Author: Colette


Posted by on May 4, 2020 in Self-Care
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Inspiration during lockdown - Inspiration alysha-rosly-2I3zN5tve4Q-unsplash

This month I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve found inspiring and helpful during these challenging times.


I have been loving the online classes of my co-founder of Nature and Nourish, Ellie Denman – click here for details.


Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery by my yoga mentor Lisa Sanfilipo. Senior yoga teacher, trainer and transpersonal therapist, her book is aimed at teachers but has many practical solutions to aid with sleep recovery much needed in anxious times. Published by Singing Dragon. Available from Amazon.

Movement – ZUMBA

My teacher has kindly set up a closed group for her regulars but I highly recommend seeking out some of this up-tempo fun online and joining a class. The best bit is I can sing-along and no-one can hear, thank God!

Video – The Blue Dot

A beautiful three-minute video that puts things in perspective:


Posted by on May 4, 2020 in Ayurveda, Self-Care
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Wellbeing and Ayurveda for Anxiety and Depression-ben-garratt-mNEgPTHFP48-unsplash

The worldwide circumstances in which we find ourselves are creating, for many, anxiety about our futures and a need for resilience to help us get through the day. Whilst things may seem out of control, connecting back to self-care rituals and routines can help restore a sense of autonomy and build physical and mental resilience, as we navigate this sea of change. Painful or uncomfortable experiences challenge us to seek the tools that can help us come back to our personal balance. Once adopted, they may lead us to emerge from this collective crisis, healthier and more attuned to our real needs.

The Ayurvedic approach to mental wellness does not disassociate the mental from the physical. A healthy mind and body in the Ayurvedic sense is not merely the absence of illness or unbalance but the promotion of balance and happiness, so you can thrive rather than just ‘not be ill’.

Ayurveda looks to the senses, body, mind, intellect and soul to guide us back to balance. Our senses are our gateway to integrating successfully with the world around us. However, they can also be our undoing, we can become overwhelmed say, by the news coming from our screens. This leads to the mind becoming unsettled, an increased heart rate leading to tiredness and then lethargy, leaving more time for the mind to overthink and so our minds take us round the anxiety ‘not’ so merry-go-round!

Calming this great tool of the mind is not always easy when anxiety and depression strike. Ayurveda looks to access the mind via the body using the five traditional approaches. Ama or toxins in the body can lead to dis(ease) as can the mental ama of thoughts and worries. In both cases these need to removed at the same time as strengthening mind and body. Below are some suggestions adapted from Ayurvedic principles and following my three-step approach to wellness. It is important not to fuel the sense of overwhelm that many of us are feeling so take a softly, softly approach trying one or two things, assessing their effects before continuing or changing. The ritual of consistency is key in keeping the mind occupied but not overwhelmed.

The 3-Step Approach

  1. Prioritise You. Committing to even five minutes in a day that is ‘you’ time begins to put you, not your mind, back in control.
  2. Awareness. Ask yourself the question ‘How do I really feel?’ Allow the answer to come up without judgement, no feeling is off limits.
  3. Choose Your Tool. The answer to step two will lead you to choose which tool might be best for you now, to bring you closer to balance and indirectly quieten an overactive mind.

Some Suggestions from Ayurveda To Ease Anxiety and Depression


Hot ginger and lemon tea with a teaspoon full of Chyawanprash (herb and spice jam). This is said to detox and flush the body and nourish the nervous system.  It is suggested to avoid the nightshade family, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, etc, as they can aggravate the nervous system, depleting energy.


Ashwaganda is said to be restorative and rejuvenating. In Sanskrit ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb has the potential to impart the vigour and strength of a stallion. Traditionally prescribed as a nerve tonic and adaptogen — an agent which helps the body adapt to various emotional and physical stressors.

Manual therapies

Touch therapy is very effective with nervous disorders, self-massage helps you reconnect with your own body. Try gentle abdominal massage with Brahmi oil at least 11 times anti-clockwise to detoxify and 11 times clockwise to nourish. Taking enough time is important to move down through the layers of the body from the surface of the skin.


