Category Archives: Healthy Eating

Helpful ideas for losing #summerholiday #endofterm #stress

The past few months has been a struggle so we can be forgiven for feeling we have a very short fuse and need a very long holiday. No one should underestimate the health problems associated with stress – it’s the single biggest cause of long-term absence from work. More importantly though, it exacerbates, and is the cause of, all kinds of illnesses and if you need a list, there’s one below.

It’s easy to blame modern life and say that there’s not much we can do about it. BUT it has always been like this – the human body is no different to any other mammal with the ‘fight or flight’ response – the hormonal and physiological changes are more or less the same. I recently wrote an article on how horses respond to stress and how we can help them to relax by regulating our breathing, our heart rate and body language. What’s also interesting is that their ability to engage and learn is in inverse proportion to their stress levels. “Adrenaline up = learning down”, says Monty Roberts. Does the same hold true for humans? Probably.

More recently, think how stressed people must have felt during the Second World War. A friend told me about her grandmother in the East End whose advice to a fearful, tearful young mother was, “Roll up your sleeves, take a bucket of soapy water outside and scrub that front step.” And there you have it – recognition of her struggle, exercise, fresh air, contact with neighbours and people walking past – all the elements required to manage stress. But more than anything, sometimes I think we just need a practical way to pass the time.

Stress is nothing new, which is a thought I find (perversely) rather comforting! The success with which we cope with stress requires the ability to recognise our own stress levels as they build up. Then we need a strategy at the ready to deal with them. If you’re reading this because you already feel overwhelmed there are two things you can do immediately:

01 AMS heelsFirst: BREATHE – slowly, steadily, smoothly – regulating your exhalation so that it’s even from beginning to end. Take your tongue away from your upper palate. Sit up straight. Inhale again. As you slowly exhale, silently say the word, “ONE” as you breathe out. Inhale, slowly exhale silently saying “One”, and repeat several times. Do you feel a bit better?

Second: Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog – it’s the band aid of all poses. Go up from hands and knees, hold, stretch your arms and legs, come down and go up again, staying a little longer each time.

Then: we need a strategy, a basket of goodies, a toolkit of things you can choose from in all circumstances. You can write all these onto post-it notes, stick them round the mirror, incorporate them into your daily routine. Do let me know how you get on…..(see below).

1. Communicate and interact with others. It’s hugely important to communicate your feelings to someone going through similar experiences. Speak from your heart, encourage them to do the same. Whether you laugh together or cry together, there is often tremendous beneficial release. Why? Because when people are “in their hearts,” and not just their minds, the collective support helps to lift your spirits, which in turn releases the build up of stress and anxiety.

Talking2. Re-connect with your heart area. This is especially true after a shock, when it’s normal  for our heart to feel shut down. (Think of those phrases associated with this feeling – I haven’t got the heart, my heart sank, etc., etc.) When you experience a sense of loss, anger, fear or despair, it’s important to re-open your heart and connect with people, even in a very small way. If you find it hard to ‘unlock’ at first, animals can sometimes help as a bridge and open up your ability to be compassionate to another person. Practice random kindness – even small acts of kindness and compassion can make a big difference. Why? Because this is one of the quickest ways to re-establish your footing and reduce the stress that could otherwise affect your health. Research has shown that care and compassion release beneficial hormones that help balance and restore your system. Much stress can be reduced by caring for and interacting more with others.

 3. Count your blessings. At the end of a yoga class, after Savasana, I sometimes encourage students to count their blessings. Practicing appreciation and gratitude seems to be very helpful in restoring emotional balance. The appreciation needs to be heartfelt, not just from the mind. Why? Because  appreciative feelings activate the biochemical systems that help diminish stress and stabilise our psyche, and this helps us to reconnect with feelings of hope and gives us the initiative to move forward.

