Category Archives: Body

Join us as we share our experiences in learning to live a healthier life. Including our explorations with Yoga and other forms of Exercise.

Top 10 tips for a more sustainable life

Watching the world go by, Fort Cochin, Kerala, India (December 2

Earth Day is a great reason to take a little look at our lives and whether we are doing our bit for the planet. We’ve been thinking about our impact on the environment quite a lot lately, and here are our top 10 tips for living a more sustainable life. Of course, our list is not the only one you could create, so feel free to add suggestions, or rubbish the ones we make. 

1. Bin the bag
It takes between 15 and 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Imagine how many less bags could be used if we just took our own to the supermarket, and even clothes shopping. We have a little fold out bag in our bags so we can always turn down the one offered. 

2. Stop buying bottled water. Take a water bottle with you
Buying bottled water when you live in a country where the water is safe to drink, and actually tastes good does not seem to make sense. I love my metal waterbottle, and my Britta filter gets rid of the chlorine taste of the water here in Singapore so that I can avoid buying bottled water most of the time. Even in India we used refillable 20L water containers and a water purifier to minimize our impact.

3. Avoid buying things packed in Styrofoam or plastic
I know, this one is super tough. We are going crazy trying to cut down and cut out here. The supermarket hardly has anything that is not pre-packed anymore! So we have started buying our vegetables from a green grocer who has bins that we can select fruit and vegetables out of and put them into our reusable bags. We haven’t found a solution to lettuce yet, but every little bit counts. 

4. Buy locally
Buying locally not only supports local producers, but also cuts down on transportation costs. Where this doesn’t work though is if your local producer is factory farming their animals instead of free range animals, because then, as illogical as it sounds, importing from across the ocean might actually have less total environmental impact than buying locally. 

5. Eat seasonally
The only way that I could manage this in the Netherlands was to go to the local market and buy what the local producers are selling. The supermarkets sold the same vegetables, all year round, but from different imported locations. Eating seasonally gives you variety in your food, and also means that the environmental impact of storage and transport is likely to be lower. 

6. Print less
I am hoping that by now most people have skipped printing their emails, but still I see older executives doing this. Try to go as paper-free as possible at the office, and choose digital versions of magazines, e-tickets and newspapers. 

7. Use a colder wash
Ninety percent of the energy your washing machine uses is for heating the water, so if you use cold water to wash your clothes, or a lower temperature, it can make a huge difference in energy efficiency.

8. Take public transportation, ride your bike or walk whenever possible
What I loved about living in Amsterdam was that I took my bike almost everywhere. In Singapore we are able to take the bus or metro most of the time, with only an occasional taxi. Not every city has as good an infrastructure, or is as compact as these cities to enable this to be an option, but even in other cities, consider whether you really need to take the car for this trip, or you can do it another way. 

9. Unplug your electronics, and choose more energy efficient ones
Even when you are not using them, the standby mode of appliances is consuming electricity. If you leave your charger plugged into the wall without your phone in it, it is still drawing a current. Most countries have now implemented energy ratings for appliances so comparing the options on energy efficiency when you are buying your next major appliance is relatively straight forward. Also consider LED lamps over conventional ones, as lighting is a major contributor to total energy usage in the home.

10. Recycle rather than disposing waste
The age old saying that “one man’s waste is another man’s treasure” really holds true. Here in Singapore, and in India too, we gave away our old things to our cleaners, to the men working on building sites, guards and their extended families. They prefer to focus their incomes on supporting their extended families, so saving on their own clothing and goods can really help. Elsewhere, try finding a clothing bin or the Salvation Army for your old clothes and toys. 

I don’t think that there can be a definitive or exhaustive list on this topic, so we’d love to have you add to it with your ideas. Post them in the comments.

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Food Revolution

Liam with chocolate

Jamie Oliver has been trying for some time to bring it to our collective attention that we are not prioritizing the health of our children through the food choices that we make – both at home, and in school dinners. With rising obesity and diabetes figures amoungst children globally (you can include China and India, along with Western countries) it is hard to argue with him.

Starting a Food Revolution
Yesterday I sat down and watched every episode of his Food Revolution series. In it he tried to replicate what he had achieved in the UK with school dinners in the US. In the first series he worked with a school in a relatively small town to change what they cooked and what the children were served. He met huge resistance but was ultimately able to change what they were serving and see the results. But the community struggled with how he did it and the criticism that they received during the process.

When he tried to do it a second time in Los Angeles, the LA school board did not want to receive the criticism and negative publicity that came with it, and effectively shut the program down. For the whole series he tries to get permission to get access to a school and its cafeteria, but meets legal resistance after political resistance. Through the whole series he never really gets started on what he went there to do and it is no wonder that no third series appears to have been made. He mentions in the show that no other school district had given him permission either. To his credit he did not give up, but took a different (online) approach.

Eating more fruit and vegetables or knowing what they are?
But it really got me thinking. With Garlic and Lime we want to inspire people to eat more fruit and vegetables, to eat naturally. We choose to live Gluten and Dairy Free as well, but that isn’t at the core. The core is to eat natural, whole foods. To skip the processed food aisles at the supermarket, and focus on the natural goodness of foods you make yourself.

Through the Food Revolution program you saw how far away this is for some people. How basic nutritional understanding of whether this is a tomato or a potato was simply not there with some of the teenage children. Some of the students he spoke to didn’t know that butter comes from a cow, rather than corn. As he rightly points out, this isn’t the fault of the kids, this is the fault of the parents and educators. On Garlic and Lime we give a glossary of some of the more exotic ingredients we use, but to think that for some people that all of the ingredients we use are exotic breaks my heart.

You also saw how far away considering the health impact of the ingredients in food was from so called “health professionals” and “food industry experts”. There were so many good reasons why the ingredients list had to sound like a high school science project. So many good reasons why cooking with natural ingredients “was not economically viable”. But at what cost? The health of a generation? Early death from obesity and diabetes?

Can we do anything?
I have been puzzling on this question all night. All I know is that I can effect change in my own home. I can explain to my son that fruit and vegetables are good for you, and why he should (and is) eating them. I can consciously choose to involve him in food selection, preparation, and cooking. I can consciously choose to talk to him about recycling, food waste and pollution. 

So this morning we had a conversation about the contents of the goodie bag he got from the birthday party of one of his school friends yesterday. It was full of junk food, and included some “noodle snacks” which Liam was convinced must be the best of them health wise because it didn’t seem to include sugar. But its second ingredients was “processed palm oil” and it listed 4 different E numbers (flavours and preservatives). We explained to him why it was terrible for him, and threw it in the bin in front of him, to no resistance. It is a start I guess.

Beyond that, what can each of us do? Your ideas and thoughts are welcome.

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Getting Started with Yoga

Genevieve and Liam at Wat Phra Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand (De

Getting started with a new habit can seem daunting, and I have noticed from looking at how we both differently started yoga, that there is no one right way to begin. 

Excuses, Excuses
I delayed starting for a long time. I had a lot of excuses – getting to a gym for a class was too much of a barrier, I just didn’t have the time. Looking at yoga books didn’t help me to put it together into a routine. I couldn’t visualize what I needed to do, so I couldn’t imagine myself doing it.

Getting started with the Daily Yoga App
It wasn’t until a friend suggested the “Daily Yoga” App (available in the Android and Apple App stores) that I couldn’t find an excuse anymore. It walked me through routines, and I could do it in the comfort of my own home. No need to go to the gym. 

Daily Yoga app

Daily Yoga app

Daily yoga has a series of sessions that can be downloaded onto the App for free. I started with the “Yoga Sequence for Beginners“, and “Standing Poses for Beginners“. These are sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each. After a few months I moved to the “Standing Yoga Routine” and “Seated Yoga Routine” which are sessions of 20 or 30 minutes each, and the “Sun Salutation” 5-15 minutes. I also use the “Yoga for Runners” before and after I do a walk or run as a warm up and cool down practise.

I have not yet paid to “Go Pro” in the app, but this would unlock more music and sessions for $29.99 USD per year.  That is a lot less than going to a class…

Daily yoga for video in progress

Daily yoga for video in progress

Once I felt confident in my practice, I booked into a retreat in Bali, with the aim to have small group sessions with a Yoga instructor to deepen my knowledge and understanding. My trip to Villa Flow Bali made me connect more deeply with the practice and start to put my own routines together, alongside continuing to use the Daily Yoga App. Having a professional to guide me also ensured that I corrected any of the mistakes that I was making through only using an app.

It is important with yoga that you do the poses correctly and don’t try to extend yourself too far or too fast so that you avoid injuries.

Getting started with classes
Barry on the other hand approached it very differently. Almost 15 years ago, he signed up for a set of 10 classes. He prefers to be shown how to do things, to ask questions, and to have the encouragement and support that only a physical trainer can give to get started. He wanted to make sure that he was doing the poses the right way right from the beginning.

Once he got more confident, then he moved onto self study. He bought himself a couple of books, and also started looking at videos on You Tube to give himself more ideas to build into his own routines. 

Getting some new ideas with Tara Stiles
Tara Stiles for example has an excellent set of videos available through LivestrongWoman. They might look a little intimidating though as she is incredibly flexible! Don’t worry if you can’t bend as far as she can yet, we can’t either – even after years of practice!

Below you’ll find some of her Beginner videos to help you get started.  

Now we are just working out how to get our son practicing Yoga with us, but that is proving a little more challenging so far…






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Under the Dome

Apartment buildings in Shenzhen, China (January 2014)

A Growing Consciousness of Air Pollution

During the time we lived in Delhi we became conscious of Air Pollution. It wasn’t measured then in the way it is in China or Singapore, and daily statistics on the Air Quality Levels were not available. But we bought an Air Purifier, and we could see the pollution with it.

It has a colour indicator to show how hard it is working. Blue means that the air quality is good, and it slows down or even stops the fan from working. Pink means there is a problem with the Air Quality, and Red is an alert – it is working hard to make the air clean.

We watched it hover between Pink and Red for most of the day, especially in Winter and during the Summer dust storms. Only during monsoon did it stay blue for long periods of time. We cleaned the front barrier filter of black soot every month. We bought a second one, and ran them night and day in the lounge and our bedrooms.

It was only after we left that Delhi’s pollution levels started to be compared with Beijing.

A difference in Air Quality

And then we moved to Singapore. We put our two Air Purifiers into our bedrooms. And after a year the indicator finally came up for us to clean the filter.

But still we were glad to have them in “Clean Singapore“. The colour indicator regularly changes over to pink, and sometimes even red. The black soot that it had sucked up from the Sumatran fires was sticky and hard to remove from the filter. We were glad it had taken that away from our lungs. We thought consciously about shutting the doors next time the smog comes.

Having an Air Purifier in our house made us conscious of the Air Quality and the pollution in it, even in Singapore.

Chai Jing’s Under the Dome

When Chai Jing’s Under the Dome started making news I had to watch it, and the scene where they film an operation on a woman’s lungs has stayed with me ever since. She is a non-smoker, but the doctors think she is a smoker. She has lived in Beijing all her life, and her lungs are filled with black soot. Living in this pollution is not better than being a smoker, as the patient’s lung cancer shows.

This pollution is not just a China Problem

The reality though is that this pollution might be worse in China, but it is not just a China problem. Throughout the film examples are shown of London, Japan, and Los Angeles. You could add Moscow or Dubai to the list so easily.

We are not conscious of what the pollution levels are like in most of our cities because we don’t have an Air Purifier that indicates to us when we need to be concerned, and we don’t see a daily measurement. We consider that if the sky looks clear, then it must be OK. Even in Delhi, on clear blue days, we thought it was OK.

The reality is also that pollution levels are rising world wide, and our leaders are not making substantive agreements to change direction. We at home are not making substantive changes either.

So what can we do?

Start by watching the film – the link is below. It is really eye opening. 

Look at your own house and see what you can change. If you live near a main road, consider getting an Air Purifier – research shows that pollution is worst near major roads in any city. Think about what else you could do – could you stop using your fire for warming the house in winter? Reduce your use of plastics? Use your car less?

I like it that she asks businesses in her neighbourhood to also make an effort – to install a filter on their ovens, and cover the pile of building supplies that is open to the wind.

We can also take a look at our governments and their track records in tackling pollution. Ask them to change direction. Ask them to start measuring pollution levels.

A greater awareness means more questions

Recently I had a call about a job in China, and despite having wanted to shift to there for the last 10 years, I turned it down. I decided to choose my health, over a dream move to China. I decided not to become a smoker.

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Yoga: It’s all about Union

Flower used in meditation practise as part of yoga

I recently went to Bali on holiday and on a day trip to Ubud was amazed at the number of yoga clothing stores that had sprung up to dress the tourists on retreat in the many yoga studios that had similarly appeared since my last visit.

Yoga seems to be “on trend”, but my yoga teacher was concerned that in the race to adopt the benefits of yoga, the West was losing out on the core teachings of the philosophy. In other words, what really made yoga, yoga. Inspired by Kawi, I decided on my return that I should learn more about the background and philosophy behind yoga. Here is some of what I learned.

What does Yoga mean?
In Vedic Sanskrit, the origin of the word Yoga can be traced to “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, “to attach”, from the root yuj. The figurative form of the word means “to yoke” which takes on the broader meanings of “employment, use, application or performance”.

No one person invented yoga, it is a living tradition that has developed over time out of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. While the origins of Yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic traditions, it seems most likely to have developed in the 5th or 6th century BC.

The influence of Patanjali
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from the 4th century AD remains one of the key surviving texts on Yoga and it is the 8 principles from these texts that forms the foundations of modern yoga, regardless of the name of the yoga studio that you are practising at.

Yama             moral codes including non-violence, not stealing, non-possessiveness
Niyama          self-purification and study
Asana            posture
Pranayama    breathing
Pratyahara     withdrawing of the mind from the senses
Dharana         concentration
Dhyana          deep meditation
Samadhi        union with the object of meditation – the ultimate goal

Where did the yoga poses come from then?
The Hatha tradition of yoga is said to have originated with the Hindu God Lord Shiva who taught the astanas or poses to the Goddess Parvati. Hatha yoga uses breathing techniques and asanas or poses to purify the mind and the body. It is from this tradition that many of the poses we know in the West come.

So what is yoga then?
While there is some controversy as to whether Patanjali intended any of the poses of Hatha yoga to be performed in order to practise yoga, we can conclude that Yoga is more than those exercises alone. To put it simply, to practise yoga fully and maintain our health, we need a simple and well-regulated diet, adequate sleep, some physical exercise, and relaxation. We need to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into our lives to fully reap its benefits, not just bend to our toes.

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