Your first Yoga With Paul newsletter of 2017. Enjoy!
Use of plastic carrier bags dropped by over 85% since the 5p charge was introduced in England last year. Over the course of 2016 that’s about six BILLION fewer plastic bags clogging landfills or going into the ocean. This is an incredible achievement and proves how small changes, like habitually carrying a shopping bag, can have a huge environmental impact.
Here are five more ways to cut down on plastic
Avoid items in plastic packages. Buy fresh produce that isn’t bagged or boxed. Choose recyclable glass jars rather than plastic ones, and detergents in boxes rather than bottles. This reduces the plastic you use and encourages companies to use less plastic too.
Buy a reusable water bottle. Plastic water bottles account for huge amounts of waste. Tap water is also cheaper, and using glass or stainless steel bottle means you avoid the possible hazards of plastic toxins leaching into your water.
Wear clothing made of natural materials. Wearing and washing clothes causes fibres to flake off, and polyester clothing is made of plastic. Tiny particles of microplastic found in oceans around the world have been traced back to synthetic fabrics.
Recycle electronics. Repair or upgrade your devices if you can, instead of buying new ones. When your phone or stereo is truly beyond help, find a recycling facility. For a list of London facilities, click here.
Bring your mug when you head to a coffee or tea shop. It saves them money and saves a plastic cup — plus it’s nice to sip out of your favourite mug.
Share your ideas for cutting down on plastic in the comments
Indulgence is a far more enjoyable route to health than deprivation.
Don’t do these things for a reward. They are the reward.
If you want proof how indulgent clean eating can be, try this quick, simple, no-bake raw chocolate treat.
Vegan Raw Chocolate Tart
For the base
– 100 g almonds
– 70 g dates, pitted
– 1/2 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
For the filling
– 2 big ripe avocados
– 70 g raw cocoa powder
– 50 g coconut oil
– 100 g coconut flower sugar or raw cane sugar
– 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
– pinch of sea or Himalayan salt
For the full method read the original recipe at Zizi’s Adventures
Share your favourite indulgence in the comments!
Yoga With Paul blog is a yoga blog so I’m not going to say anything about today’s big political event. What I am going to say is that today is as good a day as any to think about how our actions and attitudes affect the lives of people around us.
I often remind students that their energy influences those around them. Positive effort is infectious; smiles are infectious; willingness to stumble and try again is infectious.
The opposite is true too. Frowns are contagious; negativity is contagious; getting discouraged is contagious.
This applies in yoga, and in daily life. Whatever we give out is what comes back. If we’re irritable or in a funk, folks catch our mood. If we shrug off a setback and say, “it’s okay, things will be better next time” that catches on too.
Instead of feeling helpless or hopeless about things we can’t control like wars, or suffering, or general elections, let’s focus on the things we can do. You have the power to change the world, one day, one person, one action at a time.
You can do something as simple as smile and hold a door for a stranger, or as challenging as volunteering for a cause that matters to you. Whatever you choose to do, practice it like yoga. Daily, or almost-daily. Small actions add up, kind words make a difference. Keep up the practice and you’ll be amazed how far the positivity flows.
Share your ideas for making positive change in the comments.
We know that what we eat and how we move our bodies has a massive impact on our health but sometimes we forget what a drastic difference diet and exercise can make.
I was reminded of this by a Guardian article about ‘Fixing Dad’ a documentary film about two grown sons intervening to save their dad who was on the verge of having a foot amputated due to severe Type 2 diabetes. Full disclosure, I haven’t had time to watch the film yet, but just reading about it got me fired up over the importance of food and fitness.
“Dad” is Geoff Whitington who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes age 50. A decade later he was so ill and overweight he could hardly walk. As the Guardian sums it up:
In 2014, when Geoff was 62, his sons stepped in with their own special intervention that included a complete lifestyle overhaul, multiple health consultations, family holidays and heart-to-hearts, pacts, promises and pretty much constant rows. Two years later and 45kg (seven stone) lighter, Geoff raced through a 100-mile cycle ride from London to Surrey. He has now been taken off all his diabetes medication as well as his blood pressure pills.
He didn’t just lose weight, or get a little bit more mobile, or survive thanks to medication — he basically cured diabetes. By eating well and exercising. Wow.
It goes to show there is no such thing as too old or too sick. It is never too late to treat our bodies with respect and tap into their natural healing abilities. We’re made to be well. Our system does everything it can to keep going, even if abused with poor food choices, excessive alcohol, smoking, or lack of movement. The more care we take with what we eat, and the more we dedicate to a regular yoga practice and other forms of physical activity, the stronger and happier we can be.
Changed your health through food & exercise? Share your story in the comments!
Salads in winter? Not always the most appealing idea. At least not if you define “salad” as involving cold iceberg lettuce and shredded cabbage. Luckily, there are plenty of creative salads that go beyond the chilly confines of convention and are perfect seasonal food.
This salad from a Food Republic recipe is based on roasted carrots, which are sweet and delicious. You could also use parsnips or sweet potato as a base. The radicchio adds bitterness — you could also use Swiss chard or a robust green like kale. Toasted hazelnuts add crunch and protein; use pistachio or almond for a variation.