Will help access the mind via the body through breath and movement. Stretching muscles releases tension and signals the afferent or sensory nerves to the let the brain know to relax. Ayurveda recommends doing yoga with a teacher or with others to combat mental imbalance, try a Zoom class during these times. Focus on repetitive, flowing movements to give the mind ‘a what’s next?’ focus. Moving the body will help to control an agitated mind. Find postures that build physical strength, listen to your body and build up over time, nudging your boundaries to strengthen resilience. If working on your own and not familiar with the practice, avoid pranayama per se, as the connection to breath in this way can sometimes increase anxiety.


An Ayurvedic recommendation is — never eat or drink alcohol alone! Both can aggravate an overactive mind or exacerbate depression. In these days of lockdown, my tutor recommends arranging with a friend to eat at the same time every day and to connect on Facetime or another digital platform. This fosters a sense of connection and a feeling that you are cared for. If this is not possible, then listening to music can bring calmness. Eating at the table is preferable, rather than in front of the TV with its endless dramas; these cause high emotions and thus the inability to digest food or thoughts, creating ama/toxins for the body and mind.

In general, try to keep to a routine throughout the week, go outside and connect with friends or family daily. Hand write in a journal to ‘brain dump’ any mental ama (undigested thoughts, emotions, worries). Hand-writing helps slow the mind and sometimes lends perspective to repetitive, unsettling thoughts. This is not for anyone but you, so does not need to be perfect or even read over, the idea is to release the mind from carrying the thoughts.

EXPERTISE FROM A SELF-CARE SPECIALIST – Samantha Irving, Aromatherapist

Posted by on May 4, 2020 in Self-Care
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Image for self care expert Samantha Irving

I Sense Spring

By far my favourite time of the year, spring brings with it a sense of joy, of wonderment and hope, freshness, warmth and light. We start to feel a little more energized as we begin to emerge from the (often long!) dark depths of winter and shake off the sluggishness that often comes from being cooped up indoors eating heavier foods and enveloping our bodies in central heating.

Spring is a clearing transition and in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it’s ruled by the organs liver and gallbladder, which are the main organs needed for cleansing and processing toxins. It’s no wonder then that we feel the urge to detox and eat lighter, healthier foods. As with foods, our other senses start to change and slowly transition into spring-mode.

Winter scents such as spiced orange, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger start to smell heavier and out of place as our bodies naturally crave lighter fresher fragrances. Now that’s not to say that they weren’t needed over winter; these warming, spicy and heavy scents were the perfect blend for aiding our cocoon-like feeling but now, in a time of spring cleaning and new beginnings, we crave something that brings our bodies and minds back to life.

My spring scent staples are citrus, floral and herby and quite often a blend of all three. Think light fun, fresh scents like mandarin, lemon and bergamot, delicate florals of geranium, chamomile and lavender and zingy herbs such as basil, peppermint and rosemary. I also love to use woody essential oils too like cedarwood atlas and sandalwood and these can be beautifully blended with the likes of grapefruit, bergamot and sweet orange to create a more refreshing, less heady blend.

If you’re going to start your spring clean soon why not add a few drops of peppermint and grapefruit essential oil to your diffuser and see how the mood of the room just lifts? Not only will it change the atmosphere of the room but it’ll also make you feel more alert and focused on the job in hand!

You can make wonderful bath and massage blends by adding a couple of drops of essential oil to a carrier oil such as organic sunflower or sweet almond oil (2-3 drops in a 10ml dilution of oil) My go-to blend at the moment is bergamot, chamomile roman and sandalwood. It’s deeply relaxing but also has a gorgeous uplifting quality to it. It’s also perfect if your body isn’t quite out of the winter hibernation mode yet as it very gently eases you in.

We all have our signature smells that we love and some of us will, for example, stick with the citrus and avoid herbs and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. What I would suggest though is try a blend and see what you think; you might well be pleasantly surprised. I outright detested basil essential oil when I first smelt it but blended with eucalyptus, black pepper and lemongrass gave it a whole new dimension and it’s a blend I adore. Have fun mixing things up or simply sticking with that one beautiful scent that brings you joy.

