Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: vegan

Why Yoga Lovers Should Visit Cascais

Visit CascaisAfter finding life in Morocco a little challenging, it was with some relief that I found myself in the beautiful town of Cascais, Lisbon. Although I spent quite a bit of time last summer in Portugal, I never managed to visit Cascais, and this was a mistake. However, it’s only March, and I’ve already rectified this, with a stint teaching yoga at Perfect Spot Lisbon.

Cascais is a little gem of a beach town. It’s bustling and popular, without being too touristy (ok, it is super-touristy, but not in an obnoxious way). The beaches are beautiful, and there are plenty of them. The town itself is quaint and sweet, full of quirky cafes and shops.

Visit Cascais For Yoga

I took a class at Yoga Cascais, where they offer yoga classes twice per week in English (always helpful, as my Portuguese is limited to being able to order wine…) These classes are great if you want to explore yoga beyond the postures – pranayama, mantras and meditation.

Perfect Spot Lisbon will also be offering in-house yoga classes over the Summer, so guests there can enjoy yoga in the garden as part of their holiday.

Visit Cascais for Food

The Portuguese really know how to cook (and eat!). An afternoon trip that I went on involved not one, but two picnics in the space of three hours. It was great.

And for eating out, perhaps because of the bohemian surfer-y vibe in this part of Portugal, there are unexpectedly good veggie and vegan options in the cafes and restaurants. The supermarkets also had veggie choices to rival those in the UK – a real bonus after my time in Spain (where I was told the Spanish word for vegan is “crazy vegetarian!”) If you’re a fan of fresh fish or seafood though, Cascais is the place to be.

Visit Cascais to Explore

Lisbon and Sintra are both less than 45 minutes from Cascais by public transport. Lisbon is amazing – creative, cosmopolitan and colourful. I’m a little bit in love with it. You can easily spend hours wandering the cobbled streets, and without even intending to, every corner seems to lead to another panoramic vista point. The bonus of all the walking is that you work up an appetite for the gourmet food market Mercado da Ribeira (I know – more food…).

Sintra is another magical place. It has it all – castle ruins, grand palatial houses and stunning natural scenery.

Visit Cascais for Surfing

As I’ve discovered, surfing and yoga compliment each other perfectly. If you’re already a yogi, your core strength, flexibility and body awareness  will help you to find your feet quicker on the board, and for surfers, yoga is the perfect way to warm and release your body before and after surfing. Whatever you do, you can find the perfect balance through the combination of surf and yoga.

For many people who try surf and yoga together for the first time, they discover it makes for an “ideal day”. You can get up, practise yoga before breakfast, then head to the beach to catch some waves, before chilling later in the day. It’s the perfect balance of activity and relaxation, action and zen.

Visit Cascais To Chill

I’ll be completely honest, my time here hasn’t been nearly as action-packed as this blog makes it sound. I’ve basically practised yoga in the garden, caught up with writing, walked along the beach and eaten delicious local food. It’s been such a great opportunity to take a step back and lead a simpler life in a beautiful place. So if that’s what you’re looking for (and really, who isn’t?) visit Cascais – it’s dreamy.

If you want to combine a trip to Cascais with a yoga retreat in Portugal, I highly recommend the amazing five day retreat I’ll be teaching at in June. Message me for full details, and a special discount before the end of March.

Happy travels!

Love Jade xxx

The Sceptical Yoga Teacher

sceptical yoga teacherIs it possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher?

When I tell people I teach yoga, they make a lot of assumptions about me. And, to be fair, I do fit some of the stereotypes. My wardrobe does mainly consist of yoga leggings and sports bras, I do (try to) meditate every day and I am probably more flexible than the average person. But I also love science, I’m passionate about logical, rational arguments and I have a physics degree. So frankly, I die a little inside when I hear yogis referencing quantum mechanics, as if the very mention of quantum entanglement provides empirical evidence for every new age concept out there.

This is not because I don’t think yogis should talk about science. I love talking about science. I think everyone should talk more about science. But discussing concepts you don’t understand with the assumed authority of someone who does is a misuse of physics and undermines the credibility of what many describe as the “science of yoga.”

I have a similar reaction when people grasp onto alternative forms of medicine as if because they’re “natural” they must work. Don’t get me wrong, I think the western medical system has plenty of flaws, and I’m a big believer in exploring other options. For example, I think we can learn a lot from the holistic approach of systems such as Ayurveda, where they look at the whole person rather than treating symptoms. But that’s not to say that these ancient systems have all the answers, and because they are on some “spiritual plane”, they are above investigation. “Alternative” medicine can and should be tested just as rigorously as anything else.

What I find most strange is when people suggest that you can’t be “spiritual” or into yoga unless you suspend all analytical thought. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to discuss ideas with someone from the yoga community only for any questions I have to be met with, “But science can’t explain everything.” Perhaps not, but does that mean we should just hold our hands up, fall at the feet of the nearest guru and accept everything we’re told without question? To me that seems like a pretty dangerous path to follow.

I don’t think the barriers that people (on both sides of the fence as it were) put up between yoga, spirituality and science are necessary or helpful. Ultimately, everyone is seeking the truth and greater understanding, but approaching it from different angles. Surely the greatest growth comes when we learn from other fields, rather than disregarding them because their approach is different to our own?

A meditation teacher of mine used to say, “You don’t have to leave your intellect at the door,” and I loved this expression. I’ve always taken this to mean that you can have both. You can immerse yourself in yoga and meditation, and let thinking take a back seat for a while in order to drop into the experience of something. But it’s also ok to question things, try to work them out for yourself, and maintain a healthy scepticism when faced with so-called gurus making sweeping statements without backing them up. In short, I think it’s perfectly possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher. 

I’d love to know what your experiences are of this – let me know in the comments below?

Have a lovely day, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Jade xxx

 

12 Things To Do At Suryalila

Things to do at SuryalilaWhether you visit Suryalila Retreat Centre as a guest, a yoga teacher trainee or a volunteer, this is the definitive list of things to do at Suryalila…

  1. Gorge yourself on the delicious food and tell yourself it’s fine because it’s all so damned healthy. Vow to eat more lightly the next meal, then go back for seconds. And thirds.
  2. Do yoga at 8am and feel virtuous and smug all day. Make sure everyone knows about it.
  3. Conversely, miss one early morning yoga class to lie in. Even hardcore yogis deserve a day off. And it’s cool to be a yoga rebel. Fact.
  4. Borrow a deeply spiritual book from the bookshelf in the hall and convince yourself that it will change your life.
  5. Laze by the pool pretending to read said deeply spiritual book, then doze and hope it enters your consciousness via some miracle of osmotic transference instead.
  6. Take photos of yourself doing the fanciest looking yoga postures you can think of in the Om Dome then immediately post them on Instagram. #Suryalila. It’d be a waste not to.
  7. Walk to the ruins wearing inappropriate footwear. Who brings hiking boots to a yoga retreat anyway?
  8. Tear yourself away from Suryalila for the day to visit Prado Del Rey and enjoy the ridiculously cheap vino and tapas at Carmen’s.
  9. Speak Spanish, even just a little. You are in Spain after all. Practise on the donkey if you’re too nervous to try the staff.
  10. Eat the vegan rice milk ice cream. Just trust me on this one.
  11. Promise to transform your lifestyle when you go home. Daily yoga, meditation, reading and clean, fresh organic vegetarian food cooked from scratch can’t be so hard to keep up, right?
  12. Book a return trip before you even leave so you know it’s not goodbye forever.

Fellow Suryalila fans, let me know what I’ve missed!

Why I won’t be fasting again…

vegan yumI love the fact that during my travels I’ve met people with real expertise in health and nutrition. I’ve learnt a lot, and I’m very grateful for that. But somewhere along the way, I started to get a bit lost, and forgot the value of my own intuition about what is right for me, my body and my mind.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of talk about restrictive diets – intermittent fasting, 500 calorie days, watermelon fasting, juice fasting, raw ‘til 4. In yogic circles, people don’t tend to advocate them for weight loss (too shallow a goal maybe?), but rather for cleansing the body, detoxing or even “spiritual development.” Disclaimer here: I am not a nutritionist. I have no objective argument for or against these diets. If they work for other people, great.

But they don’t work for me. I’m not trying to lose weight. And more importantly than that, I’m trying very hard to not go back down a route of restrictive eating, which got me into so much trouble in the past. I know that restricting my food intake is not a healthy way to go.

When I turned vegan, it was not for health reasons, although I do feel good eating this way. One of the things I considered carefully was whether I could cope with the restriction of a vegan diet without getting back into negative thought patterns. I decided I would try it and review its impact on my body and mind a few weeks later. I would be willing to let go of it if it had a negative effect on my physical or mental health.

