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Green+Aquamarine: April 2016

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Yoga Brands that Give Back

Like many of you, I have a constant and ever-growing wishlist of leggings and fitness gear -especially yoga -that I have my eye on. But I always feel concerned, indeed, guilty, over the effect that my legging obsession may be having on the wider world. Can I really justify a purchase if I know that it has likely been made by under paid workers, in factories that churn out harmful dyes and take in large amounts of energy? Since I'm already willing to invest a bit more of my student budget on fitness gear than my peers, it seems like I can hardly use price as an excuse as I sometimes do for other products. Luckily for me, yoga has one of the best choice for eco-friendly and ethical clothing of almost any fitness brand. It suits the compassionate, ahimsa nature of yoga philosophy and me. To help you get started, I've shared some of my top picks, with a little background behind each of the brands.

Yoga that Gives Back

1. Bamboo vest top, Braintree, £22. Braintree creates clothing designed to have a minimum ecological footprint, throughout the whole process of designing, making and delivery, with clothes designed to last.
2. Prana bra, Dharma Bums, £34.95. Dharma Bums -a favourite of mine -uses low-impact fabrics and  processes, as well as working with family-based and small-scale suppliers.
3. Hot yoga shorts, Dharma Bums, £29.95
4. Alfredo leggings, Choclo Project, approx. £61.00. The Choclo project directly works with Peruvian orphanages to improve the lives of young children. My favourite touch is that the prints are inspired by drawings from some of the children!
5. Paraqeet leggings, No Balls, £59.00. Bamboo is used almost exclusively in No Balls products, making the products pretty low impact, as well as skin friendly.
6. Tarot Magic leggings, £49.95, Teeki. 25 plastic bottles go into making each pair of leggings by Teeki. Go to Teeki for an array of bold prints made in waste-free dying methods.
7. Moroccan Coral leggings, Inner Fire, £57.00. Like Teeki, Inner Fire use plastic bottles (BPA free) in making their ultra-pretty leggings. 10% of profits go into The School Fund, and Leah, the founder, claims to have coined the phrase "just here for the shavasana". Sound stuff.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Manuka Immunity-Boosting Smoothie

It is kind of funny how the second a bit of sunny weather and slightly raised temperatures can result in almost epidemic levels of bare legs and summer clothes, even when there is still a biting wind. It's not that warm guys! Still, it is lovely to feel the sun on your back and see all the spring flowers blooming and these seasonal changes definitely make me want to eat more smoothies and fresh fruit. So when Holland and Barrett* offered to send me some manuka honey to use in their immunity-boosting smoothie recipe, I was delighted to have a go.

Manuka honey comes from New Zealand and is monofloral, as it is made from the nectar of the Manuka Tree flowers. So what makes manuka honey so much better than other honeys, and worth the price tag? It is all to do with the antibacterial properties of the honey. Due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide in honey (don't worry; it is nowhere near potent enough to do you any harm!) and other compounds, all honey is antibacterial to a degree. But what makes manuka honey special, it that it has several other compounds, including methylglyoxal (MG), which is formed from another compound that is found in high concentrations in the manuka flowers. The concentration of MG in manuka honey relates to a rating called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) that you will see on the bottles of manuka honey. If you have been feeling run down, are unwell or have a nasty blemish, this is the best time to utilise your manuka honey. For sweetening healthy treats or general usage, I'd suggest utilising a more standard honey (ideally local, especially if you have hay fever) to make your manuka honey last longer. Just make sure it is from a brand or company that supports the preservation of bees.

Immunity-Boosting Smoothie - makes one large glass
  • 1 medium carrot, washed
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1 tbsp manuka honey (try this*)
  • 1 cm slice ginger
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • Ice
To make, simply blend all the ingredients together until smooth and drink straight away.

Have you tried manuka honey before and did you think it was worth it? Let me know if you have any other favourite new smoothie or manuka recipes!

*Donotes PR sample. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I will only positively feature or recommend products that I would use myself.


Friday, 22 April 2016

Learn to Fall in Love with Yoga (Again)

Are you the kind of person to fall head-over-heels in love with a new class, hobby or TV series (Netflix bingers, I'm looking at you!) only to quickly get bored? Or maybe you have just simply pushed yourself too hard into something new and have run smack into a mental -or physical - barrier. If this is you and yoga, read on. In this month's Om Yoga Magazine, Phoenix Fenegan addressed the key issues that many yogi's come up against, and how to effectively manoeuvre around them to reconnect with your practice again.

Not enjoying yoga anymore? Try these tips to revitalise your practice. Via @eleanormayc

Over-enthusiasm's consequences
Whilst being passionate is a fantastic thing, it can push you too hard and too fast before you are ready. Overcommitting yourself to several challenging, expensive yoga classes week in, week out is a sure-fire way to create a burnout. On top of this, creating unrealistic expectations for your progress in new asanas, flexibility or weight loss will only frustrate you and disconnect you from the yoga that you love.

Yoga is too difficult
Similar to setting hard goals, expecting yourself to be a master of yoga because you "should" brings you down in just the same way comparison does. Phoenix describes 'should' as "a regular mental beating" that builds rock hard barriers that lead to "I'll never" that can spoil your practice.

Yoga has got in my head!
Few people enter in to yoga with any expectations other than that of another fitness class. So when mental and emotional change occurs as well as physical, it can be a shock. Although usually the greater clarity of thoughts and calmness is a good thing, emotional release can be less expected or wanted. Think of how emotions are thought to be locked up within the hips, or vulnerability in opening the heart. Experiencing these emotional "surges" for the first time can be an unnerving sensation. Speak to your teacher if you have any concerns.

Not enjoying yoga anymore? Try these tips to revitalise your practice. Via @eleanormayc

When the going gets tough, think about why you started! This will help bolster your enthusiasm. However, this time, manage it by not overcommitting yourself, or expecting too much. Look at your yoga practice for enjoyment, nothing more initially. Build in physical goals if you wish, but be flexible and relaxed about these. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings and know that it is okay to suddenly feel sad, or excited for no apparent reason!

Sometimes, to fall back in love with yoga, you simply need to drop demands or expectations, and just lose yourself in the practice.

Disclaimer: I am an Affiliated Blogger with Om Yoga Magazine. Each issue I will write a post on an article from the magazine and share it with you. Have a look here to find about the other lovely affiliated bloggers. All photos in this post taken from the Om Yoga magazine. 

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Dessert Cups, Three Ways

I don't know about you, but I have a serious thing for peanut butter cups going on. However, they can be a little bit questionable in terms of health and quality... not that the odd indulgence is a bad thing at all! Still, for adding a little extra goodness to your day, these are an indulgent must. I used Pip and Nut's cashew, cinnamon and honey butter for my nut butter cups and oh my -if you have a pot, donate a little to making these and thank me later! As for the rest of these, get experimenting and testing. I've used standard sized cupcake cases, but if you have a set of mini cases then go for it and make a batch of bite-sized pieces.

Want to try peanut butter cups and a few variations? I have three healthy recipes for you! Try nut butter cups, tahini or goji berries. Via @eleanormayc

For the chocolate -makes enough for approximately six cups

  • 90g cacao butter (1/2 cup)
  • 60g cacao powder (1/2 cup)
  • 60g sweetener -I use honey
  • 100g coconut oil (1/2 cup)
  • 60g cacao powder (1/2 cup)
  • 60g sweetener (3 tbsp)
For the fillings (choose one, or go half and half to try two different flavours!)
  • 6 tbsp nut butter, sea salt
  • 50g goji berries, sweetener, sea salt
  • 2 tbsp cacao butter/coconut oil; 4 tbsp tahini; 2 tbsp sweetener; sea salt
Want to try peanut butter cups and a few variations? I have three healthy recipes for you! Try nut butter cups, tahini or goji berries. Via @eleanormayc

First up, make the raw chocolate. Line a cupcake tin cake cases. Pop the cacao butter or coconut oil in a bowl over a saucepan of simmer water until melted. Whisk in the cacao and sweetener until smooth and glossy, and pour two tablespoons of the melted chocolate into each cake case. This should leave half the mixture left for the topping. If you're making the tahini cups you should be able to make at least 9 cups as there is no top chocolate layer. Pop into the freezer to set for 40 minutes to an hour.

Want to try peanut butter cups and a few variations? I have three healthy recipes for you! Try nut butter cups, tahini or goji berries. Via @eleanormayc

Meanwhile, make your fillings. There's no prep required for the nut butters, so just do your best not to demolish the jar whilst you're waiting. For the goji berries, tip into a bowl with a tablespoon of sweetener and pour over enough hot water to cover the berries and allow to rehydrate. Add a squeeze of lemon for an extra bit of tanginess. Just before you take the chocolate out of the freezer, drain and blend up the goji berries.

For the tahini, make in the same way you did the chocolate by melting the cacao butter or coconut oil and stirring in the tahini and sweetener. 

Remove the chocolate from the freezer. For the nut butter and goji berries, add a tablespoon of the filling to the chocolate, trying to stay a couple of mm away from the edge. Pour over the remaining chocolate -again, about two tablespoons per cup. For the tahini, simply add on top of the chocolate without adding another chocolate layer. If you do have leftover chocolate, swirl it through the tahini. Then, pop all the chocolates back into the freezer for an hour to set, removing after 20 minutes to add a pinch of sea salt on to each. When set, keep the dessert cups in the fridge. Please note, the tahini cups made with coconut oil will come out softer than when made with cacao, but I personally really like this.

Liked these recipes? You can now also get my recipe for lime matcha butter cups as shown in the photo above, by heading to the Filmore and Union blog!

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Tips to Avoid Injury and Improve Performance in Yoga

Over the last few years of practicing yoga, I have picked up a few key tips that can help improve postures and avoid injury. As it is impossible for a yoga teacher to reiterate every single pointer in each class, it is quite possible that you could practice for months before hearing of even one of these. It is the smallest of adjustments that can make a difference to an asana, both in terms of it's effectiveness and safety. As I am not a qualified teacher, I have stuck to suggestions that I have had recommended several times. If in doubt, please speak to a teacher. Happy stretching!

Photo: Iam Vibes
Flex those feet
When in pigeon pose, or another posture that involves a knee bend, keeping the foot flexed can help protect the knee from being pulled. When you're legs are outstretched, but not pressed into the floor, such as in shoulder stand, your teacher may recommend flexing here as well. Whilst less essential in terms of injury, flexing the foot extends the calf muscles, deepening your stretch. If you are already finding the pose difficult, consider softly pointing the toes instead.

Tuck the tailbone
Tucking the tailbone, by actively tilting the pelvis down and forwards, stops your lower back from becoming strained. It is very easy to put all the bend of a heart opener or backbend into your lower back, rather than the rest of your spine. Tucking the tailbone (which can also be done by squeezing your glutes and associated pelvic muscles) restricts all the movement from being focused on the low back.

Find a focus point
There's nothing more likely to make you topple from your dancer's pose than the person next to you wobbling in the corner of your eye. Really focus on a spot in front of you (6-8 feet is often suggested) and remember to keep breathing. Even if you do start to lose your balance, you are much more likely to recover when your gaze is steady.

Breath and hold
Deep stretches can be one of the most challenging parts of yoga. Make sure that you are properly warmed up before holding the stretch -as the saying goes -as deep as you think you can go, then one degree further. Once there, for example, in splits, it is important to hold for a good few seconds whilst breathing slowly. I have been recommended to aim for around eight slow breaths. Focusing on the breath rather than holding for a time is good because it is the breath that sends signals to your muscles to relax into the stretch rather than resisting. With a break and a little shake between, try to hold the stretch a good three or four times with the breath to really help your muscles become more flexible. If you do find that you are in real pain, then do not hold a pose!

For more yoga articles, why not have a look on my posts giving you tips on how to get started with a yoga practice, and how yoga can help study and productivity?

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Aubergine Power Balls with Courgetti and Tomato Sauce

I was going to call these vegetarian bites aubergine meatballs initially, but instead of giving them a name that conjures up images of bland meat replacements, I've decided to call them power balls. And why not, when these tasty morsels are nutrient power houses? KAP-OW. The fibre-rich aubergines are a source of the antioxidant nasunin, which has been found to protect the fats in brain cell membranes from free radicals. Chickpeas add protein, helping to make this a pretty balanced meal. I'll be having a go at making more falafel-style veggie balls and naming them all power balls, making them the savoury version of the much-loved energy bites (try my apricot and coconut bites here). Embrace the superpowers of your food and give them the epic names they deserve. Boom.

Recently, I have become a complete convert to making tomato sauce properly from scratch, giving it the time it needs to let flavours develop. Onion, garlic and olive oil provide the rich base for this sauce, with added spices adapting the flavour to suit your food. Here, I've added a touch of of smoked paprika. I love smokey flavours paired with aubergine and the way it reminds me of babba ganouch. The trick here is to not let the aubergines over cook. By working in batches and letting the aubergines sit in the pan for a couple of minutes each side stops the vegetable from becoming too soggy when blended up. If you do find that you have let the aubergines cook for too long, or just don't fancy meatball-like food, then just roughly blend the aubergine and chickpeas and stir directly into the tomato sauce and treat like mince.

Skip the meat and make these tasty aubergine power balls. Via @eleanormayc

Ingredients -serves 2 with leftover power balls
  • 2 tsp chia or ground flax seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1/2 cup spelt or rice flour
  • 1 medium courgette
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Olive oil

Mix the chia seeds with 6 teaspoons of hot water, stir and set aside to form a binding gel (optional). With a small amount of olive oil, cook half the onion in a pan, adding one clove of the garlic just before tipping in the chopped tomatoes. Add half of the can full of water to the pan. 

Chop the aubergine in half and then into 2cm chunks and heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a frying pan. Cook the aubergine, in batches if needed, for a couple of minutes on each side with the rest of the onion. The aubergine should be just translucent where it has touched the pan, but still fairly solid looking. Add the garlic just before finishing, and remove from the heat when the garlic becomes fragrant without burning. Allow to cool briefly, using a spiraliser or peeler to turn the courgette into noodles in the meantime. Tip the aubergine mix into a food processor alongside the drained chickpeas, mixed dried herbs and ground pepper. Blizt until a smooth puree is formed, adding the flour as needed to form a sticky mixture. 

Return the frying pan to the heat, with a scant amount of oil to stop the power balls from sticking. Using two tablespoons, form ball shapes out of the mix and add to the pan. Allow to cook for roughly a minutes before turning. Repeat until all of the mixture has been cooked into power balls. 

In the food processor blend the tomato sauce until smooth. Share the courgette between two bowls and squeeze over the lemon juice. Add the tomato sauce before topping with the power balls. Keep leftover power balls in an airtight container to add to lunches over the next day or so.

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Thursday, 7 April 2016

VIDEO | March Favourites 2016

Who can believe that we are already in the fourth month of 2016?! I know it is such a cliche to comment on the speed that the year is travelling at, but yikes! Still, I am trying to get into good habits and post videos on YouTube more regularly. I'm starting with a favourites video, but if there are any videos you would like to see, give me a shout!

Leather saddle bag ~ Zatchels
Original Skin Face Mask ~ Origins
7/8 Kinetic Leggings ~ Sweaty Betty 
Shoes ~ Blink
Candle and home fragrance kit ~ Sanctuary
China Cup ~ Orla Kiely

For further details and disclaimer, please see the description on the video's YouTube link. Please like, comment and subscribe -it would mean the world to me!

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Monday, 4 April 2016

Inspiration: Suga Yoga Mats

For me, the only thing more exciting than discovering a new yoga brand is discovering one that has some insane eco credentials. Of all the fitness tribes, I think that the yogis and the surfers are the most likely to have a concern about their environments, particularly when two essential bits of kit -yoga mats and wetsuits -aren't always very planet friendly when it comes to disposal. Suga is a brand with an amazing concept that tackles both of these issues by creating high-quality yoga mats from waste neoprene. I had to reach out to Suga's founder, Brian Shields and chat to him about the product and the brand to share with you all. 

Interview with the founder of eco friendly yoga mat, Suga, made from recycled wetsuits. Via @eleanormayc

First up -what is in a name? Does Suga have a meaning?

Suga is a portmanteau of the two worlds it straddles: Surfing and Yoga.

Can you tell us about Suga and what inspired you to start up your own business?

Working as an environmental litigation attorney (barrister), I became dismayed by the lack of regulatory progress toward a more sustainable society.  The U.S. political system is quite clearly a corporatocracy rather than a democracy.  In a system where companies have all the power, I felt that we could better facilitate meaningful change and lead by example by forming a socially and environmentally responsible public benefit corporation.

As a longtime surfer, I always struggled with my environmental footprint - we use petrochemical-based wetsuits for a year before they wear out and end up in a storage bin or a landfill (where they do not biodegrade).  As a longtime yogi, the notion of manufacturing a yoga mat out of wetsuits seemed natural.  However, converting wetsuits into a highly functional yoga mat was a challenge that took some time.

We have lots of would-be wellness entrepreneurs out there. Do you have any tips for getting started in launching your own business, and finding your feet once you do?

Start today.  Don’t allow perceived impediments to hinder pursuit of your dreams.  Seek guidance from mentors or partners to help navigate through the regulatory and financial headwinds and keep moving forward.  Only through sustainability innovation do we have a chance at making meaningful environmental change.

You offer a lifetime replacement service for some of your yoga mats. Can you tell us about this?

We didn’t want to just recycle wetsuits and put another product into the stream of commerce; we wanted to take responsibility for our products by recycling them into themselves at the end of their useful lives.  We offer a mat for life - if it wears out or tears, our customers can send it back to us and we’ll send them a brand new one on us.  This cradle to cradle model cuts down on material cost, while setting an example for other companies to follow. 

Interview with the founder of eco friendly yoga mat, Suga, made from recycled wetsuits. Via @eleanormayc

Neoprene needs to be treated in a different way to most other yoga mats. For any prospective buyers, could you explain how to care for your Suga mat?

Neoprene is a closed-cell foam, unlike the vast majority of mats on the market that are open-cell sponges for dirt, dust & bacteria.  Although our mats are impregnated with antimicrobial magic, they still need to be rinsed off every now and then.  Most importantly, they need to be hung up in the shade - UV light is not kind to neoprene (or most materials for that matter).

Here at Green+Aquamarine, we are big on sustainability and yoga. How do you keep Suga running as a sustainable venture?

We’re continuing to partner with more and more wetsuit manufacturers to source their warranty scrap wetsuits (and some of their production scrap).  We’re able to scale according to demand - as we grow, more and more surfers will send us their old wetsuits for recycling.  Our rather ambitious goal is to keep 95% of wetsuits from entering landfills globally by 2020.

Many of the readers here are from the UK. Will we be seeing Suga in any shows or retailers in the future?

Yes!  We’re currently setting up UK & EU distribution.  Once that’s in place, we’ll be increasing our presence through shows, yoga retreats, and retail outlets (e.g. yoga studios, boutiques, and surf shops).

Over to you -how has living in California influenced your perspective on the environment and on healthy living?

It’s a double-edged sword; surfing almost every day connects me to the environment but also makes me acutely aware of the problems facing our marine ecosystem.  San Diego is a wonderful place to live a healthy outdoor lifestyle but we need to remain vigilant of ongoing issues related to population density (e.g. water scarcity, stormwater runoff pollution, etc.).

Who or what inspires you the most?

For Suga, people’s response to what we’re doing is humbling and very gratifying.  We were recently on Oahu, Hawaii for the Wanderlust Festival.  On the last day, a gentleman from Alaska with whom I had spoken earlier in the week came back to our booth just to say thank you for what we’re doing.  His gratitude and sincerity really moved me.

To answer the question more broadly, I am inspired by anyone who is able to eschew societal judgment and their own self-doubt in pursuit of their dreams.

Finally, what makes you happiest?

Being present.  The state of being mindfully aware of the beauty that surrounds, comprises, and permeates us.  At the expense of sounding trite, for me, this often comes from the blissful flow of riding a wave.

The Suga mat is a comfortable 5mm thick, and comes in two lengths. The standard mat costs $79.99 (about £55) and the lifetime service costs $99 (about £70), putting it in the standard price range for mats marketed at keen yogis.

Thank you so much for your time Brian! The Suga mat is clearly more than just an average yoga mat. It's a innovative, high quality product and lifetime service, and it is a promise to the environment, be you a yogi or surfer. I can't wait to see Suga reach the UK and for similar concepts to become the core focus of more and more businesses.

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