Featured Graduate: Colette

Ahead of our next YogaLondon Charity Class on Friday 10th March, we spoke to Colette, who will be leading the session. Colette’s yoga journey has taken her from being part of the Cirque Du Soleil, traveling the world, to now teaching yoga alongside being a mum.  Read on for more! 

YogaLondon: What is your favourite thing about practising yoga?

Colette:  I love mostly all parts of practicing yoga. I particularly like working on my flexibility, going deeper into postures and finding space within my body and mind.  Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 17.14.06

YL: What brought you to yoga? What was your life like before yoga and what got you into it?

Colette:  As a former Cirque Du Soleil Principle Aerialist, I have been fortunate enough to travel much of the world performing at numerous shows and events.  Along the way I practiced yoga on and off, which has always helped to keep me grounded and balanced.  As well as being an aerialist, I am embarking on a new journey in my life as a yoga teacher, where I take great pleasure in sharing with others the many techniques and forms of the body that have been taught to me over the years.

YL: What made you choose a YogaLondon teacher training?

Colette: After a lot of researching, I did a Try Us evening taster class with YogaLondon which I really enjoyed and confirmed to me that YogaLondon teacher training was the one for me.  It felt right and I could fit it into my schedule alongside being a mummy and working.

->>Book onto our Charity Class on 10th March here<<-

YL: How was transitioning from yoga student to yoga teacher?

Colette:  Thankfully everything seemed to all fall in place naturally for me as I began teaching half way through the course.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 17.25.34

YL: What was the hardest moment in your journey to become a yoga teacher? What’s your best memory?

Colette: I found the Sanskrit language hard to absorb.  One of my favourite memories was on the course during teaching practice when I found my voice when giving verbal adjustments and instructions, it felt so good and I was proud of myself.

YL: What advice would you give yourself before you became a yoga teacher?

Colette: To set aside enough time for yoga homework.

YL: What can we find you doing now? Do you have any projects on the go? What’s the dream?

Colette: One step at a time, I go with the flow.  I run a weekly class within a large corporate building within the City of London. Hopefully more coming soon!

YL: What should people expect when they come to your class?

Colette:  Everyone is welcome from complete beginners to experienced yogis. Beginners that come to my classes can expect me to be patient and experienced yogis can expect to be stretched to the limits!!

I hope to bring more than just a handstand, bringing the mind body and soul together and helping people to be the best that they can be both physically and mentally.

->>Book onto our Charity Class on 10th March here<<-

Foods To Eat For Heart Health

Once thought as the seat of emotions and intelligence, the heart has always been a recurring topic of discussion in the search for a better understanding of the body. Here nutritionist and yogi Elisa Pineda looks at the foods we can eat for maximum heart health. 

Image Credit: Volkon Olmez via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Volkon Olmez via Unsplash.

We now know that alongside the heart’s real function of pumping blood around the body also sits the absorption of nutrients and oxygen assimilation, both of which are essential for life. 

These vital functions can be disrupted because of your lifestyle choices. Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Every year, 17.3 million people die as a result. It is expected that by 2030, 23.6 million people will die because of it. However, heart disease is preventable!

One of the main factors that can lead to heart disease (as well as tobacco use, being sedentary, and a high intake of alcohol) is an unbalanced diet. What you eat can make a difference in the prevention of heart disease and the maintenance of your heart health.

How To Eat For Heart Health: 

1. Reduce Your Salt Intake:

One of the greatest threats to your heart health is processed food and its high sodium content.  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) your intake of sodium should be less than 2g a-day of sodium, or what is equivalent to 5g of salt a day for adults.

Salt can be hidden in most processed, packaged foods and even every day foods (see below). Whilst salt is good for preserving food and boosting its flavour (even of sweets and desserts), it can be highly addictive.  

However, just as your tongue can become easily accustomed to salty foods, a gradual decrease in the salt you consume can help you improve your savouring and enjoyment and give your health a boost.

Be mindful of which foods you need to watch out for due to their high salt content:

  • A store-bought veggie burger can contain 398 milligrams of sodium; around 20% of your daily allowance (DA) of salt already in one go.
  • A ½-cup serving of tomato sauce contains around 642 milligrams of sodium, 30% of your daily allowance.
  • 2 Tbsp of your salad dressing can contain more sodium than in an entire bag of crisps: 260 mg per serving, 13 % of your DA.
  • Pitta bread contains a heavy dose of sodium: 284 milligrams in just one piece (14% DA).
  • Cottage cheese contains 270 milligrams of sodium, more than 255 milligrams of sodium, which is the amount you’ll find in a one, ½-ounce packet of crisps (13% DA).

