Happy New Year all! Enjoy the final Yoga With Paul newsletter of 2016.
Peace & love to you all.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about 2016 being “the worst year ever” and so on but… was it?
Instead of focusing on all the bad things that happened in the past year, let’s take some time to think about the things we have to be grateful for.
We are fortunate enough to live in a country at peace, with access to health care, food, and shelter. We have friends, family, love, work and hobbies. On the whole, we have much to be grateful for, and much to celebrate as we look back over the past 12 months.
Personally, I’m grateful for
Your turn… Please share 5 things you’re grateful for in the comments or Tweet your gratitude list to @YogaWithPaul
Yoga challenges us to push boundaries and discover greater levels of mental and physical strength and flexibility. I loved this Yoga Journal post about “extreme yoga poses” — the photos are beautiful and inspiring and it reminded me that there is always something to work towards.
The point of “yoga challenge” isn’t necessarily to twist yourself like a pretzel (not all of us can, even if we want to!) The point is to go beyond our comfort zone. Daily practice is a wonderful way to stay strong and grounded but it can get routine.
Challenging ourselves to try a new class, learn a new pose, or meditate, are ways to increase the benefits of our practice. Only when we push ourselves can we discover our true capabilities.
Take a look at all the beautiful poses… Be inspired…
Picture your dreams for 2017… Set yourself a 2017 Yoga Challenge…
Then share in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul using #2017challenge…
Holiday indulgence should be a pleasure, not something that leaves you feeling overstuffed afterwards. One way to cut down on the heaviness is to include vegan recipes in your Christmas repertoire.
Viva! Vegan Recipe Club promises to “veganise” your holiday feast with animal-free versions of favourite seasonal recipes. They have a big batch of recipes for alternatives to traditional starters, mains, snacks and sweets and if you don’t see your favourite dish, they’ll create a recipe if you email firstname.lastname@example.org with your request!
I like the idea of substituting or adding vegan versions because it lets you adapt your cooking and eating to fit with your traditions and tastes. You can keep the turkey or ham, or whatever is important, and add delicious, healthful alternatives to round out the meal.
This aubergine recipe stood out for me… click here for the full listing.
A nice dish for a special occasion. It is made in several stages, none of which are difficult – most of the cooking time takes place in the oven, leaving you free to do other things (bar the occasional oven check!). The sauce ingredients and main course ingredients will be ready at roughly the same time – all you need to do is quickly blend the sauce and serve it with the aubergine towers.
Nut-free? Omit the cashews and replace with half a pack of plain tofu, cut into chunks, fried and flavoured with tamari (gluten-free soya sauce). If allergic to seeds, eg sesame, replace tahini with arrowroot – see recipe
Gluten-free? Replace bread crumbs with Orgran Rice Crumbs (gluten-free and vegan) – good health food shops or else online from Ocado, Realfoods etc
- 4 small aubergines
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp grated lemon rind
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 50g/2oz sultanas
- 50g/2oz cashew nuts, toasted and chopped (see above for nut-free option)
- 2 tsp tahini (sesame seed paste) – use 1 tsp arrowroot for gluten-free and nut-free option
- 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped Salt and pepper
Roast Tomato Sauce
- 450g/1lb beef tomatoes, quartered
- 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
1. Put an inch or two of hot water at the bottom of a steamer and bring to the boil then turn to a simmer. Meanwhile, slice off top and bottom of each aubergine and stand upright. Using a sharp knife, carefully scoop out flesh leaving skin intact. Chop the flesh and set aside. Put the aubergine ‘bodies’ on to steam – upright if possible – for about 5-7 minutes. This will tenderise them a little. Don’t let them get too soft or they will fall apart in the oven! Remove from heat and take the lid off the steamer when they are done.
2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and get two roasting tins ready. You need two shelves in the oven – make sure there is enough space for the aubergine towers to stand up!
3. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry onion, garlic and spices for 5 minutes. Add aubergine flesh and lemon rind and continue to cook for a further 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste.
