Why I love yoga (alternate title: I survived Bikram yoga!)

Yoga essentials: a mat, a towel (if it's hot yoga) and water.

Yoga essentials: a mat, a towel (if it’s hot yoga) and water.

I’ve come to realise that yoga is one of the most misunderstood yet most beneficial types of exercise you can do, for both your body and your mind. Prior to starting my own yoga practice, I’m embarrassed to admit I had my tent firmly (and ignorantly) pitched in the camp called Yoga Is For People Who Don’t Actually Want To Work Out. Over the last year, I’ve realised how very wrong I was. Not only is yoga a fantastic way to sculpt your muscles, and make yourself stronger and more flexible, it is also a great way to both de-stress and stop the constant chatter of your mind.

Yoga is all about creating space, both mentally and physically. It is about gently pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and about learning to trust your body.

Yoga gives you a good insight into where your head and body are currently at. It meets you exactly where are. If you have had an scattered and messy day, your practice will feel scattered and messy. Conversely, if you are feeling pretty balanced and light, your practice will reflect that. It brings you back to the present moment and helps you to identify areas of your life where you are feeling unbalanced.

I realised very early on in my practice that the poses I resist the most (back bend, I’m looking at you) are the ones I really need to do. The back bend is one of the most vulnerable poses because your heart and throat are completely exposed. My natural instinct is to protect these parts of my body. I’ll often put my arms up over my chest unconsciously if I am feeling vulnerable or touch my throat if I am unsure that I am saying the right thing. To have my heart and throat so exposed makes me really uncomfortable. The first time I did a back bend, I had to fight the urge to break the position because a huge jolt of anxiety ran through me. Thankfully, it was right at that point that the instructor reminded us to just breath through any discomfort that we were experiencing and trust our bodies. The back bend is still very low on my list of favourite poses, but I have come to appreciate what it gives me: trust in my body and in my heart’s messages to me.

After having practised Ashtanga Vinyasa (a fast-flowing form of yoga where you move quickly through poses) for a few months, I decided last night that I was ready to take on a new challenge in the form of Bikram yoga. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Bikram is a style of yoga that Bikram Choudhury created in the ’70s and it is based on traditional hatha yoga techniques. It consists of 26 postures and two breathing exercise, and it is conducted in a room that is heated to a whopping 39 degrees. And boy is it tough. After only 10 minutes into the 90-minute class, I was battling my urge to run out of the room and never come back. I had to stop on a number of occasions, lie down and just breath. If the temperature alone wasn’t enough to make me feel like I was simultaneously going to vomit and pass out, the intense poses sure were.

It wasn’t all bad though. In fact, I actually got a lot out of it and learned that I can push my body a lot further than my mind thinks I can, which is sort of yoga is all about: learning more about yourself. I also neither vomited or passed out, so that’s nice.

The benefits of yoga are available to everyone. You can get as much or as little out of it as you want. For some, it is purely a physical release. For others, it is a tool for helping them to grow spiritually. Wherever you are at in life, I cannot recommend yoga highly enough! If you haven’t already done so, try it. I know you won’t regret it.


The cleanse (days two and three)

My bounty of fruit and veggies for juicing.

My bounty of fruit and veggies for juicing.

I finished my cleanse! It was actually a lot easier than I was expecting it to be. I had a lunch meeting on Monday with my new team mates (I got a promotion, woo!) and I was a bit concerned about what I was going to eat. I need not have worried though – the café had a beautiful sweet corn and basil soup. It was to die for!

The biggest challenge I faced was caffeine withdrawals. I had conveniently convinced myself that I wasn’t addicted! How wrong was I? So wrong.

I woke up on Monday with a thumping headache that wouldn’t dissipate, regardless of how much water I drank. It took all of my strength not to head to the coffee machine at 10am. I fought my impulses though the day (and through Tuesday) without caving in. By midday Tuesday, my headache had all but disappeared and the fuzziness I had been experiencing was gone too.

I was also wondering how I’d go drinking so much juice but this turned out to be the part I enjoyed the most about the cleanse. I started each day with about 700ml of juice and it gave me a lot of energy for the day. My juices were mostly based around greens, like celery, cucumber, kale, silver beet, and herbs. Juicing is a fantastic way to give your cells a nutrient soak because it is quickly absorbed into your system. This does, however, mean that you need to be careful about how much fruit you put in to ensure you don’t OD on sugar! While it’s natural sugar, too much sugar in any form is toxic and acid-forming (and acid = illness). Adding lemon to your juice is a good way to help alkalise it. If you are looking for a bit of sweetness, try adding some carrot or a bit of orange or green apple. Just make sure the majority of the juice is veggies and you will be fine.

I had soup again for dinner on Monday night and again for lunch on Tuesday. If I ever decided to do a longer cleanse, I think I would need to do a bit of research into what alternatives there are to soup. Don’t get me wrong, I love soup but there’s only so much one girl can consume. Tuesday night I had roast carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin, plus mushies and asparagus for dinner. I had just been for a run and was pretty hungry, so I also whizzed up a cacao, banana and hemp seed smoothie for dessert.

Would I do a cleanse again? Definitely! It was great to be able to give my body a bit of a break and to also top up my vitamin and mineral stores. I would recommend doing a cleanse if you are feeling a bit sluggish, always tired or just feel that your digestive system is having a bit of a hard time processing the food you eat. The only equipment you will need to do a cleanse is a blender and a juicer. I like the cold press slow-extraction juicers because they keep more of the nutrients intact.

If you decide to do a cleanse, I’d love to hear how you go!


The cleanse (day one)

Supergreens shots

Supergreens shots, from The Whole Pantry app.

The first valuable lesson I have learned from doing a cleanse is that starting it the day after a night out and one too many beers is probably not the ideal scenario. Nevertheless, this was the situation I put myself in and I was determined to still commence the cleanse as planned.

Upon re-reading my post last week where I announced I’d be doing a three-day cleanse, I realised that I had focussed entirely too much on the juice component, which may or may not have been the direct result of my excitement over finally getting a juicer. While juice is certainly a key feature of cleansing, I want to clarify that I am also consuming other food. I have simply stripped out anything that is processed so that my body can have a bit of a break.

Chia pudding: one of the non-juice components of the cleanse.

Chia pudding, with strawberries, cashews and cacao nibs: one of the non-juice components of the cleanse.

So, what did day one look like? The first thing I had was a throw-it-all-in juice that consisted of carrot, celery, silver beet, parsley, mint, orange and ginger. Starting the day with a freshly squeezed vegetable juice is a great way to alkalise your system and set your digestive tract up for the day. Consuming juice on an empty stomach also means that more of the nutrients get absorbed. You are practically soaking your cells with vitamins and minerals!

I then went and stocked up on all of the fruit and veggies I will need for the cleanse. While I was out, I decided that I wanted a blueberry and hemp seed smoothie for lunch. It was so tasty! I made enough so that I could have it for breakfast this morning too. Forward planning is the key to getting through a cleanse without starving yourself. The last thing you want is to be stuck out somewhere with no healthy options because you forgot to pack some food.

One for now and one for later.

One for now and one for later.

While I was preparing dinner, I sipped on a beetroot, carrot, green apple, celery and parsley juice to give my cells another vitamin soak. Dinner was veggie soup, consisting of leek, carrot, celery, zucchini, garlic and sweet potato. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a textbook example of someone is Vata dominant. This means I need to make sure I am including grounding foods in my diet, such as root vegetables. It also means I don’t do well on all-raw, all-cold-food diets. I need the warmth of cooked food to keep me energised and stop me from being so flighty. Soup is an easy way for me to ensure I’m balanced.

I am back and work today and have brought all of my juices and smoothies with me. The only challenge I see is that I love my morning coffee. I have it black to avoid the nasty effects of soy or cow milk but it still isn’t the best thing for my body and it definitely isn’t included on the list of cleanse-appropriate foods. I know my body will thank me for giving it a break from coffee.

Oh, I forgot to explain what the green shots are at the top of the post. They are intense nutrient bombs of juiced broccoli, parsley, mint, kale and lemon. These little guys are great additions to a cleanse (or to your regular diet) – your immune system will pay you back in spades for consuming them. Surprisingly, they’re actually quite nice to drink too. Give them a go if you feel like you need a vitamin boost.

Happy cleansing!


Stress: why it hurts your body and five tips to reduce it

Get back to nature to de-stress.

Get back to nature to de-stress.

Ah, stress. That pervasive and insidious feeling that we are all too familiar with. It is born from that pesky fight or flight response – a response to a stressful situation that is triggered by an increase in cortisol (cortisol is actually a steroid hormone!). What was once a fantastic every-now-and-then mechanism that was used to help us outrun a dirty great big Saber Tooth and, therefore, live longer, is now having the opposite effect on our life expectancy. This is because, instead of only experiencing stressful situations sporadically, most of us now have low-level ongoing stress in our lives, which causes us a whole host of issues. Pretty big bummer, right? But, as always, there are things we can do to help our body cope.


Before you dismiss it as being a bit woo woo, meditation doesn’t have to be all crystals, spirit guides and chakras. It can be as simple as finding a peaceful spot to sit and focus on your breathing (rather than the incessant chatter in your mind) for 10 minutes. Your thoughts will try to intrude, so just gently pull your attention back to your breath any time that happens. You don’t have to commit to 20 minutes morning and night to reap the benefits of mediation. Just doing five minutes before you go to bed will do wonders for your stress levels (and it will help you go to sleep).

Get Grounded

Kick off your shoes and go for a walk along the beach. If, like me, you aren’t lucky enough to have a beach nearby, head to your local park or just sit in on the grass in your backyard. Studies have shown that being in direct contact with the ground (rather than through concrete and shoes) allows our bodies to absorb negative ions from the earth. This is great from an anti-inflammatory perspective and I find it helps me to reset mentally too. I don’t have a backyard so whenever I’m visiting my parents, I always take a book outside and sit on the grass to read. I can feel my stress levels drop almost immediately whenever I do this.

Take a Look at Your Food

When we are under mental stress, this can be further aggravated if we are also putting physical stress on our body through the food we eat. I know I’m not telling you anything new here but the more you can steer clear of processed food that was created in a plant, rather than coming from one, the better your body will function and the less stressed out your organs will be. Eating a clean diet also helps you think clearer, which means you can race through that to-do list faster. Ergo, you’ll be less stressed.


Up until this year I was firmly in the yoga-isn’t-for-me camp. I thought it was a waste of time and secretly suspected that it wasn’t really a proper workout. How wrong was I? So wrong. After just one class, I was kicking myself for taking so long to try it. Yoga has this amazing way of getting you to focus on your balance, relaxing you and making your muscles burn all at once. That combination makes it impossible to listen to the never-ending chatter in your mind. Try it. I promise you won’t regret it. Most studios offer a deal where you pay $20 and can go as many times as you want in your first week, which means you can try it out without being locked into a near-unbreakable contract like you sometimes experience at gyms (Fitness First, I’m looking at you).

Hang out with a Child*

Children, especially young ones, have such a free-spirited, carefree energy that you can’t help but get sucked into their vortex of happiness when you are around them. It’s impossible to be stressed when you’re going down a slide with a child in your lap.

* Remember the golden rule, guys: if the child isn’t yours, ask permission before borrowing it… erm, I mean, him or her.