functioning of your vital glands and nervous system. Add to this the fact that pathogens can enter the lungs via mouth breathing, and you can see that it’s impossible to be healthy, not to mention vital, if you breathe through the mouth.

It is easy to break the habit of breathing through the mouth. Just keep your mouth closed and you will automatically breathe through your nose!

Summary: Benefits of Deep Breathing

We will now summarise the benefits of deep breathing. Deep breathing produces the following benefits:

  1. Improvement in the quality of the blood due to its increased oxygenation in the lungs. This aids in the elimination of toxins from the system.
  2. Increase in the digestion and assimilation of food. The digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen, and hence operates more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more.
  3. Improvement in the health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centres and nerves. This is due again to the increased oxygenation and hence nourishment of the nervous system. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body.
  4. Rejuvenation of the glands, especially the pituitary and pineal glands. The brain has a special affinity for oxygen, requiring three times more oxygen than does the rest of the body. This has far-reaching effects on our well being.
  5. Rejuvenation of the skin. The skin becomes smoother and a reduction of facial wrinkles occurs.
  6. The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massage the abdominal organs – the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. This stimulates the blood circulation in these organs.
  7. The lungs become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.
  8. Deep, slow, yoga breathing reduces the work load for the heart. The result is a more efficient, stronger heart that operates better and lasts longer. It also mean reduced blood pressure and less heart disease.
    Yoga breathing exercises reduce the work load on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in the circulation, thus resting the heart a little.
  9. Deep, slow breathing assists in weight control. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands. In other words, yoga tends to produce the ideal weight for you.
  10. Relaxation of the mind and body. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles. These two factors cause a reflex relaxation of the mind, since the mind and body are very interdependent. In addition, oxygenation of the brain tends to normalise brain function, reducing excessive anxiety levels.

Breathing exercises cause an increase in the elasticity of the lungs and rib cage. This creates an increased breathing capacity all day, not just during the actual exercise period. This means all the above benefits also occur all day.

Article courtesy of HolisticOnline.com

The Sanctuary (curated by Wild WellBeing) at Wilderness Festival gets a mention in the Tatler Spa Guide 2015. I’m really proud to be part of this great team of therapists and yogis.  Roll on summer!

tatler spa 2015

tatler spa guide 2015

The School of Bodywork is running a “Fascinating Fascia” workshop on Wednesday 6 May 2015, 10am – 5pm at Exeter Natural Health Centre.  Cost £95

This course offers the opportunity to understand the importance of fascia which is an amazing 3D web of connectivity that surrounds and interpenetrates all of our various “parts”.

An understanding of fascia is now essential to all yogis, bodywork and movement therapists.   A workshop where you will begin to understand the importance of fascia and also be introduced to Myofacsial Release techniques (MFR).

7 CPD points awarded by APNT

To book call 07711 656011 or email info@schoolofbodywork.com.  Website: www.schoolofbodywork.com

Watch the “Fuzz” Speech by Gil Hedley, Ph.D (www.gilhedley.com).  Gil gives a lesson on the importance of movement and stretching to maintain the sliding properties of tissues in the body. [Warning: The video contains human cadavers which support the lesson]

A wonderful find, Ramana’s Garden is just a short walk from the Anand Prakash Ashram, Rishikesh.  This beautiful sanctuary is just off an alleyway that weaves down to the River Ganga.  Ramana’s Garden is tucked away but the sign promising “home-grown organic healthy foods” will entice you in.

Stepping off the main pathway you enter into an abundant space growing organic produce, housing cows and also a home and school for local children.  As stated on the sign this most certainly is “A unique dining experience that helps Ramana’s Garden Children’s Home help you stay healthy!”.   The organic garden provides fresh yummy produce for children in the home and school as well as for the visitors to the cafe.

Ramana’s Garden India was founded by a dedicated American woman, Prabhavati Dwabha, 18 years ago as a result of her spiritual practice on the banks of the River Ganga. Prabhavati’s heart overflowed with compassion for the numerous homeless, destitute, and abused children she met there, and she decided to make those children her life’s work. On a shoestring budget, she has for years provided a growing number of children with education, nourishment, and a future where they had little or no hope.

Dharma is righteous living or living with God and consists of doing good to others and the practice of love, charity, truthfulness and purity in one’s life

Today Ramana’s Garden India is home to more than 60 resident children, many of whom have lost both parents. There are an additional 165 children from nearby impoverished families, many with a single parent, who come into school each day. Twelve paid professional teachers lead a solid curriculum of core classes, including Math, Science, English, Hindi, and the arts. The education provided is on a par with the best primary schools in India, and thus will serve to provide the kids with opportunities for adult careers that otherwise would be unimaginable.

The cafe is operated by volunteers and sometimes the children help in the restaurant.  The menu offers a selection of healthy options including breakfast, lunch set menu with organically grown salad greens, fresh baked breads, soup, daal, desserts and cakes.  You can get a good coffee and real cappuccino here!

The cafe has stunning views over the surrounding area, it is a wonderful spot to catch some sun and one evening we dropped in to enjoy a drink on the terrace under the full moon.  This is most definitely a magical place bringing much change and positivity into the world.

I look forward to my return visit to Rishikesh and to Ramana’s Garden….

To find out more click here,  donations can be made via this link  or “To Sponsor A Child” click here.

Also feel free to make contact if you wish to volunteer.  Volunteering at Ramana’s Garden is a commitment to the children and to yourself. Whatever you give you will receive back tenfold in love, hugs, smiles and fulfilment. Volunteering requires patience, motivation, energy and initiative. From the day of your arrival and for the rest of your life you will be part of their family of 60 children.  They request a minimum commitment of three months but if you live at accommodation nearby you can also arrange volunteering for one month time commitment.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ramana’s Garden

Every day, I sprinkle Chia seeds onto my breakfast.  I also use them in baking, blended into smoothies and in tasty desserts.  These tiny seeds are jam packed with nutritional value and are extremely easy to add to your diet.

Chia, or Salvia hispanica L, is a member of the mint family from Mexico and South America. The Aztecs relied on chia as a staple food and revered it enough to use for religious ceremonies and medicinal purposes.

Rich in omega-3s, high in fibre, protein, magnesium and much more, it is no surprise that chia seeds are known as “the ultimate super food”.

  • Chia is gluten free
  • It is super high in dietary fibre, making it great for digestion and healing digestion issues.
  • It contains 20% Omega 3 ALA, making it a super food for the brain and heart. Chia has eight times more Omega 3 than salmon!
  • It boasts 20% protein
  • It is high in antioxidants
  • Chia contains five times more calcium than milk
  • Chia contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges
  • It contains three times more iron than spinach
  • It contains twice the potassium content of banana
  • It is food for healthy skin, hair and nails
  • It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels
  • Chia makes a great egg replacement. Just combine with water to form a gel, and add it to recipes that call for egg.

Here are a few simple ways to use chia seeds:

Blend into smoothies
Add a desert spoon of seeds to any smoothie and as the seeds have a “neutral” taste they mix well with any flavour combination.

Sprinkle onto breakfast cereals and yoghurt
This is my daily favourite and a great way to add nutrients to your first meal of the day.

Add to any baking recipe
Chia seeds can be easily added to any bread or baking recipe including gluten free recipes.  Adding chia seeds increases the nutritional density of the recipe whilst reducing the glycemic index due to the gelatinous outer coating found on chia seeds.  Check out this Oat, Nut and Chia Seed Energy Bar recipe.

Try sprouting with chia seeds
Perhaps something a little different but you can sprout and add to salads.

Make a ‘Chia Fresca”
Mix whole chia seeds with water or fruit juice to make a ‘Chia Fresca’ which translates as ‘fresh chia’.

A tasty (and healthy) Chia dessert
Per serving infuse ½ cup of almond milk with 1 teaspoon honey, vanilla extract and add 3 teaspoons of chia seeds.  Allow the chia seeds to expand, ideally overnight. This pudding is great eaten with fresh seasonal fruit making a tasty, healthy pudding!