Sunday, 14 December 2014

HAPPINESS & YOGA HOLIDAYS

As the nights draw in and the winter solstice approaches, I have spent the past few evenings looking back on the year gone by and begun to make plans for the year ahead. In particular my thoughts  at this bleak time of the year have  unsurprisingly turned to holidays. These thoughts also prompted by the recent a reunion party we hosted for many of the yogis that joined us on one of the yoga three holidays that we hosted in dreamy Kabak in 2014. The fun and the friendship born on these holidays and rekindled once again at our Christmas party has led me to realise what a special part of my year these weeks of yoga and relaxation have become.


Of course it is always a joy practicing yoga as a group in any location, everyone working at their own level and pace while developing stamina, flexibility, strength and a deeper understanding of themselves. But then there's the setting of the yoga shala.


No-one ever fails to be moved by the incredible landscape of the Turquoise Coast viewed from the vantage point of the our yoga deck set high on the Lycian way. The drama of the mountains tumbling into the sea, their colour changing throughout the day and gradually building to a crescendo when the sunlight burnishes them pink and orange hues at dusk. Their vertiginous slopes abundant with lush vegetation and green forests. Beyond, we look out towards the hazy horizon where the sea and the sky seem to blend seamlessly into one another. The sea punctuated by occasional sails and fishing
boats while the sky serves as a back-drop for soaring birds of prey, dramatically silhouetted cloud
formations and luminous jet trails cross-crossing the canopy above.


Of course there is also the food. This is a region where the locals and visitors alike eat like sultans. After each yoga session we dine morning and night on delicious locally sourced Turkish fare shaded under grapevines and umbrellas or at night bathed in moonlight under a kaleidoscope of stars.


Lazy afternoons are spent enjoying wonderfully healing massage sessions, visits to the local hamman and spa or simply lounging with the lizards soaking up the sun and enjoying the panoramic views from the deck around the swimming pool. Meanwhile some in our number, channel their inner mountain goat and trek down to the nearby coves to sunbathe or swim in the clear warm Mediterranean waters. The more adventurous hike to the waterfall or local mountain villages. Other days guests hop on to local buses or drive in open jeeps to the bustling port of Fethiye. A colourful place to trawl for goodies to take home from the friendly traditional souk, or buy fresh organic produce at the weekly farmer's market followed by a delicious lunch at Reis's, our favourite restaurant in the bustling fish market.


Another highlight of the week is when we charter a local boat. Our lovely crew headed by their improbably named skipper 'Maradona', pick the group up from our local beach to take us to secluded coves and bays, where we can swim and snorkel and enjoy a barbecue lunch onboard washed down with local chilled rose or Efes beer. Then yet another lazy afternoon is then spent, chatting and laughing, reading or snoozing on the upper sun-deck, as we potter along the coast.


New experiences, peace and relaxation and the camaraderie of sharing stories and learning about each other's often very different lives are an essential ingredient of this kind of group holiday. For me organising them,  it is one of the most rewarding feelings of my role to sit and observe the smiles and laughter of our newly formed yogi family as after yoga they sit over breakfast and make their plans between them for the day ahead -  where perhaps the hardest choice is whether they should do a little or less.


I also love the evenings on our magical restaurant terrace. Over 20 of us sat together at long tables beneath the vines, lit by candles twinkling in coloured glass lanterns. The sweet natured, hardworking hotel waiters always ready with a smile and countless plates of lovingly cooked food from the kitchen and hot bread from the cavernous wood burning oven. Homemade soups, mezes of grilled aubergine, feta, crostini heaped with plump juicy sweet tomatoes. Fresh fish, steaming vegetable tagines and richly flavoured unctuous pulses and grains. Fragrant rice and bowls of fresh herb salads bejewelled with pomegranates and olives, accompanied by carafes of the owner's country wine and freshly juiced seasonal fruits.

It is wonderful to listen in on the animated conversations of my yogi guests, now bonded and
laughing together like old friends. These mixed groups, all strangers at the beginning of the week now destined to return home with hearts heavy with happiness and memories to sustain them through the winter months until the next time. While each group is quite uniquely different from the holiday group before, it never ceases to amaze me how the dynamics always seem to work so well. Perhaps this is a testimony to the unifying glue that is yoga and a sprinkling of Kabak Vadisi fairy-
dust thrown into the holiday mix!


Many a time I have found myself sitting under the inky Turkish sky late at night, all our yogi guests tucked up in their cosy little cabins and found myself thinking… so why do I return each year to run
these yoga holidays? They're a lot of work and can be a headache to organise sometimes - especially for someone who took up teaching yoga to avoid admin!!


The answer is simple. They make me a happier person and I guess that's the best feeling in the world.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Rigatoni & Goats Cheese Pie

An Autumn take on macaroni cheese
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage plus 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 12 oz. mushrooms, quartered 
  • 3 small leeks, white and light green parts cut into ½-inch-thick rounds 
  • 12 oz. broccoli, cut into 1 ½-inch florets
  • 1 lb. uncooked rigatoni pasta
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • ¼ cup  flour
  • 1 32-oz. butternut or parsnip soup 
  • 2 cups grated Swiss or Gruy√®re cheese,
  • 1 tsp. truffle oil, plus more for drizzling, (optional)
  • 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 10-inch loose based cake tin pan with oil. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil with fresh sage sprigs; use this boiling water to separately blanch mushrooms (3 minutes), then leeks (2 minutes), and then broccoli (1 minute). Immediately transfer each vegetable to colander with slotted spoon, rinse under cold water, drain well, and transfer to 1 large bowl.
2. Cook rigatoni in boiling water 3 minutes less than cooking time recommended on pack, then drain, rinse under cold water, and transfer to separate large bowl.
3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until beginning to turn light brown, stirring constantly. Add butternut squash soup, and cook 5 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup grated cheese, chopped sage, and 1 tsp. truffle oil (if using); season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir soup mixture into pasta, add blanched vegetables, and stir to combine.
4. Spread one-third of pasta mixture in prepared cake tin, dot with 1/3 cup ricotta cheese. Repeat twice with remaining pasta mixture and ricotta, and then sprinkle with remaining 1 cup grated cheese. (If making ahead, cover tin tightly with foil, and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Uncover before baking.)
5. Place on large baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes, or until top is browned and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before unmolding and serving.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

SPICY WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Roasting a whole head of cauliflower is an amazingly delicious dish that is as dramatic in presentation as it is easy in preparation. Serve it with a big green salad (lime juice and olive oil for the dressing) for an easy vegetarian supper or side dish.
INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 head cauliflower
1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIOnS
Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside.
 Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.
 In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.
Dunk the cauliflower into the bowl and use a brush or your hands to smear the marinade evenly over its surface. (Excess marinade can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days and used with meat, fish or other veggies.)       
Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.
Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedges and serving alongside a big green salad.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

FIVE REMINDERS WHEN YOU START YOGA


1. It's harder than you think
This is one of the most common statements from new student. Yoga tends to use the whole body, which includes parts of it that may not have been used very often. 
Yoga is a mind and body practice and the aim of yoga is to make that connection.  Through yoga the body is strengthened and opened through a series of poses called asana. The important thing here is to respect the body and start where you are. There is a yoga class for everyone. If the style or flow of the class really isn’t for you, try different classes. Some are geared toward fitness level, state of health and age. 
2. No gymnastics required
Many people avoid yoga because they think they aren't flexible enough. They assume they will be asked to contort their body into a pretzel to practice yoga the right way. We practice yoga to become more flexible both on the mat and off. We must remind ourselves that it isn’t about being good at yoga. It isn’t about achieving some contorted pose. It's about the journey, being present for every single step.
3. Your teacher is your friend.
Yoga is about energetics. Just as in any other classroom setting, the teacher is a key component. I can say for sure that I would not be where I am today without having incredible teachers with whom I connected deeply. There are many different styles of yoga in the west, and many different styles of teachers to go along with them. Find someone you trust to guide you. It's your journey, but your teacher can be the conduit to help you along the way. 
4. Yoga is about connecting with oneself.
It's about remaining open and letting whatever comes come. Connecting with oneself can be uncomfortable. As we begin to connect, we can feel a whole host of emotions and sensations. Then the judgments come. I can’t believe I tried this. What was I thinking? Would it be rude if I just left? In these times, noticing your breath can help to let go of the tirades of the ego and allow the body to settle into the present moment instead of shutting down, closing up shop, and going home literally and figuratively. 
5. If you practice regularly and sincerely yoga will change your life. 
Many new students ask, “How often do I need to do this to get the benefits?” 
The answer?

Practice as much as you can, whether it's once time a week or several times a week.
Yoga starts to transform as soon as you begin to practice, in major ways and in subtle ways, and the effects are cumulative over a lifetime. Yoga is healing. Yoga slows the aging process. Yoga strengthens the body, the mind and the spirit, and allows those who practice to face life with a sense of peace and resiliency they may not have previously known. 
I am filled with gratitude for my teachers and my practice and what they have shown me about myself, about life, about being able to live fully. I am also grateful for the chance to get to better know myself each and every day and to share this practice with others along the path. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE #GenocideinGaza

When is the bloodshed in Gaza is going to end? Does mankind never learn that hate cannot ever drive out hate? When is the international community going to stop pontificating? Hamas undoubtedly has a case to answer, but to most of us on the outside looking in, Israel seems to have lost all sense of perspective and humanity. It's leaders express no will to find a solution, their spokespeople flair up and become aggressive whenever confronted with an uncomfortable question.
Israel and the Jewish people have received a great reservoir of sympathy and good will, we all know their appalling history. But from where I'm standing it seems that reservoir has well and truly dried out. This god fearing yet apparently lawless nation has lost sight of any sense of human decency and humility. 
The international community needs to step down off the fence and make Israel and it's leaders accountable for such disproportionate actions right now. Their unprecedented aggression against The Palestinians and anyone else - even those of their own faith and nationality who dare to challenge,  has to stop however uncomfortably that sits with international seats of power.    

Sunday, 20 July 2014

LOVE THE SKIN YOUR IN - Yoga for skin conditions

Many skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis can be triggered by or made worse by stress. Sufferers often feel self-conscious and even depressed which will have a negative effect on the condition and make it even harder to treat.




It is well known that yoga and meditation can positively effect the mind and body.  By learning  ways to relieve stress we can help to alleviate some of the symptoms or aggravating factors of skin conditions that are associated with stress.  It would be disingenuous to suggest that by themselves yoga and meditation will cure all common skin conditions but they can definitely help. So why not give it a try.

You will quickly discover that yoga practice and breathing techniques can have a profound effect on how we manage stress. Helping to balance moods and form a positive connection to the body by learning how to let go of the negative feelings that often occur when suffering with a skin condition. 


Gentle poses such as child's pose, short meditations and breathing exercises carried out on a regular basis will have a positive effect on both the mind and body and teach us to begin to love again the skin we live in.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

MEDITATION FOR KIDS by Mind Body Green

1. Listen! Bell Meditation -  Invite kids to sit up tall in “criss-cross applesauce” and let their eyes close. Ring a bell or singing bowl, and ask kids to use their sense of hearing to explore the sound. Ask them to listen very carefully, and as soon as they hear it stop, raise their hand. They can then practice attentive listening without the bell. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds in your space.  Which are closest to you? Which are far away? Which to the left, or right? You can also try this meditation while walking down the street or lying in bed before falling asleep. (Thanks to Little Flower Yoga for the bell tip!)
2. Sing! Relaxation Song - This meditation combines song with touch and brings even the youngest of kids to a place of peace. Invite kids to sit up tall. Sometimes we sing the syllables Sa Ta Na Ma, or sometimes an English affirmation like “I Am Strong.” With each syllable, touch a different finger to your thumb, starting with the pointer finger and moving to the pinky. We practice singing, whispering, and singing quietly to ourselves in our minds. This is a self-soothing exercise and can be 
done discretely anywhere kids want to calm down, from the train to the classroom desk to the dinner table.
3. Breathe! Take Five Breath - Your breath is always with you. Learning to check in to it from an early age is a major tool. Try “take 5 breath” where you inhale for five, and exhale for five. Use your fingers to count as you breathe. Slowing your breath will slow down your mind. Can you feel your heart rise and fall as you breathe? Can you feel the breath enter and leave your nose?

4. Watch! Cloud Gazing -
  Sitting quietly, pay attention to your inhale and exhale. When thoughts or feelings come up, think of them like clouds passing through your mind, which is like the sky. You can watch the clouds come and go just like you can watch clouds in the sky move and shift in their shapes. Kids may not sit too long, but just introducing this concept is a great preparation for adult meditation. And the awareness that things are always changing and things do pass is important to share and practice observing with kids.