Top 5 Tips for selecting your perfect retreat

Relax

Taking time to find your perfect retreat is well worth the effort, here are a few tips about how to go about it.

1. Location

Choose an area that will enhance your experience of a self discovery retreat, a quiet, tranquil area instead of a bustling holiday resort where you will be tempted to stay in the hectic, chaotic pace of modern life. Pick a location you’d really like to visit, maybe somewhere on your bucket list or somewhere different than you would normally holiday. Search for retreats in these areas and do some research into the local area, it’s customs and traditions, find some places you might want to explore while you’re there.

2. Accommodation

Research the accommodation, does it look like a tranquil place with clean rooms? Ask your retreat organizer if the center, hotel or location has it’s own website and check it out, look up the address on Google Earth or Street View at the location. Do they have other facilities like a spa or massage therapist, a pool, other facilities that you would make use of during your stay? If there’s no picture of the rooms or location to be found, or the pictures look dated, there might be something they are not saying. If you can’t find anything about the location anywhere, ask for some recent pictures to be sent to you by email.

3. Teacher

Many people go on retreat with their own regular teacher, but if your teacher is not organising a retreat or not at a time convenient to you, or you just want to try something different; be open to looking for retreats with other teachers. Check out the teacher of the retreat you are researching; their schedule, teaching background, where they are from, etc. Check out their social media links; if there are a lots of pictures of him or her in advanced acrobatic postures, then it’s a safe bet the retreat may be focused on the gymnastics on the mat. What other things do they post about, do they live a yoga lifestyle or is there a feeling of contraditction in their posts? If you are unsure, contact the teacher direct and ask questions. Read the testimonials on the retreat website, but also about the teacher if you can find some, there can be quite a bit of info in these testimonials and they may give you a better idea of what people enjoyed about their stay at the retreat.

4. Style & Activities

There are many types and styles of yoga, and each teacher is different, but it’s worth thing about whether you are looking for a more rigorous physical retreat or a more restorative, meditational experience. Some retreats combine yoga with other complimentary practices such as Mindfulness or Reiki; you might discover a retreat that combines the style of yoga you want with a complimentary practice that you have always wanted to try or find out more about. Check out the rules and programme of the retreat, some retreats can be strict about their schedule, others more flexible; choose which type works well for you to be able to reach the goals of your retreat, whether that be to progress your practice or just to take time out to remember who you are! Participants often start out buzzing with nervous energy, asking for details on the schedule for the week, where the nearest town is, if there are extra activities, what to do during “freetime”….. they want to stay active at all times and keep the stressed pace of life they are used to… be open to doing less, taking time to pause from your usual pace of life and be flexible about what you’re going to do in your “freetime”.

5. Pricing & Timings

Think about what time of year is best to visit the area, peak season may not be the best time to go on retreat with the beaches or local sights packed with people, and off season there may not be anything open. Research about the best time of year to visit and what the weather will be like; if you usually live in a really cold climate and then go to a retreat that is really hot, will your body be able to cope with the heat and the physical demands of daily yoga classes? Retreat weeks can be costly, but if you plan ahead you can sometimes find great deals during off-season or end of season months. And remember the cheapest retreat may not always be the best choice for you, don’t make any decision just based on the price. Check out flight prices for the different retreat dates. Don’t forget to think about travelling to and from the retreat, some may offer transfers, but you might also want the independence of hiring a car or bike so you can get about and explore the area at your leisure.

Regain your balance

Regain your balance

A Yoga Retreat can be hugely beneficial to your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, it has the potential to connect you with like-minded people who share similar passions, beliefs and outlook on life; a friend made on a yoga retreat can become a friend for life. It gives you the opportunity to make some space for yourself, quiet your mind, and find inspiration that can benefit your relationships, work and many other areas of your life. So start researching for your perfect retreat today and have a great time, learn things and relax!

And finally, if your idea of a perfect location is a stunning, mostly undiscovered area of an Italian island situated in the middle of the Mediterranean with clear, turquoise seas and stunning mountain scenery, and you are looking for a Hatha Yoga, Mindfulness or Reiki Training retreat, then please check out our own range of retreats in Ogliastra, Sardinia.

Vegan & Raw Recipes

In preparation for my new vegan and raw eating plan which I intend to start in the New Year (see my previous post),  I am looking through a monster amount of information,  articles and recipes.

I am searching for some recommendations for great cookery books, preferably not ones based around any kind of meat substitutes,  but more around great tasting,  satisfying raw and Vegan food. There seem to be some great books out there,  unfortunately I can’t afford them all, but I am interested in hearing what are your bibles when it comes to raw and/or vegan recipes,  your ultimate selection or Top 3’s?

Please let me know by leaving a comment,  on Twitter or Facebook,  or by contacting me using the contact form.

Namaste

New Year, New Lifestyle

So I have decided that after Christmas I would like to start to make the switch from being a Lacto Ovo Vegetarian to eating mostly Vegan and much more Raw food.

 

I have been a Vegetarian now for over 20 years, and in that time I have  gained quite a few pounds,  you see I am also a cheese and chocolate lover,  I like to finish my meal with something sweet,  and for these reasons I think this might be a serious challenge for me!

So my intention is to plan well and keep a new blog of the whole process,  including Daily record of some detailed stats,  such as my energy levels, craving levels (and what they were for), weight, BMI, and a good diary.

So before I start, I’d like to reach out to others that have made the change for information,  advice and help.

So if you want to help me make the change, in any way,  let me know and I will make sure you feature in my blog posts.

An Island within an Island

Ogliastra - Paradise!

Ogliastra – Paradise!

When you think about Sardinia, if you have even heard of it, you probably think of the Costa Smeralda and the famous, rich elite. Sardinia is an Italian island in the middle of the Mediterranean and is a lot bigger than most people think, it’s about the size of Wales. If you have visited or come on holiday here, you have most likely to have been to one of these 3 areas; The Costa Smeralda area, Cagliari, Costa Rei & Villasimius area, or Alghero & Bosa area.

But I wonder how many of you have even heard of Ogliastra? Not many I am guessing, and it’s such a shame, the Ogliastra area is in my opinion THE most scenic, picturesque area of the island and is located on the South East of the island. So I’d like to share some of the wonderful secrets of this area and give you an idea of what this area of the island has to offer.
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Below is my Google Map of the area, and you can download it into your Google Maps app on your mobile device for when you visit completely free! Click the star to view in Google Maps add it to your favourites, you can read this help article if you have Google My Maps android app or access the map from your “My Places” sub menu on Google app on the iPhone.

 

My Top 5 things to see in Ogliastra

1. Beaches
The beaches of Ogliastra are as stunning as they are varied. There are soft, white sandy beaches, pebble beaches, coarse sandy beaches and beaches with large rocks and boulders; there are small and secluded beaches, long and open beaches, little coves, harbours and bays, beaches you can only reach by boat or by hiking, easily accessible beaches; they’re all here! My personal favourites are Su Sirboni at Marina di Gairo, a small sandy cove with shallow waters which you have to walk about 20 minutes to reach from the road, it has no services so you need to go with everything you will need, but is well worth the visit & Cea near Bari Sardo, a large sandy cove with a red rock formation jutting out of the water which is a great area for snorkelling and is well serviced by beach bars and also a restaurant.

2. Mountains

Ogliastra borders the Gennargentu mountain range and National Park and offers some other stunning mountain areas such as the Tacchi D’Ogliastra, Supramonte di Baunai & Pedra Lunga. I live in the shadows of the Tacchi and I am still stunned and awed by the views that I see every day in this awesome area of the world. The Tacchi offer the more daring among you the opportunity to try climbing, there are also quad bike tours and challenging hiking trails. The mountain areas offer sanctuary to Sardinia’s wildlife, with a vast array of fauna and flora to enjoy including Mouflon, wild boar, deer and wild horses as well as birds of prey and smaller wildlife. Sardinia has no poisonous snakes, insects or spiders, so no worries there!

3. Waterfalls

With mountains come waterfalls, and although Sardinia is hot, Ogliastra has some wonderful waterfalls and pools. There are the pools of Coccorrocci near the Marina di Gairo and the waterfalls at Santa Barabara, Ulassai. The waterfalls at Ulassai are more serene during the summer and most spectacular after hard winter rain, but the area is still stunning to visit even in summer and I would recommend getting off the road and exploring under the bridge and the little walking tracks that flank the waterfall to find some of the lower pools. There are no tourist pathways so don’t expect it to be up to Health & Safety standards, but if you don’t mind taking responsibility for your own safety then this area is one of the most relaxing places to spend an hour or so. The Pools and waterfalls at Coccorrocci are more gentle and more well-travelled, but you will still need to be responsible for your own safety and the few tourists who travel to them will most likely be chilling in the shade of the trees or enjoying a little soak in one of the cool, freshwater pools.

4. Caves

Ogliastra has some spectacular caves for visiting. Within the Tacchi D’Ogliastra at Ulassai you can visit the Grotta Su Marmuri, which has a guided tour and a guide who speaks English. The cave is a steady 10 degrees so make sure you go prepared with a jacket and warmer shoes, the first time I visited I wore flip-flops and a strappy T-shirt and I was totally freezing! Closer to the sea is the Grotta Del Fico near Baunei, originally discovered and used by a Jesuit monk to study Monk Seals which nested in the caves, and accessible by boat or by foot using a guide through the area of Golgo.

5. Nuraghe

All over Sardinia you can find the ruins and remains of the ancient Nuraghic civilization. Ogliastra is no exception and offers some stunning examples and archealogical sites. My personal favourites are Nuraghe Sceri near Il Bono, which is still the most peaceful and profound place I have visited on the island to date and Nuraghe Serbissi, near Osini; a much more remote site, arrived at after a trip along a long white road (dirt track) with spectacular views and a tour guide who can explain the relevance of the individual dwellings and points of interest, including a cave that runs underneath the site.

As well as these natural wonders there are also other opportunities and things to do and to enjoy in Ogliastra.
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My Top 5 Things to do in Ogliastra

 1. Retreat

Yoga In Sardinia offers week-long Hatha Yoga, Mindfulness & Yoga Nidra retreats, partnering with local hotels to offer retreats at different price ranges and different experiences of the area; from sea and sun to mountains and tranquillity. Or you can create your own exclusive, personalised Yoga or Wellbeing retreat. You organise your own travel and accommodation arrangements and then you select what activates you want, when and where for your individual retreat. Yoga on the beach, Mindfulness at the waterfalls, massage in the peaceful surroundings of your villa; the choice is yours. A wonderful unique & exclusive opportunity to create your own perfect relaxation retreat! So it may be blatant self-promotion, but who else is going to do it! We also offer group yoga lessons on the beach and Holistic Therapies during the summer months. To find out more and request a no obligation quote from us, visit our website.

2. Kayak

Explore Ogliastra’s amazing coastline by sea kayak, enjoy the calm, clear waters of the island and see the stunning coastal views. Franceso at Cardedu Kayak offers courses and excursions by Kayak as well as longer trips exploring the coastlines and camping on the beaches. You can find out all the information on his website.

3. Green Train

Why not see Ogliastra by train? The Green Train ambles through the chasms, valleys and rich landscape of Ogliastra, taking you across iron bridges and through old stations and places inaccessible by car. Find out more from Fiorenza & Geoffrey at STS on their website.

4. Dive

Ogliastra Diving offers courses in diving, snorkelling & free diving as well as some activities above water such as Wind Surfing and Paddle Boarding. Explore the varied underwater habitats and life of Ogliastra, you might even catch a glimpse of the local dolphins. They are based in Bari Sardo and you can contact Fabiana and see all the details on their website.

