You can now find all details about Drift Yoga, an up-to-date class schedule and latest blog posts over at:
Thanks, Sal x
I love smoothies. They’re quick and easy to make, minimal on the washing up and make uber-portable breakfasts for those days when you have to get up and go. Not that I’ve ever felt the need to restrict my smoothie-drinking to the early hours. Plus, because they’re so easy to digest, they make the perfect pre-practice fuel.
Affectionately known in our house as b’OJ (sounds tasty, I know), this has a real zingy vs. sweet, orange sherbert thing going on. Not only does it require just 2 cheap and storage-friendly ingredients and approximately 90 seconds of your day to throw it together, b’OJ offers a nutrient-dense, speedy blast of energy, antioxidants and Vitamin C. Kinda like coffee, but pink and good for you.
(Also, with the end of watermelon season upon us, this concoction is the perfect watermelon-juice-breakfast-replacement. Maybe not in taste, but definitely in happy pink hue and summer-in-a-glass goodness.)
Makes one meal-sized or two snack-sized serving/s:
750ml-1 litre of orange juice *
Half a pack (approx. 200g) frozen berries
Put ingredients into blender (high speed if you have it). Press go, blend until pink and smooth.
* A note on OJ – fresh squeezed is best if you have the oranges, if not freshly squeezed from the shop will do. In the UK, I love Cold Cold ColdPress’s raw juices coz they’re easily available from the Supermarket. Also bits = extra fibre = good.
Like this snippet? Follow me on Instagram @saldrifts and see more of my edible adventures.
A.k.a. stepping away from your mat. Apt, we can probably agree, for my first post in what a very long time.
I missed this. And I missed my yoga practice. But there we go – sometimes we choose to do the things we know aren’t great for us. Six months ago, I was toting my mat around Ashtanga-ing my little heart out… then suddenly even the idea of inhaling whilst raising my arms made my head feel heavy and had me rolling out excuses rather than my mat. I was tired… I’d just eaten… I really needed 20 minutes more sleep…
My reluctance confused me. I’m not exactly famed for hesitancy. But there I was, frozen and stuck and kinda willingly gummed up. I tried to trick myself into a quick stretch by creating a beautiful, light yoga room. And whilst I only had to step in there to feel the good vibes soothe my soul, I couldn’t convince myself to really go in there, breathe and bend.
Fortunately, I cushioned my fall from grace with some great stories. When shallow excuses like being tired reach the end of their fairly limited lifespan, you have to shovel around for more of an X-factor grade yarn. And you know, I hadn’t just fallen off the bandwagon… I’d been pushed. Ouch! I wasn’t quite sure who’d shoved me hardest, but there were a few culprits in the line-up…
You get the idea. 1 and 2 were not my real problems. I like my (normally proportioned!) thighs! I like my practice. But given the choice between working through some sh*t or shutting down, I settled for staying unable to separate being wounded by some wicked bad stuff that had happened at yoga and yoga itself hurting me.
Which was a shame.
It wasn’t that I was falling out of love with yoga. I don’t think any of us on a hiatus from our practice do. Even if I didn’t seek it out, there wasn’t a day that went by that practice didn’t catch my eye with the spine of a book, an Instagram pic or the yum of a post-sofa stretch. Silent Sat-nams would sneak themselves beneath the inexorable rhythm of my breath. My fingers surreptitiously drummed out a Sa-Ta-Na-Ma as I walked.
And yoga holidays (not that sort) do have their hidden benefits. Yep, we might feel physically cruddy and emotionally numb, but the yoga’s gonna sneak in somewhere, whether it’s consciously breathing yourself to sleep or consciously questioning the actions in our day. This is good! Not just because yoga wants us and is always glad to welcome us home; it’s good to glimpse new facets of this vast physical and philosophical system. Stepping away from our pre-determined practice and seeing what seeps back into us cracks us open in all sorts of good ways.
Eventually, thoroughly bored with my own BS, I realized that the further I get away from my practice, the further I get from myself. Yoga lights things up for us and if we don’t like what we see, switching that light off might make things seem less ugly for a while. Especially if you throw in a few glasses of wine and a Netflix binge. Sooner or later though, that lack-of-intuition-and-mindfulness dark is only going to hurt your eyes and have you bumping into crap.
How dark it gets depends, but – be it a broken-on-the-bathroom-floor crisis or the daily grind wearing us a little too thin – the time will come to step back up to the mat. And when the time is right, we don’t even have to trick ourselves into it. Going to class is the obvious solution; one of yoga’s biggest blessings is the communities it provides us with. But if you’re too far away, too busy or too broken, there’s definitely no shame in YogaGlo. Or GaiamTV.com (if the whole YogaGlo class-copyrighting saga was a little too corporate for your tastes). Honestly, 30 miles from my nearest studio, these sites are my shepherds. I’m even attempting an Instagram challenge. And I used to think bad things about those. (You can see my efforts up at the top of this post, or for more IG-love, see the sidebar).
Now it’s just a case of taking it day by day, breath by breath.
With much love, as always, S x
P.S. Feel free to comment or share below – any thoughts on building yoga communities in remote places would be especially appreciated 🙂
I woke up on Sunday with what I perceived to be a huge problem. It was my birthday. I had turned 29 while I was sleeping. 29!! One moment I was happily blundering along being 28 and then… BANG! I found myself perilously close to turning 30.
Because in my head 30 is when the magic happens. 30 is when I will become *horrified gasp* a fully fledged GROWN UP.
So, Sunday marked my own little New Year. The start of my 365 day dress rehearsal for responsible adulthood. I needed to hone my focus, turbo-charge my super-powers and rid myself of some demons. I thought the easiest way to start would be to read something inspiring and/or spiritual first thing in the morning, instead of just dopily pushing the glowiest buttons on my generic smartphone.
Either the fates approved of my plan or I got myself a happy coincidence, because I opened my inspirational text (Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat, incase you were wondering) straight onto a passage about aparigraha.
Aparigraha is yoga’s 5th yama (ethical code). Traditionally defined as ‘nonhoarding’, I’ve always found this translation to be kinda useful, but mostly reminiscent of those trashy programs on Channel 5 where people who probably need professional help not having their bones picked by a documentary crew, live entombed amongst of piles and piles of really, really crazy shizzle. i.e. it’s really easy to think you’re already don’t hoard and give aparigraha the slip. Continue reading
Arriving in China to study with John Scott, I chanted more Oms than you could shake a proverbial stick at. And it gave me lots of opportunity to really think about – and more importantly to feel – what Om means. I know when I first started yoga, I tended towards sitting out the chanting and hoping nobody noticed because their eyes were closed. Now I’m teaching it seems that a lot of people initially do. Maybe that’s because we (not unreasonably) don’t want to say stuff we don’t understand and are not 100% behind. Om sounds kinda magical. We don’t want to start singing it and end up accidentally affiliating ourselves with black magic, the wrong religion or even any religion, if the G-word isn’t your cup of chai.
But we shouldn’t panic… Although for many people chanting Om does resonate with their idea of ‘God’, the Divine or that which is greater than ourselves, if you push out your feelers into what is a surprisingly vast subject for a 2-letter word you’re certain to find an interpretation which sits comfortably.
A mantra of Hindu origin, Om is often described in yoga as ‘the sound of the Universe’ or the primordial sound of creation. Great if you’ve already know what you’re om about (sorry…) but otherwise, it’s a little vague. How can one little Om be the noise that represents everything, everywhere, ever?
The first way to think about Om is to break it down into the way our mouths form the sound: AUM.
Here, A, the beginning of the sound – made at the back of the mouth – symbolizes the beginning of the Universe.
U, the middle of the sound – resonating in the middle of our mouth – symbolizes the ‘maintenance phase’ of the Universe; the bit we’re enjoying right now.
And M, the end of the sound – made at the front of our mouths with our lips – symbolizes the eventual end of the Universe.
Another way of thinking about Om and the Universe is that each and every little piece of the Universe is constantly resonating with the sound of it. That stone on the path? It’s vibrating with Om. The earth and the flowers and the leaves that surround you? Also vibrating with Om. Each and every cell in your body? Also Om-ming along in a tiny-but-sublime cosmic harmony. Because it’s all, essentially, the same. We are all the same. Formed from (admittedly second hand) stardust stemming back to the Big Bang and the beginning of time.
And so it is (!) that we are reminded of the whole reach of existence in this one crazy little sound.
(Note: There are, as the dictionary definition mentions, a plethora of other ways of thinking about Om. I’ve the parts described as representing waking/dreaming/deep sleep/transcendence. Or lower body/middle body/upper body/head. Maybe you prefer one of these ideas – you don’t even have to be exclusive! – they just don’t vibe with me so much at the mo.)
Not, of course, forgetting the ‘…’ , or the silence after the last ‘mmm’s are done buzzing. This is where the real magic happens. This is the space, the emptiness, that which comes after and that which we always return to. Because without the silence, Om cannot be repeated.
Love and good vibrations,
A few weeks ago, pre-China, we ran a wonderful autumnal yoga retreat in Cumbria. Funnily enough, the question I got asked most by students wasn’t about technique or philosophy… it was about the food I choose to eat. ‘Why are you vegan?’ is a question I usually try and avoid answering publicly – especially over the dinner table – because food is an emotive and personal issue! Even the most diplomatic answer can elicit some pretty big responses. But, in honour of National Vegan Month (woop! No? L), I thought I’d try to answer the question with the care and attention it deserves.
It was actually National Vegan Month (aka November) that turned me in the first place. The Vegan Society were at The Yoga Show. I approached. With caution. (Everyone thinks vegans are weird at first!). They were disappointingly normal. They suggested a 30-day vegan challenge called the ‘Vegan Pledge’. And I love a challenge…
The short version of this story is that after those 30 days were up, I felt so good I didn’t want to go back to my old ways. And just 31 days earlier the idea of a meal without cheese, let alone a whole month or more was entirely inconceivable.
The longer version of the story is what keeps me vegan. Just like most of us start yoga for a great ass and stick with it for the completely unexpected depth and beauty it adds to our lives, veganism has layers, too! I took it up to shift a few pounds and get glow-y skin. I carry on because…
Eating vegan is better for:
The health benefits of veganism are well-documented. Whilst it is possible to be a junk-food vegan, most plant-powered individuals eat an abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole foods. These plant foods tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and choc-full of antioxidants, blitzing modern trends towards obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Going vegan is also a healthy way to lose excess weight. I will never forget how amazing those first 30 days made me feel, and how I continue to look and feel.
The animals… Where else in our lives do we get the chance to choose kindness and compassion over cruelty and violence three or more times a day? Rubbishly, there’s no dressing it up. We can’t say we care about animal welfare when we kill (or worse, pay someone else to kill) and eat them. It is violent. They are scared. Trust me, my day job has meant I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in slaughterhouses. And even the top-notch premium supermarket ones are not happy places.
And it’s not just the killing part. I know many great farmers who really care about their animals… But even the best-kept animals are subject to unnatural living conditions and suffer (often tremendously) from illness and injury as a result of this husbandry. And I don’t want to talk about those animals (including fish) where the farmer doesn’t care, or is a corporation, because I don’t want this post read as gratuitously shocking. But you can imagine, it’s just most of the time we choose not to. This is where yoga comes in for me (ahimsa, anyone?). As our practice progresses and we try to know ourselves more deeply, we become more able to see situations as they really are and more comfortable with asking uncomfortable questions like ‘If I can’t kill my own meal, should I be eating it?’ Even ‘What are the morals of making someone else do it for me?’ We open our eyes to just how many people and animals our food choices affect! Which brings me onto the last point…
Going vegan is probably the most positive impact you can make on the environment. No, really. How many of us recycle? Fill our homes with all manner of resource-saving devices? Shower instead of bath? Keep our showers short? This is all great stuff! However, producing one, single hamburger uses more water than a WHOLE MONTH of showers (even really long, indulgent ones). 2500 GALLONS of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef (1) and 1000 litres of water are used for just 1 litre of milk (2). Imagine trying to stash that in your fridge! Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emission than all of transport combined (3). So going vegan would do more to help our environment than never getting in a car, plane or train again.
I absolutely don’t believe the gates of yoga heaven remain closed to omnivores. Some of the most beautiful, loving, generous and generally wonderful people I know think Meatless Mondays are radical. Very occasionally I (perhaps hypocritically) claim ‘flexitarianism’ when offered a meal prepared with love and animal products. Like my Gran’s ‘special vegetable soup’ where the ‘special’ looks and tastes an awful lot like chicken… It makes my toes curl if I think about it too much, but it was cooked and served with heart and I cannot say no to that lady. (Except when she tells people I’m a virgin instead of a vegan.) (And a yoghurt teacher). I do, however, feel so freaking amazing as a vegan that I kinda can’t help myself trying to spread the plant-based-lifestyle love when I get the chance.
Sharon Gannon said, ‘Traditionally a yogi is someone who rejected culture and was trying to live in joyful, peaceful harmony with the earth and all other beings’. That kinda sums yoga and veganism up just right for me. That and ‘Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it’!
So please… If you’d like to hear more about the vegan lifestyle, comment below. If you think yoga teachers talking about veganism oversteps the mark, let me know, too. (The Leave A Comment button is up there and on the left) I’m curious!
Love, peace and plants,
P.S. Some great resources (a few of my faves rather than a properly collated vegan guide):
www.food52.com – gold-standard food-porn for all dietary persuasions – but check out the vegan columns!
www.richroll.com – subtly vegan athlete, inspiring, often yoga-y podcast
www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com – amazing recipes on a uber-cool blog
Cowspiracy – a film not just for the plant-curious but for everyone who spends money on food or votes: www.cowspiracy.com
Earthlings – an important, if difficult to watch, film that doesn’t skirt around stuff like I’ve been doing here. It will change your outlook. http://www.earthlings.com
www.vegansociety.com – general info, take the ‘Vegan Pledge’ for yourself
www.peta.org/living/food/free-vegan-starter-kit – FREE J vegan starter kits. I haven’t tried one, but they sound super-useful.
PPS. If you want to try delicious vegan food without the cooking, our next yoga retreat at the beautiful Fawcett Mill Fields in the Lake District (fawcettmillfields.com) will be April 17th-19th 2015 – registration will open soon! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
1 – Water Footprint Assessment. University of Twente, the Netherland
2 – US Environmental Protection Agency, http://water.epa.gov/learn/kids/drinkingwater/water_trivia_facts.cfm#_edn11
3 – Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment. http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm
I am finally back in England following my epic journey to China (where Facebook and WordPress blogs are apparently censored, so I couldn’t use my free time to stay in touch) and the Scottish Highlands (more on that later). I had an amazing month studying Ashtanga with John Scott and got heaps of inspiration from his teachings, the beautiful Chinese students I met and the deep green peace of the bamboo forest.
I also have some exciting plans for the future… there’s going to be a complete change in the way that I teach yoga, spend my days and connect with everyone over t’interweb. I’ve recently been craving more time for my practice, more ways to share it and more peace and ease as an anchor for my life off the mat. Perhaps most of all, I’ve been craving community.
And all will be revealed once the last few pieces drop into place!
There is so much I want to share with you about meditation. The benefits, the challenges, the history and lineages, the way it will change your life in a myriad tiny little or completely overwhelming ways…
But first? We have to start. And although universal truths are probably fairly thin on the ground in a subject as deeply personal and experiential as meditation, one of them is that starting a regular meditation practice is one of the most difficult steps we take along this long and windy path.
Starting to meditate is hard! Whether you’ve never had a practice or are coming back after a bit of a break, finding a quiet place and closing your eyes and sitting still and doing ‘nothing’ (!) in a world that moves at a zillion miles an hour and seems to ask so very much of us is really, really hard. And the idea of sitting and listening to your crazy mind – probably the only thing that moves faster than the world around us – is really, really scary.
So, we make it as easy on ourselves as possible. No time pressures – we start off short and sweet. No complicated techniques or mantras to remember – just breathing and counting. And no getting reliant on other people talking us through the process on an MP3 (although sometimes this can be pretty sweet and exactly what you need) – you can do this anywhere, anytime, just you. It’s like a game.
Go somewhere comfy and quiet. A meditation cushion is ideal, although I have to confess I’m a bad yoga teacher and have never bothered to buy one… an ordinary cushion works just fine (I usually get dagger-glances from my dog when I make him go sit somewhere else). I often sit it on my bed just far enough away from the wall/headboard to prevent any sneaky leaning. A chair works if you sit up straight and put both feet on the floor. Or this meditation is so simple, you can probably make it work anywhere to begin with. Just so long as you begin.
Concentrate on your breath. Don’t force it to be deep or slow or especially sage-like, just let it do its thing and take a few moments to get in your zone.
Inhale. Count this as one.
Exhale. Count this as one.
Inhale. Count this as two.
Exhale. Two. Inhale. Three. Exhale. Three. You get the idea…
Every time a thought that isn’t you focussing on your breath and quietly counting enters your head – and it will – acknowledge it, let it go and start your count again. Inhale. Count this as one.
Just carry on. Sweet and simple, like you’re playing a particularly primeval game of Candy Crush, until your timer goes off. Or until you get to ten, in which case you’re probably a super-advanced mind-ninja who’s devoted their entire lives to mental self control…
Drop your preconceptions and frustrations with yourself and your random, freaky thoughts. Because they are just thoughts. Just little whooshes of chemicals in your brain, no need to get excited over them. And remember, whilst we can treat this like a game (if not like Candy Crush, then Sudoku, lacrosse, jousting… pick your poison) it’s about being light-hearted and fun, not ‘winning’ by going further and higher up that count and inching yourself closer to certain enlightenment. Be kind. Always, always be kind.
And if you don’t have a timer and a cushion to hand, go without. Stand up. Lie down. Just try and do it for a little while, every day. Maybe start at 5 minutes, and work your way up to 20. Set yourself a target number of days and show up for yourself. If you want to really go for it – and why not? – do this every day for 40 days. In yoga, 40 days is the magic number it takes to cement a positive new habit in your life, or free yourself of a harmful old one.
40 days of counting your breath for a few minutes every day in exchange for a fully-formed meditation practice that you can keep forever and take in whatever direction you’d like? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
Make a commitment to yourself and honour it because you’re important. You know you’d invest that time every day for your best friend/dog/kids/mum/whoever so do it for you. If you miss a day, start counting again, just like the breath. And remember… kindness, always.
Namaste and big count-y love,