The Un-fabulous Food 50

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Fifty is fabulous. Except when it is the percentage of food that Brits buy which is
“ultra-processed” — in other words,  salty snacks, sugary cereals, industrially-made bread and desserts, ready-meals, reconstituted meats and sweetened soft drinks.

The Guardian highlighted a recent European study which shows that more than half the groceries people in the U.K. buy falls into the category of ultra-processed foods.

cadbury

In the U.K., for example, leading brands are Mr Kipling cakes. Batchelors, which makes Super Noodles. McVitie’s biscuits. Kellogg’s breakfast cereals. Cadbury’s chocolate, Wrigley’s gum and Haribo sweets. Lay’s, from Pepsico, are the best-selling salty snacks.

This consumption trend is worrying. Even if you’re conscious of what you put in your body and do your best to avoid ‘ultra-processed’ foods, their popularity has wider implications. Shops, for example, stock things that sell. Processed foods have the advantage of long shelf-lives, high mark-ups, and popularity. That means they are probably crowding out less profitable groceries like fruit and veg.

The other consideration is that the more people eat of these foods, the more their bodies are conditioned to crave salt, sugar, fats and simple starches. If you’re hooked on processed food, it can be challenging to learn to enjoy real, simple, clean ingredients again. This makes positive lifestyle changes more difficult.

And when fresh food is hard to access, or more expensive, it is an even bigger obstacle to people making healthy food choices.

We can do our part by supporting merchants that sell real food: greengrocers, farmers’ markets, veg delivery schemes. Even going to local bakers or butchers (if you eat meat) is a good alternative to putting more money in the pockets of multi-national companies that are selling factory-produced rubbish and calling it food.

What’s your take on ultra-processed foods? Share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

photo credit: paul_appleyard Camberley 14 September 2013 003 via photopin (license)

Do Yogis Make Better Lovers?

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On the eve of Valentine’s Day we’re bombarded with images that equate romance with chocolate, roses, champagne and satin sheets. There is nothing wrong with any of these but I doubt they make us better lovers in either the physical or emotional sense.

Yoga, on the other hand, may be the key to being a fantastic lover.yoga love feet

The Yoga Journal interviewed a range of experts and most agreed: yoga has the capacity to make people better lovers.

How?

First, by energising the body. Regular yoga practice tones the muscles, increases flexibility, builds stamina, cleanses the organs, and stimulates the endocrine system. This adds up to a supple, healthy body that can fully give and experience pleasure.

Second, by cultivating openness and mindfulness. This allows us to connect with lovers with greater passion and intimacy. We become more aware of their needs and desires, and more receptive and accepting of our own.

Third, by showing us the path to unity. Yoga means “unity” and what is love but a quest for profound unity with out loved one? To practice yoga is to break down the divisions between mind, body, and spirit, allowing us to be fully present in the moment

Has yoga changed your relationships? Share in the comments!

photo credit: Strelka Institute photo SPORTS TRAINING. YOGA (SPORTS) via photopin (license)

Dharma Mittra Wisdom

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Some of my most profound experiences in yoga have been training with Sri Dharma Mittra. His wisdom, grace, insight and devotion to the practice are a shining inspiration.

dharma mittra paul

Following the Dharma Yoga Center on Twitter is a great way to get a regular dose of his wise words. Here are some of my favourite quotes from recent weeks.

“Before you practice, always offer thanks to whomever you believe in and invite all beings everywhere to enjoy the practice through your body, mind and senses.”

“When you are quiet, you see everything with love.”

“Don’t be attached, not even to your practice! Attachment is the third cause of pain and suffering.”

“Observe the thoughts. Let them rise and fade away. They are a result of your deeds from the past.”

 

“Remember always that the Real Teacher is right there in you. The Real Teacher is within your own heart.”

“It’s the body and mind that pass through experience. Don’t lose your control. Yogis stand supreme whether dealing with something pleasant or unpleasant.”

“It´s only in a human body that you can make spiritual progress. This body, this very life you have, it’s so precious. Think about it.”

Share a favourite quote or message of inspiration in the comments!

 

Snack Hack: Popcorn

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This time of year it’s natural to crave comfort food. The trick is to find things that satisfy our need for energy and deliciousness without going overboard on junk.

Popcorn is one of the great “good-for-you” snacks — as long as it isn’t the oil-and-artificial-flavour drenched cinema stuff. Popcorn made in a hot-air popper, or a pan with a couple tablespoons of oil, is a fibre-rich snack with plenty of carbs for energy. It is also a great blank canvas for some fantastic taste combinations. Here are a couple worth trying…

 

Thai-style popcorn

  • Large bowl fresh-popped popcorn
  • Red chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • Salt

Season the popcorn with chilli and salt, then gently stir in the peanut butter till it softens.