4. Decrease drama. We tend to spin thoughts of blame, anger, “doom and gloom” projections about the future around in our heads. This can be especially acute at night when we can’t sleep. We make things worse by being ‘in our heads’ and engaging with this Peacegloomy monologue, which adds drama to a situation that’s already less than ideal. This stunts our intuitive discernment, which is the very thing we need to find the most effective ways to navigate through challenges. (Adrenaline up = learning down.)You may not be able to stop all the internal drama, but you can try not to engage with it – instead, get up and do something practical (but not screen-based), even in the dead of night, rather than sit in that miserable puddle of worry. Why? Anger, anxiety and fear release excessive levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, throughout the body which cause a cascade of physical health symptoms, along with potential mental and emotional imbalances. As you practice reducing drama, the energy you save helps restore balance, clarity and positive initiative, even after a sleepless night. During the day, sharing our feelings from the heart with others reduces the tendency to keep amplifying and repeating the downside of situations.

5. Manage the amount of news you watch, and your reactions to it. This is a tricky one, but it has made a huge difference to me. Economic, political or global instability can compound our stress by projecting worst-case scenarios as we watch, read or listen to the news. Many people are afraid to watch the news because they dread what they might see and yet they’re afraid not to watch it in case they miss something important.  If you must watch/read/listen, resist the temptation to rant or obsess over the negative downsides of the news item. Manage how much negative emotional drama you attach to events or disappointing information because this is where a large portion of our stress accumulates. You can use the news as an opportunity to practice being in ’emotional neutral’. There’s a difference between evaluating an issue and emotionally obsessing over it. Practicing ’emotional neutral’ can help us manage our emotional energy expenditures and avoid stress overload. Why? When we are experiencing high anxiety and depression, cutting back on news can help lower the intensity of our fear and anxiety. Experiment to see if cutting back helps you, as it has many others who are experiencing high anxiety. (BTW – we shouldn’t judge the media. We are responsible for what we watch and how we react to it. It’s our job to balance and manage our exposure and our perceptions of how the news affects us.)


No mud, no lotus – Thich Nat Hahn

6. Take a little quiet time for prayer or meditation. Feeling compassion for yourself, for others, and feelings of gratitude, are all forms of prayer or meditation. These practices help quiet the mind and encourage a new perspective that can restore hope and direction. Why? Research has shown that sending appreciative or compassionate feelings to other people or issues can have a beneficial effect on the hormonal and immune systems. Prayer re-connects us with ourselves and with each other. Sending appreciation, care or compassion to others also helps to balance the nervous system and create heart rhythms more beneficial to our health. This helps balance your mental and emotional system, which then reduces anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed. So prayer is good for you, and it’s good for the planet.

7. Heart-focused breathing to reduce stress and anxiety. Practicing breath control is very helpful for reducing anxiety, stress, anger and mild depression. Why? Studies have demonstrated that meditation and breathing can bring down our stress levels, release tension and so help all kinds of health problems that are caused or exacerbated by chronic stress. With conscious effort, we humans can encourage our bodies to release chemicals and brain signals that make our muscles and organs slow down, and increase blood flow to the brain, the opposite of the ‘fight or flight’ response. This gives us a chance to look more closely at the stressor and work out a better way to deal with the problem, rather than bashing it over the head or running away. (See below for a guide.)

8. Exercise. It’s chicken-and-egg: stress can make us feel lethargic and un-motivated, especially if we’re short of sleep. Remember: using energy creates more energy so take what little you have and do that dog pose, walk to the shop, go and find a view to look at. You won’t need a total workout to help clear your thinking and stabilize your emotions. Experiment and find what’s comfortable for you, but at least try to get your heart rate up every day, even for a short time. Why? Exercise won’t take away your reasons for feeling stressed, but it will help you to manage stress with less energy loss. And getting out there will do all the same things as scrubbing the front step did during the war.

A few other thoughts:
9. Comparing the present with the past – the good old days. I said that I find it comforting to know that the human race has felt stressed for millennia, so much that the philosophy, art and science of Yoga was developed centuries ago to manage it.  If you have had a crisis or a major life change, it is hard to stop comparing the way life was before with how it is now. Healing heartache doesn’t respond to schedules or agendas but we can trust that, in our own time, we will start to regain some stability and be able to move forward with life. It just might take time and so we need our tool kit to help us through.
10. Sleep. Many people don’t sleep well for all kinds of reasons, maybe directly due to stress or perhaps because of unhelpful habits – late night TV, alcohol, erratic meal times, poor diet, lack of fresh air and exercise. We’ve all been there! So get what sleep you can and try not to make that into another drama. Don’t lie in bed and engage with the drama scarlettor try to make decisions. Get up and do something helpful or useful, like the ironing, read a book, practice your breathing exercises, or do some recuperative yoga. Nothing bad will happen before morning. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

11. Reducing Fear. Fear is a normal response to uncertain and challenging times and is natural for our protection. Prolonged fear, exaggerated by drama, eventually creates harmful hormonal and immune system responses that compromise our health. Ask yourself – should I be afraid, or would some healthy caution be more helpful? The difference between these two can make a big difference in what hormones are released in your system.

12. Engage with your family. Keep communicating with family and close friends about the stress that everyone is going through. (You may even help someone else to manage their stress.) If someone is snappy or irritable don’t take it personally and do explain it to children, and reassure them that you can work things out in time. Work with them on simple stress-busters – carpet yoga, play at meditating, encourage them to think of all the good people they have in their lives.

13. Don’t blame yourself. Moving forward is easier without carrying baggage and guilt about what you should have done. Substitute the words ‘should’ with ‘could’ – there’s something liberating very about it. Above all, be kind to yourself.


Teach yourself breath control for managing stressful situations, click HERE.

Read Dr David Servan-Schreiber: Healing Without Freud Or Prosac.

For a no-nonsense guide to the wide-ranging effects of stress, click HERE.

Herbs that can help: HERE.

With grateful thanks and much respect to Doc Childre at the Heart Math Institute who has produced a De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times some of which is paraphrased here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boost Your Immune System, Healthy Eating, Lifestyle Changes, Mindfulness, Relaxation, Well-being

Yoga Days with Lovegrove Essentials.

Lovegrove Essentials Yoga & Spa Days at Saddle Street Farm are ideal if you want to organise something special for a group of friends, or give as a gift to someone you love. If you have any special requirements please let us know – we’re very happy to work with you to provide a relaxing and nourishing experience for your group.

Your spa day can be tailored for you with combination of a yoga class, massage therapy, beauty treatments, a make-up lesson, hair styling and nails; plus a delicious, healthy lunch.

Hannah Lovegrove – Iyengar Yoga Teacher with many years’ experience offers high-quality yoga classes in a fully equipped studio. Hannah is also a qualified masseuse and beauty therapist offering tinting, waxing, pedicures etc.
Hayley de Beers – top London make-up and hair artist.
Daniel Stevens – gifted chef and food writer, and author of the River Cottage Bread Book.

The Lovegrove Essential Day Spa packages:
£85 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch and a Massage Treatment.
£90 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, and an hour with Hayley.
£125 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, a Massage Treatment, and an hour with Hayley.

For accommodation we recommend local B&B – Mary at Chapel End, Liz at Fulwood House and Lucy at Oathill Farm – all about 10 minutes from Saddle Street Farm and very reasonably priced. Please ask for details.


Leave a comment

Filed under Beginners etc., Boost Your Immune System, Healthy Eating, Iyengar, Lifestyle Changes, Mindfulness, Relaxation, therapy treatments, Well-being, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic, Yoga Days, yoga weekends

Teff – what on earth is that?

teffHave you ever seen teff? One of the smallest grains in the world, teff is a gluten-free food that’s been around for over 4,000 years. It’s native to Ethiopia, and available in both light and dark varieties.

Health benefits 
Teff is a good source of iron, calcium, protein, fiber, and B vitamins. It’s gluten free, so Celiacs can rest easy with teff. It’s also great food source for diabetics as it helps control blood sugar levels.
Where to find it
Teff grain and flour can be found at your local health food store. Like other grains, it should be stored in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator or freezer.
If you’ve ever been to an Ethiopian restaurants, you may have seen a type of bread called enjera, which resembles a tortilla. That’s typically made with teff.
How to cook teff
When cooking teff, add half a cup of teff grain to 2 cups of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer in a covered pot for 15 to 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.
Stir and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
I sometimes cook teff as a breakfast cereal, but its lovely nutty taste makes it great for baking cookies, muffins or pancakes.
Try these delicious teff peanut butter cookies
  • 1 ½ cup teff flour (375 ml)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (50 ml)
  • ¼ cup apple butter (50 ml)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup safflower oil (125 ml)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, cashew butter or almond butter (250 ml)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (1 ml)
Mix nut butter, oil, egg, apple butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a food processor. Do not overmix. Then add teff flour and salt. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten with a wet fork.
Shirley Plant – March 2013.

Leave a comment

Filed under Healthy Eating

Alkaline Foods

Alkaline foods

Leave a comment

July 24, 2013 · 6:16 am

Colds & ‘Flu – protection through a healthy immune system

Research is beginning to show the relationship between emotional stress and the depletion of the immune system, and suggests that, alongside all the practical and nutritional advice, we need to find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety to keep the immune system functioning well.

01 Savasana knees supportedYoga is therapy for the body, mind and spirit. Combined with an understanding of the relationship between food and healing, we have at our disposal a powerful tool-kit to strengthen our body’s defences and speed up the healing process. Click HERE for a yoga routine to strengthen your immune system.

BREATHE – try this while you’re reading. Sit up. Breathe slowly in through your nose. Relax your jaw and your tongue. Slowly and steadily release the breath through your nose and ‘watch’ as your lungs become empty. Pause……. breathe in again, softly and smoothly, pause……. and slowly, steadily breathe out, ‘watching’ right through to the end. Let your breathing return to normal. You have just improved your cardiac cohesion.

Defend yourself against Colds and ‘Flu – in Chinese medicine, these are  called ‘exterior’ conditions and are often easiest to treat and cure while they are still showing exterior symptoms.  They become harder to treat when they become ‘interior’. (See below for the early signs.) Their effects are first felt in the parts of the body exposed to the exterior – the skin and the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and lungs.  So to defend against these viruses, we need to strengthen and support these areas in our bodies. Here are some suggestions:

Make your own Vitamin C –  if you are bean sproutsalready eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg, Vitamin C supplements are probably not necessary. Research shows that large doses of synthetic Vitamin C can be counter productive and can lead to the depletion of some minerals, plus other complications. So alongside the usual vitamin C-rich foods, consider the following:

  • Foods high in Vitamin C include sprouted seeds – a cheap and highly nutritious food you can prepare yourself at home. Keep a selection of alfalfa, aduki, chick peas, lentils, mung beans, sunflower seeds, the list goes on…, in your cupboard and sprout away. (Scroll down for a short ‘how to’ video.)  N.B. If you tend to feel the cold, always steam or sautée your sprouted seeds.
  • To promote a healthy gut, I recommend a daily dose of live natural yogurt – sheep, goat, or soya. For the ultimate daily dose, with many other immune-boosting ingredients plus anti-oxidants and protein, see my Immune Boosting Smoothie recipe.
  • Pau D’arco – to cleanse and strengthen the intestines, this amazing herb is helpful in pau d'arco teapreparing the body to fight infection. Take regularly as a tea – it tastes lovely! If you tend to have intestinal problems, IBS or Candida for instance, try the capsules, which also contain Goldenseal (see BELOW). Along with a dietary clean-up, no sugar, alcohol, wheat etc. these will help to clean, tone and strengthen your intestines.
  • Astragalus – one of the key uses for astragalus is to improve immune function. astragalus capsOne of the ways astragalus is thought to work is by increasing the production of immune cells. It may also have mild antiviral activity and help with the prevention of colds. Use Echinacea/Goldenseal (See BELOW) should you notice signs of colds or flu.
  • Light your oil burner  – keep the atmosphere around you as healthy as possible, in the home and at work. Vapourised, oil burnerthese essential oils can help to combat air-borne viruses and bacteria.
  • Oregano oil is exceptionally antiseptic and it also has potent anti-viral properties.
  • Tea-tree oil  has similar properties, and is very helpful for coughs, colds, sore throats and breathing difficulties.
  • Take a handkerchief with oregano or tea-tree oil into any situation where there is air conditioning, especially on a flight.
  • To ease breathing difficulties, both tea-tree and oregano are useful as vapour inhalations. Put 3-6 drops in 4 pints of very hot water and breathe the vapours, with your head under a towel if possible. (You can use them this way in the house, if you don’t have an oil burner.)
  • Add a few drops of either tea-tree or oregano oil to rinse water for laundry and for wiping down surfaces.

Sweat therapy has been used as a preventive and as a remedy in the early stages of colds and ‘flu for millennia – think sweat lodgeNative American sweat lodge, Scandinavian sauna, British hot toddy!   Sweating during the early stages helps to rid the body of the virus and defend against its deeper penetration into the body.

  • Make a herbal hot toddy – drink a cup or more of diaphoretic herbal tea, such as yarrow, chamomile, catnip, peppermint, or fresh root ginger. Add lemon juice and raw honey to the tea if preferred. Take a hot bath or shower, cover in blankets and sweat. (Do not sweat to the point of exhaustion, however.) After sweating, change to fresh bedding and clothing, and rest. If baths are not convenient, drink the tea every half hour until sweating is induced. Once is often enough for this process, but it can be repeated twice a day until the exterior symptoms lift. (N.B. Sweating in this way is only helpful for people who are normally in robust health. It is not suitable for people who are weak or unusually thin.)
  • Echinacea and Goldenseal – used periodically, this powerful combination fights inflammation and ech golds tincturebacterial and viral infection. It also stimulates certain white blood cells so is good for the immune system and the lymphatic system. You can take it in capsule form or  as a tincture (my favourite, but you may need to modify the taste). Keep some handy and if you notice any symptoms, start to take it. Don’t take for more than 8 weeks.

BREATHE, slowly in through your nose, lift your chest……. and breathe steadily out. Pause…. and do that once more. Relax your jaw, relax your tongue. Breathe in, lift your chest, pause……. and slowly breathe out, following your breath right to the end.



Filed under Boost Your Immune System, Healthy Eating, Well-being

Seeds marvellous seeds!


Leave a comment

July 11, 2013 · 7:11 am

A Smoothie – the best breakfast.

For a morning kick start and smooth ride through your day, put these into your blender:

200ml milk ( a mix of soya & coconut is my favourite, but use goat, cow, etc)

1 chopped banana

2 tsp Green Lightning  with power-packed superfoods and oceanic algae like spirulina, chlorella, and Pacific kelp, Green Lightning delivers energizing, purifying nutrients for vibrant, exhilarating health and vitality. Algae are nature’s superfood indeed.

2 tbsp live yoghurt (soya, goat, cow, etc)

Add a handful of fresh or frozen berries – raspberries, blueberries, etc. (Frozen gives a very cool smoothie, both temperature and colour!)

Now whizz with abandon, and drink BOTH glasses or you won’t make it to lunchtime. (If you have teenage daughters, make double the quantity. Trust me …. I’m a yoga teacher….)

If you refuse to be levered out of your toast-and-marmalade habit, at least get some Sun Chlorella. You’ll be so glad you did.


Comments Off on A Smoothie – the best breakfast.

Filed under Boost Your Immune System, Healthy Eating, Well-being

Don’t worry – be happy!


Leave a comment

May 28, 2013 · 6:21 am

Christmas Pudding Cake – Low GI & Gluten Free!

cakeA restricted diet, whether by choice or not, can be very irksome at Christmas. I am glad that I cannot eat wheat or dairy – it allows me to avoid a great deal of food which is nutritionally pointless, not to mention the calories…but it can be difficult when you want to join in with friends and family.

So that you can tuck in to the traditional fare together,  here’s a recipe that suits everyone and can be made as a cake or a pudding. Download the recipe HERE

Comments Off on Christmas Pudding Cake – Low GI & Gluten Free!

Filed under Healthy Eating, Well-being

Granola – the staff of life.

  • Download the recipe HERE.

This is a modification of a great recipe served at the sumptuous brunch on one of our yoga holidays in Portugal. It was meant for the few wheat-free guests, but quickly became a favourite with everybody. It will set you up for the day, and is a great alternative for a tea-time snack. I have modified it to lower the GI, and make it more sustaining by improving the protein content. The quinoa and oats are a great blend. Buy organic nuts – you really can taste the difference. The muscovado is important for the trace elements in the molasses. (You could use a tablespoon of molasses melted into the hot water instead. It makes the granola much darker.) The goji berries are a beautiful colour, and either prunes or apricots have a low GI. Simply snip them into small pieces with kitchen scissors. If you like a toasted flavour, put it under a grill for a few minutes, but don’t leave it – you’ll burn your nuts and have to start all over again!

Comments Off on Granola – the staff of life.

Filed under Healthy Eating