Share your favourite warm salad recipe in the comments, or Tweet @YogaWithPaul
I was about to write “New Year’s resolutions can add to the pressure we feel to be perfect…” Then I thought about it and realised that we are almost always under pressure to “be perfect”.
The holidays are fraught with pressure around social events, gifts, meals, family and relationships. Come February and we face a bombardment of messages about “perfect” love and romance on Valentine’s Day. Before long the annual push for the “perfect” summer body will begin, along with the expectation of dreamy holiday to show off said body. Before we know it, we’ll be back to Christmas again!
Our culture loves to judge and critique. There is always something to aim for, whether it’s more money, better legs, a bigger house, or a sexier relationship. Once we step on that perfection treadmill it is hard to step off. We start measuring ourselves by impossible standards and become fearful of taking a break or falling short.
Perfectionism can seep into every part of our life, including yoga, and when it does, we lose something precious. We lose the joy of doing things for their own sake. When we are chasing an exterior measure of “perfection” we can’t experience the activity in the moment. Instead of mindfulness, we cultivate anxiety.
There is no easy solution for perfectionism. When we get something right, there is an intoxicating feeling of satisfaction. The problem is it that this is external and temporary. If someone does “better” we immediately feel bad. Genuine well-being and happiness is based on knowing that we have done our best. Not on measuring up to someone else’s idea of success. In order to cultivate that internal satisfaction, we have to be willing to trust our own minds, bodies and values.
These words, from B Grace Bullock, offer a new way to think about “perfection”
Yoga is an exercise in befriending our imperfection. You stand up, wobble, resist, thrash about, and fall down. And in that struggle you discover one absolutely perfect truth—imperfection is liberation.
Imperfection is the essence of being human. It is what motivates us to engage in svadhyaya (self-study), to change what isn’t working, and to accept what we can’t change. It makes living authentically possible.
Next time you’re in the studio, or practicing at home, set your intention to allow imperfection. Instead of chasing an impossible idea, give yourself space to sink deeply into the unity of yoga, and your life. Feel what you feel, move mindfully, and don’t be afraid to fail because that is when something new and beautiful happens.
Share your thoughts on perfection in the comments.
After weeks of chocolates, pudding, mince pies, mulled wine and biscuits you may be thinking about your sugar intake. The trouble with sweet stuff is 1) it tastes great and 2) sugar sneaks into all sorts of things you might not expect. In other words, it takes a bit of effort to cut down on sugar. It is worth it though. Sugar compromises the immune system, leads to energy spikes and crashes, and tempts us to overeat. When we reduce the amount of sugar we eat it makes room in our diet for nutritious food our bodies need.
Here are three ways you can eat less sweet.
As much as possible, eat food you’ve prepared yourself — even if it is the “same” as the shop-bought equivalent. A ready-made sandwich will probably have more sugar and salt than a homemade one; a pot of fruit-flavour yogurt has loads more sugar than plain yogurt with fresh fruit; and if you’re feeling munchy it is tempting to eat “nutritious” fruit and nut bars that are actually loaded with sugar. When you make your own food, you know exactly what goes into it, making it easier to eat less sweet.
If we’re not careful we can drink more sugar than we eat. Even if you avoid obvious sugar-traps like soda you can still get a lot of sugar from “good for you” alternatives like smoothies, fresh fruit juice, non-dairy milk, alcohol, and so forth. To truly cut out sugar, you pretty much have to just drink water! That is too extreme for most of us, and there drinks like smoothies have other positive health benefits. But it is a good idea to be mindful of what you drink and swap sweetened beverages for unsweetened drinks like Ugly, a fruit-infused sparkling water drink that has zero sugar.
A lot of times we think that sweeteners like honey or agave are “better” than sugar, or that brown sugar is better than white. The truth is, they’re all sugar as far as our body is concerned. Though less processed sugars might be appealing for other reasons, they cause the same insulin response in our body, can lead to the same energy highs and lows, and have the same ability to trigger cravings. Be sure to include these types of sweeteners when you consider your total sugar consumption.
Got tips for cutting out hidden sugar? Share in the comments?
Our spine is literally the backbone of our lives. It protects our spinal cord which transmits all the information our body needs to move, flex and function. It provides the single most important support structure in our body.
Because the spine is in constant use it is vulnerable to an array of problems. Muscular weakness or imbalance in other parts of the body can damage the spine. In turn, a stiff, painful or injured spinal column causes pain that reverberates through the body.
Yoga is a powerful tool for creating a healthy spine because it creates unity and balance. These three moves are especially useful for preventing and healing our backbones.
Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.)
Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum.
Lie on your back. Your feet are together and hands relaxed alongside the body.
Place the hands underneath the hips, palms facing down. Bring the elbows closer toward each other.
Breathing in, lift the head and chest up. Keeping the chest elevated, lower the head backward and touch the top of the head to the floor.
With the head lightly touching the floor, press the elbows firmly into the ground, placing the weight on the elbow and not on the head. Lift your chest up from in-between the shoulder blades. Press the thighs and legs to the floor.
Hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can, taking gentle long breaths in and out. Relax in the posture with every exhalation. Now lift the head up, lowering the chest and head to the floor. Bring the hands back along the sides of the body. Relax.
Questions about the best postures for your spine? Ask in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul