...but there is freedom waiting on the other side.
I've just landed from what I can sincerely describe as two of the most intense weeks of my life. I am in part, quite a large part it seems, undone!
Over the two weeks I was away on the beautiful island of Ibiza, I learned a lot about myself. I saw my unrecognised wisdom, I saw how and where I have not claimed my authority, I saw my shadow and my vulnerability and I saw patterns that I have never realised I'd passed down to my own children in learning them from my parents before me, and I welcome it all.
I was in Ibiza to graduate as a breathwork facilitator with the Alchemy Of Breath, a school of breathwork I am proud to be connected to and in whose name I work. This whole journey has been a process of self discovery on much deeper levels than I could ever have imagined when starting to breathe consciously a couple of years ago.
You may wonder what all the fuss is about - we breathe every day right? Wrong! We breathe but we don't breathe well; we fail to breathe deeply into the essence of our being, and when we do, wow...everything changes, and I mean everything!
I have seen people fall apart, break their hearts and souls wide open, weep a million unshed tears, scream and rage for all that went unexpressed, laugh manically in deep knowing of truth and curl up into corners of their deepest vulnerability, and I've seen all of that being held in pure love. I've held all of that myself in this essence of love as a witness, a supporter and as a facilitator. It's extremely humbling to see humanity laid out like this before you. Walk with diamonds on the soles of your feet and the breath of the butterfly if you're ever blessed to witness or experience this work - I believe we owe each other this grace for the human soul is delicate and mighty at the same time.
As human beings, we walk a many faceted journey through this life. For some, it's as much as we can do to stay here, to commit to living, to feel and to just allow ourselves to be enough. For others, it may be easier in some ways, but one thing I have learnt for sure is that we all have our vulnerabilities, those tender places inside of us that need to be held and seen through the eyes of love.
When I began my training, motivated by a profound and utterly unexpected experience of this conscious connected breathing technique whilst on holiday in Bali last year, I didn't expect it to take me where it has, both internally in my emotional and mental landscape/s or externally in the physical world too.
My teacher is one of the most loving and transparent men I've ever met in my entire life. He works from a place of unconditional love, a commitment to conscious communication and a presence that changes many, many people's lives simply in the act of being himself; he is what I consider to be a 'safe' man and a steady harbour in which to land. He's worked hard to get to that place, and this commitment to self awareness shines through in everything he is and everything he does. He would shy from this adoration, but I'm saying it anyway!
So back to the unlearning - as children we are born in pure essence. Our imprinting begins at a young age, where we are powerless to do anything beyond receive those imprints really because 1). we are too small to know any different and 2). we don't have the understanding to question it whilst so young, so we grow up believing that these messages are 'true'; messages about ourselves and about the world around us, but they're not true, they are simply a reflection of those people's experiences and their own conditioning.
Unlearning takes time, effort and integration. INTEGRATION is key! I see so many doing this deep work, perhaps with the breath, or with plant medicines, or other healing modalities and simply not giving themselves the time necessary to integrate all that has been felt, therefore repeating ad infinitum the stories that reveal themselves. I have landed from this two week journey feeling completely undone, and I'm glad I'm 'undone'! I'm glad because I know that this mining into my soul's landscape is what heals me if I can sit with it, reflect on it, and be with it.
Take the time you need to integrate from your experiences whatever they are. Stay present to yourself and your true feelings, tune into your felt sense and allow it the space to land, and seek out those who support you in changing yourself. We're unused to stillness in this fast-moving day and age, but it's crucial to drop into it deeply if we are to really create true health and healing.
Alchemy - The transmutation of matter, the seeking of a universal elixir, the conversion of lead into gold.
Discover your very own personal alchemy and watch as your life becomes authentic, beautiful, inspired and free, and remember to always gift yourself time for integration to take place.
With so much love - Steph xox
Many years ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Kathmandu in Nepal to study bodywork and healing with a great teacher there. A small group of four, maybe five, we lived for a couple of weeks in our teacher's centre, ate in him home, visited his family up in the more remote, tiger inhabited hills and generally immersed ourselves in this experience. I remember pickles with every meal, the humble ways people lived up in the mountain villages, and the magnificence of a multitude of 'orbs' visible in every photo I took at the Sacred Temple I visited on the Buddha's birthday. It was a very magical time for me, and a very healing one too.
It's considered auspicious to have the birthday of the Buddha fall on the May full moon, and pilgrims came from far and wide to this temple to offer their prayers and pay their respects, many of whom came down from Tibet to pray, as a result of facing political challenge in the Tibetan monasteries.
During my course, several personal issues had arisen in the process based training we were having. My teacher indicated that I must go to the Temple, and find a place to light 108 tea lights and offer deep prayers of forgiveness to myself, and asking for them too for the issue at hand. He told me many people would be there doing the same that night, that I should follow my intuition and make a payment offering for the candles then light each one mindfully, knowing this would clear some of my karma.
Long since considered a sacred number in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and yoga. According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India, and there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body. There are 108 beads on most malas, which when counted in prayer, help a person to become mindful once again of the power of the sacred number and the effect this has on their offerings. The 108 number refers to spiritual completion. There are many other fascinating aspects to this number which you can read about here.
For my upcoming breathwork session at One yoga Studio, Chorlton, we will collectively light 108 tea lights before going into our breathwork. We will focus our attention on all of the prayers for forgiveness that we seek, and are offering out at this potent time. Many people around the world will be praying in the same way throughout the month of May, celebrating both the birthday of, and the enlightenment of the Buddha which was also said to have happened at this time.
I know for me, this was a powerful healing ceremony, so I invite you to join together as a group to consciously create space in your life through the letting go of old stories, old wounds and old patterns, and celebrate the inner and outer freedom that this can bring.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
108 Breaths for Healing, Sunday May 6th, 2018. 7.30-10:00pm, £25 per person.
Although not in the full moon energy, we are certainly not far from it, so we will also call upon this energy in our work, letting go with this gradual waning phase, calling on the joyful abundance of Beltane to hold our energy strong and clear.
I always keep a place on a pay what you can basis, and one skills exchange place at most of my personal events, so please don't let money be your issue, and if you wish to come, drop me a line.
To join us for this beautiful breathwork session, you are invited to email email@example.com.
One Yoga Studio, Albany Trading Estate, Albany Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 0AZ. Advance bookings only please so we that know how many mats to put out :)
Please bring an item for a healing altar we will create, whatever leaps to mind is what you should bring! You may also wish to bring a journal and pen, cushion, blanket, and some warm socks. It's best to wear loose comfortable clothing and not to eat for at least 2 hours before breathing. Alcohol and recreational drugs should be avoided for 24 hours (min) beforehand too. This is powerful healing work. I look forward to welcoming you to the best version of yourself possible!
This last year has taught me a great deal.
It's been a humbling time in my life as I move towards real change, to the final letting go of my youngest child who is now 18 and ready to leave home in a few months. I've also been entering the stillness and deep wisdom of menopause, and whilst that's not been an easy journey (emotionally), that particular rite of passage has also offered a profound learning for me. Both of these things came on the back of adrenal burnout which hit me so hard 2 years ago, and which has impacted on my life greatly for the last 24 months. Only now am I coming to a more balanced place of inner peace and external rest and what a blissful place that is!
I knew when the adrenal stuff first showed up in my life that it would come bearing a gift for me - one of my old art teachers used to say "there's no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in it's hands," which I understand is originally a Richard Bach quote, and I believe this to be true.
Adrenal burnout took me into profound stillness because I had no choice. Ironically I think that many of us arrive in these places from mindlessly repeating behaviour patterns only to have an illness, a trauma or a real life shake up wake us up to different ways of thinking and being. Laid up for days on end, being hit by the inability to plan (I've always been a 'planner' and a do-er) because I would never know when fever would land and my when my body would betray me and become useless, which is honestly how I saw it then. I felt captive to some strange mystery I could do nothing but accept, and accepting it was tough. I felt weak, needy, vulnerable, and incapable, all of which triggered in me a deep sense of failure on some levels. I was de-constructing and I didn't like it one bit - my resistance was high!
One day, in a particularly depressing bout of pain and struggle with this condition, my dear friends Sarah & Gavin sent me a Matt Khan video to watch. This video changed everything for me! I realised that in my resentment of this 'illness' I was experiencing, I was still pushing my body beyond it's own wisdom, still pushing it to heal faster, move more and just 'get on with things.' I was lying prone on my sofa with the subliminal attitude of an authoritarian dictator, with the same pushy attitude that had brought me here "hurry up already and get well and get on with stuff!"
In that moment I realised I was angry with myself and even more so with my body and in that realisation I suddenly found the deepest sense of compassion for what I was experiencing; I vowed to change my thinking and just surrender to these teachings. It was only then that my true recovery began.
Most of us live in a very 'yang' dominant way. We are experiencing times of rapid cultural and social development; technology takes us in many directions at the same time and relentless hard work is mistaken for great achievement. The silence of mindful thought and action is relegated to what we do as an trendy add-on in our lives rather than a true way of being. Having recently learned of and been inspired by the Korean nun and highly acclaimed chef Jeong Kwan, I have realised that mindfulness and silence are great teachers when applied to every single aspect of our lives, not just in a 20 minute meditation practice!
When we stop separating and compartmentalising our lives, true inner peace begins to penetrate our being. There is no longer a duality, or a struggle, there comes only stillness, and in the stillness there comes wisdom.
In learning to befriend stillness which was never a comfortable place for me, I have found a palace of exquisite treasures inside of myself. I find kindness to have become my main driver in life; what good can I do with my words, my thoughts and my actions? Compassion steers my ship of life now. I practice stillness in each moment by pausing, taking and breath and working on reflecting before I act or speak. In seeing how much violence there can be in the world, and not just in the obvious way, but in our communications, our assumptions and our projections, I am reigning mine in and gathering them in my heart to offer healing to those parts that needed to learn that true wisdom comes from knowing oneself, and that knowing oneself can only come from becoming silent, listening and being patient. It can only come from practising Ahmisa (the art of non-violence and respect for all living things) as a conscious choice, and it can only come from deep and true humility and compassion.
My heart feels peaceful and my body follows suit. I am no longer living with attachment to material measures of success. Yes occasionally I wobble on that of course, but I find my way home to the truth by consciously becoming still, and by trusting the right path to unfold before me rather than my pushing it all from the mind. I bow to the wisdom of my body, and of my heart. The mind is just one part of the system but the body is my wisdom keeper and silence is her greatest ally.
I'm now working on developing many of my practices, workshops and events around this vital concept of stillness and deep listening. I intend to study some yoga practices that will bring more yin into that part of my life too, and into the lives of others. You can only really teach what you know, so I thank this adrenal burnout for being my greatest teacher in life.
Please get in touch if you would like to know more about how you can heal from adrenal burnout, or to learn more about my upcoming events. Meanwhile, I share this beautiful Rumi Poem with you as it sums up for me the essence of surrender and becoming one. I see the 'beloved' as my relationship with all this 'illness' brought to me, and my deepest inner self.
“A lover asked his beloved,
Life; it often has other ideas about itself than those we perceive.
This week I received the sad news about the untimely death of Matt Campbell, semi finalist on last years Masterchef The Professionals. It's fair to say that I spend most of my time thinking about food, love and healing, in fact the only times I really ever watch television, its usually a program invested in, or about one of those three things, Masterchef being one of them.
Personally there's not a great deal on there I love in terms of food I want to create; it's highly meat focussed so as a vegan and raw foodie, it rarely grabs me on that level, but the creativity I see always inspires me, so that's why I watch. Last year, Matt Campbell changed that for me.
Matt cooked with kombucha, spirulina, miso, chlorella, raw cacao, charcoal, and other superfood ingredients and he took risks. He presented plant based dishes made with 'weird' stuff to a mainstream audience and won their respect in doing so. The judges were often perplexed (not sure why as it's a foodie programme so surely the reach goes beyond meat and two veg?!!), the public were curious, but above all, Matt's soft and humble ways won people over.
After Masterchef aired, I contacted Matt via Instagram, and to my astonishment, he replied. He replied with the same humility I'd seen from him on the program; open, kind and generous with his time. We struck up an instagram 'friendship', I would chat with him about his recipes and even won his coveted Miso Souffle recipe in an Instagram competition. He sent it over to me requesting it wasn't shared as it had 'taken him years to perfect'. Reading that email now feels slightly surreal and I'm no longer sure if it's appropriate to share that now or keep it to myself as he requested?
After Matt was knocked out, I watched his Instagram account grow massively in the weeks that followed, heartened to know that more people may become open to cooking and creating with these kind of ingredients as a result of his work. He was overwhelmed by the responses he got on there, yet he still made time to talk to people. I told him "one day I will learn from you when you teach cooking workshops" and he laughed amiably, saying "no plans for that yet."
Then about 3 weeks ago, he came to Manchester to create food for the Real Junk Food Project, using marked for 'waste' ingredients from New Smithfield Market. His instagram story feed showing all this food waste shocked me. I messaged him about it.
"Please tell me that's not waste" I said.
He replied "It is, it's crazy! Our food system is crazy! It felt so good to cook for 50 people with food that would have been wasted." His enthusiasm for that was clear in his story feed. It's still there on his page but kind of painful to watch now.
I asked him if I could lend his voice to this if I started some food based activism around it. I wished him luck for the marathons.
Two weeks later and he is not here any more. Twenty nine years old and gone, just like that.
I felt such deep sadness at the unfairness of life.
Then I began to really think about what makes people exceptional instead of just good. Passion is what makes people exceptional, and I have that for my juices, my smoothies, my kombucha and healing tonic drinks. I've decided that I will go beyond 'good' at what I do and become exceptional. I will practice. I saw Matt practicing every single moment he could in his kitchen. Endless failures before discovering the one success, but that one success makes it all worth it, in fact, I'm starting to realise that every great creator works this way. They don't give up, they work hard to develop mastery and they are patient, really patient.
I'm currently developing a miso kombucha in Matt's name because I know how much he loved kombucha, and miso of course! I've started noticing an avalanche of recipe ideas coming through. All it takes is my attention, and if I am lucky enough to have life, and my health, then I will give my attention to all I do. Whether it's my yoga practice, my juicing, my food, my healing workshops, my friendships, it matters not. What matters is that I am present, that I give my f**king attention to these things that make up my life, because we just don't know when that moment may be taken from us right?
