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Whisperings

I’ve been having some treatment in the form of Cosmic Alignment Technique with my friend Sharon Richards who owns Power Blue Holistics.  Sharon is an amazing alternative and holistic health practitioner.  She has a great way of making you feel relaxed as soon as you walk through the door of her gorgeous little healing room.

Cosmic Alignment Technique is an energy healing system designed to nourish, calm, heal and relax you.  It’s a bit like Reiki, except that it’s not.  To me it seems to be a lot more powerful.  The treatment does a whole lot more than just provide relaxation.  If you want to know more about it, click on the link at the top of the page.

I wasn’t at all skeptical about the treatment, but I never expected it to be so profound either.  For example, I love all things holistic, but I’ve never been into angels.  Never seen one, never felt a presence.  Yet last Thursday, angels were whispering to me during my treatment.  No, I’m not schizo!  I was offered guidance, affirmations and reassurance about my true purpose.  To that end, on Friday I bought a pack of angel oracle cards.  Something told me to.  I did my first reading on Friday night when I came in from work.  More affirmations,  more help being offered.  It was scarily accurate.  The way is being pointed out to me, lit up with fairy lights and candles.  Fooook!!

Wheels have started turning.  Cogs are whirring.  Things are afoot.  Something big is about to happen for me.  Not only can I feel it, but I also know it.  Watch this space!!

Forest Path

This is the way!

(Image from dreamstime)

One of those days

I’m having one of those days. I wasn’t having one of those days this morning, but now I am and it’s really getting on my nerves.

I knew it. As soon as I stepped on my yoga mat and started to move, my whole body felt tight and tired. It probably didn’t help that I decided to do a Tiffany Cruickshank core flow on YogaGlo when really what I wanted to do was a nice restorative practice. I didn’t listen to my body and instead I told myself that I needed a good core workout. So I just pushed on through… and now I’m exhausted.

I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa trying to plan my classes for next week. I usually enjoy this, but today it’s been a chore. I also had in mind that I’d make a cake, do some online banking, write a blog post, do my class emailer…. and what have I done? NOTHING. A big, fat NADA.

And even now, even though I’ve accepted that I’m knackered, I still can’t stop beating myself up that I’m this, that and the other (mainly involving the word “lazy”).

So what to do:
1) Accept that I’m tired
2) Prioritise what needs to be done
3) Do what needs to be done
4) Then do something else that makes me happy, not something that I think I should be doing
5) Give myself a break and stop beating myself up

This is what I go on about in my classes – I talk about listening to your body, tuning in, working within your own limits blah, blah…. All very valid points, except that I am not very good at accepting my own advice!

I can’t expect to feel the same everyday. I have to learn to accept that some days my body will let itself be pushed and then pushed a bit more. Other days, it’s just not going to happen.

So, get off your arse, sit bones and RELAX, Kat. Be kind to yourself, Kat. Finish this post, do your banking and spend what’s left of the day doing something for you! Yes, YOU!!!!

Karma Yoga

Today we’ve been watching birds for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It takes place several times per year here in the UK.

I love birds. We both do. When we moved to our cottage we were overwhelmed by the number of birds who visited our garden. It was pretty wild and overgrown, but we’ve spent the last two years clearing out the rubbish, chopping down some of the more wild aspects and generally trying to create a wildlife haven, not just for birds but for all manner of other animals too. Not in the least, two squirrels who visit regularly (we think they’re a couple and we’re hopeful that we might see some squirrel babies in the spring).

We keep our bird feeders topped up throughout the year and we make sure that our birdbath is full of clean water too. Trying to keep our three cats away is challenging at times, especially in spring, but we manage ok and casualties are minimal.

So anyway, what does this have to do with Karma Yoga?

Yoga is not just about the asanas (postures). There are different aspects or “Paths” of yoga. One of them is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action and/or service. It is nothing whatsoever to do with the karma sutra… (why is it that when you tell people you’re into yoga, they automatically think that it means bendy or kinky sex?)….

When I first began yoga (many moons ago), I wasn’t massively into serving or helping anyone outside the immediate four walls of my house, or my close family. I definitely think/know that through my yoga practice I’ve become more aware and more compassionate towards other lives around me.

To practice Karma Yoga, you need to remove the “I” from it. Whilst you’re at it, also remove the “ought to” and the “got to”. Don’t be arrogant about what you are doing, don’t sit there and polish your halo. This is not Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is selfless. Do it out of kindness. By all means, do it because you want to… but not out of a sense of duty.

Think about the Karma Yoga you can practice. Maybe you can visit an elderly neighbour or relative. Perhaps you can offer some of your time to the local dog shelter because they always need people to go in and walk the dogs. Think about how you can use your skills for the good of others. If you’re a cook, why not volunteer at the local soup kitchen? Even buying an extra tin at the supermarket and putting it in the food bank, somebody, somewhere will be thankful of your tin. Or maybe just feed the birds in your garden, help them to grow big and strong to protect themselves against the inevitable bad weather to come, and hope that in spring they’ll be able to have birdy babies to form a new generation.

Think about one thing you can do, would be glad to do, that could help make a difference to someone’s life.

Yoga websites worth looking at

I like yoga websites. Websites about yoga. In the old days (before I became a yoga teacher), I used to like websites about shoes, and handbags. I still do… but I spend more time reading about yoga than I do buying shoes. How times change! And anyway, I already have way too many pairs of shoes.

For this week’s blog post I thought I would share some of my favourite yoga websites. Please don’t think I agree with every single post on these websites. Sometimes they can be a bit controversial… but worth checking out if you want to read more about yoga, maybe deepen your practice, find the best alignment in a pose, learn about pranayama – honestly, the list is endless.

1. Do You Yoga
I’m actually an Ambassador for Do You Yoga. It’s also the home of the 30-day yoga challenge with Erin Motz. Recently they also launched the most successful yoga-based Kickstarter project ever (more about this at some point). Kino McGregor, deeply cool Ashtanga teacher, is also on there sharing her wisdom about poses. A recent favourite post on there has to be Why Savasana is the Hardest Pose… And How to Master It. It’s a light-hearted website, taking a mainly humorous look at yoga.

2. Elephant Journal
I would say that Elephant Journal is more spiritual, more serious than website number 1. It’s not all about yoga either. Quite a lot of it is not about yoga at all. There’s a wealth of information on there from appreciating your husband to this article about productivity. There is definitely something for everyone. It’s worth noting though that you need to sign up if you want to read more than 5 articles per day.

3. Yoga Journal
The Yoga Journal website has everything. A great blog, recipes, practice videos, hints and tips, explanations of postures… If you are ever confused about any aspect of yoga, just visit the Yoga Journal website and it is guaranteed you will find an answer. It has been my goto resource for a long time. Try this useful guide to chakras on the blog. And check out the Pose Finder database.

There are hundreds of websites about yoga, but these three are a good place to start. There is something for everyone on all of these sites. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned class attendee, take the time to deepen your practice by reading what other people have to say about it, and indulge yourself in the wisdom.

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Yoga documentary – Enlighten Up!

This week I’ve watched a documentary about yoga called Enlighten Up!

Kate Churchill is a filmmaker and yoga practitioner who sets out to prove that yoga can transform anyone.  Her test subject is Nick Rosen, skeptical but well up for a challenge.  Kate and Nick travel extensively, meeting plenty of yoga celebrities and some of the godfathers of modern yoga.  I don’t want to spoil it for you because I believe it’s worth dedicating an hour and fifteen minutes of your time to watch it.  You can watch it here on documentarywire with helpful Spanish subtitles!  Needless to say though that it doesn’t go entirely to plan and Kate’s plans start to unravel as Nick begins to question what yoga is truly about and some uncomfortable feelings bubble up to the surface.

Overall I found the documentary very interesting and it made me think a lot about my own yoga practice.  Yoga is not the miraculous answer to all of life’s questions.  It will not transform you overnight into an enlightened, tofu-eating yoga-lebrity, wafting serenely through life in a cloud of patchouli!

However, a regular and dedicated yoga practice keeps you fit, helps alleviate the symptoms of many illnesses, can help with stress, anxiety and depression, improve your posture etc., just Google it and you’ll find hundreds of articles about it. Here‘s a good article on Yoga Journal.

What about enlightenment and inner peace though?  Do I have to travel to an ashram in India and sit in meditation for 10 hours per day?  It’s unlikely that any of us will ever achieve guru-like grace from a once per week practice.  But, you can cultivate a calmer, more peaceful, less tumultuous approach to your life with a regular yoga practice and I guarantee that a some point you’ll have a revelation or two.  Sometimes hitting you between the eyes like a thunderbolt when you are in a posture and sometimes appearing more subtly the day after or week after in the form of feeling more calm about a situation or person.

The important thing is to remember to listen.  Listen to your body and approach your yoga with reverence, moving in and out of each posture with a joyful curiosity.  No two practices are ever the same, your body and mind are different each time you practice.  Take care of your alignment, trust your breath, respect your body and the sensations within it instead of throwing yourself around your yoga mat and pushing yourself to the very limit of your physical abilities.  Enlightenment comes from within, it’s inside you already.  Stay present, stick at it and you’ll find what you need to find inside yourself.

New Year 2014

It’s a new year.  It’s here: 2014.  It’s pretty much the same as before, you just have to keep remembering to put /14 when you write the date.

Or is it the same?  Is this your opportunity to begin taking fairy steps towards making your life what you want it to be? So that, in January 2015 you can look back and say yes, I’ve made the changes that I want to make and I’m happy to be me.

You can do what you want with 2014.  It’s yours for the taking.

I don’t believe in resolutions, if you want to do something you don’t need to wait for a new year to do it, but I do believe in having a theme, a focus or a word for your year.  My word for 2014 is TRANSFORMATION.  I want to transform the way I live my life and spend my time. 

Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I complain about not having enough time.  Working a full-time job and teaching three classes for week has made me adopted this martyred approach to my week.  Well this year I have pledged to myself that I will use my time more wisely and make time work for me instead of it seemingly working against me.  In short, this means getting out of bed earlier on weekday mornings so that I can meditate and do half an hour of yoga.  I feel so much better when I am practicing daily instead of trying to fit in a couple of half-assed practices per week.

Of course there are other things on my list of transformations too.  Maybe I’ll share some more ways I am transforming my life in future blog posts.  I intend to write at least one blog post per week this year.  I was terribly neglectful of this blog last year and it doesn’t do my SEO any favours whatsoever!  So there, I’ve said it now, it’s here in black & white, so I’ll have to do it!!

Why not think about ways that you can transform your life?  It doesn’t have to be huge, sometimes the seemingly little things are the ones that can make the biggest difference to your life.

 

Hidradenitis Suppurativa – Silent Suffering

I have previously blogged about the skin condition Hidradenitis Suppurativa and the fundraising I will be doing on my birthday this year.  You can read the post and find a link to my charity page here.

For the past week I have been in agony.  Screaming, blinding, constant agony.  I’ve not had an attack like this for many years and although I pretty much suffer from this condition all the time, this one has completely knocked me off my feet.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is a chronic skin disorder for which there is no cure.  It occurs when pus-filled abscesses form on the skin, close to the apocrine sweat glands.  These sweat glands are found in the armpits, buttocks, groin and under the breasts.  It is also possible to get them on the face.  It affects both sexes, developing anywhere between puberty and the early 40s.  The abscesses are sometimes small and go away easily by themselves.  Sometimes they continue to grow for days and days until they burst, spitting out a foul-smelling pus.  Sometimes they don’t burst at all and you have to go to hospital for surgery.  For more information about it, you can visit the NHS website here.

During a big attack life becomes very difficult.  A constant round of shovelling antibiotics and painkillers down your throat, followed by hours of debilitating pain until it’s time for yet more tablets.  This time I was lucky and it burst by itself meaning I didn’t have to go to hospital, but I still have to change the dressing and keep it clean.  Hopefully I’m over the worst of it now and will be able to function like a normal human being again soon!

So why am I speaking out about this?  Well, because HS is known to affect around 1% of the population in the UK.  It is suspected that many more people suffer from this condition but are too embarrassed to go to their doctor.  Even when you do go to the doctor, this condition can be misdiagnosed as something else and the treatments for it are not set in stone.  Basically, even the medical profession are somewhat mystified by it.

I want to raise awareness of the silent suffering and put an end to the embarrassment of having to tell your family, your employer, your friends, a new lover that you have this terrible condition.  It’s not your fault that you have it.  It’s not because you are unclean.  It’s nothing you did.  No one really knows what causes it.

Assuming I am well in August, I will be doing 36 Sun Salutations for the HS Trust.  Here’s another link to my charity page.  Even if you don’t want to donate, please read the text.  The more people who know about this skin disorder, the better.  Obviously I’d love it if you did donate, or you could always join me on top of the Worcestershire Beacon on Wednesday 14th August 2013.

Thanks for reading and thanks for donating.

Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe

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I made a cake because it’s Easter.  I couldn’t face buying us Easter Eggs… because of a million reasons, ethical, dietary and just plain no!  Anyway, I made a cake.  I must add a disclaimer here – JUST BECAUSE IT’S GLUTEN-FREE DOESN’T MEAN IT’S HEALTHY!!!!!  Take it from me, I eat a gluten-free diet… but if you look hard enough, you can find many, many ways of being unhealthy.  This is just one way….

