Barcelona Yoga Teacher & Photographer Maria Mathison on Her Favourite Places

Maria Mathison, Barcelona based yoga teacher

I had the enormous good fortune to meet Maria when I travelled to Barcelona a few years ago. Above a children's shoe store not far from Las Ramblas, there's a yoga studio up a spiral staircase which is like a little spiritual haven far from the madness of the streets.

From the studio, you can see right across the city. It's divine.

I asked Maria for her recommendations on where to go and what to do in Barcelona for those who don't intend to purely shop and stare at the Sagrada.

Favourite places to eat: Cana de Azucar (Carrer de Muntaner 69); and Nolita (Carrer de Llull 230)
Nolita in Barcelona


Favourite ice creamery: ("I don't drink, just ice cream and tea!") Dela Crem (Carrer d'Enric Granados, 15)
Dela Crem in Barcelona

Favourite walk: Montjuic and Fundacion Miro

Favourite beach: Badalona

Maria teaches at Yoga Studio Barcelona. They're on Facebook, of course. Find them on the map here. Find the timetable here.

Maria is on Instagram at @onceuponanillusion

Fitness and Health Podcasts To Inspire and Inform


I have to admit, I used to be a massive advocate and consumer of fitness and health podcasts. I loved Jillian Michaels and Janice's witty, smartass banter that covered types of plant based milks, the reasons particular exercises and routines paid dividends and mindset adjustments. As the length of episodes increased and it became more about Jillian's parenting, it became an exhausting test of patience. So, I took a lengthy break but I'm back listening to pods for inspiration and here's my  pick of what you should get your earbuds wrapped around.

My own Core Integrity podcast, featuring interviews with gut, mind, body and spirit role models and practitioners.

Hurdle, in which Emily Abbate chats with wellness entrepreneurs and leaders like the co-founder of Headspace.

YogaPeeps is a lifelong love affair. Though it's no longer producing new episodes, every single episode is eminently listenable and full of yoga wisdom from teachers who live, breathe and love the practice. Lara Hedin is a wonderful host.

TEDTalks Health gets across astonishing facts and information in bite-sized podcast episodes. This will make for excellent conversation starters if nothing else.

Nutrition Matters takes a no-bull approach to food and the mental, physical and spiritual approach to a nutritious life. Paige Smathers is a registered dietitian and nutritionist who interviews experts.

The Nutrition Diva's Quick and Dirty Tips For Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous

Oh I love this one so much and it's so short and easy to listen to. It really is a quick dive into a topic, ingredient or trend. Monica Reinagel is a joy to tune in to for advice, intelligence and simple, memorable tips.


Denise Payne: Fearlessness And Mercy

denise payne yoga bali

In the 1970s, as a teenager, Denise Payne was introduced to Kundalini Yoga by her teacher Sat Jiwan Singh. It became more than “a life saver”. Yoga became her life’s work through practice and teaching. Many Australian and international yogis have met Denise through her regular Power Yoga and Yin classes at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali. When not speaking (not entirely fluent) Indonesian or Sanskrit, there is the obvious accent that serves to remind that Denise is originally from Phoenix, Arizona.

It was in Portland, Oregon – her home of 10 years - that she owned Yoga Bhoga and campaigned for the working rights of yoga teachers to continue as contractors. This is also where her son, 14-year-old Charlie was born.

Denise has a rich and nuanced understanding of yoga which culminates in classes where stories from the Bhagavad Gita are seamlessly interwoven with smart anatomical and energetic cueing, sutras and explorations into bandhas, mudras and pranayama.

denise payne yoga bali
At 55, Denise has become even more physically strong and her inversion practice continues unabated. Her motto of being fearless, brave and loving life emanates beyond words and into practice. She holds regular Yoga Teacher Trainings in Jakarta and Ubud, and has travelled worldwide to host training, workshops and courses. Throughout the year, she runs Yoga Teacher Training, enabling Yoga Barn regulars and those who are new to her teaching to be enriched by her experience in yoga practice, teaching and teacher training for over 30 years. 

Whether it is her thorough knowledge of the chakras and nadis, or the art of mudra, there are many aspects of yoga which are not commonly taught either in classes nor the standard 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings in Australia. Denise’s particular focus is on the koshas and their relation to every other aspect of yoga and life. The body, breath, mind, inner wisdom and sense of bliss are integral to the experience of living yoga on and off the mat. In Bali, the spiritual life is not an afterthought – it is in the morning and evening rituals, the approach to nature, food, dance, art and life. This has been attracting Australian yogis, surfers and spiritual seekers for decades.

While Denise has best been known for her Power Yoga practice, chakras and mudras workshops over the past 8 years at Yoga Barn, and prior through One Song in Portland, she has also won over many yogis with her meditative approach to Yin Yoga. She describes the experience of Yin as “a deeper conversation with the body and the self”.

Yoga has become even more of a sanctuary for Denise now that she has moved back to the United States after 8 years of living in Ubud, Bali. As anyone who has faced a major move or life event knows, the practice of yoga can provide a sense of groundedness in uncertain and challenging times.

Denise took time between teaching, planning an upcoming Ubud Teacher Training and finalising her book on Yin Yoga to answer questions.

How old were you and how did you first discover yoga?

I was 8 years old when I first met my teacher and 15 when I was first introduced to Kundalini yoga. I was kind of a sick kid that wasn't allowed to do anything really, and being introduced to that was literally a life saver.

Do you feel that you chose to be a teacher or that it was almost inevitable once you immersed yourself in study with your teacher?

Teaching has always come naturally to me, and my teacher, Sat Jiwan Singh was very pushy and determined to get me teaching, as well. But I never thought yoga would turn into what it is today. Back in the 70's you did it in a back room, and didn't really talk about it to friends!

Your classes weave the yamas, niyamas, stories of the Bhagavad Gita, the yoga sutras, chakras and koshas into a vinyasa context. Is this a challenge?

The wonderful qualities of yoga open us up to always learning and studying some new aspect. As I continue to grow and evolve, so do the elements I bring into a class. I do strongly believe in the power of the combination of philosophy and asana, and it's always a work in progress. 
When you first moved to Ubud, you initially planned to write rather than teach. How did you come to join Yoga Barn?

I did want to write, but was really without direction! About 3 months in, I was lucky enough to become friends with Meghan Pappenheim, one of the founders of The Yoga Barn. The rest is history!

What are the challenges of teaching short-term, international yogis in Bali?

I really appreciate this question. There is a lot to be said for the regular students I had at my schools in Portland. It was a natural progression for us over the years. In any given class during the week the most incredible yogis would show up to practice. In Ubud, I feel more of a sense of urgency with students at times. If I feel I really have something to offer any particular student I'll ask them how long they're in town for, I'll give them homework and always ask that they email me with their progress. I also ask for requests before every class to ensure I'm working on what they want to work on; maybe I have some fresh ideas for their technique.

The physical asana practice can take a toll on the body. Have you altered your practice at all to prevent injuries or overuse?

Honestly. Cat, it's yoga that helps me recover from injuries from doing things other than yoga! I just turned 55 and I' so grateful for the practice. It's something I'm always making progress with and there’s always work to be done. I'm actually relearning handstands right now to change my technique. I think it would be tough to do that if I didn't have all the years of yoga keeping me strong.

Yin yoga is being embraced by major gym chains here in Australia. Can you tell me what role yin yoga plays in the system of yoga compared to styles such as Power Yoga and typical Hatha yoga?

That's really cool to hear that it's becoming more mainstream in your neck of the woods. Yin is so new, relatively speaking, that interpretation is up for grabs and just about anyone can teach it. I think the tattvas, or principles of yin yoga, are essentially the same as a yang practice in many ways. Stillness, holding poses, finding the edge in a pose can be translated equally in both styles. The breath, as I do recommend a soft breath in a yang practice, the meditative qualities, as well can play a roll. Because yin transcends the yang elements of the physical body, slowly creeping into those nooks and crannies of the plastic parts, the role of yin becomes more about a deeper conversation with the body and the self. I love to support a daydreamy type atmosphere, in fact, and allow for the students minds to wander. This might get some thumbs down in the comment box. But, seriously, Cat, daydreaming is a lost art. We are so busy being mindful, or scrolling, or whatever. Yin offers the perfect environment for such an important and healing practice like mind-wandering/mindlessness.

Tell me about Waheguru and how this affects your approach to daily life and meditation?

Waheguru translates to Wonderful Teacher. Everything is Waheguru. Samadhi, the 8th limb of Astanga yoga is Samadhi, which means to See Equally. To see equally, one must let go of any judgement and increase their compassion 1000 fold. When you begin to see equally, you see that everything is your wonderful teacher with no judgement. Waheguru!

One of my most memorable moments in class with you was being half-way into the splits and you recounted the story of Hanuman leaping.

I'm so glad you remember that! The philosophy is vast and many teachers play with it so well! I have my moments, glad you were there to witness one of them. But me, I'm a great big chakra geek. It's how I see students, how i sequence, and most of the language I use in class revolves around the system of the sacred chambers. Every now and again I'll bust out a story, a few weeks ago it was Trivikrama, however my chakras studies never end, so I always have something new to work with in class. There are so many dimensions to the physical practice and so many elements to focus on for students. That’s the magic of hatha yoga.
The book that you had intended to write when you first moved to Ubud... how’s that going?

Well that book will get written someday. In the meantime I have a gorgeous book coming out on Yin yoga and myofascial release work. It’s based on a class I've been teaching for almost 15 years. Hopefully it's in full swing by the time this article is published.

Thankyou. Waheguru.


denise payne yoga teacherWaheguru.

Denise is holding Yoga Teacher Training at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali in September. More details on her site at http://www.denisepayneyoga.com

The Free Apps & Tools I Use

Free Apps For Content Makers

There is no debate over this. If you don't have a digital space where you communicate your work, your ideas, your services and how to get in contact with you, then you aren't being realistic about what it takes to run your own business. If you think you don't HAVE a business, then you're wrong. As long as you have knowledge, experience and something to express, teach or offer, then you have a business.

It took me much longer than I desired it to, but I finally organised my own website last year. My site CatWoods.me is home to information on Ballet Sculpt, my writing portfolio, my blog, my business as a content creator and my podcast. It also enables people to communicate directly with me and also links to my social media platforms. I designed it using Squarespace, which is super simple to use and enables you to embed existing content from blogs to podcasts, YouTube and so on. It makes the process of choosing a domain name and publishing your site simple for non tech people.

I use Canva to edit and create images for my website, social media, blog and and events. It is an easy-to-use layout with drag and drop function. Again, you don't need to be a whizz to choose a template then add your own elements. Canva has a new function in enabling video editing (great for Instagram short videos!).

I use Mailchimp to create email newsletters. Like Canva, this is a simple template-based site where you can choose how you want your end product to look and then take your own images and content (video, audio, text) and drop it in the right places. When you're done, you can track how people interact with it from how many people open it, to how many people click on the links and also, how many people unsubscribe! You can also choose whether to send the newsletter to a select group from your email contacts or to an entire list. You can have multiple lists. So perhaps, you have a list for the yoga participants who you want to update about your workshops for the month, and you also have a list of friends and family who you need to update about your travel plans.

I use Audacity and Voice Recorder to make my podcasts and my music comes from Creative Commons, where artists specify how they'd like their work to be credited when you use it and whether there are any limitations or restrictions around how their work is used (ie. only for personal use, or only for commercial use where they are openly credited).

I use Issuu to publish my work as PDFs that are readable online and this is also a great way to ensure your articles are stored somewhere beyond your hard drive.

Need a fancy new font and Helvetica just isn't rocking your boat any more? I go to DaFont. Icons are at DryIcons

When you need some creative inspiration or a tutorial, try Creative Bloq

If you would like me to set up your website for you, assisting with content creation, or even setting up your podcast or YouTube channel, let's talk. You can reach me via the form on my website.




Cut The Caffeine - Why & How

You get up, you have a coffee. Maybe two.
Midway through the working morning, everyone else is having one so why not? It's the communal thing to do. Then maybe one with lunch or even mid afternoon to fight the fuzzy head.

Ultimately, by early evening, you have had anything from 3 to 6 coffees and if you're like me, you feel totally normal, but this is your body on caffeine. It adapts, despite this being a natural drug. A stimulant.

Look, I'm not big on New Year resolutions, but anything that wakes us up and makes us change a habit that is long overdue for change is very welcome. For me, the coffee dependency has to be challenged. Mind you, I'm not going cold turkey! That morning coffee is my kickstart and I'm keeping it. It's the afternoon or even post-dinner coffee (guilty) that really has to go.

I'm not being cruel here - I'm not saying DON'T DRINK COFFEE, WATER IS GOOD. Even though is is. I'm saying, cut the coffee down to one or two a day as a challenge for two weeks. Line up your alternatives and have them at the ready for when you get antsy for a coffee fix. Here's the alternatives and also the reasons you want to join me on the #TwoWeekCoffeeCut


  1. You'll save money. Whatever arguments you come up with (but it's free at work, I buy in bulk, etc, you will still come out on top)
  2. You'll prove to yourself you can break a habit. This is powerful. You build muscles to resist habits and you can flex these muscles again and again
  3. Your hormonal regulation and balance will reset. Caffeine amps up your cortisol level, which not only makes you feel flighty and stressed, but also plays a part in weight gain, anxiety and overall energy. For all that caffeine makes you feel like you can fly, there's an inevitable falling.
  4. Your sleep will improve. This isn't a quick-fix! It will take time for your body to flush the caffeine and adapt to your new habits. Even if you fall asleep at 10pm like a baby, if your caffeine habit is regular, chances are that you wake up throughout the night or feel restless in the early hours.
  5. Lower blood pressure. Your heart won't be working on the double, drugged up on coffee, so your blood pressure will naturally lower. You'll feel calmer.
  6. Weight maintenance. If your coffee comes with a few sugars and milk (or any other fancy flavour additions), these add up if you're doing it several times a day. Studies have proven that sugar & caffeine together make for a potent addiction. 
  7. Cutting preservatives and toxins. Not so much in the organic, fair trade java you buy from your bearded barista each day, but if you have a lust for energy drinks, be aware that they are choc-full of nasty chemicals for flavour and the energy kick (whether it's the full or diet version). Carbonated caffeinated drinks will leave you both anxious, buzzing and also bloated and lethargic.
  8. Happy teeth. A constant coffee habit will inevitably stain your teeth and weaken the enamel. Even if you have an expensive dental whitening, then return to coffee, you'll only be weakening your enamel with a whole load of chemicals and caffeine in unison. Lay off the coffee and amp up your water and milk intake (whatever type of milk you're into).
  9. Happy kidneys and happy bones. Calcium is leached from your bones when you drink caffeine and your kidneys work overtime to flush it out of your system. Not only is calcium vital for strong bones but it is also vital in muscular contractions, enabling you to lift strong, run hard and build muscle.
  10. Discover healthy ways to up your vitamin and minerals & get a natural glow. If you have a green juice or a watermelon juice, or herbal tea instead of coffee, over time you'll find your complexion is much clearer and your hair and skin respond to less caffeine and thus less hormonal and physiological stress. Do it for your face.

  1. Organic herbal tea. My pick is Melbourne based tea gurus, The Loose Lips Tea Co. Everything from sencha green tea to special blends to aid in anxiety, sleeplessness and skin trouble. In the heat of Melbourne summer, I like to make a strong brew then allow it to cool and refrigerate for iced tea. 
  2. Watermelon juice. Throw some chunks of watermelon into a blender and whizz into pink, juicy yumness. Perfect to put into a large thermos for hot days, whether you're on the beach or in the office.
  3. Ginger Beer. Need I say more? If you have a tendency, like I do, to not stop at one, you might want to take my lead and buy the diet version. Keep in mind though, all carbonated drinks are going to make you bloated and damage tooth enamel so keep it to the occasional indulgence!
  4. Vegetable smoothies/juice. An ideal way to get a solid vitamin dose while also staying hydrated, I recommend adding as many greens as possible. I'm not a big fan of kale, but spinach, cucumber, celery with a sweetness hit from carrot and beetroot are always a winner. Add a big chunk of ginger if you like a bit of a zing (who doesn't?)
  5. Kombucha. Whether you make it yourself or buy it (and there's loads of great options in health food stores and at markets), kombucha is a fermented drink that strengthens your gut lining and aids in promoting good bacteria for immune and digestive health.
  6. Milk. Dairy, almond, soy, oat, coconut...whatever you fancy. Ultimately, I recommend going for a milk that has high calcium because your bones and muscles need it. Some almond milks are calcium enhanced - you can always do comparisons using the nutrition table on the back of bottles or cartons. Dairy milk has the highest calcium, and almond and soy milk with higher calcium are good options, but everything else is pretty unimpressive. 
What's are your tips for laying off the coffee? Can you commit to a maximum of two coffees a day before 2pm? Join me - share your tips on instagram, twitter and facebook using #TwoWeekCoffeeCut
The Loose Lips Tea Co Sencha Tea




Music For Yoga Practice

I am an unashamed lover of Om Aloha on Soundcloud. By the way, are you following me? Do It Now.
In the meantime, have a listen to Dances of Unity - sure, it's an  ideal soundtrack for practicing your headstand, but it also doubles nicely for writing articles (everyday), tuning out your co-workers (occasionally) or responding to emails (every hour!)

Beauty & Wellness October Obsessions


Who doesn't need stirrup barre pants, grippy ballet socks, one-piece leotards and flattering, high waisted capri pants in their life? WHO?

I discovered Zakti Activewear via a British Health & Fitness magazine and haven't looked back. Not limited to UK customers, obviously. They have done a brilliant collaboration with dancer Kimberly Wyatt. Ideal for barre, pilates, yoga and dance classes and - bonus! - you won't see 20 women with the same pants as you in class.

Research backs up the many health benefits of fish oil omega 3. It isn't naturally produced by the body and needs to be consumed, either through fatty fish, walnuts (ideal plant based omega 3!) or supplements. BlackMores Fish Oil is my daily joint, skin, heart, gut, muscle and overall wellbeing supplement of choice.

On the path of essential muscle, joint, bone, skin and gut health, did you know elite athletes and ballerinas take collagen supplements? The alternative is bone broth, but a tasteless collagen powder like GelPro Advanced Marine Collagen in your water, nut milk smoothie or even your acai bowl in the morning is an ideal way to boost your protein intake and feed your cells essential nutrients to build and maintain bone, muscle and skin tissue.