5. Mountain Bike

Explore Ogliastra by Bike visiting coastlines, mountains, woodlands and beaches. Francesco from Kayak Cardedu also offers Mountain Bike tours in the local area with a range of tours from easy to medium expert. Check out the range of tours on his MTB Ogliastra website.

And finally, if you are visiting the area here are a few tips.

My Top 5 Tips for visiting the area

1. Hire a car; public transport is the not the greatest here and taxis are hard to come by and expensive. This is one holiday destination that you will want to get out and about to see all the wonders of the area.

2. Download Waze free SatNav  or bring your own SatNav with you – you’ll need to get off the beaten track to find some of these hidden treasures and having a SatNav will give you more confidence! Find out more about Waze here.

3. Be adventurous; Ogliastra has so much hidden beauty, but it’s not for the shy among us, you will need to go down little dirt tracks and through some tiny winding village roads, don’t be frightened to explore, some of the most beautiful beaches and stunning Nuraghe here are at the end of a tiny dirt track!

4. Learn some essential Italian phrases; the locals here are wonderful, friendly people, but they are not English speakers! Use Duolingo free to start learning.

5. Try the local specialities; my favourites are Culurgiones, a pasta parcel filled with potato, mint and cheese and served with fresh tomato sauce & Sebadas, a crispy fried dessert pasta filled with mild, fresh Pecorino and served with melting, warm honey.

Culurgione with fresh tomato sauce & Basil

Culurgione with fresh tomato sauce & Basil

Sebadas with honey

Sebadas with honey

Thank you for taking the time to read my top 5’s of Ogliastra. Please feel free to leave me some comments or make some suggestions for other places to see or things to do in the area. If you decide to visit the area, or have already been please let us know what you think of this beautiful area of Sardinia.

Ciao Ciao

 

Gratitude Walk in Ogliastra

It’s hard not be be overwhelmed with gratitude for life in this environment; so many reasons to feel joy for life surrounded with so much beauty, so much incredible, wild scenery. The air heavy with the scent of pollen, there were so many wild flowers along the road as I walked home from Jerzu, blues, purples, yellows, whites…such a spectacle! The butterflies gracefully fluttering through the air, my two companions making me laugh by energetically chasing the shadows of butterflies and bees on the road.

I walked for 2 hours, enjoying the spring sunshine, I saw only 3 cars the whole time, and one person tending his beehives; such a wonderful walk I wanted to share a few photos with you. I am not a photographer, I carry my iPhone with me and take shots when they present themselves, but I hope they give you an idea of how beautiful this “Island with an Island” of Ogliastra is, and I hope it might inspire you to visit, there is so much to see and do here if you love the outdoors and nature it truly is a paradise!

Jerzu

As I walked away from Jerzu travelling back home, this was the first view back to the “City of wine” with it’s cantina nestling just below!

 

Tacchi above Jerzu

The “heels of Jerzu” or Tacchi D’Ogliastra” jutting out from the earth above the town.

 

View towards Tortolì

The view looking towards Tortolì & Cardedu.

 

Rocks

An unusual rock formation jutting out at the side of the road and Kuma & Shiva trying to find lizards.

 

Tacchi

As I get nearer to home, this is the view the other side of the ridge from Jerzu.

 

Tacchi Valley

Looking further South towards the end of the valley.

 

Our Valley

The other side of the valley from the Tacchi, this is the valley that our house nestles along.

 

View towards Gairo

The view from our valley, looking back towards Jerzu & Gairo

 

Valley

The entrance road to our house is at the bottom of this valley. Notice also the little chasms caused by the rock formations here.

 

Monte Ferru

View towards Monte Ferru from the valley.

Are You Too Busy? 4 Tips to Slow Down!

Original article for Om Times
http://omtimes.com/2014/02/4-tips-slow-down/

A few weeks ago I launched a new online stress management program, as part of the launch I offered free places on the course to a variety of bloggers and journalists. The emails went out and replies started coming in; I was amazed at how many people said they would love to do it, that they really needed to reduce their stress levels, but they just didn’t have the time, even just 30 minutes a day is too much!

Let’s face it, possibly the only reason you’re reading this is because it said ‘4 tips’ in the title, so you figured it’ll be nice and quick to read!

In our modern world, everyone always seems so busy, we don’t seem to have time to stop and pause anymore. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we turn off the light at night, it’s foot to the floor on the gas pedal, it can seem like a nonstop roller coaster ride. It seems everyone has become so used to be being busy, they just don’t know how to stop anymore. It has become so normal to be ‘too busy’ that you can actually feel guilty, lazy or socially inept if you say you’re not!

But have you asked yourselves why we are so busy?

How much of our time is taking up with essential tasks and how much is taken up by us making unnecessary work for ourselves? Are we doing stuff that just fills the time, but that doesn’t really achieve anything? And what sort of activities do we tend to prioritise; how much time to we dedicate to doing the things that create more rush, tension and stress, now compare that to how much time we put by for relaxation or activities that create time for us to pause and reflect?

We seem to have become addicted to rushing everywhere; maybe we are trying to convince ourselves that we are indispensable or important, or maybe we don’t think we deserve time for ourselves and that there are always other people or other things more important than keeping ourselves mentally and emotionally healthy. Have we become so habituated to rushing, to filling our time that we have no idea how to relax, have we forgotten what activities make us feel relaxed, perhaps we even feel frightened by the thought of having nothing to do to keep our minds occupied?

There really isn’t anything wrong with being busy, in fact, we are very capable of multi-tasking, and often thrive on challenge; we can be busy and still feel relaxed and in control. And, if you are mindfully busy, by being present with the task at hand, instead of worrying about all the other tasks you have to do or thinking how you could have done the previous tasks better, you can actually be busy and even really enjoy the tasks at hand!

The problems arise if we feel too busy, and that can spiral out of control very quickly, as we feel things getting on top of us, our attitude changes, we start to feel out of control and then our time management skills go out the window and then, although we may be doing exactly the same amount of tasks as we were before, we soon seem to be fire-fighting instead of calmly enjoying the task at hand. That is when being busy transforms into stress, our physical body can become ill and our mental well-being can be seriously affected.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

Eddie Cantor

So what can we do to break the habit?

The next time you hear yourself saying “I am just too busy to do be able to do …(whatever it is you want to do)..”, stop, take 3 conscious breaths and reflect on what you can do to change your habitual busy-ness and make time for the things you want to do, being ‘too busy’ does not have to be a fact of life, you have a choice; make the necessary changes to your life and to your attitude.

Here are a few aspects of your life that you can think about to feel less rushed and to create more time to reflect and relax.

4 Tips to Slow Down 

1. Socializing – it’s ok to say no!

Socializing is an important part of our existence and is great for letting off steam with friends, catching up with extended family, developing a sense of connection with our local & global communities and also for networking, but it can easily get out of hand and become another reason for feeling rushed, drained and stressed out. If someone invites us out we can be left with a sense of guilt if we consider saying no, maybe one friend will ask you out for a chat one night, and then another friend another night, and so it goes on until you are out virtually every night, exhausted, but unable to turn anyone down. We feel if we say ‘no’ we’re not being a good friend, or we might miss out on something, but it’s ok, and even essential, to be able to say no and to set healthy boundaries for your social activities.

Perhaps you could consider organising a regular gathering of all your friends or extended family, it doesn’t have to be a massive formal gathering requiring lots of organising, just an informal gathering at a bar or coffee shop. And by setting a regular time, for example once a month, where all parties are together at the same time you can catch up, enjoy yourself, but keep the use of time to a manageable amount.

2. Hobbies – Enjoy one or two!

Think about your hobbies, and those of the rest of your family. Hobbies can be a great way to unwind and relax at the end of the day or at the weekend, but if you are rushing from here to there and back again trying to get to all the extra curricula activities of everyone in the family, it can be counterproductive!

So try to limit all those hobbies; consider limiting to maybe 2 or 3 evenings a week for those extra activities. Children love to spend the evening at home relaxing as much as adults, so don’t feel guilty limiting your child’s extra activities, remember you are also teaching them the importance of taking time to relax at home, to spend time with the family and to spend time reflecting. It’s also important you do not pass on the same bad habits of rushing and filling time for the sake of it to the next generation.

Consider making one of those hobby evenings a walk with the family in the country or nature reserve, setting by time for all the family to be together, getting some fresh air, spending some time in a natural environment away from the pull of the TV, computer, mobiles and all the other digital devices. In fact make it a rule to leave all devices at home while out on your walk, except maybe one phone for emergencies!

3. Time Management – Be more productive by doing less!

First of all be really picky, even brutal, about the tasks you take on; ask yourself each time if it’s really important or essential, and let the rest go.  Delegate to others; we can fall into the “it’ll be quicker if I do it myself” mentality far too easily, but by delegating you give others power to do things for themselves, to be more independent, and give them the opportunity to learn new skills and have new experiences.

Get up 5 minutes earlier than usual; give yourself a bit of extra time at the beginning of the day to enjoy your breakfast or cup of tea or coffee. By giving yourself more than enough time to get to your first appointment without rushing you can set the tone for the whole day. Make sure you leave enough time between your appointments, stop rushing around and start moving around at a more leisurely pace, you’ll be amazed how much more you can achieve when you have a calm attitude!

Communicate less; be succinct in your conversation, emails, tweets and Facebook posts, ask yourself if it’s worth saying, is it important, is it positive, is it kind? Communication is important and essential to healthy relationships, but we can often communicate too much, especially in the modern digital world. And cut out the gossiping and complaining, these just create a negative attitude and create nothing positive in your life, and often lead to a loss of respect and bad feelings that you can do without. Never, ever send any message when angry, you will spend far more time apologising and clearing up the mess afterwards than if you had paused for a few hours and not sent it in the first place!

Do less planning, some planning may be essential, but don’t take it beyond useful. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future and while some careful preparation may be wise, too much planning can be a total waste of time, and can even mean you lose out on opportunities along the way because you weren’t even aware of them as they were not in your ‘plan’! By all means, have some long term goals and short term plans, but be flexible about it too; be open to other opportunities and go with the flow.

4. The Digital World – Take a technology break!

With all the modern digital devices we can feel like we are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The digital age has many positive aspects, we can be online constantly, communicating, searching information and working, but our bodies are not designed for constant external stimulation, we also need rest. Take a technology break; try setting a time by each day to turn off the PC, TV, tablet and mobile!

Many devices now come with an automatic ‘Do not Disturb’ setting that turns off all those distracting notifications, messages and calls (don’t worry most of them will let you exclude certain contacts so you will still receive the calls from the people closest to you): get it set up today and give yourself a break from the constant demands from the digital world, you will be amazed how much time you can free up by not needing to respond immediately to the latest celebrity gossip or news bulletin!

So to sum up, you have the power to make the necessary positive choices and to set the example for others; slow down, stay healthy and make time for yourself!

“Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.”

~ Lao Tzu

Top 5 Tips for Reducing Stress in 2014

Need to relax?

Need to relax?

Stress is on the rise, more people each year are reporting stress as being a problem in their life: effecting their work, home life and health. After years of depression, stress and barely keeping my head above water with our modern, frantic pace of life, I finally broke down, and after a couple of months off work with stress I finally quit. It was time to get out, heal myself and get some perspective.