Welcome to spring, it seems like the scent possibilities are blooming at your fingertips!

Sam is a holistic therapist based in Beaconsfield, Bucks. She’s a qualified reflexologist, massage therapist and reiki practitioner as well as an aromatherapist. You can find her therapies at


Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Ayurveda, Self-Care
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Dosha for the season - Senses sharon-mccutcheon

Our five senses are the gateways to the outside world. They are the primary data source for helping our body and mind to know how to react to the world around us. Therefore, Ayurveda believes they should be maintained if we are not to be fed the sensory equivalent of ‘fake news’. Sharper and clearer senses, it is said, help us derive more presence, clarity and ultimately more pleasure from life.

Kripalu Yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner Sarajean Rudman says that when we cleanse and care for our senses on a daily basis, we also reduce stress, boost our immunity, and experience greater overall well-being.  All key to thriving when we come under attack from threatening viruses or high-tech living.

Ayurveda categorises the five senses in relation to the five-element principle of all living and non-living things of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. A combination of the elements forms the three doshas which are connected to each of the five senses, their actions and the parts of the body that allow for those actions.


Space is the medium through which sound travels. One hears sound through the ears and hearing allows for speech. Therefore, the sense of sound is connected to ears, tongue, vocal cords and the mouth.

Air is something you can feel, so is related to touch. The sensory organ is the skin, the organ of action the hand, which allows for holding.


Fire is seen as light, heat and provides colour so it’s connected to the sense of sight. As seeing governs walking, the organ of action is the foot and walking is the sensory action.


Water is needed by the tongue to taste (notice how when you have a dry mouth it’s hard to really taste). The organs for this sense are both the upper tongue (mouth) and the lower tongue (urethra), through which is emitted reproductive fluid and urine, so the sense action is procreation.

Earth is related to smell, which is consumed through the nose, it is said, ‘as the scents of creation’. To balance the intake of consumption the body must also excrete. This is done via the rectum which with the nose are the smell sense organs and excretion is the smell sense action.


Ayurveda has a wonderful toolbox of self-care techniques for caring for our main sense organs.

  • Eye Care: A Cool Water or Rosewater Spritz – as a seat of Pitta dosha (fire) the eyes have a tendency for inflammation especially if they do a lot of screen time.
  • Tongue Care: Scrape Your Tongue – The tongue expresses the waste products of the body. In Ayurveda this is known as ‘ama’ (subtle toxic residue), a white film that accumulates overnight on your tongue.
  • Ear Care: Oil Your Ears – Applying a few drops of oil into the ears can lubricate any accumulated wax which could be blocking hearing.
  • Nose Care: Neti wash – Use of a Neti pot with body-temperature water and un-caked salt can help clear nasal passages, elevating the sense of smell.
  • Skin Care: Ayurvedic Oil Massage – Self-massage, with the best oils to balance your doshic imbalance, is a daily indulgence that reaps rewards.

To find out more about some of these basic Ayurvedic self-care practices, come along to one of my workshops. For how the senses affect your meditation practice read the piece by guest writer Helena, in this issue.

Research – thanks to


Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Yoga Practices
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When people think of yoga this is the pose they most often associate with the practice. The Sanskrit name of Sukhasana is derived from ‘Sukha’ meaning ‘pleasure’ or ‘comfort’ and ‘asana’ meaning ‘posture’ or ‘seat’. Having a comfortable seat is the basis for meditation and other calming practices. Sitting in easy pose and gently lowering the eyelids prepares the body and mind, to move from a busy active state, to one more ready for contemplation and going inwards and away from the outside world.

It is a basic pose suitable for all levels but to obtain real comfort in a body used to sitting on chairs for most of its existence, finding comfort can be a challenge. Focus on keeping the spine long, chin parallel to the floor, knees wide without straining, and sitting bones grounded.

