On my latest trip away, I had an accident. This is really unusual for me; I have never broken a bone and I pretty much never even get a cold. It’s rare that I’m out of action, but now, I am.

I chose the word ‘wound’ because our wounds are sometimes skin deep and other times deeper. We all face different wounds throughout our lives, be it a flesh wound, a broken heart, a gut-wrenching sadness, or a torn muscle. Your pain is unique to you, however I thought it might be helpful for me to share how I, as a person who focuses on wellness, carries on with a wound.

*Note, my injury is minor, but I hope that these words can resonate for those nursing more severe wounds too*

  1. REST

This is the most important part and for some, this phase may go on for months. Sleep is a great remedy for a sore body, an overwhelmed mind and an aching heart so make it a priority and if you can, take other pressures off yourself.

Give yourself some time to have a little wallow; maybe that’s a day or two, maybe that’s a month, maybe it’s a constant rollercoaster that means you need to take these days on a regular basis. Allow it. Maybe you take these days to lie in the garden for hours on end watching the clouds, watch TV series’, eat your favourite comfort food.

Recognise your survival behaviours and thank your body and mind for simply trying to help your system get through this. Also recognise that this is not useful long-term. We are grateful for these momentary escapes then realise that we need to put in some gentle work in order to help ourselves get better (physically & mentally).

  1. Routine

Personally, routine is a really important factor of my life. I rise early for my Ayurvedic rituals, pranayama, meditation and exercise. Even though I’ve done this for a long time, I still need to set an alarm every day because my body loves sleep. I recognise this as helpful as my usual, however, since my accident, I turned off all alarms for a week to allow myself to wake whenever my body was ready – somewhere between 7 and 8am.

In time, all will be back to my ‘normal’ because I know that’s what nourishes me in the long run. I recommend reintroducing slowly so as not to tax the system and only introduce the things that you trust are beneficial; perhaps that means getting back to a 5 minute morning mindfulness practice before reintroducing social commitments.

Routine is an important part of your sleep cycle. For deep rest that has positive implications, we want to be going to sleep earlier rather than rising later. Generally, this requires a little discipline, especially at first. If instead, you go to bed late and wake up late, it can have a negative knock-on effect… your mealtimes change, your routine is out of whack, your confused digestive system has to cope with extra strain.

Even in these testing times where all may feel up in the air, it can be really grounding to stick to some sort of routine. Even just one thing, such as mealtimes, can act as that anchor, providing you with a subtle feeling of safety and connection within your life.

  1. Focus on What You Can Do

Regardless of your wound, there are going to be things that you currently can’t or really don’t feel like doing that you once did. Instead of putting energy into wishing you were doing those things, think about and enjoy the things that you can!

If your wound is physical, like mine, it may be that you have some more space to focus on intellectual and creative pursuits such as studies and personal projects. This could be a time you:

  • Start learning that language you’ve always want to
  • Get back into reading novels
  • Grind and hustle on your passion project like starting a blog, creating your crafts, photography editing, setting up a website
  • Study a niche topic like ancient archaeology in a country that enchants you, medieval history, innovative climate saviours, social change in the technological revolution – something interesting that you would never usually take the time to learn about

If your wound is emotional/mental then it’s unlikely you’ll feel like/be able do any of the above… so this is not what you want to focus on. Instead, maybe have a go at the below:

  • Get out in nature (or stay where you feel comfortable) and connect with your present reality; name 5 things to can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste
  • Guided meditations with someone you trust or have had recommended in the past
  • Try a gentle yoga class that is suitable for where you’re at (options for chair yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga, private 1-1, gentle flow, yin and many more, find what works)
  • Documentaries on ANYTHING that will help to take your mind off whatever is going on and help to broaden to the bigger picture
  • Listen to audiobooks and/or podcasts, regardless of whether you actually take it in, it’s nice just to listen
  1. Love Yourself Regardless

A big one, I know. But it’s important to recognise that point 3 might just all feel miles away and that you are perfect just the way you are. We’re not trying to get anywhere or achieve anything, we’re all just on this ride of life and everyone has their own obstacles, it’s just that some are more obvious than others.

In this day and age where it’s the easiest thing in the world to have access to other peoples edited highlights (I’m talking Instagram!), it’s far too easy to feel somehow ‘behind’.

All we do is because we think that somehow, in some way, we can be happier, whether it’s about how fit we are, how we look, how much money we have, how many friends we have, how many places we’ve been, etc etc… we can actually bypass all of that if we can allow ourselves to find happiness in this moment. We don’t have to be overjoyed and it’s important we truly feel the strain that comes with challenges, but sometimes, the fact that we have woken up for yet another day on this mass of earth that is spinning through a multiverse with a life giving sun, a cycling moon and a multitude of twinkling stars is enough to feel happy about in this very moment. You are a miracle.

Sometimes it can seem difficult to follow your usual low-waste, high quality food principles from home while away and of course it should never become a stress. I want to share with you the ways I maintain my lifestyle while travelling, in the hope that it can help you to enjoy creative and simple ways of doing the same.

I actually get a real kick out of saving money so please rest assured that this is a not a costly answer to eating well while away. Most recently, I visited Switzerland, one of the most pricy countries there is. I ate 3 meals a day for 4 days and spent less than £30. You read that right. Read on for juicy tips and tricks…

Below is the receipt of the one shop I did on the first morning in Kriens (about a 30 minute walk from the centre of Lucerne) and then other than this, I bought one extra avocado two days later which cost 1.15 Swiss Francs, adding up to a total of: 29.20 CHF which converts to £24.54 GBP.

{Note: in my luggage I brought chia seed and plant-based vanilla protein from home. Both were added to resealable paper bags and flat-packed in my case. This is what added essential fats and protein to my breakfast every day, making them filling and nutritious. I used tahini, olive oil and salt that belonged to my friend; had I been staying alone, I would have bought these if I could find small quantities of high-quality products which may have added £10-£20 to the total. Sometimes I bring salt from home.}

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English translation of receipt:

Brown Paper Bag  25p
Yellow Peaches  £1.47
Cucumbers  £2.81
Carrots  £92p
Spelt (rice) Cakes  £1.05
Oats  £1.17
Veggie Hummus (on offer)  £2.35
Classic Hummus  £2.39
Protein Grain Mix (green lentils, red quinoa, black quinoa)  £2.35
Dried Figs (bought form bulk section in order to get reusable bag instead of single use pack)  £3.19
Lemon  58p
Avocado  £1.26
Mango  £3.74

Total: £23.58

In Europe it’s very common to weigh fruit/veg in a plastic bag to get the weight and therefore price of the product. Here’s some really easy tips and habits to get into to lower your footprint:

Option 1: bring your reusable produce bags (can bring your bag for making nut/oat milk in your case which weighs nothing)

Option 2: buy single items that have skins e.g. avocado, lemon, mango – put the sticker on the skin.

Option 3: if buying a few veggies (carrots/cucumbers/figs etc), first observe all plastic options in the shop and then work out which will be most useful. You may find zip-lock bags in the refill bit which can work as your liquids bag on a plane for the next 3 years for example. Buy more of a very small variety (1 or 2 vegetables) instead of a small amount of a large variety (6 different vegetables), so that you minimise the amount of separate bags needed.

Breakfasts: Overnight Chia Oats with Vanilla Protein and Fruit

This was always made the night before using the chia seed and plant-based vanilla protein powder I brought with me. I mixed these with ingredients I’d bought from the shop: oats and dried figs (on the first night I arrived at 1am, I made this using my friends oats which I then replaced for the bag I bought the next morning) and stir in water. In the mornings, after the overnight mix had soaked up the water and all the sweet flavour, I would then simply chop half a mango or a peach on top.

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Lunches: Cucumber + either Avocado Rice Cakes or (lots of) Hummus & Carrot

I took these out with me for my mountain hikes and lakeside lulls. My priority here was to keep it light so as not to add to the load on my back. It was one of two things as the main but always I take a large cucumber: hardy, high water content, crunchy and for me, utterly satisfying.

  1. I’d take a bunch of rice cakes (easy to find all over Europe without additives) made from 100% rye, an avocado (important it’s ‘ready to eat’ so I could get into it with just the side of my bamboo spoon), a slice of lemon and a small pot of sea salt (essential!!!!). The appropriate quantities were divided out and stored in a zip lock bag I had bought my bulk dried figs from the supermarket in. I brought this bag home every day and reused it the next.
  2. Or a couple of carrots and a pot of hummus for protein-rich tasty dunking.

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Evening meal: Grain + Vegetables with Tahini Sauce

On the first night, my friend and I had a sunset picnic. We took one of my hummus pots and some veggies from her brother’s garden to make a salad. I also cooked some of her green lentils with my figs and stirred through a tahini dressing.

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One night I simply made up a breakfast mix again in the morning to have at night since I had lots of those ingredients and really love the taste.

Then finally, I cooked up the grain mix I had bought and cooked with a grated carrot, rosemary from my friend’s balcony pot, dried figs and then I added some of her green leaves to make a light salad to enjoy with the dense grain dish. This was enough for the two of us that night, plus to fill my lunchbox for my next evening which I ate while on the aeroplane back to Manchester with the last bit of hummus and my final rice cake cracked on top.

After being locked down for the majority of 2020, it was very exciting to head off on a trip, and unlike the usual getaway, it was great to explore closer to home. I have never been to any of these areas before and it’s always extra exciting to go somewhere totally new. I had such an amazing time so wanted to share a few highlights to help you to plan your next trip anywhere close to these English treasures.

Cotswolds Way / Chipping Campden

I rerouted my direct journey in order to stop at this beautiful, quaint little town. The buildings down the main high street tell a story of times past with the Market Square as a central historic feature. I stopped here mainly to enjoy a walk after 3 hours of driving. This is where the famous 102-mile Cotswolds Way walk both begins and ends. I began the route, following the signs, past Market Square then taking a right up past the church… but then skipped a mere 100-miles or so to head straight to the end point, walking along a hillside with the fluffy sheep and colourful wild flowers to admire the open views.

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Cotswolds Lavender

I didn’t know this pace existed until I began seeing vast purple fields – it was really quite stunning! I then saw a sign for Cotswolds Lavender so got rid of my Google Maps and followed on. Many of these farms are private but you can pay entry to a huge one which is £4 for adults. As soon as I entered, I wanted to run through the fields, it feels so good to gallivant through nature. The aroma in the air was heavenly but I still kept having a good rub between my fingers to continuously breathe in the intensity of the lavender flowers. Lavender is used so commonly for relaxation and the smell made me feel very safe and content.

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As well as the purple fields, there was a beautiful meadow of blooming yellow flowers which I enjoyed a stroll through. There is a small shack-style take-away and shop for refreshments as well as lavender infused cosmetics and home products.

Bristol

I was fortunate to enjoy the best weather during my stay – clear blue skies and summer sun, still with a subtle breeze and the odd blowing of clouds above. My friend took me on a guided tour all over! We wandered through the park, farmers market, bulk shop; along the riverside, through the streets of Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Redland, Clifton and up to the observatory to lookout over Clifton Suspension Bridge.

I absolutely loved the vibe in Bristol, so liberal and easy-going. One day we met more friends and enjoyed an amazing picnic in St Andrews park, we could smell BBQs, see people playing, chat the afternoon away and relax in the lovely sun, it was perfect.

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On my last evening, we got take-away from a vegan Persian. I called in advance and asked if we could bring our own containers which they agreed to very easily, the staff were really lovely. I raided my friend’s cupboard stocks and took containers down to collect the four mezze plates for £16. Honestly it was a small amount, and this is clearly meant more like a starter or to be enjoyed with extra bread and dips but we still had some picnic goodies so added that and enjoyed our tastes of Persia. Of course eating out is always going to be far more expensive than cooking yourself due to all of overheads they have to pay as a business!

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Stonehenge

Wow, where to begin. These huge stones are mesmerising, especially when considering just how long ago they arrived. Not that we’ll ever know for sure exactly when, why or how they were put there but many researchers have put a huge amount of energy into this and it’s widely believed that this modern-day attraction was built back in 2500-3000 BC as a centre for worship thanks to a heck of a lot of community action! It’s said to be the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world and marks both the longest and shortest day of the year.

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I was fortunate to visit at this time of social distancing which meant that everyone had to book. Apparently, it is usually a lot more busy that it was for us on this beautiful Sunday morning so we really got to enjoy the trip back in time, speculating about who, what, why, when and where they acquired such stones. There is a great free audio guide to download providing lots of information, we listened to this on the drive home.

Glastonbury

I absolutely loved Glastonbury and got so much out of my visit. Due to the pandemic, the main high street was closed to cars in order to provide more space for pedestrians; there were also sadly many shops and cafes shut down and of course lots of extra precautions for social distancing and sanitising. I still really enjoyed wandering and looking in at the windows full of crystals, hemp clothes, vegan food and pagan literature, maps and artwork.

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I ate at the original vegan café: Rainbow’s End and had a wonderful salad bowl for just £4.50. The woman serving was so calm and lovely and the outdoor, yet sheltered, seating was the perfect environment to enjoy my fresh food in. The bowl was deep and she piled it high with the 4 salads of the day.

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The myth of Avalon, an isle of enchantment, is associated with the Tor, making it a hugely sacred place. The Tor is honoured for its healing powers and has been worshipped by a variety of different groups. The Druids (wise Celtic leaders who honour and are attuned to the importance of the natural world) utilised the Tor from 2,500 BC as an initiation centre for priests and priestesses. The ruin of the 14th-century church can be seen for miles due to the vast flat land that lays all around this eye-catching hill. The walk up was wonderful and it feels very humbling to sit at the top and look out across the vast expanse of beautiful greenery.

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Warleigh Weir

I only stopped into Bath for a swim! I was so keen to plunge after so many months without that freshwater feeling. I am all about the cold morning showers and I love an indulgent bath so a combo of the two in natural water really is a treat. Seeing pictures and hearing form the locals, this is a hotspot that can get very crowded. Somehow it was practically empty when I got there. It was a Monday afternoon that had turned a little grey with a tiny sprinkle of rain… just the recipe to dissipate the crowds! For me it was heavenly, such a calm and gentle atmosphere. I enjoyed a dip then sat watching and listening to the fluid water – one of life’s greatest teachers.

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Dovedale

I planned to make a little detour through the Peak District on my drive back up north and research spots over on the easterly side. I read about Dovedale and headed right to it. However, this was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, particularly as you walk further on past the steppingstones but of course, I should have known since it was the first thing that popped up when I researched the area; it’s a major tourist destination and therefore full of tourists! I’d rather hang with the sheep and should have just stopped at one of the many lovely spots I drove through but instead paid 3 quid to park in a loud and busy spot. Lovely spot if you’re looking for a nice morning/afternoon with the kids to meander on the steppingstones but not exactly a country escape into the quiet.

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Bakewell

A short stop to stretch the legs; this is another quaint little village with lots of charm, colourful gardens and a fair few chippies!

‘Falling into prayer is like falling in love’

Treating life as an act of devotion, every day become a special practice. In religion, often there is a temple/church/mosque considered sacred where followers go to conduct their act of devotion – a beautiful thing.

During my time in Morocco I was lucky enough to live with M’hand who saw his whole life as an offering to Allah. He didn’t worry about things, instead he trusted in the divine process and saw everything he did as just a small piece of the larger puzzle. While M’hand would go to the mosque on a Friday, which was certainly a special time, his work kept him confined to the home. He would pray with devotion and dedication, 5 times a day, every single day. He created a sanctuary within his being; a meeting place with the divine.

In the tantric lineage of yoga, we recognise the divine in shakti: the essence that dances throughout all that is within consciousness. If we are to meet the divine then, all we have to do is open to the beauty of the present moment. We can enable this by keeping a clean and tidy internal and external environment, regularly clearing out the cobwebs. Internally this can be done though mantra, pranayama and meditation as well as asana, kriya and writing/sounding out the impressions that lay within.

Let’s devote ourselves to the wellbeing of the planet, the rising of consciousness and the uplift of all.

Life as Devotion workshop this Saturday 10-12pm BST, £20. If this is your first workshop with me then I will be donating £20 to SARI (Stand Against Racism & Inequality). Click here for details.

The gurvadi gunas are 10 sets of opposites understood in the ancient healing system of Ayurveda. These pairs are a way of seeing the world; everything we experience in life sits somewhere within these gurvadi gunas from the most gross to the most subtle.

To explain, here are some examples of the opposing forces:

  1. Reminisce on the feeling in the air at dawn, just before the sun peaks over the horizon… now think about the energy in the early afternoon when everyone is awake, ‘doing’ life.
  2. Imagine eating a bowl of freshly cooked basmati rice spiced with just a little ground coriander, cardamom and turmeric… now, using the mind, taste a mouthful of a ready-made spicy curry that has come from a packet and is eaten straight from the oven.
  3. Sit in stillness and feel a wave of calm come over you… inevitably a thought enters (which is perfectly fine!) but now feel into the journey as you get caught up in the thought creating story after story in the mind.

Can you feel into the sthula (gross) and suksma (subtle)?

In yoga, we understand sthula sarira as the physical body; that which eats, breaths and moves. This is often the body that we spend most of our time invested in. In our society we value all that is in sthula sarira, for example exercising or pampering to make the outer layer look a certain way and also working to spend on more material items to associate with our physical being. Sthula sarira isn’t bad and it’s great to have the ability to take care of our gross, more obvious self.

Suksma sarira is the layers that are much finer and therefore more difficult to grasp, that’s because something that lays deeper than the physical cannot be acquired and kept by our side but takes constant focus to keep alight. The subtle body is composed of energy, the mind and the witness that lays behind it all. This is where we begin to tap into the bigger Self, recognising the deep connection that we all share.

Over the next couple of months, we will be delving into the understanding of sthula and suksma sarira in my restorative yoga classes held on a Wednesday evening 6:30-7:30pm BST. Heather Yoga are currently streaming all classes online, therefore available to all! We begin with sthula sarira from the bottom up, aligning the level of increasing subtlety with the elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether. Although focusing more on a certain aspect, it’s inevitable that we see the dance of the two as relativity comes into play and we can gain awareness of the movement between these two realms of experience.

This is a spring sensation. I created it when simply using up bits and bobs in the fridge from my latest organics order. These were in fact items that I wouldn’t select from a market myself and yet this is one of the beautiful things about your groceries coming from simply what is abundant that week in the harvest; it lubricates those creative juices!

Cooking can transform ingredients. While cucumber is a beautifully cooling food to be enjoyed now the days are getting warmer in the northern hemisphere, eating this raw vegetable straight from the fridge can definitely be a shock to the digestive system. By sautéing in ghee and spices, it softens the effect and provides a little pre-digestion phase, turning this light vegetable into a winner for all constitutions.

This is a lovely salad to be enjoyed as a main or a side. When given that powerful punch of ginger, it really it a delicious bowlful! The below provides one generous portion or will feed 3-4 as a side. I love the simplicity of this meal, yet since there is no main source of protein, you may like to combine with roasted chickpeas, dahl or pack into a chickpea pancake along with some bean-based dip. Listen to your body and you decide.

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cucumber
  • ½ Green Cabbage
  • ½ Large Leek
  • 1-2inch piece Fresh Ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp Ghee (homemade is significantly better. You can use organic butter or coconut oil instead.)
  • ½ tsp Mustard Seed
  • ½ tsp Cumin Seed
  • Tamari (or coconut aminos)
  • Black Pepper

Method:

  1. Finely slice the leek and cabbage
  2. Prepare the cucumber by slicing into small (roughly 1inch by 1cm sticks). Note: If you have weak digestion and/or you are using non-organic cucumber then I would advise peeling and discarding the skin.
  3. Add the ghee to a saucepan and heat until melted and spread all over the pan.
  4. Add the spice seeds and let heat until the mustard begins to pop.
  5. Add the leek and a slosh of tamari. Fry for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the cabbage, cucumber and grated ginger to the pan and keep everything moving. Allow this to cook for another 5-7 minutes until the cabbage has really wilted down.
  7. Serve in bowls and top with black pepper.

I love playing with flavours and here I’ve swapped the traditional pine nut (absolutely love but very expensive) for green pumpkin seeds which really come alive when roasted (as do all nuts and seeds!). I was so impressed with this flavour fananza that I managed to create here. I hope you love it too.

(P.s. This is the pesto pictured in my falafel recipe.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2c Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1c Fresh Herbs (I like Basil & Parsley in the pesto)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 small handful Spinach
  • ½ Lemon
  • 6tbsp Olive Oil (best quality you can get your hands on)
  • Salt
  1. Heat the oven to 175 degrees
  2. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray and the garlic cloves (skin on) beside them to roast for about 10-15 minutes
  3. Take the seeds and garlic out of the oven to cool
  4. Meanwhile, add all other ingredients into your food processor (make sure to include herb stems) then use your fingers to peel off the garlic skins and add them along with the seeds
  5. Blend well – you may need to stop and scrape down the side a couple of times
  6. Enjoy straight away or store in a lidded glass container in the fridge

I get asked all the time where is my favourite place I have been to and I would say for sure that in my top three is Israel. Wow, it was so amazing: the people, the variety, the history and, of course, the element that may have imprinted on me the hardest… the food. It’s all creamy hummus, soft pitta, fresh salad, decadent halva, herby veggies and such flavoursome falafel. With the current situation, it is clear that my next visit to Israel may be a little way off and so I have attempted to bring it to me… by way of falafel. I hope you can too enjoy a dabble in the Middle Eastern influences.

Parsley is not usually a herb I am drawn to but lately it’s delivered within my weekly organic box on the regular and actually it was certainly used a lot in the food I ate (and loved) while in Israel. I went heavy on the parsley in this recipe and it’s delicious… I think I have changed my parsley opinions. This is a great way to ensure use of the whole food (zero waste!) as you can blend up every last bit of stem. I added the last of my mint because pea and mint is a winning combo in my opinion and it provides a lift in flavour from heavier chickpeas.

Ingredients:

1c Chickpeas (soaked and cooked or buy pre-prepared then rinse well)

1c Peas (I use frozen and just cover with boiling water for a minute before draining)

1c Fresh Herbs – I use mostly parsley along with a little mint

1/2 Onion (red or white is fine)

2cloves Roasted Garlic

2 tbsp Gram Flour (or buckwheat/brown rice)

1 tbsp Roasted Pistachio

1/4tsp Ground Cardamom

1/2tsp Ground Coriander

1tsp Ground Cumin

1/2 Lemon

Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees
  2. Place onion, garlic, flour, herbs, spices, lemon juice, salt and pepper into your food processor (after preparing by washing/cooking/peeling/roasting) and blitz. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides.
  3. Add in the chickpeas, peas and pistachio nuts to the blender and pulse stopping before it becomes a hummus-like consistency. This gives the falafel some bite and texture.
  4. Spoon out the mixture and form balls.
  5. Pour a little olive oil into the palm of your hand to coat the outside of the balls and place onto baking sheet within tray.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes then carefully use fingers to flip over each falafel and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I have tried writing this blog post many times, but each time it becomes far too long and starts to resemble the first draft of a novel! Here I’ve tried to give a small insight to my own panchakarma experience which I did for the first time over Christmas 2019 and the turn of a new decade. This Ayurvedic detox therapy is truly transformational.

Firstly, ‘panchakarma’ means the 5 treatments. These include:

  1. Basti: Herbalized oil enemas
  2. Nasya: Nasal irrigation
  3. Vamana: Therapeutic Vomiting
  4. Virechana: Purgation
  5. Raktamokshana: Blood Letting

Over the 3 weeks I was keenly and clearly sticking to my panchakarma programme, including pre and post protocols, I had properly administered just one of the five actions: virechana. To do all five wholly, you would need months. I had jumped at the opportunity over the Christmas period when I could take time away from my different work avenues and explore my body, mind and spirit deeply before hosting my own yoga retreat in Morocco.

This was my time for 1-1 healing with Dr Jolly, an incredible site of knowledge, wisdom and skill. We had conducted a phone consultation weeks prior but from the moment we met, he was accessing my behaviours, tendencies, pulse, tongue, facial features, general aura and any imbalances. This continued throughout every day and determined the prescription of herbs, oils, treatments, yoga and food to be consumed; both type and quantity. This was all done with the aim of bringing my doshas (energetic constitutions) back into harmony, since both my vata and pitta was raised, as well as tending to my agni (digestive fire) which is seen as the key indicator of health in Ayurveda. As well as the physical and mental factors, panchakarma is a very spiritual practice which when administered properly, has profound benefits such as awakening kundalini energy in order to live at a higher vibration, connecting more deeply to one’s spiritual path.

Two of the most important factors in panchakarma are oilation and warmth. The warmth within and around creates ample conditions for the sticky ama, also known as ‘toxic sludge’, to release and unclog the body; the masses of oil lubricate the ama further and help it to keep moving. The word “sneha” means both oil and love in sanskrit; this is an interesting parallel – the process of being oiled from the inside and out every single day is like bathing your being in love! The more the body is kept safe and warm, the more toxicity it feels able to release, including repressed emotions, physical blockages and dull waste materials. Each therapy administered a huge amount of oil and every single morning during my pre-panchakarma phase, I had to guzzle medicated ghee down my throat – definitely one of the most challenging parts of the experience!

I had about 3 hours of therapies each day, a programme chosen specifically for my unique needs. The days of pre-panchakarma were physically intense (I still had some bruises a month after), working hard to dislodge that sticky, gloopy (described as a thick cheesy consistency) ama and draw it into the belly. As well as abhyanga massage, I had Kizhi, a treatment where heated herbal bags are hit onto the body and also abdominal massage, nasya (nasal drops) and swedana (herbal steam). Knots of tensions were released, along with the emotional storage. I started to experience real discomfort in my right hip, which seemed odd when I was being treated to back to back massages each day, but Dr Jolly had warned me that old aches and pains could arise again, this highlighted an area of tenderness in my body which is always my weak spot. On the day of my pachakarma, I did not go into the spa but stayed at the cottage I had rented close by. This was the day of purging and therefore the body is physically exhausted, the releasing of toxins throughout the whole day is enough of a treatment! In the days of post panchakarma, it was more gentle and was about rebuilding my body (particularly my agni), mind and spirit after this deep cleansing. Some of these treatments included shirodhara, nabhi basthi and also kundalini yoga practices.

I’d never had shirodhara myself before but had heard a lot about how relaxing it was so has been looking forward to this. However, going for panchakarma is not like going for a calming treatment where they want you to leave happy; panchakarma is intense! Dr Jolly administered very powerful herbs into the oil that was poured over my third eye in sacred symbols and mantras. It was strange; at first I felt like a small baby being soothed gently and totally held in this safe space, then, all of a sudden, I felt incredibly anxious and I told myself it was because I was really hungry and that I was going to be so upset if I had to eat plain rice soup again, utterly caught up in the unravelling story I was creating inside of my head. I felt so hot and desperately wanted to get up but had no idea of where and how all of this oil was pouring down on me, I didn’t feel I could move. Dr Jolly could sense there was something wrong immediately. Afterwards he explained that with the herbs he’d used, it was very normal for these past emotions to arise. My anxiety didn’t settle when we stopped, I had to go outside for a walk before I could sit and eat… and yes it was the rice soup. Literally overcooked rice in loads of water with the odd touch of spice. Very soothing for the digestion which had gone through a lot, certainly not exciting for the taste buds. I came back down to the present and realised, I was ok. The experience felt extreme at the time but now I can understand it as my emotional attachment and anger within bubbling to the surface after being stuck inside me for so long. This is the process of panchakarma shaking up all old, stagnant, toxic energy within, both physical and mental. Although very difficult to deal with in the moment of intensity as it manifests, this is what allows us to truly feel and most importantly, to then release.

Again, this post is getting long now but I just wanted to share one of the tougher experiences to demonstrate the power of panchakarma which is not just going away on a retreat to be pampered and relax. While it’s absolutely incredible and luxurious in many ways, it’s also challenging. It’s a journey of facing your inner samskaras (long held beliefs) and crystallised emotions as they get stirred up to the surface. I am now two months on from my panchakarama experience and I have shed so much. My attachment that has been deep seated and held within me for years has softened greatly.

Do you know what your attachment(s) is? A panchakarma can really help to face and overcome this. Dr Jolly worked tirelessly to help balance my chakras and cleanse my aura, I believe that this is really where all of our physical imbalances and attachments stem from. To call panchakarma simply a cleanse or detox for sure does it a disservice. I hope that sharing this tiny snippet of my experience helps you to understand this holistic practice of healing which has been taught and administered since ancient times.

I had wanted to visit Israel for a few years, not going to lie – mostly due to what I’d heard about the food! Little did I know it was a yoga mecca with a gorgeous coastline and so much fascinating culture. After making a couple of Israeli friends at different places around the globe, my interest had been growing. It was only when I’d booked onto an Amsterdam yoga training with Shiva Rea that I thought my opportunity was ripe! It’s a long and expensive journey from my home in the north of England and would mean a trip to London on either end which is definitely not desirable. When I looked while living in Morocco, the flight path was also pretty horrendous. From Schiphol airport in Amsterdam however, you can take a direct flight to Tel Aviv and be there within four and a half hours!

A friend I’d made in Morocco, who had come to stay at the yoga centre I was working at, had always told me I was welcome. After I’d booked my trip though, he ended up on a last minute surf trip in Sri Lanka and through some miraculous stroke of luck, generosity and kindness, I ended up situated right in the centre of Tel Aviv in a two-bedroomed, balcony-gardened apartment all to myself! With this as a base, I couldn’t go wrong…

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It was one of those trips that was destined to be god damn brilliant. Even while still in Amsterdam one evening after a day of training, I was at a delicious restaurant (more on that in a later post) and found out that the people on the table next to me had been living in Israel for 20 years! They gave me their contacts and we had great chats abut the place I was soon to visit; my excitement and curiosity was now bursting out of me. Then, while on the plane, the guy on the row in front heard me asking the people next to me about the train, to which he explained was not running now as it was getting close to Sabbath and therefore suggested we all share a taxi – sold! He negotiated in Hebrew with the taxi drivers and I later got dropped right at my door. I’d made it.

After a quick shower and change (I’d had a 4:30am start in my Amsteram accommodation for an early flight), I referred to the recommendations I’d be sent from my friend’s brother on the best everything. I knew my first taste of Israel had to be falafel and so I headed out to HaKosem. I walked a mere 7 minutes and found the spot. It was only about 3:30 in the afternoon and the queue was huge. Usually this would be a turn off but I take my food seriously and of course seeing all of the people who were choosing this place over the gazillion other options made me want it even more… I joined the queue and straight away got chatting to the person in front of me, thanks to the staff making extra fresh falafels and passing them down the queue. The tunes were pumping, the falafel was banging and the whole scene was such a fun vibe. Tel Aviv was killing it in my books. When I got to the front, I didn’t understand how to order as every sign was in Hebrew so politely asked for some sort of falafel pitta I’d seen most other people with. The guy in front of me said wow, you did well, they usually bite the head off people only speaking English. An innocent smile always does it! I was passed down to the next available pitta-packer who was so lovely and just as he was about to start asking which bits I did and didn’t want in my meal, I told him ‘I’ll take it all!’. He laughed and filled… and filled… and filled… and just when you think surely no more can fit, some extra salad, 2 more pieces of falafel and an extra drizzle of tahini gets layered on the masterpiece…

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OH EM GEEEEE. This was one of the most heavenly dining experiences. I picked around (as there was no way my mouth was big enough to fit around this!) the deliciousness as I sat on a bench and soaked up the good energy. I genuinely felt like everyone was smiling at me! Some people would ask where I was from/if I was enjoying my falafel etc. I think it was clear to see I was having the time of my life just sat on this outdoor bench (I’d come from a very cold Europe) with my pitta! Now I really had arrived.

That whole first afternoon was dreamy. I wandered, scoped out some yoga studios for the rest of my stay, went to the beach, met SO many friendly people who wanted to chat and hear about where I was from/if I was enjoying Israel/if I needed any help finding anywhere etc. One guy asked if he could take my photo as he was a street photographer then one girl literally chased me down on the beach to chat! She’d seen me picking up rubbish by the ocean and felt compelled to meet someone who shared her values and I ended up going to sit with her and her friends as the sun properly set into the sea. My heart was full.

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Over my next days, I practiced at Shraddha Yoga, I ate INCREDIBLE food (I recommend Miznon for the cauliflower and all you can eat tahini and fresh, warm pittas – drool), I got a Thai massage at Thai touch Which was truly amazing (not cheap!) and I spent an evening in the old city of Jaffa with some friends and lots of hummus.

On one special day I got picked up by my friend Dan who I’d met years ago when I first arrived in Byron! He was travelling and I was just finding my feet in a place I was going to set up home for the next year. We were both staying in the Byron Bay YHA hostel, talking a lot about tahini and halva and here we were 3 years later eating it together in Israel! Dan so kindly took me out to Jerusalem and basically acted as my tour guide all day.

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Dan explained all about the history and the modern day struggles faced in Israel, what it’s like during the years you work in the army, how you feel after, where Israelis can and cannot go and all about the significance of the religious sites that are part of one of the most historic cities in the world: Jerusalem. I was fascinated! (…And I am really rubbish with history.) We explored the walled city, the Western Wall, the church where Jesus is said to be buried and went to an amazing view point seeing one of the most ancient Islamic temples, alongside these significant sites for Judaism and Christianity.

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We wandered the cobbled market streets and smelt, saw and tasted the market in all its glory! Just as I had imagined for the years I wanted to come… I tasted about 10 different types of tahini and halva and dried fruits and roasted nuts; I saw the biggest falafels I had ever laid my eyes on and ate the most incredible traditional lunch called sabich, yet made into a vegan version by swapping out the egg for sautéed mushrooms – absolutely amazing. Israel is my cup of tea.

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I finished up my last morning with an early run along the boardwalk which was so dreamy, especially since I’d been wrapping up in jumpers and coats at home. I could’t recommend this place more and I definitely want to go back! The world is huge so usually I like to explore new places I’ve never been but Israel totally astonished me and I realise what a tiny taste I had of this magnificent country. One day I will go back and head to the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. Have you ever been? I’d love to hear!