Breathe in, Breathe out

I was a Hatha Yoga Teacher for many years, both while living in Cape Town and up until a few years back here in Johannesburg. The traditional Sanskrit term for yoga breathing is Pranayama, and it encompasses a variety of practices, some of which are quite intense and not intended for the yoga beginner. One of the first things that the new hatha yogi is taught is the importance of the breath as part of the yoga practice. To the outsider, Hatha Yoga may appear to be a series of physical movements and postures, but in fact it goes far deeper to a place where the inner organs and systems, and of course the breath, are involved in the practice.

 

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Springtime in the garden: Indigenous South African Clivias

 

One of the cornerstones of the practice of yoga is awareness of the breath, which brings me to the point of this article: The importance of the awareness of breathing in daily life. It is a known fact that our thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on our breathing and this in turn affects the inner workings of our body’s vital organs. Feelings of stress tend to cause shallow breathing which restricts the vital flow of oxygen and the removal of impurities in the body. Simply put, we need to breathe effectively in order to perform effectively, and we need to breathe effectively in order to manage the feeling of tension that is inhibiting our breathing in the first place.

The texts we studied from as teachers placed an emphasis on how to BREATHE DEEPER into the abdomen and rib cage in order to optimize the uptake of the breath, and then to extend the exhalation by drawing the rib cage inward to fully empty the lungs.

When I taught my new students about breathing I would encourage them to BREATHE SLOWER, as a starting point.

I believe that to develop “stress free breathing”, we sometimes need to focus simply on breathing slower, as opposed to breathing deeper. Try the following next time you become aware of feelings of stress, tension or shallow breathing: JUST SLOW DOWN. Relax, and don’t force your breathing -it must not feel uncomfortable in any way. Just breathe normally, preferably through the nostrils, but through the mouth is fine if you need to, and allow your breathing to slow down slightly. Feel free to sigh or yawn if you feel the urge- those are good stress relievers too. Continue reading

Simple, Natural: DIY dishwasher detergent

I’ve been using this formula for about a year now in my Bosch Automatic dishwasher, which is by now around seven years old.  For me it’s been the best alternative (I tried a few recipes along the way) to my previous commercial brand.  It’s quick and easy to make with four basic ingredients, it saves me money and is a healthier option compared to the chemically based powder I was using previously.  I also use use less: One tablespoon is sufficient for a load, whereas my previous brand took about three tablespoons.  I have also replaced my previous rinse-aid with good old white vinegar, so a greener, healthier option and a money saver there too 🙂

 

 

Notes on Ingredients and Suppliers:

  • See ‘Suppliers and Outlets’ at the foot of this page to source your ingredients.
  • Remember to consider the issue of packaging: ask your suppliers if they will accept returns on reusables, before resorting to the recycling bins.
  • Don’t overlook the supermarket brands: for instance Robertsons and Moirs use cardboard and paper packaging for their Bicarbonate of Soda and some other salts, as opposed to plastic.

 

Baking soda/ Bicarbonate of Soda: one and the same

 

 

Ingredients and Instructions

Mix and store in an airtight container:

  1. 1 cup washing soda
  2. 1 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda in ZA)
  3. 1 cup citric acid
  4. A half cup of table salt.

Continue reading

How to clean with fragrant essential oils

Today being Thursday, it’s the first time since going down with flu at the weekend that I’ve felt like doing much at all. At least today I feel as if I can face the day and hopefully get a few things done.

Following a short morning walk, I felt encouraged to make a start on the cleaning backlog that has accumulated since the weekend. I swept the kitchen floor and packed a load of dirty dishes into the dishwasher. I then put a load of laundry into the machine, filling the rinse compartment with white vinegar to which I add three drops of peppermint essential oil. I have used vinegar in place of softener for years but have never quite learnt to ignore the strong smell of vinegar, and I find that the peppermint with its lovely sweet-shop freshness is an effective way to mask the smell.

I have used essential oils for years. I love the little jewel- like glass bottles with their wonderful scents, and their multitude of uses.  See here for more on essential oils and their uses, and read Valerie Ann Worwood’s book here, also known as “The Fragrant Pharmacy”

Years ago in my twenties I learnt to use and enjoy essential oils while trying to solve a few health issues of my own (see my About page for more), and for the thirty plus years since then I used them daily, if only to splash a few drops of the relaxing floral, herbaceous scent of lavender into my bath water at night. Continue reading

Multipurpose: Silky Smooth Salt Scrub

 

Late August in Johannesburg: the tail end of winter and everything has dried out: the air, the vegetation, the skin and the hair! I crave that bit of extra moisture at this time of the year: Coconut oil in my breakfast oats, grapeseed oil on the face (real virgin grapeseed oil is beautifully light and easily absorbed) and whatever cooking oil I have in the kitchen  as a body moisturiser (I typically throw together some olive, sunflower and canola, and store it in a glass jar in the bathroom), pure shea butter in a small jar next to my bed (for me this is the best rich hand creme, and I like to rub some into my hands before turning out the lights)

 

*And then this moisturising scrub and shave….. perfect for silky smooth legs or as a body exfoliant in the bath or shower*…………………

Simply mix and store in a jar-

  • 450 grams (about 2 cups) epsom salts: (the Robertsons brand is sold at supermarkets in cardboard packaging, or see SUPPLIERS AND OUTLETS below)
  • 180 ml (three/quarters cup) light oil such as canola, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, sweet almond (cooking oil is fine)
  • And that’s it! This makes a great shaving oil and/ or exfoliating body scrub. Just use in the bath or shower as you would any commercial brand. 

(Here’s the link to the original recipe)

 

To make this recipe a little more special and interesting (as I did as a birthday gift for my cousin), try adding the following……………

 

  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract (natural is best, but the synthetic ‘baking ingredients’ essence is fine)
  • A sprinkling of rooibos tea leaves (just open a tea bag if you cant source the loose tea leaves)

Continue reading

10 Tips and Tricks for reducing waste at home.

 

Simple and Do-able….. 🙂

 

1. Wash out your empty glass jars (the ones you bought your pickles or olives in) and reuse: 

  • Kitchen: dry goods such as nuts and lentils, grated cheese, yoghurt etc
  • Bathroom: Salts, Scrubs and Oils (see my individual recipes…coming up in future posts)
  • Garden Shed/Garage: small nails and bolts, granular fertilisers, seed for garden birds etc

 

 

2. Can’t get the sticky label off the empty jar? Here’s what works for me:

  • Soak the empty jar in hot water, or run it through your automatic dishwasher.
  • Peel off as much of the label as possible.
  • Make a paste of baking soda (bicarb) and dish washing liquid (dish soap). Smear this over the sticky area and leave for a half hour or longer. Wipe off with a cloth.
  • If that doesn’t do the trick, smear a thick layer of peanut butter over the remaining sticky bits (it’s messy so I use the back of a spoon to do this). Leave the peanut butter to do its work for half an hour or longer.
  • Wipe off with a damp cloth or else paper towels or newspaper, and throw the paper straight into your compost bin.
  • Essential oils also well at removing adhesives. Just dab a few drops onto the corner of a dry cloth and rub the sticky spots. Try a light citrus oil such as orange or lemon. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils are other favourites to use in cleaning recipes.

Continue reading

My no-plastic pledge: 1 month later.

 

Having signed the pledge earlier this month, I last week  received an email from Story of Stuff, asking me to give feedback on my plastic-free efforts for that month. And here is a nice link featuring some hints and tips on going zero plastic: worth looking at, even if you didn’t sign the pledge!

Earlier this month I wrote two posts that relate to the subject Here and Here.

I had another read of them myself just now, to refresh my memory as to how I started out a month ago.

Since then I have learnt a few things: Continue reading

“Going Green”: Choosing your battles

Agreed

 

Going green is not all plain sailing. Sometimes you need to make a choice as a consumer, knowing that what you have is not perfect.

Case in point: Beauty without Cruelty  is very important to me,and I wont use products which are not on their Humane list. Either that, or I make my own beauty and cleaning products from natural ingredients (more about that in future posts). HOWEVER, looking at the Humane list, you may notice that many of the items are packaged in plastic, and are overpackaged in general. This is a problem, as I am trying very hard to avoid bringing plastic into my home, and to slowly replace the plastic containers I already have with more sustainable materials such as glass. And there are other issues to bear in mind, such as whether a product is locally produced or imported (shipping invariably generates carbon emissions and generates packaging waste). And whether the raw materials and fresh produce you purchase are from ethical sources where effects on land, people and animals are considered. Another issue that resonates with me is whether a product contains simple and natural ingredients, rather than the chemicals and synthetics contained in many beauty and cleaning products. So it gets tricky, and sometimes you have to choose your battles depending on what resonates in your heart, or depending on the information that you have and what makes sense to you.

The point is, greening is not an exact science, but more of an art. We need to try and strike the right cords until we can finally stand back and feel satisfied, and hopefully happy, with our choices.

So what works for you? What drives you in terms of being a conscious consumer ? How do you Go Green? And let me know if you think of some issue that I have failed to mention above. I would love to know!

Dr. Suess

Let peace start with me

 

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Mahatma Ghandi was a man true to himself, a man of peace despite the adversity that confronted him. I love this quote of his. It reminds me that we are immensely powerful and that our words and actions can have an effect on how people around us think, feel and act. You may remember events in your own life where there was tension or anger between two or more people in a room, where high emotion such as anger, hurt or similar negatives were at play. At times like this it may take just one kind word from one individual in order to bring relief where there was tension, or peace where there was war. In such a case, that one individual has exercised their power to give, and to create positive change in the process. How we choose to act and what we choose to say is a choice, and sometimes requires that we be selfless, putting our own needs aside for that moment when we see that it is within our means to create peace. Never doubt the power of your choices, and your ability to be the peacemaker in a difficult moment, where others seem to be at war.

What about you…Have you had the opportunity to help others find peace in a moment of pain? When was the last time you were able to be the voice of calm and reason in a difficult situation?

Selective Shopping

Saturday 10/06/2017: Today we took a trip to Impala Fruit and Veg at 177 Beyers Naudé Drive, Northcliff, Johannesburg. The plan was to reuse my own packaging, and to add zero of the shop’s plastic to my grocery basket. I packed a few small plastic bags I have in stock at home and re-use often, and some cloth carrier bags. I had previously visited Impala about 3 years before and had been impressed♥ at what was on offer, including fresh, canned and preserved goods, both locally sourced and imported. The great selection of delicious, nutritious goodies is still on the shelves, but I was disappointed to see how very little of their fresh produce is available without packaging, specifically without plastic. It seems that convenience and that the ‘grab and go’ needs of shoppers is catered for but not much for those of us who are trying to reduce our consumption of plastic and  unnecessary packaging. Happily, the following were available unpackaged: turnips with their greens still attached, loose tomatoes, and bunches of herbs. I also picked up the following packaged without plastic: big glass jar of dijon mustard and a tin of locally packaged dark cocoa powder. At the till, the assistant offered to remove the leaves and stems from my turnips and when I declined she agreed with me that the greens are the ‘best part of it’ ;). I was given a brown cardboard box to carry my wares home in which I was happy to take with as an alternative to the usual plastic bags. At Olivia’s, next door to Impala, I bought a few fresh bread rolls at the deli section, and placed these in a brown paper bag. I left, happy to know that I had successfully acquired ZERO shop’s plastic, and had managed to reuse all my own packaging
Continue reading

Decluttering: 10 positive points

The experience of clearing out stuff that has become an eyesore, not useful, or that we have simply grown tired of, can be surprisingly rejuvenating and leave with us a renewed energy and a huge sense of relief.
How we benefit:
1.We say goodbye to stuff that is no longer adding value to our homes, our health and a positive sense of self, and that may even be hindering our ability to move forward with a sense of purpose. (if it’s still not mended/repaired after 3 months,maybe it’s time to just get rid of it)
2.Decluttering allows us an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-organize our physical space in a way that makes practical sense, thus streamlining and simplifying our routines and activities.(how many kitchen knives do you really need?) We take a fresh look at the things we use and how we can improve our use of our available space. Continue reading