So that’s what I did, I checked out of society, and in 2010 I moved to rural Sardinia with my retired partner and took some time to heal. It was pretty drastic and most people can’t or don’t want to go quite that far! Well, rather than suggesting you quit your job, abandon society and move to a foreign country, I would instead like to share some of the simple things you can do to manage your own stress, some of the practices that have really helped me to learn how to deal with stress, get a different perspective on life and feel healthier, happier & more positive.

Now the holidays are over, the credit card bill is in, the weather is likely getting you down and you’ve probably given up on most of those New Year resolutions; your stress levels are already likely to be rising in 2014, here are 5 things worth trying out for yourself:

1. Take a deep breath

Our breathing is possibly the cheapest, easiest and most effective way of controlling our central nervous system and getting our body to calm down. By learning very simple breathing exercises we can tell our bodies to chill out, relax and calm down! Breathing more deeply and extending our exhalation (out breath) makes our body stop producing those nasty, unhealthy stress hormones and start producing those nice relaxing hormones instead. Ok, so that’s a bit of a super-simplified explanation of the sympathetic (fight, flight response) and parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system, but you get the idea!

There is a free audio practice available to try on my website.*

2. Count to 10

It’s a another of those cliché’s, but giving yourself time to pause, reflect and acknowledge what is going on before reacting, can make all the difference. Learning how to observe how you are reacting, both

  • emotionally; how you are feeling and why, and
  • physically; how this reaction or emotion feels in the body, can give you some perspective and allow you to make more positive, calmer choices when you respond to stress. By learning to recognise why we respond in certain ways, by learning our own behaviour patterns, we can choose a different path and learn to respond in a way that is more beneficial to us emotionally and physically.

3. Eat away your stress

So I’m not suggesting we get out the ice cream and chocolate and start bingeing here; I’m talking about making healthy choices about what we eat to manage our stress! Certain foods can help us to be less stressed and promote a sense of calm.

  • Foods high in Magnesium, like Spinach & Quinoa promote a sense of calm.
  • Foods high in Omega 3, like walnuts, nourish the brain helping you think more clearly, and reduce stress hormones.
  • Foods containing tryptophan, like sunflower seeds, soy & spirulina, cause the production of serotonin; that feel good hormone.
  • Foods containing vitamin C, like kiwi, kale and guava, reduce stress levels and boost your immune system.

And guess what, certain foods can actually cause that nasty stress hormone, Cortisol, levels to rise, and guess what they are: yup, anything packed with fat, sugar or salt; so avoid cakes, chips and crisps!

4. Sleep more

Get a good nights sleep.

Try to get more sleep, go to bed a bit earlier than usual. It’s another one of those vicious circles, you’re stressed out, can’t get to sleep so you sleep less. And in turn, less sleep lowers your immunity, makes you irritable and reduces your ability to cope causing you more angst and anxiety. So how do you break this cycle?

Here are a few tips to get more sleep:

Switch off the TV & computer at least half an hour before you go to bed: use this time to have a relaxing bath or listen to some calming music.
Do some very gentle yoga or Tai Chi to help calm your body and mind.
Listen to a guided body relaxation.
Do some long, slow, deep breathing and become completely involved in the process of breathing, how it feels, the movements of the body, the flow of air at the lips, nostrils of the back of the throat. You can also count your breaths, counting backwards from 100 to 0 each time you inhale and exhale.

5. Learn some stress management tools

Finally, make some time to learn some tools that will help you to reduce your stress levels and help you to deal with any issues in your work or home life. Mindfulness based stress management techniques have been shown to reduce stress levels and to help us to be more peaceful and happy within ourselves, despite an increasingly overwhelming and demanding world.
Incoming search terms:

There are lots of really simple and very effective tools out there we can use to help ourselves, these are just 5 that I have found useful in my own life.

Stay happy, healthy and remember to enjoy life in 2014!

OM TIMES: Top 5 Tips for Reducing Stress in 2014
by Alexandra Redmond
omtimes.com/2014/01/top-…-stress-2014/

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About the Author

Alex has been practising yoga & meditation for over 15 years and started teaching 5 years ago. She has recently launched Stress Management for a Modern World, an online mindfulness based stress management course.

Alex is from the Isle of Wight, UK, and moved in 2010 to live in Ogliastra, Sardinia for a simpler and quieter life. You can find out more at her website here. meditationcourse.yogainsardinia.com/about-me/ She is also on Twitter, Google+ & Facebook.

* free download Breath Relaxation Practice
meditationcourse.yogainsardinia.com/downloads/breath-relaxation-practice/

A Morning Walk in Ogliastra

I live a truly blessed life, being able to take a leisurely walk with our 2 labs on a beautiful sunny January morning in our corner of paradise which is Ogliastra, Sardinia. I hope you enjoy my little photo post of our walk, and next time you need to get away from it all for a break, consider Ogliastra, it’s a truly special place!

Looking out over the valley, blue skies, gorgeous views...

Looking out over the valley, blue skies, gorgeous views.

Corbezzolo Tree, otherwise known as the Strawberry Tree.

Corbezzolo Tree, otherwise known as the Strawberry Tree.

Corbezzolo Blossom & Berries

Corbezzolo Blossom & Berries

Wild yellow flowers with impressive Tacchi in the background

Wild yellow flowers with impressive Tacchi in the background

Tacchi d'Ogliastra with bee buzzing around yellow wild flower.

Tacchi d’Ogliastra with bee buzzing around yellow wild flower.

Prickly pears lining the country road.

Prickly pears lining the country road.

Abandoned House nestled in the hillside.

Abandoned House nestled in the hillside.

Oh look, a gently flowing river...

Oh look, a gently flowing river…

Look, it's water, we love water, yay!

Look, it’s water, we love water, yay!

Oh, yeah, that feels good on the paws!

Oh, yeah, that feels good on the paws!

Ok, Ok, we're coming.

Ok, Ok, we’re coming.

Water rushing over the ford.

Water rushing over the ford.

Puddles for puppies to play in, orange trees lining the path wall.