Tips for Sitting Cross-legged with Ease

  • Support your hips by sitting up on the edge of folded blankets or blocks. Once seated, widen the knees to allow more space for the hips. Feel the sitting bones connecting with the floor.
  • Relieve knee pain by adding rolled up socks or small towels and place them behind the backs of the knees before crossing the shins. Alternatively support your outer shins with blankets.
  • For lower back discomfort try sitting with your back against a wall supported by a cushion.
  • For very tight hips and when sitting for extended periods, support the knees by placing rolled up blankets or small bolsters below each knee.
  • Relax tight shoulders by taking an over-head stretch. Interlace the fingers and as you breathe out stretch the arms over head. Repeat a few times to release neck and shoulder tension.

Easy Pose Step by Step

  1. Sukasana posePlace your block or blanket in position, sit close to the edge and allow the pelvis to settle in neutral, legs out straight.
  2. Draw one knee in towards the body and allow the knee to fold out to the side, sole of the foot facing towards the opposite leg.
  3. Draw second knee into the body, allow the knee to fall out and cross over the opposite leg at shin level.
  4. Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. You’ll know you have the basic leg fold of Sukhasana when you look down and see a triangle, its three sides formed by the two thighs and the crossed shins. Don’t confuse this position with that of other classic seated postures in which the ankles are tucked in close to the sitting bones. In Sukhasana, there should be a comfortable gap between the feet and the pelvis.
  5. Find a neutral pelvis by pressing your hands against the floor, lift sitting bones slightly and as you hang make your thigh bones heavy, then slowly lower your sitting bones lightly back to the support.
  6. Find a comfortable position for your hands, lengthen tail bone toward the floor, keep a long spine but don’t over arch your back or allow your ribs to poke forward.
  7. Remember to reverse the cross of the legs after a period, to even out the body.

As with all yoga practices is best to take instruction with a qualified teacher and consult your doctor first, before undertaking exercise, if you have any health issues.


Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Self-Care, Yoga Practices
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Helena Chalverus, Yoga Teacher

Helena Chalverus

Does meditation make sense? Most of you have heard or perhaps even repeated some of these catch phrases that seem to have ascended to the realm of blind truths, like “Be in the Moment”, “Live in the Present”, “Be Here…Now”. Being the non-illuminated soul that I am… what do these expressions really mean to me and how do I practise them? How does meditation help me? Can I still live my normal life, fulfil my responsibilities, dreams and needs if I am just “being”? There is a lot more to this than one might imagine, so today I am going to introduce a simple exercise and inquiry that can open the conversation with ourselves.

My inquiry proposal is to ask ourselves what distracts us. What is your definition of a distraction? When you sit to relax or meditate and a fly is buzzing around you, do you consider the fly a distraction? What if the fly exists to teach you not to become distracted? If the fly is not the distraction, what is?

Take time to sit with these questions, without the need for an answer. Just see what comes up, before going on.

Now take that curiosity into the meditation. Our five senses will be the tools we use to observe our attention, which is our main power source.

When we sit to meditate, we are processing the information coming from our senses, and we are processing the information coming from our thoughts. When you take your attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations in your body, you are connected to the world around you and inside of you. You are here in the present moment, being. The loud banging of a door, the cries of a child, the heat or cold are all helping you stay here…they are NOT the distraction. The moment your mind begins to describe, analyse, or create a story about these, your attention takes you away from the reality and to the place of the mind and your thoughts. In this place you are disconnected from others, your surroundings and from feeling your body’s sensations. In other words, you are not here, you are not present, you are not being. You are distracted.

The work is in observing where you place your attention. When you see your attention directed towards the story, gently return to the five senses. It may take a long time, and the story may have many chapters, when you realise that your attention was there so long. Don’t worry, be happy that you noticed and bring the attention back to your five senses. I always visualise this process like teaching a dog to heel (walk by your side). The dog strays and you gently pull it back to your side. After a certain amount of time this straying occurs less and for shorter periods. Our mind strays and at first it can take a long time to notice, but after practice we catch it sooner and bring it back to the moment for longer periods of time.

After a time, you will begin to notice how wrapped up in the story you become in your everyday life, with family, work etc. Once you can use your attention to come back to reality and let go of the stories that are distracting you, you are truly freeing yourself from what I like to call my “inner politician”, who loves to create problems where there wasn’t one, in order to feel needed by solving it! We’ll save that for another day.

Enjoy observing your distractions and enjoy the reality with all of its clever ways to reminds us to be here…now.

Smart Works

Posted by on Jan 27, 2020 in Events, Self-Care
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smart works
Smart works me On the panelMy co-founder of Nature and Nourish, Ellie Denman and myself were invited by the charity Smart Works Reading, to take part in their recent wellness day. It was a privilege to speak on the panel alongside other wellness experts.

We met so many great people and discussed how important self-care is, not just for us as individuals but also how it impacts our relationships to others and the world around us. The event was held at a beautiful Thames-side location of The Swan at Streatley.

Over the coming months I hope to bring you more details from some of the wellness experts I met there.

EXPERTISE FROM A SELF-CARE SPECIALIST – Tarik Dervish, Ayurvedic Practioner

Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in Ayurveda, Self-Care
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Tarik Dervish, Ayurvedic Practioner

Tarik Dervish


The older we get, the more we are set in our ways and tend to stick with what we know works until, well, it stops working. This stark truth then brings us to the realisation that we are less able to adapt to change because we are older. Have your heard yourself starting to say: ‘I’m too old to change?’

It is much better to build change into the way we live so that we are regularly assessing what is working and what is no longer relevant. I try to cull 20-30 books from my shelves every year and only keep books that are alive with information I value. Even information can go stale.


They say it is easier to change someone’s religion than their diet. We like what we like and that’s that. The older we get, we are less willing to try new things. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this per se because it takes a long time to get to know yourself and your preferences tend to settle down. The danger is when we settle for comforting tastes like sweet, sour and salty. It is important to make sure that there is always a little bit of all six tastes in our food. The other three are pungent (spicy) bitter and astringent. We also tend to forget that variety also comes in textures. Food should be smooth and a little rough (remember the word roughage?) soft and a little hard, oily and a little dry. It keeps our digestive system on its toes as well as our teeth and gums.

Exercise and Rest

In the west, we tend to get excited about new ways of moving. Every few years, there’s a new craze that gets people to sign up to classes. When I was a child, Jane Fonda’s exercise video was all the rage. Now it is Zumba, Spinning and obviously Yoga. We need to move more for sure and if Zumba inspires you to move, then all the better though I’d obviously recommend yoga first.

Do we vary the way we practice yoga? Summer yoga should be different than winter yoga because the elements are changing. If you don’t adapt your yoga, is it still your servant or have you become a servant to it?

The quality of our rest is just as important. Rest is not just crashing in front of a TV. Too much junk leaves you mentally and emotionally agitated. Try making notes on how you feel after an episode of Eastenders. High adrenaline activity should be moderated.

Yoga promotes deep rest through Savasana (corpse pose) guided relaxations, yoga nidra and many other techniques. Do we make enough time for rest?


We are all children of light and our essence is made up of love, light and energy. Ayurveda cherishes us like our own mothers. She wants us to be full of essence because they bring joy. Running on empty in life is no fun. Our immunity is constantly on high alert and we are always tired and unmotivated. Ayurveda spends a lot of time talking about herbs, diet and activities that promote our essences so that we can be strong for our families, communities and be good guardians for the world we inhabit.


Find something to be happy and optimistic about. It may sound a bit glib, especially in such difficult times but trust me when I say that there is power in it. Optimism should not lead to blind acceptance of neglect or injustice. Quite the opposite. It empowers you further to act against those things. Apathy is our enemy. Clarity and vision keep our minds fresh and instrumental in building a better future.

Tarik Dervish is the current Modules Officer for the BWY. He is an experienced DCT and Ayurvedic practitioner. He specialises in running courses in Ayurveda for yoga practitioners and will be co-launching the first Ayurveda Online Module next year.

Please visit for more information.

Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall – a Tonic for the Vagus Nerve

Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in Yoga Practices
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This asana has profound effects and is easy to set up and do almost anywhere. By reversing the flow of gravity, Legs Up the Wall relaxes, renews, and rejuvenates the nervous system, toning the vagus nerve. It calms the mind, relieves anxiety and headaches, brings serenity and peace, and heightens self-awareness. Ancient yoga texts even claim that the pose will destroy old age!

How to do Viparita Karani

  • Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose-Viparita-KaraniFind an uncluttered wall and move any furniture out of the way.
  • Set up a folded blanket or cushion about three feet from the wall – this is for your head.
  • Sit on the floor with one shoulder near the wall, thighs parallel to the wall. Roll back, swinging your legs up the wall.
  • Rest your head on the blanket. If this is not in the right place gently lift the hand and move the blanket to a position that supports the natural neck curve and head.
  • Ensure your tail bone and buttocks are not lifting and your lower back is not rounded. If this is happening move away from the wall so that your lower back is supported by the floor.
  • Make sure your chin is slightly lower than your forehead but do not flatten your neck, keep the natural curve.
  • Keep legs straight up but relaxed. For those with any lower back issues, knees bent and feet on the wall is often more comfortable.
  • Place arms by the sides with palms facing up in a gesture of receptivity.
  • Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths. Stay from 5-30 minutes until you feel the need to come out.
  • To come out, bend the knees to the chest and roll gently to one side before coming up. Bring the head as the last part to come upright.


  • Hypertension
  • Hernia
  • Sciatica
  • More than three months pregnant or risk of miscarriage

As with all yoga practices it is best to take instruction with a qualified teacher and consult your doctor first before undertaking exercise if you have any health issues.

Kapha Season Balancing – Enlist the Help of Your Second Brain

Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in Ayurveda, Self-Care
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Kapha dosha is made of water and earth and characteristics include darkness, stillness, cold and damp, in other words our winter! Whilst it is necessary to have a season where things are given time to incubate, a Kapha imbalance can lead to feelings of heaviness, apathy, dullness and even depression. A golden rule of Ayurveda is that like increases like, so whilst it’s tempting to go for foods that are sweet like the water element or heavy like the earth element, they will only increase the Kapha dosha imbalance.

The first step in addressing this is becoming more aware of the messages that the body is giving us to alert us to this imbalance. Listening to our second brain, otherwise known as the digestive system, can tell us a lot. The gut is home to not just the microbiome but also the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is a complex system of about 100 million nerves found in the gut lining. This “second brain,” arises from the same tissues as our central nervous system (CNS) during foetal development. Therefore, it has many structural and chemical parallels to the brain. Via neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and electrical impulses, both of our brains communicate back and forth about the state of the body and mind.

The information super-highway of this brain/body axis is the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body. vagus translates from the Latin as ‘wandering’ and this nerve certainly does. Originating in the Medulla Oblongata in the brain, it makes it way down the neck towards the ear and the heart then back up the neck to connect with the oesophagus and palate and then finally back down the torso to the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and the whole length of the digestive tract amongst other organs, creating nerve hubs or centres such as the solar plexus, as it journeys.

A truly remarkable communication system with 90% of impulses being communicated from the gut to the brain. The vagus nerve gives you that ‘gut instinct’, or ‘knot in your throat/stomach’ and is the connection to your sensations and emotions. The management and processing of our emotions happens via the vagus nerve between the heart, brain and gut, which is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states. So, if Kapha imbalance starts to take you low, information from the vagus nerve, or your ‘gut instinct’, can lead you to make choices that will better support you.

This is a very Ayurvedic approach, listening to what the body wants rather than using the mind to try to work out which foods or activities are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. By taking this awareness approach we begin to trust our intuition to lead us to what is best for our constitution at any time. We begin by asking ‘what would make me feel good, better, easier, more relieved, in this situation?

Activation of the vagus nerve keeps your immune system in check and releases an assortment of hormones and enzymes, reducing inflammation, improving memory, and feelings of relaxation, via the parasympathetic nervous system.

Therefore, the tone or health of the vagus nerve, just like keeping muscle tone, is important for your overall wellbeing. Stimulating the vagus nerve to increase its tone will help you tune in more accurately to your ‘gut instinct’ and help you to choose foods and activities likely to balance any kapha imbalance. All yoga, but particularly Restorative Yoga with its emphasis on triggering the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, is a great addition to your wellbeing routines during winter. See the ‘Yoga in Focus’ section for ways to stimulate your info super-highway, the vagus nerve.