Rest in Love Matt, you were a real gentleman and a true inspiration. Thank you xox
Check out my interview with the lovely Richard Enion of Enrich'd as we speak about Maca, the Peruvian Superfood wonder! If you enjoy my interviews with inspiring people, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. There will be lots more in the coming months, all with a focus on health, wellbeing, spirituality, sexuality, breathwork, healing, shamanism and more! You can find me here - enjoy!
I've been listening to a lot of mantra lately and it's fair to say it's having an effect!
I started listening to mantra several years ago now, but as my yoga practice has developed, my love of mantra has too, in fact I'd go so far as to say I have found deep comfort in the vibrations of many of these mantras. I also discovered that I totally adore singing them as well, and that something in me really comes to life when I do.
Mantra is an ancient form of sound healing, and sound healing has been growing in popularity in recent years. People are really starting to recognise the power of sound vibration on the body, and therefore the mind and the psyche. Even mainstream healthcare has been adopting it for healing! So, how exactly does it work?
Cymatics is the science of sound and wave phenomena, pioneered by Swiss philosopher Dr Hans Jenny. He recognised that sound has an effect on the things that surround it, observing that the same effect occurred in the human body. You may have seen the incredible youtube videos of remarkable patterns forming in sand in response to different sound frequencies, they are pretty mind blowing! Simple sine wave frequencies create different patterns and response on not just sand, but water and other materials too, and so it makes sense that as human beings made up of over 60% water, we will similarly be affected by these sound waves.
Many cultures use sound to induce trance like states, think of the Shaman's Drum and Tibetan Bowls and Gongs, well, mantra is another of these ancient forms - in the beginning was sound. Sound has resonance, it creates effect in the listener, it's quantum physics in it's simplest and most honest form insofar as we are experiencing the way things affect our vibrational field and our energetic body; sound is one of the powerful impactors there is.
I know when I put my mantras on repeat, apart from it driving my teenage son mad, it makes me feel blissful after a while, and what's more, I really notice the change in my energy and inner peace when I do.
In the Vedic tradition, sound vibration is known as Nada. In the practice of Nada Yoga, sound is used not only to restore physical and mental well-being but also as a path to spiritual awakening. Nada Yoga divides sound into external sounds, Ahata, and internal sounds, Anahata, which is also the sanskrit name for the heart chakra - I love that!
I highly recommend you try this for yourself. Find a few great ones, you can always follow my public playlists on Spotify if you don't know where to start. Try listening to them for a few days at a time, on repeat if you find you can, and observe the effect they have. I also recommend you book a sound healing session or journey with a reputable practitioner. My friend Gavin offers beautiful journeys if you're in the North West of England, and you can discover more here.
My current favourites are listed here, and believe me I have many!
But don't stop there, explore! A wonderful world of sound awaits you! Meantime try this easy exercise for yourself and see how it feels:
Humming Bee Breath
I hope you enjoy the mantra below, it's pure bliss to me, my current favourite. A mantra to return you to pure consciousness and to remind us of our ones with the absolute. Enjoy xox
I want to write this blog post today whilst the feeling is still so present in my heart. We ran a new moon women's sweat today, a change from the usual full moon women's lodges. It was strong medicine!
My second time leading the women's sweat lodge ceremony, we met on beautiful land out in Cheshire, land which my friend and treasured co-creator John has been custodian of for the last 19 years. I'm grateful to John for opening the space up for me to run lodges for women; the tradition here has been for long standing mixed lodges, and since last year, for men only sweats too, but until this year, there wasn't a women only space for the sisters to gather and share this way. We all need our own space sometimes, and although there is deep delight in coming together for the mixed lodges, we certainly all benefit from having the time to share in single gender (self determined) spaces.
These lodges come from deep lineages and traditions. For me personally, it's not something I take lightly because I recognise the importance of putting in the work before stepping up, and also I genuinely seek to stay humble in my presence in the lodge either as an attendee or a lodge leader, but I'm human and I think it's fair to say that the ego can be a tricky little bugger sometimes! Still, I'm on its tail, that rascal!
I've been attending lodges now since before my children were born, so for over 25 years - that fact shocks me! Twenty five years of sweating my prayers and offering up my stories and my gratitudes. My first lodge and most after that were led by the Deer Tribe in their monthly full moon lodges over in Unstone in Derbyshire, then I attended lodges within other healing ceremonies, usually less intense in those cases as their function was more for purification cleansing before or after ceremony, and then once in my shamanic training too. They're far from an easy ride, and I value that.
Modern day life in the west can be a life of convenience; convenience food, convenience stores, and many convenient ways to short cut or bypass our thoughts, feelings and emotions. The sweat lodge will not allow you to circumnavigate your relationship with yourself, for in there, everything seems to rise up to be felt and seen.
Most lodges run for four or five rounds of 'prayer,' not in the Christian sense of 'prayer' though I guess for some it may be like that, a lodge is non-denominational whilst deeply honouring of the roots of it all. Our prayers are offered more in the indigenous sense of building a relationship with life, with nature, and intentionally walking what the North American First Nations refer to as the 'Good Red Road' or the 'Beauty Way'. In our lodges, as with many, each round of prayer focusses on one of the four cardinal directions (N,E,S,W), with the lodge leader occasionally calling in a fifth round for integrating all of the previous rounds into the fifth direction in the centre - you!
A 'round' will last for 20-30 minutes on average depending on how many people are in the lodge, how long their prayers are, and how the fire keepers are managing the rocks and the wood needed to keep the rocks heated in the heart of Grandfather Fire outside the sweat. Ultimately a lodge will usually last for 2-3 hours, and the preparation for it, the sharing, the meditating, the building of the lodge and the chopping of the wood (the labour is an important part of our humble service), and the packing down from it, those labours take up the rest of the day. We set aside a full day for this ceremony and it warrants that. There are no convenience short cuts.
Safety is of the essence - alcohol and drugs shouldn't be taken for at least 24 hours, and preferably more, before a sweat. The heat is crazy intense, and builds up with each round. By round three, usually the round in which we come to face our own shadows and personal demons, exhaustion is showing, resistance is showing, and we may want to get out at this point. Staying creates healing as we acknowledge those shadows and find the courage to sit with them, to give them space, to let go, through tears, words, gratitudes, and surrender. Preparing by abstaining from our usual or frequent habits and from food (we fast from the evening before until after the sweat is complete) is a necessary and important part of the lodge protocol.
Many indigenous cultures have a strong relationship with nature and the earth, have rites of passage, rituals with specific intended outcomes or meanings, and live in ways which honour both the youth and elders in a community for their respective blessings and gifts. We tend to have few rites of passage, few circles or councils of elders, and we relegate kids into a "what do they know place", whilst the Earth is simply something many people seem to ignore until it shows signs of biting back; if you're reading this, there's a strong chance you're probably one of the ones that don't do that (I hope), but many do. I still want to weep when I see someone wind down their car window and toss out their empty coffee cups, cigarette wrappers and old take away boxes onto the street. I do the work to raise my capacity to contribute well, to live a good life, and to be of service in the creation of a healthy, loving planet.
For me, these ceremonies grow my awareness, increase my sense of accountability and build my sense of community. They also offer me important ways to check in with what's really going on for me, to work consciously to change the things that aren't working, and to improve or develop the things that are. If I find I'm offering the same prayers in recurring lodges, then I know I have work to do in that area. Similarly, I can track the things that have shifted and which are no longer an issue for me - celebration time!
The rocks represent the Abuelos, the Grandfathers, the lodge the womb of the Earth, the Great Mother. The fire holds the energy of the Masculine which enters the lodge with reverence and in union with the Feminine aspects of life. When we pour the water over the rocks, we see the steam that is created as the 'breath of the Creator' and that breath carries our prayers out of the lodge into the aether where they may be released and transformed. It's like the Universe is rooting for us, "come on - you can do this; you must do this! The Earth needs you!"
The East holds the energy of new beginnings, the element of fire (think of the sun rising in the East), new potential, birth, seedlings of ideas, projects, and the feminine creation energy.
The South holds the energy of innocence, childhood, purity of spirit and laughter, remembering our naturalness with the element of water as we shed our cleansing tears, or learn to flow around life's obstacles.
The West holds the energy of the physical body, the Dreamtime, the darkness both within and without. It's the direction of the setting sun, of stillness and of silent meditation; it represents the archetype of the Healer, and its element is Earth, grounding, rooting, stabilising, Earth.
The North holds the energy of the Warrior; the wisdom of age, the white haired ones, and elders, and our own blood ancestors. It's about taking charge of your life and your destiny and standing firm in that resolve, and with this comes the element of Air representing mental clarity, alertness and the mind.
The word INIPI (another word for Sweat Lodge) literally means 'To Live Again'. We bring ourselves in true humility into the lodge to learn about letting go, about death and therefore about re-birth. I think it's a practice ground for conscious dying, and it's certainly not for the faint hearted. These rounds get hot, and I mean really HOT! They take us to our edges and often push us over them, and they will tear down our small world view and replace it with something much bigger if we can allow the changes to happen, because of course our work does not begin and end in a ceremony; any ceremony!
If you would like to know more about our lodges, and about upcoming dates, please request to join our Facebook Group Sweat Lodges and Healing Events. We are always open to those who are open to new ways of seeing things and of doing things. "Keep on doing what you've always done and you'll always get what you've always got" - and who wants that!
The next men's lodge is on April 29th with John, and the next women's lodge is on 13th May with Steph. Our next mixed lodge is on the Summer Solstice on Wednesday 20th June and is with both Steph & John leading together.
My friend Lorna and I had landed. We were in the Ark, the most exquisite retreat centre in Ubud, Bali, at that time owned and run by two dear friends of mine, Anthony & Amy. We had travelled on from the coastal region of Sanur where we'd taken some time at the beachside yoga shalas, raw food cafes and the calm of the ocean in general, to hang out with another dear friend Sunne. After 2 days restoring our flagging post-long-haul-flight energy, those positive ions from the ocean had charged us back up to normal and we were ready to join our friends who were also staying in Ubud to complete their breathwork training.
Bali, the love of my life, the keeper of my heart!
One of the many things I love about Bali is the prolific availability of great food and drink; raw food cafes, speciality juice bars, and the wonderful affordable warungs and healthy food places which are in abundance there; to a foodie like me, this means not only is my heart happy but my belly is blissed out too!
It was probably on my first Balinese visit 4 years ago that I discovered Jamu Kunyit, a traditional Balinese drink usually made from turmeric, ginger, tamarind (sometimes) lime juice (sometimes), sea salt (sometimes) and occasionally raw honey or other natural sweeteners. Each place I went to had a slight variation on how they make and serve it, but the general rule of thumb is always the ginger, turmeric element.
Bali is an island rich in culture and heritage and steeped in tradition. The statues, temples and places of worship are literally mind blowing and heart opening, and the smell of incense seems to be forever hanging in the air from all of the daily offerings made to appease the Gods and bring sweetness to the lives of those making the offerings. I fell in love with the people, the place and the culture from the first time I set foot on this magical island!
This love affair with the magical south pacific island is not a brief dalliance for me; it's an entrenched and passionate love affair of the soul. When I leave, my heart grieves, when I'm there, it fully and completely opens in ways I cannot quite describe with words. Even writing about it calls me there; it's like the exquisitely haunting song of the Sirens - I am called back, and I am peaceful here, but before I go rambling off into focussing this post on my ongoing love affair with Bali, I must return to the subject at hand; jamu and healing drinks!
As a lifelong juicer I love the the different variety of fruits and flavours I find in Bali, and which I can use an inspiration for my drinks. Durian was my first crazy discovery (that wildly seductive fruit!) and jamu one of the first tonic drinks I learnt about too. It's drunk daily over there; often used to cool the body (makes sense in that heat and humidity) and to alleviate menstrual pains, it's also a powerful anti-oxidant and alleged anti-tumour tonic too, and as with all potent and pungent drinks and foods, is best used in moderation. Native Indonesians would not drink this more than once a day in relatively small quantities.
I recently discovered via my friend's instagram page that a juice bar in Ubud was offering a mix of Jamu and Kombucha, another of my favourite healing drinks; imagine my excitement! I resolved there and then to try this for myself - the gut healing properties of kombucha blended with the anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric/jamu could only be a win-win in my eyes. So, I tried on my last batch of kombucha, adding my personal recipe for jamu to the second ferment of my 'booch' and it was good; and I'm talking REALLY good!
Now this as become a staple of my menu and my offerings. I'm excited for others to try it too! If you want to learn more about this amazing drink and try it for yourself, come to my next pop-up cafe, a collaboration with Mindful Kitchen Manchester which we run on a monthly basis. It's advance orders only for these events as we work on minimising food waste, so please let us know if you're coming and you want to try this amazing tonic drink!
We'll be waiting for you with open arms and open hearts, your friends Jamu & Booch!
I discovered breathwork for the first time about 18 months ago. I had just signed up to a 2 year training in cranio sacral therapy when I found myself at a breathwork workshop, led by the man who was to become my teacher, Anthony Abbgnano and his then partner, now wife, Amy Rachelle.
It's fair to say I didn't really know what to expect the first time I experienced 'conscious connected breathwork', the technique fostered by Anthony's Alchemy Of Breath school of teaching. It's equally fair to say that once I did experience it, it completely blew me away!
I'd had six committed months of practicing yoga by then so I thought I was beginning to understand the breath, mainly through the various yogic pranayama practices there are, however this kind of breathing is something completely different, and generally it opens up some serious personal processing which may not be quite so welcome on the yoga mat!
Having lunch yesterday with my friend and fellow breath worker Suzie, I found myself saying to her "breathwork touches memories and emotions inside us which haven't been properly released or resolved and somehow it releases them. It finds its way to the heart of the feeling and lets it go." We both agreed it has this effect - I've often found spontaneous tears falling in a breathwork session, or a raging scream being released, or a posture being adopted that feels as if there's nothing I can do but adopt it and go with whatever my body is wanting to do. I would go so far as to say that it's often a 'mystical experience.
Breath is our most natural measure of where we're at; without it we are in serious trouble. When we restrict it, we may find we are in deep anxiety, the heart of a panic attack, in shock or experiencing trauma, or simply unaware of how shallow our breath is. Most people take in less than 30% of their lung capacity - quite surprising right?
When I breathed consciously that first time, a close friend I was working with pointed out to me that my out-breath was way way longer than my in-breath and she asked if I was aware of this. I wasn't. It felt as though it reflected something in me, a part of me that was much more comfortable with giving in life rather than receiving. I didn't know how to take a deep breath in and just receive and it was the same in life. I somehow felt that receiving equated to debt, and I had learnt to so successfully protect myself and ensure that I would never be in this perceived position of 'debt', I was therefore rejecting an awful lot of contact that I may have otherwise freely received without this limiting belief.
I began to notice this imbalance in my everyday breathing, in my meditation, in my yoga practices and more. I started to intentionally practice balancing my breath, which inevitably led to more balance in my actions and then in my life too. It's hard to breathe deeply and equally in a balanced way and remain imbalanced on the outside. I guess that's why yogis practice balancing the breath so much too as an integral part of their practice?
The breath is intelligent! It knows how to lead us to wholeness and inner peace. It knows how to restore balance, to cleanse, to purify. It is the thing we contract when in shock or trauma, and the thing we expand when at peace or in balance and flow. It's also something we can learn to explore and use as a fantastic healing tool, in fact, it's possibly the most powerful healing modality I've ever worked with and I've worked with many.
Yogic breath is not the same as breathwork in the field of healing. The kind of breathwork I am trained in is a dynamic intentional healing technique that is practiced in a certain way, in general to achieve a particular set of results leading to the restoration of previously blocked energy, and this energy reserve can be uncovered and then utilised in releasing old trauma from the system, via the breath, leading us to greater vitality and a significantly increased sense of wellbeing
I have seen people release childhood trauma they didn't even know was still driving them. I've seen people experiencing pain in old scars and operation sites that they didn't know were still holding tension. I've seen people weep like babies and howl like wild animals, and I've seen people literally vibrating with the energy that is moving through them after breathing this way for a certain amount of time. In fact, the very thing that called me to cancel my cranio-sacral training and switch to training in breathwork was experiencing that last one for myself; a vibrating energy that ran through and through and through without seeming to ever be likely to stop!
I was in Bali at the time; on holiday and staying in a beautiful retreat where daily breathwork was happening as part of the Alchemy Of Breath teacher training programme. I turned up one morning somewhat haphazardly as I often did to breathwork sessions back then; did I have the energy? Would I rather go out on a scooter ride to a Balinese rice field? Did I even want to look at that 'heavy stuff' anyway? When you are on holiday in a retreat centre like this one, there are plenty of easier and perhaps more tempting options around, but my friend and room mate was breathing that day and she'd never experienced breathwork before, so I decided to take one for the team and support her by being there as well.
I came to breathe that morning taking my place on the mats laid out in the yoga shala. A beautiful flower and incense offering featured in the centre of the space, typically Balinese in its beauty. I love these traditional offerings made daily in Indonesia, the air is always heavy with the fragrance of incense and frangipani, the native flowers. I lay down, exhaled deeply and prepared to surrender to whatever was about to happen.
Without going too deeply into that story, after having what I can only describe as visionary experiences during the breathe, the session culminated in my entire body shaking and vibrating with an energy I have never experienced before or since. By the end of the session as everyone was settling into rest, I was still vibrating wildly. Disorientated and somewhat concerned, I continued to breathe normally to try and right my system again, but some force greater than me, pulled me into the centre of the space to share a story, my story, and in doing so I realised afterwards, I was truly letting it go. In the breathe I had seen and felt the true beauty and potential of this life in human form. I had seen my own connection to Spirit, to God, to whatever you want to call it, and I knew that was the truth, not the stories, the struggle, the hurts or the limiting perceptions most of us continue to carry through our entire lives.
It was in the moments after that session when I knew I wanted to train in this wonderful healing technique, and I also knew that Anthony would be my teacher. I've never known a teacher with such an open, unconditionally loving heart. I usually cry in the presence of that heart energy - it can get embarrassing sometimes!
Now, at the end of my training, I know it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I love offering breathwork with a passion! I love witnessing people making huge realisations and shifts in their lives. I love that it works for young, old, able bodied or people with disabilities, with war veterans, with assault and abuse victims, with the traumatised, the fearful and the bold too. I just love how the breath takes you exactly where you need to go. I now have a relationship with my breath, an awareness of it that alerts me to imbalance; it's my internal compass. Do you trust yours?
For more information about my breathwork events, please click on my events page. For information about Alchemy of Breath, please click on the live links in this article.
May every breath you take fill you with the deep peace of the running wave, the stillness of the night sky and the strength of the mighty lion. You are so very worth it.
This picture is not me - I wish it was! It's a photo of one of my treasured yoga teachers and a great friend, Andrea Everingham of One Yoga Studio in Chorlton. Andrea kicks asana!
Two years ago around this time I was a burnt out, adrenaline depleted, totally exhausted woman on the brink of meltdown. I'm not sure I even knew that at the time, and although I knew I was exhausted, I'd become so used to functioning at that level that it seemed normal to me, so therefore impossible to regulate. How can you regulate what you don't recognise?
My business was failing and I didn't want to admit it (because I loved it deeply), my body was becoming tired and felt old and clunky, my emotions were at rock bottom in several areas of my life, and yet I lived as if I was a multi-tasking Superwoman on permanent stand-by to leap into action at any given moment.
A lovely woman had just started working with me. Lorna was a kitchen Goddess with flavour balancing skills like no-one I've ever met before or since. I still say to this day that had we met earlier that business would probably still be there, but that wasn't to become my story, so let's get back to the one that is.
Lorna was also a practising yogi and teacher, a raw foodie, an amazing chef, and a peaceful wave of calm in my otherwise stormy life. Lorna walks, talks and moves with grace; she is regal to the point of being nicknamed by those who know and love her "Queen Lorna", and I love the bones of her. She has now become a really great friend whom I appreciate deeply.
One Friday, after a particularly arduous shift, Lorna's husband Fred come to pick her up; they were going to their regular Friday vinyasa flow yoga class.
Lorna "Why don't you come Steph? It will do you good"
Me: "I'm too exhausted, I couldn't possibly!"
Lorna: "Come! It will energise you, I promise!"
If I'm honest, at this point, I was actually too worn out to resist and so I went with them, fully expecting to fall asleep on the mat, and yet what happened in that class was to change the course of my life.
My first class - it shocked me! I was shocked at how weak my core strength was. I had stamina in bucket loads from racing around so much, but my core was weak, so much so I couldn't even step forward in most of the asanas (postures) without having to physically lift my own leg to the front of the mat (I'm not exaggerating!). My back was locked, my shoulders tighter than the lips of a tightly sealed clam, my belly had no tone, my arms quivered under my own body weight, and to be honest, I felt totally surprised by my weak body and my inflexibility.
I somehow made it through that class and Lorna was right, at the end I did feel energised in a new way. I couldn't explain why but I knew I had to keep coming and there began my yoga journey. I started to come to class once a week, then twice, then took out a membership at the studio when my class attendance went up to 3 classes per week on average. That teacher of my first class, Dana, remains one of my favourite yoga teachers; her direct style, her honesty, her skill and her kindness and support have allowed me to grow under her teachings too.
Fast forward six months - still struggling with many aspects of the asanas, I booked a one to one private session with Andrea, the best move I could have made at that time. Andrea's knowledge and sensitivity extend way beyond the surface of what many people think yoga is. She knows about nutrition, ayurveda, the breath, the chakras and meridians, all 8 limbs of yoga of course, but above all, Andrea knows about life. A true Mancunian in her roots, this woman has a heart as big as the Universe.
By now I'd now sold my business and in doing so, all of the backlog of over exertion, over performing and high achieving had fully caught up with me. I would often find myself laid up for days with fever, lethargy, and a complete inability to move off the sofa. Andrea in her one to one recognised this, and seeing that my body was limited by what was now full-on adrenal fatigue, tailored her suggestions to grow my personal practice in line with exactly where I was at. She gave me food recommendations, lifestyle suggestions and adapted postures to get the most from my yoga according to what I could manage at the time. She also knows how to push you beyond your comfort zones, and often did!
I have cried in classes when a posture has cracked something wide open in me. I have cried when Andrea has pushed me to go beyond something I'm holding on to. I have wanted to yell at her, I have inwardly resented her whilst attempting a crow pose that became a face plant on my mat, seething silently locked in an "I can't do this! I'll never be able to do this!" ego trip! But slowly, after 2 years, I've come to love my mat, to respect Andrea's insight, and to look forward to my practice because it teaches me where I'm at in relation to my body like nothing else can. It shows me where my ego still lurks, it shows me what incredible progress I'm making. It teaches me how to become comfortable with stillness, and before yoga, that was totally 100% not something I knew at all.
I now practice 4 times a week on average, sometimes five, and this devotion is to myself, to my own inner peace, to my own evolution into becoming a better, more self aware, stronger, more self contained woman. It's not an obsessive gym bunny style practice, it's a personal growth practice. It opens my body, my heart and my soul and it constantly surprises me. It also humbles me.
My body has changed and continues to do so. I look at my body now like a constellation of stars and planets orbiting each other and wonder what more will reveal itself to me through my practice because I can do things I never imagined possible 2 years ago, and so I know the same must apply to the things I still think I can't do, except I don't think that now, I just think "you just need more practice Steph", and what a fantastic metaphor for life that is!
The yoga community where I practice is strong, and so they have also become my 'family' of support and love. I've made great friends there and continue to do so. I cannot ever imagine my life without it.
If you're struggling, I highly recommend it. Go try for yourself. Me, I will continue to "kick some asana" and give thanks to this ancient practice.
Yoga is way more than about postures (asanas) and so much more about living with ahimsa (non violence) to all things and in all ways. I'm grateful it found me in time. I'm grateful for my teachers - you grow me. I am better in your reflections.
To discover more about One Yoga, about Andrea, Lorna, Dana and the many other amazing teachers at this studio, please go to their website and have a scroll. You never know, you may regret missing that one class you think you're too tired to manage https://www.oneyogastudio.co.uk -
*This is not a promotional blog. It's genuinely come from a place of deep gratitude in my heart for the people, teachers and events available at this wonderful place and the part they have played in radically improving my life.
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