It’s Yoga Holiday Time!

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Today is the day, friends. We’re off to the beautiful Algarve for the annual Yoga Holiday With Paul retreat. Those of you who are with us will be hearing a lot from me over the next few days, leaving you little time to read the blog.

Those of you following along from London, or anywhere else, can dip into the archive to experience the joy and benefits of a yoga retreat right where you are now.

Yoga Holiday Countdown 

retreat 3Get super(food) powers

If you’re already eating clean you can amp up your diet by adding nutrient-rich superfoods. Eat more of the following

  • Vegetables: Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Beets, Garlic, Cauliflower, Leeks
  • Fruits: Blueberries, Strawberries, Watermelon
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Pistachios, Quinoa, Chia
  • Herbs & Spices: Green tea, Ginger, Turmeric

What Not to Bring on a Yoga Holiday

GivingReceivingWorry

Yoga Holiday With Paul is the ideal time to disconnect from your worries. You probably don’t even realise how much you worry – about work, family, money, friendships, even yoga. Make a conscious decision to put aside worry and focus on being in the present moment. You are enough. You have enough. You are cared for. Let yourself relax.

Yoga Holiday Prep Steps

Meditate (just a little bit)xmas-calm

Making time to meditate when you’re rushing around trying to get everything done before your holiday might seem impossible, but you don’t have to spend half an hour a day in lotus position to get the benefits. Set aside five minutes in the morning or evening (or both, if you can manage) to sit quietly and breath. You don’t have to adopt a particular place or posture, just be still where you are. This will help your mind and body relax, and get you used to switching off from external stress.

Stay in touch by commenting or Tweeting @YogaWithPaul !

 

The Yoga of Happiness

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Yoga is a tool for creating balance. The postures or asanas are a way to calm the physical body in order to quiet the mind. As every yoga practitioner knows, this makes it an incredibly useful for helping overcome anxiety, stress, negative thinking and depression. Numerous studies have shown yoga’s ability to overcome physical illness and lift our mood. So it is easy to grasp at yoga when we’re down in the dumps.

happiness

If that’s all we use yoga for, however, we are missing an important piece of the practice. The aim aim of mindfulness is not to feel a particular way, but to be present and open to whatever we feel in the moment. Remember, yoga means unity. In true unity there is no divide between happiness and sadness, they are both parts of the whole fabric of life.

When we feel great, it is easy to let yoga slide. We think we don’t “need” it because we’re already happy. But yoga is there to balance our hearts and minds in every emotional state. Reeling with happiness is just as much an extreme as sinking into deep depression.

Life is a continuous series of up and down, back and forth, light and dark, good and bad. If we want to find a genuine stability we have to be aware that both sides of the coin are temporary. We react to them differently, but they are equally fleeting.

To achieve deep peace of mind, we have to be relaxed in both joy and sorrow. This is hard, because we want to hang on to happiness. When we receive praise or love or a gift we want to cling to that sensation. But if we do, we lose the ability to be open and non-attached. Then, when we have a bad day, or suffer a loss, we get stuck because we’ve forgotten how to let go.

It’s our human nature to grab onto pleasure and try to run away from pain, but yoga can help us escape that constant cycle. It teaches us to be present and accepting of the moment — of our breath, our physical body, our thoughts, and our intentions. Next time you’re in the studio and feel incredibly good, or incredibly bad, breathe into that feeling and remind yourself that life is unity. Everything flows, if we let it.

Share your thoughts on yoga and happiness in the comments!

 

Breathe Clean – Natural Air Fresheners

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Most of us are conscious of what we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink,  as well as the type of cosmetics or grooming products we use. We avoid preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, parabens, and other potentially harmful substances.

But what about the air we breathe? Lots of us don’t think twice about spending time in heavily scented environments, or using conventional air fresheners in our homes or vehicles (though if, like me, you bike most places, that ‘s not an issue!)

natural air freshener

Shop-bought air fresheners are packed with chemicals. Scientific American reported:

Some of the most offensive ingredients—volatile organic compounds (VOCs), benzene and formaldehyde—can cause headaches and nausea and aggravate asthma, and have been linked to neurological damage and cancer.

Perhaps even more worrisome, though, are dispersants known as phthalates that cause hormonal and reproductive issues, birth defects and developmental disorders. A 2007 review by the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 12 out of 14 widely available air fresheners contained phthalates.

This should be enough to get you to put down the spray can and consider alternatives for creating a fresh-smelling home, office, car or yoga studio.

The following super-simple recipe from The Prairie Homestead lets you mix your favourite essential oils into a natural, non-toxic spray that you can feel comfortable using any time, without worrying about the health risks.

DIY Air Freshener Spray Formula:

  • 180ml water (I use tap water, but distilled is fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, rubbing alcohol, or real vanilla extract
  • One of the essential oil combinations below

Place all ingredients in a 240ml spray bottle, shake well to mix before use.

1. CITRUS MINT AIR FRESHENER SPRAY

  • 10 drops wild orange essential oil
  • 8 drops peppermint essential oil

2. SWEET LAVENDER AIR FRESHENER SPRAY

  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops chamomile essential oil
  • Use 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract in place of the 2 tablespoons of vodka.