Recovery time demands magnesium. This mineral is present in most cell functions within the body so if you are stressed, getting sweaty a lot or post illness, you're likely in need of a magnesium boost. Taking capsules is okay, except that it's likely you're just going to pee them out rather than really benefit. If you apply magnesium as a cream, spray or even soak your feet in a magnesium salt bath, you absorb a great deal more and the massage effect has additional benefits. Go for pure, high grade stuff like Elektra Magnesium Spray & Flakes

Michael Kors Wonderlust because life is too short to stay in one place and also too short to not smell like heaven in a glass bottle. Plus...Christmas Is Imminent. Time to make a wishlist.

BYS Highlight Palette is my key to GLOW - like a beacon of beautiful good health and because a little bit of contouring (not Kardashian level everyday...) will always be welcome.

Sukin Shampoo & Conditioner because this organic company and their products are all about no toxins, no nasties, no animal testing. Also because it's affordable, Australian and gentle on your skin, scalp, hair and the earth.

My Froothie Blender is the B O M B. I can whizz up my protein smoothie in the morning (try roast pumpkin left to cool overnight with cinnamon, almond milk, big spoonful of marine collagen and a little shake of nutmeg) and also make a whole lot of raw food goodies like purees, dips, sauces and even mashed sweet potato and carrot/turmeric soup. Oh the endless possibilities! 900W or go home.

Last, but not least, my bathroom cabinet is a mecca of wonderfulness. At the ready every week is my Medik8 Clay Mask to nix the nasty stress/pollution and sweaty-face spots that occasionally appear. My nails always benefit from a layer of super glam - loving the cult brand Smith & Cult. Because it's a cult thing, and it's the goddess queen that is Kat Von D... on the daily, long lasting lip colour demands Kat Von D Liquid Lipstick (either Lolita or K-Pop).

Winter Wellbeing: Body, Hair & Face

As you know - or will come to know - I get excited at anything that sparkles, glows, emanates colour, smells beautiful, looks amazing... whether it's eyeshadow, yoga pants, organic coconut oil, if it's divinely presented and a joy to use, I'm all for it.

Now that Winter Is Here, it's time to ease up on the self tanning if you're so inclined and instead to slather on moisturiser under your socks and sleeves. If, like me, heavily over heated rooms and shops really play havoc with your sinuses, I totally recommend Xlear. I discovered it at a health foods store but it's also in Priceline and other pharmacies. No steroids, no nasties, all natural and it clears up and moisturises at the same time. Alternatively, saline spray might be your best friend.

Life is short, and you only get one, so use all the good things and indulge yourself in beauty and wellness rituals that revive your body and your spirit. Sometimes it's the tiniest luxuries that remind you there are simple joys to be had every single day.

Eminence Coconut Body Firming Lotion is a richly scented, creamy lotion that is perfect for winter. Rather than disguising your scaly little limbs under full length leggings all winter, get out of your steamy shower and smear this all over. Then go forth into your day or night, knowing you are channelling some tropical summer vibes of your own.

I've just had my hair lightened to a very pale blonde ombre at the ends so it is super sensitive and dry. Because I refuse to give up on sleek, smooth and straight, I have to do all the things. Here's my advice regardless of whether you have coloured hair or not:
  • Use a heat-protection spray or leave-in product
  • Don't use the same old straightening irons you've been using for years (they're too hot!)
  • Invest in quality hair care and high tech stylers if you use them regularly (I have recently discovered 100% Australian EVY iQ styler. Never going back - this is the best!)
  • Wash twice a week and use a masque once a fortnight or more often if needed

My Muscle Chef Food Delivery for Fitness Foodies

I'm no stranger to food delivery services and I've had the good, the bad and the ugly (ahem, see last post on food delivery experience!). My Muscle Chef is one I've returned to twice since my initial order and the only one I've actually returned to wholeheartedly. I can honestly affirm that they are always bang on time with delivery, notifying the night before via SMS to remind us forgetful types, and every single meal tastes freakin' amazing.

Since they began, the plant based and vegan options for meals has expanded and I can swear by the green curry tofu and brown rice. I could eat that at every meal for weeks and not crave anything else. There's a real misconception that if you want to maintain a fit, lean, athletic body you need to restrict and retreat from anything enjoyable. That's about as old-school as leotards, legwarmers and headbands in an aerobics class.

What joy would there be in living to 100, strong, fit and flexible, if you were counting out the almonds and turning down invitations to dinner and dessert? Food is not purely a fuel. It's a source of nourishment the same way that movement, nature, studying, work and relationships nourish. And just as any relationship comes down to quality over quantity, finding the right balance and knowing what works for you, so you need to find foods that you love to eat, have the nutrients that keep your body energised and satiated, that are available and affordable.
plant based muscle food

I'm a big fan of having staple meals that you can always rely on - even if you only learn to make 4 things in your life - there's always small ways to vary those meals by adding herbs or changing the condiments you use or the brand of rice or fish or lentils!

The real beauty of a meal delivery service - beyond having every meal perfectly portion controlled (for those who could easily polish off three servings without pause... ahem!) - is that I'm challenged to try new flavours and combinations I wouldn't necessarily put the time and effort into creating myself. Salmon and brown rice with a mushroom sauce, for example. Vegetarian frittata. Tofu curry. I'm inspired to crack open one of the zillion recipe books I own and keep on turning my meals into a rainbow of colours and flavours.

If you're thinking that food delivery is a luxury you can't possibly justify, then see it more as an investment in expanding your flavour and taste repertoire for life. Think of this as one week where you readjust your palate to desire and crave nutritious foods like tofu and brown rice, to anticipate the spicy curry sauce or veggie stew you'd never bother to make for yourself. Think about what you normally spend on all the raw, unprocessed ingredients throughout a week and how many snacks or wasted food you throw money at. Then decide whether having portion-controlled, easy to heat-and-serve meals for one week is actually not such an indulgence at all.
Check out My Muscle Chef.

Bowls Of Goodness

I've been a big fan of Nina Olssen on Instagram for a few years. She is the creator of Nourish Atelier, dedicated to creating and sharing divinely delicious plant based recipes and her buddha bowls (combinations of colourful and vibrant, healthy ingredients all in one bowl) are to die for. So, naturally, when her book of bowls was released this year, I was all over it. Luckily, I'm able to share two of my favourite recipes with you. Hope you love them and make them your own - perhaps you change one or two of the ingredients or you opt for a different condiment. Let me know how you modify these recipes and any of your favourite buddha bowl recipes are always welcome. Stay in touch via my Facebook page.

Recipes from Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment by Nina Olsson. Published by Kyle Books. RRP $39.99. Out now.


Rainbow Pad Thai
ALMOST RAW RAINBOW CARROT NOODLES, TOASTED CASHEWS AND SPICY TOFU

rainbow pad thai
My family loves noodles in all shapes and colours. Serving a rainbow Pad Thai pleases both small and grown up eaters. It’s a little juicier and fresher then regular rice or buckwheat noodles, so it complements the spicy tofu and peanut sauce beautifully. The avocado plays an important role here, adding a buttery creaminess that binds it all together. This noodle bowl is just as good as dinner as it is a side salad.
   
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 handfuls of cashew nuts
6 rainbow carrots, spiralised
2 avocados, stoned, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 head of a small red cabbage, shredded
handful of chopped coriander
6 spring onions, finely chopped
   
4 tablespoons coconut sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sriracha
2 tablespoons coconut oil
200g firm tofu, pressed
water, to thin
             
50ml peanut butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped to a paste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
30ml soy sauce
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
juice of 1 lime
water, to thin

Mix the ingredients for the spicy peanut sauce and set aside. Mix the coconut sugar with soy, olive oil and sriracha for the tofu.
Heat up a frying pan over a medium– high heat and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Fry the tofu for 2-3 minutes until golden, then pour over the soy mix and fry for another 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat. Add another tablespoon of coconut oil and stir-fry the cashew nuts for 2-3 minutes over a medium-high heat, then remove from the heat. Mix the carrot noodles with the avocado, red cabbage, coriander, cashews, tofu and spring onions and serve with the spicy peanut sauce.


The Loyal Lentil Chilli
Lentil chilli with butternut squash, coconut milk, pepper and lime

Do you have a dish that never fails you, like a loyal friend, who keeps showing up and impresses you by always being top-notch? I have a few and this lentil chilli has been the star of my regular repertoire for years. This is also one of the most made and loved recipes from my blog. Lentils can come across as a bit dull sometimes, but this dish is nothing like it. With flavours that really sing together – earthy cumin and cinnamon, tangy lime and coriander, hot chilli and garlic – it harmonises perfectly with sweet butternut squash and chewy lentils. Instead of butternut squash you can use cooked pumpkin, aubergine or any other fleshy vegetable you have.

SERVES 4
250 puy or beluga lentils
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
5– 7 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped to a
paste with 1 teaspoon salt
1 + ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 red pepper, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
400g butternut squash, cooked and chopped into small pieces
400ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

SIMPLE YOGURT SAUCE
200g yogurt or vegan yogurt (soygurt or coconut yogurt)
1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

QUICKEST CUCUMBER SALAD
½ cucumber, shaved into ribbons
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
TO SERVE
fresh coriander
hot sauce, like sriracha
cooked brown rice or other whole grain
lime wedges

Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions, rinse, drain and set aside. Heat a frying pan over a medium– high heat. Add the oil and gently fry the shallots until transparent. Add the garlic, spices, pepper, chilli and tomatoes and fry for a few minutes over a medium– low heat. Stir in the lentils, squash, tahini and honey. Pour in the coconut milk and stir, then let the chilli simmer over a medium– low heat for 5 minutes, adding a little water if needed and stirring regularly. Add the lime juice and soy, then let it simmer for a further few minutes while stirring. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat. Mix the ingredients for the yogurt sauce. Make the cucumber salad by combining the shaved cucumber and rice vinegar. Drizzle the chilli with extra virgin olive oil, top with freshly chopped coriander and serve with the cool yogurt sauce and salad. Serve with a hot sauce, rice and lime as extras on the table. 

Yoga, Plant Based Eating and Natural Balinese Beauty in Ubud

Plant Based Eating
Plant Based Eating Ubud Bali

On this, my second visit to Ubud in the past five years, I was told over and over again by friends and strangers that I must visit Moksa if I loved raw food. Or even if I didn't know I loved it. 
On their recommendations and with a fierce curiosity, I trekked up Penestanan past Y Resort towards the rice fields and Moksa's incredible permaculture garden and restaurant. I was not disappointed!
Chef Made is a genius, and I don't bestow this claim lightly. I was fortunate to see him at work in the kitchen and when I asked for the recipe for my favourite dish (avocado enchiladas in pumpkin wraps), he sent me the recipe that very evening!
Moksa was founded by Janur and Made after they had worked together at a five-star resort serving raw food in Ubud. With dreams of running their own sustainable farm/cooking school and restaurant, Moksa was the stunning result.
The menu changes seasonally and the space easily accommodates single diners, families, romantic dates and group dinners. With wi-fi and candlelit tables at night, it's not to be missed. Cannot recommend those avocado enchiladas enough. Even if you don't know the slightest thing about raw food, nor plant based food, this is flavourful, decadent food at seriously affordable prices. There's a cookbook coming out this year and I'm hungrily awaiting it. 
Check out their Facebook page for updates and events. Highly recommend enrolling in a class with Chef Made. 

Natural Balinese Beauty
Utama Spice Ubud Bali

There can be no better marketing for Utama Spice than Ria Templer. Her mother began Utama Spice in the 1970s after she had determinedly raised her children and family with traditional Balinese practices regarding natural solutions to skin, health and wellbeing. Using recipes, herbs, spices, fruits and plants to create tailored treatments, it
Utama Spice beauty Bali
wasn't long before her skills and talents spread from friends, family and local community to reach international interest. Soon, she was providing natural, organic skin and body treatments to five-star spas and hotels. Utama Spice provided her with her own business and freedom to create products she knew were essential to wellbeing under her own label. Importantly, Utama Spice employed local women at a time when it as traditional for the man of the house to be the breadwinner and women to stay at home. The business has a renewed vigour and strategy under the loving management of Ria and her partner now. Still producing the highly popular Bug Spray, they also do face, hair and body scrubs, washes and serums. I made my own lemongrass, ginger and bergamot scent and can also vouch the Yoga Spray is THE BEST. I recommend visiting the store but you can also find the products at Yoga Barn, Bali Buda and other quality yoga, organic and natural produce venues around Ubud. 
Go to the Utama Spice website for stockists, story and product info.

Yoga
Yoga Barn Bali

Yoga Barn runs yoga and lifestyle classes throughout the day, every day. The Ecstatic Dance evening has a queue for hours before it begins so if you are inclined to truly get your yoga groove on, get there early! I was fortunate to try Vinyasa Flow with fabulous Nadine and also a really creative, flowy and strong Vinyasa Flow with Murni.
The OMG? OMG! I'll be borrowing that one for my own classes.
I also tried classes I never normally would have if not for the fact I was at a loose end and it was a convenient time. Shamanic Healing which honestly, I wouldn't recommend with the teacher who I experienced BUT still an interesting experience and certainly you meet a lot of international yogis and wellness warriors so that's worth the entry price and more.
I also did Iyengar Yoga with Christine who studied under the late, great Iyengar himself. She is a complete treasure chest of knowledge on the body and yoga. The concept of movement that focuses on joint integrity and health with the AID of muscles rather than a muscular focus really got me thinking about where to place the focus and intention when moving and teaching. Recommend you try this long-time Ubud venue before trekking elsewhere. And Denise Payne is unmissable. Make sure you get to her Yin and Power Yoga. All teachers listed here.




Instructing Versus Teaching: Delivering Lessons That Last Beyond Class

In over 12 years of group fitness training and personal training, I have come to recognise the vital role an instructor can play in delivering lessons that go beyond the hour you spend with students. It is the difference between instructing while holding attention for a single class, and delivering knowledge that lasts a lifetime.
A teacher has many opportunities throughout class, and via social media, newsletters, online videos and digital channels, where they can sow a seed of curiosity, build a relationship with students and instil appreciation for our bodies. Instructors can also play a part in cultivating mental strength and resilience, the ability to take ownership of our fitness, and our cognitive processes around movement, mobility and endurance.

After two recent classes, the highly skilled and highly respected teachers admitted to me that they worried they may have spoken too much or used anatomical terms or energetic cues that might be “too much” for participants. In fact, I have learned that many – perhaps all – students attend group fitness classes because they ARE curious about their own bodies, they ARE passionate about movement and fitness; they want to know more. People don’t necessarily need to understand the myofascial system or the insertion and origin of muscles to fully appreciate when you tell them to work the full range of a muscle or give a cue regarding physical or energetic systems of the body (ie: in yoga, relating the breath or areas of the body to their spiritual or traditionally held beliefs around where emotions are held or the spiritual aspects of breath relating to movement).

Spark curiosity.

Sow a seed that enables the curious students to consider. Don’t be afraid to share what you know and to do so confidently and invite interest.
There will always be instructors who have 10 years more experience than you. There will always be instructors who are labelled “Master” instructors in what they do, but that doesn’t mean your experience and knowledge and particular approach is not relevant, meaningful and impactful. When you enter the room as an instructor, you are charged with the responsibility and credibility to teach what you believe is right and valid. Just as in any discipline from quantum physics to medicine to sculpture, there are constant discoveries and developments so it is only natural that there are differences between teachers as to approach and ideas.  As long as you can explain the what, how and why, you are doing your job.
fitness instruction inspiration

What: The movement, sequence or pose (ie. Wide squat)
How: The cues, alignment and technique (ie. Stand with heels outside hips, sit weight back and down with knees wide)
Why: The purpose and benefit of the move (ie. To work the glutes, postural chain of muscles, engage strong thighs and challenge core strength and raise the heart rate)
Think about your role as a value proposition. There are thousands of instructors who could teach under the same label (yoga, pilates, BodyPump, step, etc) but what experiences have you had, and what particular strengths and interests can you share and communicate with your class? Have you rehabilititated your body after an injury? Have you found a particular cue or mental focus during exercise really invigorates and motivates your own activity? Share that. Students want to connect with you. Let them!

Think of different classes as being like different languages. While each language, from Japanese to Inuit, has its own rhythm, sound, cadence and calibre there are universal laws of communication. Listen to the people you’re speaking to, measure your expression and delivery for your audience, consider what your body language says just as much as what you’re saying, and pay attention to the timing, volume and message of your words and actions.

Find the right balance though and take into consideration the different venues and classes you take. There is definitely no place for “over-sharing” or giving lectures as if it’s an Anatomy 101 class, unless of course you are taking a specific workshop or advanced class that is prepared and open to this sort of teaching. Consider context and circumstances, always.
There is a balance to be found between giving the standard instructions (timing, direction, alignment) and then building the blocks that really deepen the effectiveness of your teaching and the actual structure and sequence of your class.

This is where you develop your teaching beyond the a) What; and
b) How;
to explain the essential Why.

Why does a particular pose or sequence work? Which muscles are being activated and what role do they play both in the class and then in life? Why does it matter to have strong glutes?
Armature Pilates owner, Pilates teacher trainer and herself an instructor, Stephanie Glickman identifies an “ability to keep a large and diverse group  moving and in good form with attentive and individual correction” as a skill key to memorable and inspiring instructors.
“It’s important that an instructor is able to give constructive feedback and cueing because they have a good eye, not just saying “good work” all the time...but giving corrections that the client wouldn’t get elsewhere,” she elaborates.

The key to having a good eye can come back to having a strong commitment to your job but also, importantly, your own personal practice and experience.
Good instructors “have their own solid personal practice and commitment to what they are teaching; they truly know and understand the work in their bodies themselves,” Glickman says.

She nominates the following qualities as those that make a teacher stand out from the rest:
  • relates to clients personally - knows everyone's names, asks how they are, remembers their "issues" and injuries and is attentive to them; goes up to clients they don't know and talks to them, finds out about who they are and what they need
  • technically clear and accurate cueing, not too complex to be confusing but still challenging exercises
  • considered pace and control of exercises throughout class
  • programming that considers participants' weaknesses, make them do things they need but may not like
  • a mix of giving the clients what they need and what they want
  • making clients feel good about themselves and excited to come back to class
  • friendly, nice, humble, not rude, pretentious or precious

Glickman also emphasises the importance of knowing your own strengths and interests so that you can master what you’re especially good at rather than trying to cover all the bases or mimic other instructors. Her essential lessons for instructors seeking to elevate their “instructor” role to “Teacher” as follows:
  • Find your own "thing"/style/way of teaching and just stick to that and keep improving on that; don't be pressured to follow fads or trends
  • err on the side of solid basics rather than high complexity and try to extract the best from your clients without over cueing or correcting them or making them feel overwhelmed
  • have your "set" things that you know work that you can always draw on and then add to that more creative  or different things
  • have some jokes up your sleeve
  • don't wear low waist leggings and demonstrate cat stretch - embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!




Fit Fuel Home Delivery : Thr1ve meals

fit food home delivery Thr1ve

This isn't the first time I've explored meal delivery services to support and encourage eating portion controlled and nutritionally balanced meals.
Why would a trainer and instructor, with thorough knowledge of how to buy, prepare and plan healthy, delicious meals opt to have them delivered to me? For several reasons.
Despite having enough recipe books to build a small community library, and also having the time to prepare meals, I often find that I fall into routines of eating the same meals, day after day after day. It's boring.
It can also be easy to opt for making the same, boring meals I know when I don't have the incentive of preparing meals for anyone other than myself!
lean protein no gluten thr1ve vegetarian meals

Here is where Thr1ve has come to my rescue. I first saw the promotions for Thr1ve at the fitness centre I work at. Curious and dreading the inevitable dinner that would be exactly the same dinner I ate lastnight and the night before, I looked up the website. The founder of Thr1ve is the entrepreneurial fitness and fashion industry veteran, Josh Spark. This is a man who knows how to move, live and eat fit. Goal. I also looked through the menu and thought, I WANT to eat that, and that...and definitely that. Goal two. It could all be delivered to my door without fuss. Triple goals. Sold!

Now, there are various plans to opt for but here is the approach I took. I have ordered a 7-day week of meals along with probiotic water to support digestion. My prime goals are:
balanced macronutrients with wholefoods, plants and lean protein as the prime ingredients!



  • flavour rich, simple meals that I can be inspired to recreate in my own kitchen on an ongoing basis
  • well proportioned meals - tiny frozen blocks that are masquerading as lunch and dinner are a no go. I won't be sitting around watching netflix all day so I need food that fuels my active life
  • FRESH, non-frozen meals ready to eat (Thr1ve is one of the rare meal delivery services that delivers food freshly made, non-frozen so that if you don't get through it in the 7 days from delivery, you can choose to freeze it yourself)

My Thr1ve options are also intended to maintain my weight but for anyone who has a tendency to eat high-carb, multi-servings or excessive portions or desserts, you'll lose weight on these meals (if you're not eating extra meals between the planned meals!).

The Thr1ve meals are paleo and ketogenic friendly.

What's a ketogenic diet? High in protein and fats, low in carbohydrates and gluten free.

As you all well know, I do not advocate for strict diets of any nature. While I see the health benefits of kickstarting a healthy approach to meal planning and nutritious eating with a low-sugar, minimally processed food approach, it is not ideal to maintain a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet in the long term. While some fitness and bodybuilding fanatics will swear black and blue the ketogenic diet is the ultimate way to eat, the high protein and fat content is violently unhealthy on the liver and kidneys and the extreme lack of complex carbohydrates (brown rice, wholewheat bread or pasta, fruits) can cause fatigue, lethargy, poor function of the nervous and hormonal system.
Thr1ve vegetable frittata meal delivery
Fortunately, Thr1ve meals are well balanced to include smart, wholefood carbohydrates with thorough nutritional density (brown rice, quinoa, root vegetables, potato) and even the classic Atkins' diet advocated eating sweet potato, moderate servings of fruit and complex carbs after the initial week or so of high protein meals. The meals I've opted for, and the meals generally, are moderate carbohydrates, lean and moderate protein and low-fat. As a healthy-fats advocate (they promote vitamin absorption, hormonal balance and appetite fulfilment!) I have been adding sweet potato and raw cashews and almonds to my meals but you must read your own appetite and decide what you want to add. Unless you're trying to shed weight, you'll want to be adding smart snacks between meals as they are small serves.

Disclaimer: Of 14 meals (over a 7 day trial) FOUR meals went rancid by the fourth day and had to be thrown out. The "fresh greens" in two more also went bitter, flaccid and were inedible. I let Thr1Ve know and they made the excuse they were new to the meal delivery business and offered no remedy. Hopefully this issue is resolved but be warned.

Goodness From Goop : Gwyneth, Guts, and Clean Beauty


Look, let's not live in dreamland. Goop has gotten a lot of hate over its lifetime and I am the most sceptical of all about celebrities touting wellness brands and books. In fact, I believe there are several lines across my forehead that are totally down to grimacing with every new celebrity "how to be well" glossy hardback. BUT.

But.
Goop Clean Beauty (Hachette Australia, Hardback RRP $45; eBook RRP $19.99) really is full of good, substantive advice and knowledge. Gwyneth hasn't written some "drink juice for 20 days, do yoga and you'll look like me!" style tome. Thank goodness. It's actually wry, real and it asks the leading experts in the fields of dermatology, dietetics and digestive health, fitness training, yoga and beauty manufacturing for their opinions and real life advice. Of course, the photos are fabulous. It's a good looking book, but let's face it, you don't buy a book on beauty if you don't value good looks, right?

What I also love about this book is that it doesn't have a holier-than-thou approach to all aspects of beauty. We all want to look and feel as great as we can. That means we can eat an abundance of organic foods and use only all-natural beauty products but we can also accept that age inevitably means a loss of fullness and wrinkles. Some people embrace this fully and accept it. Some of us think we wouldn't mind using the beauty of science and technology to do some plumping and freezing IN MODERATION for a natural lifting effect. The book goes through these options - including Botox, fillers, thread lifts, plasma and stem cell injections and so on. There is a no-judgement approach. I like that. There is an emphasis on being careful in selecting a practitioner and in starting small and maintaining your natural appearance only improved rather than going for a dramatic overhaul. Wise.
gwyneth paltrow tracy anderson

Here's some quick, simple "I Can Do That!" inspiration from the editors of goop.

A detox of your life does not mean you need to rule out everything that gives you some joy. It is not an abstinence regime that is only bearable for a week before you throw yourself into a weeping, wailing despair that can only be healed with organic dark chocolate and cacao smoothies. A detox rules out the most likely culprits for inflammation of the gut - which is most likely the origin of other health and beauty concerns from acne to mood swings to poor sleep, bloating, sensitive sinuses and hair thinning or loss. Here are the rules of Clean Eating according to Dr Alejandro Junger and it is recommended you follow for at least 10 days. After that time, try introducing what you really want to back to your life gradually to see if it may be the cause of mood, skin, hair or digestive problems.

No alcohol
No caffeine
No dairy
No eggs
No beef or pork
No raw fish or shellfish
No gluten
No soy
No nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers/capsicum)
No strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, grapes or bananas
No corn
No white rice
No added sugar
No peanuts (all other nuts totally fine!)
No processed oils or butters (stick to nut-based oils and coconut oil)

Before you have a breakdown thinking you'll need to eat apples and kale for 10 days, there's pages and pages of delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner meals and they are all simple, doable and delish.

After you've committed to 10 days minimum of avoiding common inflammatory foods, here's some of the other recommended detox tips and consider this, the body DOES have natural detoxifying tools in the liver and kidney but any way you can optimise their functioning and decrease the amount of pollution internally and externally, the greater energy your body can devote to absorbing the good nutrients you're filling it with and to fuelling your brain, skin, muscles, hair and nervous system. Nobody is toxin free - it's a matter of how well we can manage our own system of detoxifying to feel, look and live as purely and well as possible.

Sweat.
Yup, get yourself into an infrared sauna and sweat it out. This is a highly effective means of sweating out heavy metals as well as providing benefits in alleviating arthritis, musculoskeletal ailments and increasing endorphins (feel good hormones). Wheher it's 10 or 30 minutes, try to get into a regular practice. A regular sauna will do.

Exercise.
Moving fluid through the lymphatic system supports the immune system by filtering out toxins and avoiding retention and lethargy. Exercise also boosts happy hormones, enables us to challenge ourselves physically and mentally, provides an opportunity to do something healthy and fun with people we know or to make new friends. Weight-bearing exercise also builds bones, muscle and enables our bodies o function healthier well into old age.

Meditate.
Calm the mind. Bring yourself into the present. Find a sense of peace that isn't dependent on anyone or anything external.

Get On A Foam Roller.
Get your fascia flexible. Many instructors and personal trainers I know swear by the foam roller as a regular part of their fitness routine. Sure, it can be deeply uncomfortable, especially if you have a tendency towards really tight muscles or you rarely stretch. It's entirely worth it. It is vital to stretch, lengthen and release tightness in the muscles to avoid that tension becoming habitual or loading the joints because the muscles that should be doing the work are too fatigued, overworked or dysfunctional to do their job. Hit up google and youtube - there's loads of guidance online as to how to use a roller.

Sleep.
Everyone knows this - just as you have a routine for beauty, fitness, travelling to and from work daily, so you must have a routine for sleep. Switch off social media at least an hour before bed and if you are panicking over something, write it down and know you can deal with it in the morning.

Try Yoga Nidra.
"Psychic sleep" is an ancient practice that deeply restores, relaxes and rejuvenates the body. It is a guided relaxation wherein you don't actually sleep as the mind is still active, but the body completely melts into blissful quiet. Try downloading Kirit Thacker, head of yoga at Ananda Ayurvedic spa in India.
Also try Elena Brouwer's 10 minute version from Yoga Journal.


February Gym Bag Loves - The Style, Beauty & Body Gear For Now

fitness fashion beauty body
Hello February!
Exactly a month in my new beachside abode and I've still got so much to explore locally. It's been a struggle trying to build more classes into my schedule but (apart from a few hair-pulling, nail biting evenings of angst) I'm feeling hopeful of making this happen. My other goal is to increase my freelance writing and collaborative work. I'd also really love to schedule some more workshops and encourage people to come together locally to share food, stories, inspirations and ideas about life and living it well, fit and joyfully.
hair body fitness body beauty lululemon

There's a bit of a theme going on with my February gym bag - it must be living so close to the salty air! It's...being naked. Now wait! Don't go pulling your top off and risking mega fines just for the sake of solidarity!
Phew.
lululemon naked align pants

It's naked in regards to an approach to ingredients and elements. The Naked Dry Shampoo from Herbal Essences has none of the nasty chemicals usually associated with both dry shampoos and aerosols generally. It took me a while to get on the dry shampoo bandwagon but as someone who gets oily roots within a day of washing, it prevents overdoing it on the shampooing OR walking around with nasty oilslick hair. Important.
Try the whole Naked range - I'm all about the Naked Volume Shampoo and Conditioner.
The Naked lululemon Align Pants II are designed with no ruffles, frills and bows, literally. They are ideal for wearing independently or pairing up with your favourite booty shorts, jogging shorts, slouchy shirt or T, or even going out in your best 90s style with a pair of ripped denim shorts (man, I LOVED that look at the time.)

It's also a mindset I encourage you to adopt in February.
Get naked.
Strip off all the history. Strip off yesterday. Strip off the labels that have been placed on you, or that you've placed on yourself. Daughter, wife, mother, teacher, Australian, American, Young, Old, Friendly, Rude, Determined, Lazy, Fit, Flexible, Friend, Foe.

This is not to dismiss everything that you are, but to recognise that beneath and beyond all these labels and these ideas you develop about your life, you are so much more than that. Come back to your roots. Your heart beats, your lungs pump air, you exist from one micro-moment to the next in a world where we are all so vulnerable. This is quite wonderful - and it doesn't depend at all on any labels you put on yourself or what you own or what you do.

Once you've had a little smile to yourself, ensure that you hold onto these sunbeams of joy in your very core so that they radiate out through your pores and make your face glow with the beauty of being alive and appreciative of it. Then pack your gym bag and get out there. The gym bag featured in above image is the Lululemon Urban Warrior Duffle Bag. Yes, you can attach your yoga mat.

Post showering, keep the fresh scents lasting all day by applying my absolute, all time favourite body moisturiser, Laura Mercier Souffle. There's a few delicious choices but I'm in love with almond and coconut (it gets SO many compliments!) or pistachio. YUM.

Plant Based Food Melbourne

Plant Based Food Melbourne

There's so many places for great food and great vibes in Melbourne. If you're vegan, vegetarian, gluten, lactose intolerant, paleo, raw, any and all of the above or NONE of the above, you will find options that cater to you and do so with flavour, joy and generosity.

Herewith, and I must confess I haven't tried all of them, are some great finds in Melbourne. Some I have dined at, some I am YET to dine in, but all of them come highly recommended by friends, colleagues and fellow Melburnians.

I'm also going to give a shout-out to my raw food workshop on February 7 at Kotch Lane Cafe in St Kilda. For $45 you get a handbook, goodie bag of products, entry to a doorprize, hands-on raw food meal making, and the fun of being in a group of curious, inspired people.
Plant Based Food Melbourne

Fed Up Project
South Melbourne


Good food, local produce. This relative new-comer is a haven of nutritious and yummy offerings located right near the South Melbourne market so you can dine and then be inspired to go and buy your own ingredients. OR you can walk in circles around the market to build up an appetite and then go nourish your body and soul. Visit Fed Up Project.

Uncle & Jak
Fitzroy

Plant Based Food Melbourne

Easy parking, yes please. This is a menu that doesn't turn into a novel, which is promising. Doing the menu options you offer WELL with fresh, carefully selected produce is worthy of respect. Pretty easy to park this end of Johnston Street, especially on weekdays. A brunch or lunch post yoga is easily catered to. I can vouch their coffee is excellent and George is a sucker for the turmeric latte here (I can vouch it LOOKS cool.) Visit Uncle & Jak.

Fourth Chapter Cafe
Prahran

Plant Based Food Melbourne
All day breakfast menu? Yes, please! Lunch available from 11am. There's meat for your carnivorously inclined friends and fam. There's some absolutely belly loving bounty on the menu here and like most things in Prahran, the venue is super chic. Environment is vital! Visit Fourth Chapter Cafe.

Vegie Bar
Fitzroy

Plant Based Food Melbourne

This is a stalwart of Fitzroy and you simply must. Their raw food offering is genuinely divine. Raw Pad Thai, tacos, cheesecake. This is an offering that goes beyond superfood salads and proves raw food is creative, expansive and exciting. Visit Vegie Bar.

How Your Eating Affects Skin and Physical Signs of Ageing

The typical Western approach to exercise and eating is geared towards a More Is More approach - but unfortunately, not more joyful, more mindful, more considered and more strategic. Just More. However, well intentioned as your ambitions to run a full marathon, train for 4 hours a day, eat a gluten free, dairy free, carb free diet and exfoliate three times a day, you may win medals but you could also be asking to look like a mouldy prune by 40.


What best benefits your body and mind is some perspective. 
You have a functioning, well body. You have the intelligence and awareness to be seeking and open to information on how to move and fuel it. Everything begins and ends with that desire to be well. Consider that everything you do must stem from the intention to look after your body because you love it and want it to function, look, feel and BE fit and well throughout your whole life.

A restrictive diet can result in bone loss, nutritional deficiency and an onset of physical signs of ageing and illness.

The vegan diet in particular can be short on protein, iron, B12 and calcium if these nutrients aren't knowingly enhanced in dietary choices. Similarly, if you are genuinely allergic to foods, it is vital to have your levels of iron, calcium, vitamins B & D and iron measured. It would also be worth seeing a nutritionist or dietitian who can advise on dietary sources of essential nutrients based on your age, lifestyle, level of fitness and your goals (whether that's running a marathon, travelling the world, having a child or addressing particular symptoms).

Consider also that combining particular foods can enhance their nutritional power. Many vitamins are fat soluble, including A, D, E and K. Even a drizzle of coconut oil, a handful of nuts or some avocado in your salad will immediately boost the value of these nutrients in your veggie intake. Iron and vitamin C are known partners (a little citrus addition to your spinach in the form of lemon juice or sliced up oranges in your salad...)

My pick for Australian Certified Organic, all natural, tasty coconut oil is The Whole Foodies. Coconut oil not only adds island fresh flavour to salads and sauces, but is ideal for frying, roasting and ALSO as a beauty tonic. Comb it through the hair for an instant mask, or apply it as a moisturising balm to the skin.

Plant-based healthy fats are an excellent addition to your diet for more than vitamin and nutrient absorption. They take longer to digest than carbs and protein and therefore act to fulfil the appetite and regulate hormones such as insulin, ghrelin and leptin which - when imbalanced - can fuel hunger and cravings whether you require fuel or not. Go for avocado, coconut, olive oil, nuts, seeds, milk and yoghurt (obviously not fat-free versions!)

Adequate calcium prevents the face and body from ageing signs.

A lack of calcium can show up in weakened and vulnerable bones. This doesn't just result in the dreaded "hunchback" appearance of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis at its most potent. Consider that the face is a thin layer of skin over...bone.
If the bones are weak and deteriorating, this impacts the cartilage in the nose, eye sockets, chin and forehead. Weak bones leads to an early onset of shrinkage of the bones, wrinkles, a concave effect on the forehead and no amount of fillers and botox will disguise a lack of good nutrition and genuine glowing health. Protect and feed the scaffolding so that you glow for your whole mortal life. If you don't do dairy, consider another calcium rich source of milk such as soy and almond. Check the level of calcium as not all "milk" products are calcium-rich. Don't even bother with rice and oat milk if calcium is your concern.

One major calcium secret for vegans and foodies? Unhulled tahini! It contains four times the amount of calcium in full fat cow's milk. My pick is the organic unhulled tahini from Aussie brand The Whole Foodies which is Australian Certified Organic, paleo, gluten free and 100% vegan.

Facial Wrinkles Linked to Bone Density (WebMD)
Calcium In The Vegan Diet (The Vegetarian Resource Group)

Adrenalin-fuelled exercise leeches calcium from the bones. Extended cardio - from cycling, running, climbing or whatever you may be doing - as well as caffeine and stress are all sources of calcium robbery from your body. While you can ensure a higher intake of calcium through diet, it is also worth replacing some of the cardio-based exercise you do with weight-bearing exercise that builds bone strength (this can be weight-lifting or reformer pilates, circuit training or BodyPump).


Probiotics and Prebiotics for a healthy immune and digestive system

A happy belly is related to more stable mood and appetite, having positive benefits for sleep, relationships, energy for exercise and just living generally.
A healthy gut and immune system are also the basis for healthy skin. The process of shedding the outermost layer of the dermis and allowing new skin to be revealed that is radiant and well nourished depends on a healthy diet, stress management, balanced hormones and adequate sleep. Fuel your healthiest gut with pre- and probiotics found in kombucha, miso, tofu, yoghurt and kefir.

I've been delighted by Adam Liaw's recent book of recipes that embrace fresh, seasonal produce in creative and flavour loaded combinations. Here's a recipe for Sushi Sandwiches - they look so fancy and yet they're so easy to make! The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw is published by Hachette Australia ($49.99).

SUSHI SANDWICHES
おにぎらず
SERVES 1, BUT MAKE AS MANY AS YOU LIKE PREPARATION TIME 10 MINS COOKING TIME 0 MINS

INGREDIENTS
1 cup cooked rice per sandwich
1 sheet nori per sandwich
Your favourite sandwich
or sushi fillings (some
suggestions below)

METHOD
1 Place a sheet of nori on a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting
board with the shiny side facing down. Spread ½ cup rice in a
10cm square at 45° to the nori. Top the rice square with your
choice of filling and cover with the remaining ½ cup rice.
2 Fold the corners of the nori sheet into the centre to create
a square with the filling inside. Gather the plastic wrap around
the sandwich and leave wrapped for at least 10 minutes for the
seaweed to soften and stick to the rice. This will help hold the
sandwich together. Use a sharp knife moistened with a little cold
water to slice through the centre of the sandwich to reveal the
filling, and serve.
SOME FILLINGS WE LIKE INCLUDE
Prawn and avocado
Ham, cheese and tomato
Teriyaki chicken and green beans
Salmon, salmon roe, egg and lettuce.

Just like the rice balls, don’t keep these sandwiches in the fridge.
Eat them straight away or pack them in plastic wrap or foil at room

temperature to eat later

Stress Relieving Practices regulate hormones, increase energy and counter a busy lifestyle.

Many people claim their yoga practice is their stress relief. I understand - but it is really only effective if the style, environment, accessibility and cost are all feeding into your practice being a stress relief rather than a source of agitation.

If you feel that doing class is a chore rather than a joy, or you are pushing yourself to do a vigorous and athletic form of yoga when everything else you do is busy, competitive, adrenalin-fuelled and physical then it's hard to imagine this practice is genuinely stress relief for your body and mind.
This is not to say you shouldn't do this type of practice - only that you may also benefit from including other types of yoga practice such as yin yoga, restorative, iyengar, slow flow or pure meditation and pranayama practice.

Other forms of moving meditation that attune your mind, body and spirit and create a sense of peace that you carry beyond the practice itself and into your daily life include anything outdoors - surfing, walking through parks, beach and gardens, tai chi, swimming and sailing.

Use Good Quality Skincare. Incorporate It Into Your Stress Relief Practices.

I don't mean apply your avocado and coconut face mask and get into a headstand, although I am partial to applying my face mask and...getting into a headstand. Because, why not?

Make skincare part of a routine and ritual that calms and grounds you daily. I always wash my face as soon as I get up - it's my wake up call. I wash off my day when I get home too. If I'm in need of some down-time, I slather on a face mask, crack open a book and sit on my balcony to allow the wind and elements to soothe me. A streaming reggae playlist also helps.

My latest discovery is Bobbi Brown for skincare - as a long time fan of her makeup and Bobbi as an entrepreneur and force of good in the world of beauty, skincare and women in business, I am not surprised (but still thrilled) her skincare is worthy of devotion and dollars too.
Try her Coral Grass & Green Algae Skin Nourish Mask


I'm also big on peels but nothing too harsh because being violent with the skin only inflames the blemishes or ageing signs. Rather, do a weekly at-home glycolic peel.  Try cult beauty brand StriVectin LABS 5-Minute Glycolic Peel.





TRENDING FOR 2017: Fit fashion, Body Piercing, Wellness Cafes, Travel Fit and Eat Superfoods

TRAVEL FIT

There's a big trend towards travelling for fitness and holistic wellbeing experiences. Did it kick off with Eat, Pray, Love? Who knows...but it continues apace and the offerings get more and more intriguing, exciting and sometimes, ridiculous, every year. The beautiful thing is that whether you're travelling with a group of friends, your partner or family or you're a solo traveller, you'll find events, customised itineraries and experiences that appeal to your need for learning, seeing, doing and being all over the world.

Look for the Angkor Empire Full and Half Marathon in August 2017 for a road race around the Angkor temples that has previously attracted between 500 and 1000 participants. There's a Marathon Half Marathon, 10km and 3km Family Run to choose from.

Alongside local offerings including the Canberra Yoga Festival (#Canberrasana !) and Byron Spirit Fest, there is also Wanderlust Festival offering yoga, wellness and lifestyle inspiration all over the world year-round. Try New Zealand in and Oahu, Hawaii in February for a start. See wanderlust.com/festivals The Byron Spirit Festival takes place in March 2017 offering tantra, dance, music and yoga.

Consider travelling to learn as well. Many people do their initial and ongoing Yoga Teacher Training overseas and this gives an excellent perspective on how yoga is a universal language. Perhaps you could do a language or cooking course also.
In Ubud, Bali (my favourite!) you can do Raw Food workshops and courses. You can even do your Raw Chef qualification if you schedule ahead. The school gets rave reviews on social media and Trip Advisor. Check out Raw Food Bali.
Find ways to travel and really immerse yourself in the local culture for the time you're there, whether it's a week or a year.


BODY PIERCING

Multi-ear piercing is still trending. Thanks to the celebrity and fashion editor's favourite body piercer, Maria Tash, the trend continues for chic and neat piercings that sparkle up the ear, in and around it. Her choice of jewellery, as well as her finesse in placing it to best highlight facial features, is highly refined and speaks to the trends of 2017. Spiked rings say "I'm a little bit punk rock" but delicate and in gold, they also say "I'm also a businesswoman, a blogger-author-globetrotting fashionista".
Melbourne's own Sammah Chehade is a piercing guru and has a particular eye for knowing which jewellery size, style and placement on the ear or face will best bring out their features. She advises according to facial structure, hair and skin tone and your style preferences. I have entrusted her with both needle and gun piercings (see my article Can I Work Out After A Piercing? )and she is divinely comforting, calm and radiates joy and passion for her work. She's available for consultations on multiple ear piercings, facial and body piercings. You can reach her via email or on Instagram.


ACTIVE WEAR AND FITNESS FASHION

There is a growing trend in consumers wanting to know the ethical credo of their fashion. This extends to athletic wear and fit fashion. Is it fair trade? Is the cotton sustainably farmed? Are the conditions for manufacturers and workers involved in production overseen and audited by an ethics and fairness body?

Expect, as far as colours and style, to see more wild patterns, bold colours and plenty of green and pink if the Pantone colour predictions for 2017 are a reliable guide (and they are relied upon by fashion and design industry internationally so I'd be buying stocks!)

In that spirit, brands like Onzie that are proudly LA made and owned still float my boat. Their designs, campaigns and ethos are all about loving yoga, loving movement, loving fashion and being a traveller of the world. See their instagram for international ambassadors and global "Take Me There" inspirations.
Canada-originated yoga brand Lululemon ALWAYS brings it's top game to design. Sure, it's not going to attract your budget bargain bin buyer but this is gear that goes the distance and it is designed for performance. It is not just for yoga either - the customer service staff are thoroughly trained so if you go in and talk to them about what you do for training and lifestyle, your preferences around style and colour, you can be pretty sure they'll know exactly where to direct you. They also have a fantastic initiative which is weekly community classes where teachers provide a class at no cost in-store. A great way for teachers to connect with their local community and also for people to trial a class without the commitment of studio or gym fees. Pictured is the new Energy Print bra and leggings. Add to cart.


RAW FOOD, VEGAN DIET, SEAWEED & TURMERIC

The rise of "vegan" as a key Search Engine Optimisation term will continue apace. Cassie Cross from Unique Health Products confirms "Australia's packaged vegan food market is set to grow over $60 million in value to reach $215 million by 2020. In fact, "vegan" is googled more in Australia than anywhere else in the world." Still, I am not vegan and while I think it has a very strong ethical basis, I fear that people are adopting a dietary approach that cuts entire food groups in the misguided belief that cutting entire these is a weight loss method that works longer than a week. The vegan approach to a diet rich in legumes, soy and plant proteins, grains and vegetables will hopefully inspire people in their approach rather than dictate it. While there are many foods which increase in nutritional value when heated (tomatoes, for example), I believe that raw, unprocessed and organic foods have a high "prana" value and this elevates my spirit when I'm preparing, sharing and eating my food. What's that mean, you ask? Prana is the "life force". Think about it. That gorgeous, ripe, organic kiwi fruit and big bowl of raw, organic walnuts are now sitting in front of you because they came from a seed, got rained on, absorbed sunshine and minerals and vitamins from the earth, and they were nurtured into ripeness right up until the moment that you picked them (even if i was out of a box at the market!). They have a story, an energy to them that fuels your body and your soul. As often as possible, try to eat raw, unprocessed foods daily. This might be a handful of almonds, or a bowl of cherries, or a fresh, green salad. As often as possible, grow your own herbs, veggies and fruit and go to local markets and organic grocers. Find a connection with your food.
"Seaweed is predicted to be the next big superfood," explains Cassie Cross. "It's full of vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties."
The Whole Foodies is a locally based provider of good, nourishing foods including oils, nut spreads and a whole range of seaweed based products. Their site is an excellent source of recipes too.Check out The Whole Foodies.
I'm a total kelp noodle addict. Get on board that train STAT!

Turmeric shows no sign of abating as the herb du jour. This is as it should be - it is excellent as an immune booster, makes a sunshine coloured latte, and acts as a powerful flavour for rice, roast vegetables, curries and soups.

If you're at a total loss as to how to prepare meals beyond a poached egg and a pack of noodles, try a cooking school. Many local markets run workshops and on-site cooking schools by chefs and nutritionists now. A google search for "raw food" or "healthy food workshops" in your city should give you an idea of what's happening. You could also consider travelling to do a course overseas.


WELLNESS CENTRES

In Ubud, the divine Yoga Barn (loved by yogis and travellers worldwide) incorporates yoga studios, ayurvedic health practitioners, a restaurant, juice bar, dance space and overnight accommodation options all in the one mega-space. It does so in a beautifully integrated way that doesn't feel like you are trekking between one separate business and the next. This is an entire lifestyle offering in the once place. Just as health practitioners have become savvy and many doctors combine forces within one medical practice, so it will keep serving wellness businesses and individuals to combine forces and create easily accessible places that are holistic in nature. Myotherapy followed by pilates, shopping for  organic coffee and a pair of locally made yoga pants should be all happening under one roof. Will existing stores merge with local wellness practitioners and cafe owners/juice bars to run pop-ups before taking the leap? Let's hope so. I'd love to be able to do a Community Class at Lululemon and then sit around in a dedicated cafe space drinking juice and talking to the local fashionista yogis!



Holiday Gift Guide for Wellness, Fitness and Beauty Addicts

Who doesn't have that last minute panic of What On EARTH Do I Give Jane, Rosie, Steph...etc? Here's the simple, straightforward guide to what's out there that makes a great gift for the wellness oriented pals in your life.

Bobbi Brown Wine & Chocolate Nail & Palettes

It used to be very much that makeup and beauty and supplements were all about what you don't have, what you want to conceal, what you are deeply lacking and need to spend all your hard earned moolah on to ensure you are fulfilled.

In fact, many brands and media still push this idea.

Thankfully, there are some brands out there with a message that is really positive. Sure, they're still selling you things, but there is not that toxic message that you need this because you are inherently lacking and this is the answer.


The latest collection is Wine & Chocolate. Divine, of course! A full range of eyeshadows, lipsticks, blush and to-die-for nail hues in beige, crimson, grape, chocolate and ballet pink. I'm obsessed with nail polish in Chocolate and brightening blush in Pink Truffle.

Onzie Activewear

Made in LA by yoga devotees FOR yoga devotees. I have Onzie leggings and capris that I still wear daily after 5 years and they look exactly as they did when I first wore them. These aren't 3-wears-and-a-wash style activewear that quickly gets consigned to the donation bin. 
There's an all new collection just out for men and women - that's right! Onzie has a men's range and a children's range so you could dress your family, friends and workmates in matching outfits.

My hopes are entirely pinned on those leopard shaper leggings. A burgundy open back hoodie? I wouldn't say no, Santa.

philosophy Fragrance

Every year, philosophy releases limited edition Christmas bath and body goodies which are beautiful to look at and divine to smell. The tried and true longstanding favourite of mine and many others is amazing grace. The box features the philosophy behind the name and the fragrance and on opening, there's a little message: "believe in miracles".
I love being reminded of this each time I go to spritz it on and I do think to myself - be amazingly graceful!



House of Matcha tea

What an awesome discovery THIS has been! House of Matcha does high-grade matcha green tea. It is neon, kryponite coloured and the special set comes with a whisk, bowl and an easy-to-follow set of instructions for preparing your matcha. The preparation is key.
The limited edition gift set is the perfect present for the dedicated matcha lover or your friend, mother, daughter, husband who is all about wellness but hasn't discovered the deep joy of matcha green tea powder. I drink it as a tea and also use the powder as a seasoning for fish and vegetable dishes. I've also seen it used to flavour smoothies and chia seed pudding. Get creative! As they say, "800 years of Japanese practice and perfection" is pretty reliable.


Fresh Fit Food: Which Meal Delivery Services I Recommend


I know how to cook, prepare and serve delicious, nutritious meals.
I can also talk macronutrients, energy, allergies, vitamins and minerals.
In short, I'm not in the dark when it comes to food and how to look after myself. There are other reasons for using a meal delivery service.

Good Reasons To Use Meal Delivery:

  • Being caught up in a hectic, unpredictable time where shopping, planning meals and feeding yourself and your family or housemates just isn't possible (ie. new job, illness in the family)
  • Experiencing injury or illness that can sap you of energy and the physical ability to get out and about to shop and then to do the preparations also.
  • Feeling caught in a rut and eating the same meals over and over again
  • Struggling to find inspiration for new ideas at meal times and wanting a kick in the butt
  • Curiosity
Why I Use Meal Delivery

I am guilty of being caught in eating the same meals all the time because it's easy. I know exactly what I need to buy in advance, I know how long it takes me to prepare and I know I like it. Only, I get so bored and if I'm bored, so is my body! Variety - just as in the classes you do, the friends you have, the places you go - is fuel for the soul. The body also benefits in every way from a variety of flavours, nutrients and just the mental effect of discovering something different and inspiring.

Which Meal Delivery Service To Use

There's already some really great services that deliver around Australia, and there are new ones popping up every week. This is both fabulous and also overwhelming if you're not sure where to start or you've had a bad experience. 
I've used the following and I highly recommend them. None of them require contracts or an ongoing relationship. You can order a one-time-only delivery and never do so again if you want!




This is for the person too busy to shop but not completely inept in the kitchen. This is for people who enjoy the preparation factor, but don't want to walk through supermarket aisles for the sake of a few meals. The box arrived for me on Tuesday morning (delivered silently in the very early hours of morning!) and had each meal packaged in a separate large paper bag.

In the box, recipe cards that described the preparation of each meal including cooking and prep time. I was provided herbs, flavourings, raw ingredients and ultimately, I had to cook and prepare. The great thing about this is that I felt like I had control over the level of flavouring I could add, and I could be a little creative as far as presentation and making any little adjustments like changing the choice of herbs or adding different vegetables.

I heartily recommend the chicken and fish meals as well as the superb Superfoods Veggie Bowl. I did add extra protein to this one but if you didn't, it's ideal for vegans and vegetarians.

Marley Spoon




Kate Save is a clinical dietitian with a true passion for food and it shows in the delicious menu options she offers. She designs meals with a real focus on balanced amounts of protein, carbs, vitamins and micronutrients to ensure hormonal balance, weight control and VERY importantly, flavour. From frittata to curries, chunky soups, chia pods, protein ball snacks through to vegetarian friendly tofu dinners, there is no skimping on quality and yumminess.

Kate has worked with eating disorders, obesity, diabetes, juveniles and adults in her clinical role of dietitian and it was this, combined with her genuine love for preparing healthful, flavourful foods, that acted as the catalyst to start her own business. She has raised her children on these same meals and it is imperative to her that they are well fed, nourished and loved. This comes across in the food that arrives on my doorstep. It is full of flavour, perfectly balanced for a fit and weight-conscious individual, and also full of love and soul. There is nothing dry and boring about Kate's meals and even though they are perfectly measured as far as macronutrients (safe for anyone looking to lose or maintain weight), there is nothing boring about Kate's menu.

You can put in an order as late as Sunday evening and be assured of delivery the following Tuesday - everything is prepared and delivered fresh and clearly labelled.

I totally recommend the chia puddings - in fact, I'd put in an order for these alone! - and the frittata with kale and chickpeas. Delicious. Definitely don't skip the Berry Bliss Chia Pudding and the Blueberry with Chia Seeds.
I also loved the South American Chilli Beef And Beans for lunch on the go.

Be Fit Food


My Muscle Chef was the very first meal delivery service I tried and it is not at all what I feared it might be: tiny portions of NASA-grade food for body sculptors who subsist on a couple of almonds and a lettuce leaf. THANKFULLY these are divinely tasty and the fact they are energy-controlled and designed with the ideal ratio of protein to carbs is an afterthought once you dig the fork in. The meals range from vegetarian through to kangaroo, fish, chicken and beef.
I'm a big fan of the kangaroo with brown rice. It's so easy to overcook and dry out kangaroo meat but this is perfectly prepared and delivered for maximum flavour and texture. I admit, the meals are not nearly as big as I need for dinner. As a lunch option, perfectly portioned. I add nuts, extra rice and loads of vegetables to the dinner portion and occasionally, extra protein depending on my appetite. They deliver weekly to Melbourne and Sydney.

My Muscle Chef

Other delivery services I recommend trying include Aussie Farmers Direct, Woolworths Online and Nourished Life for supplements and healthy meal preparation tools.