Ever Wanted To Visit Unspoilt Ireland? Here's How Cheap & Easy It Is!
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I spend a lot of time from spring through to late autumn (very cold and very late!) to-ing and fro-ing to the west coast of Ireland leading yoga retreats and teaching kitesurfing, surfing, SUPing…basically anything that involves water and/or yoga! People often ask if all the travel can become a drag…and I can honestly say it’s never once felt like this. Why? If you have to ask, you’ve certainly never seen the windswept wild grass, or the perpetual rolls of waves crashing into the scarred western coastline.

You’ve definitely never been to a real Irish pub that’s as big as your living room, but somehow fits twenty-plus locals with room to tilt a pint. You’ve definitely never hiked to the top of Croagh Patrick and counted all 365 of the Clew Bay Islands - the old stomping ground of Grace O’Malley, a 16th Century pirate queen - that form a panorama you’ll never be able to properly capture on your iPhone. (It’s been tried, trust me!)

So how in the name of St Patrick and several saints do I get there?!

Firstly: cut that sacrilegious chat! Secondly: easy! You fly.

Knock Airport, Mayo is one of the most ridiculously tiny airports with the most ridiculous number of connecting airports. Return flights cost in the region of £25-£30 and arrive in under an hour from the UK. Yep. That’s literally cheaper and quicker than a train to Wales. Or a bus to London. (Or probably a coffee on a train in London…)

Flying from Bosnia? Not a bother!

Flying from Bosnia? Not a bother!

Do they have cars in Ireland?

Take it handy over them speed bumps, Oisin!

Take it handy over them speed bumps, Oisin!

Yes. Despite all postcard-based evidence to the contrary, Irish people don’t travel by horse and cart. Here’s where it gets even better, though. Knock has an array of rental car companies - Europcar, Hertz, Avis, all the big boys of rental town are there. So how much are you looking at? Try £15 for a long weekend. Yep.
If driving isn’t your bag, you can always get a bus from the airport to Westport or one of the nearby towns. though given this is going to cost more than half the price of car rental, well…

Ok, right. Now you’re there. You have wheels and ditched your questionable notions of the locals. What’s the plan? This is where I’m slightly biased…

Get to the BigStyle Atlantic Lodge.

Seriously though - go! Sat on its own little hill, the BigStyle Atlantic Lodge has the most incredibly uninterrupted panoramic views of the wild western coastline. Out to sea you’ll spot formidable Clare Island, inland you can pick out the little chapel at the very top of Croagh Patrick. In front of all of this and framed by the rolling fields of Mayo, however, you have one of the best flatwater kitesurfing spots in Europe! For those who are kiting rookies, that means glassy flat, waist-deep water with rarely a single other kiter to cross lines with. No tidal considerations, no reefs or rocks and - best of all - no sand when you pack your kite away! But what if you start feeling a bit bored of flat water? Then all you have to do is walk 50 metres to the Atlantic Ocean and you have waves for days! This means whatever the wind direction, you’re safe to kite. And given the fact you’re on the doorstep of the Atlantic without anything to get in its forceful way, the wind will rarely let you down.

The BigStyle Atlantic Lodge is where you want to be for whatever watersport carry-on you’re into. They’ve got SUPs, surfboards, wetsuits and every last bit of kiting gear you could possibly need. They’re also all trained, experienced instructors…which helps when you’re strapping yourself to a kite the size of a car!

If you fancy something more social than a hotel room and solo or group kite lesson, head over to the BigStyle website to see what events are scheduled – literally every weekend there’s something going on; from yoga retreats to adventure weekends, workout weeks to surf weekends…the list goes on! You can even get in touch to book a tailor-made stag, hen-do or private party. It definitely beats painting the pavements of Birmingham with a half-digested kebab. (Sorry, Birmingham – I had to pick somewhere!)

Where can I kip after peeling off my wetsuit at the end of a long day?

These guys have done their research – turns out people tend to need to sleep! That’s why the BigStyle lodge boasts 15 en-suite bedrooms for whatever your needs and level of luxury - dorms, twins, doubles, family rooms… you name it. Add to that the incredible social room, complete with wood stove, armchairs, couches and a fully equipped kitchen. Then there’s the yoga and gym room and, to top it off, a genuine no-holds-barred Irish pub. There’s even talk of a pizza oven and hot tubs being installed…!

I want to do a bit more exploring after my weekend in the lodge…what’s good?

Good question. In the immediate vicinity of the lodge, you have the opportunity to jump on a ferry out to the underexplored Clare Island and Inishturk. The road that winds its way down the west coast – aptly named The Wild Atlantic Way – will drop you almost immediately into the charming town of Westport; boasting the infamous live music watering hole Matt Molloy’s. Further down the road you’ll arrive at the breathtakingly rugged beauty of Connemara National Park. Onwards still, and here comes Galway City – a chance to enjoy the bright lights of a real, grown-up west-of-Ireland city. Once your hangover has cleared, get back on the road and head on to the stunning Cliffs of Moher. Cross on through the surf town of Lahinch and you can make up for your Galway sins with a day or two’s volunteering at Moy Hill Community Farm – an inspiring project set up by ex-professional surfer Fergal Smith. If you’re a seasoned surfer - this area has some of the best waves Ireland has to offer - be sure to check out White Strand beach, Spanish Point, Aileens and Rileys! It’s up to you how far you south you want to continue…just be sure to drop into us on the way back up again for a farewell!

