4 Steps to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Holiday weight gain is hard to avoid. It’s cold, we’re busy; mince pies, mulled wine and multi-course dinners are everywhere, not to mention the party nibbles and hangover breakfasts. In short, it is easy to put on a few pounds over the holidays. However, with these four steps it is possible to avoid holiday weight gain without abandoning the social circuit or sticking to carrot sticks. Here’s how.

Eat

The problem with gaining weight over the holidays is not that we eat too much, it’s that we eat too much of the wrong things (and then compensate by cutting back elsewhere). This year, make a rule that you eat three healthful meals a day. Think soup, chili, stews, veggie curries, rice and beans — anything that is filling and nutritious. When your body has everything it needs it won’t crave junk, meaning you’ll be able to have a few bites of this or that Christmas treat and not feel deprived.

Sleep

It isn’t just extra calories that trigger weight gain, it’s how our body processes the energy we put in. The best way to keep your hormones and metabolism on track is to be sure you have enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, your body tries to compensate in all kinds of ways, including increased appetite and fat storage. It can be tempting to burn the candle at both ends but making rest a priority will make you happier and healthier.

Yoga

Moving your body is essential. Right now it is so tempting to stay bundled up and hunker down. Don’t! Every single day you go to the studio is a different day than if you don’t. You will work, energize, cleanse, and align your body. Yoga will keep your digestion on track, your skin glowing, your muscles toned, and your mind at peace. If you absolutely can’t make it to a class do 20-30 minutes at home. You’ll feel the difference.

Repeat

Creating a routine is one of the best ways to get through the holidays with your waistline and sense of good cheer intact. Try to get the same amount of sleep every night (even if it’s a bit less than normal), go to the same number of yoga classes each week if possible and, of course, eat! You’ll be amazed how how good you feel come January.

Share your best tips for maintaining your weight during the holidays in the comments!

 

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Fierce Festive Fashion

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It’s fix up, look sharp for Christmas party time, so it would be remiss of me to not give a shout out to Somi Han.

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I’m wearing out the deconstructed black jumper she made for me. If you want your own one-of-a-kind piece her new atelier collection is available and it is packed with seriously fierce fashion. Here are just a few examples…

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Website: Somi Han London

IG: Somi_Han_London

Top 2017 Vegan Food Trends

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Poking around for food ideas and recipes led me to this fun Thriving On Plants post on the top nine vegan food trends of 2017. Some I’ve tried, some I’ve recommended, some are new to me!

The ones that got me nodding my head were overnight oats, cauliflower, and plant-based beauty products. Soaking oats in non-diary milk over night, along with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, makes a delicious, filling, nutritious eat-anywhere meal. Switching up toppings (fruit, honey, maple syrup, tahini, coconut milk, etc) and using different kinds of non-dairy milk ensures it is never boring.oatmeal

Cauliflower is, of course, one of the most nutritious, versatile vegetables around. If you want to cut back on grains roast cauliflower, cauliflower “rice” and cauliflower mash are great options.

Vegan health and beauty products just make sense. There are enough chemicals and whatnot in our environment without deliberately applying any to our bodies.

As for the unfamiliar trends: I’d never even heard of aquafaba but now I’m curious to try. It is “the gelatinous liquid, normally wasted, found in canned chickpeas. This gel is a result of soaking legumes in water for long periods of time.” You use it in recipes instead of egg whites.

Another trend I’d like to learn more about is vegan meal delivery services. Has anyone tried one? Are they worth the expense? Do they taste good? Hit me with thoughts and recommendations via the comments or by Tweeting @YogaWithPaul.

photo credit: justin_s77 Oatmeal and Granola via photopin (license)

#YWP November Newsletter

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Extra! Extra! It’s the Yoga With Paul November newsletter.

Read. Enjoy. Share.

Yoga With Paul newsletter NOV 2017

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4 Ways to Light Up Your Mood

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Light is one of the biggest influences on our mood. Even if everything is going fine, the short, drab days of winter can leave us feeling sluggish or sad. We’re less than a month away from the shortest day of the year, and the lack of light can be oppressive.

If you can’t afford to move to the tropics, how do you cope?

Here are four ways to cheat the clouds and light up your life — and mood.

 

Yoga (every damn day)

You need yoga most on cold, dark days when you just don’t feel like moving. Getting out of bed for morning yoga can be tough, but the practice will energise your body, refresh your mind, and lift your outlook for the entire day. Evening classes are a great way to get a dose of light, warmth, and positive energy, helping you extract more from your day.

Get smart lights

Not all light is created equal. You’ve probably heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps that give off special, high-power light that mimics sunlight. These are designed to be used for brief periods of time, specifically to treat seasonal mood disorders. For regular use, smart lights such as Ikea’s Tradfri range offer a spectrum of shades. This means you can adjust the light “temperature” for a mood-boosting natural effect.

Take a lunch break

It is tempting to hide indoors as much as possible this time of year, but it just increases the feeling of being confined and muffled. Bundle up on your lunch break, when daylight is brightest, and go for a walk. Even 15-20 minutes of fresh air and natural light will lift your spirits and help you feel refreshed and energised.

Decorate with mirrors

Adding mirrors to your home is a fast, inexpensive way to brighten it up without burning extra electricity. Look around your living room, bedroom and bath for places where a strategically placed mirror will reflect extra light. They will also make your home feel more spacious, which is a mood-enhancer in its own right.

Have a great tip for bringing more light into your life? Share in the comments!

 

5 Steps to be a Better Listener

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One of the first instructions students receive in yoga class is, “listen”. In our practice, listening to the instructor is how we learn, develop, and focus. Listening attentively allows us to let go of whatever is happening in our day-to-day and concentrate.

When we step out of the studio and back into the bustle of daily life it is easy to stop listening. A lot of times it is easier, or more comfortable, to speak. It gives us a feeling of being in control and directing the situation. Other times, we are simply too distracted to listen with real attention.

This is a shame, because genuine listening opens us and helps us connect. If we cannot listen, we can’t truly understand. You can learn to listen by following these five steps.dalai lama 2

Set your intention

You can choose to focus, in yoga or anywhere. When you enter a conversation take a moment to silently set an intention to listen with genuine interest.

Listen with your body

This means, focus on the person you’re conversing with. Angle your body toward them, make eye contact, if you’re in a noisy environment stand close enough to hear. If its a friend or loved one, show your attention with an affirmative touch.

Don’t rush to speak

People often pause in speech. Don’t leap in with a comment at every pause. Give the other person space to continue or elaborate on what they were saying. This often leads to a deeper conversation.

Ask questions

Show your interest by asking thoughtful questions. Open-ended questions like, “how did that feel?” or “what did you learn from that?” are a great way to let the person know you care about what they’re saying, and encourage them to share.

Don’t impose your feelings

It is  natural to respond to people according to our perception, but that can block them from sharing what they feel. For example, someone says they had a fight with their partner. If you jump in and say, “How stressful. I hate arguing!” you’ve imposed your feelings.

However, they might have been about to say, “It opened up a good conversation and, actually, turned out positive.”

The essence of being a good listener is understanding that other people are different, and having a sincere interest in learning how they see the world.

What is your best listening technique? Share in the comments!

New Class Alert! Highbury

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Calling all yogis — especially my North London friends: I am very pleased to announce that I will be joining the Bikram Highbury & Islington yoga community as a teacher.⠀

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Come learn to do this…

My regular classes @BikramHighbury will be on Tuesdays: 6.30am and 6.15pm. 

If you’re already a regular practitioner, come on down and refresh your practice with a change of scene. If you’re new to yoga, join us. Bikram classes are suitable for all levels from total novices to advanced.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

For a peek at the studio, check out its video

Stretch with Half-Moon Pose

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Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) is the second posture in the hot yoga warm-up sequence. In other words, it’s one that happens while we’re still getting grounded, focused; while we’re still waking up our bodies and minds. IMG_6477

It is an incredibly beneficial pose, however. It deserves time and attention, and will reward us when we practice it with full attention and commitment.

 

Among its many benefits, half-moon pose

    • Provides energy and vitality for your practice
    • Helps heal lower-back pain
    • Corrects the posture
    • Exercises the circulatory, glandular, pancreatic, muscular, respiratory, renal, and skeletal systems
    • Improves digestion by toning abdominal organs and spinal nerves
    • Firms and trims abdomen, buttocks, hips, and waistline
    • Reduces stress and anxiety
    • Increases spinal flexibility

In order to get the most out of half-moon pose, we have to wake up and give it the attention it deserves! Here’s how you do it.