3. SUMMER CITRUS AIR FRESHENER SPRAY

  • 5 drops wild orange essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops lime essential oil
  • 5 drops grapefruit essential oil

For more essential oil combinations, read the original post at The Prairie Homestead.

Share your favourite essential oils in the comments!

Yoga Holiday – 10 Day Countdown

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It’s just 10 days to Yoga Holiday With Paul. Are you ready?

If you follow the blog you read 3 Yoga Holiday Prep Steps. Now we have just over a week till the Algarve it is time to complete the process to get your mind and body prepared.

Blueberry on wooden table background. Ripe and juicy fresh picke

Get super(food) powers

If you’re already eating clean you can amp up your diet by adding nutrient-rich superfoods. Eat more of the following

  • Vegetables: Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Beets, Garlic, Cauliflower, Leeks
  • Fruits: Blueberries, Strawberries, Watermelon
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, Pistachios, Quinoa, Chia
  • Herbs & Spices: Green tea, Ginger, Turmeric

Seek inspirationyoga sutras

Prepare for a week of yoga with a book that will inspire and enlighten you. If you need some ideas, check out the Best Yoga Books post. Ground yourself in yogic wisdom with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Swami Satchitananda or The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi. Or focus on meditation and mindfulness with Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg or A Path With Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield

Increase the ZZZZs

Resist the temptation to run around frantically to “get it all done”. The world will not endsleepmask in the week you take for holiday. Work will be there when you get back. Cleaning the house will be there. Getting your dog to the groomer will be there. Whatever it is, it will be there. Part of the gift and challenge of a yoga holiday is it can help us break out of our habitual behaviours. Get a head start on this practice — and arrive rested and ready for yoga — by making sleep a priority before the holiday.

 

Share your pre-yoga-holiday tips or questions in the comments.

 

 

Standing Bow Pulling Pose Tips

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Standing bow pulling pose (Dandayamana Dhanurasana) is a posture that requires balance, strength, flexibility and concentration. One particular challenge is keeping the correct alignment throughout the posture. A student recently asked about this, saying the hip of her kicking leg tends to go up, instead of staying level.

In order to keep the hips level you have to be aware of each part of the posture, and remember — standing bow is a back bend! These five steps will help keep you on track.

  1. Begin square to the mirror, with your right hand clasping your right ankle from the inside and left arm straight up, palm forward.
  2. As you kick back your body naturally tilts forward. There should be a twist in the upper body, with your two shoulders coming in to one line as you look in the mirror.
  3. Kick into the hand until you can see your foot in the mirror at the centre of your head.
  4. Keep the hips level to the ground. You will find that most people who have a good standing bow can not extend the leg fully. To achieve this you let your hip turn slightly out. This will depend on the  structure of the skeletal system and your range of motion.
  5. Keeping the hips level is a challenge even for me. You have to be persistent, patient and have compassion. Some days can be amazing and other days you wonder why you even bothered!
This is the yoga practice, observing yourself and not letting the ego take over.

Standing bow pulling pose benefits:

  • Develops concentration, patience, and determination.
  • Transfers circulation from one side of the body to the other, bringing fresh blood to each internal organ and gland, keeping them healthy.
  • Firms abdominal wall and upper thighs.
  • Tightens upper arms, hips, and buttocks.
  • Increases the size and elasticity of the rib cage and the lungs.
  • Improves the flexibility and strength of the lower spine.

Questions? Ask in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul

Gluten Free Overnight Oats

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I know a lot of people who are gluten free, by choice or necessity, so I’m pretty familiar with the ins and outs of gluten free grains. One that is always confusing though is oats. Are they naturally gluten free? If so, why are some labelled gluten free and some not?

oats

After a bit of internet digging the answer is, well, yes and no.

Oats are naturally gluten free. They are also liable to gluten contamination at many stages between the field and your breakfast bowl. According to GFCF.com (a gluten-and-dairy free lifestyle page)

Farmers usually rotate growing oats in their fields with crops of wheat or barley. This means that during one summer the field will be filled with a crop of only oats. Then, the next summer the same field will be filled with a crop of wheat or barley. In the summer following that, oats will be planted again in the same field. Although only oats are in the field during this time, some kernels of the wheat or barley gets left behind from harvesting the previous year. This is where cross-contamination of the oats with the gluten-containing wheat or barley can occur.

Not only are crops of oats rotated with crops of wheat or barley, but they are also sometimes grown in fields right next to each other during the same season. This can cause cross-contamination because of weather conditions and harvesting methods. Wind can blow kernels of wheat or barley into the fields of oats while the crops are still growing. During harvest time, if the wheat or barley is harvested first, the machines can throw pieces and dust of the wheat or barley onto the oats.

As a result most commercial oats are contaminated with gluten from the get-go. During processing there are more chances of gluten getting into the mix. TheKitchn.com reports that, “Most commercial oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten in these ingredients can contaminate oats, and the nature of most gluten intolerance is that even a trace amount of gluten can cause severe discomfort.”