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So when can we expect you?!

Yoga...But Which Yoga?!
 
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You’ve decided to take up yoga. Your work colleague, other half, sibling, favourite musician, favourite surfer, favourite sports player and Oprah are all blabbering on about how its changed their lives. So you go online and look to book into a class…but which one?! How many different ways can a person possibly stretch and meditate?! And is it better to be revitalised or grounded?!

It’s tricky. And that’s why here I’ll be looking to a) give some information on the different schools of yoga, and b) simplify things so you can get on with doing something positive for your body and mind. I’ve also included guides to pronunciation of each yoga style. Some words I’ll reference that you mightn’t have come across before are;

  • Asana - the physical practice of yoga that we spend most of our time in western studios working on (yoga being the overarching mental, physical and philosophical practice)

  • Pranayama - the practice of mindful breathing exercises

  • Sanskrit - the language of ancient and medieval India

  • Props - any object used in a class to provide extra physical support or assistance for a student (eg: straps, blocks, bolsters etc)

1. Hatha (HA-THA)

One of the most ancient forms of yoga referenced, and one that could be said to incorporate all other schools of yoga. Translateable as meaning either ‘forceful’ or ‘wilful’ or a combination of “ha”, meaning sun, and “tha”, meaning moon; a fitting translation for a school of yoga focused on the idea of balance.
In modern yoga studios, a hatha class will generally focus on mindful breathing, long asana holds, meditation and a slow, gentle practice. Generally the class that is recommended for beginners, this is still a practice that will equally benefit the more seasoned yogi amongst us.
Summary: Hatha is the Ikea of yoga.

2. Ashtanga (ASH-TANGA)

Ashtanga Primary Series

Ashtanga Primary Series

A school of yoga developed by Sri T. Krishnamcharya in the early 20th century, popularised by K. Pattabhi Jois and subsequently his grandson Sharath Jois. Ashtanga translates from Sanskrit as “Eight-limbed”. Asana practice is only one of the eight facets of this school, along with pranayama, yama (rules of moral code), niyama (rules of personal behaviour), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (complete integration).
Ashtanga is comprised of a set routine, drawn from one of six different series depending on how advanced the practitioner is. Postures are moved through in a predetermined order with a set number of breaths.
In studios, Ashtanga is taught in one of two ways; ‘lead’ (with the teacher guiding and counting you through the practice) or ‘Mysore’ (pronounced ‘my-sore’ - where the student moves through the postures at their own speed and breath with the teacher only providing adjustments). As students progress, they may move from practicing ‘primary’ to ‘intermediate’ and then on to the four advanced series. It is a school of yoga generally viewed as being more physically demanding than many others.
Summary: Ashtanga is for hyperactive control freaks.

3. Yin (REALLY?!)

Supported twist using a block and bolster to encourage relaxation and release. And a nice nap.

Supported twist using a block and bolster to encourage relaxation and release. And a nice nap.

A more modern style of yoga formulated in the 1970s by Paulie Zink, yin yoga is a discipline involving comparatively long holds of postures. Taking its name from Taoist philosophy, yin is focused on passivity, stillness and gentleness. On the opposite end of the spectrum to the likes of vinyasa yoga, postures are held from anywhere between 45 second to 5 minutes or more.
Don’t be fooled, though! Although in yin, use of props is encouraged and postures don’t tend to be held as deeply (at least initially), the ability to hold a pose for such a length of time and maintain stillness of mind and body can be incredibly challenging (and rewarding!).
Summary: Yin is for human slugs and people who are literally asleep.

4. Vinyasa (VIN-YAH-SA)

Taking its name from ashtanga yoga (the phrase ‘vinyasa’ referring to the flow of postures used to transition between poses), vinyasa is a modern offshoot of ashtanga involving many of the same postures from the six series. Unlike ashtanga yoga, however, postures are generally not held for any great length of time and more emphasis is placed on the flow from posture to posture. As well as this, there is no pre-determined sequence of postures that are moved through.
In most yoga studios, vinyasa yoga is taught accompanied by fast-paced, modern music (I’ve never sounded so middle aged…), making it a very mentally accessible style for newcomers (though standards can vary greatly, so be sure to check in advance!). Given that emphasis is placed on movement, however, it can also be a demanding cardio workout.
Summary: Vinyasa is sort of like the Mumford & Sons of the yoga world.

5. Iyengar (EYE-YEN-GAR)

Shoulder stand making use of straps and blocks

Shoulder stand making use of straps and blocks

A school of yoga developed by another student of Sri T. Krishnamcharya, Iyengar is named after its founder B.K.S Iyengar who formulated the practice in the 1960s. Iyengar yoga is a style predominately focused on the combination of breath and asana practice, with great emphasis placed on correct alignment. Although perhaps lacking in a sense of flow that is present in other styles of yoga, Iyengar is a great option for understanding all the most subtle intricacies involved in physical postures.
When you decide to attend your first Iyengar yoga class, expect extensive use of props. This can involve anything from blocks, bolsters, straps, mats and everything in between. (Think 50 Shades of Grey but without any sex or the complete waste of paper it’s printed on) The tweaks to your physical practice gleaned from this discipline can be extremely helpful when applied to other styles of yoga class.
Summary: Iyengar is for fetishists and Mums who say “Stop slouching"!”

6. Kundalini (KUN-DAH-LEE-NEE)

“Steve, we’re in the middle of Sainsburys! Put your chakras away!”

“Steve, we’re in the middle of Sainsburys! Put your chakras away!”

Kundalini yoga, as we now know it, is a combination of many traditions which include hatha yoga techniques (such as bandha, pranayama, and asana), Patañjali's kriya yoga (consisting of self-discipline, self-study, and devotion to God), tantric visualisation and meditation techniques of laya yoga, amongst others. All of these techniques are concerned with the ‘awakening of Kundalini’ - a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine. The practice of Kundalini yoga aims to arouse the sleeping ‘Kundalini Shakti’ from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra - crown of the head (This all sounds a bit ‘Ananconda’ - Jennifer Lopez & Ice Cube’s critically acclaimed 1997 masterpiece) . This practice was brought to the west and popularised by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, or Yogi Bhajan, in the 60s. Although the integrity of the original teachings was disputed by teachers and scholars in India (traditional Kundalini yoga would have demanded renunciation of sensual pleasures and material possessions etc), the style of Kundalini devised by Bhajan became popular in the counterculture of 60s America and quickly spread.
In a Kundalini yoga class you can expect hatha style asana practice, chanting, pranayama and meditation practice. While perhaps demanding more of an open mind in our more secular, sceptical society (eg: “You’re mental!” or “There’s no such thing as ghosts!”), Kundalini practitioners will speak highly of the transcendental journey towards enlightenment that is the goal of the practice.
Summary: Kundalini is for people who want to release their inner trouser snake.

7. Jivamukti (JEE-VAH-MUK-TEE)

Jivamukti is a school of yoga developed by David Life and Sharon Gannon in the mid 1980s. Students originally of Sivinanda yoga, Life and Gannon established their Jivamukti Yoga Society in New York upon their return from study in India. Comprised of two Sanskrit words, jiva - meaning the living soul, and mukti - meaning liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth, Jivamukti in essence translates as “liberation while living”. The discipline is founded on five central tenets - Shastra (scripture), Bhakti (devotion), Ahimsa (non-violence), Nada (music) and Dhyana (meditation). Animal rights, veganism and environmentalism are also core principles of this style of yoga. (Why can’t just one of these schools be based on hot chocolate or…I don’t know…foot rubs?!)
Asana practice in the form of vinyasa yoga is a core element of a standard Jivamukti class, together with Sanskrit chanting, music, exploration of the relevance of yogic scripture on modern life, pranayama and meditation.
Summary: Jivamukti is for Gwyneth Paltrow and people who buy those baggy elephant print trousers when they go on their first long distance holiday.

8. Bikram (BIK-RAM)

Bikram Choudhury - the sort of guy you could see yourself going for a pint with.

Bikram Choudhury - the sort of guy you could see yourself going for a pint with.

Bikram yoga was devised by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. Exploding in popularity in the mid 2000s, this style of yoga was somewhat tarnished as its founder became embroiled in accusations of sexual harassment (literal quote: "Why would I have to harass women? People spend one million dollars for a drop of my sperm!"), sexual assault, false imprisonment, bullying, and fraud (to name but a few!) Choudhury subsequently fled to India when an arrest warrant was issued by an LA judge. At its height, there were 1,650 Bikram studios worldwide. There are now less than 1,000.
Bikram is a style of yoga involving 26 sequenced postures practiced in a room at 35-42C degrees for 90 minutes. It is often claimed that the increased heat encourages sweating so as to aid in the release of toxins* from the body and a deepening of the physical practice. Competition is also encouraged in Bikram yoga, with the Yoga Asana Championships taking placing regionally and nationally in many countries.
Note: I’ve done my best with this list to try and maintain a neutral tone when describing the various schools of yoga so as to avoid encouraging prejudice in the reader. Here, however, I feel it would be remiss of me not to voice my discouragement of the practice of Bikram yoga. This could well form the basis of a future article, however feel free to get in touch if you’d like a more immediate explanation!
* A word I would suggest be stricken from the English language!
Summary: Bikram is for people who enjoy self-flagellating in Speedos.

9. Forrest (FOREST)

Forrest yoga was devised by Ana Forrest in 1975. Based on a synthesis of hatha, vinyasa, sivinanda and iyengar, the practice aims to connect its students with their feelings and emotions in an effort to work through physical and emotional trauma. Forrest is based on four principles, known as ‘pillars’: Breath, Strength, Integrity and Spirit. Students are encouraged to ‘breathe’ into areas deemed to be energetically stagnant, blocked or physically tight.
Forrest classes take place in a heated room of 25C degrees and generally begin with a pranayama practice, before moving on to more dynamic poses. Although, as mentioned, the asana practiced in Forrest yoga are drawn from other schools, there are also a number unique to this school. Further to this, many poses are adjusted to suit our western physicality and needs (no, a cheese plate is not a ‘need’), as well as being more neutral and protective of areas such as the neck or knees (in contrast to practices such as Ashtanga).
Summary: Forrest is for people who have lungs in their knees.

10. Sivananda (SIEVE-AH-NAN-DA)

The twelve postures of Sivananda (also - little known fact - the origins of breakdance)

The twelve postures of Sivananda (also - little known fact - the origins of breakdance)

Sivananda is a school of yoga brought to the west in the late 1950s by Swami Vishnudevananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda after whom the practice is named. Vishnudevananda based Sivananda yoga on five basic principles: proper exercise (asana), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarian), positive thinking (vedanta) and meditation (dhyana). The practice is limited to only twelve central poses, each selected to ensure a rounded physical practice is completed - inversions, backbends, forward bends, twists, balances, and hamstring stretches. As the practitioner becomes more advanced, variations on these poses are then offered.
As per Ashtanga and Bikram, in a standard Sivananda class the student can expect the class to follow a relatively rigid format; savasana, pranayama, the twelve asanas and savasana once more. The class will also often begin and end with mantras chanted. The idea behind the limited number of asana postures is that the student carefully and methodically works through and engages deeply with each posture, facilitating a stillness of the mind through familiarity and repetition.
Summary: Sivananda is for people who like to eat their Weetabix dry. While chanting.

11. Rocket (ROCKET)

Rocket yoga is a style of practice developed by Larry Schultz in San Francisco in the 1980s. Schultz, previously a dedicated ashtanga student of K. Pattabhi Jois, drew from primary, intermediate and the third and fourth advanced series to form its own unique format. The name ‘Rocket’ was introduced when Bob Weir of The Naked Dead said of the practice that “It gets you there faster!”. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, students are encouraged to make any adjustments to poses that they feel suit their body or desired practice, known as “The Art Of Modification”. Although a style of yoga more popular in American yoga circles, Rocket is beginning to appear on an increasing number of UK and European studio schedules.
As per Ashtanga, from which the practice is drawn, a Rocket class tends to be strenuous. For those who are keen to work towards balances, inversions and hanstands - this is the class for you!
Summary: Sting practices Rocket. Make of that what you will.

12. Pilates (PEE-LAH-TAYS)

Say what you will, but I wouldn’t want my mum walking in on  that .

Say what you will, but I wouldn’t want my mum walking in on that.

Although not a school of yoga, I wanted to include a description of Pilates and the ways in which it differs from yoga. Pilates was formulated by Joseph Pilates, a German immigrant who moved to the UK. Always fascinated by physical wellbeing to the point of personal obsession, Pilates was interred on the Isle of Man during WWI as a German ‘enemy alien’. It was here he began to experiment by placing springs into hospital beds to enable wounded inmates to physically recuperate while still bed-bound. His method became famous amongst dancers in New York, where he established his first studio, for being effective at preventing recurring injuries.
A first time student of Pilates will find a number of noticeable differences to yoga - use of repetition in targeted exercises, no standing postures, use of specific Pilates machines known as ‘aparatus’, less focus on flexibility and a complete absence of spirituality and meditation.
Summary: This guy sounds cool, but who was the first person who came to his class and was all “Yeah sure, strap me to that moving bed!”?

13. Goat (BAAAH)

This looks like the opposite of something that is fun.

This looks like the opposite of something that is fun.

It’s yoga, but with goats.
Carolyn Cowan, a yoga instructor from London (of course she is), says: “Having to work harder with a creature moving on your back is actually probably really good for your core (It’s probably really not). And, I think the amount of laughter has to be really good for your core, too. I think, overall, I’d look on it as a fabulous adventure.”
I think it’s time you got on Tinder, Carolyn.
Summary: For people who like goats. And injuries.

Hopefully this guide has helped clear up the maze of options open to you as a potential yoga student. Just remember: every yoga teacher will do their best to make newbies feel comfortable, no student in a class has any interest in what anyone else is doing and everybody has had to be the wobbly, confused person at some stage!

Got any tips for newbies? Any hilarious stories from your introduction to yoga? Make sure to ask questions or give feedback in the comments section below!

 
3 simple recipes you’ll keep coming back to
 
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I really enjoy cooking, especially cooking for others. A lot of the time though, I’ll also be cooking for myself or preparing food in advance because I know there’ll always be times I’ll need to grab a snack and run back out the door. This means I’m way less likely to end up grabbing something rubbishy and expensive at a sandwich shop or cafe. It can admittedly take a bit of time to get into the routine, but you’ll always thank yourself when the time comes!
In my last article I gave ten tips for tackling the winter blues, two of which were

  • Reduce your caffeine intake

  • Avoid snacking on rubbish food

All well and good, but how about some concrete suggestions and alternatives?! A fine idea and reasonable request, dear reader. Allow me to oblige you…

Sunshine Drink

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Here’s a handy substitute for a caffeinated drink! I must credit my lovely housemate Heather for introducing me to this most glorious concoction. Last winter I was struggling to pull together the motivation to drag myself out into the dark, cold, damp and wintry Bristol night to walk my pal Jam Jam. Dear Heather threw a saucepan on the heat, sprinkled some mystical herbs in and muttered a quiet incantation. Into my Keep Cup the results were poured and out the door I went, clutching my warm potion close. But goodness, dear reader, this was no ordinary drink; spicy, invigorating and comforting; a nectar capable of brightening the grimmest of moods. Plus, it pretty much glows in the dark. And that’s cool.
Note: While you can absolutely use fresh ginger and turmeric for this recipe, I prefer using powdered as it means I can make a big pre-prepared jar of the mixture and then just scoop one teaspoon when needed (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger & cardamom with a little pepper)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp* ground ginger powder (anti-inflammatory & anti-nausea)

  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder (anti-inflammatory & aids liver function)

  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon powder (anti-inflammatory & high in antioxidants)

  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds (boosts metabolism & high in antioxidants)

  • Pinch ground black pepper (increases absorption of the medicinal compound in turmeric by 2,000%)

  • Milk or milk alternative (I’m an oat milk man)

  • Honey or agave/maple syrup to taste

  • Optional extras: dessicated coconut (I used to add coconut oil until I discovered it was as good for you as McDonalds consumed intravenously) or nutmeg

* When I mention tsp (teaspoon), I’m talking the official measurement rather than a simple teaspoon. If you don’t have a set you should a) get one and b) bear in mind that a traditional teaspoon is about a 3/4 measurement (very roughly)

Method:

  1. Throw all ingredients except honey/syrup into a pan on the heat

  2. Heat up slowly while stirring/whisking thoroughly

  3. Sweeten to taste with honey/syrup


Pete’s Homemade Hummus

Drizzle with some olive oil, sesame seeds and cumin to serve

Drizzle with some olive oil, sesame seeds and cumin to serve

Alongside peanut butter, hummus is my biggest go-to for a snack-and- dash (peanut butter spread on apple slices…!). It’s also great as a side with any kind of roast veg, or as a dip if you have friends over for drinks. I’d recommend buying bulk amounts of dried chickpeas rather than the canned ones for two reasons:

1) It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly

2) The chickpeas have better consistency and more flavour

I usually soak a good load (say 500 grams) for 8 hours or overnight, rinse them (really important to avoid farts!), boil them all up with a teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of sea salt, and then freeze whatever you don’t use immediately in tin-size quantities for use later. Chickpeas are fantastic as an addition to salads, stews and curries and provide all the protein you’ll ever need when eaten with a grain (rice, brown bread etc).

Ingredients:

  • Cooked chickpeas (roughly one can’s worth)

  • Two tablespoons tahini (this counts as the grain you need to form a complete protein chain with the chickpeas)

  • Half a lemon’s juice (sometimes more if it’s a small one)

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (ground if your blender is rubbish!)

  • Good old glug of olive oil. I mean a really good glug!

  • Salt and pepper

  • Water for consistency (I always like to be able to scoop my hummus without my carrot stick/crisp/nacho snapping!) If using canned chickpeas, they’re usually so squishy and full of water that you don’t need any more added.

  • Optional extras: beetroot, chilli, spring onion, paprika…get creative!

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender (or bowl if you have a stick blender)

  2. Add water or more olive oil as required to achieve desired consistency

  3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and scoop up when required!

Hill Street Oat Cakes

Store in an airtight container to keep them crunchy!

Store in an airtight container to keep them crunchy!

I must credit Heather here again (thanks Heath!). I love bread. Adore the stuff. With so many incredible bakers in Bristol, I’m spoiled for choice. The only downside is, whenever I eat more than a couple of slices, my body starts producing rather antisocial smells…So I started looking around for vehicles to transport my hummus/cheese/peanut butter etc to my mouth. Et voila: oat cakes! But then I find myself shelling out a few quid for what’s essentially oats baked into a disc…plus all the plastic and packaging that they come wrapped in. And so, dearest of dears, I was delighted when Heather began knocking these guys out: the perfect parade float for my hummus!

Ingredients:

  • 225g Oats (avoid rolled/jumbo oats: the cheap ones actually work better!)

  • 60g wholewheat flour

  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate soda

  • 60g butter/margerine

  • 1tsp salt

  • 1/2tsp sugar

  • 60-80ml hot water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190C

  2. Mix together oats, flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda.

  3. Add butter and rub together until everything is mixed and resembles large bread crumbs

  4. Add the hot water bit by bit and combine until you have a thick dough. This can vary depending on the oat you use.

  5. Sprinkle out some extra flour and oats on a work surface and roll out the dough to 1/2cm thickness. Use a cookie cutter or glass to cut out your desired size of cake.

  6. Place the oat cakes on a baking tray and bake for approx. 20-30mins until golden brown.

  7. Leave on a rack and allow to cool before eating.

Got any bullet-proof, go-to recipes of your own you’d like to share? Get in touch and I’ll give them a whirl…and maybe even a share!

 
How to make SAD not so bad
 
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues” is something many of us have been unfortunate enough to experience. With shorter days, lower levels of sunshine and colder weather, our body and minds want to curl up and hibernate…but we’re not allowed to, are we? We’re expected to keep rocking up to work on time and working until the sun’s divebombed back below the horizon.

As somebody who manages low mood year round, and especially over the winter months, below are ten simple tips I’ve found have worked wonders for me…

1. Light alarm clock

Yep. This is one of those rare times you’ll hear me say technology might just change your life for the better. When it comes to sleep, we think of time spent sleeping, quality of sleep etc, but have you ever considered how you wake up? I know I hadn’t.

Consider this: it’s 7am, still pitch dark and you’re in deep REM, mid-dream. Then, BAM! There goes your (probably phone!) alarm. Would you wake up someone you didn’t hate by blasting tinny noises in their ears? No. So why do you do it to yourself?

Check out Phillips and Lumie light alarm clocks. Ranging from £30-£250, you can get yourself an alarm clock that will very gradually brighten your room over the course of (usually) half an hour. The idea is that by the time it very gently begins making some relaxing sounds, you’re already, or very nearly, awake. You know how an awful start to a morning can sometimes set your day up to be a disaster? Do yourself a favour and start your morning right.

2. SAD Lamp

Disclaimer: SAD lamps don’t whisper sweet nothings in your ear

Disclaimer: SAD lamps don’t whisper sweet nothings in your ear

As much as we like to pretend otherwise, we’re animals. Mammals, to be precise. In most species of mammal, even those who don’t hibernate, activity is markedly slowed during the winter months. This is caused by a reduction in sunlight available (and historically, with less food around, would have been a handy instinct), which in turn causes our circadian rhythm (sleep pattern related to light & dark) to adjust accordingly. The problem is these days we’re still expected to rock up at the office at 8am and not club Brian from accounts with a stick…

This is where an SAD lamp comes in. Providing us with a similar dose of light to a bright summer’s morning, it tells our body to shut off melatonin production and get going. Grab yourself one of these babies and eat your porridge in front of it (or even bring it into the office with you!)

3. Hydration

No, Karen. That’s just a jug of fruit and gin.

No, Karen. That’s just a jug of fruit and gin.

Drink water. You don’t need telling, do you? It’s easy to forget though, especially in winter when you don’t feel you need it as much…which is why we often end up dehydrated and sluggish. If we aren’t properly hydrated, our organs can’t function to their full potential. Our digestion, blood flow, brain capacity and toxin filtering are all adversely affected. Any surprise, then, that you feel like napping at your desk?

So how to make drinking water more appealing? Try buying a reusable bottle or thermos you like the look or feel of. Bring it around with you, sit it on your desk etc. Fill it with nice things like slices of ginger, cucumber, lemon/lime, tumeric etc. The upside of all this water drunk will be an increase in the number of toilet breaks you take…which means more energising mental mini-breaks (and less time at your desk…)

4. Exercise

As mentioned above, the body will want to descend into a state of semi-hibernation through winter. All well and good if we’re eating less, sleeping more and generally taking it easy…but we’re not. Less exercise means less mood-boosting endorphins being released, lower quality sleep and more pounds piling on…all of which make for a grumpier hu-mammal.

Consider walking or cycling to work when the weather permits (or buy the gear so it always permits!). Start an exercise routine - yoga, jogging, gym, a social sport. If you choose a solo sport, consider convincing a friend to join your routine - it always helps when you know you have someone waiting on you.

5. Diet

Here’s where that old caveman (caveperson?) instinct does us a solid disservice again. Remember how food would be less available around now? Well your inner caveman Brian (Bertha?) would’ve smashed whatever berry, bison or biscuit he came across. It’s not summer anymore, is it Brian? Hobnobs no longer grow on trees.

Again, you know you shouldn’t eat rubbish food. Right? So how do we help ourselves out? Simple answer: don’t fill your cupboards with it. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it.

  • Have a bar of dark chocolate in your cupboard. Give yourself a square when you feel the urge.

  • Have nice fruit and healthy snacks (nuts, natural yoghurt, hummus etc) available in your kitchen for those times when you need to snack and run.

  • Eat breakfast. Now that you’re waking up much easier, getting up just half an hour earlier is a cinch right? Enjoy that half hour over a mug of coffee and bowl of porridge (filled with cinnamon, nuts, dried cranberries and honey) while you read the news or listen to a podcast.

  • Avoid sugar. Nothing is going to make you want to dive into a couch for 24 hours more than a monster sugar crash. (This includes those worth-their-weight-in-sugar flapjacks you convince yourself are the healthy option!)

6. Caffeine & Alcohol

Ew. Guts.

Ew. Guts.

I love a good flat white as much as the next bearded, tattooed, pierced hipster. But I also know what happens when I have one (or three!) too many. Caffeine makes us feel more alert by activating our sympathetic nervous system - that part of the system we refer to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. In small doses, this can be constructive and help pep us up. But what happens when we’re stuck behind a desk or trying to pay attention to detail while our body wants to parkour its way out of its very skin? You start typing your life story into Excel and Brian from accounts gets sarky email responses. Drink more water or try out decaffeinated tea or coffee (honestly, there is an absolutely negligible difference in taste!)

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a central nervous system depressant. Quite aside from the obvious effects of a hangover, we always have to pay for alcohol in the near future to some extent. It will impair the quality of sleep, reduce reaction times, make us feel flat and impair memory. I’m not saying cut out alcohol, but if you struggle to say no to booze, perhaps try making less of your social interactions centred around it. Maybe this winter take the opportunity to take up a social hobby or course with friends. (Or just get better at saying no!)

7. Sleep Routine

Sleep. After air, water and decent waves, there’s nothing that’ll have a bigger impact on our wellbeing than sleep. We all know we’re supposed to get our 8 hours, but are we counting playing on our phone, watching tv series or reading our book as part of our 8? Are we getting to bed at a different time every night? Our bodies love and behave best when it comes to routine sleep patterns. Do yourself a favour - once you’ve bought your light alarm clock, leave your phone charging in the living room!

8. Vitamin D Supplement

You’ll very rarely hear me encouraging consumption of dietary supplements (a rounded plant or meat-based diet can’t be beat!), but Vitamin D is one I come back to each winter. Low levels of the vitamin have been linked to a weakened immune system, low mood and a whole range of illnesses. Given that our bodies produce the bulk of Vitamin D required through our skin’s exposure to sunlight, it’s no wonder that we in the further reaches of the northern hemisphere are a bit short-changed for a good chunk of the year…especially if we’re office bound for the majority of the time the sun’s swinging around the sky! If you’re going to supplement, I would recommend looking for a mouth spray, rather than tablets as research has shown higher absorption rates are recorded by spraying.

All this being said, it’d be remiss of me not to mention that there are a host of highly-qualified detractors as well as supporters of supplementing Vitamin D. Read here for a well-rounded article on the topic.

9. Vacation

Sunshine might balance out the shame of your horrendous French

Sunshine might balance out the shame of your horrendous French

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford to travel off to sunnier shores, it’s well worth considering when and where we decide to do so. Very often we go on holidays in the summer months, just when the sun has started showing itself. How about a November or January trip to somewhere sunny? Not only will we get a morale-boosting dose of sunshine, but it’ll probably be cheaper than a high season mid-summer jaunt.

10. Journal/Talk/Therapy

Coming in last, but definitely not least, is speaking up and speaking out. However you like to whoever you want, DON’T HESITATE! If things get bad, don’t put dark thoughts and seriously low mood down to simple winter blues. Write in a journal without self-censure or embarrassment, speak to friends or family, or go to see a GP or therapist. This list of tips is made up of building blocks to keep you tipping along and is absolutely no substitute for qualified mental health consultation.

Got any amazing suggestions on how to survive winter? Make sure to get in touch with any of your own you feel I’ve missed out on!

 
Rounding Off The Season
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What a season it’s been! Mainly as a result of my policy of saying ‘yes’ to everything that came my way, I’ve been wonderfully, absurdly busy. All well-intentioned plans for a weekly blog entry fell firmly at the wayside (wipe that knowing grin off your face…). Any moment of personal time became an unapologetic dive for mental downtime and recovery (read series and inane Instagram scrolling)...hopefully now things are winding down I can put this to rights!

 
 
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Since I last wrote, I’ve run two thoroughly enjoyable ‘Not Just Yoga’ retreats at the Bigstyle Atlantic Lodge (more on the lodge later!). There were a fantastic variety of ages and genders, intentions and personal scenarios, and tears and dancing! It was such an honour to be able to lead so many inspiring people into a state of greater self-awareness and self-appreciation. (Or just plain old fun…!)  I hope to keep in contact with many of the participants to hear the amazing things they achieve on a personal and professional level in the future.

 
 
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My all-round involvement with BigStyle continues at a rate of knots - from Adventure to Kitesurfing Weekends, corporate groups to charity benefit trips, it’s been anything but dull! Not only that, but I rounded off the season with my BKSA Kitesurfing Instructor Course. Involving a week of highly informative study and practical demonstration, I am now officially qualified to teach kitesurfing! Huge thanks to Will Benett of Atlantic Riders Kite School for overseeing the course and Kris Goodbody of BigStyle for all my past teaching experience and the generous sponsorship. Can’t wait to share this amazing sport with future students!