  • Bring your arms over your head, interlace your fingers and release the index fingers
  • Press your arms to your ears and your palms together. Maintain this through the pose.
  • Extend your body, stretching towards the ceiling and lengthening your spine.
  • Begin by moving left and right 10-15 times, inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
  • Stop in the middle, extend your spine, drop your shoulders, then gradually bend to the right, from the hips.
  • Keep your thighs engaged and pelvis tucked under.
  • Breathe calmly in and out, gradually extending to stretch the whole body from fingertips to toes.
  • Return to centre, reset, then bend to the left and repeat the stretch.
  • In class, we do this twice on each side. In home practice you can play with the stretch by extending the duration, or repeating it more than twice.

Questions? Comments? Please ask!

 

3 Ways to be Patient

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We all need to be patient, sometimes. But modern live seems to demand constant action and movement. We are bombarded with advice on how to be switched on, go for the goal and give 110%. There is so much to do, it is easy to forget the importance of patience.

Learning to be patient is part of the path to developing perspective, calm, and acceptance. It probably doesn’t come naturally though. Patience, like anything else worth doing, requires practice. Here are three ways to cultivate patience in your life.

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Breathe

When we get stressed or impatient the first thing that happens is our cardiovascular system revs up. Our heart pumps, our breath comes faster. If we want to stop reacting with irritation, the first thing to do is calm the physical response by controlling the breath. Use your knowledge from yoga and consciously focus on breathing in and out at an equal tempo. You can count to four on the in-breath and four on the out-breath, or choose some other cadence. Breathe calmly and evenly to tell your body there is no cause for alarm.

Imagine

It is human impulse to find targets for our impatience. Sometimes it is something inanimate, like a ticket machine, other times we take our frustration out on the people around us. This not only fuels our bad feeling, it creates a cycle of negativity. To break it, imagine what lies behind the situation. Maybe the person who cut the queue is a parent with a sick child, struggling to get through the day. Maybe the person who squeezes into the Underground and steps on your toes is a future friend (or lover). Sure, it’s a long shot, but we all imagine how things could be. Why not imagine something positive?

Appreciate 

When life seems to conspire against you, take a minute to think of all the way life conspires for you. We are surrounded by so many blessings: materially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Yet somehow, it is easier to focus on what we don’t have. That is part of consumer culture, of the culture of “aspiration”. If that works for you, good. If it doesn’t (and I suspect, for many of us, it doesn’t) let it go. Let go of what doesn’t serve you. Instead, genuinely and sincerely embrace and appreciate the gifts in your life.

What is your best tip for being patient? Share in the comments!

 

 

 

Lentil & Mushroom Risotto

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Putting lentils in risotto had never occurred to me, but then I stumbled across a recipe and thought, that makes sense. Combining rice and legumes creates a hearty, warming dish that provides complete protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre and lots of vitamins and minerals. If only I’d thought of this sooner!

The following is from AllRecipes.co.uk, with my suggestions in italics. You can visit the site for more recipes and inspiration.

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 175g green lentils – use red or beluga lentils for gorgeous colour
  • lentil risotto500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced – add an extra pepper for more heat
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 225g mushrooms, sliced
  • 175g arborio rice
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish – or use fresh sage or basil
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese – use nutritional yeast for a vegan dish

Preparation

  1. Cook the lentils in a saucepan of boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place the stock in the saucepan and bring to simmering point over medium heat. Lower the heat so the stock is simmering gently.
  2. Heat the oil in another large saucepan and add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the red pepper and the ground coriander and cumin. Cook for a further 1 minute, stirring.
  3. Add the mushrooms, rice and lentils, and stir to mix. Pour in the wine and add a ladleful of the hot stock. Bring to a gentle boil and bubble until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently.
  4. Add another ladleful of stock and cook until it is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat this gradual addition of the hot stock until it has all been added. The rice should be creamy and tender but still with some ‘bite’, and the lentils cooked.
  5. Stir in the chopped coriander and season with pepper to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with the Parmesan (or nutritional yeast) and extra chopped coriander.

Share your favourite risotto or lentil recipe in the comments!

photo credit: Luca Nebuloni Risotto courgette and mint via photopin (license)