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Best YouTube Channels for Holistic Health

Time or cash poor doesn’t mean you have to neglect self-care, thanks to the array of marvellous resources on YouTube. Yes, it can be a maze and, yes, for every video gem you run the risk of stumbling across a turd. But, whatever your wellbeing interest, whether it’s mind, body or soul – for me it’s all three – you can find a favourite channel. So, to save you time and turds, here is a selection of the library I’ve created for myself over the last couple of years.

Jessica Smith TV – Best for fun, fitness variety

The description on Jessica Smith’s YouTube channel is one of the best and most accurate I’ve ever read: “If fad diets, extreme workouts and infomercial products have failed you, you’ve come to the right place! No crazy exercises, revealing outfits or negative energy here… just common-sense fitness, advice and support from a friend and certified personal trainer, instructor and wellness coach.”

Jessica’s playlists are curated so that you can easily find the type and length of workout you’re looking for. The only problem you will have is choosing. As a fitness instructor myself, Jessica is my particular YouTuber crush because each video is packed with the sort of knowledge and spot-on teaching points you’d expect from a pro with over 15 years of experience in the industry. And the best bit is you get to work-out with her for free, and without leaving the house.

Yoga With Adriene – Yoga with a friendly face

Adriene Mischler has a huge international following and for good reason. Despite its meteoric success, her channel has retained its friendly, relaxed, almost homely feel. Adriene has a yoga routine for every requirement and every level. There is even a class tailored to teachers, and every one is shot-through with warmth, humour and charm.

Tara Brach – Like a holiday for your head

Tara Brach has a voice like velvet, making her teachings, which blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual wisdom, even easier to absorb and just a little bit addictive (probably not quite the right word to use for videos on Buddhist practices but never mind).

Tara encourages us to treat ourselves and others with compassion and brings to life the power of meditation to transform people’s lives through story-telling, scientific findings and loving-kindness meditation.

The School of Life  – Broadening the mind

The School of Life champions the life-enhancing value of lifelong learning and personal growth. Topics encompass philosophy, psychotherapy, literature and art and the channel addresses a whole range of issues that affect us on a personal and societal level, from the importance of meaningful work to relationships and love. Founded by author and philosopher, Alain de Botton, the School of Life also has actual campuses around the world devoted to emotional education.

Shelly Dose Fitness – When you just need to jump around and let off steam

My husband calls Shelly Dose the ‘crazy lady’ and her high-energy personality and routines to match are definitely pretty out there. These videos are perfect for when you need to de-stress and fire up your endorphin levels. Her videos range from low to high impact, HIIT and full-body strength workouts and, on top of her relentless positivity, her six-pack alone provides plenty of motivation.

You can find this blog and other blogs about wellness and well-being at the website for my new business venture The Nurture Hub 

How To Navigate Your Media Footprint as a Counsellor

If you’re about to meet someone new for the first time, what do you do? You look them up online, right?

Let’s face it, we all do it. Whether it’s for a job interview or a first date, the lowdown on other people is at our fingertips these days so why wouldn’t we use it? There’s no reason to think it’s any different for people going to see a counsellor for the first time. Many of my clients are in their early twenties and I’m not going to fool myself that they haven’t at least Googled me.

This raises a bit of a dilemma. I’m a wellness blogger and I often write about issues from my perspective or based on my own experiences. I teach yoga and also work on issues-based campaigns. So, how do I reconcile my self-disclosure and the public side of myself with my role as a counsellor? Counsellors are often thought of as a ‘blank canvas’. Should people be able to have access to my past experiences and vulnerabilities?

This is a topic that has been playing on my mind and I don’t think there is an easy, one-size fits all answer to the question. Everyone will have their own gauge when it comes to privacy versus openness, but, in a world where first impressions are often made online, it’s probably something worth thinking about for all of us.

To help me navigate the gauntlet of media and social media, I’ve come up with my own set of inter-related guidelines for sharing. I’ve steered away from tips on Facebook privacy and the like because there are plenty of ‘how to’ articles for social media settings out there and because I don’t think that gets at the more puzzling conundrum of if, how and what to share.

  1. Does it feel honest?

For me, this is the first and ultimate litmus test when it comes to sharing anything online. It may sound simple but for me the question is more nuanced than the black and white standpoint of truth versus lies. It’s more about ‘am I being real?’, ‘Is this a true reflection of me?’.

We are surrounded by idealised version of self; they jump out at us from mainstream media to instagram to our friends’ Facebook feeds. I work in fitness and wellbeing and it can feel safer to fall in line and hide behind a shiny veneer that wouldn’t really reflect who I am or how I feel. As a result, anyone looking me can see that I’m imperfect – I’m human. Although this makes me feel vulnerable, on balance I’m okay with that.    

  1. Would I be okay talking to people about the content of the writing?

It’s easy to get carried away when I’m hiding behind the veil of my computer screen, so a good test for disclosure is to think about whether I would be happy to have a face to face conversation with the same level of intimacy. If not, then maybe I’m not ready to hit publish just yet.

This guideline is quite closely related to the rule about honesty too. If my screen-life is to reflect my life offline, then maybe I shouldn’t post that photo of myself five years younger and 14lbs lighter…

Read the remaining four guidelines over at The Counsellors Cafe

How To Choose The Right Yoga Mat

Reviewebee has put together this helpful infographic to help you figure out what you need from your yoga mat.

They have also done all the hard work for you and come up with this top ten list of the best yoga mats on the market at the moment, based on consumer reviews, professional opinion and manufacturer info.

Check out Reviewebee’s top ten yoga yoga mats here.

Life Lessons Learned Teaching Over 60s Yoga

A few months ago, the members of a fitness centre for older people auditioned and chose me to teach a weekly yoga class. All swotted up on information about working with injuries and the positive effects of yoga on aging bodies I was all set to ‘instruct’ and completely naïve to the real life-lessons that were in store for me. Here is what I have learned from those who have learned how to live.

1. How to ‘say it like it is’
As a general rule, I hate those people – the ‘say it like it is’ brigade. The phrase often comes just before someone stomps all over your finer feelings. It’s their subjective opinion disguised as a fact – not empathetic or objective.
Saying it like it is for you, however, is something completely different, I’ve discovered.

From the moment I entered my very first and unexpectedly full over 60s yoga class, I was surrounded by yogis keen to inform me about what they wanted and did not want from their yoga sessions. And they’ve kept me up to speed ever since, providing me with a running commentary of likes and dislikes before, during and after the session, in fact.

This vocal approach to yoga participation felt really odd to me at first. Apart from the Darth Vader style surround sound of ujjayi breath and closing ‘namaste’, I find most classes to be pretty quiet, both when I’m teaching and when I’m practicing. Often, the only gauge I have about what a person thinks about the session is whether or not they come back.

I admire my older yogis for their ability to recognise what’s going on for them right there in that moment and to communicate their needs, just as they come up. They have confidence in their voice and in their value, which I think is something that many of us moving silently through our yoga class are still learning.

At first, I took too much to heart their ongoing requests and feedback. I heard their critiques as evidence of my failings as a teacher and of me personally. It was only when I let go of the teacher ego I had built up that I realised their comments weren’t criticism, but signs of wholehearted participation in their practice.

Thankfully, they’re as quick to tell me that they’re walking better without a stick or that their knee pain has been eased as they are to tell me when they’ve had enough of downward facing dog. Nowadays, I listen actively and respond to feedback from the group as we go. By expressing themselves without inhibition, they have created an environment in which we move together, collaboratively through the yoga practice.

They have taught me a valuable lesson about the freedom and the togetherness created when you say what’s going on for you and feel free to be just who you are.

You can read the rest of my blog at The Counsellor’s Cafe 

Four Ways to Keep Your Body in Shape

Guest blog by Alycia Gordan, a freelance writer loves to read and write articles related to health and lifestyle and sometime on health-tech as well. Alycia is a contributor at BookYogaRetreats.com.

Four Ways to Keep Your Body in Shape

Media, men and society require women to take care of themselves and look their best. We must invest in ourselves if we want to be beautiful, but you must remember to do it for yourself and not for anyone else.
There are quite a few healthy choices women can make to feel and look better, from eating habits and regular physical activity to yoga and a little bit of pampering now and then. Just remember to accept who you are, with all your strengths and flaws, because how you think about yourself is reflected into all areas of your life.

You are what you eat

The first thing you need to do to get in shape and stay fit is to be aware of what you eat. Whether you want a curvy figure or shed excess weight, food plays an important role in helping you achieve your fitness goals. The saying “you are what you eat” could not be any truer. You should begin by being completely aware of what you are feeding your body each day.

Start writing a journal or use online tools like myfitnesspal or sparkpeople. But you have to be completely honest and absolutely vigilant. That means that you should include that handful of chips you munched while putting away the groceries and the stick of gum that you popped into your mouth while waiting at the signal.

The second step is to start eating healthy. This means that the bulk of your diet should consist of leafy greens and healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, lean meats or a handful of dry fruits. You can certainly allow yourself a treat now and then, no need to swear off Belgium chocolate-chip ice cream for life, but you need to limit yourself to a scope rather than a pint.

Avoid fad diets, binge eating, and incorporate nutritious and wholesome foods that will give you the energy to perform your activities throughout the day. It doesn’t matter whether you have special dietary needs, healthy nutritious options are easily available.

There are no quick fixes

You know the sauna belt they keep showing on TV that you just have to put on and it will melt away the inches while you sleep? It doesn’t work. Nor do any creams or quick weight loss solutions. Or even if they do work, they come at a price – they can affect our health and can be heavy on the wallet.

Exercising is what truly works wonders. Not crazy marathons like spending three hours a day in the gym for a whole week, but short sessions that can easily be introduced into your daily routine until they become a habit. Sure, there are women who have the time, resources and motivation to spend hours in the gym every day, but for most of us average folk, it is simply not sustainable in the long run.

Basic, no-equipment workouts will get you started on your road to having a better body, and are manageable and sustainable. Squats, triceps dips, lunges, push-ups, wall-sits, calf raises, planks and abdominal crunches are some great exercises to do at home. Do three sets of each at 10 to 20 reps for each exercise and try to do them at least once or twice a week. If you want to make some real progress, your exercise program should also include at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise three to five times a week, with some stretching before and after to improve flexibility and help the body recover. You can also try brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rollerblading, gym classes or a game of tennis or squash.

Yoga

Practicing yoga can help you look more youthful and more radiant well into your old age, proving that the old saying “age is but a number” is indeed true. Regular yoga practice will not only help you achieve inner beauty but physical or outer beauty as well. The peace and wellbeing that fills your mind and spirit through yoga are reflected outward in the form of glowing skin and a lithe body.

Yoga helps lose excess weight and unwanted fat. It improves flexibility and helps maintain proper body posture, which is another essential element that makes you look more youthful. It also aids the absorption of nutrients at a cellular level, thus improving the body functions.

Best of all, practicing yoga regularly has been proven to considerably boost your mood, since it can greatly reduce stress levels, especially when incorporating pranayama or breathing exercises.

“Me” stuff

Pampering yourself and enjoying some “me time” are essential for your mental health and happiness. When you feel less stressed, you look better too. Most of us lead such hectic lives that we often forget to take care of ourselves and indulge a little. This can come in the form of a cup of soothing chamomile tea while we read a chick lit novel or a day spent at the spa, you name it!
Negative reviews at work, messy break-ups, gym and diet slip-ups are all discouraging. We need all the motivation we can get to stay on a healthy track rather than embarking on a marathon of pizza and chocolate.

Pampering yourself and being able to cheer yourself up through a new pair of dazzlingly silver high heels or a mani-pedi will make you look better, feel good and help pick yourself up and get back on your track.
Don’t just take our word for it, look at the stats! Researchers from Bishop’s University in Quebec who evaluated 15 studies involving more than 3,000 people are backing up our claims. The researchers found that those who were more self-compassionate—meaning they were kind to themselves when negative things happened rather than self-critical—also ate healthier, exercised more, slept better and stressed less than those who weren’t.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you slipped up and had a doughnut on your way home from work, forgive yourself and go eat a salad. If you weren’t able to go to the gym today, do jumping jacks in the kitchen while the coffee brews.

If you have missed your yoga class, then a quick stretch before bed will help you sleep better. Keep in mind that your life is in your own hands and you have to make the right choices to stay healthy and happy.

Five Life Lessons I Did Not Expect When I Started Training To Be A Counsellor

1. You know that person you don’t like? Turns out they’re a gift

From day one I had a number of reasons I didn’t like one of the women on my course: she was confrontational; she was loud; she was ‘in your face’; always interrupting and questioning things; insensitive to other people’s feelings – my list went on. I would avoid sitting next to her and even avoid her eye contact when the class had to pair up for skills practice. I even brought my gripes to personal therapy and I’m glad I did, because my therapist helped me to confront a truth that my heart already knew: it wasn’t about her; it was about me.

In my eyes, we were opposites. Where she was confrontational, I was shy. Where she interrupted, I never said my mind. I saw in her things I couldn’t do; things I was afraid to do. Recognising this has helped me to examine my behaviour and the self-doubts that it stems from. Over the following weeks, I purposely sat closer to her in class and one week she sought me out. Striding across the room she announced we would work together that evening. She had no such preconceived ideas about me and it became clear that a lot of my judgements really didn’t fit this real person. Because of this person, I have had to face facts about myself and, as a result, started to find my own assertive voice.

Read the rest of my blog at Counsellors Cafe

5 Unexpected Ways to Practise Self Care

When you think about self-care you might think of pricey spa days, holidays, and the sort of indulgences that many of us either can’t afford or just don’t have time for in our busy lives. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a bit of pampering you may be surprised to read that relieving stress can be as simple, and inexpensive, as shrugging your shoulders.

Here are five ways you can practise self-care that might surprise you.

  1. Have a good cry – Cultural and societal attitudes towards crying often mean we gulp back our emotions when in fact you’d be better served by letting it all out, snots and all. As tears flow, adrenaline levels drop allowing the body to relax. Hormones build up to a high level when the body experiences emotional strain, so crying helps to ensure that these toxins don’t build up and weaken your immune system.
  2. Shrug your shoulders – Studies show that increased mental workload directly results in physical tension in the arm and shoulders. So, paying attention to easing the tension in your shoulders could help to combat emotional strain. What to do: with an inhale, lift your shoulders to your ears, exhale and draw your shoulders down and back, guiding the shoulder blades towards each other and downwards.
  3. Yawn – Emotions like anger and stress can cause clenching of the jaw and muscles around the mouth. By releasing the jaw with a big open-mouthed yawn or sigh, you enable the release of this built-up tension. If you’re in the privacy of your own home, or you don’t mind looking just a little bit batshit in the name of stress-busting, you could practise the yogic breath exercise, Lion’s Breath, which helps to relieve tension in both the face and chest.
  4. Express your anger – Anger is an emotion that many of us don’t feel entitled to express. As a result, the anger gets pushed down inside the body and turned in on ourselves. This can have a number of knock on effects for our health, from high blood pressure to depression and anxiety. Many people feel like anger is ‘bad’, whereas, in reality it is an important emotional reaction, signalling to ourselves that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. While this isn’t a green light to scream at everybody who tries your patience, acknowledging, accepting and communicating this emotion can help us to better understand ourselves, and be better understood by others.
  5. Eat dark chocolate – While most of us are aware that eating several bars of chocolate in one sitting isn’t always the best idea, there is some evidence that dark chocolate has a natural calming effect one to two hours after eating it. A Swiss study in 2009 found that people who ate 40g of dark chocolate a day over two weeks had reduced cortisol levels, our natural stress hormone. Prebiotic yogurt could be another stress-busting option. The jury is still out on this one, but some studies suggest that prebiotic bacteria can lower levels of stress and anxiety.

You can also find my blogs at huffingtonpost.co.uk/author/miriam-christie

Welcome!

I’m Miriam Christie, a Yoga, Pilates and Fitness Instructor working in and around South East London. Find out more about me and my classes via the tabs above – and feel free to get in touch.

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7 Steps To Self Care

Eighteen months ago the term ‘self care’ was alien to me. It sounded like hospital euphemism for politely sending your patients home to die.

Giving yourself a break just wasn’t the done thing in my circles, particularly in the workplace. Stress knocked at the door constantly but I resolutely refused to answer. So – in an environment where crying seemed weak and admitting to stress was more a badge of honour than an explanation accompanying a sick note – stress found its escape routes in the form of unshakable colds, irritability, sleeplessness and an impromptu breakdown in the dairy isle of Sainsbury’s (I still day-dream about going back to explain that their lack of pineapple cottage cheese really wasn’t that much of a biggie).

Back then I would have confused ‘self-care’ with the sort of dogma you hear on American TV shows that tell you to ‘look out for number one’. It would have seemed somehow selfish. And that’s certainly one thing women are not supposed to be.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that in reality looking after yourself is far from a selfish act. It’s not about spa days, big holidays or pulling a sickie from work – although there is definitely a role for all of these things. It’s about slowing down, listening to what your body is telling you and trusting it to steer you right. It might sound easy, but, when your default reaction is to shut out your body’s cries for attention, believe me it can be a challenge.

Meeting my needs – and in fact taking some time out to actually explore what they were – has helped me to be a better friend, partner, sister, daughter, colleague, student, Sainsbury’s-shopper… you get the picture. So it’s a pleasure and a mini victory to be able to share with you some of my self care saviours to mark Self Care Week.

What this isn’t is a definitive ‘top ten’ list that everyone should follow. Everybody finds solace in different things. If meditation feels more like a ‘should’ than a joy, that’s okay. You don’t have to (and can’t) win at relaxing! These are just a few things that work for me. What works for you will be different, and I’d encourage you to take some time this week to create your own go-to self care practice.

Let me know what you think and share what works for you in the blog comments underneath or at my Facebook page.

  1. Practising Yoga – Fast paced, or slow and meditative depending on my mood. Yoga challenges me, brings focus and calm, and helps my mind to make better friends with my body.
  2. Getting a massage – There’s a reason massage is often referred to as physical therapy. For me, it’s a way to express care for my whole self. It helps me to be mindful of aches and pains, and being given the space to say nothing for an hour is utter heaven.
  3. Going for a walk – Being outside, especially in nature, blows the cobwebs away and helps me to get the day’s challenges in perspective.
  4. Talking to friends and family – Talking to someone who knows me warts and all, whether it’s to have a laugh, vent or cry, never fails to comfort me and lift my spirits.
  5. Trash TV – New Girl, Great British Bake Off, The Good Wife, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Okay, I may have said too much already…
  6. Reading fiction – Now that I’ve gone back to study to retrain as a counsellor I sometimes find myself feeling guilty if I pick up a book that isn’t on the reading list, but reading for pleasure is something that both relaxes and renews me so is well worth making time for.
  7. Jogging – Slowly, badly and listening to 90s dance music.

This blog has also been published by the Huffington Post.

Find Your Own Mould With Yoga

My knees felt super sore in Yin Yoga today. I looked around me and everyone else seemed fine, all folded over in Pigeon Pose as if their legs had no bones whatsoever. And I wanted to be like them. I thought, I should be able to do this, no problem, shouldn’t I? After all, I teach Yoga so how embarrassing would it be not to be able to perform a beautiful Eka Pada Rajakapotasana? What would that say about me? Am I a fake? An imposter at Yoga. I carried on moving through the sequence with my fellow yogis, while my knees told me something was wrong.

My Dad has recently had a knee replacement and is about to have op number two, and my uncle has alignment problems with his knees – once being told he could end up in a wheelchair. They have both learned the hard way how important it is to look after your knees. It seems I’m definitely a Daddy’s girl when it comes to knees – thanks Dad. Tight tendons with a tendency to lock painfully, and inconveniently, in cinemas, on car journeys and long-haul flights.

I think about this, and my frustration with my rebel knees melts into the mat. I feel a sense of softening and care fill its place. I lift up on to my forearms, to my palms, and ease the pressure with a sigh that could have been released directly from my grateful knees to my windpipe.

Nobody pays me any attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the woman next to me lift onto her hands too. It feels good to find my own mould within this asana, away from those feelings of should and must, and the pull to look the same as everybody else.

It’s only as we unfurl into savasana that my mind settles upon the realisation that Pigeon Pose, plus my knees, taught me a valuable lesson today about how to live my life.

Are your knees trying to tell you something? Here is a modification for Pigeon to allow you to find your mould, your way.

Upside Down Pigeon

  • Begin lying on your back with one knee bent
  • Gently bring the other knee towards your chest and carefully place the ankle of the lifted leg over your knee
  • Reach your hands either side of the grounded leg and clasp the back of the thigh or front of the shin (you could use a small towel or strap to help with this)
  • Keep your head and shoulders on the ground
  • Slowly draw your grounded leg in towards your body until you feel a deep stretch in your floating hip and buttock.
  • Breathe deeply and focus on relaxing into the stretch
  • To get a deeper stretch, try to open your floating knee away from your body as you draw the other leg closer.
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