 
 
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We closed off the season with the exciting news that BigStyle will be relocating to the Ocean Lodge in Killadoon, just outside Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. With the blessing of the open-minded owners, we’ll be bringing the Style’s trademark pizazz to the fore with an exciting refurb next spring before opening in early April 2019. With everything from a dedicated yoga room (no more chair lifting!) to wood stove chill area and everything in between (Ben Mc Donald, Designer In Chief, has promised the moon) all just a short hop to the sea, I can’t wait to see the place up and running…watch this space!

 
 
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On my way home to Bristol (involving not one, but two van breakdowns!) I dropped in to Facebook’s European HQ in Dublin to teach a workshop on stress management and mind/body awareness to their Recruitment Team. Despite only getting three hours sleep after the aforementioned breakdown odyssey, I had such a great time hanging out in their office (the food is incredible!) and teaching that it wasn’t until that evening that I felt the inevitable energy slump.  Huge thanks to Elly Whittaker of Swell Yoga for assisting and Suzie Kelly for the organisation. Corporate workshops might sound like a dry affair to some, but to me it’s a wonderful opportunity to gain access to people who mightn’t usually seek help with their mental and physical wellbeing. There was some really positive feedback so hopefully a few minds have been opened to the amazing benefits of yoga and mindfulness/meditation.

 
 
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I now have a week of quiet reflection (and neglected personal admin to tackle!) before heading to Taghazout, Morocco to assist with Swell Yoga’s Yoga & Surf Retreat. Very much looking forward to some sunshine, blue skies and space for reflection on the year to date...oh, and getting back into my summer wetsuit for a few clean waves!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on BigStyle’s Tanzanian Kitesurfing & Yoga Retreat, my selection for WildBound’s ambassador programme and tips on how to go about resisting those dreaded winter blues. Might just be a few exciting announcements in the pipeline to boot…

Stay barefoot (at least indoors!)

Pete

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Welcome To The Barefeet Journal!
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Welcome to the inaugural Barefeet Journal! It’s been such a struggle not to launch into writing this before the website build was complete. I'm so genuinely excited to create a space where I can share thoughts and interact with clients and friends.

I’m going to be using this space to write on everything from upcoming trips to escape the autumn/winter creep, opinions and advice on yoga, favourite recipes/cookbooks and guidance on practical cooking, thoughts on nutrition and supplements, views on contentious topics such as protein intake/ketosis dieting/fat consumption, tips for making it through winter without feeling miserable, the importance of sleep, exercises for countering the desk job bodyslump, politics and how it affects our wellbeing, environmentalism, depression, and so, so much more. Oh, and of course any requests that comes from you: the reader!

On a more immediate note, I’m gearing up for the final push through to the end of autumn. My work with BigStyle & Swell Yoga will see me travelling to the west of Ireland for events like the Movember Surf Weekend, the bi-monthly BigStyle Adventure Weekends and my own Not-Just-Yoga retreats. Then I’ll be making my way to the North Devon coastline with Elly of Swell Yoga to assist on her Croyde Surf & Yoga retreats, before the season wraps up and we head to the consistent breaks (‘consistent’ is unfortunately not a term you can apply to surf in the UK or Ireland!) of Taghazout, Morocco and then the big one...the Kitesurfing & Yoga Retreat to Pangani, Tanzania with the Bigstyle crew!

To help keep me grounded amongst all this gallivanting, I’m now offering massage therapy at one of my favourite Bristol yoga studios - Trika Yoga on North Street, Southville. It’s my usual go-to for a last minute afternoon vinyasa class or more-than-welcome evening yin session. One of those studios where you get an immediate sense of warmth and community as you step in the door. I can't wait!

I’ll also be starting to teach Hatha & Yin in Breathe Bristol on Upper Maudlin Street in the city centre. The owner, Ingrid, has created an amazing bohemian space right in the middle of the hustle of the city. Maybe it’s her South African heritage, but it instantly reminds me of the laid-back social vibes I so fondly remember of the backpackers along the Garden Route on the south coast of her home country.

Lastly, I'll be running a workshop in Facebook's European HQ in Dublin, Ireland in October. Assisted by Elly, I'll be teaching Acro Yoga and guiding participants through my Goal Mapping workshop to see if we can find a way to chart a clear route to personal and professional goals. Hopefully I'll be able to bring similar workshops to other corporate clients in the near future!

So here we go! I’m incredibly excited for what’s to come and so grateful for what’s been; both this summer past and in the years that have lead me here. I'm so looking forward to working and spending time with more of you, whether laughing in shared relief out back of overhead breakers or guiding beginners and veterans alike through a restorative yin class. Make sure to get in touch with your feedback - there’s nothing that keeps me grounded, humble or buzzing like genuine interaction!

See you all somewhere along the path...hopefully barefoot!

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