Yoga for JOY

A little while ago I posted on yoga for anxiety which involves nourishing, forward bends. This post is somewhat opposite.

Each of our bodies call for different things at different times and the practice of yoga strengthens our awareness of our needs. Rather than going from day to day, carrying out tasks and never checking in, we can actually store up tools that we can use when we want to feel (or not feel) a certain way.

Back bends are the most invigorating poses and I adore them!!! Seriously, they have so much power. When we are feeling down, depressed, stagnant, heavy, stuck or perhaps without motivation for life, a back bend will serve us well. Poses which bend us back, in turn, open our hearts and this physical movement has a powerful correlation to our mental state.

Recently, towards the end of my 800hr yoga teacher training, we did an advanced back bending workshop which meant a good hour or two or opening our heart, afterward I felt SO filled with love for everyone around me and truly felt invincible for at least the rest of the day.

When I say back bends, you certainly do not have to glide back into urdhva dhanurasana (full wheel). It can be any slight back bend, perhaps bhujanghasana (cobra pose) or virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1 pose); or maybe you’d like to take a restorative back bend: I love laying my spine back on a bolster and opening my arms out to the side or overhead, ahhhhh, delicious. I want to mention that even simply opening the armpits has an amazing anti-depressant effect – try it now!

So next time you’re feeling down, try taking a back bend, or even, waving your arms in the air like you just don’t care… And maybe your mind will follow along in the party.

I am, of course, having a little giggle here but in all honestly, at times of real struggle and darkness, back bends have really helped me and I hope they can do the same for you. Lots of love.

Travel: Byron Bay

Where do I start…

Byron is, I think, the most special place I’ve ever been to, never mind lucky enough to live in. I remember when I was coming to the end of my travels last year after traveling in Australia, living in Sydney then travelling Asia, and I decided to take a ‘holiday’ in Bali on my way back to Australia. It hadn’t really been a place I’d wanted to go, imagining it being filled with Aussie tourists, nevertheless thought it’d be a nice place to relax. When I arrived, I was very pleasantly surprised and found this tropical paradise to be filled with beauty. Ubud was where I spent most of my time as it is filled with yoga and delicious, wholesome, healthy food. A place like this draws many like minded individuals and I really enjoyed meeting people here. However, as much as I enjoyed wandering the streets and the surrounding rural areas, I remember feeling excited to get back to Byron which had all of this and more, mainly: the ocean.

Byron and the surrounding hinterland is truly stunning: vast blue ocean, rolling green hills, lush tropical forests and the best weather I’ve ever known. The sun almost always shines and is only interrupted by dramatic, exciting storms with gushing rain and opportunity to rest and go inward. There are so many healers and spiritual wizards here that can open your eyes to vast opportunity and wonder.

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I have spent the past year here studying yoga. I have just graduated with a level 1, 2, 3 and Cert 4 in yoga teacher training from Byron Yoga Centre, a course I would recommend without hesitation. During this time I have expanded my awareness and  taken a real interest in ayurveda, Chinese medicine and zen Thai shiatsu to name a mere few. There are endless events, workshops, film screenings, women’s circles, cacao ceremonies, card readings, dances, gigs, meditations, satsangs and so much more. Your creativity is sure to be sparked in Byron.

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This coastal town is particularly known for hosting surfers and yogis. There are endless waves and numerous yoga studios (including ‘surfers yoga’). But don’t feel like you have to have a purpose here setup in your head before arriving. In fact, I think so many somewhat lost wanderers ‘find themselves’ in Byron, a very clichéd term I know, yet I think it fits here.

Modern city life encourages us to become part of the rat race, rushing through the days working to get to the top, waiting for the weekend, and then what? I think the people supposedly at ‘the top’ probably aren’t the most fullfilled, but it’s the people who’ve actually taken the time to get to know themselves, discovering their passions and finding out what it is that lights them up. The lifestyle in Byron really encourages this and there are endless opportunities for people to share their creative side whether it be music, writing, yoga, dance, art, marine conservation, sustainable fashion, food, farming, film, herbal crafting, oil blending, pottery making, paper machéing… The list is endless!

I cannot recommend a visit to Byron enough. My year here has given me so much, it’s hard to puts into words. The people I’ve met here have inspired me in ways I would never have imagined. It is such a special community that I feel so blessed to have been a part of and I so look forward to sharing what I’ve learned beyond the Byron borders and I hope it will be a part of me always. I will certainly return.

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I could share hidden bush walks, kayaking adventures, epic picnic spots, crystal treasure chests, hinterland getaways, beautiful beaches and more but that would prevent you from paving your own unique path here. After all, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

Berry & Cashew Tart

While I’ve lived in Byron Bay this past year I’ve worked at a smoothie bar in called Bare Blends and I’ve absolutely loved it! We’re soon to be incorporating a big display fridge of raw treats so we wanted to expand our recipes. The owner told us smoothie bar girls to have a play and get creative so that’s exactly what we did! I made these treats that look so much like jam tarts they make me think of home when I was young. I gave some to a few customers to try, including the gorgeous Alexz from the Bare Balance and she told me that I HAD to share the recipe. So here it is my friends…

Tart base:
1c Cashews
1c Almonds
10 Medjool Dates
2 tbsp Cashew Butter
Salt (best quality)

Filling:
1c Frozen Berries
2tbsp Cashew Butter

Blend all the base ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is soft and sticky. Press it into a cupcake baking tray to make the mould. Place in the freezer while you blend the filling ingredients then put this into the base and the whole tray back into the freezer for an hour. After this setting period, they can be kept in the fridge (and eaten!). By the way, you may choose to split the ‘base’ ingredients in half and make a fondant style tart instead mmmm.

Orange Cacao Truffles & Lavender White Chocolate Bark

I made these chocolates for a dinner party I had at my house and they went down a treat! It’s lots of fun making chocs and if you buy a little mould they look really professional yet you can buy them super cheap, I think mine set me back a couple of dollars.

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I’m a chocolate orange fan and back in the day I used to love white chocolate, which is conventionally made with all sorts of nasties. You can actually create a similar (much tastier) flavour using pure whole foods, how good is that? I wanted to try something different and it worked! Everyone loved the lavender and I think it helped to counteract the stimulation of the cacao so people could hopefully still get to sleep later…

Cacao Orange Truffles:

3 tbsps Cacao Powder

3 tbsps Coconut Oil

2 tbsps Maple Syrup

1 small Orange (zest & juice)

Himilayan/Rock Salt

– Melt the coconut oil over the pan with boiling water then stir in the cacao, maple syrup, salt and the zest of an orange. If you like it extra zesty, add in the juice too (as I do). This will make the consistency very liquidy but don’t worry. Put the mixture in your mounds and into the freezer for a couple of hours before eating.

Lavender White Chocolate Bark:

1/2c Cacao Butter

3 tbsps Coconut Oil

1 tbsp Maca

3 tbsps Maple Syrup

1 drop (high grade!) lavender essential oil*

– Melt the cacao butter over the heat of a boiling saucepan, then add the coconut oil. Take off the heat and stir in the other ingredients. Be very careful when (/if – can do this recipe without and will still be yummy!) dropping in the essential oil, you don’t want more than one drop. For this I poured the mixture into a flat dish and froze. After a couple of hours, you can break up the chocolate and enjoy.

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*note: it is not safe to internally take all oils, in fact it can be very dangerous. Only do so if you are sure that the oil is of high enough grade.

Fasting for Connection

The word ‘fasting’ comes with many connotations. Modern, western concepts are usually in the context of weight loss, creating the idea that you’re in a ‘bad’ place which can be solved with a quick fix. This presents the process of fasting as something to get through/get over and you’ll be better off on the other side.

I have to say that I hate this idea. It actually makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide. When something is presented in this way it is very harsh. It becomes a completely undesirable task which is then approached begrudgingly with a negative mindset of deprivation and doom.

Fasting, I have now found, can be the most beneficial thing for us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; here I will try to explain why, according to my own experience.

My Experience

Over the past few years I have tried a variety of fasts. I first began with ‘liquid cleansing’ after reading about how this can rest the digestive system for a day. After, I moved on to juice cleanses; first for one day, then three days. At this point I was ready for something more and I planned to go to a detox retreat in Thailand during my four months in Asia. I had been told about the retreat by a friend of mine while living in Bondi and I made a promise to myself that I would get there (I didn’t know at the time how secluded of a place it was – I still made it!). At the retreat, I treated myself to a 5 and a half day detox package which included yoga, infrared saunas, beautiful teas, a library of books, specific herbs, daily coffe/wheatgrass enemas and a whole variety of body therapy treatments. This fast was conducted on a stunning private island surrounded by crystal waters and floating hammocks in the sea… And yet, I didn’t like it. It was no fault of the retreat setup, most people reported feeling amazing and I know that many of their clients are people who return year after year, seemingly hooked on their new found feeling of vitality. I however, found the whole thing far too intense and I think that deep down I was unsure of whether this really was a ‘healthy’ thing to do, and was actually concerned I’d wither away. I began to feel so uneasy and distressed that on the third morning I changed to a three and a half day package instead and was refunded for the other two days.

It has now been over a year since this retreat and I now know why it didn’t work for me. The experience was very outward, when really, it’s an inward adventure.

Inward vs Outward

One thing I see a lot with fasting is the need for people to talk about it and share with the people around them that they are fasting (and probably that it’s horrible and they can’t wait to eat). For me this is actually the number one obstacle for going inward. Fasting is a very personal journey. While you are abstaining from food, you are in a gentle, vulnerable state and to talk about it openly with friends, family, people you don’t even know, can leave you in a place where you are justifying/explaining/reasoning your feelings, expectations and fears. This for me is FAR too outward. Fasting can actually take you to a sacred space, a space that cannot be understood by anyone but you. Choose the people you want to share it with very carefully. It’s not as if you’re hiding a huge secret, it’s just a personal journey that is best travelled alone, or with love and caring support by your side, certainly not judgement or perhaps even harassment.

How To Tune In

The best time to fast is when you are not working or socialising, but when you can take the time to be with yourself. You can delight in nature and reconnect. Meditation during fasting can take you to a totally new level and I find deep restorative yoga to be so calming and blissful. Perhaps delving into your art work or music is what takes you there. It’s anything that brings you back to you; that deep connection with your body and being, your passions and joys. Dharana (one pointed focus) paves the path toward a deep, deep connection to one’s inner being.

Also, I think it’s important to mention not to put pressure on yourself to ‘achieve’ some profound spiritual enlightenment, this is absolutely not what I mean to suggest here. We simply delight in the pleasure of being with ourselves and that is reward enough, from there we just ride the wave and be. Who knows what will happen; but by taking away food, something which has become so habitual in our lives, we create an opportunity, and it is only when we are truly mindful that we are able to observe the perceived, conditioned hunger arise, and then simply step aside, to reveal the deeper emotions which lay beneath.

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Eliminating Toxins

On a physical level, fasting is an amazing thing to do. Just as we give our car a service and our house a spring clean, it’s important to give our body that rest and rejuvenation; an internal scrub which leads to better functioning in the long run. When your body stops giving all that energy to digestion, it is able to pick up the other jobs that have been on the back burner, since nowadays we tend to eat at least three meals a day, everyday, and often even with snacks in between, grazing from one meal to the next, meaning our digestive system can be running on overdrive permanently!

A time of fasting is a time of healing. In my research, I have come across the term ‘healing crisis’ which I love. People often think that if they’re conducting some form of ‘cleanse’ they should feel great, but to the contrary. A ‘healing crisis’ describes the state where our bodies are working hard to eliminate toxins in order to heal. This certainly isn’t rainbows and butterflies, but instead can mean headaches, skin break outs, aching kidneys, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, the lot. Your body is working to get rid of the toxins so they have to come out somewhere.

It is very important to aid the body’s elimination systems, helping you to get the most benefit from your fast. Colonics in particular are the best way to excrete toxic build up in the bowels. Enemas are the next best thing, clearing out the lower section of the bowel, and there are also foods and supplements to help your bowels to evacuate as optimally as possible such as, psyllium husk, bentonite clay (can both be taking during a fast), flax seed, soaked prunes and figs, and many more. Sweating is a great way to assist elimination through the skin, and exfoliation helps to keep your skin fresh by clearing away the toxic dump. Dry body brushing and massage both boost the circulation, activating the lymphatic drainage system, allowing for further detoxification. Drinking plenty of liquid helps to flush the whole body so it can secret further toxins. Try to incorporate gentle movement to a fasting period to increase blood flow and also lots of rest to allow for rejuvenation.

Connection

My later experiences of fasting have only gotten better and better. Last week I ended up going five days without food and then began very slowly to reintroduce some soft, gentle, nourishing foods to my life. I had an all-important colonic during this period and feel like I shed lots of stuck energy. I truly feel more balanced and connected to myself than I have in such a long time, perhaps ever. I feel clear. Due to the intimacy I have created with myself, I feel a lot more open and loving towards others, I have  greater desire to understand them and their needs. I feel amazing and the challenge now is to try and stay in this centred space, taking is moment by moment. The reason I feel wonderful isn’t simply because I fasted, it’s because of the inward journey I took. I listened to my body wholeheartedly and cared for it from a place of love, not punishment.

 

Yoga for anxiety

Over the past few years, anxiety has become part of my life. What was once an emotion I actually couldn’t comprehend, become one I was all too familiar with.

I now know more about this phenomena and that it affects so many people; really it’s quite remarkable; even people who come across as extremely happy and confident can be suffering on the inside.

There are however, many ways to help cope with anxiety: herbs, habits, diet; for me, it’s yoga. One of my teachers has helped me in immeasurable amounts simply by giving me a true feeling of comfort and care, the things we generally feel starved of during anxious episodes. My wonderful teacher introduced me to this pose and since then I can honestly say my life has changed. I practice this everyday.  I do now wonder how I can travel without my bolster!?!

This supported posture, for me, creates such ease and comfort, a place where I fell safe to let go. We are so often told to suck in our bellies, be it for an exercise class or wanting to look a certain way that’s accepted as today’s ‘beautiful’, but when the belly is sucked in all the time, your organs are under constant compression and lack the space they need to work efficiently. Furthermore, this pose allows the breath to travel all the way down into the belly. So many people, including myself, restrict there breathing to the upper chambers of the lungs, unconsciously breathing only into the chest while under perceived stress; when in this position, the belly it totally protected and can finally let go, allowing the breath to be full and expansive. From this process of deepening and therefore slowing our breath, we switch into the parasympathetic state which is when our nervous system is no longer in a state of fight or flight (which is where many people spend most of their lives these days), but is in a place to rest and digest, allowing the body to heal on all levels.

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Supported Adho Mukha Virasana:

Kneel on your mat, big toes touching and knees apart. Place a bolster in front of the pelvis lengthways and elevate the end furthest from you with a block, or perhaps two. Lean forward and allow your torso to melt into the bolster. Let go of everything and enjoy the feeling of your body moving into deep relaxation.

p.s. I can travel without my bolster – all we need to find this comfort, is some pressure against the belly. It could even be our own hands while standing.

Green Spiced Salad with Corriander & Cashews

Blimey, this meal is a winner. It’s a whole sensual pleaser; a feast for the eyes, nose, tastebuds and every cell in your body! It’s a fresh, colourful mix of healthy carbs, fats and protein which should satisfy any craving. It’s absolutely delicious and I can’t get enough!

1 sweet potato
1 carrot
1 large handful Lettuce
1 large handful Frozen Peas
1 small handful Coriander
1 small handful Cashews
1/2 Avocado
1 small Garlic Clove
1 tbsp Tahini
1 tsp Olive Oil
Lime
Salt & Pepper
SPICE: I have a delicious spice mix I like to use, otherwise I’d say cumin & turmeric as essentials then go with whatever else you fancy if you want more.

Firstly, dice the sweet pot and put in a baking tray along with your choice of dried spices and oil (I’ve been using coconut). These take about 30 minutes at 180 degrees. Meanwhile, grate the carrot and slice the avocado. Chop the coriander and add a generous sprinkling to a blender along with the chopped garlic, tahini, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, spices and a dash of water. Blend this together and add water as necessary to achieve your desired consistency. When the sweet potato cubes are about 5 minutes from ready, roughly crush your cashews and add them to the baking tray to toast. At this point, add your frozen peas to a saucepan with a dash of water and lid on; allow to just about come to boil before draining. Slice your lettuce and add to your bowl. I like to use a separate bowl to combine everything else (grated carrot, sweet pots, toasted cashews, peas) with the dressing before adding to the lettuce, and finally top it all with your avocado and a last sprinkling of coriander and a squeeze of lime.

New & Improved *Spiced Savoury Bread* with Roast Pumpkin Dip

My previous recipe of this bread was very vague. This is because for me, following a recipe takes a lot of the joy out of cooking and all kinds of experimenting in the kitchen. That meant that every time I made bread, it was always a bit different. But then it got so so good I thought I’d better record it so I can share this masterpiece.

The pumpkin dip is inspired by a delicious local one here in Byron. The company is called Spice Palace, their dips are amazing, yet expensive, and so I just took a photo of the ingredients, gave my own little twist and, voila!

Spiced Savoury Bread:

2 cups Brown Rice/Buckwheat Flour
2 cups Almond Meal
1/3c Olive Oil
1/3c Water
1/3c Almond Milk (I have only used homemade; if you don’t have this, just go half water, half olive oil, omitting the almond milk).

Choose your seasoning:

Fresh herbs: Coriander and/or anything else you like
Spices: Choose what you like, add up to 4 tsps of dried spice
Dried Herbs: I like to add a tbsp of dried mixed herbs
Perhaps toasted fennel seed, pumpkin seed, coriander seed, mustard seed etc
Pink Salt
Black Pepper

Pumpkin Dip:

2 cups diced Pumpkin
1c nuts (almond, macadamia or walnuts)
3 tbsps Olive Oil
2 tsps Spice (your choice – I used a spice blend)
1 large Lemon
1 large or 2 small cloves Garlic
Filtered Water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Combine all ingredients for the bread thoroughly using your hands

Line a baking tray with baking paper and pack the mixture into all the corners

Bake for 45 minutes

While the bread bakes, cut up your pumpkin and cook in some oil, salt and pepper for around 25 minutes.

Take both trays out of the oven.

Allow the bread to cool for 5-10 minutes while you put your pumpkin into a blender along with all the other ingredients for the dip. Add water bit by bit until you reach your desired consistency.

The two can go together in a salad or the dip can be had with chips. The bread makes a wonderful breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack – I can’t get enough! …although most ‘normal’ humans find it so dense that one piece will do them for the day.

Almond & Vanilla Salted Golden Brownies

Yes you read the title right… chocolate, almond butter, vanilla, sweet, salty deliciousness; everything you’ve ever dreamed about in one soft, fudgey mound, hubba hubba.

This is the perfect Easter weekend treat. It’s so easy to put together, it’s in fact rather dangerously easy… you’ve been warned. I whipped this up on my birthday last week and it went down a treat alongside some amazing coconut ice cream. It’s delicious when it’s warm and soft, straight from the oven, but is actually also really amazing after it’s been cooled and hardened a little in the fridge. If you manage to save some that long, you can see which you like best, although I had to make double the quantity in order for some to last long enough to cool in the fridge.

For this recipe you can choose either coconut oil or ghee, I’ve tried both and they work equally well, so it’s just your preference. Of course, the coconut oil allows vegans the chance to try as I’ve created the ‘flax egg’. It is totally gluten free as the base is almond meal or you can do what I do and use the left over pulp from making almond milk – double win!

Ingredients:

2c Almond Meal
1/2c Pure Maple Syrup
1 tsbp Flax Seed (ground)
1/3c Organic Grass Fed Ghee or Coconut Oil
1 tsp Baking Powder
2/3c Almond Butter (or another nut butter if you prefer)
1 handful Cacao Nibs

Optional:
1 tsp Vanilla Powder
2 large pinches of good quality Salt

Combine the flaxseed in a bowl with 3 tbsps water and leave in the fridge for 15 mins. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and then take the ‘flax egg’ and add in the almond butter, maple syrup and (melted) ghee or coco oil (depends on the temperature if it’ll need heating on the stove or not, you want it to be liquid) and stir well. Then add in the ground almonds, baking powder, vanilla, cacao nibs and salt. Line a baking tray with baking paper and add in the mixture. Cook in the over for 20-25 mins then take out and allow to sit for 10-30 mins (I totally try some as soon as it’s out, I mean, how could you not?). At this point you can cut the golden brownie and perhaps serve with ice cream. Put what’s left in the fridge and the mixture will further harden and come together.

 

New Moon Goddess Potion

I usually always post on a Thursday but I wanted to post this Tuesday as it’s a new moon tonight. This is a special time when people naturally become more introverted, perhaps feeling more tired and more like saying at home, relaxing. For women, this is traditionally the time of menstruation and a time of gathering to create a circle of connection. You may like to share a ritual, your intensions and most importantly your love and support for one another.

Here is a delicious milky concoction to embrace our feminine, yin energy; cuddle up and enjoy. You may like to enjoy this alone of share it with your dearest soul sisters. The natural sugars in rose petals are very soothing for the system and are exceptionally pretty to watch bathing in rich, creamy, freshly made almond milk. Drinking this potion is a wonderful opportunity to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

How to make almond milk:

1 cup Almonds
1 litre Filtered Water
A pinch of Salt (good quality: pink Himalayan or sea salt)

Soak the almonds the night before then the next day drain them and wash the nuts with fresh water until the water runs clean. (Now you’ll realise you should have soaked extra as these delicious nuts are addictive to crunch on!). Put the nuts, water and pinch of salt into a blender and whizz for 30-60 seconds, depending on the power of your blender. Strain the liquid through a nut milk bag and squeeze (as if it were a cow’s udder!). The remaining almond pulp can still be used. I use mine for energy balls, sweet potato brownies, and of course, my Spices Savoury Bread for which I posted the recipe a few weeks ago.

Goddess Potion:

Quantity per person:

1 pinch of Rose Petals
1/2 tsp Vanilla Powder
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 cup homemade Almond Milk

Warm all of the contents in a saucepan on the lowest heat possible, allowing it to thicken ever so gently. After about 7-10 minutes, small bubbles will start to appear and at this point, take off the heat and pour into tea cups.

Enjoy this new moon and allow it’s energy to settle and ground you. I’m spending my way evening at a yin yoga class then going African dancing with my friends to silence my mind and let my body take charge alongside my goddess warriors – can’t wait!