Hey guys,

So, if you follow my blog you may have read my post a few weeks back about yoga ‘as a non-yogi’ and what you can expect – which is the unexpected! Taking up yoga on a regular basis has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect, both physically and mentally, but I can safely say I am now 100% addicted! I have now progressed to an intermediate class and I love everything that yoga has brought to my life. In this post I’ll take you through some of the ways yoga has changed my life for the better and the benefits of taking it up yourself.

Improved flexibility

This is something that takes a bit of time and won’t come overnight after your first yoga class. However, yoga is an amazing way of stretttttchinf out every muscle and ligament in your entire body! And it feels amazing afterwards! Sometimes I don’t think we realise how our lives and daily stresses and strains can cause our bodies to get all crumpled up and a good stretch can do the world of good.

Increased core strength

Yoga is all about the core and some of the poses literally pummel your abs without you even realising. I’ve definitely noticed that my core strength has improved which has in turn made my balance a lot better. 

Better posture

This is a biggie. Do you ever catch yourself hunched over your computer at work? Same! It’s one of my worst habits. Since I’ve been doing yoga regularly I have noticed I’ve been sitting up straighter and taller as well as standing straighter, without even really noticing or making a conscious effort to alter anything. Yoga works on all the ‘little muscles’ in your back which don’t usually get much attention in the gym, but quite literally hold you up! It’s worked wonders for my hunched shoulders.

Better sleep quality

I have written before about things like getting up earlier and using ASMR and music to help my insomnia but yoga and, specifically, the meditation session at the end of yoga class has had a noticeable impact on my sleep. Not only do I fall asleep quicker but my sleep quality is a lot better, for example I sleep longer and find my sleeps more settled with less waking up in the night.

Calmer mind

My day to day life and job can be pretty stressful at times and sometimes just using some breathing techniques or simple stretching from yoga helps me to clear my  mind and feel calmer almost straight away. Our lives can be stressful and it’s important to take some time out of the day to just breathe. I can go to a yoga class with my head full of the day I’ve had and leave feeling peaceful and like my mind is almost empty; totally clear of whatever has happened. There is literally nothing a yoga class can’t fix!

 

I would seriously recommend practising yoga and meditation to anybody, no matter whether you are a beginner or more experienced, trust me, you’ll see the benefits in no time!

Fancy taking up yoga but not sure if you can fit it in to your busy life? Why not try Desk Yogi? 

Their mission is to help people experience the wellness of yoga and meditation in their workplace, even at their desks! The programme provides wellness plans including 5 minute meditation videos to help you relax and get the benefits of yoga at work. Check out their website for more details about how you can get involved!

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One of my New Years resolutions for 2017 was to ‘get into yoga’ – whatever that means. I’ve been to the odd class before with friends but I’ve never sustained it for long enough to see any improvements or benefits. Lately I’ve been seeing toned women on Instagram doing headstands and various other tricky looking poses and I thought ‘I want me some of that’.

In January Paul and I (yes I dragged my husband along too!) started attending a weekly yoga class at our gym. We were lucky because our local gym has a brilliant yoga teacher who runs a really excellent mixed ability class and she’s fantastic about helping you get the very best out of your practice. As much as I am enjoying it, however, I would say yoga definitely does not come naturally to me! I’m a gym bunny, I love working out and lifting weights and I’m very naughty and very rarely stretch afterwards. Consequently, my flexibility is at around zero and I can’t even touch my toes! Now, a few months in I am loving regular yoga and I am starting to see the benefits, but I thought I would share with you a few things that you might find tricky as a ‘non-yogi’ like me trying to take up this hobby!

First up, let’s get out of the way. Even if you think you are fit, you are not yoga fit.

Before I started yoga classes I considered myself a moderately fit and kind of ‘sporty’ person. I thought I was quite strong, I can run a bit, I generally enjoy exercise so I kind of naively thought I was take to yoga pretty easily. Let me tell you; I may have thought I was strong, but I am NOT yoga strong. A few seconds in some of the poses and I was wobbling all over the place, sweating and breathing heavily whilst the rest of the class look serene. Yoga seems to just use muscles that you never use at any other time when working out. It is an amazing workout because it hits cardio, strength training and core stability all in one session. But, if you are new to it like me, don’t expect to take to it naturally.

Also, it hurts the next day.

The morning after my first yoga class I tried to sit up in bed and my body just wasn’t working. The aching was like nothing I’ve ever experienced! After a good training session it’s normal for the section of the body you have been training to ache but after yoga it was like my entire body was hurting. Good news however, after about 15 weekly classes I can confirm that the morning-after pain never again reaches the heights of the first session. I think it was just my body having a tantrum for putting it through something so unfamiliar and difficult!

They make it look easy.

I have re evaluated my initial goal of nailing the Insta-Yoga-Headstand. I can confirm that 15 weeks in and I am still NO WHERE NEAR a successful headstand! It takes time, really consistent practice and incredible core strength to do most tricky yoga poses. Right now I’m still working on touching my toes. But I am getting closer!

It might involve singing.

Yoga is a spiritual practice at it’s heart. Unbeknown  to me, it is quite usual for a yoga class to all close their eyes and belt out a couple of ‘Ohms’ at the end of a class! I love it, but just to pre warn you as I was slightly bewildered at my first class.

You will probably become addicted.

Despite all of the aches and wobbling – I am now a yoga addict. My Tuesday nights are not complete without an hour spent upside down! Not only have I seen an improvement in my core strength and flexibility, but also I feel like it really reenergises me and helps me feel calm. After a long day at work sometimes I umm and ahh about going, but afterwards I feel like the day’s stresses have melted away! I have even noticed a decrease in tension headaches since I have been going. I am determined to continue practicing yoga and get better, stronger and DO THAT HEADSTAND GODDAMMIT!

Are you a yogi? Or considering taking it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I have suffered from sleep problems on and off throughout my adult life, but the worst episode I had started 3 years ago and went on until last year. It is so debilitating and exhausting when you can’t sleep and trying to explain that weird ‘trapped’ feeling when your staring at the ceiling at 4am waiting for the sun to come up is impossible. 

Personally, I have decided to stay away from medication and try self care remedies.  I have managed to overcome my sleeping issues myself and although I know these steps won’t work for everyone they really helped me and now I can get off to sleep quickly almost every night. Here are a few simple tips and lifestyle changes that I have made which have really worked for me.

Go to bed earlier.

This may sound strange but this is the thing which has helped me the most I think. My acupuncturist told me that at 11pm we (humans) get a burst of energy and endorphins (this is where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ comes from and why many artists and writers insist they do their best work in the middle of the night!).  We can avoid getting this burst if we are already asleep by 11pm! It might sound like the opposite of what you want to do if you have trouble dropping off but simply changing my regular bedtime to 10.30pm has made a really big difference to my routine.

Sorry, no lie ins!

Everyone’s insomnia is different and I know a lot of people can’t sleep in at all, but with me if I had a day off or late shift the next day I would often lie in until 10 or even 11am trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep. By forcing myself to get up at 6am every weekday for a workout and 8am on the weekends I have established a kick ass routine and by the time the evening comes around I’m shattered from getting up so early so fall asleep easier! You know when parents pack their kids’ weekends full of activities to ‘wear them out’ – well it works for us adults too!

A little bit of exercise every day.

I know it’s so easy to say but doing some exercise everyday has helped me to become a fitter, more active person and has definitely improved my sleeping, and my well being in general.

Stop trying too hard.

On the occasions I do go to bed and I can’t drop off I don’t stress about it like I used to. I leave the room (nothing worse than a deep-sleeping partner’s heavy breathing when you can’t drop off!) and usually have a bath or read a book. It doesn’t take long to start getting heavy eyelids.

ASMR.

This is a new one for me, but in someways has made the biggest difference. Sometimes there are some nights when I just can’t shut my brain off and when I close my eyes my head is buzzing with thoughts and stresses. This is when I get out my Ipad (on low brightness), plug in and listen to some ASMR videos on Youtube. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m no expert but ASMR ‘artists’ create videos using special microphones and sounds to create a sense of deep relaxation, and it really works! It’s sooooo relaxing. These videos have really helped me when all else fails and they have me drifting off in no time.

You can read more about ASMR here.

I do understand that these won’t work for everyone but I really hope that this might help someone – because I know how frustrating it can be! In our busy lives sleep is often the first thing to go and more and more doctors and researchers are proving just how important it is to our physical and mental health. If you are really struggling make sure you ease the burden by chatting it through with someone you are close to or your doctor.

Have you guys found any self-help methods for sleeping that really help you?

 

 

Good morning! I hope you are having a great week so far. If you’re week is not going so great then not to worry! Today I’m going to share with you my favourite hobby right now for relaxing and getting a bit of “me time”; mindfulness colouring. “Colouring for Grown Ups” burst onto the scene early last year and became the latest gift-giving craze. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of these books are currently tucked up safely in a drawer or under a pile of papers somewhere. After all – who has time for colouring in alongside work, blogging, family, friends, exercise, hobbies, reading and everything else that we are trying to fit into our lives?!

If this is you I would urge you to dig out said book and start colouring in! Trust me. It’s such a good way to de-stress and unwind after the working day. I generally do a short burst of about fifteen minutes every day when I get in to help me to switch off my work head and get ready to enjoy my evening.  It’s also great because it doesn’t take much concentration and you can really let yourself get lost in it. I even find it takes less “brain power” than curling up with a book.

And the range of colouring books you can get on the market is insane! There are literally stacks of stunningly designs; my examples below are from the Under the Sea version but I’ve seen ones with Woodlands, Fairytale and Seasonal themes. For my designs I choose to keep them quite intricate and use a mixture of colouring pencil, fine liner pens and thin felt tips – but that’s the beauty of it; it’s yours so you can make it however you want. So get creative! I honestly believe that a bit of creativity every day is seriously good for us. Drawing isn’t for everyone but literally anyone can colour in (and you’re not in school anymore so you don’t even have to stay in the lines if you don’t want to!)

Here are some examples of my colouring. To see Waterstone’s range of colouring books for Grown Ups click here.

What’s your opinion of adult colouring? What’s your favourite activity for relaxing?

I used to eat and drink A LOT of dairy products. I mean, more than normal. Yes, everyone likes cheese, but I would have a huge bowl of cereal with milk every morning, cheese sandwiches almost daily, pasta piled high with cheese and yogurt. Also (and this is embarrassing to admit but it was in a bid to beat insomnia okay) I used to take a mug of warm milk to bed with me every night. 

In January this year me and my husband embarked on a mission to get fit, healthy and slim for our wedding. We gave up all junk food, took up exercise and sort of threw in going dairy free on a bit of a whim to just see what happened. And I’m not exaggerating. It’s changed our lives! Here’s how:

  1. I’ve got more energy. I get up much much easier in the morning and don’t get that slump in the mid afternoon either.
  2. I don’t get bloated anymore. I think we all know that an excess of dairy products can cause bloating and tummy troubles – for me this has been non existent since I gave it up.
  3. I sleep better. Truth be told I can’t tell if this is the dairy free or the healthy lifestyle in general as the two have coincided. Nevertheless, since I quit I’ve found one been sleeping much better. 
  4. I’m less emotional. Now, whether you believe me or not I swear this is true! I’ve heard that diary (especially milk) contains a lot of hormones and, don’t quote me on the science, this can in turn effect ones emotions and (ahem) levels of… shall we say calmness. I will be the first to admit that I used to be neurotic on a good day and shit crazy on a bad one. Ask my husband! Since quitting dairy I seem to have – shall we say – mellowed a bit. And I tend to cry a bit less at nothing. Works for me!
  5. Weight loss! I cut out sugar and most fatty foods as well so the dairy is just a part of my weight loss journey but there is no denying that dairy products do contain fat and are calorific. All in all I have lost 2 1/2 stone this year and I’m sure going dairy free has contributed to this.
  6. My skin has improved. This has got to be connected to the hormones too right?? I’ve noticed a huge inrpovement in my skin from it being overall clearer and more glowy to less breakouts and reduced redness in my cheeks.
  7. It’s improved my psoriasis. I am lucky in the sense that my psoriasis is mild and I only really get it in hidden places like my hairline and neck. However, it skill bugs me and isuncomfortable. Since I stopped consuming dairy I have found that it has improved a lot and practically gone away. I have done a bit of research and found that going dairy free is often recommended for reducing skin conditions like eczema, and since they are similar I guess it would be the same for psoraosis.
  8. Bye bye migraines! Now I’m not going to pretend that they’ve completed gone – I do still get the occasional migraine. But I used to really suffer from bad ones at least once a month. Dairy is a well known trigger for migraines and I’ve had way less since I quit. In fact, since I went dairy free in January I’ve probably only had 2 migraines which is a significant  improvement.

These are benefits that I, personally, have found and by no means are scientifically proven or designed to persuade you to quit dairy! But if anyone is considering it for health reasons or otherwise then the above might be useful. I wouldn’t go back to dairy now because it’s had such profound effects of my health and wellbeing – even though I will miss that cheese board at chistmas!!

Have you given up dairy? How are you finding it?


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