On open letter to cauliflower. Ugly words, ugly fritters.

IMG_2712 Oh cauliflower why do you bore me so?

With your pasty, lumpy  motionless moonface. You don't sway your leaves in the vegepatch or even attract the caterpillars. Such is the sad miserable fate of your rotund little self.

Does anyone get passionate about your ho-hum beige-ness?

You need some serious jazzing up that only a little bengali spice and a frypan can do. I apologise for the blistering baptism of oil you are about to endure. Nevermind the food processor. Eeek.

I quite like you in a salad, raw and unsullied, but it's cool outside and I need some naughty in my life. Somehow I see that your bumpy, lumpy self still manages to show it's head even with all my chopping and changing.

I remember how my granny boiled you into submission served with corned beef and (I think) PVA glue. Urgh. You tasted like an old musty Tshirt that was left in the rain. I shan't be sayin' "Don't go changin."

You need some serious wrangling.

Unapologetically,

Michelle

Cauliflower bhaji

½ head cauliflower

½ cup caramelised onions

handful of spinach

handful parsley

1 clove garlic and a little knob of ginger (2cm) grated

1 tablespoon Panch Phoron (bengali spice mix) toasted

2 eggs

1 cup rye bread crumbs (you can use ordinary crumbs)

3 heaped T yogurt

salt and pepper

Grab a food processor and blitz your cauliflower into a chunky crumb.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a frypan on medium heat with a little oil (I use rice bran)

Fry on both sides until toasty and crunchy. Serve with Spinach leaves, mango chutney and minted yogurt.

 

A map for pre-menopausal moon howling.

IMG_0632 It seems like yesterday I was checking my temperature and looking for those two parallel blue lines. Reading volumes into late cycles and feeling thrilled at the slight nausea that arrived with my morning coffee.

Fast forward a decade or so and the next chapter is stirring within the delicate confines of my ovaries. A way off yet says my doctor but I hear it's whispers. Preparation is key I think.

I wasn't prepared for the eruption of maternal reverence that accompanied the birth of all three of my children. The weird paranoia (what if I drop him), the stress (what if he turns 16 and drops me), The crazy all consuming love (I have the most perfect children in the entire universe) and the horror (Please go to sleep or I'm going FREAKIN LOSE IT!!!!!!) I'd read all the books about conception, pregnancy and birth. I'd researched early developmental phases and sleep techniques, but I wasn't prepared for how I'd feel.

Same goes for menopause- information is power and I want to approach this next chapter armed with a map that will guide me both physically and spiritually. I also want to share it, which is why I teach women how to navigate this territory using yoga, meditation, visualisation, whole food, deep relaxation, women's circles, art, soft cheeses, (the occasional stiff drink), green juices, moon-howling, chocolate hoovering, crazy-making....and laughter. Women are so good at laughter.

It's powerful provocative work.

Know it young my beautiful friends. Hear the whispers in your own life so you might avoid the horrid shouting of night sweats and moods that might darken the very doorways of demon-hell-fire-houses. Use yoga to clear the way in your body for a new beginning. Opening your life to wisdom, compassion and steady strength.

Peri-menopause

Physically

The root of the word peri means around or near and in the case of peri-menopause, refers to the period of time that a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes that will eventually lead to the cessation of her monthly cycle (menopause).

Just as it takes around 4-7 years for a woman’s cycle to become balanced after her first period, peri-menopause can last for  many years. Most women transition for a period of two to seven years with a spectrum of symptoms ranging from nothing to debilitating suffering.

In the case of medically induced menopause, through cancer treatment or removal of the ovaries, women can experience a few years of symptoms condensed into a few weeks. Many suffer psychological trauma because they are unable to experience the gradual process of working through this important time.

During this process oestrogen levels remain fairly stable until the final year before menopause. Testosterone levels drop but not markedly and some women actually produce more testosterone.

The most significant change occurs with a decrease in progesterone and this accounts for most peri-menopausal symptoms. Progesterone and oestrogen are supposed to counterbalance each other during the menstrual cycle, with one falling as the other rises, so this drop in progesterone means that oestrogen levels go unopposed. The result is a whole lot of oestrogen that can lead to a whole lot of problems!

Symptoms of oestrogen dominance include mood swings, headaches, weight gain, reduced circulation, breast tenderness, bloating, irregular abnormal periods and decreased sex drive.

The ovaries slow down at this stage of our lives because reproduction is no longer a biological requirement. However it is important to know that in a healthy body, hormones are produced in body fat, skin, the brain and adrenals. Therefore we are biologically able to create balance within our changing bodies without relying on the ovaries.

The pituitary gland regulates the production of hormones within the ovaries. At peri-menopause the pituitary no longer signals the ovaries to produce hormones. In a functioning healthy body, the adrenals then produce small amounts of hormones in order to provide balance within the body. A healthy liver is necessary for processing excess hormones within the bloodstream.

If a women has experienced a lot of stress in her life it is likely her adrenal function will be impaired. If she has smoked or drank too much or eaten a diet high in processed food, her liver function is likely to be poor. Many westerners have an iodine deficiency due to iodine antagonists in the environment, this leads to problems with thyroid function.

All of this can compound to make peri-menopause a difficult transition that may require change and intervention. In this way it can become a positive motivator for nurturing ourselves and seeking to improve our health.

Spiritually

Peri-menopause can often be a confusing time for women. It is a period of reflection, adjustment and change.

Within this change, many women experience the death of an old life, old ways and old thinking. This often manifests in her disposing of what isn’t working in her life. Many women leave relationships that no longer serve them. They might radically change the dynamics within their families. They might return to the workforce and want to step out of the role of constant carer.

This can be a confronting and unsettling time as we find ourselves wanting to step out of the mothering phase of our lives. We feel guilty and sometimes resentful because we want a greater independence from our dependents! This is becoming more of an issue as we have children later in life.

This process of letting go allows us to experience the death of who we were before, so that we may ‘rebirth’ the fullness of our new self. By the same analogy, the process is not without it’s labour pains. Sometimes we need the space to grieve for what is gone.

Before we are clear on what has to go, it’s common to experience a frustrating paralysis. Unsure of what is required and feeling overwhelmed by doubt or fear. We do nothing, but an insidious discontent forces us to see things with new clarity. Our intuition hasn’t been this available to us since menarche. The universe is whispering to us, we need time and space to listen.

It’s normal to want to retreat or rest. It is required for our reclamation.

Many women are terrified by the ageing process. In our culture, we often don’t value the crone, the carrier of wisdom. Looking to other societies however this ‘change’ is one of the most exciting transitions a women can undergo.

In American indian culture women cannot become shaman until they have entered menopause. The word ‘crone’ may conjure up images of dried up old witches but in fact it comes from the word ‘crown’. As a woman reaches the pinnacle of this stage she is crowned with the jewels of her knowledge. American indian women rarely colour their hair because grey is a symbol of wisdom that is respected by both the men and women of their tribe.

The same is true for many eastern and european cultures. Australian Aborigines observe the moon cycles and teach girls about their cyclic nature. This wisdom is passed down through their maternal grandmother.

But some women are devoting their life work to changing this in our culture. We are beginning to hear the collective voices of those who went before us. We are looking for something that we have lost and we are being guided to honour our moon phases and in turn, our magic.

Women are mysterious creatures. We are governed by the moon in the same way as the ocean tides. We are cyclic and we beat in time with the rhythm of the Earth. Our cycles are intimately linked with the lunar phases. During her fertile years, many women will ovulate during the full moon. However as we approach our ‘crone’ years, entering peri-menopause, we bleed with the full moon.

By becoming aware of this cyclic relationship between ourselves and the universe, we open ourselves up to wisdom. We accept our magical connection to each other and the planet. We begin to respect our intuition. By learning to practice conscious menstruation we learn to trust our bodies and our inner-guidance to support us through our whole lives.

It is then our responsibility when we close our cycles to become elders in our community. We can serve women by passing this knowledge down the line. By promoting cyclic awareness we offer our daughters and grand-daughters a priceless gift. They too will be given the opportunity to witness their divine nature.

Peri-menopause is a time to enter your own possibility.

In honouring ourselves we learn to become Truthspeakers. As we begin this transformation we might struggle with this desire to be more authentic in our interactions. We might ‘lose our cool’ or erupt rather than being able to speak with dignity and restraint. But we are pulled into this urgent wanting to make our genuine voice heard. It’s important that we are aware of this spiritual calling so that we can make a conscious effort to observe ahimsa at this time. (and forgive ourselves when we don’t.)

We can speak with the weight of experience and the clarity of past mistakes in order to serve others.

We open ourselves up to kundalini energy. Ancient yogis believed that this is a time that the kundalini is released, cleansing the body of past trauma and burning off our ego. Anyone thats ever experienced a hot flash will have a sensual reference for this experience!

The Chinese believe that there is an increase in yang energy during peri-menopause. In our mothering phase, a woman in more yin (moist, receptive, passive) and as she enters the next phase of her life she is more yang (passionate, firey, independent). This burst of new energy gives rise to hot flashes until she settles into her new self.

One of the most difficult aspects of entering peri-menopause is the lack of support from other women. With many women so desperate to hold onto their youth, we don’t openly discuss the difficulties of this phase. We are loathe to mention our heavy bleeding or waning libido or night sweats because we’re projecting that image of the ‘thirty something’(sometimes till we’re sixty!). We don’t want to see ourselves as ‘old’.

At the other end of the spectrum are the women who have already crossed the bridge. We can certainly learn from these women but it isn’t the same as being ‘amongst your sisters’. That is why I’m drawn to this work. So that we might create opportunities to stand together and walk into wisdom.

Menopause

Physically

Menopause is declared by the medical community as twelve months after a woman’s last period. It marks the end of our reproductive cycle and means the ovaries no longer perform their primary function. We no longer release ova and we no longer shed our uterine lining each month. Once menopause is reached the symptoms of peri-menopause subside.

Spiritually

When we talk about the experience of menopause we often speak of a bridge to the other side. It’s true that whilst peri-menopause is a journey, menopause is a destination and should be celebrated.

We may appear to the world as ‘our old selves’ again but most of us are changed forever. For those of us who embrace cyclic wisdom and have crowned themselves, they are reborn into warriors, truthspeakers and wisewomen.

Pinkola Estes says it beautifully....

We may appear unchanged outwardly, but inwardly we have reclaimed a vast and womanly wildness. On the surface we are still friendly, but beneath the skin, we are most definitely no longer tame.

What ensures that we remain full juicy women as we embrace ageing, is being fully immersed in our lives. We might find meaning in ritual or reading, yoga or quilting. It doesn’t matter how we squeeze the life out of experience, it matters that we do it whilst being true to our spirit and aware of our gift to the universe.

Yoga for Hormonal Balance Workshop

Saturday 5th September

10 am- 4 pm Pine Rivers Yoga

In this workshop we will be exploring different ways to balance our hormonal cycles with yoga and meditation.

We will look for soothing antidotes to modern day life with all it’s demands and distractions. Exploring the benefits of pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and restorative yoga. We will touch on the benefits of discovering our unique rhythm and learning to work with our bodies to create a sense of balance.

Please join Michelle and Ruth in a day of nourishing yoga designed to restore and rejuvenate. We will also cover ideas for you to establish a home practice and a light vegetarian lunch will be provided.

Cost $105 including lunch Bookings please go to www.pineriversyoga.com or contact Michelle on 0430 222 274 or Ruth on 0434 775 645

 Michelle xx

 

We are free....

IMG_1187 You and I are just a whole bunch of stories.

We might think we're skin and bones and hungry bellies, but thats just another yarn we hold close. And so we should. There's some precious truth in that tale after all, us being of the flesh and full of life.(Look after the vessel.)

But today we told ourselves a story.

And yesterday.

I am guilty of telling myself all about what I should have done and didn't. Moments all tangled in a past tense that keeps perpetuating. It's gone my friend. That story has no future if you'll pardon me stating the obvious. I suggest you thin it out, take only what you need and leave the rest for dust (and it's all just waste on the wind).

We're free you and I. Much more so than our busy lives would have us believe.

We are free to speak gentle words full of praise and pretending. Funny make believe fancies. Stories worth reading over tea and toast, with a blanket and a beloved. Or tell a tale of whimsy for your pint sized pirate or  sleepy eyed princess.

Tell yourself a nice story at 3am, when you worry the sun from the inky night sky, as the house creaks and shadows fall down the hall. Ask that fearful, cynical you to take a long nap while you write yourself anew.

Clean down the page and start again.

IMG_0388

You get to choose your character, make her good and strong and kind. And big. Please make her big and bold and let her fill the page with purpose. Make her laugh often and long. Fill the moments in between with words of friendship and gratitude. Make her a generous cook and a great listener and give her a strong back for all she holds aloft. Put a babe at her feet and fill her arms with family. Give her soulful eyes and a warm smile (and shiny locks).

Give her the strength to move past the wrongs in her wake. It's just dust out the door. Forgive all the villains, they didn't know they could be someone else, brave and strong and good. Be gentle with the scared ones and patient with the silly.

Life will be a glorious adventure my friend.

If you speak it so.

 

Why Yoga???

35fba-img_1202 I love yoga. Like most people my experience with yoga began in a local hall on a few feet of recycled rubber. In recent times however, the practice of yoga has carried me off the mat and through to becoming...

Healthy.

Happy.

Whole.

There are of course benefits that are really obvious. I sleep better, I eat more intuitively, I  live more intuitively. I'm stronger, both mentally and physically, wonderful perks that come from regular asana practice.

All of which I was talking to a non yogi  friend of mine about the other day. Her response was to probe a little deeper. "Yeah that's great, but why yoga??"

Umm.....

It took me a little while to gather my thoughts on this very broad question, but here goes my top five reasons.

Yoga has taught me that I am not my labels...

I am not the daughter, sister, mother, artist, writer, partner, funny girl, emotional one, hormonal female, foodie, friend or hot chick. Ok, I may have made that last one up but you get the idea. For most of my life I have walked around believing I was all of this and more. Yoga has taught me that I am none of these things. I am in fact infinite and expansive, a divine manifestation of love in a transient body.

Yoga has taught me to honour my body....

Like many women, my relationship with this bag of bones has been fraught with negativity. I have never in my life treated any other human being as poorly as I have treated my own body. I've endured eating disorders, horrible harming behaviours, ridiculous diets and loathsome dialogue. Yoga has made me appreciate the extraordinary functionality of my greatest claim to humanity...the skin I am in. It's a miraculous, supportive and creative experience of being me. I no longer hate my sturdy thighs because I know they will carry me through warrior poses. I am less concerned with how my body looks and far more focused on how it works.

Yoga has taught me not to impose on others....

Not my children, or my partner. Not my beliefs or my bullshit. I'm so busy with the business of my own 5ft of evolution that I don't have the time to live other people's life for them. That doesn't mean that I'm self-absorbed and unavailable to be a parent, but I don't assume that I know how anyone else should live. Including my immediate family. I actually think my children have been sent to me to teach me a thing or two.

Yoga has taught me to breathe first and ______ later.

Fill in the blank any way you wish.

Yoga has taught me about love.

It has taught me the art of being present with another human being. About the destructive force of small thoughts in a powerful mind. It's taught me to pause when I face conflict and pause when I am at peace. Or laughing. Or doing my five year olds homework. Every day I make a decision to enter a state of loving, in this way I become a manifestation of Love and Light in the world.

Nameste

Michelle xx

 

 

Juicy stuff

Banana Blueberry Goodness

Let's Get The Juices Flowing!!

I must confess to a slightly addictive personality. As I get older this tends to apply to more virtuous pursuits (thank goodness!) and if I find something that makes me feel good, I embrace it.I don't like juice..... I  LOVE juice.

This heavenly practice of squeezing and squishing fruit and vegetables makes me seriously happy people. Big time Happy. It solves two of my big health bugbears: 1. I don't tend to drink enough water. Let's face it, it tastes like water. 2. I don't eat enough fruit. Ok, while Im confessing , I hardly eat any fruit. I don't really know why. I didn't eat much fruit growing up besides lunchbox bananas. Urrrgh....that's enough to turn a girl off for life!

So the Blender, The Juicer and I have become serious goodtime pals and I thought I'd share some of my favourite recipes. The kids love them. Just don't make them in front of them because they are seriously packed full of good stuff.

Banana Blueberry Smoothie

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 red apple
handful spinach
1 heaped TB greek yoghurt
tray ice cubes
water
Blend until smooth.
Can't Beet a ....Juice

Can't Beet a... Juice

1/2 beetroot 2 green apples 1 pear 3 carrots 3cm piece ginger

Juice it and serve over ice. This juice is also great swapping the beetroot for cucumber as I have above. :)

I Can't Believe It's Not Chocolate

I Can't Believe it's Not Chocolate!

1/2 avocado 375mls coconut water good dash of coconut milk 2 TB maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it) 2 TB raw cacao powder tray ice cubes

Blend until smooth. You won't believe it until you try it. My kids absolutely believe that every so often I make them chocolate milk after school. .....yeah right!!

pomegranate and feta salad

My Greek Pomegranate salad

1 large pomegranate
Large handful of mixed sprouts
chopped corriander leaves
crumbled feta
½ lemon and olive oil to dress.
Cut pomegranate in half and bash the back of the fruit to release the seeds into a bowl.
Add the other ingredients and toss with lemon and oil.
Dedicate the experience to finding balance and enjoy.
Michelle xx

Very virtuous orange cake

 When I was a girl I spent the long summer holidays at my grandmother's house. The days started early and she would work her way through breakfast orders, garden maintenance and chores, listening to John Laws on talkback radio, until all toil stopped at midday.

That woman could run the country and still knock off at twelve noon. Nothing and no man got in the way of her "serials"as she called them. Lunch was prepared at precisely 11.45am in preparation for her two hour hiatus. Days of Our Lives and The young and the Restless were touchstones in her otherwise industrious days.

I remember men with strange names like Storm and Roman, wearing eye patches and leather vests. Woman with glamorous blow waves and enormous jewels, losing all the men, money and children in their dramatic lives. I would curl up on her plaid couch and rest my head on her thigh, happy to just be with her.

Her lunch was almost always the same undressed salad with some cold meat. She was always watching her weight. Afterwards she would peel a navel orange and to this day, whenever I peel an orange I immediately think of my nan. The lively smell of orange oil mixed with her own talcy floral fragrance made me happy. For two hours, as a child I would lie by her side, content in a cloud of citrus and lavender.

So this cake reminds me of her and it's a memory that makes me smile. I sometimes substitute agave for the sugar if I'm feeling virtuous but it's pretty healthy anyway and very low in fat. Nan would approve.

:)

Orange and Almond Cake

1 large orange

50 grams fresh ginger

3/4 cup 185 gms sugar plus 1/4 cup 60 gms extra

3/4 cup 185ml buttermilk

1 vanilla pod scraped

2 egg yolks

1 3/4 cup 215 gms plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarb

1 1/2 cups 140 gms almond meal

4 egg whites

simple lemon icing glaze (icing sugar and lemon juice)

 

 

 

* Preheat oven to 175 degrees and grease a bar tin.

 

* Place sliced ginger in a saucepan (cover with water) over high heat and boil for 10 minutes. Cool and put into food processor.

 

*Scrub orange and cut into 8 segments. Remove white pith and seeds but put zest and flesh in to food processor with ginger. Add 3/4 cup sugar, buttermilk, vanilla and egg yolks. Process until smooth.

 

*Sift flour, baking powder and bicarb in a large bowl. Add almond meal and orange mixture and stir till combined.

 

*Beat egg whites until soft peaks and then gradually add remaining sugar. Gently fold through remaining ingredients and pour into tin.

 

*Bake for approx 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean.

 

*Mix lemon juice into icing sugar until it's thick enough to coat a spoon. Pour over cake once it has cooled.

 

*Enjoy without guilt.  (your welcome) 

 

Michelle xx

 

Breakfast pizza

 The day began well. A slow breakfast, an indulgencusually reserved for weekends, provided sustenance for a quiet day in the studio.
The recent passing of my ancient stereo made birdsong my morning music. The intervals of silence seemed almost foreign to my mama ears. So accustomed to children's squabbles and peels of laughter. A chance to catch my breath.
The gallery has all the paintings they need so I have no plans for new work. This day is just for play, to try new things. A chance to grow. My inspiration stirs watching the kids in the morning. They roll out of bed like cats and find a patch of sun to warm themselves. All tumbles of peachy skin tired eyes. A joy to behold and a nightmare to get moving for school!
This might ignite a beginning but who knows where it will end up. We rarely write our own stories although we find our way. Long forgotten images accompany me. An old friend from school runs to catch the train, her red hair like fire in the breeze. Who knew she would wind up here twenty five years later? I quietly wonder where she is these days.
I'm not sure if it's the beginning of anything, I rarely am convinced. I'll live with it for a while and see, decide whether it needs to continue or go altogether. Life is like that I guess...

A Serious Tuesday Breakfast.

I took a ball of pizza dough from the freezer and it took no time to defrost in a warm spot. Whenever I make pizza I always make extra and freeze individual portions. Turned the bbq on high and put a pizza stone on the grill. I topped the dough with homemade chilli sauce and threw it on the stone while I fried a freshly laid egg. A lick of olive oil, some persian feta and parsley and I'm looking for a place in the sun. Happy days.

Sore no more juice and pide

I awoke with a small five year old girl snug beside me, big blue eyes still sleepy. It was a lovely way to begin the weekend. I rolled over, ready to start my morning routine and....

Ok, who swapped my body for this aching ball of tension?? Why do I feel like I've been hauling around concrete in my sleep? What did I do yesterday??
The truth is I don't really know. I may have used some different muscles during yesterdays class and believe me when I say, their presence has been noticed. Some relief was required and my mind turned to breakfast. I am a girl who likes to make her food her medicine after all, and it just so happens that the answer to my issue was currently dominating my vege patch.
Cucumber is actually part of the melon family. It's packed with loads of nutrients including silica for building muscle. It's 96% water so it's great for hydration and it's alkaline, helping to combat acidity in the body. It reduces inflammation (bring it) and promotes healing in our muscles. Add some rockmelon and you've got yourself a recipe for the perfect after class tipple.

It's sister fruit has loads of potassium which has a magical way of ridding the body of excess sodium helping to maintain flexibility. It aids in cramp prevention and assists in oxygenating the brain which slows your heart rate and leads you down a lovely garden path towards beautiful feelings of calm. Bring on the juicer.

Cucumber and Rockmelon Juice

1 enormous dinosaur cucumber (or 2 small ones)
½ rockmelon
½ lemon
Run everything through the juicer and serve immediately over ice. :)

Pide stuffed with spinach and feta

(serves two hungry yogis)
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain yoghurt
pinch salt
1 bunch spinach
100g blanched spinach leaves
*Mix flour, salt and yoghurt together to form a sticky dough.
*Allow to rest in the fridge (I usually make the dough the night before if I'm making this for breakfast.)
*Divide into two balls and roll out into a thin weird circle-ish shape on a floured surface.
*Scatter half the spinach and feta over one half of the circle and fold the dough over to form a semicircle. Pinch the edges over to seal.
*Heat a dry frypan over medium heat and add your pide. cook both sides until browned and serve. :)
Michelle xx

We are what we do

We are what we repeatedly do.

Yes Aristotle, unsurprising to us mere mortals, you were on the money. It's been almost six months since I began to practice yoga everyday and apparently it takes twenty one days to form a habit, so I should have hit the mat today with no resistance whatsoever. In fact, when I was studying habitual behaviour and responsive conditioning as a part of becoming a counsellor, the actual time it takes to make something a reflex action is more in the realm of seventy-ish days.

 

 

But I'm going to put my chips on the Greek. I feel pretty good.

I still don't bound out of bed with feverish enthusiasm but I like the quiet and the way the darkness dissolves around me. I like the birdsong in meditation and even the small distraction of the house coming to life as I sit. I've noticed that I am becoming more aware of my physicality and those areas that need adjusting through out my day. (my feet are not planted, my hips are unbalanced)

I inhale with a challenge and the exhale brings a little peace.

 

I am less reactive. I shout less but more importantly, I don't feel the need to impose myself so much. My knickers no longer find themselves in a twist! As a mother of three this is no small miracle. I am expected to be in three places this afternoon at five pm sharp and my daughter insists on wearing her swimming goggles everywhere. The boys constantly wrestle with testosterone fueled fervour, seemingly unconcerned with my desire for calm. The washing never ends.

Oh well.

Physically, I am yet to astound myself with superhuman feats of strength and endurance. Nor does my butt look changed by my commitment to warrior poses. However, I am surprised by how little this matters to me. My body functions. It gave birth to three babies and is incredibly adept at the serious business of hugging. I'll have you know it's really quite magical and for many small bodily things, I'm grateful.

 

Maintaining an asana practice mysteriously allows me to access this expansive state of authenticity. Of course I have days where I lose my lolly and I get swept up in the rubbish and the rant.

But then I return to the breath.

.....and to me.

Ps. My many thanks go to my son Noah for taking these photos. I apologise for my somewhat cranky face?? It is one of lives enduring mysteries that my head looks cross when my heart is happy. (?)

Michelle xx

Foods for flexibility

IMG_1285 My twelve year old son has taken to calling me Bendy Wendy. He thinks this is the most hilarious joke ever and rolls around laughing whenever he pulls it out. I wish! The truth is that Stiff Cliff or Tight Dwight are more appropriate, if not gender confused. Anywho when referring to me, bendy is doesn't really describe my body.

When I first decided to fully commit to being a yogi, I embarked on a vegetarian adventure. My diet changed quite dramatically and I noticed some interesting developments physically (before I ended up anaemic and cranky/tired/crazy). I lost weight (3kg in 3 weeks) even though I was eating more and consuming a lot more (good) fats. I ate a lot of salads with oil dressings and falafel fried in coconut oil. It seemed to satiate my hunger when I ate more high fat foods.

The other thing that I noticed was the fact that I seemed to be much more flexible. At first I thought this was due to the fact that I was practicing more, that seemed reasonable. When began to revert back to my old ways however, my bendiness went out with the veggie burgers. So I began to wonder why?

I like whole food. I don't eat a lot of processed food but after doing some research, it turns out I have some bad habits. It's worth mentioning that the same things that cause us to be less flexible also cause us to age. I read a whole heap of ayurvedic advice and research on muscle development as we age and this was my list of evil deeds:

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* I don't drink enough water. I suspect I may have been a camel in a past life? I can survive on fog alone.

* I eat too much salt. Apparently this is due to not drinking enough water, this creates an imbalance and my body says "bring on the salty snacks" as a way of retaining the tiny amounts of water that I consume.

* I eat too much bread. This creates slow moving bulk in the gut which interferes with uddiyana bandha or in simple terms, you can't bend over a bloated belly. Makes sense.

*My diet is fairly low fat. I come from a long line of women dedicated to deprivation. I am not a 'dieter' myself but I do think it's been written into my genetic code to run screaming away from fat.

So, what's the answer to increasing flexibility and touching your toes at ninety??

Well to begin with... Yoga. Hmmm, you saw that one coming didn't you. Use it or lose it people.

Water dehydration leads to tight muscles and stiff tendons which results in decreasing our range of movement.

Eat dieting reduces our sarcomeres (which is a unit measurement of muscle tissue). Lose calories, lose sarcomeres, lose suppleness and lose your downward dog people!

What gives you gas also gives you guns. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, garlic. Sulphur rich veggies make your muscles happy. Sulphur is need to make glucosamine sulphate which is necessary for connective tissue formation. Eat your stinky veggies.

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Raw cacao. Connective tissue is what allows muscle to lengthen. In order to build this connective tissue, you need copper, manganese and zinc, all of which can be found in raw cacao. It is also proof that god exists because it just so happens to taste like chocolate!

IMG_1291

Vitamin c Vitamin c is also necessary for long muscles so include capsicum, citrus and kiwi fruit.

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Ghee Ayurveda really loves to sing the praises of this clarified butter. They claim it will increase muscle flexibility because it lubricates both the joints and connective tissue. It also helps with digestion and reduces inflammation. I must say I have recently become a lover of ghee because it tastes like butter but it's good for you. Omigod whats next? Healthy brie? Are the french onto this??

So with all this in mind I have decided to focus on these tips and see if I can finally achieve a long and low seated forward bend. For the next two weeks I am going to drink more water and include these dietary tweaks and see if it makes a difference.

Michelle xx

heavenly chai days

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My day today began with hesitation. A slightly stuffy head threatened the onset of a winter cold, an unwelcome guest at anytime, but very undesirable given my current challenge. I will admit to ignoring my alarm and staying cocooned against the cold morning a little longer.
I didn't feel too bad when I awoke at seven, a nice hug from my baby girl went along way to starting the day right. I decided to go to a morning yoga class rather than practising alone, the extra motivation of a group setting would give me a nudge. By nine the sun was warm and I felt fine.
My body is feeling the effects of extra practice and a few niggly injuries have come back to haunt me. So far they're just hanging around but I feel them in my transitions. I see you. I am listening to your request for rest. I am trying to soften.
I still catch myself holding on to the breath.
It's like I'm trying to hold on to moments.
Let it go. Exhale.
It's so nice to take a moment after asana to put on some warm socks and settle into the rest of the day. I know it is advised to avoid dairy with a cold, mucus loves milk and all that, but I dream of chai all the long drive home. Not some bland teabag chai, a sad impostor, a fake! But a rich sticky mix, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory goodness. Mmmm I could add raw cacao, and fresh ginger, and orange rind!
I made up this recipe soon as I got home and I could barely wait to share it with you. The house smells like a European Christmas and I made so much I need to gift it to friends. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge and enjoy with a good book.

Heavenly Chai

100g loose tea leaves
4 T warm honey
3 cinnamon sticks
2cm grated fresh ginger
zest of 1 orange
3 T raw cacao
1 t mixed spice
1 t dry ginger
3 star anise
 
(warm milk to serve)
(nutmeg for grating on top)
 
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till all dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
 
Spoon mix into jars and place in the fridge. It's better the next day and best used within two weeks.
 
To make hot chai, heat some milk and add mix to a tea ball. Allow to steep in the milk for three minutes before serving. Grate over some nutmeg and relax.........breathe.
 
Michelle xx
 

 

Soul food

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When I was a girl my mum called me Chicken Liver.

I have no idea why? Despite the strange offally tag, it was said sweetly, as a term of endearment. I'm a little sheepish to admit that I still get it when I'm a bit poorly, as I have been this week.

In need of a bit of comfort, I do like to spend a bit of time with 'The Girls'. Anyone who has had chickens will tell you they're a bit like dogs with wings. They are always pleased to see you and run at you whenever they hear you coming... Probably because they expect you have food.

 And sadly for them, they make great soup. Which is another thing I crave when I'm a bit low.

I thought I would share my favourite 'under the weather soup'. Not that it's really mine. Those saucy Romans invented this one and it's good simple food at it's best. Make sure your eggs are fresh and use the best brown (roast) chicken stock. (don't tell the girls that part!)

Stracciatella alla Romano

(this serves one patient)

Brown chicken stock

1 free range egg

2T chopped parsley

1T parmesan cheese grated

Beat egg, cheese and parsley in a bowl. Boil your stock and add egg mix. Count to three and stir.  Serve hot with buttered sourdough. You'll be better in no time.