Sunday, 28 February 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Today's Meatless Monday 'Mushroom and pepper pizza' can be made as either a vegan or vegetarian dish. Great for sharing with a friend! The pizza is also gluten-free because it is made with buckwheat flour. 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

The organic fruit and vegetable garden year begins at 40plusandalliswell with tomatoes, apple trees and first early potatoes. 
Please see my 'sister' blog-
This blog post was included in the paper 'The Gardening Daily'-

The second of the series on my 'sister' blog on 'leaky' gut looks at the problem with gluten-
This blog post was included in the paper 'Celíacos Informados Newsletter'-

Ayurveda health and beauty - vata dosha

A coconut oil cleanser is perfect for vata skin

When vatas are in balance they are slender with fine hair and porcelain skin.  They tend to be active and quick thinking. 

If however vata gets out of balance they can suffer from insomnia, stress and exhaustion. 

Stress may lead to bad habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking which exacerbates the vata tendency to poor circulation and dehydration.

Vata skin has a tendency to be dry and therefore show premature signs of aging.  Eczema can be a problem too. Their scalp can be dry leading to dandruff.  Hair may be dry with split ends.  Because they tend snack to support their active lifestyle, tooth decay may occur.  

Palpitations, muscle cramps and pain, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis, and constipation are further signs of vata imbalance.

Nourishing skin and hair should be from inside and outside.  Hydration is essential for a soft skin and healthy hair. Vatas should drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Vatas should include plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet especially ones with a high water content such as melon, lettuce, cucumber etc. The fibre in these will also help with constipation. Wholegrains will give them slow release energy to support their activity. Vata diet should also include oils to counteract the dryness especially from nuts, seeds and oily fish if they are not vegan. Caffeine should be reduced to aid sleep and reduce stress. A few drops of lavender essential oil sprinkled on a pillow will help vatas sleep. Spices and enzymes in fruit and vegetables will aid digestion. Pineapple for instance contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme.

Oils can be used to deeply moisturise the skin too. For instance coconut oil or almond oil. Coconut oil used as a cleanser is better than harsh chemicals which strip the natural oils from the skin. See 'Coconut oil cleanser'.
A coconut oil hair mask will help dry hair and scalp. See 'Post summer TLC for hair'
Relaxation, yoga and meditation are important to balance vata.  See 'Meditation, ancient help for 21st century stress.'

Also my video 'Ayurveda Doshas-Vata' on my YouTube Channel-

Hope this helps.

Janet x

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Back to basics-Standing Poses-Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Tadasana is the starting point of all the standing postures.  It also teaches us good posture and it can give us a moment of stillness within our practice to remember our intention.

To practice the pose, stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel (for most of us this willl mean separating the heels).  Have your weight spread evenly through all four corners of the feet, the little toe side, big toe side, inner heel and outer heel. 

Lift your insteps (if you can lift your middle three toes, this will help). Lift your kneecaps to engage your thigh muscles and give you the strong foundation.  Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled.  

Your lower body should feel strong and grounded, your upper body light and airy.

Common mistakes 

  • Pressing the feet together which puts a strain on the lower back.  Most of us need to separate the heels to have the outside edges parallel. 
  • Having your weight on the inside of the feet or the outside which can affect the alignment of the leg and hip joints.
  • Tucking the tail bone too far under and flattening the lower back- the pelvis should be in a neutral position.  
  • Bringing the shoulders up by the ears - you need to take the shoulder blades in and down to create space for the neck.

Please see the video on my YouTube Channel-'Back to basics-Standing Poses-Tadasana (Mountain Pose)'-

Janet x

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lessons from yoga-Balancing effort with ease

In the modern world, it is not always easy to have a good work/life balance.  We work crazy hours and often our work is available 24/7 through our smart phones, e-mails etc.  It is so important to schedule in rest and relaxation time.  This can be anything from a day out with your family, a long soak in the bath, a night out with friends or simply putting your feet up with a magazine.  In nature, there are periods of growth balanced by periods of rest and renewal and even in Tudor times there would be periods of hard work in the growing season followed by more restful periods (and longer sleeps) in the winter but we have lost touch with these natural rhythms. 

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras we are advised 'sthira, sukham, asanam' (2.46) which means that in our asana work we should find ease in our efforts.  When we hold a posture therefore we should be efforting but not so much as to create tension in the muscles.  This means developing an awareness of our 'edge' (which may vary) that place where you can feel the stretch but are not straining.  At the same time we should not be so much 'at ease' in our minds that we are planning tonight's dinner or whatever else we need to do but should be alert to the sensations of the pose.  

One way of creating 'ease' in the body while efforting is through focusing on the breath, which calms the mind and the nervous system. This 'tool' is really useful when we do poses that challenge us.  If we can stay calm and focused on the mat when we are faced with challenges then eventually we will be calm and focused when we meet challenges off the mat: simply able to be in that moment without adding more tension to it.

In our yoga video on YouTube this week, 'Lessons from yoga-Balancing effort with ease'- we will focus on balancing ease with effort while practicing core strength poses and arm strengthening poses. Our 'peak' pose is Side Plank which is a challenging pose for some people.  However I will show you some ways in which you may find ease in the pose.  Our practice ends with a Yoga Nidra.  In Yoga Nidra you are completely relaxed but alert, that is balancing ease with effort. 

Janet x 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Today's Meatless Monday recipe on my 'sister' blog is for Mediterranean stuffed aubergine which is vegan and gluten-free, but full of Mediterranean flavours-

Remember the lamb's lettuce we planted last autumn? We have harvested some and together with some baby oriental salad leaves which we also grew, made this walnut and apple salad. 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Please see my 'sister' blog for an introduction to 'leaky gut', which causes many health problems. We will look at what 'leaky gut' is, its causes and effects-

Myofascial Release - tight shoulders

Tight shoulder muscles may be the result of poor posture, repetitive movements etc. They can lead to tension in the neck and to headaches.

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 a few suggestions as to how to relieve shoulder muscles tension with either a roller or a tennis ball.

1. CARE NECK PROBLEMS (see below) Place a roller on the mat then lie with your knees bent so that the roller is under your shoulders.  Support your head and neck by placing your interlaced fingers where your neck meets your head (this also separates the shoulder blades to expose the muscles). Lift your hips and use your feet to help you move the roller back and forth.  You can use a tennis ball if you do not have a roller.  Lie on the floor with your knees bent.  Lean a little to the left and stretch your right arm up to expose the muscles.  Roll the tennis ball around the muscles of the right shoulder, experimenting with how much pressure to place on the muscle then repeat on the left shoulder muscles.

2. If you have neck problems you can wedge a roller between your shoulders and a wall. Separate your feet and turn your toes out. Place your hands on your thighs to separate the shoulder blades and expose the shoulder muscles. Bend and straighten your knees to move the roller over your shoulder muscles.  You can use a tennis ball if you do not have a roller. Stand with your back to the wall and your arm extended forward. With your left hand place the tennis ball between the wall and your shoulder muscles working into the right shoulder muscles. Repeat on the left shoulder muscles.


Janet x 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Unusual props - weights

In this blog post, which is the last on unusual props we are using weights as a 'prop'. Adding weights to your yoga practice helps increase your body awareness, helps combine strength with flexibility, builds core strength and creates a deeper sense of grounding. If you want to incorporate weights into your yoga practice, here are two ideas to start you off.

Plank with weights (builds core strength and strengthens and tones arm muscles) - start in all 4s with a weight in each hand (start small).  Take your right leg back, drop the right hip a little then bring the left leg to meet it.  To modify release your knees down to the mat. Inhale, exhale, engage mula bandha, root lock and uddiyana band, navel lock and bend your right elbow, lifting the weight up. Inhale to lower. Repeat 2nd side and continue. Rest in Child Pose.

Goddess Squat  (grounding, strengthens and tones arm muscles) with a weight in each hand, step your feet wide and turn your toes out to the corners of the mat. Inhale, lift your arms up. Exhale engage mula bandha, root lock and uddiyana band, navel lock, bend your knees and elbows so that your elbows are level with your shoulders and continue.

Please see also, 'Unusual props-Keyhole stretch'- props.html 
'Unusual props-Supta Padangusthasana (reclining hand to big toe pose)'-
'Unusual props-Pigeon Pose with a coffee table'-
'Unusual props- Reclined twist' -
'Unusual props-Legs (not) up the wall'-
'Unusual props-Meditation'-

Janet x 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Lessons from yoga- Every moment is a fresh start

So often we carry the guilt, remorse, hurt and resentments from the past.  These emotions weigh us down, colouring our view of the present. They eat away at us if we do not let them go and may eventually manifest as physical and mental illness. 

If we look through the eyes of compassion we may see that someone who has hurt us is in need of love themselves. Seeing this can help you forgive them.  However forgiving yourself is often so much harder than forgiving others. This is possibly because we tend to have an inner critic which is very hard on us, much harder than we would be on someone else.  We can only silence this inner critic by cultivating self love and developing an awareness of our thoughts allowing only positive self-talk.  

In our yoga practice, each time we take a breath in, it is a new start and each time we breathe out it is an opportunity to let go. We need to be strong to overcome our inner critic and since our power resides in our third chakra, our practice this week will include core strength and twists.  The hips are where we hold on to negative emotions such as guilt, hurt and resentment so practice these too as well as opening our heart to release love and compassion for others. We end with a meditation for self-compassion and compassion for others. 

I hope that this week's practice will help you release any heavy burdens you have been carrying to the universe. Keep the love from the past, learn the lessons and let everything else go so that you may be present to what is now with love and compassion.

Please see my yoga video on YouTube-'Lessons from yoga-Every moment is a fresh start'-

Janet x

Sunday, 14 February 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday is a special for Valentine's Day-'Butter bean and buckwheat paella'. Quick to prepare and great for sharing, ideal for a cosy dinner à deux!

It's Tinnitus Awareness Week. Although there is no cure for tinnitus the suggestions in the blog post on my 'sister' blog might help you manage the condition-
This blog post was included in the magazine 'Silent World'-

This 'Melt my heart' Black Forest 'ice-cream' 'cake' would make a great Valentine's Day dessert!
Have a happy Valentine's' Day! 

Another healthy breakfast idea for you to try-quinoa porridge!
Recipe and health benefits of quinoa on my 'sister' blog-

Myofascial release - glutes

The glutes are a set of three muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and while it is good for these muscles to be toned, they must also be able to relax.

Glutes may become tight through running or power walking and if not released can lead to postural problems because the natural curve of the lower back becomes flattened.

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 is a way in which you can release tight glutes.
Sit with your legs extended and bring your right foot onto your left leg and flex your left foot. Bring your hands behind your hips for support and bend your left knee.  Lift onto the roller and use your left foot to propel the roller over your buttock.  Repeat second side.
Alternatively, if you do not have a roller, you can release your glutes by rolling over a tennis ball.

Please see also

Hope this helps
Janet x

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Unusual props - meditation

It's Valentine's Day this week and in honour of this special day of love, our unusual prop is a red rose which we will use for meditation.  The rose as a symbol of love originated with the ancient Greeks who associated the rose with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  Later in the Victorian era, the red rose became a symbol of love according to the language of flowers.

For this meditation you may be seated in a comfortable cross-legged position or you may be seated on a chair.  Sit with a straight spine, holding the stem of the rose.  Focus your gaze on the rose.  Notice its colour, the shape of the petals.  Touch the petals, noticing how they feel. Smell the delicate scent of the rose.  If your attention wanders, gently but firmly bring your focus back to the rose.  Your eyes may water a little- this is normal.  

After several minutes close your eyes and visualise your rose at your heart centre.  Visualise the rose expanding into every part of your body.  Feel a warmth in every fibre of your being as you fill with love, compassion, and forgiveness for yourself and others.  Remain in the warm glow of love, compassion and warmth for a few minutes.  

When you are ready bring your focus back into the room then into your physical body.  Bring your attention to the tip of your nose and begin to breathe more deeply.  Open your eyes and take some small movements to bring you back to the here and now.  Please make sure that you are fully awake before continuing with your day.

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

Janet x

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Lessons from yoga - let go of the need to be perfect

The media portrays images of the perfect body, perfect face, perfect lives and makes out that we can have it all, career, perfect family life, adventure etc. The problems come when we feel we are not living up to this perfection. We may struggle to meet the needs of a family and the needs of a career. We take our work home with us to help keep up but work/life balance suffers. What would it be like to let go of striving for perfection? We would be less stressed and ironically may achieve more. Letting go of perfection means accepting ourselves and what we are capable of. This does not mean that you should not make any effort but it does mean accepting things you cannot change.

It is the same with our yoga practice. We see Instagram pictures of advanced yoga postures and think we should be able to do them. It is far better however to let your body open gradually with practice than try to strain into poses. If you strain a pose, you immediately lose the benefit of that pose.  The breath is a good indicator of if you are straining into a pose - if the breath becomes strained you should either ease back a little or come out of the pose. There are always modifications to make a pose accessible and there is nothing wrong with using props either. Remember wherever you are in a pose is perfect and will give you benefits.  

In this week's video we practice accepting where we are in our yoga journey. Many poses are accessible through the use of props or modifications or using another pose that will give us the same benefits.  We end our video with a meditation for acceptance.  
Please see my yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga - let go of the need to be perfect'-

In all things allow yourself to be wherever you are - that is perfect.

Janet x

Sunday, 7 February 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Today I took part in an anti-fracking demo in Pocklington, East Yorkshire which was part of the National Day of Action. People brought along banners, there was a stall with information on fracking, petitions to sign and passing cars honked their support.
It is not just this area that is affected, but many parts of the UK.
Please read more on my 'sister' blog to find out how you can help-
Please feel free to share this blog post.

It's Chinese New Year on the 8th of February and this year is the year of the monkey so be prepared for anything! The monkey is clever, good at finding inventive solutions but full of tricks so be careful!
You may want to celebrate Chinese New Year with this tofu stir fry with fennel. You can make it low carb too by serving with spiralized squash. Recipe on my 'sister' blog-
One of my recipes 'Meatless Monday: Chinese New Year Special' was included in the magazine 'Meatless Monday'- The link for the recipe is included in my recipe for 'tofu stir fry with fennel' (see recipe in link above).

With Pancake Day approaching on Tuesday, 9th February you may want to try these healthy choc chip and banana vegan pancakes for breakfast. Alternatively they would make a great dessert served with banana ice cream.
Have a happy Pancake Day!

Myofascial Release - quadriceps muscle

There is a great deal of focus on tight hamstrings in yoga but tight quadriceps can be just as bad for your posture causing a forward tilt of your pelvis. Tight quadriceps can also lead to knee issues. The quadriceps are the big muscles that are located at the front of your thighs.

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 quadriceps:-

1. Lie on your tummy and come up onto your forearms.  Reach back with your right hand and place a roller under your right leg between your knee and your groin and tuck your left toes under (alternatively you can use a tennis ball). Bring your right hand back again and interlace your fingers. Leaning slightly over to the left roll your right leg over the roller. If you come across any tight areas work into those areas. Do not roll over the knee joint and if you experience any sharp, shooting or radiating pain stop immediately.

2. Lie on your tummy and press into your hands to lift your head and chest. Reach back with your right hand, place the roller under both legs and tuck your toes. Bring your right hand back into position as if you were in Upward Facing Dog.  'Walk' your hands and feet over the roller, working into any tight areas.  

Please see also


Janet x

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Unusual props - Legs (not) up the Wall

This is a variation of Legs up the Wall that you may find easier if you find the straight leg version a little hard on your legs. To come into the pose simply sit on your mat or a blanket with your right hip against the settee then swing your legs up onto a sofa and lie back. Relax your arms by your sides or take them overhead whichever feels more comfortable for you and stay here if you like for 15-20 minutes. 

To come out of the pose roll onto your right side and stay here a few moments before coming back up. 

Legs (not) up the Wall gives your legs a rest from gravity and brings blood to the brain which is very calming for the brain. Avoid if you have neck issues or glaucoma.

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

Janet x

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Lessons from yoga - There's always more to learn

Learning shouldn't stop when you leave school.  Discovering more about the world gives you a zest for life and a lively mind.  It could also prevent dementia in later life.  If you go to classes to learn that's even better because we can socialise as we learn which also has beneficial effects on health.  

In our yoga practice too there is always more to learn whether you are a beginner or a yoga teacher with many years of experience. In this week's video I will illustrate this with a back bend and forward bending practice. We may think that back bending merely requires flexibility in the spine but did you know flexibility in the shoulders and hip flexors also help with back bending? As beginners we are keen to back bend deeply from the outset.  The problem with this is that the lower lumbar spine tends to be more mobile than the upper thoracic spine.  We then run the risk of 'jarring' the lower back or creating pinching in the lower back.  In the video we do a pose to open up the thoracic spice leading to an even stretch along the length of the spine.  In the video we practice several back bends before the peak pose, Wild Thing as well as shoulder and hip flexor openers.  Wild Thing is an advanced backbend so I will also show you modifications. I am hoping is that after the preparation we do you will come to enjoy this exilerating back bend. 

Forward bends are often practiced as a counter pose to back bends.  We will end the video with a seated forward bend. If you have tight hamstrings forward bending can be difficult and you should never strain or you could injure your hamstrings.  But did you know that you can help your hamstrings release through a process called reciprocal inhibition? Without going into too much detail, if you contract your quadricep muscles, your hamstrings will release.  We test this out in the video 'Lessons from yoga-There's always more to learn'- on my YouTube Channel. 

Janet x