Puddles for puppies to play in, orange trees lining the path wall.

Another pretty waterfall along the way.

Another pretty waterfall along the way.

Hello Shiva

Hello Shiva

Hello Kuma

Hello Kuma

Girls just want to have fun...

Girls just want to have fun…

A shack for the shepherds I think, check out the car cut in half.

A shack for the shepherds I think, check out the car cut in half.

A little reminder that personal loss & grief are all part of life's rich tapestry as I pass a memorial at the side of the track.

A little reminder that personal loss & grief are all part of life’s rich tapestry as I pass a memorial at the side of the track.

And we go through the woods, this is near the end of the walk and the place the girls go mad chasing each other and playing hide and seek around benched and boulders!

And we go through the woods, this is near the end of the walk and the place the girls go mad chasing each other and playing hide and seek around benches and boulders!

Chase me, chase me!

Chase me, chase me!

The woodland covered in diverse funghi, that's it, back home now for a cuppa and some lunch!

The woodland covered in diverse funghi, that’s it, back home now for a cuppa and some lunch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Tips for Coping with Stress

Need to relax?

Need to relax?

Stress is on the rise, more people each year are reporting stress as being a problem in their life: effecting their work, home life and health. After years of depression, stress and barely keeping my head above water with our modern, frantic pace of life, I finally broke down, and after a couple of months off work with stress I finally quit. It was time to get out, heal myself and get some perspective.

So that’s what I did, I checked out of society, and in 2010 I moved to rural Sardinia with my retired partner and took some time to heal. It was pretty drastic and most people can’t or don’t want to go quite that far! So, rather than suggesting you quit your job, abandon society and move to a foreign country, I would instead like to share some of the simple things you can do to manage your own stress, some of the practices that have really helped me to learn how to deal with stress, get a different perspective on life and feel healthier, happier & more positive.

Here a 5 things worth trying out for yourself:

1. Take a deep breath

Our breathing is possibly the cheapest, easiest and most effective way of controlling our central nervous system and getting our body to calm down. By learning very simple breathing exercises we can tell our bodies to chill out, relax and calm down! Breathing more deeply and extending our exhalation (out breath) makes our body stop producing those nasty, unhealthy stress hormones and start producing those nice relaxing hormones instead. Ok, so that’s a bit of a super simplified explanation of the sympathetic (fight, flight response) and parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system, but you get the idea! There is a guided breathing practice here which you can try out for free.

2. Count to 10

It’s a another of those cliché’s, but giving yourself time to pause, reflect and acknowledge what is going on before reacting, can make all the difference. Learning how to observe how you are reacting, both

  • emotionally; how you are feeling and why, and
  • physically; how this reaction or emotion feels in the body,

can give you some perspective and allow you to make more positive, calmer choices when you respond to stress. By learning to recognise why we respond in certain ways, by learning our own behaviour patterns, we can choose a different path and learn to respond in a way that is more beneficial to us emotionally and physically.

3. Eat away your stress

So I’m not suggesting we get out the ice cream and chocolate and start binging here; I’m talking about making healthy choices about what we eat to manage our stress! Certain foods can help us to be less stressed and promote a sense of calm.

  • Foods high in Magnesium, like Spinach & Quinoa promote a sense of calm.
  • Foods high in Omega 3, like walnuts, nourish the brain helping you think more clearly, and reduce stress hormones.
  • Foods containing tryptophan, like sunflower seeds, soy & spirulina, cause the production of serotonin; that feel good hormone.
  • Foods containing vitamin C, like kiwi, kale and guava, reduce stress levels and boost your immune system.

And guess what, certain foods can actually cause that nasty stress hormone, Cortisol, levels to rise, and guess what they are: yup, anything packed with fat, sugar or salt; so avoid cakes, chips and crisps!

4. Sleep more

Get a good nights sleep.

Get a good nights sleep.

Try to get more sleep, go to bed a bit earlier than usual. It’s another one of those vicious circles, you’re stressed out, can’t get to sleep so you sleep less. And in turn, less sleep lowers your immunity, makes you irritable and reduces your ability to cope causing you more angst and anxiety. So how do you break this cycle?

Here are a few tips to get more sleep:

  • Switch off the TV & computer at least half an hour before you go to bed: use this time to have a relaxing bath or listen to some calming music.
  • Do some very gentle yoga or Tai Chi to help calm your body and mind.
  • Listen to a guided body relaxation, there is one included in my online Stress Management course
  • Do some long, slow, deep breathing and become completely involved in the process of breathing, how it feels, the movements of the body, the flow of air at the lips, nostrils of the back of the throat. You can also count your breaths, counting backwards from 100 to 0 each time you inhale and exhale.

5. Learn some stress management tools

Finally, make some time to learn some tools that will help you to reduce your stress levels and help you to deal with any issues in your work or home life. Mindfulness based stress reductions techniques have been shown to reduce stress levels and to help us to be more peaceful and happy within ourselves, despite an increasingly overwhelming and demanding world.

There are lots of really simple and very effective tools out there we can use to help ourselves, these are just 5 that I have found useful in my own life. I hope you can take some time to check out more information about my new Stress Management Course, it lasts for 8 weeks, but only requires about a half an hour of your time each day, so it really doesn’t need a massive commitment of your time.

Stay happy, healthy and remember to enjoy life!

Stress Management for a Modern World

I am thrilled to be releasing a new 8 week on-line programme Stress Management for a Modern World. It is launching on the 20th January 2014 to coincide with Blue Monday, thought to be the most depressing day of the year. There will be another course also staring on the 18thMarch 2014.

With stress levels on the rise every year and costs to industry and health services mounting up, and as someone with personal experience of how stress can cripple your work and personal life, I am sharing the tools I have used to feel better, get a perspective and live a more positive life.

Let's get Stress Out in 2014!

Let’s get Stress Out in 2014!

You can register on-line for the course, and there are also free places available to people who cannot afford to pay the full subscription (usual price is 150 euros).  My goal is to provide as many people as possible with the tools to manage their stress and improve their lives and in the process also to be healthier and happier.

You can listen to a sample Guided Breathing Practice from the course here:

Oh and I just added this blog onto Blog Loving:

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Top 5 tips for a naturally healthy winter

It’s the holiday season, time for parties, presents and lots of good will; yay! Unfortunately this time of year is not always merry-making and fun, it’s also the season of colds, flu and general ill health. The good news is there are really simple, easy and natural things we can do to maximise our immune system and keep ourselves healthy.

Here are my top 5 tips for staying healthy this winter:

1. Drink a cup of Turmeric Milk each day.

Drink a cup of Turmeric each day to boost your immune system.

Drink a cup of Turmeric each day to boost your immune system.

Turmeric has been used for centuries to boost immunity and treat coughs and colds. Lots of people are put off by the idea of drinking turmeric, try my favourite recipe below, it’s sweet, warming and will keep those colds at bay, you might be surprised how good it tastes!

I like to make up a paste that I can keep in a jar in the fridge and use whenever I need to instead of making it fresh each time, then just add between half and a whole teaspoon of the paste (to your own taste) for each mug of turmeric milk.

Ingredients for the paste:
1 tbsp ground Turmeric
½ tbsp ground Ginger
½ tbsp ground Cinnamon
1tsp Black Pepper
1tsp Vanilla essence
½tsp Ground Cloves
½tsp Allspice
½tsp Cardamom

To make the paste, add all the spices together and bind with a bit of water until it forms a paste. Then pop the paste in a small jar and conserve in the fridge.

(Feel free to remove any spice, apart from the turmeric, that you don’t like or add in your own favourite sweet spice)

To make a cup of turmeric milk

Ingredients
250ml milk (this can be cow’s milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk or soya milk depending on your dietary and taste requirements, but I think it goes particularly well with coconut milk)
½ or 1 tsp mixed paste (recipe above)
1 tsp Honey (or agave nectar or any other natural sweetener of your choice)

Add the milk into a small saucepan, then mix in the paste and bring to boil.  Add in the sweetener to your taste and then remove the saucepan from the heat. Use a tea strainer over your cup and pour the Turmeric milk through the strainer into your cup. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg. Enjoy!

2.Practice some winter breathing exercises.

Breathing techniques (Pranayama) can boost general and lung health and help keep airways, throat and lungs free from infections.

Kapalabhati Pranayama, also known as the cleansing breath, cleanses the body’s internal system, not only the respiratory organs, but it also has a beneficial effect on the digestive system and organs, including the stomach, pancreas and liver. (You can read more about the benefits of Kapalabhati here).

To practice this breathing technique:
Sit comfortably with a straight back to make space for your lungs, and place your hands on your lower belly.

Use your diaphragm to forcefully and fully expel all the air from your lungs (as if you were blowing your nose). If you are new to this practice, use a longer slower exhale to force the air from your lungs, slowly working up to shorter, more forceful exhalations.

Allow the inhalation to come naturally, the lungs filling spontaneously, without effort or forcing anything.

Perform this cycle ten times to start off with, or less if you feel light headed, then allow your breathing return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of ten movements two or three times to start off with and gradually work up to 6 rounds (60 breaths).

Here is a Youtube demonstration of Kapalabhati breathing from Yoga International.

If you are suffering from high blood pressure, any heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcers, vertigo, epilepsy, lung diseases such as asthma or poor lungs capacity or recovering from tuberculosis or if you are pregnant, you should do these exercises only under expert guidance.

3. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

Eat fresh, local fruit and vegetables every day.

Eat fresh, local fruit and vegetables every day.

Make sure your are getting lots of health boosting vitamins and minerals, eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day. If you don’t like eating them, try juicing them!

Top fruit & veggies for winter health are Kiwi, Oranges, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Spinach, Broccoli, Kale, Carrots, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes.

Try adding some raw, organic coconut oil into your smoothie or meal for an extra boost.

Always buy your fruit and vegetables as fresh and local as possible.

4. Reduce your stress levels

Stress hormones lower your body’s ability to fight off infections and viruses, and can even cause illnesses and diseaase. Take steps to reduce your stress levels this winter; simplifiy your life as much as possible, be picky about which party invitations you accept and make time to get some physical exercise; take a walk in the countryside or park and get some fresh air out in a natural environment.

You can use a deep breathing practice to calm down your nervous system, check out our free guided breathing practice below.

If you are looking for more specific and sustainable ways to reduce your stress levels, check out our website for more information about our online Stress Management Course.

5. Sleep well

Sleep

Get enough sleep!

If we’re not sleeping well, we’re more likely to get a cough or cold, studies have shown that a lack of sleep decreases the levels of infection fighting white blood cells in the body. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and keep your immune system at peak condition! Make sure you are relaxed before heading off to bed; switch off the TV or computer for at least half an hour before bedtime and go to bed a little bit earlier. Listen to a guided relaxation like this one when you head off to bed.

That’s it Folks! Have a wonderful festive season, stay healthy and here’s to a happy, stress free 2014 😉

 

Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, fitness, or other health program.

 

My top apps for Yoginis

I have tried quite a few of the apps for yoga & meditation out there, some good, some not so good and I thought I would share some of my top picks that have stood the test of time on my iPhone. You’ll notice there are no actual Yoga apps on my list, this is purely because I have not found a yoga app that I enjoy using for my home practice yet, as a yoga teacher, I tend to practice a more intuitive yoga at home, rather than a set practice, so the apps I regularly use support this type of home practice rather than instructional apps. The apps below I use on my iphone, I am due to get an Android tablet soon, so as I find some good Android apps I’ll add them in.