GLUTEN-FREE VICTORIA SPONGE RECIPE

Serves: 8
  • 150g margarine (now then, I ran out of marg here and ended up using 50g of butter too)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 drops vanilla extract
  • 150g wheat and gluten free self-raising flour (I also ran out of g-free s-r flour and put in 50g of rice flour instead)
  • 1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk (I don’t do cow-dairy, so I put in goat milk)

For the filling:

A good half jar of Strawberry or Raspberry Jam (and it has to be the stuff with bits in, not the smooth stuff)

Buttercream – 50g butter, 100g sieved icing sugar, 1tbsp goat milk, 1 drop vanilla essence: cream butter and gradually add icing sugar.  Add vanilla essence.  Add goat milk gradually at the end – you don’t want it to be too sloppy, so be careful.

Preparation method

Prep: 20 mins | Cook: 15 mins-ish

1.
Preheat the oven to 190 C / Gas 5.
2.
Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
3.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat well.
4.
Fold in the flour and baking powder, beating well to combine.
5.
Add the milk. The mixture may be a bit sloppy, but that is fine, do not add more flour to dry it up! Turn the mixture into two lined sandwich tins.
6.
Bake until a skewer inserted near the centre comes out clean, about 15 minutes. (To be honest, I baked it until it was golden on top and this took about 22 minutes in my oven.  Keep an eye on it.)
7.
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and then sandwich together with strawberry/raspberry jam and cream.  You could even put a layer of fresh strawberries/raspberries in the middle if you are going to eat it all on the same day.  I wouldn’t recommend putting fresh fruit in it if you want to keep it for a couple of days.
Make a cup of tea and ENJOY!!

Feeling a bit philanthropic

So I’m feeling a bit philanthropic.  I’ve just been writing about Asteya, the 3rd Yama or restraint.  Asteya means non-stealing.  Not only does it mean not shoplifting or stealing tenners out of your husband’s wallet (I would never do that :-p)… but there are many deeper meanings too, that I may write another blog post about at some point.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what I give back.  Yesterday I took part in the International Women’s Day Celebration Get Together at The Grove in Malvern.  The whole day had been put together by a group of women who wanted to give something back and to help other women not as fortunate as themselves.  I just rocked up at the end with some yoga mats and candles and taught a Moon Flow class… but I didn’t really contribute to the day.

I’ve been toying with this idea for some time.  I was going to do it for my 40th birthday…and I still will, but I also want to do something now – well, in a few months.  To celebrate my 36th birthday on 14th August 2013 I am going to do 36 Sun Salutations on top of the Worcestershire Beacon.  At 425m, the Worcestershire Beacon is the highest point in the Malvern Hills.

I am hoping to raise £360 (£10 per Sun Salute) for the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust.  I have suffered from HS since I was about 15 years old.  It is a chronic, debilitating skin disorder estimated to affect around 1% of the UK population.  People often suffer in silence because the areas affected tend to be of an “intimate” nature and they are too embarrassed to seek medical advice about it.

The aim of the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust is to increase public knowledge and educate the medical profession on the symptoms, treatments and severities of Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and to provide vital funds for the purpose of research into causes, prevention and treatment.

So why 36 Sun Salutations?

I’m a Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher.  I began yoga in the first place as a way to lose weight (something that can exacerbate HS), plus I found that yoga is an excellent way to manage stress (which also contributes to HS) and pain.  A flare-up of my skin can cause chronic pain that can last for days, weeks or even months.  Some people aren’t as lucky as me and they never, ever experience pain-free days.  Whilst HS is a recognised medical condition, there is no cure for it and the medical profession remains mystified as to how to control it.  I hope that by doing my 36 Sun Salutations and raising £360, I can contribute in a small way to the work done by the HS Trust.

Please give generously to help raise awareness and to help end the silent suffering.  Thank you.  Namaste. xxx

 

 

The Time is Now!

The lovely ladies from my Wednesday evening class are all busy this Wednesday, apart from one!  So rather than cancelling the class and because I want to encourage more people to come along and give it a try, for this week only (06/03/13) if you come along and bring a friend, both of you only pay £2.50…

That’s right – £2.50!!  That’s less than the price of a sandwich.

And if you need any more of an incentive, read this article.  It speaks sense about why it is a good idea to practice yoga and why yoga is accessible to anyone, regardless of age or ability.

Tell everyone!  This offer will not be repeated on a regular basis!!

The Time is Now

The Time is Now