So far it hasn’t, but restrictive eating caught up with me in a different way. I began to think that maybe I was far enough past my eating disorder to be able to experiment with some of the diets. I wanted to try a day of 500 calorie eating. I wanted to see how “clean” my body felt if I ate only watermelon. I wanted to know whether my thoughts would be clearer, my mind more meditative if I fasted.  

What happened when I tried? Well 500 calorie eating was very exciting. The anorexic voice in my head was thrilled that I was eating less again. This is great, it told me. See, you don’t need that much food at all. You’re good at this. The trouble is, once that voice had reawakened, it didn’t just go away the next day when I tried to eat normally. You should do another day of this. You’re strong. You don’t want to undo all the good work you did yesterday. You’ll get fat if you eat more now. I didn’t listen. But it was really really hard.

Watermelon fasting was even worse. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea is that you eat only watermelon for 1 to 3 days, to “detoxify” the body and let the digestive system rest. I don’t even believe in detoxing, but I still decided to give this a go. It was awful. It wasn’t the physical hunger itself that was the problem (although I did feel very hungry). It was the painful memories it evoked of the depression, isolation and misery of living with an eating disorder. I didn’t even last the day. By 4pm I felt so low, tearful and scared that I knew I had to stop. I ate normally for the rest of the evening, and felt better, although I had to contend with the sense that I had failed.

I know that’s not true though. I know that for me, eating a balanced, plentiful diet that gives me enough energy to live, and thrive and do all the things I love doing is a huge achievement in itself. So there will be no more fasting, no more detoxes. If that means I am less “cleansed”, and less “spiritually enlightened”, so be it. I choose health, happiness and life every time.

Five things I wish I’d known before turning vegan…

About 6 weeks ago I did something I’d been thinking about for a while – I stopped eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs. My reason for doing this was simply that the more I learned about the animal industries, the more uncomfortable I felt consuming produce which supported them. I still like the taste of meat, I don’t judge anyone else for eating it, and I don’t think it’s more “natural” to be vegan necessarily. I just don’t want to support cruelty to animals.

Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started…

  1. You need to watch your calorie intake. It’s easy to not eat enough, especially if you’re not used to eating large volumes of food. For the first few days although I felt full after every meal, I’d wake up in the middle of the night hungry and have to make smoothies at 3am. This is not a good way to endear yourself to your housemates…
  2. Equally, you can have too much of a good thing. After realising I needed more calories, I set about eating almonds, avocado and olive oil like my life depended on it. My stomach was less than impressed.
  3. You need to have your rationale for a vegan diet clear in your own mind because you’ll be asked to justify your choices. A lot. Similarly it helps to have your nutritional facts straight – people become inordinately concerned about your protein intake when you tell them you’re vegan. Weird, because no one ever cared before when I’d shun dinner for a packet of Kettle Chips…
  4. You can feel like the awkward one in the group with the special dietary requirement. You might not have a problem with this, but unfortunately I do. I feel embarrassed and end up apologising. I’m working on it.
  5. You have to check things all the time

Me: These cookies are so good, I can’t believe they’re vegan!

Chef: Erm, Jade? They’re not.

Me: Oops.

Luckily there have been unexpected benefits too…

  1. There’s no need to live off rabbit food unless you want to. Vegan food can be delicious, varied and substantial. This week alone I’ve had burritos, curry, pancakes, cheesecake, chocolate mousse and flapjack.
  2. It’s easy to eat really well and up your intake of fruit, vegetables and wholefoods without even trying.
  3. You discover great restaurants that you may not have considered otherwise, like this amazing place in Tarifa where the majority of their menu is vegan.
  4. Vegan pizza is surprisingly tasty.
  5. It feels really good to know that you’re eating cruelty-free.

So for now I’m sticking with it. I don’t know whether it’s forever. I have a history of disordered eating, so now my physical and mental health are always my priority; I’ll only do it for as long as it’s healthy for my body and my mind. And who knows – maybe one day I’ll find a way to source the occasional animal product which is guaranteed to be cruelty-free. But at the moment, I’m happy with my choices. I just need to be more careful around cookies…

If you’re interested in going vegan, have been vegan for a while, or think it’s a terrible idea, I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments below!

Jade xxx

Why it’s great to come back…

DSC_0350-2When I started travelling, I had this idea that I’d be roaming all over the place, seeing as much of the world as I possibly could. I never thought I’d come back to somewhere I’d already been. There’s too much of the world to see.  In fact, when I arranged for my second Workaway placement to come to Suryalila Retreat Centre, I thought one month (their minimum stay) might be a bit long. But I liked the look of the yoga here, so I told myself I’d make the best of it.

However, within days of arriving here in March, I knew one month was nowhere near enough. Before I even left I made arrangements to return.

So here I am, one week into my return visit to Suryalila Retreat Centre. Here’s a few reasons why it’s worth going back to a place you love…

  1. It feels comfortable. Travelling is great. The constant movement, the new experiences, the lack of a routine, and the (barely) organised chaos. But when you travel, your whole environment is constantly shifting and changing, and it takes a lot of energy to keep up. Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock a little bit. During my tougher moments in Thailand, the thought that I would be coming back in the summer to somewhere I felt as comfortable as Suryalila kept me going.
  2. You already know the ropes.  You don’t need to learn a whole new set of systems or ask a million questions. Aside from a few inevitable but unsettling changes (the place the muesli is stored has changed – did not see that one coming!) it’s probably quite easy to slip back into a routine.  This allows you to focus right from the start on being fully present and making the most of each day.
  3. Same same, but different. You’ll always find plenty of new in amongst the familiar – not least new people. Getting to know plenty of new, interesting people and catching up with those I knew from my previous visit has been the ideal combination for me.
  4. You appreciate it more. It’s so true that you don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone. Sometime you have to go away in order to appreciate all that is great about the place you started. It’s like going back to your parent’s house after moving out and appreciating fully for the first time the joy of a fully stocked fridge and showers that actually work. Except this time I fully appreciate having beautiful vegan food, a space to escape to during downtime, and a schedule that is prepared in advance and fair.

There is still a lot more of the world I want to see and experience, but it’s really good to know I’ll be here for a couple of months. It’s even better to think that I don’t have to re-pack my backpack for a whole two months! I’m borrowing my final thoughts on this from the brilliant Terry Pratchett:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Breatharianism, chanting and pesto…

DSC_0243~2Learning to appreciate the little things at Moinhos Velhos…

I’ve reached the end of my time teaching yoga at the detox retreat, and it’s been an incredible experience. I must admit it didn’t start so well though…

My first meal was uncomfortable. There were only two of us at the staff lunch, myself and another yoga teacher, who explained to me, “Before we eat we hold hands and chant a prayer.”  I laughed in his face.

“Are you joking?” He wasn’t. Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the experience of trying to recover from that, hold hands, and chant a prayer I didn’t know.

Things went from bad to worse at dinner time, when they explained to me that one of the founders of the place had just been on a programme to learn how to be a breatharian. For those like me who have never heard of this before, a breatharian is someone so uber-spiritual that they exist only on light and air. No food, sometimes no water. With impressive self-control, I resisted the urge to tell them that breatharianism sounded like a synonym for bullshit.

Thankfully, the team forgave my heathen lack of spirituality and let me stay. During those first few strange days where everything felt alien and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I found myself really appreciating the little things that did go well.

After 2 days of getting everything wrong with juicing and washing up (who knew there were so many ways you could go wrong there?!) my supervisor handed me a glass of fresh watermelon juice and barked, “You can drink this.” I almost fainted with shock at the sudden kindness.

Then a client stopped me after my first yoga class to tell me that she’d loved it. I found a beautiful walk that I could do in 30 minutes which was exactly the length of time I had between finishing clearing up and making lunch. I got to teach at 8am in the morning when it was still cool enough to enjoy a proper yoga practice without the room turning into a complete sweat box. Another volunteer made the best vegan pesto imaginable with fresh basil from the garden. I discovered the joys of pesto on toast for breakfast.

Even the mosquitos made me appreciate things more. After three nights of sleep disturbed by their horrible, “Eeeeeeeeee,” noise, getting insect repellent and a mosquito net felt like the equivalent of being upgraded to business class on a flight. And I discovered that a true friend is someone who not only will stay awake to help you find the mosquito that’s driving you crazy, but will also kill the one that has found its way inside your net (thanks Laura!).

The more I appreciated the little things, the more I found myself open to the benefits of the bigger things. I met people who were passionate about yoga, permaculture, alternative therapies and nutrition, and learnt from them all. And the experience I gained teaching yoga to the same group consistently was so valuable.

So all in all I feel very lucky to have been able to work and learn in this gorgeous place. Just don’t ask me to convert to breatharianism, or start chanting before meals anytime soon…

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén