Tuesday 24th March - Self-Care Strategies in our Strange Springtime
Well hello again. I thought this would be a good time to restart the blog in the hope that I can share something that might be helpful at this moment. We are all feeling unsettled and uncertain - our nervous systems are on high alert in the 'flight, fight, freeze' response, with stress hormones flooding the body as we listen to the news and the conversations that are, understandably, on everyone's lips. The gentle practices of yoga, pranayama and meditation can help. All three of these will allow your nervous system to quieten down, moving it into 'rest and digest' mode, helping you to relax.
Yoga is about being in the present moment. As we do our practice we direct our attention to the sensations in the body and the movement of the breath. Thoughts about our daily life drop away and we become more relaxed and at ease.
Here's a simple exercise that will help you deal with anxiety - it's a useful tool for any difficult situation, not just the one we are negotiating right now. It's called the '5 Senses Meditation' and it will take you through each of the 5 senses, asking you to pay attention to what you are experiencing at the current moment. It is very grounding and pulls you out of your head and its spinning thoughts and into your body where you will experience more regular breathing and a sense of stability.
1. What can you see? Pause for a moment and look around. Consciously rest your awareness on some nearby objects and observe them closely, as if you've never seen them before - their colour, shape, and how the light falls on them.
2. What can you hear? Close your eyes and listen. Is there any sound around you? Someone else moving around in the house? A bird singing outside? Maybe all you can hear is the sound of your own breath. Hold your awareness here for a minute or so.
3. What can you feel? Close your eyes and notice how your clothes feel against your skin, the warmth of your hands resting against each other or on your thighs, the sensation of the cool air against your nostrils as you breathe in.
4. What can you smell? Close your eyes and see if you can detect any scents. The smell of the washing powder on your clothes, something cooking in the kitchen, the handcream you used.
5. What can you taste? As you sit for this last observation you'll have to really focus. You might detect a subtle taste of your toothpaste, something you ate very recently, or maybe you can't taste anything at all - that's ok, you're noticing an absence of taste - the most important thing is that you're noticing.
Then just sit for a minute or so longer, aware of your breathing and the fact that you are in the present moment.
Remember you can do this anywhere and anytime you need it. It costs you nothing other than a few minutes of your time. I hope it helps.
If you're a member of Thrive Yoga's Online Classes you can find a video of this meditation HERE, where I'll guide you through each step - please note, you'll need to be logged in to play this video.
This Week's Recipes... 'Use It All Up' Soup and Vegan Banana Cake
This week I have two recipes for you. As you may remember from previous posts on the blog, I don't particularly love cooking itself but I do like creating quick and easy meals that are as nutritious as possible. None of the recipes I share are particularly complicated and these two don't use many ingredients so, at the present time when we are having to be more aware of what we consume and not waste anything, these might be good ones to use things up before they go off.
'Use It All Up' Soup
This soup will help you eat up all the slightly old and almost past-it vegetables in your fridge - you know those slightly rubbery potatoes and bendy green beans and carrots? - they'll be fine in this soup ;-) And you really don't want to throw anything away at the moment - food is suddenly very precious indeed. We've become very wasteful as a society, with one study last year reporting that the average UK household throws away £355.68 worth of food away every year, which adds up to £9.7 billion across the country! Maybe our current situation will help us appreciate our food and where it comes from a little bit more.
You will need:
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Oil for frying
1 litre of stock (Marigold vegetable bouillon is the absolute best tasting stock I know, but if you have ordinary stock cubes and you think the soup needs a little more flavour try adding a few drops of soy sauce or a teaspoon of Marmite to liven it up)
Various vegetables such as carrots, swede, leeks, parsnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, spinach etc.
And here's how to make it:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Gently fry the onion, garlic and leeks if you have them until soft.
Chop the veg into small pieces and add to the pan, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. (The more veg you use, the thicker the soup will be - it's best to make it thicker and thin it with water if you need to.)
Add the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
Allow to cool a little then blitz in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Reheat, then serve with crusty bread or toast.
Vegan Banana Cake (useful if you don't have many eggs!)
3 large over-ripe bananas
75ml vegetable oil, or sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
100g brown sugar
225g self-raising flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon or mixed spice
optional: 50g dried fruit or nuts
And here's how to make it:
Heat the oven to 200C/180c fan/gas mark 6.
Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork and mix well with the oil and brown sugar.
Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon/mixed spice and combine well. Add the dried fruit or nuts if required.
Oil and line a 2lb loaf tin, spoon in the mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Check if the cake is done by inserting a skewer - if it comes out clean then the cake is ready. If its still sticky and wet inside put back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time, covering with foil if the top is browning too quickly.
Allow to cool a little before slicing. Eat warm or it gets a little more gooey if you eat it the next day.
photo credit: BBC Good Food
click here to go to the BBC Good Food website and see the video
This Week's Mother Nature's Magic... The Birds Are Singing and Spring Is Springing
I've been out in the garden over the last few days, enjoying the sunshine. The birds are singing and insects are visiting the flowers (I've seen bees, bee flies and two different types of butterflies today). I'm slightly disappointed that I can't see any frogspawn in my pond but maybe it needs a little more work to provide the perfect environment. As we will be spending our time at home for the forseeable future, our gardens will become more valuable to us. We can sit and watch spring unfolding in a way that we usually don't have time for. Get your hands in the soil, grow some seeds, watch the birds, learn the names of the plants, trees and flowers that grow around you and let your garden, if you're lucky enough to have one, be part of your self-care over the coming weeks.
This Week's Musical Offering... A Little Bit of Deva Premal to Soothe Your Soul
I have played Deva Premal's music in my classes for more years than I care to remember. She chants mantras - repetitive Sanskrit words and sounds that are used to help focus the mind during meditation - and she has the most beautiful voice. Can you pause right now for 6 minutes to listen to her singing 'Aad Guray'? Close your eyes and practice your breathing. Feel your face and your shoulders relax as Deva sings these words, which are a mantra for protection. The words she is singing are Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guru Dayvay Nameh and translate as 'I bow to the Primal Wisdom, I bow to the Wisdom through the Ages, I bow to the True Wisdom, I bow to the great, unseen Wisdom.
This Week's Video... Nature Is Speaking
This inspirational 2 minute video, narrated by Julia Roberts, was filmed long before Coronavirus was on our radar. Climate change was on our radar though, and most of us chose to ignore it and carry on our lives as normal. It seems even more relevant now and maybe, just maybe, this shutdown of human activity will make us wake up and see what needs to be changed. Watch it. It makes you think...
So my friend, thank you for reading. Practise your yoga, be patient with your family, count your blessings (it sounds trite but it helps, really), get outside in your garden, do something to help Mother Nature (drying your washing outside rather than in the tumble drier and not using pesticides or weedkillers on your garden are two easy ways), read a good book, don't watch the news too much.... you know what to do.
And finally, if you're not already a member of my online classes I'm offering a month's free membership so you can continue with a guided yoga practice in your living room. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to practise with me and I'll set you up.
Until next time...