Want a good night’s sleep? Then get a good morning’s waking!

 I dream of handstands on my eve Mattress

I dream of handstands on my eve Mattress

If you’ve ever had any trouble sleeping, falling asleep at night is perhaps something you’ve thought about. Getting to sleep sometimes isn’t the easiest thing to do, and for others it’s staying asleep throughout the night that poses problems. 

Above all, a huge GIGANTIC tip for getting a good night’s sleep is...

Have you ever thought about how much that morning transition from sleep to waking affects your overall sleeping abilities?

I used to think that being a “morning person” meant waking up with a snap! I’d set an alarm and when that alarm went off, I’d force myself out of my bed.

But we are animals, and whether we like it or not, we are affected by nature’s rhythms. Our sleep cycle is one of the most obvious examples of that tether between our existence and nature’s ebbs and flows. There are cycles within cycles — think of the seasons, and within those we have multiple moon phases, and within those we have multiple days and nights. Even within a 24 hour period there are natural peaks and troughs in our energy levels. (Just google “BRAC” or Basic Rest and Activity Cycle” if you want to get geeky about that.)

 It’s all about BALANCE

It’s all about BALANCE

And just as the winter slowly turns to spring, and the day slowly turns to night, we too slowly move from one phase to the next. So why do we so often expect ourselves to switch on and off like a light?

Perhaps you already know some good practices to help our bodies prepare for bed in the evening, such as:

  • Dimming any screens as you go into the evening, using “night mode” or other blue-light blocking tools on your devices, and ideally not looking at any screens for an hour before bed.

  • Dimming the lights in your home, switching from overhead lights to lamps with a yellow light. 

  • Slowing down in general (dimmed lights helps with this, if you can’t see so well what you’re doing, you have to do it more slowly!) 

  • Avoiding rigorous activities and instead relaxing our bodies and minds, and allowing the breath to slow 

But what about waking up in the morning? The sun slowly peaks over the horizon. Birds start their day with a morning chorus before flying away from their nests. Even some plants take a few hours to shake off the dew and stand upright to welcome the sun again.  

So like the tips above for gently easing into the night, try these tips for easing gently into the day:

  • Leave your curtains or blinds open enough to let the sunlight creep in and wake you naturally. Or if it’s the middle of winter and the sunrise is an hour after you need to be at work, consider investing in a lamp which mimics the dawn and slowly lights up at the time you need to wake up. (There are some half-decent mobile phone apps that do this too.)

  • Allow your first movements to be simply taking a few deep gentle breaths and stretches.

  • Stay in bed for 5 minutes or so after first waking. Perhaps keep your eyes closed and reflect on the dreams you may have had. Perhaps write in a gratitude journal or meditate. Avoid looking at your phone straight away. If you’re afraid of falling back to sleep, just sit up! 

  • Enjoy your bed!!

Above all, a huge GIGANTIC tip for getting a good night’s sleep is having a good mattress! 

I’ve been using an eve Mattress since I moved into my flat in London and it was worth the investment! It’s firm yet soft, so it’s supportive and comfortable. I get such a good night’s sleep on it, I definitely wake up feeling like a morning person! 

If you’re thinking of getting a new mattress, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. You can get yours here and with the purchase of a mattress you can get £100 off any non-mattress products using code MORNINGADELL (valid until 30 November 2018).

One more thing…

All of these tips and this way of thinking about sleep is what I learned from an amazing book called “Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming, and Awakening” by Rubin R. Naiman. I suggest reading it if you’re interested in learning more about sleep and how to get a good night’s sleep. 

My week with The Iceman

 Because a normal hug just won't cut it when you're with Wim Hof.

Because a normal hug just won't cut it when you're with Wim Hof.

A lot of people, it seems, still don't know who Wim Hof is. I think that will change quickly in the next year or so. He's on a mission to change the world, and this man isn't one for doing things half-heartedly.

There are dozens of beautifully written articles and books and documentaries that will tell you all about who he is and what he does, so I'm not going to write about that here. 

I just want to share my experience. Because that's all I can share: my own personal story. And that's really a large part of what Wim Hof teaches through the breathing techniques, icebaths, and other fear-facing pursuits (like plunging into a river from a 9-meter high bridge): the personal experience. It's all about going inwards and realigning your own personal individual mind to your body, understanding the thoughts and emotions that come up when faced with challenges, and more importantly that YOU ARE IN CONTROL of them. 

So for each person, the journey is different. 

For me, the cold is where I struggled. Anybody that knows me knows that while I'm like Daenerys Targaryen when it comes to heat, as soon as I get a little chilly, I get grumpy until I'm warm again. Turn up the heat, give me a blanket, and don't talk to me until the goosebumps on my skin are gone. 

I've known thanks to my yoga practice that there is an element of story-telling when it comes to the cold. Stories I told myself, like "I have poor circulation so I can't handle the cold" or "my body just doesn't have the ability to deal with the cold" or simply "I hate being cold". We always have stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, about our situations and how we can deal with those situations. Once we begin to recognise these thought patterns, we can take control and change them.

 Yes, that's snow, plus bare feet, plus a smile, all in one. 

Yes, that's snow, plus bare feet, plus a smile, all in one. 

"But how?" was my question regarding the cold. How the hell do I control my body's response to the cold?

Turns out it's the same technique I've been using in other areas of my life.  Such as fasting: when you fast, you get hungry. Duh. But you choose not to let your body's sensations of hunger control you. You take control with your mind over your body's urges. Through deep breathing and mindfulness, you begin to understand that little hunger pangs that occur after 16 or 18 hours of no food are not a sign of impending death. It's something you can overcome.

Stretching tight muscles in yoga is often unpleasant at first. But you incorporate the breath and mindful movement to find a place between ease and effort where--even though the initial reaction of the mind to the body's sensations may be "this isn't pleasant, stop it now" --you gain the benefit of staying there. Your body opens up and on the other side of the temporary discomfort is a wonderful feeling. 

It's the same with the cold. Sitting in an icebath doesn't make the ice feel warm. Like fasting and stretching, it gets easier with time and practice, but that ice is never going to feel the same as a hot tub. But through the breath, and control of the mind, I found that the ice could be pleasant. That I could relax and find a peaceful calm there in the ice. That the sensations from my body did not have to control my actions or my thoughts. 

And the physiological benefits are great. Just as stretching and fasting creates changes in the body that lead to long-lasting benefits, I have noticed that I'm not nearly as cold anymore in the frozen section of a supermarket, and not nearly so quick to put on a hoodie when the wind picks up! 

But the real power of this is that this skill of taking control of your mind's reaction to your body can be applied to any aspect of life. 

There is fear everywhere. Throughout our lives, in every nook and cranny of our journey on this planet, we experience fear. Fear of being rejected, not appreciated, not loved. Fear of failing, fear of pain, fear of discomfort. Physical, emotional, psychological. It's there all the time. It's part of being human.

But also part of being human is the ability to face that fear and know that it doesn't have to control us. 

 And the connections I made with my fellow Ice Tribe of course is indescribable. 

And the connections I made with my fellow Ice Tribe of course is indescribable. 

 

 

 

A lesson in non-attachment

 A screenshot from a video where my suitcase makes an appearance. Look at it sitting there, so pretty, so full of stuff. 

A screenshot from a video where my suitcase makes an appearance. Look at it sitting there, so pretty, so full of stuff. 

I travel around the world constantly. I stay in airbnbs, hotels, or with friends for a few days, a week, or maybe 2 weeks, and then I get on a train, bus, or plane to the next destination. 

My lifestyle is not for everyone. It's not always easy. But overall, it ROCKS. I love it. I feel so lucky every single day. The world is my home. If I need something, I get it wherever I am. When I order things online, I have them sent to whatever address I'm staying at. Sometimes this means I don't get things!! A credit card I now finally have in my wallet was sent to four addresses before I finally received it.

I've learned to live very minimally. I have my backpack, where I carry my laptop, phone, passports, my wallet, and some toiletries and snacks when I travel. I generally put everything else into my suitcase. 

So the fact that for the last week I've not had my suitcase, thanks to the alarmingly terrible incompetence of Vueling Airlines, has been a challenge.

If I had a home with the majority of my stuff, or heck -- an address for the airlines to send my bag to!! -- it would be easier. Lemme tell ya, when they ask "what is your home address?" and you say "I don't have one", the response is NOT "no problem at all!".  

My suitcase holds, for the most part:

- My yoga clothes, all by Alo Yoga and all so comfortable and stylish. 

- My yoga mat, from Liforme, the only yoga mat I love to use because I've sweated on it and had so many beautiful practices on that mat all over the world.

- My supplements which I know I can live without but they make me feel like I'm helping my body do its thing. Magnesium and Omega 3 and Probiotics and stuff like that. I have no idea if they actually help, but in my mind, taking them daily makes me feel healthier.

- My skincare products, which I feel keeps my skin healthy and hydrated. 

These are the things I've been missing more than anything. 

But what I realised is that even though I own a lot less than other people, I am still very attached to these things in my suitcase! I mean, look at the words I used above! Those are words of attachment.

I attached myself to my yoga clothes, to the way I feel when I wear them. I was attached to my yoga mat, not wanting to use any other mat. I have a story in my head about what my supplements and skincare products do for my body and appearance. 

When we are attached to something, it's a story we tell ourselves about ourselves in relation to that object or person or label. "I need XYZ to live my life" is the basic story. And yes, maybe the life that you've currently got is dependent on some of those things. 

But to live LIFE in general -- you don't need anything.

When I realised how attached I was to the things in my suitcase (and actually, the suitcase itself), I began to wonder how attached I am to the things I still have.  My phone, my passports, my wallet with my cash and credit cards, and my laptop. "What if I'd lost those too?" I asked myself.

Without those things I would have no easy way of living the life I've currently got. I would have no access to my money and no way to communicate to anyone except by talking face-to-face. I would have no way to travel and no way to buy anything. Nightmare!

BUT...I would still be ME. 

This is the crux of it. Can you imagine it? What would you do if you lost everything. I mean EVERYTHING. So all you were left with was your own body, (okay you can have an outfit so you're not naked). Mobile phone: gone. Wallet, cash, cards: gone. Your house, your home, and everything in it: gone.  No car, no bike, no nothing. 

It would suuuuuuck. 

But you would still be YOU. 

And that YOU, what is left without your ability to leave a beautiful filtered selfie on Instagram or the ability to buy a new outfit, or chat to your friends or travel to somewhere, that is the real you. The you without the stories that form from attachment to THINGS. 

And luckily I haven't yet lost my wallet and phone and laptop and passports, so I don't have to experience this to learn this lesson! But it's been a profound little journey for me, to remember that I am NOT my belongings. I am NOT how I feel wearing a cute new Alo outfit. I am NOT how healthy my gut may or may not be after a probiotic capsule. I am NOT how glowing my skin looks after an Expurtise face mask. 

I am what's left when I strip away all of that. I hope that I get my suitcase back, but I hope more that I retain this feeling of non-attachment to the things inside it. 

My thoughts on Being an Influencer

You’ll never hear, see, or read about me promoting anything that I don’t use myself, that I don’t find value in myself, that I don’t believe in.

It's strange to me to be called an Influencer. That is, someone who is seen to have influence, leverage, or effect over a community due to his or her rapport within that community.  

I never, ever started my Instagram with that intention or even the inkling that I would ever have a large following and inspire others. I began IG because my sister told me about challenges you can join where you may win free leggings. I thought, "cool! I like free stuff!" 

 One of my first ever IG yoga poses, back in 2015, for a challenge where I would go on to win a pair of leggings. Highlight of my YEAR! 

One of my first ever IG yoga poses, back in 2015, for a challenge where I would go on to win a pair of leggings. Highlight of my YEAR! 

But it turned out I also liked connecting with other people all over the world, I liked being motivated and inspired by those people, and I liked the creative outlet that my IG became -- getting photos, creating content, writing captions, playing with new angles -- and I loved meeting others to co-create with me on photoshoots and hosting challenges.

And so my IG grew as my yoga practice developed, and my yoga journey lead me to become a teacher, and then a travelling yoga teacher. More and more people followed me to watch my journey, and consequently more and more companies contacted me to wear their clothes, try their products, promote their business, or stay at their accommodation.

I'll admit, at first I took anything. As I said: I like free stuff! And it's also really flattering to be contacted by a brand who wants to give you something. Sometimes I would receive leggings that were AWFUL and I wear them just for a photo and then never touch them again. Readers: there are a lot of really bad leggings out there! I know, I've tried so many! 

But I soon got too many offers to possibly keep up and I realised, "Hey, I can be picky! And maybe actually just work with brands I really like!"  

Now, I get multiple requests a day. Two or three DMs per DAY come into my IG inbox with something along the lines of "How much for a shoutout?" or "what are your rates to promote my brand?"

 ummm....who are you?

ummm....who are you?

 

To be perfectly honest, I delete those straight away. Simply because if I know nothing about a company and they haven't taken the time to tell me about themselves in their initial message, then I don't see why I should care to promote them.

More rarely, someone will take the time to reach out to me through my website or email and explain their product and how they want to collaborate. I appreciate a personalised message -- I'm a human being! So I like to feel like a company sees that I'm a person, and not just a big account. 

But no matter what, I always explain to the brand that I have to try their product first, and ONLY if I love it, then I will tell my followers about it. 

There have been many, many products I've tried -- from skin care lines, to jewellery, to protein powders and yoga props -- that my followers never hear about. Because I don't love them.  No matter how much a company is willing to pay me, or how well known a brand is, if I don't love a product and use it myself, then I would never tell a single person to use it. 

Even though it's hard to fathom the idea of being an "influencer" sometimes, I do take it seriously.

So, if you follow me on IG, you may know that I don't often promote brands. Maybe, apart from me wearing AloYoga clothes all the time (because, yes, I love ALO) you've never seen anything. I haven't done a promotional post in months and months! 

I write all this to say that I want you to know that you'll never hear, see, or read about me promoting anything that I don't use myself, that I don't find value in myself, that I don't believe in. I speak to brands about the origins of their products, the intention of their business, and the methods of their production before I agree to work with them.

And so, of the dozens of requests I get every month, there are just a handful that I am happy to share with you. My favourite yoga mat brand, the line of skincare I use, the only natural deodorant that I feel really works, a couple of great yoga props, and the nutrition school that changed my life.

You can read about them right here, and most of them even come with discount codes you can use if you choose click the "confirm purchase" button. But I won't ask you to buy any of them! This is simply me sharing what I've enjoyed using! 

365 days of sobriety (and counting)

I stopped drinking alcohol for one year.  Today is day 366 of not touching alcohol (or any other substance other than caffeine). Here's what I learned.

 Me on a night out, after discovering yoga but before my party days ended. I think I was trying to do a headstand! Please laugh at this. It's funny!

Me on a night out, after discovering yoga but before my party days ended. I think I was trying to do a headstand! Please laugh at this. It's funny!

1. Alcohol is forgettable

Firstly, I learned that even though today is day 366 and it means I'm not going to be 100% tee-total anymore, it doesn't mean I will have a drink. I don't know the next time I will drink alcohol, because I genuinely don't want it anymore. 

When I first began this dry year, I had already begun cutting down on my alcohol consumption, but I still felt certain that when this day came I'd celebrate with a bottle of wine. 

But in fact, just a few short months into it, I had already discovered that once alcohol wasn't a part of my life, I forgot about it.  I didn't just not desire it, not miss it, not crave it.  I didn't even THINK about it.

This is because I learned that alcohol is much more than a substance found in drinks. It's a culture. 

2. Alcohol comes with company

I decided to stop drinking because I finally had one too many nights that left me thinking "if only I hadn't gotten so drunk!". Full of regret for stupid decisions made while under the influence. This particular night, March 24th 2017, I got so drunk that I didn't notice I'd left my brand new iphone 7 on the table, and by the time I remembered, somebody had stolen it.  I need my phone for my work. Replacing an iphone 7 in Nicaragua was next to impossible. It took getting a flight to Florida and making a trip to the Apple store there to replace it, and flying back to Nicaragua for work. It cost me thousands of dollars, just because I said, "I'll have some rum with my coconut!" at a beach party, and it went downhill from there.

I had gone to the beach party and I had started drinking because I was trying to fit in.  I wanted to make friends in this new place I was in, and they were hard partyers. So I decided to drink too.

After quitting the drink, I tried to keep hanging out with the same people. But it was hard. I have so much respect for people who go out to bars and clubs and stay sober and actually deal with drunk people.  What I found is that drunk people are fun if you're also drunk. When you're the only sober one, it's exhausting and sometimes flat out soul destroying. (NB: I still very much enjoyed the company of these people during the day when alcohol wasn't involved.)

So I stopped going out. Instead I would call my mom, read a book, listen to a podcast, or just have a super early night. I would wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and energetic and ready to get on my mat or tackle some emails. 

Slowly I left the culture of alcohol behind and found myself in a new culture where alcohol doesn't exist. I hung out with other people who didn't drink, or friends would choose not to drink when with me. I actually largely forgot about alcohol and the fact that it had for so long been a supplement to my life. An aide for having fun. 

 Providing a stand for my friend's beer! 

Providing a stand for my friend's beer! 

3. Alcohol is fattening. Like...really

Suddenly belly fat came off and I didn't even have to try. It was like my organs were functioning the way they're meant to again. I mean, we all KNOW alcohol is full of empty calories, (or, if you didn't know that, you know it now) but we don't tend to consider the things we know. It's when we FEEL something for ourselves that we say, "ooooooh!" 

4. Alcohol is not the devil

There's nothing wrong with having a bit of alcohol. (Just to remind you at this point: this is my story and my opinion I'm sharing here.) 

There were three occasions in the last 12 months that I would have had a drink if I hadn't made myself this promise to go a full year without it. A friend's wedding, when we were toasting the new couple, at a Michelin star restaurant in Prague when the wine sommelier offered to let me try their finest red, and on New Years Eve at midnight. Sometimes a bit of alcohol just brings you fully into an occasion.

But, on those three occasions, I was fine. Which leads me to my 5th lesson:

 Eight angle pose + cake stand! 

Eight angle pose + cake stand! 

5. Alcohol isn't necessary for having fun

There were definitely times in my life when my mentality was "I want to have fun, therefore I must get drunk." Alcohol was my crutch for getting through uncomfortable or nerve-wracking social situations, for enjoying company I didn't find easy, and for passing the time. Once I gave up alcohol, I realised I could still do these things, sometimes more efficiently than with alcohol! 

 Just good old hydration these days 

Just good old hydration these days