Category Archives: Healthy Living

Join us as we share our experiences in learning to live a healthier life. Including our explorations with Yoga, Exercise, Escape, Meditation, and Mindfulness.

Keeping a journal

Dalai Lama journal and pen

Shortly after I started my wellness journey, I picked up the advice to start writing a journal and capturing my progress and thoughts for the day. Over time this has evolved into a daily practize that I just don’t skip. It is a way to chart my journey, capturing what I eat, seeing my progress, – through peaks and recovering out of troughs – and it is also a way to release my thoughts for the day before I go to bed.

A journal as a release for stress
I have long had problems with sleeping, but I have found that I sleep better when I release whatever is in my mind before I go to bed onto the pages of a notebook. It is a great way to organize my thoughts, and to ponder things that are happening in my life.

The journal will not talk back to me or judge me, and over a series of days I can write down and explore different ways I could approach something that is giving me stress, or think through a problem. Sometimes I just release frustrations, without looking for a solution.

A journal of hope
I have also discovered that it is a great way to continue to maintain hope that I will be healthy long term. I am so conscious of how I feel each day through having to write it down, that I can see progress in a way that I couldn’t if I wasn’t being so diligent in capturing it. This also helps in my food journey, I can see how eating better is affecting me positively, and that helps to keep me on course.

A journal as a conscience
My journal has become my conscience. I don’t like writing in it that I haven’t done anything by way of exercise for the day. I capture classical exercise – going for a run, doing yoga – but also playing football with my son, walking around the neighbourhood, walking my son to school. I also capture my meditation practize here.

My journal has also become my conscience for food. I write down absolutely everything that I eat, even if I cheat. But I don’t like having to write down that I have cheated, so I don’t like to cheat.

My journal template:
I find it easier to stick to following a template for my journal. Habit makes it simpler to see patterns, but to also not have to think about what I will write about, just how I felt and what I did.

Date:                Hours of sleep:
Exercise (including meditation):
Supplements (if you take any):
Medicine (if you take any):
Stress /10    Pain /10    Energy /10
How did you feel today?:
Thoughts for the day:
What am I grateful for today:

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When the going gets tough

Catching the bus in the rain

I came across this poem recently by Katrina Kenison and I thought it was fabulous. It really summed up all of the things that I wish I could do, that I know I am guilty of not doing often enough, but that I aspire to be. I hope you enjoy it as well.

“When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.

When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.

When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.

When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.

When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth.

When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness.

When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind.

When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings.

When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind.

When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time..”

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On retreat at Villa Flow, Bali

Villa Flow, Seraya, Bali, Indonesia (June 2013)

As a mother who works full time, juggling can be a struggle and the combination can get stressful at times. Over the last few months it has felt like a perfect storm of stress and I started to feel the stress in my neck, my lower back, and in stress headaches that started creeping down my temples.

Now, normally I would have taken the attitude that I could work through this, not to worry, but over the last year I have learned that this is actually not working for me. My health is not going to take care of itself, and it is time to look after myself better.

As a result, I decided to go to Bali on a 5 day retreat. It is the first time in more than 10 years that I have gone away on my own other than for work, and certainly the first time since my son was born that I have taken this much time for myself.

The Villa Flow package
Villa Flow is a boutique resort of just 6 rooms on the East Coast of Bali. It is 2 km from the Ujung Water Gardens, 40 minutes drive from Amed to go snorkeling, and 2 hours drive from Ubud or Kuta. It is wonderfully, unashamedly, in the middle of no where.

I had a booked a 5 day Yoga and Spa package, which includes 4 yoga sessions with an instructor, a full body massage, a red rice full body scrub, a facial, and dinner and breakfast each day.

View from Room with a view, Villa Flow, Bali

View from Room with a view, Villa Flow, Bali

Relaxation at Villa Flow
Determined to make the most of my relaxation time, I had left behind my IPad, did not make a connection to the wifi on my phone, and brought paperback books with me instead. I have found myself diving onto Facebook as soon as I get up in the morning, and reading 4 different online newspapers before bed, and none of this really seems to be helping.

The hotel is beautiful. Each room has a large attached bathroom, and the “Room with a View” rooms open out onto a large upper courtyard with couches and table that look out to the ocean. The hotel is small enough that you have a lot of privacy and can relax upstairs, next to the pool, or in the downstairs relaxation area, all of which I used for reading and relaxing.

View from the upper deck, Villa Flow, Bali

View from the upper deck, Villa Flow, Bali

Yoga at Villa Flow
My day started each day with a yoga session with Kawi. He adapts the session to the level of the participants in the group, and the sessions I had ranged from a very simple session with others who had never done Yoga before, to a more advanced session with a fellow guest who was a dancer. I really enjoyed the more spiritual side that he brought to the yoga practise, infusing meditation and visualisation techniques into the session, and talking about the origins of yoga. It brought me to the realisation that yoga is far more than exercise.

The Food at Villa Flow
The yoga session was followed each day by breakfast with a view to the ocean. The hotel follows a health concept approach to food, using ingredients from their organic garden. Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Vegan can all be accommodated. I also love it that water is available in a large dispenser whenever you like it, eliminating the need for plastic water bottles . I took a water bottle with me and filled it up and carried it around with me wherever I went.

Out and about from Villa Flow
Each day I took a small excursion after breakfast. The first day I walked down to the Water Gardens which are about 2km away. They have been renovated beautifully and I spent some time walking around them and meditating in the pavilion in the middle of the lake. The second day I hired a car to drive me up to Amed to go snorkeling. I had taken my snorkel with me, but you can also rent them from the cafes next to the beach.

The third day I walked down to the hotels private beach, and the final day I made the mistake of doing a day trip to Ubud to go shopping. For someone else this could be a nice day out, but it was quite busy and I had been there before, so it wasn’t really what I needed on this trip.

Ujung Water Palace, 2km from Villa Flow

Ujung Water Palace, 2km from Villa Flow

The Villa Flow Spa
I ended each afternoon with one of the included spa treatments. The full body massage is done by an older Balinese man (and his son if there are more than one of you) and he seemed to know far more pressure points in my body than I had ever felt pressed in an earlier massage. The body scrub and honey facial are done by a local Balinese woman in the Yoga Bale and I felt like I had really treated myself by the time it was finished.

I came home from Villa Flow without my headaches, and determined to carry on some of the practises that I had started during the week. Less looking at Facebook, reading the news less often, reading more books, and treating yoga as more than exercise.

You can visit the Villa Flow website here >>

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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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Inspiration for the day

Flower close up, Maya Tagalle Villa, Beliatta, South Coast, Sri

Keeping a journal has become a daily practise for me, but while I follow the same template every day, it isn’t a static process. Over time I have started capturing things that strike me, inspirational quotes, passages out of books that I am reading that I would like to remember.

My journal contains quotes of Gandhi, Brene Brown, and even Dr Seuss.

I may never look back at these journals, or maybe I will in a period where I want to remember how it was in this time, but capturing these quotes makes me feel like I am reading the books more deeply. That I am thinking about things that inspire me. Sometimes I refer to these quotes in my “Thoughts for the day”, other times I just capture them, think about them, and move on.

Here are a couple of my recent favorites to get you started:

“How much better to know that we have dared to live our dreams than to live our lives in a lethargy of regret” Gilbert E Kaplan

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt