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Thursday 21 July 2016

Practicing Yoga During a Heatwave

I often wonder what other countries think about us Brits in summer; the second we get any continental weather we really seem to struggle! I tend to go on the principle that as hot weather is such a rarity that I refuse to complain, but it can be uncomfortable to say the least. Whilst we can strategically open windows at night and keep curtains closed all day long, certain aspects of our day -particularly anything involving movement -can be difficult. Runs become an early morning affair, gym and studio air con is a must, but what about home yoga practice? Trying to lunge into a deep stretch whilst your tight leggings are gripping to your sweaty skin is hardly the most zen of experiences. However, the last thing that I want to do is let my yoga practice slip during a heat wave -if anything, it makes me want to practice even more! Beachside yoga anyone? I've complied my top suggestions for keeping your yoga flowing during the heat, with some tips that can also be applied to any home workout.

Start Early
Traditionally, Sun Salutations are supposed to be practiced at or before dawn anyway (see my guest post all about it here), so setting your alarm back to first light -or as close to it as you can manage - lets you both connect with tradition and avoid the heat. Start gently to let your body wake up whilst enjoying the early morning sunshine. Keep a glass of warm water or herbal tea to the side to keep you hydrated, then after Shavasana have a well deserved breakfast!

Tips for practicing yoga and doing workouts when it's hot. Via @eleanormayc

Check your Wardrobe
In hot weather, my usual go-top thick, opaque leggings no longer cut it. Instead, I opt for shorts, thinner leggings (try Teeki, Dharma Bums and Liquido Active) or my Bohemian Island harem pants. These light fabrics don't impart movement and let your skin breath. Wear a thin fitted vest (floaty tops that don't stay up when in downward dog are just too annoying!) or rock the yoga bra on it's own.

Tips for practicing yoga and doing workouts when it's hot. Via @eleanormayc

Embrace the Heat
Yoga has come from a country known for its hot climate and you may well have also practiced hot yoga far above average UK temperatures. Instead of trying to avoid the heat, go with it and enjoy the benefits of the raised temperatures on helping your muscles to relax and stretch. Just remember not to jump straight into a deep splits before you've warmed up and prepared you muscles for it!

Take it Slow
Instead of trying to keep up with your normal Vinyasa routine, try a more yin-style class. Slow down your routine and enjoy holding and surrendering into postures, holding for a few deep breaths or even a few minutes. This is a more gentle way of utilising the heat to relax into stretches, and will leave you feeling lighter and more comfortable post-practice.

Tips for practicing yoga and doing workouts when it's hot. Via @eleanormayc

Skip the Ice
Iced drinks and sticking your toes into a bowl of cold water may feel amazing initially, but they can send signals to your brain that your body is cold, resulting in your body employing methods to warm you back up again -leaving you even hotter. Try to keep your drinks closer to room temperature , or at least not completely ice cold. You'll feel much more refreshed this way, but don't let this tip stop you from enjoying a cheeky ice cream now and then!

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Monday 18 July 2016

Wellness Routine | Five things I do in a Morning for a Great Day

Being someone without regular job hours -between being a student and holiday work, I never know what to expect -it is pretty important to me to cultivate a sense of routine to my mornings. I try and work in healthy habits that set me up for the day. Having a fairly regular morning really makes a difference to my day and ensures that I don't spend all day in my pyjamas doing nothing, or rushing to work last minute. If your mornings go by in a mad rush, I've broken my AM's down into five key tips, which you may wish to adopt to help improve the rest of your day.

1. Wake up Early, and Consistently
The earlier I can wake up (comfortably! I need eight hours sleep) the better I feel. It gives me more time in my morning to get all my jobs and such done in a more relaxed fashion. At the moment I aim for around 6:30, but I'd love to be one of those people who could raise with ease before 6. However, as I get to bed for between 10:30 and 11 in the evening, so any sooner than that and I wouldn't be getting enough sleep.

2. Start Fresh
I know it's a cliche, but I love to start my day with lemon water. I chop up half a lemon, some ginger and maybe turmeric and pop them in to my teapot for a few refreshing cups to wake me up, caffeine-free. It's essential for starting the day with plenty of hydration, so that even if I don't get to drink enough later, I've already had some liquid in. I'm trying to get into the habit of oil pulling whilst I'm making my lemon water. I was sent some sachets of Cocowhite* coconut oil formulated for oil pulling to try, which are handily portioned up already. Whilst it is a bit of a luxury item -you can just use a jar of coconut oil or olive oil to the same effect -it does mean that I can pop the sachet of oil at my bedside to remind me to take it, and it is also great for oil pulling whilst travelling.

3. Stretch
Although ideally I would start my day with an hour's yoga practice before breakfast, in reality this doesn't often work out. However, I do really try to start with a few Sun Salutations, and I have been quite converted to tapping and shaking (see here). I feel so much better about my day when it starts this way, and is a really good thing to do if you spend your day sitting down. If you start your day with a workout, schedule five or ten minutes to stretch at the end of your sweat session.

4. Have a Balanced Meal
Although there's nothing wrong with having a delayed breakfast or brunch if you're not hungry first thing, making sure that I have a balanced breakfast that contains fats, proteins and ideally some veg keeps me going all morning. Smoothies and porridges are my go-to, but I love my avocado on toast or eggs for a savoury start to the day. It's nice to hang fire on breakfast until after I have done some some yoga or the gym, although in the case of when I go to the gym before work, that doesn't happen. For super early starts, a green smoothie with added fats and proteins, such as chia seeds, peanut or almond butter and a bit of protein powder or Greek yoghurt are perfect for sticking in my bag to have later.

5. Take a Few Minutes
This is possibly the hardest part of my morning to implement, but having a few minutes away from social media and the internet to enjoy my breakfast mindfully or read makes mornings feel so much calmer and enjoyable. It's been slightly compromised at the moment by fitting in a few minutes of German practice on my phone, but at least it's still slightly better than mindless scrolling of Facebook!

*Donotes PR sample. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The Cocowhite tooth whitening oil sachets were kindly sent to me by Holland and Barrett.


Monday 11 July 2016

Cricket Flour: Food of the Future or Freaky Trend?

You've probably heard it mentioned in TV documentaries and internet article, but the latest superfood, with added shock factor and persuasively called "the food of the future" is insects. Specifically crickets. Although crickets, locusts, ants and many other six-legged arthropods have been eaten in many cultures across the world (with 2.5 billion people** thought to be regularly consuming them), the thought of insect-based foods, in any incarnation, tends to send those of us in more western cultures retching and running for the hills. Considering that we have evolved to be wary of the unknown, it is understandable -that's why crustaceans and shellfish can be off-putting, even in a society where these foods are eaten, albeit less often than conventional meats. However, the growing demand to produce protein sources that take up less water, food and energy has resulted in insect production becoming a potential solution to that problem -a solution that has been backed by the UN.

Although not technically even vegetarian, crickets may seem to be a more ethical choice, with the adult lifespan of a cricket being just a few days or weeks, and the crickets themselves being lower -or less intelligent and complex -lifeforms. Of course, that isn't to say that as a consequence the crickets lives don't matter, but it is something to consider.

In terms of mass production, the biggest obstacle is probably the way in which the cricket is sold. Attempting to eat a cricket that still looks as it does when it was alive can be somewhat off-putting, and so grinding the crickets up into a flour is a more palatable option as well as more versatile. Said to have a mild, nutty flavour, cricket flour can partially replace conventional flour when making recipes. More delicate recipes such as baking cakes may not turn out so well with large amounts of cricket flour being used, whereas recipes that use flour as a binder -such as my aubergine power balls -can probably take a little bit more of the cricket flour.

One of the easiest ways to use cricket flour is in making energy or proteins bars, and there are already a few brands selling them. SENS bar*, a soon-to-be-released line of cricket flour-based food, sent me their energy and protein bars to try. The energy bars are based on dates as the primary ingredient, followed by cricket flour, with fibre-rich psyllium husks reducing a blood sugar spiked. The protein bars have nearly three times as much cricket flour as the energy bars, alongside sesame seeds or peanuts and cocoa butter. I found that the protein bars were noticeably drier and less flavoursome than the energy bars -perhaps one to eat alongside a drink -but neither made me feel as though I was eating insects, which was a relief!

So far I've been looking at cricket flour and insect production on primarily an environmental level, but how much good does it do you? Initially, the high protein content seems great, but as it is still undergoing testing and evaluation by the food standards agency, we don't actually know how well our bodies can synthesis it. Currently, the fungus Fustarium venenatum -more commonly known as Quorn -is the top vegetarian/non meat protein source**. Concerns regarding the consumption of insects (and other arthropods such as scorpions) includes the risk of consuming venom, foreign proteins causing allergic reactions, and allergens present in the insect feed causing allergic reactions. At the present, people with allergies to shellfish are recommended not to try insects and cricket flour until there has been further studies analysed and published.

The good thing about cricket flour is that as a pure, single ingredient product, risk of reactions are easier to monitor, and crickets do not produce venom. So as long as you feel as though you aren't at risk of any reactions due to allergies or poor digestion, I personally don't see any reason why you shouldn't try cricket flour (although please do your own research of course!). At the present, insects are defined as a "novel food" and require further research and studies. So although the jury is still currently out, spending you pennies on an insect protein bar, or buying your own flour, you can get a taste of what may well be the food of the future, and help to fund research. I may not be quite ready to look a locust in the eye before eating it, or sprinkle ants over my Pad Thai as a colleague did,  but there may well be a place in my pantry for cricket flour.

So where can you get your hands on insect products if you're ready to try entomophagy? Beyond SENS bars, you can buy the flour from independent online retailers such as Cricket Flours or Amazon. If you don't feel like doing the work yourself, there are also a few insect restaurants starting to pop up, such as the Grub Kitchen in Pembrokeshire.

* Denotes PR sample. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to SENS bar for the samples, and for causing me to finally have a look into this current topic!
** Source

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Thursday 7 July 2016

Class Guide | Yoga in Oxford

In this new series I'll be recommending yoga classes and studios in cities and towns, based on my own experience and local insider knowledge. If you know of any yoga studios that deserve some recognition, let me know!

Thanks to visiting Stuart at least once a term I have had the opportunity to try a few yoga classes out from around the city of Oxford. Despite not being a huge city, Oxford has a lot going on, with two universities -one of which being the oldest and one of the most prestigious in the country -tourists, shopping centres, independent businesses and a whole lot of culture. For an out of the city, alternative location, you have two main options: Summertown, the highly desirable area to the north of the city, and Cowley, a more cosmopolitan and student-y area. Whilst not strictly related to yoga, if you do find yourself near Summertown you have to try the Modern Baker, an organic bakery, shop and cafe that sells delicious and healthy baked goods and all the latest whole foods, including items from Rude Health, Pip and Nut and Primrose's Kitchen. Although the main yoga studio in Summertown has shut down, Kristine Homoki, who teaches a beautiful Core Strength Vinyasa class teaches at Wolfson College on Wednesday evenings. Core Strength Yoga is a form of yoga pioneered by Sadie Nardini, who is definitely a yoga rockstar.

In Cowley, you have a variety of organic shops and holistic wellbeing centres that offer yoga, but the main place to go is Yoga Venue. A purpose-built studio with a hot room and Vinyasa room, Yoga Venue has lots of room for it's packed schedule. The Vinyasa classes are based on Green Lotus Yoga, a strengthening and mindful form of yoga. However, you can also find Bikram-inspired classes, Fierce Grace, restorative and Jivamukti amongst others. I checked in for a 7am Vinyasa class that although officially unheated, was held in the insulated hot yoga room and the heat from a class full of of yogis soon had me sweating and flowing into poses, perfect for starting the day.

Closer to the city centre, you have Yoga Quota and Sweaty Betty. Yoga Quota is located above the popular Turl Street Kitchen and is a great charitable company -for every 50 people who pay for a class, a free class is taught to an underprivileged group. Yoga Quota's main classes are Vinyasa and a Baptise-inspired flow. There's a gentle class on a Saturday in case you find yourself nursing a sore head, and newly launched is Yin and Tonic, a restorative yin class with adjustments and massage built in to the class. It sounds amazing and I would love to try it! I recommended Yoga Quota to a friend whilst she was in the throws of revision and she ordered herself a yoga mat straight afterwards.

Sweaty Betty is great for trying a variety of classes, and is one of the least expensive options out there -if you're a Sweaty Betty member you can go to their Saturday Vinyasa class for free. There's also Ashtanga and Kundalini yoga on offer, alongside pilates, barre and circuit training for something a little bit different. Just beware spending more than you planned when you pass through the Sweaty Betty shop!

I hope this helps you should you find yourself in Oxford -what other cities would you like to know about?



Monday 4 July 2016

Join Me | Meditation Challenge

We all know that we should meditate, but it isn't always the easiest thing to get into a habit of. I have always had an awareness of meditation, being introduced to mindfulness by my parents in my early teens, but it is only recently that I've started to get into any kind of habit with it. For the real benefits of meditation to be felt, regular exercise is required, so to properly buck up my half hearted practice I joined up to Mala Collective's latest meditation challenge. It came just at the right time as I've been a bit busy and run down lately. I've had a couple of amazing weekends away, at the Health Blog Awards and at my boyfriend's Commemoration Ball in Oxford, but it's meant that that life has been a bit non-stop recently. It seems a bit silly to be talking about being tired and overwhelmed after writing a blog post about using yoga and wellbeing techniques to combat stress and burnout, but there you go. Practicing what I preach is, of course, central to Green+Aquamarine, but I'm not perfect and sometimes life catches up with you unexpectedly. I've made some practical solutions to look after myself, such as swapping shifts to have two days off in a row and ensuring that I get plenty of yoga done, even at the expense of gym sessions. However, following a guided meditation series has really helped me to start back at square one and make time for just ten minutes of quality self-love.

Meditation has both physical and mental benefits. Blood pressure can be reduced with regular practice, and the effects of combating stress by increasing serotonin and decreasing cortisol help to improve the immune system and boost energy. Moreover, these effects can help those with anxiety, reduce tension-related pain such as headaches and increase your creativity, intuition and happiness (source). Taking this time to step back in with yourself and reconnect is so important, and I love how many of my yoga teachers incorporate meditation in their classes as well as the end Shavasana.

Getting started with a meditation practice can be tricky though. Generally, I find popping on a timer for ten minutes and focusing on my breath, or counting my way through mala beads helps. However, for building up a regular practice, I have found guided meditation so helpful, as it aids you in setting a focus and builds up all the key points to a successful meditation practice. As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have been using Mala Collective's week-long challenge, all lead by the calming Natalie Rousseau. However, there are lots of other guided meditations out there. The Independent listed their ten best meditation apps, including one to help you sleep, and Mind Body Green has a course of five guided meditations that should help get you started.

I would love for you to join me on my journey into making meditation part of mine and your routine. Sign up to one of the guided meditations, or go it alone and try practicing for a few minutes every day of a week and tell me how you found it. Remember to get in a comfortable position on the floor or a chair (sit on a cushion or block if you're sat cross-legged to avoid aches). Without forcing anything, take deep breaths, and make a mantra if you wish. Then let me know in the comments below or on Instagram how you found it!

Namaste x