See more about salt here.

2. Trans Fat

Trans-fat can be found in animal sources and in partial hydrogenation of unsaturated vegetable oils, which are present in many processed foods. Including trans-fat in your diet can increase your bad cholesterol whilst too much of it can also lower your good cholesterol. What’s more, scientific studies such as this one by the World Heart Federation have shown that trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease. 

3. Dental Health Also Matters For Your Heart

A diet rich in meat and sugars can lead to the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth or dental plaque. Studies have suggested that lack of healthy dental habits could lead to the migration of oral bacteria into the bloodstream which could injure major organs, therefore increasing the risk of heart disease. To avoid this, it’s as simple as washing your teeth after every meal.

Eat More Of These Foods To Protect Your Heart:

Whole grains

Image Credit: Haaijk via Flickr.
Image Credit: Haaijk via Flickr.

Previous studies have indicated that whole-grain intake can protect you from heart disease, thanks to whole grains being so rich in fibre. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

Most foods rich in fibre contain some of both. Fibre does more than take care of your digestion; it can also improve your heart’s health, by reducing your brad cholesterol.  Science suggests that fibre can bind to cholesterol in the digestive system, taking it out off your body’s system by binding with its particles and inhibiting its absorption into your digestive system.  

Good fats

Fatty fish and fish oils are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some nuts and seeds as well as plant oils like canola, flaxseed and walnuts also contain omega-3. Clinical trials suggest that people at risk of heart disease can benefit from including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids into their diets.

Colours

The colour in each fruit and vegetable represents different type of micronutrients that can be heart-saving. Loaded with antioxidants including phytochemicals (plant compounds that have protective or disease preventative qualities), flavonoids, fibre and potassium, fruits and vegetables are an indispensable aid in the fight against heart disease. 

According to the WHO, a daily intake of at least 400g of fruit and vegetables is recommended. Just as a note of caution if you take statins – which are cholesterol-lowering drugs – be aware that grapefruit products may interfere with the drug’s action.

Image Credit: Jamie Street via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Jamie Street via Unsplash.

A balanced, colourful and diverse diet is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from heart disease. Avoid foods rich in salt and balance them out or even replace them with foods rich in potassium like fruits and vegetables. Instead of going for processed, packaged foods go for fresh, less processed options, such as nuts and seeds rich in omega-3. Through a hearty and balanced diet you can go a long way along the path of heart disease prevention.

Featured Graduate: Susy Galante

After a booked-out charity yoga class at the beginning of the month, we’re very excited to be hosting our second one on 17th February! Led by YogaLondon graduate Susy Galante, we’ll be donating all proceeds to the wonderful Medicins Sans Frontieres.  Read on to find out more on Susy’s yoga teaching journey…

YogaLondon (YL): What brought you to yoga?

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 14.02.23Susy Galente: My dad had been practising yoga for almost ten years when I stepped into my first yoga class. I was 27 and I asked him to go with me for the taster class. After that I decided to start the yoga journey and…I never stopped!

After ten years myself, my teacher suggested that I think about starting a yoga teacher training. I had already planned to move to London and I thought it was the perfect moment to leave everything behind and turn the page.

I was working in a company as an executive assistant when I applied for the yoga teacher training with Yoga London.  I perfectly remember the day they said ‘YES’! My heart was full of joy, it was the best gift I could give to myself.  

YL: What made you choose a YogaLondon teacher training? 

The timing, schedule, subjects and location were so perfect. The team that contacted me were so nice, supportive and loving. I had the feeling that it was a very good school and after my training I can say that I was right!

YL: How was transitioning from yoga student to yoga teacher?

Well, it’s something that I realised along the way. At the beginning I thought I wouldn’t be able to teach yoga in another language. I am Italian and I was really concerned about learning and teaching yoga in English. Now I can say that teaching yoga has settled inside of me day by day.

One day I realised I could do it with no problems!

>>>Sign Up To Our 17th Feb Charity Class Here<<<

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 14.03.45YL: What was the hardest moment and your best memory in your journey to become a yoga teacher?

The hardest moment was at the beginning. I had a lot of ups and downs. It’s a very emotional journey. It digs into the most intimate layers of yourself, through yourself and transforms you. The transition is always exciting but also hard to deal with even if you know it will have a happy ending.

The best memory is when I realised that I wanted to be a yoga teacher, that I was on the right path. I wrote a Post-It and put it on a wall in my house; it says: “I will bring yoga into others’ hearts”. And now I am doing it!

YL: What advice would you give yourself before you became a yoga teacher?

Be authentic and gentle with yourself: yoga is a personal journey.

Be humble with others: teaching yoga is a privilege and I will honour it.

YL: What can we find you doing now? Do you have any projects on the go? What’s the dream?

My dream is to have my own studio, one day. I have few projects here in London, private and group classes but also professional partnership. I believe in the power of connections!

I always say: a long journey starts from the very first step.

YL: What should people expect when they come to your class?

I have studied Hatha and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and created my unique style. You will learn the Primary Series from Ashtanga, moving into a more meditative and introspective practice from Hatha.

When I decided to attend the Yoga Teacher Training my wish was to bring yoga into others’ hearts. I wanted to touch the soul and the inner parts of  others; to allow them to discover the beauty of themselves: that’s what I would like to bring to people coming to my class.

Thanks Susy, we can’t wait!

>>>Sign Up To Our 17th Feb Charity Class Here<<<

Tapas New Year!

New Year’s Resolutions, remember those? We’re a month into 2017 already, approaching the point where good intentions might be starting to ebb. So here’s how the yogic practice of tapas, the yogic ethos of ‘fiery cleansing’, can re-energise your efforts to bring your aspirations to fruition, and invigorate you, inside out.

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. And maybe allow those small plates of delicious Spanish food to take a side step for a moment… (you can have them back later) while we look at how an ancient yogic practice can help bring you closer to realising your highest self.

New Year, Same Old You?

Image Credit: Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash.

The start of a new year is always a seductive prospect. Our collective faith in self-betterment usually has our minds whirring in early January, as we find ourselves either inspired to venture out bravely into a dry, cigarette- or meat-free month, make to-do lists, bucket lists, life-goal lists… or, fatigued by the constant pressure to improve on last year, resolving to make no resolutions at all and just continue on our own course, finding our own way. For those of us with self-reflexive tendencies, the start of a new year can be a perplexing time. Most of us want to move forwards and do our best; to be, discover, experience more. The real challenge for us all is making solid, sustainable, long-term positive choices. This is where tapas can help.

So, What Can Yoga Offer Us?

Undoubtedly a yoga practice can help you see more clearly where you are and where you want to be. Whilst self-acceptance in one’s present state usually has to form some part of any initiative to change, there is also a healthy vim and vigour to be found in really working for it, an energy and drive that can help maintain your momentum for those times when the going gets tough. Known for its thorough advice on how to follow a self-transformative path, the Yoga Sutras refers to this kind of energy as tapas.

Patatas Bravas Aside, What Is Tapas?

Tapas is one of the five Niyamas, or observances, which can, if adhered to, lead to personal development at a profound level. Some see it as an integral, ongoing step on a yogi or yogini’s spiritual journey. Tapas translates literally as ‘self-discipline’, ‘right effort’, or ‘internal fire’, and there is also a connotation of cleansing to it. It is through tapas that we find the energy required to change undesirable habits, adopt better ones, and see more clearly the truth of our lives amidst the (beautiful) craziness.

Different people will interpret it differently, but broadly speaking, tapas is a kind of resolve that runs deeper than any individual resolution – it is much more about attitude than result. Part of the wisdom of tapas teaches us that if you focus on cultivating the necessary mindset, habits and practices to achieve a particular goal, (rather than getting hung up on the goal itself), you are much more likely to evolve sustainably towards it.

So What Does Tapas Involve?

Image Credit: Dave Contrerast via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Dave Contrerast via Unsplash.

Tapas involves willingness to work, enthusiasm, commitment and a sense of momentum to carry you through the ‘fiery cleansing’ which is its process. And of course the hard work itself. We might first of all think of this happening on the mat – through steamy vinyasas, perhaps, or long holds in challenging asanas.

The primary meaning of tapas, however, does not refer to work done on the mat, but work done internally, on the self. But given that the philosophy of yoga always plays out on the mat, we start to see that our attitudes in our asana practice are fundamentally part of our lives, just as our words and actions off the mat are part of our yoga practice. If we are willing to work; if we are enthusiastic; committed and conscientious in our practice, we may become so in life. And vice versa.

So How Do You Embody Tapas?

In the Yoga Sutras, tapas is presented as a method by which to purify the self of behaviours that inhibit us from living as well as we might. It’s worth noting that tapas is not a highway to achieving worldly goods, prestige, or any kind of life hack or shortcut at all – that is not what is meant by ‘living well’ here – but it is a route to inner contentment through the application of earnest effort.

Tapas can be hugely powerful – it can change lives. In fact we might even say that making resolutions without tapas is a highway to nowhere – because unless we understand that the impetus for change must come from a place of deep willingness within, we sign ourselves up to the disappointment that usually is the result of externally sought change, either through desire alone; envy; fantasy; or a mix of all three.

There Are Boundaries

Tapas sits within the context of the Yamas and the other Niyamas, of course, which keep things in perspective. It’s all too easy for that fiery energy to get a little aggressive, especially if you’re a feisty type of person. Like anything, an excess of tapas isn’t good for you. Tapas can cease to be beneficial when one’s resolve to change comes from a place of hatred or violence towards oneself.

If you’re thinking ‘I must change because I am fundamentally not good enough as I am, or as I perceive myself to be’, and you pursue change aggressively as a way to punish the self you undervalue in its present state, you violate the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence.

You also stop being true to yourself (satya) and limit your capacity to practice contentment with your lot (santosa). In the grand scheme, you undercut yourself thinking this way, and your goals shrink further away onto the horizon. So the preparation for Tapas, you could say, then, is acceptance, truth, kindness towards oneself, from which threshold the power to transform is almost without limit.

What Does Tapas Look Like?

Image Credit: Blake Lisk via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Blake Lisk via Unsplash.

Tapas on the mat and tapas in your life are non-separable.  Part of it is looking for the opportunities with which your life and your yoga present you in which you might practice it. Tapas looks like not giving up in the face of discomfort.

Tapas is being able to delay gratification by diminishing impulsive reactions which could threaten an overarching ambition. Tapas is seeking truth within oneself, committing to yoga’s request for self-study (svadhyaya) and then committing to letting that truth (satya) govern your interactions with others.

Tapas is having the guts to be really honest with yourself, the courage to stick to positive intentions arising out of that honesty, and then working to the best of your ability with respect for yourself and all beings to act in accordance with your positive intentions.

What Are The Rewards?

One way of looking at tapas is to see it as a process by which we can find our common humanity – life challenges us all, regardless of who we are. So if we as individuals can commit to living as well as we can – in earnest and with respect for the experience of all beings – we are also committing to living to the best of our ability for the collective.

This brings us to a kind of tapas known as sattvic tapas, which is where the practice of tapas starts to fall away from the ego’s attachment to results, and funnily enough is where the best ‘results’ may to be found. Sattvic tapas, which we feel when we feel connected, becomes a unifying kind of effort, which itself transforms the experience of hard graft into something joyful.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s commentaries on the Yoga Sutras call on the image of a lake to make this point. There are so many tiny waves on the surface of the lake; if each wave thinks of itself independently, it is being foolish and isolationist, because all waves rise and subside into each other only a short while later. If we think of consciousness in similar terms, individual lives occur as waves through an ocean, each rising briefly before falling back into the rest.

To practice sattvic tapas, then, is to work and yet to find solace in the knowledge that you are working with everyone else. When we work together and in the true spirit of tapas – with commitment, energy, honesty, and with fire in our bellies – anything is possible.

So much of it comes down to how you frame things, to your perspective. So instead of making a series of difficult-to-keep New Year’s resolutions, why not allow 2017 to be a year of tapas? Perhaps that way you can have your tortilla and eat it….

Staying Healthy By Eating Seasonally This Winter

Eating seasonally is important for your health and the environment. During this winter season nature produces food that contains the exact nutrients that your body requires for this time. By listening to what your body needs and eating accordingly, you will be able to protect yourself against the lethargy that often comes with winter.

Image Credit: Maria Mekht via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Maria Mekht via Unsplash.

From the New Year until the official end of winter on March 20th, you have a new opportunity to start fresh and improve your health and energy levels.

Winter is known as a particularly risky time to contracts coughs and colds, due to the increased exposure to germs from more time spent in enclosed spaces, increased use of heaters, reduced sunshine and lower temperatures. All of this means that you are more prone to a dryer respiratory system, which makes you more susceptible to illness.

An impaired immune systems will also result in you feeling lethargic and drowsy, which brings your mood down. Yet it’s not all doom and gloom! The good news is that there are plenty of ways to adjust your food and drink intake to make sure you’re fighting fit in the colder months.

How To Keep Healthy In Winter

The best way to do this is to boost your immune system naturally and power your body with nutritionally-dense foods.

During winter months we tend to naturally crave richer, warmer and heavier foods. Due to the weather conditions, there are fewer fresh fruits and vegetables available, and we tend to consume more cooked foods, teas and soups to maintain our body temperature.

Within this context it’s easy to fall for sugary drinks and snacks, yet keeping consumption to a minimum will help you feel good. To avoid these cravings it is crucial to balance your diet and include seasonal produce.

Small changes are all that’s required – check these six foods that you can cut out of your diet, and see which healthier ones you can replace them with to improve your health:

 

6 Healthy Food Choices For Winter

Cut Out: Hot Sugary Drinks

Caramel lattes, mochas, hot chocolates, hot mulled fruits and chais from your usual coffee shop are all shockingly high in sugar. Most of these drinks can contain up to 25 teaspoons of refined sugar! These are one of the most common temptations you can encounter and one of the greatest diet mistakes you can make during the winter months. With their high amount of sugar and a lack of nutritious input for our bodies, going for these drinks will spike your blood glucose level and then bring it crashing down. You’ll feel sleepy and groggy after drinking them and you’ll be hungrier sooner than you expect, which could result in you eating more than your body needs.

Go For: Hot Cocoa

You can still retain the enjoyment and warm comfort of a hot drink by going for pure cocoa powder. Adding a few tablespoons with a dash of cinnamon and ginger to a hot cup of almond milk means you’ll get a protein-balanced drink. You’ll also receive the anti-inflammatory benefits of ginger and the glucose-absorption properties of cinnamon. Cheers!

Cut Out: Pastries and Pies

A slice of warm pie and other tempting pastries seem to be an unavoidable temptation that pops up everywhere you go this season. Avoid these type of cravings and enjoy something that nourishes you and also satisfies your palette by opting for root-vegetables.

Go For: Root Vegetables

Sweet potatoes are a healthy alternative rich in fibre that digest gradually, giving you a steady source of energy. You can boil them, bake them or even place them in the microwave for a few minutes until they are tender. Add pieces of pineapple for extra sweetness, almonds for some protein and a dash of cinnamon for extra flavour.

Cut Out: Unseasonal Fruit and Vegetables

Exotic and unseasonal fruit that has travelled a long way to get to your table not only increases your carbon footprint but is also more likely to contain fewer nutrients due to its extended exposure to travel.

Nature also provides you with the specific nutrients your body needs according to each season. Going against this could make you nutrient deficient, making you more susceptible to winter sickness.

Go For: Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

Image Credit: Chloe Ridgway via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Chloe Ridgway via Unsplash.

During the winter months bite into apples, blood oranges, clementines, lemons, oranges, passion fruit, pears, pineapple, pomegranate, satsumas and tangerines which are all at their highest nutritional content during winter. Vegetables with high content Vitamin C cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are associated with enhanced immune function.

Other vegetables that are abundant this season and that contain the nutrients that you need are: beetroot, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, and turnips.

Check out this seasonal calendar to find out what type of fruits and vegetables are at their best when you go grocery shopping.

Cut Out: Creamy Soups

Creams contain a high amount of saturated fats and are usually high in sodium. This combination can make you feel heavy and drowsy.

Go For: Plain Soups

Choosing a soup over a vegetable cream can give you nourishment but also a steady level of energy to keep you mood up through the cold months. All of the seasonal vegetables can be a great addition to a hot soup with lemon and chilli for an extra touch of vitamin C.

Cut Out: Salad In A Bag

Since it is not the season for lettuce and other typical greens you may find in your usual packed salad, the nutrient content in these foods tends to be lower. As a consequence you may be obtaining a lower nutrient density in your salads.

Go For: Kale

Image Credit: Maria Mekht via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Maria Mekht via Unsplash.

Kale is one of the freshest types of produce you will find during this season. Packed with nutrients such as iron and vitamin B complex, you can add it to your salad, as a side or to your soup.

To sum up, in order to keep your energy levels up, avoid winter colds and still enjoy delicious foods, try to replace high sugary and fatty foods for less processed alternatives. Taking the time to find out what is in season and eating accordingly, will greatly benefit your body. You’ll receive all the nutrients, minerals and trace elements that your body needs at this time of the year. The environment will also benefit from you eating seasonally. So why don’t you give it a try? We’d love to hear how you get on!