Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to laugh before breakfast and other yogi ideas …

Most of my yoga students have heard me go on and on about cold showers, though most seem unconvinced, it has to be said. I totally understand that they think I am crazy. I used to raise my eyebrows just as sceptically when my old yoga teacher told me about them - until I tried it myself.
I have always been the queen of hot baths, preferably accompanied by a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a good book, or my best friend sitting on the loo seat to chat to me (three sisters = no inhibitions), or on the end of the phone as a last resort. So, how can it be that in the last three weeks of living in the coldest, snowiest weather I can remember since I was a child, I have had precisely one hot bath and 22 cold showers? You only have to try it once to know the answer.

Honestly, I have had a cold shower every morning since I arrived, including the day we got off the plane from 30 to -2 degrees and snow, and a friend’s very under-heated flat. It takes your breath away of course. In fact it makes me laugh every time I do it, which is a good enough reason to do it in itself – how many mornings do you have a good laugh before breakfast?

Other benefits of hydrotherapy or ishnaan (cold showers) are well known. The practice keeps your skin radiant and softer, (this is definitely true for me, and no product has ever helped my skin before) opens up your capillaries, flushes all your organs (not literally, you should keep your mouth closed), keeps blood chemistry young and healthy and it stimulates healthy glandular secretions. It also strengthens and widens your aura, your electro-magnetic field, your light and your radiance.

You have to do it right though (for right, read, my way:-)). I do not follow all the rules of Ishnaan (there is a sequence of body massage you are supposed to follow but that takes about ten minutes which I think is way too long and uses up too much water.) But here is the more eco-friendly - or more cowardly - two minute version. The winter version. In the summer I can be under for much longer and wash my hair too if I am feeling brave. Of course in Cambodia it was hard to get a shower to be cold enough and you would be sweating minutes after getting dry, but in England, summer or winter, the water runs seriously cold.

In the bathroom, or near enough to it, do a few minutes of energetic yoga. Squats, breath of fire, and aura strengthening arm raises are my favourite. Then put some almond oil in your hands and massage your whole body for as long or as short as you like. Then get in the shower and start by putting your hands under and gradually put your whole body under while massaging your body vigorously as you do. Wash with some natural soap and when you have stopped laughing and have had enough get out! Dry yourself, get dressed straight away and ideally follow with your favourite yoga. And have a cup of yogi tea afterwards as you sit back and bask in your bravery and radiance. It is that simple.

I challenge you to try this for a week and come back and tell me how you feel. I do this every morning, preferably before the children wake up, and when I sit down to do yoga, despite the floors being made of stone, the sun not yet having risen and the heating not yet having come on, I really do feel very warm and very calm. And I bet if you asked my family whether they could tell which days I did this before breakfast they would be able to tell. (I just asked. They can.) It makes me a better mother there is no doubt about it. I feel uplifted and energetic throughout the day after this ritual, and I am much more patient and fun with my children.

Go on, have a go :-)
N.B. Do not practice the above if you are pregnant or have any health issues that would make this not a good idea. If at all concerned google Ishnaan and ask your doctor first.

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Recipe for Yogi Tea

Sorry, this has been a long time in coming. So, for a wonderfully delicious tea that strengthens your bones, purifies the blood, aids healthy digestion and is a natural antibiotic here goes:

To 1 1/2 litres water add 5-10 slices of ginger, 20 cardamom pods
20 peppercorns, 15 cloves and 3 cinnamon sticks.

Simmer for 40 minutes. Add 1 tbs. black tea (optional) then reheat to the boiling point, remove from the stove, and strain. Add honey/milk to taste.

It keeps in fridge for a week and is also nice iced (well, if you are in tropical Cambodia, that is, not snowy Kington!) Jemima likes it diluted with lots of milk and it is good for teething. My father is addicted too now, and the house smells lovely when you are making it.


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Friday, January 8, 2010

Rambles about new life and new school in Herefordshire! (Unedited, sorry)

Hello hello, we are on line in Herefordshire hooray! And someone has just posted this: Tell us about your household and family and town in Herefordshire! (who are you? :-) and so I shall. And tomorrow I will add lots of snowy pictures too.
It is beautiful and white and frosty here and today was the coldest day recorded in Herefordshire in 30 years apparently. It was barely under freezing which by my Norwegian friend Tone's standards must be a hot day given that it is -30c there right now, but for England it is a bit of a national emergency when it snows.

Schools are closed, buses and trains cancelled, rubbish remains uncollected... and today I think we ran out of salt. (I mean we as in England, not the Treasure-Evans, and salt as in grit, not table salt)

I love it! We are forced to surrender to the powers of nature for a change. Having to take a day or two off work is also a good reminder that we are not that important and the world will not collapse without us. I can say this easily though because James and I are not working yet. At least not in the economically-recognised manner of the word. Cooking, cleaning, rearranging and rebuilding our lives while taking care of two children is keeping us busy enough though. Oh I miss Sophy. (Oh, I must blog about our farewell at the airport. Sophy's entire family came to see us off, placing garlands of jasmine around our necks and pressing their noses into our necks for minutes at a time, sniffing our skin as they do with children, as as if to remember forever how we smell. It was overwhelming and moving and I sobbed my heart out. I really do miss Sophy, and I do not mean for her washing up or childcare. I miss her warm, gentle presence in our family and I wonder how she is doing without her darling Bella to make her laugh every day. Ah, more about leaving Cambodia later.)

Jemima started school on Monday and completely loved it. I missed her so much at lunchtime, after five years of having her home! But I love her school as much as she does. It is very eco- and socially conscious, small and familial. Really, I had to stop myself from throwing my arms around her teachers in joy and relief. Jemima's teacher is very zen and softly spoken and manages to make a class of 24 children seem more like a class of ten. The atmosphere in her classroom and in the whole school was so happy and peaceful and there was a lot of emphasis on kindness and caring for each other. We were all really welcomed and spent the whole morning there. The Head Teacher is young and gorgeous and seems to adore her job. And she had so much time for us. She had time to play with Bella, share ideas about James' career, and chat to me, on the first day back at school before giving a lovely and inspiring assembly (yes I nearly cried then too).

This is something I have loved so much about this last week - everyone seems to have time for us. Everyone we meet stops to chat and seems genuinely interested in us and our children. They all seem to want to come to yoga too so I better get that organised soon. And the health food shop will re fill our Ecover bottles! Ah how I have missed little things like this!

Kington is small (about 2-3000 people) and has a lovely high street currently adorned with coloured flags and each house as a Christmas tree on the front wall, upstairs hanging over the street, as has been tradition for centuries. There are small independent shops for everything and a Co'op, with lots of organic and fair trade products. Our house is a mile out of Kington surrounded by hills and fields all covered at the moment in a blanket of snow. We can sit in our kitchen and watch twenty birds having their breakfast in the garden, including the robin that comes right up to the door, if Bella is quiet enough. There are log fires inside, snowmen outside and I have seen the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day since we arrived. I am totally loving cooking and being domestic in such gorgeous surroundings and we have been sledging on near perfect slopes which we can walk to from the house every day. The girls are loving it but they need friends. Once school opens again that should be taken care of though. And they have Grandpa.

We are living with my father. This house has been our family holiday house since I was born and my father has been living here alone for the last ten years or so. It regularly fills up with my sisters and their families though so I think he knew what he was in for when he invited us to come and share his home. My father is 80 but looks and seems closer to late 60s. So far so good - we seem to co-exist really happily, sharing meals most of the time but being independent when we need to be. It feels so lovely to be living with extended family and the girls love their grandpa very much. (My mother, Granny Melly, lives in the next county so can easily visit or receive visits from her grandchildren too.)

My father is coping admirably with the upheaval, raising his eyebrows from time to time as we squeeze by him on the stairs with some huge, antique piece of furniture wobbling precariously between us "Just rearranging a couple of things, don't worry about it Daddy!", or as the girls completely melt down over that final item of winter clothing, after half an hour of trying to get out of the front door. He already has our vegetable patch marked out for us and few jobs up his sleeve, and he has babysat a mostly sleeping Bella twice already in one week, it feels so right to be able to help each other out as families should.

Oh gosh it is 11pm which means my friends in Cambodia will be getting up now (7 hours ahead). I can still hear the birdsong and the traffic noises - but I can't imagine the heat anymore, my feet have frozen up as I type. I have to go to bed so that I can get up early before the girls for my yoga. My new years resolution, cold shower and yoga before breakfast, but more about that soon! Good night or good morning depending on where you are reading me!

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