Salt & vinegar popcorn

  • Large bowl fresh-popped popcorn
  • Sea salt
  • Malt or white vinegar

Season well with sea salt, sprinkle with vinegar to taste.

Cinnamon-sugar popcorn

  • Large bowl fresh-popped popcorn
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Mix the sugar and cinnamon, melt the butter over the corn then toss to coat.

Smoky black pepper popcorn

  • Large bowl fresh-popped popcorn
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • Smoked sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Pour the olive oil over the popcorn and toss to coat, season with black pepper and smoked salt to taste.

Share your favourite popcorn flavour in the comments!

 

Feel Good February

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February is often thought of as a drab, miserable month with the holidays long over and spring a long way off. Which is why I love the idea of Feel Good Feb, an initiative started by Australian teacher, writer and activist Linda Pang.

feel good feb

Photo via Feel Good Feb

According to the website,

Feel Good Feb was created to encourage and inspire people to initiate random acts of  kindness for their fellow community members. There has been extensive research to prove that ‘giving out good’ not only benefits the receiver but also increases the happiness of the giver. There’s mental happiness and physical benefits for all involved. It is a win-win situation!

In our fast changing world, there seems to be a lot of negative news that we are exposed to. Feel Good Feb is here to bring a ray of brightness and light into the world – and it’s done by YOU.

We would love people to have the intention and take the time to simply ‘lift the vibe’ of those around them. One random act of kindness (RAK) can bring a smile to someone’s face. No matter how big or how small your RAK is, you will be helping make someone’s day that much better.You can literally change their life just by being kind. Then in turn, maybe they will do a kind deed for someone else.  Kindness will flow organically, creating a ripple effect of happiness.

What a brilliant idea. Small gestures can make a big difference. How about paying for an extra bottle of water at the yoga studio and ask the receptionist to give it to the next person through the door? Or taking the time after class to chat to introduce yourself to a fellow student? Or writing a note to a friend you haven’t seen lately?

There are so many ways we can lift and encourage each other. Let’s do it!

Share your ideas for random acts of kindness in the comments!

#YWP January Newsletter

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Your January newsletter is here! Read. Share. Enjoy.

Yoga With Paul newsletter JAN 2018

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“How Yoga Helped Me Write a Novel”

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I always love to hear how yoga helps people in their daily life. So when my student and friend Cila Warncke got in touch to ask if she could share how yoga helped her write a novel, I couldn’t wait to hear her story. This Q&A explains it all…ibiza noir

How long have you been practicing yoga? 

CW: I started doing Bikram yoga when I returned to London in 2012 after living in Ibiza for several years. At first, it was just a way to keep warm; then it became a lifeline.

What about writing?

I’ve been a professional writer of one sort or another since graduating from university. I first moved to Ibiza to write for a music website. Years later, those experiences formed a basis for my novel, Ibiza Noir. 

What is the novel about?

It’s about three people who are looking for the things we all need — love, understanding, a place to call home — and what happens when they look in the wrong places. Played out against a backdrop of sex, drugs, and thumping techno 😉

How did yoga help you write your novel?

I never thought I could write a novel. Too tedious, too hard, too complicated. Doing Bikram five or six days a week showed me I can do something that seems impossible!

I began the novel in 2013. The first draft was a lot like my first months of yoga: show up, do the work, don’t worry about the result. To tell you the truth, Paul, I heard your voice in my head a lot: “Always try the right way! Never give up!”

When I was editing the novel, I drew on the discipline of yoga. I must have read the novel a dozen times, line by line, studying every word, letter, punctuation mark. It requires serious concentration and patience. I couldn’t have done it without yoga.

What about the physical practice?

It was vital. I wrote the novel in a succession of rental flats, mostly at kitchen tables. None of my work spaces would have won any ergonomic awards. Doing yoga worked the kinks out and I’m convinced it saved me from repetitive strain injuries.

Bradley Lake, Grand Teton Natl Park

Cila practicing yoga

Can you sum up yoga’s importance to your writing in a single sentence?

It taught me to chase perfection while being profoundly content with reality.

***

Cila’s novel Ibiza Noir is available on Amazon

Has yoga helped your creative work? Share in the comments!

 

 

3 Reasons to Upgrade to Organic

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If you’re looking for ways to detox your life, one thing to consider is what you wear. Our skin is our largest organ, so it makes sense to pay attention to what we put on it. Lots of us choose organic health and beauty products, so why not organic clothes?

There are many reasons why organic clothing is a kinder option, for us and for the environment. Here are three reasons to consider upgrading your wardrobe — especially your yoga clothing — to organic.gossypium women

Toxicity

Conventional cotton uses  tonnes of chemicals. I’m not an environmental expert, but a quick glance at the internet gives you an idea. According to EcoChoices, the some 15-25% of all insecticides used worldwide are used on conventional cotton. This is a massive impact on the immediate environment, workers, plants and animals.

Sensitivity

There is no way to know what or how many chemicals are used on a particular piece of conventional clothing, nor how your body will react. Many people can wear ordinary clothing in perfect comfort their whole life. Others may suffer unexplained irritation, unexplained rashes, itching, or skin problems. Given the amount of chemicals in our environment it is probably impossible to pinpoint what exactly to blame on clothing, but switching to organic eliminates one major potential source of irritation.

gossypium menSustainability

Choosing organic requires a commitment to doing things differently, which means many companies that make organic clothing are also dedicated to other forms of sustainability. This can take the form of fairer wages, better working conditions, transparent sourcing, and more. When you upgrade to organic, you have a chance to put your money towards a product that has been created in an fair, positive way.

One great example of this is Gossypium, an organic yoga clothing company based in Newhaven, East Sussex, that makes all its clothes by hand. They have some stunning, stylish gear and it is handcrafted to order. And it’s cheaper than LuluLemon! Well worth checking out if you’re ready for some new yoga threads.

Know a great organic yoga clothing company? Share in the comments!

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Basquiat Boom For Real

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Transcendent art takes us to another place. I was delighted to lose myself for hours at the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition at Barbican (until 28 Jan).  It was brilliant.

basquiat

Photo by Edo Bertoglio

The exhibition includes an extensive collection of his poetry, performance, music, film and video arranged over two floors. As the Barbican site puts it:

More than any other exhibition to date, Basquiat: Boom for Real focuses on the artist’s relationship to music, writing, performance, film and television, placing him within the wider cultural context of the time. Paintings, drawings, notebooks and objects are presented alongside rare film, photography, music and archival material, capturing the range and dynamism of Basquiat’s practice over the years.

Words don’t do justice to how captivating, colourful and inspiring his work made me feel. Though he is long gone, Basquiat’s energy and fearlessness reverberates in his work. He was a complicated, vibrant, daring creator who looked everywhere for inspiration.

Experiencing his work was both a benediction and a challenge.  Like, Okay, now you go create!” A must see, for real. This is the last week of its run. Book and go see.

Seen a great exhibition lately? Share in the comments!

 

3 Poses to Release Jaw Tension

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The long cold days of January can be among the most stressful of the year. Whether recovering from the financial or emotional strain of a draining holiday season, or battling the blues after months of winter, this is a time where we need all the help we can get to stay calm and relaxed.

One of the key places we hold tension in our body is the jaw. Gritting or grinding our teeth is an instinctive reaction to stress. Yoga is here to help us release jaw tension, easing the potential for headaches, and reducing our overall feeling of anxiety.

Here are three poses to keep you smiling.

Lion pose (Simhasana)

This is a fantastic pose to relax your jaw and face. Start kneeling with your bum resting on your heels. Stretch your spine up, lengthening through your head. Your arms should be straight, palms over knees. Now spread your fingers wide, like claws, open wide, stick out your tongue and exhale with a strong, audible “haaaa” sound, allowing the energy to lift your body naturally. When you have fully exhaled, relax your hands and sink back to your heels. Repeat this five to ten times.

backbend

Camel pose (Ustrasana)

This is another great stretch that can really release tension in your neck, face and jaw. Kneel with your knees about six inches apart, or slightly wider for a deeper stretch. Put your hands in your “back pockets” and release your spine backwards. Press your hips forward as you go back, then drop your hands and bring your palm to your heels, thumbs on the outside, fingers on the inside. Keep your mouth closed and tongue at rest.

Fish pose (Matsyasana)

Use fish pose to get a fantastic stretch for the jaw, throat, chest and intercostal muscles between your ribs. To begin, lie on your back, arms palm down alongside your body. Bend your knees so the soles of your feet are on the floor then raise your hips to slide your hands beneath your bum. On the inhale, press your elbows and shoulders into the floor to lift your chest. Either the back or top of your head should rest on the floor, depending on the depth of your back bend. To release, press your elbows into the floor, raise your head then relax to a prone position.

Questions? Tips? Share in the comments!