Gather yourself an array of summer fruits and make a delicious compote… I used plums, gooseberries and black currants. Buy what’s in season from the supermarket or pick fruit from your own garden. Simmer with a little water for about 5 minutes then add honey or sugar to taste. Leave to ‘stew’ (not on the heat) overnight and then bottle and keep in the fridge.
You can use your compote in many ways – spoon over Greek yogurt, onto your breakfast muesli or over vanilla ice-cream. Drain off the solids off and use in a crumble or fruit pie saving the liquid to make a drink with sparkling water or prosecco! I made ‘crumble picnic bars’ using a simple crumble recipe and pressing it into the base of a small square tin, then adding a layer of the solid fruit and finally topping with a sprinkling more of the crumble. Mmm delicious – I’m hoping to make another batch and keep them in the freezer for when summer seems like a distant memory.
We are very lucky in this area to be close enough for a day trip to the coast. Norfolk is just 1 and a half hours away and since the lockdown has been eased I have been trying to get away once a week for a change of scenery.
I like to take this handy little guide which offers a wide variety of walks roughly taking 1 to 3 hours and of course in todays situation, a picnic lunch.
Though I have done several walks around and about the towns and villages, I often just walk down to the beach and keep on strollin’. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. The sea air and wide, expansive skies never fail to invigorate.
Here is a lovely poem about the seashore that always takes me over to Norfolk.
White foam drifting, turquoise waves swaying gently to the shore. Looking out to open endlessness. Feeling insignificant and vulnerable, yet relaxed as the sand between your toes massages away every pain. Carelessness fills up your rosy body as heat heals your bones. Dancing overcomes you as you spin alone on the crest where sea and land embrace. Your mind is finally blank in thought and peace settles throughout the delicate shades of the bright blue horizon which is reflected by the sun deep down into your soul.
Treat your body and mind to a fun yoga course that takes off on holiday to a far flung destination. Yoga for summer 2020 is all about THE GREAT ESCAPE. Picture sandy coves, turquoise seas, cloudless blue skies, and wall to wall sunshine. In each weekly class, we will focus on things you may do on holiday – trek in the jungle, take a boat trip or stroll on a sandy sea shore. We’ll explore a wide variety of posture variations including Horse pose, Half Moon, and Pigeon. Of course we’ll round off with a wonderful relaxation exercise transporting the mind and soul to rejuvenate and invigorate. The 6 week summer special runs from Monday 27th July to Friday 4th September. The cost is £40 for the course and can be watched at home (or anywhere with wifi) at a time to suit. Alternately, see the live feeds at fixed times throughout the week. Suitable for all levels of fitness and yoga experience – why not ask your friends to come on holiday with you?
On Saturday it was the longest day. The Summer Solstice. The word solstice comes from Latin meaning SUN (sol) and BE STILL (stitium). It’s as if the sun has stopped in the sky and our daylight just goes on and on! The sun is our own radiant star and this ‘cosmic pause’ should be worthy of some kind of celebration don’t you think?
For starters its’ always good to think about nature, be in nature and let nature ‘hold’ us. As we have learned over the last few months, it really doesn’t take long for the natural world to re-inhabit once we remove the toxins of car exhaust fumes, so great is its power. Our living Earth is a wonder and miracle and this is a great moment to pause and reflect on it.
The Stillness of a Star: Observing a Cosmic Pause
This stilling of the sun heralds in the summer. It’s as if the sun stops for a moment to prepare for shining her brightest over the new summer season. Encouraging the plants to grow, flowers to blossom, fruits to ripen and animals to come out and play!
Though we don’t always notice the Summer Solstice, we certainly notice summertime. Lazy sunny days with cooling drinks in the garden. Hopefully soon, enjoying some company in the beer gardens around the countryside. Rambling, trips to the beach, riverside picnics and reading a book on a blanket in the park. Summertime is something special.
Perhaps it’s because there is literally more time- more daylight hours – that makes life seem more leisurely. More time to go out and do different things. Which means more time to get jobs done. And lots more light to be able to see things clearly…
Why not take a moment to enjoy the sun? A very simple meditation is to focus on your breath and, as you breathe in imagine breathing in all the illumination of the sunshine and as you breathe out imagine breathing out a radiance of love and kindness to everything all around you.
***Breathing in – sunshine and brightness***
***Breathing out – a radiant shower of kindness***
Hydrate inside and out!
As the temperatures rise allow yourself more time to go about your daily live – rushing and heat don’t work. Avoid imbalances of energy as we make the shift to summer by accepting that we are in a transition period for a week or two and ‘take it easy’.
Stay hydrated by drinking about 2 litres of water per day. Take showers and bathe to keep the skin clear and healthy. The skin takes on more work in hot temperatures by regulating our heat. Try to ensure that it remains well aired and well hydrated.
Here’s a short yoga sequence to do every day to help strengthen your back. If you have ever suffered with back ache you’ll know that it can make life a real misery. So, why not try 15 minutes a day for a week and see if it makes a difference?
Where does back ache come from?
There are lots of problems you can get with your back muscles. Many of them can be repaired by the body given the correct circumstances. If you have an injury caused by a specific incident, then first aid measures are the best way to deal with that. RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation. In the first instance with any back pain you should rest and try to provide the body nutrition and rest to heal the problem. There are some exercises you can do to reduce pack pain on the NHS website here
Many aches in the back come from a lack of tone in the muscle which makes the spinal column imbalanced. It can be helpful to think of your spine as a tent pole and the muscles as the guy ropes. When we lead a ‘sedentary’ lifestyle ie not working the back muscles, then the guy ropes become a bit slack and so the tent pole wavers around. A sedentary lifestyle can come about because you have been resting your back due to pain or injury or perhaps following years of sitting at a computer in a 9 – 5 job. On the other hand, a strong back can help you have an upright posture. This in turn lifts the ribcage and helps you to breathe more fully.
Another possibility is that back ache may be cause by ‘shouldering’ too much worry. Yoga is holistic. It follows the principle that for every physical problem we have and equal mental problem and vice versa. So the stress of life situations can cause tensions in the physical body which can, in turn, lead to back pain.
A strong back will make life better
Whatever the reason, back muscles can be made stronger by regular, gentle exercise. And that’s what I’ve got for you in the video below. Whether you are digging the garden, carrying a baby on your hip or going through a traumatic life episode, a strong back will make things better. It will hold you upright and enable you to breathe deeper, giving you much more strength to face life’s challenges.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body! One of the best ways to get glowing skin is to work from the inside out. You can nourish your skin by moving your body. And one of the leading contributors to skin problems is STRESS. Yoga offers a unique combination of movement, breathing and relaxation all in one class. Deep breathing is promoted during the yoga movements and in our dedicated breathing exercises. This boosts oxygen throughout the body and relaxes the nervous system. Our guided relaxations at the end of the session calm us down which reduces the inflammation and stress that speeds up the aging of our skin. A regular yoga practice is proven to improve the health of our skin which has many important roles to play in our body (besides looking gorgeous of course!). These include –
A physical barrier that provides protection from external sources -for example germs or UV light.
It’s once of our sensory organs giving feedback to our brain about what’s happening.
Enables movement – it stretches so we can move and stretch.
Produces vitamin D.
Get’s rid of waste products and toxins through sweating.
Regulates the temperature of the body
Contributes to the immune system.
Yoga Poses for Glowing Skin
Postures that will especially help your skin include those that get the circulation going. A vinyasa or collection of flowing poses will help to do this. Try to flow gracefully, breathing in and out smoothly through the nose. Another beneficial posture is an inversion. An inversion is a posture that takes the head below the heart. These include Down Dog or a forward bend and make the blood flow in reverse and stimulate stagnant lymph which also improve our circulation. You have to be careful holding an inversion if you have any problems with your heart or any eye conditions. The best advice for all of us is ‘proceed with caution’ as any dizziness is not good and a sign that you have stayed in the pose for too long. Build up these pose holds slowly.
It’s always best to end your yoga practice with a rest in Shavasana. Lie still and let your whole body relax. Focus your attention on softening the delicate skin of the eye lids and let your awareness radiate outward, feeling the skin around the eyes relax and then on to your whole face and head.
Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep are also good ways to promote glowing skin. You can find out more about getting into good sleep habits on the NHS website here or why not try out the ‘Yoga for a good nights’ sleep’ online classes?
Here is a guided relaxation audio that’s just over 10 minutes long. Why not take 10 minutes out of your day just for yourself?
This audio guides you to lay down in Semi Supine position or Shavasana but you can also do it sitting in a chair or meditation posture. In fact you could even try it as a respite from working at your computer. As with all relaxations and meditations you should not do them while operating machinery, say for instance driving a car. Please be sensible and stay safe when you practice.
Following an initial period of relaxing the physical body we move to a meditation on the breath. Listening for the sound of ‘So Hum’. So Hum is derived from Sanskrit and literally means “I am That”. As we repeat the mantra it becomes “I am that, that I am”. As we meditate on this, we begin to appreciate that we are all one, we have all come from one Infinite Source, and a part of that infinite source is present in all of us. We are all connected.
Just few minutes of relaxation along with this magical mantra can bring calm and so much positivity inside and out. Hope you enjoy it.
The power of Positive Thinking has been known for thousands of years. This quote and its many variants are attributed to Henry Ford the great industrialist and suggests that everything we do (or do not) is down to our mind set.
“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Put simply if you think positively you will draw positive things to you. What happens when you think optimistically? You stand up straight. Walk with a spring in your step. Say a cheery ‘Hello’ to a passer-by. Maybe even hum a little tune. Your breathing slows down. AND everything begins to look better in your life. People recognise this. Even animals recognise this and as a result are drawn to you. When you give off good vibes, good vibes come right back at you.
If you are feeling down in the dumps, what happens? You sit hunched over, restricting oxygen to your lungs. Your face is frowning and crumpled. You watch all the bad news on TV or on the internet and feel even worse about yourself and your situation. The deprivation of oxygen to your body means you feel lethargic so decide not to get on with the housework or go out for a walk. AND it’s a cycle downwards – people don’t want to talk to you as you are often critical and negative.
Let’s face it we have all been in both situations – it’s called being human. Yoga can help us identify our moods – as we develop the idea that we exist and experience life through different layers (physical, emotional, mental). This understanding helps us to be the ‘witness’ and detach from our actions or thoughts as necessary. But it takes a lot of practice and it often feels like going against the grain.
Why It’s Difficult To Think Positive
We are all predisposed to negativity for survival purposes. We will always hold a negative or threatening thought in our minds for far longer than a positive or happy thought. That is why joy in our lives seems so fleeting. When we are happy, we can relax and don’t need to use our brains to organise anything. When we are stressed and anxious our minds are continuously searching for a solution, worrying about the future or what will happen to our loved ones.
It is difficult to change this behaviour as our brains are hard wired this way. But there are several habits that we can develop to train our minds to think positively. The scientists call it neuroplasticity which means the brain’s ability to change and develop new pathways of thought depending on the environment and circumstances.
We can go off things…
If we have bad experiences our brains try to get us to avoid that situation. It could be the work place for example. Deadlines, cross customers, boredom could lead to a feeling that you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or a sick feeling in the pit of your tummy on a Sunday night. The reason is that you associate the workplace with negative emotions.
Well the opposite can also work. If we consciously aim to have good experiences this will mean that out brain’s want to repeat them. And if we are all positive and perky about said experience it makes us give off good vibes and – who knows – perhaps a friend might like to come and join you so you can do it together? We have to make a dedicated attempt to re-wire our brain n this way. No one else can do this for you.
Here are 7 top tips to help you make Positive Thinking a habit.
Positive Thinking #1: Kindness
Being kind to others has an extremely healthy impact on us both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that we feel better about ourselves when we are kind to other people. Kind actions have also been proven to make us feel happier and less stressed.
Kindness is contagious – when someone does you a good turn, you will be inspired to pay it forward, and the person who receives your kindness will feel the same, so on and so forth.
Kindness also inspires us to be thankful, so if you are truly struggling with positive thinking and finding something to be thankful for, do a good deed for someone else — you will notice immediately how great it makes you feel.
Positive Thinking#2: Make time for yourself
We all spend large parts of our day working to earn money or looking after loved ones. Out of your total waking time, how much time do you spend doing things that you love? Setting time aside to focus on hobbies and passions will give you far more joy and happiness than vegetating in front of the TV.
We often forget that if we have the energy and willpower to slave away for eight or so hours a day with little reward outside of financial gain, we could easily spend an hour or two every day doing what we actually enjoy.
Remember you need to give off good vibes — like attracts like.
Positive Thinking#3: Stress Less
Are you working too hard? If you do, you will be unhealthy. If you sleep too little, you will be exhausted. And if you neglect your family or friends, you will feel lonely.
Why not allow yourself a little time to just relax?
Does doing something for yourself make you feel guilty?
One of my biggest problems is biting off more than I can chew. I just wish there were 9 days in a week – then I would have time to get everything done. Sound familiar? These self-imposed deadlines are damaging to you and all those around you. Stress actually forms the foundation of many life-threatening diseases, so in the long run you will get much less done if you are dead!
When stress leaves your body, your cells regenerate more efficiently. Less stress is literally more healing.
Positive Thinking#4: Sleep well
No one is in a good mood when they don’t get enough sleep. Let alone be all up-beat and ready for some positive thinking. But what can you do if you suffer from insomnia? Well first of all don’t worry about it – don’t add to your stress. Accept that there are things going on in your mind that don’t want to switch off and try your best to work out a pathway to sleep.
Some ideas that have been found effective are – setting up a bedtime routine that might include a bathing ritual, scent, gentle exercise or warm drink. Don’t watch screens just before you sleep, reading a book is better for the eyes. Ensure you are cool enough – the body temperature drops a little when you sleep. Finally, you can’t expect your body to be tired if you haven’t done any exercise. You need to have some exercise each day to tire out your limbs and then the body is ready for true restoration.
Meditation helps the mind to slow down and relax. It gives perspective on our situation and can help us to reflex and be kinder to those around us. By clearing away negative and unnecessary thoughts the mind is rejuvenated and becomes more resilient. It’s the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety.
We can learn, through meditation, to tune into positive thinking and weed out the negative thoughts. Meditate often enough and a lot of damage will be undone. You’ll be left with a clear mind and a refreshed perspective.
Many studies have proven that giving thanks makes us happier. It floods our brains with dopamine, the one chemical that has the potential to drown out the negative thoughts and anxious feelings we too often carry throughout the day.
Gratitude gives out super-positive vibes. Remember, like attracts like. If you make an effort to be grateful, you will find that you will be blessed with more things to be grateful for.
A fantastic way to consciously practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night before you to go to sleep, list everything you were grateful for throughout the day. Over time, you will see your lists become much longer!
Positive Thinking#7: Stop the negative self-talk
“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Henry Ford’s words are just as true today as when he wrote them. We are always telling ourselves stories about how bad things are. Yes, living through a pandemic is bad – but at least we are living and not dying. We need to change the narrative – instead of telling yourself “This is bad,” we need to affirm, “I can handle this” or “I will be okay.”
Pep talks work — they may be a bit American, but they do motivate, inspire, and uplift. Try to give yourself a bit of encouragement everyday when you look in the mirror. If you tell yourself at least once a day that you are beautiful, talented, or just plain awesome you will come to believe it. Or maybe it will just make you smile for being so daft.
I would like to sign off with this song from ‘The Life of Brian’ – Always look on the bright side of life. It was one of my Dad’s (whose name was Brian) favourite songs. Hope it makes you smile.
Ujjayi Breath is a great practice for relaxation – calming for the mind and soothing for the body. It is also great treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Please be patient with yourself when learning this practice as it’s not the easiest practice to do.
Sit in a comfortable position, the spine erect and the eyes softly closed. Allow the breath to become steady, calm and relaxed; breathing through the nostrils and encouraging the breath to be full. Don’t force breath in or out, let it come naturally and feel the ‘ends’ of each inhale and exhale.
If you are familiar with the 3 Part Breath that we do in class, it’s a good idea to do a few rounds of this to begin with. The 3 Part Breath encourages a full inhalation and exhalation – you can find out more about it in this post here
Bring the awareness to the throat and gently contract the glottis and continue to inhale and exhale with awareness at the throat. (If you are new to this practice, try exhaling through the mouth making a ‘haaaa’ sound. This will enable you to discover the contraction of the glottis. Tilting the chin down slightly can also help.)
Allow the breath to smooth, deep and slow – it will sound like baby snoring or waves breaking on the sand. Explore the gentleness of this breath – don’t feel as though you are gripping at the throat.
When established with the practice, with each inhale and exhale take your awareness to the abdomen, chest and throat in turn as they expand and contract to encourage full yogic breathing.
Ujjayi is a wonderfully calming breath and can help to relieve insomnia. Simply practice in bed in Shavasana when sleep is being illusive.
Practice for 5 – 10 minutes each day – great for calming the body and mind before asana practice, meditation or relaxation.