4. While the filling is simmering, prepare the sauce. Place all the sauce ingredients in one of the roasting tins and toss everything in the oil so all the vegetables are well coated.
5. When the filling is ready, spoon it into the aubergine towers and brush with oil.
6. Add 1cm/1/2 inch of water to the second roasting tin and carefully place the aubergine towers in it. Place both roasting tins in the oven and bake everything for 40 minutes. Check occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking or burning – rotate the roasting tins if necessary or swap shelves.
7. Just before serving, remove the sauce roasting tin from the oven and blend everything for a few seconds – either in a food process or transfer ingredients to a bowl and use a hand blender. Keep warm and serve with the aubergine towers.
Share your favourite good-for-you holiday recipe in the comments!
Did you see the BBC story about the 104-year-old yogi? Her name is Eileen Nash and she “enjoys regular yoga sessions” and is a former Test cricketer.
Yoga has a rare ability to keep us young. Other exercises can boost some aspects of health and fitness at the expense of others but yoga (remember, it means “unity”) connects our mind and body in a way that improves our overall well-being.
It does this in many ways, but let’s consider a few:
Circulation: As we get older our circulation can stagnate. Our veins and arteries aren’t as flexible, our heart isn’t as strong, our muscles get sluggish. But yoga increases and invigorates our circulation and safely strengthens the cardiovascular system.
Energy: We may never be able to stay up all night like we could at 20, but yoga gives a natural, long-lasting energy lift that helps us act and feel younger. Breathing exercises expel stale air to refresh us with oxygen, balancing poses charge our muscles, helping us feel strong and agile.
Stress: The older we get the more responsibilities we have. We get stressed, lose sleep, and find ourselves caught in bad lifestyle habits. Yoga releases tension, it connects us to our body, it soothes our mind and helps us regain perspective on what really matters.
Sleep: It can get harder to sleep as we get older, which has a knock-on effect of causing exhaustion and stress. Yoga is a great cure for insomnia. It is a challenging exercise that will help your body feel naturally tired, for one thing. There are also specific poses, like half-tortoise, that soothe the body and prepare it for restful sleep.
Metabolism: Our metabolism slows as we age, meaning we can catch ourselves with the dreaded “middle-aged spread”. Yoga reverses this pattern by keeping our metabolism running clean, strong and healthy. It also builds and preserves muscle mass, which speeds up our metabolism and helps us stay lean and strong even in older age.
What is your favourite anti-aging tip? Share in the comments.
We’re getting near the end of 2016 so it’s time to start thinking about our practice in 2017.
Yoga Holiday With Paul is scheduled for 23-30 June 2017 in the Algarve. If you have been on previous retreats you know what a rewarding, rejuvenating week lies in store. If you haven’t… this is your opportunity!
Every Yoga Holiday With Paul has core elements:
It is a chance to deepen and expand your practice, challenge your body, open your mind, and experience true relaxation and joy.
You can email YogaHolidayWithPaul@gmail.com to reserve a spot, or for more information. Early bird booking applies!
“Individual peace paves the way for world peace. The attainment of inner calm is the greatest work you can do for humanity” ~Sivananda
Maintaining a calm, positive mindset is difficult in the hectic days before Christmas at the best of times. It is even harder at the end of a tumultuous year that has seen so much antagonism and suffering around the world.
In the face of so much conflict and strife it is easy to feel helpless. Anything we can do seems relatively insignificant in the face of the world’s problems.
Get on the mat.
Yoga is a practice of peace and unity. To create peace and goodness in the world, we need to cultivate it in our own heart, mind and body first.
Every time we step into the studio, or take time for self practice, we are creating peace. The more dedicated we are, the more consistent and mindful our practice, the greater our capacity for connection.
Anxiety spreads. So does peace. We choose what we bring into the world.
Let’s commit to yoga practice and give the gift of peace this holiday season.
Share your ideas for increasing peace in the comments!
Laksa is warming, hearty, make-ahead meal and loaded with healing herbs and spices. This spicy noodle soup hails from Malaysian, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand and its heat and fresh flavours are a treat in the British winter.
You can add almost any vegetable so the key is to get a delicious broth. I found a great recipe for the laksa base on Tales of a Kitchen (read the full post here). Once you make it you can get creative and add a range of seasonal vegetables — though not traditional I might spiralise sweet potato, beetroot and carrot, toss in some hearty winter greens like shredded kale, and maybe tempeh or tofu for extra protein and texture.
Below is a guide to making perfect homemade laksa base. For instructions on completing the whole bowl visit Tales of a Kitchen.
Ingredients for the LAKSA PASTE
- 5 chilies of your choice (as hot as you want them), stemmed and seeded if you want
- 4 red shallots (small onions), peeled and quartered
- 2 TBSP roughly chopped ginger
- 3 big garlic cloves
- 3 coriander roots, cleaned really well
- 2 large lemongrass stalks (white part only), trimmed and chopped
- handful of cashews (or macadamia if allergic to cashews)
- 1 TBSP coriander seeds (whole)
- 1 TBSP cumin seeds (whole)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 TBSP turmeric (fresh or powder)
- 4 TBSP tomato paste (totally not traditional, but I love it in this recipe)
- Add coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan on low heat and slightly toast them for 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn them.
- Set aside and allow to cool.
- Once cooled, add them to a mortar and pestle and grind them finely.
- Add all ingredients for the laksa paste to a blender and process until you get a fine paste. Should take around a minute. Scoop into a bowl.
Laksa is light enough for a pre-yoga snack, especially if you’re heading to the studio after a long day of work. It is equally good as warming lunch, or even breakfast.
Share your favourite one-pot winter recipe in the comments!
There must be hundreds of variations on the “Keep Calm…” slogan but how do you keep calm in the first place?
The holiday period is always hectic. Regardless of faith or persuasion, the insistent commercial pressure, increased social obligations and backdrop of damp, cold December makes this a stressful month. These three tips via MindBodyGreen will help you achieve holiday calm will help you get through the season with a smile.
If you want to stay centered, this is not the time to skip out on your yoga class or regular workout in favor of holiday shopping or party prep. Regular exercise is a powerful factor in building resilience: Studies have found that it improves self-esteem, counteracts social withdrawal, and reduces anxiety and depression—all factors that contribute to resilience. Yoga in particular strengthens vagal tone because it creates feelings of connection with oneself and with others.
Even in cold weather, being outdoors can boost mood and self-esteem and increase creativity and focus, Wilson says. Time in nature, especially when it’s spent in the woods, exposes us to naturally occurring, highly beneficial chemicals called phytoncides, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. There’s also a mindfulness component to outdoor activity when you take time to engage the senses and appreciate the feel of the sun on your face.
Incorporate a daily meditation into your routine; if you don’t have time to sit, then practice mindfulness wherever you are—whether you’re in line at the mall or on the road to yet another holiday gathering. Pause, breathe, notice what’s around you, and tune into the sensations in your body. Just a few moments of mindfulness can foster better self-regulation and more positive emotional states.
Share your top tips for holiday calm in the comments!
Hips are one of the hardest-working joints in the body. Every time we take a step, sit down, stand up, etc we are putting them to work. You might not notice when they’re stiff in the way you notice tight hamstrings or a sore back, but you will feel the difference when they are open and flexible.
This modified variation on Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana — stretches the hip flexors and thighs, while also helping to open the abdomen, chest, and shoulders.
A standard pose in many yoga styles, Extended Triangle — Utthita Trikonasana — tones the legs and stretches the hips, groins, and hamstrings. It also opens the chest and shoulders, and helps to relieve lower back pain, stress, and sluggish digestion.
3. Tree Pose
A popular balancing pose, Tree Pose —Vrksasana — stretches the hips, thighs, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and helps remedy flat feet.
Questions? Need help with a pose? Ask in the comments!