 

1. Mindfulness II

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This app has some lovely guided meditations and also a silent meditation timer with mindfulness bells at intervals you choose. I like that there was a choice of guided meditations and the personalised meditation options, which allow you t choose an introduction and then a period of silent meditation. They also have a specific app for meditation during pregnancy.

iOS app store link

Unfortunately these apps do not appear to be available on Android yet; lets hope that changes soon!

 

2. Universal Breathing: Pranayama

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I love this app for the flexibility of being able to programme my own timings and ratios for different pranayama practices. I would like there to be a nice singing bowl tone or something a little more gentle to note the end of the practice rather than just the abrupt cut off of the sound., but it is a minor irritation compared to the flexibility for more own practice it offers.

They also have a range of other relaxation and yoga apps.

iOS app store link

Android app link

 

3. Nature Scenes

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The sounds board allows you to create your own background music, it has great selection of sounds and the ability to change the volume of each individual sound to create the perfect ambiance for your yoga or meditation practice.

iOS app store link

There appears to be no Android version available yet.

 

4. Zen Waves

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For anyone who is wide awake at bedtime and having trouble quieting down their mind, this app can really send you off to sleep without disturbing your partner or the need of headphones. It using a gentle pulsing of light to help you calm, you simply synchronise your breath with the pulsing light. I like that you can use this also with your eyes closed as you are still aware of the pulsing, but in a relaxing way, which does not prevent you going off to sleep. There are some personalisation options including being able to change the colour of the light as well as the length of the pulse. It’s not the best looking app, but it does a great job!

iOS store link

No Android version.

 

 

Alternative meditation cushions

So you would like to start or are already practicing meditation, but the sitting posture is making things difficult for you, you have seen meditation cushions, but can’t afford one yet….what are the cheaper alternatives??

One unique idea shared by one of my meditation teachers is to use 2 toilet rolls;

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A novel, and cheap, meditation aid

“A good sitting gear: two new rolls of toilet paper. Try it with “comfortable posture” (sukhasana). Use these or 2 small balls (about 4-5 in/10-13 cm) or similar objects, perhaps covered/wrapped with a small towel. Place them under the sit bones (ischiums) as in the picture, with the heel of the rear foot in the opening of the “V”. Keep the knees touching the ground and the body upright, maintaining a small curve in the lower back if possible.” writes Thanh Huynh who runs a free online mindfulness meditation course.

 

To find inner peace…

“To find inner peace, have full attention and interest in everything you do …
To find inner peace, live fully in the present, the past and the future are dissolved in cycles of eternity …
To find inner peace, be inwardly relaxed: in the body, emotions, mind and spirit …
To find inner peace, practice non attachment: be aware that nothing and nobody really belongs to you …
To find inner peace, consciously cultivate joyful thoughts…
To find inner peace, have no desires; realize that happiness is inside you, not in external conditions or things …
To find inner peace, realise that you can’t change the world, but you can change yourself …
To find inner peace, project peace externally, in the environment that surrounds you …
To find inner peace, live simply, reduce what you “must have” …
To find inner peace, lead a healthy life: exercise regularly, eat healthily, breathe deeply …
To find inner peace, act freely from your inner Centre, without being a slave to what the world asks of you …
To find inner peace, accept the truth as your guide in all circumstances…
To find inner peace, do not covet what have others, but know that what it is yours will find ways to reach you …
To find inner peace, don’t complain, but acknowledge that what life gives you depends on what you, first, give yourself …
To find inner peace, accept the responsibility of your failures and realise that only you can turn them into accomplishments …
To find inner peace, conquer yourself, don’t just cease hostilities …
To find inner peace, smile in the heart even when others are looking at you wrongly …
To find inner peace, give joy rather than taking from others …
To find inner peace, work with others, never against them …
To find inner peace, meditate and draw from the sources of peace from the soul …
To find inner peace, accept yourself: do not be blind to your faults, but do not hate yourself for them …
To find inner peace, love others selflessly, without selfish motives.”
(Swami Kriyananda)

Salamba Sirsasana

“Put the attention into the luminous connections
between each of the centers throughout the body.
The base of the spine and the top of the skull,
The genitals and the heart!
The heart and the throat,
the throat and the forehead,
the forehead to the top of the head . . .

Attend to the current of relationship
electrifying, ever-pulsating, richly textured,
between each of these and every other.

Then attend simultaneously to resonance of all with all.

Enter that glowing net of light
with the focus born of awe
and even your bones will know enlightenment.”

Infinity dancing everywhere..

“Experience the substance of the body and the world
as made up of vibrating particles,
and these particles made up of
even finer energy particles.

Drifting more deeply,
feel into each particle
as it condenses from infinity
and dissolves back into it
continuously.

Noticing this, breathe easily
with infinity dancing everywhere.”

Perfection?

This is not an advanced. perfect or difficult yoga posture, this is not a fit, perfect body, but this IS yoga and it does feel perfectly blissful!
Cobra posture, Cea Beach, Ogliastra
There are so many photos and videos out there of perfect bodies doing perfect (and advanced) poses. They feel wrong to me for 2 reasons; the first: they are just another example of modern society’s obsession with sex, perfection and beauty which places pressure on everyone to reach these unrealistic goals and promotes, self loathing, inadequacy and a desire to be something other than what we are. The second: I worry that it puts many people off trying yoga, because the postures we see are advanced postures and are not achievable for many, even after years of practice, not every body is the same and not every body is capable of some of these advanced postures. So many people who are curious about yoga have said to me “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible enough”; these pictures and videos do nothing to encourage these people and it is a shame because so many could benefit from a yoga practice.
I understand that for some these pictures are incentive and goals and I am not saying there is no place for them at all, but I do feel the balance with videos and photos showing more subtle and gentle practice is totally off.I long for the day when we will be encouraged to embrace and love ourselves for who we are and where we are on our journey and when we can learn to see and accept others for who they are, with all their imperfections!