International Yoga Day & Winter Solstice

Happy International Yoga Day and Winter Solstice (for those of us in the southern hemisphere!) I started my day on the mat (how else) sharing my passion for yoga with some wonderful students before coming home and doing my own practice. I thought this is the perfect opportunity to share a short Winter Solstice inspired sequence with you.

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Preparing for India

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With so many of my yoga friends making the trip to Mysore lately, I’ve been reminiscing about our trip a few year ago and am finding once again India is tugging at my heart. India is one of those places, you either love it or hate it and absolutely love it. I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on how to prepare for a trip to the motherland of yoga, although I don’t think you can ever really prepare yourself for India.

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Sweet shop in Orchha

Food
I’m sure everyone knows at least one person who’ve shared their story on that explosive curry they had while travelling through India. Most guide books suggest adopting a vegetarian diet (if you’re not one already) for the duration of your trip. I remember how smug I was eating one delicious vegetarian dish after another while my Hubby went on what I called The Grand Tour of Mutton. “Any minute now” I thought at every bite he took until…I woke up in the middle of a hot,sweaty, humid night in Varanasi and didn’t feel too well. “Just dehydration after a day’s sightseeing” I thought. Unfortunately for me, I must have eaten something that got contaminated (we had dinner at a restaurant right on the ghats that night) and said bug traveled with me for the rest of our trip. So my tip would be to make sure you eat at busy, well reviewed places if you’re worried and to accept that while you can try and minimize your chances of picking up a stomach bug, sometimes the universe likes to remind you that you really aren’t in control.

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The banks of the Ganges in Varanasi

Travel Insurance
This leads me onto my next tip, get travel insurance! I can’t believe how many people risk it and travel without it. Sure, chances of you using it is slim but it’ll save you bankruptcy, a whole lot of stress and tears in the unfortunate event something does go wrong. As my bug seemed resistant to all the medication I brought with me plus the ones we got from the pharmacies and local remedies, my Hubby end up taking me to the hospital in McLeod Ganj up in the mountains. We were already risking our lives heading down the mountain at breakneck speed in a tiny taxi at night with me clutching the bin from the hotel room we were staying in. I ended up in what was the hospital’s tiny emergency room waiting for the Dr to be summoned from her home. Had things been worse, I would have been transferred to a private hospital where the fees would have been significantly higher and would quickly add up. Luckily we had travel insurance. Thankfully we were able to avoid that but I was very grateful that I didn’t have to think twice about going to the hospital.

 

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Jet-lagged but super impressed with the big gates

Clothing
Dressing modesty is key in India. As a foreigner, chances are some people will stare at you, especially if they come from more rural areas where tourists seldom go to. But wearing revealing clothing (and that could be a strappy top and shorts or a short skirt) you will definitely be stared at, possibly even cat-called or harassed. You definitely won’t be allowed access into any of the mosques or temples.

I mostly wore salwar kameezes (super comfortable and perfect for hot days) and received so many compliments from the local women. Other days I wore long skirts, jeans or loose cotton pants with loose t-shirts or kurtas. Make sure you carry a scarf or shawl with you as some mosques and temples require you to cover your hair and shoulders if they’re showing (not that different to visiting churches in Italy).

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Temple in Khajuraho

Respect
India is unlike any other country on earth. It has a long history and is incredibly diverse. This means that there are many religions, languages and people all living together for the most part in crazy, chaotic harmony. There are some places where religious tensions run high and we did our best to avoid them. People were always happy to tell us more about their religion, beliefs and culture when we asked and we were genuinely interested. I feel we learnt so much just listening to their stories and you often get to learn something you haven’t come across before.

It’s also important to know when it’s the right time to take a photo and when to be respectful. So many people try to take photos of the cremation ghats in Varanasi, but it’s actually considered incredibly rude and very disrespectful towards the family who are mourning the passing of a loved one. The same goes for when you’re attending a religious ceremony at a temple. Always have a look and see what the locals are doing. We were lucky enough to attend the evening aarti at the Ram Raja temple in Orchha which is quite intimate. Taking photos would have felt out of place and I’m sure the locals wouldn’t have appreciated it. The evening aarti along the Ganges in Varanasi however is a big attraction and locals and tourists alike tend to take photos.

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Kangra Fort at the foothills of the Himalayas

Travel
As it was our first trip, we opted to have a driver. We had a few out of the way places we wanted to visit and taking public transport would have taken too long to get us there. Our driver was absolutely wonderful and ended up being a wealth of information. After our time in India he felt like part of the family and we were quite sad to say good bye. He knew all the unspoken rules of the road in India (there are many, the most important being the biggest vehicle gets right of way, doesn’t matter which side of the road it’s driving). He pointed out long forgotten forts and temples on hill tops, knew where we could stop in the middle of nowhere to get a bite to eat and took us along back routes showing us sights we would never have seen.

Travelling by rail is also a great way to see the countryside and meet people. Unfortunately we had limited time in India so opted for a more reliable mode of transport as trains can often times be delayed. Trips can also take quite a while. We flew from Varanasi to Amritsar it it was relatively inexpensive. Considering how ill I was feeling I was quite grateful I was able to crawl into a warm bed that night instead of having to sleep on the train.

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Life in Paharganj in Delhi

Put the camera down
You will fill up your memory card with photos, and then some! India is the most photogenic country I’ve ever visited. It’s riot of colours, beautiful smiles, incredible temple architecture, amazing sunrises, snow capped mountains, holy men, monks, beautiful sari clad women and stalls stacked sky high with spices, fruits and gorgeous fabrics. You’ll want to take photos of everything, but doing so you’ll miss out on the experience of just being there. Nothing beats sitting at the Ganga aarti in Varanasi, surrounded by laughing women trying to teach you the mantra blaring over the loudspeakers or enjoying a rare, quiet moment as the forest surrounding McLeod Ganj erupts with thousands of butterflies.

A few other tips:

  • Don’t drink the tap water.
  • Remember that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
  • Take earplugs, you’ll need them, especially in the cities.
  • Make sure you have some smaller denomination notes with you for tips.
  • India is known for absolutely mouth watering dishes, from super spicy hot to mild. Don’t spend your time eating at McDonalds. There are countless hole in the wall eateries and restaurants where you can enjoy a meal without getting the feared Delhi Belly. A good rule of thumb is go anywhere popular with lots of locals.
  • Cows always have right of way.
  • You will get haggled by people trying to sell you everything under the sun. Try not to get annoyed and instead just say you’re not interested and walk away. Some might follow you but will soon lose interest to move on to someone who might buy something.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to remove. You’ll be taking them off and putting them on a 10o0 times a day as you visit temples.
  • Most people understand some English in the cities, but that’s not always true in more rural areas. Usually some amusing arm waving and interpretative dancing gets the message across much to the delight of the laughing locals.
  • Don’t do anything you would’t do back home. I was asked several times by groups of guys to pose with a photo with them, but I wouldn’t do that with a group of strange guys back home, so just politely declined.
  • Do sit back and enjoy the beautiful chaos that India is.

Christmas Gift Ideas

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It’s that time of year again where shops fill up with stressed out people rushing around trying to find their loved ones the perfect gift. I think we often get so swept up in the hype that we forget that the gifts that often mean the most are the ones that come from the heart and not the one that cost the most. This festive season I thought I’d share some gift ideas that every yogi (and even non-yogi) would appreciate.

Time
Time is the one thing we all seem short of these days. Why not treat a loved one to a coffee where you get to spend some quality time together and really catch up, or offer to babysit for a friend so they can take that hour long relaxing bath or finally have some dedicated time to step on the mat.

Treats
One of my favourite gifts I ever received from a friend was all the ingredients and the recipe to make the most delicious cookies. I’m a little hazardous when it comes to baking, so pre-measuring all the ingredients and writing out the recipe for me was the perfect gift. Not only did I get the opportunity to try out one of my friend’s favourite cookie recipes but she made it super easy for me as she knows I can’t bake at the best of times.

Helping others
As I live in a completely different country to my family, gifts over Christmas always become tricky. It’s prohibitively expensive posting gifts to them and there’s a good change it’ll never reach them. This problem was solved when I came across the WWF Gift Shop online. You can ‘adopt’ an animal on behalf of your loved one. The money goes towards conservation and your loved one gets a certificate and information on the animal they have adopted. UNICEF is another one of my favourite charities to support during the festive season and they have a range of gift options such as care packages, blankets, pencils, first aid kits and so much more. At first I thought my loved ones wouldn’t be happy as I didn’t really buy them something but they all loved the gifts as it gave to others in need. You can also donate to your favourite, local charity on behalf of a loved one. Another favourite Christmas present of mine was a donation of toys on behalf of Hubby and myself to the local Children’s Hospital. I spent all Christmas with a smile on my face knowing that the children who couldn’t be home for the holidays were enjoying some  time playing with brand new toys.

For the little yogis in your life
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I have fallen in love with Purple Splash Studio‘s books. The Gratitude and Dream Journal is a great way of introducing the younger ones to positive thinking and being grateful for what they have in their lives. Their most recent journal, My Happy Place, is full of creative exercises and a wonderful way to get them to learn about self-reflection, personal growth and empowerment. I can’t wait for my niece to get a bit older so I can buy these for her.

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The Ultimate Yoga Mat
You can’t go wrong with a Manduka yoga mat. Yes they’re expensive but trust me, you’re getting your money’s worth. I would hate to keep buying mats only for them to wear out and end up on the rubbish dump. I have a Pro Black which I mainly use for my home practice as they’re a bit on the heavy side and a Pro Light which I take with me to the studio, when I travel and when ever I teach somewhere other than at home. Believe me when I say I have put both through their paces and they’re still holding up strong. They can be a little slippy initially but the best thing I found was that regular practice wears away the thin top layer and then they become super grippy. You also can’t go wrong with a yoga mat that comes with a lifetime guarantee.

K-Deer Tights
I know, you don’t need fancy clothes to do yoga in but it does help when what you’re wearing doesn’t distract you from your practice. A lovely friend of mine introduced me to my first pair of K-Deer leggings and it was love at first practice in them. They are the most comfortable leggings I’ve ever worn and there’s no worrying about them being too low when you bend forward or digging into your skin.Besides comfort, K-Deer also supports various charities with their Signature Stripes leggings. So not only are you getting a pair of comfy tights, part of the proceeds are also going to charity. The lovely friend who introduced me to K-Deer runs her own online active wear shop called MadLotus. It’s where I get all my K-Deer (and a few other yoga clothing items) from. She really lives her yoga and I love supporting a fellow yogi. She also gives you a whole 15% off your first purchase when you subscribe to her newsletter, who won’t like that?

Do you have any favourite gifts you like to give loved ones? Share your ideas in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warming up before practice

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If I head out to practice first thing in the morning, I often need to warm up first. My tendons and muscles tend to be on the stiff side first thing and I find that doing some warm ups, either as part of my home practice, or before I leave for class really helps my body feel more comfortable. I also find that it prepares me mentally for my practice by making me aware of my breath and how my body is feeling and reacting in poses.

Join me in my latest video as I talk you through a quick warm up that you can do ahead of any yoga practice or your exercise of choice. As always when practicing, remember to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain.

Remember to click the thumbs up on the video if you liked it and click subscribe if you’d like to receive more yoga related videos in your inbox.

Have a wonderful week!
xx

Yoga Fun – Morning Routine

Hello everyone!

Summer is finally on it’s way and I can’t wait for the warm days to arrive. It’s so much easier for me to get up early in the mornings to go to yoga when it’s light and warm. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy at the moment and I still have my mornings where I just want to sleep in.

On such mornings, I always end up doing some yoga in bed. Just a few poses and some breathing to get my day started. You really can do yoga anywhere. Favourite poses include reclined twists (you can use your pillows as bolsters if you need to), legs up the wall, Cat/Cow and Puppy Pose. Below is a little video I did more for fun, but showing some of the poses I do when I just can’t get myself out of bed. It also features one of my yoga kitties.

I hope you enjoy the video and if you do, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

Hope to see you on the mat soon!

Yoga for Shoulders

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Hi everyone!

So I’ve been a little bit busy recently with some exciting new projects, one of which is my new YouTube channel. Expect videos of where I live, my travels and of course, yoga! I plan to create a series of short yoga practices (called yoga bites) which most people could squeeze into their day before or after work. I’m really excited to share this with you and learn a whole new set of skills along the way.

So remember to subscribe to my channel to receive all my latest videos.

 

Book review – Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom

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I recently read Colleen Saidman Yee’s book, Yoga for Life. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve known a little bit about her from what I’ve read in articles but this was an opportunity to find out more about her and her love for yoga in her own words.

She has divided the book into different phases of her life. Each chapter is accompanied by a yoga sequence themed around the subject for that chapter. The book read like you were having a casual conversation with her over a cup of tea and I was engaged from the first paragraph.  She opens up about her childhood, her drug addiction and how she overcame it, her modelling career and how she was introduced to yoga. She even talks about how she and Rodney met and the affair that rocked the yoga world at the time.

I think what I liked most about the book was her pure honesty and willingness to put it all out there, knowing that some people might judge her for her past actions. Her message is one of hope and the accompanying yoga sequences are great. She offers plenty of options and even includes a restorative and chair yoga sequence.

It was great learning about her journey, how she found her own voice and became the yoga teacher we all know today.