Roasted Sprouts

roasted sprouts

Love ’em or hate ’em there is no escaping the Brussels Sprout at this time of the year.

In actual fact, I always find they are not as bad as I remember and think we should have them more often. When you look at the nutritional facts there is a lot to be said for the humble sprout… high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and amazingly low in calories. They also contain small amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, iron, thiamine, magnesium and phosphorus.

So as with most vegetables in the past month or so I’ve given the sprouts the roasting treatment… just chuck ’em in the oven with a good glug of olive oil and perhaps a bit of garlic. 25 – 30 minutes later a wonderful dish awaits. A couple of tips.. I prefer to half them but I’m sure whole would work with a little more cooking time… a few shavings of parmesan also enhances the flavour. Enjoy!

Brand New Yoga Class in Exton

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I’ll be starting a brand new class on Monday mornings (10.30 – 12.00) in Exton Village Hall from January 2019. The hall has been completely refurbished, has a sprung wooden floor and central heating. There is plenty of parking around the village green and I’ve timed it – it’s only 5 minutes from Oakham.

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The classes will begin on the 21st January with a 4 week ‘Introduction To Yoga’ – this is a great guide to what yoga is and how the postures, breathing and relaxation exercises work holistically for optimum physical and mental health. This is a rare and fantastic opportunity for anyone who would like to learn yoga from the beginning with a group of people all at the same stage.

The cost will be £32 and include a free A5 file to keep your hand outs in. Afterwards the classes will follow the same terms as the other classes and go at the pace determined by the members of the group.

Please help to spread the word – if you know anyone who you feel might benefit – please encourage them to get in touch. It’s nice to learn from the very beginning and to belong to a group at the same stage of learning.

 

The Benefits of a Pair of Yoga Toe Socks

yoga toes socks

Besides the obvious – THEY KEEP YOUR FEET WARM – yoga socks and specifically the ones with the awkward little individual toes, are very good for your feet. They give the toes their space and help to correct all of those years of crushing the little toes into tight shoes and high heels. I know that it takes a while to put them on and feels a bit uncomfortable at first, but they can help to alleviate a variety of foot problems –

  • bunions
  • joint pain
  • foot cramps
  • athletes foot
  • tired feet after long walks or shopping in the sales

For obvious reasons we need to have a good grip on the sole of the yoga sock – to stop us from slipping on our yoga mats! However, there’s an added bonus to using the socks in yoga postures because the toes are forced to spread and this gives us more surface area to balance on.

So have a thought…TOE SOCKS… great idea and not just for yoga.

You can buy Yoga Toe Socks from me in class – they are £5 a pair and come in a range of colours. Have a look at my shop window here to see the socks and other items I can get for my students…

 

The Durga Gallery

Over the last half term our Yoga class students have been working with the Warrior and Goddess postures to strengthen our legs and improve our lungs. We have also looked at images of the Goddess Durga with her 8 arms and thought about how fantastic that might be at this time of year to help with all of our jobs at Christmas.  Mental images of empowerment like this can be used as a coping strategy and help us to combat stress in our lives. Stress happens when we feel overwhelmed or unable to cope – Christmas is a prime cause of stress, especially as one year closes (where has the year gone?/another year older!) and a new one begins (fear of change and uncertainty). So just imagine if you had 8 arms to help you out with all of your jobs and deal with whatever is to come next year!!!

Just for a bit of fun and to immerse ourselves fully in our yoga practice – we have made a ‘Durga Gallery’ – I hope that this inspires students to feel empowered (maybe enlist an extra pair of hands? or maybe reduce the amount of tasks you set yourself? you do only have 1 pair of hands really!)

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Dhyana Mudra

dhyana mudra2

We often see the Buddha represented with this gesture. It is beautifully simple and brings you into deeper, more profound concentration. It is the traditional mudra to aid qualities of tranquillity and inner peace.
Method: To do the Dhyana mudra, simply sit with your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm. The right hand, representing enlightenment and higher spiritual faculties, rests over the left hand, representing the world of maya, or illusion.
I like to visualise the hands as a little basket. Sometimes there are flowers in the basket and sometimes there is a little fire burning. The space within the hands is empty and you can see that space as freedom and a way to empty the mind. You can do whatever works for you – it’s a soft embrace and the fingers could be holding a dove…  allow your imagination to roam and find something that works for you.

Time to relax with a good book

fireside

As the days get shorter and the outdoors less inviting, a cosy seat near the fire or radiator seems much more appealing. Curling up with a good book is a fantastic way to relax and unwind – why not chose some poetry???  Here are a couple of lovely wintery poems… or you could get creative and write a poem of your own???

 
Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 – 1894

 
Winter’s Embrace
Shimmering lakes of silvery ice
welcomes skaters’ scarring slice.
Hills adorned in lacy white
watch children sleigh into the night.
In the brilliant pristine light,
snow birds in tall trees take flight.
Evergreens draped in capes of snow,
their heavy branches hanging low,
blanket earth as north winds blow
Winter’s dance is quite a show,
an ice-kissed, dazzling, magical place,
transformed by winter’s cold embrace!

© Patricia L. Cisco
Published: December 28, 2017

 

 

 

Festive Couscous

couscous

I was inspired by Nigella Lawson for this recipe. Anything that looks like rice gets a massive thumbs down in our household as my husband thinks it tastes like gravel. So with rice and particularly couscous I have to work very hard with the flavours. And … he also finds pomegranate ‘over-rated pips’! As these are in the original recipe I substituted them with cranberries for a very favourable result.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

INGREDIENTS

200g couscous
200ml boiling water
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
100g sultanas
50g dried cranberries
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each of paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Instructions
Place couscous into a heatproof bowl add salt, spices, raisins and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix to combine and then pour over the boiling water.
Let sit for 5 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed.
Fluff up with a fork adding in the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm with a parsnip and chick pea tagine or cold with savoury pasties and salad.

Yoga Stocking Fillers

Here are a few gift ideas for your yogic friends, for your own Christmas list – or of course, for you to treat yourself ; )

A year of Yoga – a new pose or practice for each day of 2019

A year of yoga £11.99
Mudra tea light holder

mudra tea light holder £15.10
Yoga dice – to inspire a home practice

yoga-dice £12.99

Yogic Cleansing Practices

neti pot

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” Eckhart Tolle

In our yoga classes this year we have been working with the Kapalbhati pranayama which serves to cleanse the lungs and nasal passages besides many other benefits. At this time of year with lots of colds around it’s good to try to keep ourselves as ‘pure’ as we can and this does mean cleansing the insides of our bodies – maybe just keeping hydrated with plenty of fresh water or perhaps following a few yogic techniques if we feel it’s right.

Another practice we have done in class is the Lion’s Breath which stretches the tongue, cleanses the throat and gets all the breath out of the body in one long roar! Fun and cleansing too – well it makes me laugh!

Jala Neti
You can also use salt water (saline solution) to cleans the nostrils with the aid of a neti pot. This is particularly useful if you have a blocked nose, cold, sinusitis and can be helpful to relieve tension in the face and brow. “The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain.” (Sw Satyananda Saraswati, APMB) Anything that impedes air from circulating around our bodies will have a far reaching impact upon our health, so it’s worth doing what we can to keep the air flowing.

The practice of neti can be performed at home by anyone – except if you get regular nose bleeds. A special pot will be required – these are readily available from the internet. Always prepare boiled water mixing 1 teaspoonof salt per pint of water. Don’t be tempted to use less salt – this ratio is the same as our tears and is what the body is used to. If you use pure water it will sting. Allow the water to cool to blood heat.

Fill a neti pot with the prepared water, tie hair back and lean over a basin. Begin to breathe through your mouth. Close the eyes and relax the body, tilt the head over to one side and gently insert the nozzle of the neti pot into the upper most nostril. The water will trickle through to the lower nostril and out into the basin. It may be a small trickle at first but it will unblock gradually. Once half the water has passed remove the pot and blow the nose gently. Repeat on the other side.

Now the nostrils must be dried thoroughly – this is where some people make the mistake of skipping the process and that can result in worsening the problem not improving it.

Stand up straight and close one nostril, blow the other nostril into a tissue 5 – 10 times in quick succession – rather like we do in Kapalbhati. Repeat on the other nostril. Now repeat on both nostrils again.

Bend forward so that the trunk is horizontal, turn the head to the left for 5 breaths and then blow the nose rapidly as you straighten up to standing. Repeat turning the head to the right.

Finally repeat the bending forward but keeping the head centred – 5 breaths still and then blowing the nose through both nostrils as you return to standing.

The whole process takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be done daily until the nose is unblocked. If you get regular nose bleeds then don’t do this practice. If you find that the water does not run out of the nostrils then it’s best to see your doctor for further investigation as you may have a structural blockage. If you are unsure, work with a yoga teacher – there is instruction on line but often it omits the drying stage which is vital.

Immune Boosting Yoga

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New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Feb 2018) suggests that yoga can be a helpful way to boost your immune system and decrease inflammation in the body.
Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation. Inflammation is natural part of the immune response and in the short term can be helpful to heal wounds, injuries, and infections, but chronic inflammation can do more harm than good.
Researchers collectively reviewed 15 randomized controlled trials that examined whether the regular practice of yoga postures could strengthen the immune system and reduce chronic inflammation. The average sample size of the trials was 70, and sample sizes ranged from 11 to as many as 140 participants. The majority of studies used Hatha yoga, a general term that indicates a style that includes postures.
Scientists in these yoga trials examined the immune system response by measuring blood or saliva levels of circulating pro-inflammatory markers such as cytokines, a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), as well as immune cell counts, antibodies, and markers of gene expression in immune cells.
Researchers found an overall pattern that yoga reduces pro-inflammatory markers, with the strongest evidence for the reduction of a cytokine called IL-1beta. There are mixed but promising results regarding other types of pro-inflammatory markers. One study found that yoga increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10. Another trial found that yoga could mediate inflammation at the genomic level, changing levels of proteins that control the DNA transcription of proinflammatory cytokine genes.
Overall, the collection of research trials indicate yoga has a promising anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
How often and how long do you need to practice yoga to get this effect? So far researchers do not have a conclusive answer, but most of these research studies implemented yoga programs that lasted from 8 to 12 weeks with a frequency between once weekly to daily. Yoga classes in the research studies range from 30 to 90 minutes. As with most mind-body practices, regular consistent practice yields the most promise.

Originally posted by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.