There you have it. Oats are gluten free, if you buy gluten free oats. The good news is they are a nutritious whole food and not too expensive compared other gluten free products.

overnight oats

Photo via VeganRunnerEats

One easy way to enjoy oats is to soak them overnight in a non-dairy milk or water, and add some ingredients to taste. The VeganRunnerEats blog has several recipes for gluten free overnight oats. Use it for inspiration and go from there!

Ingredients

  • 50-60g rolled oats
  • 240ml non-dairy milk of choice, or enough to cover the oats
  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted nuts/seeds (walnuts, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp dried fruit of choice (raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, prunes, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp coconut flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp light miso paste (optional, adds probiotics and enzymes)
  • 1 tsp maple or agave syrup (optional)
  • Pinch cinnamon

For the rest of the recipe and variations visit VeganRunnerEats.

Share your favourite oat recipes or tips in the comments!

3 Yoga Holiday Prep Steps

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Three weeks until Yoga Holiday with Paul 2017. From 23-30 June we’ll be enjoying a week of uplifting yoga, meditation, music and sunshine in the beautiful Algarve.

algarve

That means you have three weeks to prepare to get the most out of your yoga holiday experience. Why is this important? Because our minds and bodies need time to absorb the benefits of our practice.

If you work flat out till the night before you leave, you will arrive stressed, tired, and anxious. This means you will spend the first day or two of your yoga holiday just getting your mind and body back to normal. While it is wonderful to have the opportunity to balance, it means you won’t see as much progress or healing during the retreat.

On the other hand, if you start preparing now you will arrive with your mind and body calm and receptive. You will immediately begin absorbing the benefits of the yoga classes, meditation and clean eating.

Here are 3 prep steps to help you get the most out of Yoga Holiday with Paul.

Meditate (just a little bit)xmas-calm

Making time to meditate when you’re rushing around trying to get everything done before your holiday might seem impossible, but you don’t have to spend half an hour a day in lotus position to get the benefits. Set aside five minutes in the morning or evening (or both, if you can manage) to sit quietly and breath. You don’t have to adopt a particular place or posture, just be still where you are. This will help your mind and body relax, and get you used to switching off from external stress.

 

Sun salutations

Stay grounded by doing a self-practice of sun salutations in the morning. Read the blog post here.

sun salutation

Clean your plate

What you eat profoundly affects your body. Eating clean for the three weeks before your holiday will ensure you arrive with a clear head and healthy body. Focus on eating lots of whole foods, especially seasonal fruits and vegetables. Scroll through the Yoga With Paul recipe archive for delicious inspiration for smoothies, soups, salads and more!

parsley-pear

Share your yoga holiday prep tips in the comments!

 

 

 

 

#YWP May Newsletter

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The May Yoga With Paul newsletter MAY 2017 is here for your reading delight!

Sideplank

Namaste.

Seasonal Food: Radishes

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Radishes are in season right now. Red, white or purple, they are a perfect, crispy, nutritious snack, and a colourful addition to salads and stir-fries. Radishes contain
B vitamins including folate, riboflavin, and B6; potassium; copper, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. They are also high in water content, making them great for a light snack before practice.

radishes

If you need some radish inspiration try this BBC Food noodle salad recipe. You can substitute soba (buckwheat) noodles and tamari to make it gluten free

Ingredients

For the noodle salad

  • 200g/7oz whole wheat noodles, cooked according to packet instructions and drizzled with groundnut oil to prevent sticking
  • 200g/7oz red radishes, washed and quartered
  • ½ cucumber, halved lengthways, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 small handful black sesame seeds or toasted sesame seeds
  • fresh coriander sprigs, to garnish

For the sesame soy dressing

Share your favourite radish recipe in the comments!

4 Tips for Side Plank Pose

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Side plank pose (Vasisthasana) is a terrific way to build arm, wrist, shoulder, core and leg strength. As a balancing pose, it challenges you to develop greater stability and confidence while strengthening major muscle groups.

You can move into side plank from plank pose. You want to glue your legs together and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot, stacking your left leg and foot on top. Then press down through the inner edge of your right hand and inhale your left arm up, stacking the shoulders and hips.

These four tips will help you perform the pose correctly for maximum benefit:

Lay a firm foundation

Your hand is the foundation to this pose. Press down into the floor through the inner edge of your hand, with your index finger is pointing forward.

Check your alignment

Your supporting hand should be just in front of its shoulder, so your arm is slightly angled relative to the floor. Straighten the arm by firming the triceps muscle, and press the base of the index finger firmly against the floor.

Activate each muscle group

The first and most important thing is to engage your muscles. Start with your core to ensure you are keeping your body in a straight line. Activating your legs grounds you through your feet and aids the balance, while your arms provide support and stability.

Keep a level head

When you extend your arm above your head to the ceiling keep it parallel to the line of your shoulders. Your head should stay level in a neutral position, or you can gently turn it to look up past your fingertips. However, this can challenge your balance at first though, so be sure you are confident in the pose before shifting your gaze.

Advanced tip

Once you are comfortable holding side plank for 20-30 seconds with your legs together you can increase the difficulty by raising your top leg so it is perpendicular to the floor.

Questions? Ask in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul