Sunday, 31 January 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

It is Burns' Night tonight and since both my grandparents, on my mother's side, came from Scotland, I couldn't let it pass without making this vegan 'haggis' pie.
Haggis was made famous by Robert Burns in his 'Address to the haggis' but it is believed the dish actually originated in England.
My take on this dish is made from dried split chickpeas which you will need to soak for several hours in the fridge but if you haven't got any or time is short, you could use brown lentils instead.
Happy Burns' Night!

Read about the health benefits of ginger and how to make a ginger tea on my 'sister' blog-

If you haven't much time in the morning (5 more minutes in bed or get up and make breakfast? 5 more minutes in bed!!!) these granola 'clusters' may help. 

Myofascial release - hamstrings

Many of us have tight hamstrings, the muscles located at the back of the thighs.  I power walk and tight hamstrings are a constant challenge for me. Walking, running, sitting in our cars, at our desks or watching television all help tighten our hamstrings. If we do not release them out, tight hamstrings can lead to hip or lower back problems and even knee issues.

Fascia is a term that refers to the connective tissue, that is tendons, ligaments, etc which run throughout the body. It connects the muscles to the bones, encloses the muscles and organs and separates muscle fibres. Fascia forms a network throughout the body, and can be likened to a spiders web connecting all parts of the body together. Myofascial release is a way of releasing tension in the fascia and because the fascia are all connected this does not necessarily have to be where the tense fascia are located.  

Here are two ways in which you can release tight hamstrings.

1. For this way of of releasing the hamstrings, you may be seated or standing. Place a tennis ball under your right foot and roll it around under your foot for several minutes. Repeat with the other foot.

2. This technique uses a roller which you can buy quite cheaply.  Sit on your mat with your legs outstretched, your roller behind your hips.  Use your hands, placed by your hips to lift onto the roller so that the roller is at the top of your legs.  Bend your right knee and plant your right foot firmly on mat. Continue to steady yourself with your hands and right foot as you roll your left hamstring forward and back over the roller.  Do not roll over the knee joint and if you experience any sharp, shooting or radiating pain stop immediately.

See also:-
Back pain 3 - Hamstrings and Hips - part 1
Back pain 3 - Hamstrings and Hips - part 2

Please note- If you have back pain consult your medical practitioner.

Janet x

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Unusual props - Reclined twist

If you struggle to keep both shoulders grounded in a reclined twist, working with a partner may help. Having a partner to help you may also mean you can move deeper into the twist.  
To come into the pose, lie with your knees bent, your arms outstretched. Have your partner stand an arms length away, holding onto something so that they will not fall when you pull on their ankle.  Hold the back of your partner's ankle. Inhale and as you exhale release your knees to the side away from your partner. Hold as long as it feels good. Inhale to bring your knees and head back to centre. Have your partner move to the other side and repeat second side.

Please see also, 'Unusual props-Keyhole stretch'- props.html 
'Unusual props-Supta Padangusthasana (reclining hand to big toe pose)'-

Janet x

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Lessons from yoga - embrace the now (winter)

If I am honest, winter is not my favourite season of the year but each season has its own special beauty and I believe it is important to be in tune with the seasons.  

Our yoga practice can help with this tuning in to the season and embracing the season.  Here in East Yorkshire we have just had a very cold snap and our yoga practice can help us stay warm by boosting circulation with Sun Salutations, twists, forward bends and inversions.  As well as boosting the circulation of blood, these also help the circulation of lymph which is important at this time of year to help 'police' the body for invading viruses and bacteria. Inversions too help boost the circulation of blood and lymph. Inversions also encourage mucus to flow out of the body helping prevent congestion. Twists help digestion and elimination which in turn help immunity by ensuring we absorb maximum nutrients from our food and eliminate toxins. Chest openers help stimulate the thymus gland which produces antibodies to fight invading organisms.  

We may feel we have low energy at this time of year.  Our bodies need more rest in winter but modern life does not allow for this.  Again yoga can help low energy and in this week's video we practice some kundalini kryias which release energy from the base of the spine. This then moves up the spine, energizing the chakras and increasing wellbeing.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the winter season is governed by water energy and since the kidney and bladder control the water in the body, stimulating the kidney and bladder meridans in the body through our yoga asana practice can help us embrace the winter season.  The kidney and bladder meridians run down the back of the body and legs and can be stimulated by back bends, seated forward bends and poses such as Lizard Pose.  

This week's video therefore will invigorate, boost immunity, enhance the circulation of blood and lymph, help prevent congestion and stimulate the kidney and bladder meridians. Please see my yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga - Embrace the now'-

Have a wonderful winter and be well.

Please note that if you are not in the northern hemisphere, this week's video would be a good chakra balancing sequence to increase energy and wellbeing.

Janet x

Sunday, 24 January 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday recipe, 'Squash, orange, mint and rocket tabbouleh' would make a great packed lunch!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Read about the benefits of salt pipes and lamps. Please see the link below for my 'sister' blog-

In honour of National Breakfast Week, which starts today and celebrates UK breakfast produce including cereals such as oats, this blog post looks at some of the ways you can enjoy muesli.
Please see the link to my 'sister' blog- 
This blog post was included in the magazine 'Bed and Breakfast Recipes'-

Unusual props - Pigeon pose with a coffee table

Pigeon Pose is great for opening the hips and the chest and stretching the quads and hamstrings.

This variation of Pigeon Pose means that you have one hand free to externally rotate the bent leg thigh to settle deeper into the pose. As always listen to your body and do not strain into the pose.  

Stand facing the long edge of the coffee table. Bring your right leg onto the coffee table with the knee slightly out to the right.  Take your left leg back, pressing through the left heel to straighten the left leg.  Adjust your hips so that your hip points are parallel. This will help keep your SI joint safe. Supporting yourself with your left hand, use your right hand to roll the flesh of your thigh towards the back. To go deeper bring your shin level with the long edge of the coffee table. To come out of the pose slide the right leg back to meet the left then repeat on the other side. 

A standing version of Pigeon can also be practiced using a full height table. Bring your right leg onto the table as before and keep the standing leg straight. You may need to stand on a block or similar if you cannot get your leg onto the table.

Please see also, 'Unusual props'-Keyhole stretch- props.html and 'Unusual props'-
Supta Padangusthasana (reclining hand to big toe pose)-

Janet x

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Lessons from yoga-use your energy wisely

In the modern world we are surrounded by distractions every waking hour.  We take our work home with us, are bombarded by media advertising etc.  It is no wonder that we lose focus, become distracted.  

Yogis have a saying 'energy flows where attention goes'.  In other words if your attention is continually drawn out of yourself, your energy also flows away from you instead of being available for your spiritual growth. Yoga offers us a way of controlling our energy flow and also a way of holding the energy in.  We can control our energy flow outwards through the use of drishti and hold energy in through the use of the energy locks known as bandas. 

Meditation is also a way of removing ourselves from distractions to clear our minds and improve focus and concentration.  These will be the themes in this week's yoga practice.  

Patanjali also advises us on the wise use of energy in the forth of the yamas, brahmachya, often translated as celibacy.  It was believed that by being celibate the yogi could direct their energies towards the ultimate goal of yoga, samedi.  Today it is thought of more in terms of moderation of sexual cravings, ensuring your sexuality is based on love.  It can also be thought of as using the life force to best effect which we practice in the video through the use of energy locks. 

Please see the yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga-use your energy wisely'-

For more on drishti please see, 'Dristi'

For more on the bandas please see 'Making sense of the bandas'

For more on brahmachya please see

Also 'The yamas - brahmachya'

Janet x

Monday, 18 January 2016

Brighten 'Blue Monday'

Today is Blue Monday.  The third Monday in January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year but it doesn't have to be.  Start your day with this yoga sequence to brighten your day.  You will need a cushion.

Sun Salutation A - 3 rounds + Sun Salutation B - 2 rounds. Please see these sequences in the 'Yoga Gallery'- This energetic flow releases endorphins which are the 'feel good' hormones.

Swan - come towards the back of the mat, big toes touching, knees wide. Walk your hands forward, bringing your right cheek to a cushion and relax your arms on the mat.  After a minute or so, turn your head so that your left. Allow time for your breath to return to normal.  

Upward Facing Dog - Remove the cushion and come to lying on your belly. Position your hands by your ribcage and on an inhale press into your hands to lift your chest.  Straighten your arms or if that feels too much for your back, keep your elbows soft. At the same time, lift your hips and legs off the mat, pressing into the tops of your feet or tuck your toes. Breathe out to lower. Press back into Downward Facing Dog with your knees bent to lengthen your spine after the back bend.  Walk your feet towards your hands and when your shoulders are over your wrists, hold your elbows, breathe in and slowly come up to standing.

Breath of Joy - you cannot be blue when you practice this uplifting breathing technique. If the three part breath is not right for you, just breathe as feels comfortable for you. Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips, arms by your sides.  Inhale a third of the way as you bring your arms forward and up, breathe in to two thirds of the way as you take your arms wide, breathe in all the way as you take your arms up, breathe out, sweep your arms down and back as you bend your knees.  Breathe in a third of the way as you straighten your legs and bring your arms forward and up to shoulder height.

Standing Twist - twist your blues away.  Stand with your feet wider than your hips, your arms by your sides. Breathe in, breathe out come onto the toes of your left foot, bend your right knee and swing to the right.  Breathe in centre, breathe out repeat to the other side letting your arms swing loosly.  Turn your head in the direction of the twist. Continue until all the tension has twisted out of your body.

Happy Baby - Lie on your mat and hold the outside edges of your feet, drawing your knees down towards your armpits.  Rock gently from side to side.

To finish take 10 minutes inn Savasana to receive the benefits of your practice. 

Please see also - 'It's 'Blue Monday' - today is supposedly the most depressing day of the year'-

Blue Monday? No, sunny Monday!!

Janet x

Sunday, 17 January 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday is a one-pot dish which was inspired by Peruvian saltado usually made with strips of marinated beef, served with fried potatoes and rice.
This vegan version is made with marinated tofu and is lower fat as the potatoes are cooked without fat.
Hope you enjoy!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Fancy a cuppa? Why not try dandelion tea? Read more on my 'sister' blog-

We have been harvesting the kale for a little while now but now that we have had a frost, kale is sweeter. Why not use this superfood in this delicious soup recipe? 
Please see the link to my 'sister' blog-

Bee update-Winter 2015/16

Snowdrops and daffodils in December, new born lambs in the field on the 21st December, the winter equinox, what is going on?

With the growing season shifting forward, how are the bees, which are essential for pollination, coping? See BBC News 'How have crops and animals coped with the mild winter'- Bees have been spotted foraging months later than usual. Bees usually do not venture out in the winter but cluster together to keep warm.  However, the milder weather has confused them.  If they do go foraging, there is a good chance they may perish in the wet conditions we are currently experiencing.  This means that come spring many bee colonies may collapse.  Sadly, the milder weather may also mean that the viruses that affect bees may proliferate.  Bees are the pollinators for the majority of our apple crops and almost half our strawberry crops as well as many more of our food crops, so this is bad news.

How can we help?  Firstly ask your MP to back the pesticide ban.  Despite an EU ban, the UK government has allowed the use two neonicotinoid pesticides on 120 days. See the Guardian- 'UK suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees'- 

With the growing season approaching maybe you could consider planting bee friendly plants.  Last year we left an area of the lawn unmown (not too much of a hardship!) so that clover could grow.  The bees loved it!

By helping the bees, I believe we can all contribute to helping the planet.

May all livings things be peaceful and at ease
Janet x

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Unusual props - Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining hand to big toe pose)

Supta Padangusthasana is great for releasing your hamstrings. If you find holding your foot with a belt creates tension in your shoulders, using a doorway may be a solution.  To come into the pose lie with your hip by the side of an open door. Bend your right knee and place your leg up the wall with your foot flexed.  Shuffle closer into the wall and use the wall to help straighten your leg. Your left leg should be extended through the doorway or if you have lower back issues you may want to bend your left leg.  To come out of the pose, bend your right knee and roll to the left.  To repeat on the other side, turn your body around.  

Please see also, 'Unusual props' which is about Keyhole stretch-

Janet x

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Lessons from yoga - don't sweat the small stuff

We do it often - worry about little things this week only to find next week there was no need to worry.  In fact a great deal of what we worry about is needless but we may even get to the stage where, somewhere deep within, we feel that we have to worry to prevent bad things happening.  All this worry prevents us enjoying what is happening today, right now, and wastes energy which could be used more creatively.  At this time of year when many of us are trying to stick to punishing new year resolutions because they worry about their weight or fitness levels, it is important to commit to self-care rather that worrying about reaching the perfect weight or ideal level of fitness.

Yoga can help us with our intention to let go of worrying about the small stuff.  When we are stressed we release the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin, from the adrenal glands, situated on the top of the kidneys. These are often referred to as the 'fight or flight' hormones and in the days when we had to fight a lion or run from a bear were very necessary.  The hormones increase the heart rate so that blood is sent to the muscles ready for action.   Because nowadays they are not usually followed by action they can be damaging. Invigorating sequences such as Sun Salutations 'burn off' these hormones while twists and squats help eliminate them from your body.  Back bends too can help by pacifying the adrenal glands. Yoga can also help you see the 'bigger picture'. Meditation is key to helping you release unnecessary worries.

I will leave you with the words my dad used to say - 'Don't worry about it until it happens'.

Please see the video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga - don't sweat the small stuff'-

Janet x 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

After Christmas a curry seems really appealing and this 'creamy' coconut and split pea curry doesn't disappoint. The split peas and cauliflower provide fibre which helps stabilise blood sugar.
Recipe on my blog for 'Coconut and split pea curry with coconut quinoa'-

Why not make keeping a journal notebook part of your commitment to self-care in 2016? 

If Christmas has left you with a craving for sugary or starchy foods this blog post may help-

Ayurveda and winter

Winter is a time for drawing in, reflecting.  Your body may tell you that you need more sleep and where practical, you should give in to this need.  Winter is also a time when your digestive fire (agni) is strong which means that you will feel hungrier and if you satisfy this hunger with nourishing foods, not junk foods or hard to digest foods, your immunity will be boosted (isn't nature wonderful, boosting our immunity in the coughs, colds and flu season).  
In Ayurvedic terms winter is kapha season and if kapha becomes unbalanced we can feel stagnant and uninspired. Pacify kapha with a diet of freshly cooked, warm and spicy foods. 

Avoid cold foods and cold drinks.  Sweet, sour and salty tastes will balance the body but also include some astringent, bitter and pungent foods.  Include vegetables such as carrots, onions, turnips, swede, spinach, kale, leeks, celeriac, and sweet potatoes.  Apples, pears are good to include. Lentils and beans except soya beans are fine for vegans and vegetarians. 

Vegetarians can also include eggs but reduce dairy which may lead to congestion.  If you eat meat, reduce red meat and eat chicken, turkey and fish, especially oily fish.  Grains that will pacify kapha include oats, barley and rice. Include plenty of warming spices such as ginger, mustard, cinnamon, pepper.  

In terms of your yoga practice an invigorating practice of Sun Salutations, flows, core work and twists and backbends is ideal to balance kapha.  

For Sun salutations and flows please see my 'Yoga Pose Gallery'-

Also, please see the yoga videos in my YouTube playlist-'Winter Wellness'-

Janet x

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Unusual Props

If you struggle to reach for your shin or thigh in Keyhole Stretch or you can reach but you are straining your neck and shoulders to do so, I have the solution for you - use a 'chest' coffee table or similar piece of furniture or a wall.  No hands needed so you can lie back and enjoy this hip opener.  

Keyhole Stretch is a good counter pose to all the sitting with our legs forward that we do in our every day lives. Keyhole stretch also lengthens the IT band, the connective tissue that runs from the pelvis to the shin.  Tightness in the IT band can cause knee issues. 

To come into the pose, lie knees bent big toes touching the coffee table or base of the wall. Place your right foot on the coffee table so that the shin is level with the ceiling.  Bring your left foot onto your right thigh with your foot flexed.  The nearer your foot is to your groin, the more intense this pose will be.  Hold and breathe.  To release lower your right foot then bring your left foot back to the floor.  For extra comfort place a pillow under your head. Repeat second side.

Janet x

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Lessons from yoga - Enjoy the journey

In this new series, I want to share with you some of the lessons that I have learned from yoga.  In this first video, the lesson is 'enjoy the journey' which seems appropriate as we start our 'journey' into 2016.  In our lives we have a tendency to want to know what is going to be happening today, tomorrow, this week, next week and so on.  Life isn't so predictable and if we become too engrossed in trying to sort out are lives in the future, we are missing out on the joy, the laughter and the simple pleasures of today.  I am not saying that you shouldn't plan at all, just that you cannot become too attached to the outcome.  Remember that this moment is a gift and that is why it is called the present.

On the yoga mat we may become attached to how a particular pose should look.  We may then become frustrated if we cannot do the pose.  The inner critic may then surface 'Why can't I do this?' 'I'm useless at yoga' etc.  Anyone can do yoga.  There are many options which will give you the same benefits so there is no need to struggle into a pose.  Wherever you are in a pose is just perfect.  Never sacrifice the breath for the pose.  If the breath is strained, you lose the benefits of that pose.

Bearing all this in mind, this week I have chosen a challenging pose, Noose Pose, for a peak pose practice. You may not be able to do the final pose and I am only going to do the intermediate version although I will indicate how to do the advanced variation if your body allows.  Being able to do the final pose really doesn't matter.  What I want you to do is enjoy the opening up of your body that precedes the peak pose and the release of tension from your mind. There are modifications - if you have knee issues, or a herniated disc, the full pose is not for you.

The benefits of Noose Pose are that it stimulates digestion and elimination, stretches the thighs and lower back, opens the chest and shoulders thereby improving posture and helping to release stress. 

I will leave you with a quote from the yoga sutras of Patanjali - 'Chitta Vritti Nirodha' which translates as 'yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind'  that is not squeezing your body into 'pretzel' shapes.  

Please see my yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga - Enjoy the journey'-

Janet x

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year Resolutions and ahimsa

How are your new year resolutions going? Most resolutions have been broken by the end of January. 

New year resolutions tend to come from self-criticism.  For example 'I must lose weight' means that you think of yourself as overweight, 'I will get fitter' means that you think of yourself as unfit.  No sooner is Christmas over, than magazines are full of slimming and fitness articles, and Christmas was hardly over this year when leaflets advertising local slimming clubs were popping through my letter box.

Resolutions are often followed by unrealistic 'programs' to right the 'faults' that you perceive in yourself and make yourself into some 'perfect' person.  The truth is no such person exists - we are all human, with human failings and though we may try to follow Patanjali's eight fold path, we will fall sometimes.  

When your resolve is broken, your inner critic surfaces again 'You are weak willed', 'You are so lazy' etc.  This is not in keeping with ahimsa, non-harming, not only others but yourself too. Resolutions are destructive in that they lower your self-esteem when you cannot meet unrealistic expectations.

This year instead of resolutions why not set intentions from a place of loving kindness and acceptance.  Maybe your intention for 2016 could be 'I will take good care of myself', with fresh air, getting out in nature and healthy food - everything else will follow.

Please see also, 'New Year Sankalpa'-

Janet x

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

Got a hangover? - Yoga can help

Oops-if you had too many last night and now your head is pounding and you feel nauseous, drink plenty (non-alcoholic drinks!-water and herbal teas) and eat light.  Here are some yoga poses and a breathing technique that may help.

Cat/Cow - this is soothing for the neck, shoulders and back.  You may have slept in an awkward position last night so your body will really appreciate this.  A stiff neck can make nausea and headache worse. It will also encourage circulation enabling blood to carry any toxins to the liver to be broken down and kidneys to be eliminated from your body.  Come onto all 4s.  Breathe in, lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back.  Continue working with your breath.

Downward Facing Dog variation with a chair- like Cat/Cow this will boost circulation. Come to standing and holding your elbows, place your forearms on a chair.  Walk your feet back and bring your head to the chair seat (or on a cushion placed on the chair seat)

Child's Pose variation with bolster/rolled up blanket - this is soothing for your nervous system and gentle pressure on the abdomen will help with elimination - come towards the back of the mat, take the knees wide and walk the hands forward, bringing your right cheek to the bolster or folded blanket.  You may want to close your eyes. After a few minutes place your left cheek on the bolster or blanket and stay a few more minutes.

Seated Twist (stimulates digestion and encourages elimination) - Sit on a block or cushion with your legs outstretched.  Bend your right knee and wrap your left arm around your right thigh.  Breath in, lengthen through the crown of your head, breathe out twist to the right. Hold and breathe.  Breathe out to release the pose and repeat second side.

Seated Forward Bend variation with a chair (helps soothe your headache) - place a cushion on the chair seat and sit with your legs under the chair.  Place your right cheek on the cushion and let your arms rest either side of the cushion.  Close your eyes if you wish. 

Easy pose and Ujjayi Breathing-calms the nervous system and eases nausea

If you have never practiced Ujjayi Breathing, start by breathing out through your mouth with a 'ha'. Imagine that you are trying to 'fog' a mirror held just in front of your mouth. Notice how the back of your throat feels as you do this. You should notice a slight tightening at the back of your throat. 

Now, with your mouth closed, imagine 'fogging' up a mirror placed at the back of your throat with the inhale. Again you should notice a slight tightening of your throat and hear a soft sound as the breath passes over the throat. 

Ujjayi pranayama involves this slight tightening of the throat both on the inhale and the exhale. Ujjayi breath is practiced with the mouth closed. The sound made by the air passing over the throat is often likened to the sound of the waves which is why Ujjayi is sometimes also called 'Ocean Breath' or some people say it is like a baby snoring. Because the the sound of the breath focuses the mind, the breath practice is very calming.

Savasana - your body's healing energies are released as you relax.  Lie with your legs outstretched, feet hip distance.  If it feels more comfortable rest your legs over a bolster (this may be the case if you have lower back issues). Have your arms a little way from your body and head and neck in line with your spine.  Tuck your chin slightly to lengthen the back of your neck.  Gently close your eyes and with a feeling of letting go let your body become heavy on the mat.  Rest here as long as you wish before taking a stretch.  Roll onto your right side, drawing your knees towards your chest and stay here for a few moments before coming back up, hopefully feeling much better. 

Janet x