Introducing Creative Fridays

When was the last time you just played, and let your creativity take over (in whichever shape that might take for you) without thinking of the results or whether or not it was going to pay the bills? The answer from my side, would embarrassingly have to be, a very, very long time. About a week after I completed my 7 Day Fall Detox, I had an inspiring insight. I realised that I could give myself permission to take a creative day once a week. Whether I would spend the day painting, drawing, taking pictures, going to museums or art galleries didn’t matter – as long as it was a guilt-free day where I could let go of responsibilities and let creativity rush in. It was so simple, but also such a profoundly liberating moment for me.

That made me think again about how easily we place ourselves in boxes or live according to whichever image we’re trying to project to the outside world. We can very rarely place the blame on how we choose to live our lives on anybody else. It really is up to us. Once we acknowledge that, it can seem terrifying, but paradoxically, it is also an exhilirating and freeing place from which to live. That is also where we encounter the juiciness of life, which brings us right back to creativity. The one nurtures the other.

In terms of your yoga practice, how can you shake up your routine a bit and bring some playfulness into it? Why not create your own short 15 – 20 minute practice by combining between 3 – 5 of your favourite postures. Find creative, fun new ways to transition from the one pose into the next, allowing yourself to just tune into your body and move instinctively from your centre. Most importantly, give yourself permission to let go of the results and just enjoy the juicy, creative journey on which you’re embarking.

Spring cleaning in Autumn

4 Countries in 9 DaysBratislava • Vienna • Prague • Budapest

A few days ago, as we returned home from an impromptu action packed, 9-day trip which included Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Prague, I had the sudden urge to start spring cleaning. Except that seeing as I’m living in the Northern Hemisphere, it is, quite frankly, the wrong time of year. It could be due to the fact that I lived in Dubai for four and a half years, where there weren’t any seasons. Only hot and hotter than Hades. And now my body is finally tuning in to the change of seasons again. Presenting an ideal opportunity to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff (emotionally and physically) that we lug around in order to fully embrace the coming winter season and all that implies. Which is normally to slow down, and embark on a more quiet, inward journey, taking stock of where we are and how that aligns with where we would like to go with our lives.

In addition to the physical purging of clutter, I have also signed up for the 7 Day Fall Ayurveda Detox with Yoga Journal, starting on 12 September. The detox involves the following 4 steps: step 1 – slowing down and reducing stress; step 2 – following a detox diet consisting of ayurvedic foods specific to my dosha; step 3 – practising daily cleansing yoga; and step 4 – self-study or svadhyaya. I will blog a little bit more about Ayurveda in later posts, but in short, it is the ancient Hindu system of health and medicine, which approaches healing in a holistic manner.

If you are feeling inspired to join the detox, you can sign up here on Yoga Journal’s website to receive daily yoga practices, recipes and tips on how to make the best of your detox experience throughout the week. It’s completely free to sign up and a fantastic way to get your body and mind ready for winter.

Coming up against your edge

You’re likely to hear or to have heard this phrase many times in a yoga class: ‘Find your edge.’ So where is your ‘edge’ exactly? I would say it’s that place where you start feeling uncomfortable. Where you’re ‘gently’ being persuaded to become present. Your muscles, both those of the body and of the mind are being stretched in new ways. You can hear Dorothy saying: ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.’ Yes, welcome to the very frontier of your comfort zone. What do we do when we’re in this place of extreme agitation, irritation, fear or discomfort? Our practice offers us a safe place from which to explore this unchartered territory. We can use these lessons we learn in our yoga practice and apply it to our lives.

Case in point. I went on a little bicycle trip for 3 days this week in the countryside of Catalonia to Ripoll and Olot. On the second day, I had to cycle uphill for 7 km. To put you in the picture, I haven’t really spent any serious time on a bicycle, since my impromptu Cape Argus 109 km Cycle Tour in 1998. You could say I came up against my edge in a big way after the 2nd kilometer going up. I had to get off my bike and push it up the mountain for the next 5. I just couldn’t do it. My legs felt like jelly, it was hot, my heart was pumping in my chest and my breath was at this point not yogic. Closer to hyperventilation. I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of my surroundings; I was way out there in the Wild West of my comfort zone. And I had to remind myself of something I repeat often in class, really it’s the most basic of the pranayama practices, which is to just focus on the breath, on inhaling and exhaling through the nose. To come back into the moment and override the crazed panic-induced mental state that says you’re going to self-destruct if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing right now!

Needless to say, I made it. But it reinforced for me in a big way how our minds have this incredible power of setting boundaries for us. Measuring out our little gilded cage in which we feel we can cope with life. And how it is really important to go against this urge to live a so-called ‘safe’ life. If we don’t challenge our minds and our bodies, we don’t have the opportunity to grow and expand spiritually and it’s impossible to live our lives to the fullest.

Summer Hibiscus Tea

Although we have been having unusually cool weather for July in Barcelona, I predict that things will change next month and that the heat will be on. A great alternative to drinking water during the summer, is to chill your favourite tea or herbal infusion and drink that instead. One of my favourite herbal teas to drink cold is Hibiscus tea, which I first discovered through my dear Mexican friend, Chio. Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Turn off the heat and then add the Hibiscus petals to the water and leave to steep for 15 or 20 minutes. You don’t need a huge amount of petals, but the water should turn an amazing ruby-red colour. If you would like to sweeten it slightly, you can add honey or stevia at this point and then pour it into pitchers or bottles through a sieve. When it has cooled, store it inside the fridge and enjoy! It has a lovely fruity taste.

Aside from Mexico, it is also popular in many other countries around the world and has the following super-powers which people experience from drinking 1 – 3 cups daily:

  1. reduces high blood pressure
  2. lowers high cholesterol levels
  3. is rich in Vitamin C and helps to prevent and fight infections
  4. is a mild diuretic, which helps expel toxins from the body and decreases bloating
  5. has antioxidants which provide cardiovascular benefits
  6. helps with weight-loss by affecting the way the body absorbs carbohydrates and fats
  7. keeps the body’s bladder function healthy and prevents constipation
  8. helps alleviate mild depression

As always, there are side-effects, and people who suffer from high blood pressure, need to consult their doctor, before commencing with the tea as part of their treatment. Women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or on hormone replacement therapy should not drink Hibiscus tea, as it affects the hormone function of the body. Also be sure to drink the tea of the red Hibiscus flower, as there are many varieties and not all of them have been studied.

So what’s so great about yoga?

I got into yoga for the same reason that many people are first drawn to the practice. I had been living with this dull, chronic pain in my upper back for years and I simply had to try something, anything to find some relief from it. Although I had known about yoga, and had always been curious about trying it out, it wasn’t until my physiotherapist urged me to try it in earnest, that I finally did. And this is how I ended up in a little Iyengar yoga studio in Cape Town. At this point, I would like you to imagine that the sky opened up and I heard divinely beautiful music and I had a big ‘Aha-moment’, because of course that’s exactly how it went down. Yes, because for the first time in years, there was an immense feeling of relief and openness and freedom in my body. And then incredibly, the same thing also started happening first to my mind and then to my spirit. So after almost 13 years of practice, I have finally figured out that this is the ‘hook’, or the ‘addiction’ of a yoga practice. That for many of us, we know that we have this practice available to us where we can return to that place where we are free from suffering, on a physical and mental level. And where we can connect with our true nature, which if we were to be honest, is a totally divine, joyous and cool place to be hanging out on any given day.