The many benefits of getting your booty out of bed and to a morning yoga practice.

If the notion of getting up with the sun makes your heart skip a beat then getting up early to get to a 7am yoga class will probably make you feel slightly nauseous. However, the benefits starting the day at sunrise with a bit of movement and meditation far outweigh the negatives. Honestly.

It will produce a positive butterfly effect that will resound throughout your day.

Autumn Sunrise Takapuna Beach

It takes discipline and you have to give yourself a week or two but just you wait, even it’s if the rosy glow of early-riser smugness that’s your main motivation, you’ll grow to love it.

Here are ten reasons practicing yoga early in the morning is good for your mind, body and soul.

1. There’s less traffic and parking is a breeze.

Why not start with the reason most of you would appreciate. Driving through empty streets with the sun coming up can make you feel you own the world. A trip that takes forty minutes after work, will be cut down to ten at this hour. Remove the added stress of finding parking and you have a pretty fantastic reason #1.

2. It sets the tone for your day.

If your morning gets off to a bad start, your day will usually follow suit. Yoga is a form of moving meditation. It’s about breathing and processing all that’s going on in your life/head/body. Start your day with some yoga and you’ll be able to go out and face the day. You’ll be calmer, centered and open which in turn will probably make you more productive and a nicer person to be around.

3. You’ll have more hours in the day.

We all have twenty four hours in the day but some people get a whole lot more done than others. Most successful people in this world have realized that getting up earlier gives you a head start on the day. An overwhelming number of entrepreneurs, CEOS, on-to-it Mums and Dads, sportspeople, anyone on top of their game really, have realized that you can accomplish a lot in those wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep.

4. You’ll sleep better.

Exercising in the morning means you will be really tired that night. You will want to get to bed a bit earlier and when you do, you’ll sleep like a rock.

5. It forces you to cut back on booze.

If you really commit to this then you’ll realize pretty quickly that if there’s anything that makes getting up really early almost impossible, it’s one too many vinos the night before. And let’s face it, getting to a 7am yoga class hung over ain’t going to happen. The feeling of waking up with a clear head, remembering your admirable steadfastness when you said “no thank you, yoga in the morning” to those last few cocktails is going to feel awesome.

6. Your body will thank you.

Not just because you’ve cut back on the booze either. Working out in the morning can feel a lot tougher on the body, especially if your diet sucks, you’re overweight and you sit at a  desk all day. If this is the case you probably wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck, booze or no booze. Overnight our muscles contract and they also rebuild and repair – with material from our diets.Our joints also stiffen from lying still all night and the best remedy for all this is to get the circulation flowing and lube up those joints. Waking up with enough time to have a warm shower before class can work wonders on that stiffness. Class may feel harder but as is usually the case with all things in life – the more challenging something is, the better it is for you.

7. It’s better than a cup of coffee.

I highly recommend NOT having a cup of coffee before you get on the mat. Give your head time to wake up on it’s own. It may seem counter intuitive at first but yoga shifts energy and the vitality and focus you leave class with will mean you probably won’t need that cup of Joe. If you do it will be like a lightening bolt to the brain.

8. The sense of community energy.

At first you probably won’t feel like having a lengthy, cheery chat with your fellow yogis before class and you don’t have to engage with anyone if you don’t want to. But no matter what, you will feel the shared energy in the room. Humans are social creatures, feeling part of a community boosts our endorphins and other feel good hormones. Even just a smile from someone else might change the course of your day.

9. You will have the evening free to do whatever you like.

No further explanation needed.

10. The sense of self-accomplishment.

There is the potential that you’ll feel a bit high and mighty when your work colleagues hear you have already done a yoga class before work. It’s impressive, it really is. You’ve joined the ranks of those other successful movers and shakers, you’re motivated, you’re disciplined. You got yourself out of your comfy bed, in the car and off to class while the rest of the world wasted their precious time on this planet. You may even feel a touch smug for a while, enjoy it, bask in it. Just make sure you keep doing it.

beautiful-sunrise

Fetus University.

Braniac baby

Several weeks ago when Luke would get home and start talking about his day, Nug would begin to move or if he started talking close to my tummy I’d feel the baby wake up.  We both liked to think it was because he could already recognize his Dad’s voice and from the reading I’ve been doing about fetal development in the womb, this just might be the case.

At around week 24ish the little being inside has fully developed the ability to hear. In fact, noises that he hears regularly probably won’t phase him once he’s out in the big, bad world – so Nug’s going to be into house music and hard-core ganster rap (Luke and I have very different tastes in music). I’ve also noticed movement from him each morning after the ‘Ohm’ in my morning practice – a yogi baby!

At our HypnoBirthing class last weekend the instructor encouraged us to play the HypnoBirthing meditation track out loud rather than through headphones all the time. This was so that the baby would hear it too and therefore the sound will become familiar and comforting.

This brings me to ponder if there’s there anything I can so that’s beneficial to Nug’s development while he’s in the womb? I’ve been reading a lot about it to figure out how important it might be and whether or not there’s any point to it.

Right from conception the baby’s neural pathways are firing and forming – the little guy is busy right from the get-go. Research shows that later in pregnancy the baby’s heartbeat will respond to different types of music, slowing down for calming, classical tunes and speeding up when the tempo does. After 28 weeks babies even start to dreaming – although it’s hard to imagine what the heck they’re dreaming about…

baby dream

Some ‘experts’ feel that it’s never too early to start stimulating your baby’s brain, or to start an ‘education’. They say playing music, talking, reading to the baby and gently pushing your tummy are all good ways to do this.

So as per usual there are different schools of thought on this subject. Some feel that the baby has enough work to do growing and developing in the womb without having to deal with to have to deal with being woken up, poked, prodded, and pushed.

J and N

The obvious thing to me seems to be that there can’t be any harm in talking to him. The ‘love’ hormone Oxytocin is produced when you feel connected to your baby so talking and singing to him can only be a good thing.  I’ve had to really let go of any inhibitions and basically ramble on about anything, from boring day-to-day stuff, to the book I’m reading or the bizarre stream of consciousness in my head. Sometimes I’ll ask him questions and then hope that I might get a little kick or a wiggle as an answer. Mum bought him his first book the other day, Jack & Nancy by Quentin Blake. Luke and I took turns reading it before bed, it was lovely.

I also feel that we live active, noisy, energetic lives so getting him used to loud music, talking, laughing and moving around is imperative for him – I’d love him to be able to sleep in a not-so-quiet environment. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take him when I teach yoga too, as he’s been with me all this time as I teach. I’m sure that the dulcet tones of my voice will send him off to sleep in the back of my classes. Wishful thinking? We’ll see…

 

Jack & Olive have a New Year’s gift for someone who really deserves it.

We’re giving away a spot on our Queenstown, New Zealand retreat to someone who is ready and motivated to make some permanent healthy and positive changes in their life.

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It will be a luxurious, adventurous and healthful week. The package is worth $3500 so it’s definitely a pretty awesome NY’s gift, even if we do say so ourselves.

Life can get away from us all. Jobs, children, relationships can take a toll and leave us feeling stuck in a rut, unhealthy, unhappy and unsure how to get out. The awesome news is that there are people who have been there and really want to help you clamber out.

Our retreats will help you take the first steps to reclaiming your health and happiness.

Not in an annoying, super-positive, hippy-dippy kind of a way, but in a realistic, fun and adventurous way. No juice detoxes or fasting, just helpful, inspirational and educational tools you can take back into your real life.

It’s hard and humbling facing your demons and taking charge of your life but it’s possible, and when you do, it’s incredible.

But you have to be ready. You have to really really want to live a happier, healthier life. So if you know anyone who could benefit from this please share it with them and have them email a little bit about themselves to: clairerobbie@me.com.

Here’s an article explaining a bit more from our resident Nutrition/Fitness/Lifestyle Transformation expert, Luke Sniewski.

2014 is the year of…

I pondered the concept of resolutions in the days leading up to New Years and then at 11.45pm on the 31st of December I wrote out the ones that had been circulating at the forefront of my mind. It’s easy to get carried away and write a huge list of things you want to change about yourself but this year I really want to let go of self-criticism and embrace self-acceptance, so that means a shorter list.

Luke wrote a great article on how forming habits is far more productive than setting specific and targeted goals so I’ve incorporated this into what I’m going to work on this year. It started with a list of ten but as another one of my resolutions involved ‘not biting off more than I can chew’ I thought I’d edit it to a list of four. Much more manageable.

Here are the top three things that I WILL foster in 2014:

1. Self-acceptance.

dont-compare-yourself-to-others

At the end of the day it only matters what I (me, Claire Robbie) think about myself. When push comes to shove, the most successful and happy people on this planet do not give a rat’s a$$ what others think about them. I don’t mean in an obnoxious, offensive or rude way – I’m a firm believer in the importance of respect, manners, kindness and consideration – I’m just talking about self-conviciton, confidence and accepting the good and the bad aspects of myself.

Habits to cultivate:

  • Learning to reflexively switch negative thoughts about myself to positive.
  • Expressing myself authentically so that your inside persona matches your outside persona. Even if you know people aren’t going to be happy with whatever I’m communicating.
  • Being able to say no and honestly express why.
  • Incorporating positive affirmations into my morning meditation.
  • Never participating in or initiating critical or negative conversations about others. This means walking out of the room or remaining silent when such conversations arise. I feel like being critical of others tends to stem from being unhappy with myself or sometimes just being bored and not having a lot to talk about. Accepting me means I have to accept others just as they are also.

2. Being a good Mother, but not at the expense of my health, dreams and aspirations.

Buddha

This one requires the help and support of my Luke, my Mum and Dad too. Fortunately for me I’m living with all three this year.

I’ve been hearing so many negatives about how once I become a Mum I won’t have time to wipe my bum and I can forget ever having a pedicure or working out properly. Some of the conversations freaked me out a bit I have to say. Granted I don’t have a baby yet and I have a limited idea of what’s in store but surely with some planning, delegation and prioritizing these things don’t have to vanish from my life.

I know that my life is going to change immeasurably and I have every intention of always putting my son’s needs first, I know I can be a Mum, have a successful company and teach yoga. There are millions of inspirational women who accomplish incredible things AND raise kids, some women even do it all by themselves. 

I feel like a huge part of this is having an exercise regimen and taking care of myself. Shouldn’t regular exercise and a healthy diet be a new Mother’s priority? I don’t mean becoming a Crossfit addict, I just mean regular, moderate exercise. We’ve all heard the flight attendants on airplanes telling us that in an emergency we need to put our oxygen masks on before we put on our children’s – healthy, happy Mum equals healthy, happy children.

Habits to cultivate:

  • Organization and routine around the home. Effective people in this world are organized people. This means planning, delegation and getting up early – a morning routine can make or break my day.
  • The art of delegation. Which will only work if you have mastered the above.
  • The art of communicating my needs.
  • The art of non-matrydom. See the above bullet points.
  • Keeping a regular exercise, meditation and yoga schedule.
  • Make time to relax and have fun each day.
  • Not taking life too seriously.

3. Deepening my knowledge of yoga, teaching, the body and nutrition.

AN-INVESTMENT

Furthering my education, reading and studying took a back seat in the last few months as we prepared to leave the States. I crammed in a few workshops and teacher trainings but being a teacher really just means being a perpetual student. I have a list of books I want to read and Luke and I have enrolled in a couple of incredible online courses that we can complete at our leisure.

Habits to cultivate:

  • Organization and routine around the home. This one makes the list again and will involve Sunday night planning of the week ahead.
  • The art of delegation. Another to make the list again.
  • 20 minutes of reading/day. A manageable chunk of time.
  • At home yoga practice, 1 hour, three times/week. Every teacher knows that a regular home practice by is the very, very best way to become a better teacher. Basically it’s essential if you want to get better at sequencing, deepen your knowledge of poses, cues and the body. It’s just something I am incredibly good at avoiding.

4. Doing something for someone other than a family member or friend each month. 

Hiking_around_Queenstown1

  • I’m starting this by giving away a spot on our Queenstown retreat for someone who really needs it. Send me an email to clairerobbie@me.com if you know anyone who hasn’t been prioritizing their health and wellness and needs help kickstarting an awesome 2014. This is kinda big…the package is worth $3500 and is truly awesome, so spread the word.

F*** Fear.

Image

I’ve been reading the HynoBirthing book for the past couple of days and have to say it’s thought provoking. 

I don’t want to be the kind of person ranting on about how I want to have a natural birth but I do want to have a natural birth. I also respect that everyone is different and the most important outcome at the end of the day is a happy, healthy Mother and Baby. That being said I grew up with a Mother who has always been very positive about pregnancy and childbirth. I’m the eldest of two in my family and Mum had easy labors for both of us. She hardly even knew she was in labor for me and then it took all of 15 minutes to push me out. My brother took 2 hours – and he was 10 pounds. 

That means I haven’t grown up with any labor horror stories. Pregnancy was a beautiful time for my Mum and so far to has been for me too. I feel like labor is going to be the same and I am thankful that my primary role model in this has always spoken of labor basically as ‘no big deal’. 

After reading the HypnoBirthing book it becomes abundantly clear that a woman’s preconceived notions about birth are intensely influential on her own experience. Unfortunately birth has gone from being the most natural thing in the world, something to be revered and treasured to a medical procedure or experience to be endured. 

I have always assumed I would give birth naturally. The thought of a C-Section terrifies me, so does the thought of being numb from the waist down. I am intrigued to feel the birthing process and excited to see what my body is capable of. The HynoBirthing book has given me another perspective altogether – that childbirth doesn’t need to be painful. Incredible. 

I had always anticipated that the experience would hurt, a lot I imagined but nothing that we can’t handle. If women all over the world from the beginning of time have been doing this, why is it such a big deal??? 

It seems that the answer is FEAR. Fear is the fundamental reason why women, specifically in ‘developed’ countries have such difficult, long and arduous births. It’s been conditioned into us that birth sucks and could possibly kill you. We’re riddled with angst over it. Fear that our bodies will never be the same; fear that our vaginas will never be the same nor our lives; fear that the pain will overwhelm us; fear that the baby will get stuck; fear that we’ll be in labor for hours or that we might die; fear that we won’t be good mothers, lovers, wives/girlfriends once the baby is born. With all this fear lingering deep inside it’s a no wonder the birth process gets stalled, jammed up and drawn out. 

The fact is women are designed to give birth and to nurture a baby. Just like every other female animal on the planet our bodies are perfectly designed for this process, childbearing hips or not, the body instinctively knows what to do. Our uterine muscles will slowly and methodically, perhaps even painlessly expel that baby if (and only if) the mind is in a state of relaxation and calmness. That’s the key – relaxation and calmness – and allowing nature do what it’s supposed to do. We don’t tell our breasts to produce milk or ask our bowels to poop. Fiddle with nature and the outcome is never as good as if left well alone. Nature almost never screws anything up if she’s left to her own devices but trying to get anything done if you’re terrified or in a panic is downright impossible. Birth is no different. When the body goes into fight or flight mode our hormones shut down, we freeze or want to escape. 

Release the fear and all should work according to the way nature intended it. 

It all makes perfect sense to me. I’m going to study this book inside out, do the meditations religiously and educate myself completely about this process. I am riddled with moments of self-doubt in other elements of my life like my career and business; I am constantly struggling with my own personal demons in my relationships; I battle with procrastination and times of inertia but if there’s one thing I have the utmost faith in, it’s my body. I trust my body. I also like a challenge, and right now that’s kind of what this feels like. The ultimate challenge of mind over matter…in the calmest way possible, of course. 

 

Sticky Lemon Syrup Polenta Cake (Gluten-free)

Polenta Cake

This week I found two new uses for the leftover almond meal from my little almond milk factory. Waste-not; want-not and all that.

The first was as a breading for Terakihi filets for dinner one night. I coated the filets in the almond meal and then dipped them in whisked egg and pan fried in coconut oil. Pretty damn tasty with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of home-made tartare sauce.

The second recipe is for this really simple and really yummy lemony polenta cake. I found a recipe on a Nigella Lawson site, don’t you love it when you have all the ingredients already and don’t have to go out and buy anything. I subbed out half the sugar content for Manuka honey and the syrup called for icing sugar so I used honey and water instead.

Honey vs. Sugar

Honey and sugar contain basically the same molecules  – fructose and glucose –  but there is some thought that honey might be slightly less bad for us, for a variety of reasons. I found an article that simplifies the explanation. Anyway, I’m not going to kid myself that by using honey instead of sugar I’m making this recipe super healthy – sugar is sugar is sugar. It’s just nice to think that perhaps you’re getting a few antioxidants from the Manuka.

Polenta cakes are commonplace in Italy and have been around for ages. They seem to be becoming popular with the gluten-freeists as you’re using cornmeal and almond meal instead of the usual cake base  – white flour. This means a lot of people have been describing these style of cakes as ‘healthy cakes’. While the health benefits of avoiding white flour as much as poss in your diet are well documented, this is still a cake. It’s still sugar, butter, carbs so not for every day consumption. Although during the holidays it seems pretty much impossible to avoid sweets and being pregnant my willpower is about a third of its usual strength.

This cake was moist, crumbly and had almost a lemon curdy vibe to it. The polenta adds a nutty texture to it which I really like. It has a fresh, sharp taste and isn’t too sweet. I served it with fresh cherries and wipped cream. There was only one slice left at the end of the night, so I had that for brekkie the next day. Why not?? It’s a healthy cake after all…

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup Manuka honey
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 3/4 cup fine polenta (I only had corse polenta at home so used the coffee grinder to make it finer)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use gluten free if required)
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of two lemons (save juice for syrup)

For the syrup

  • Juice of two lemons
  • 3/4 cup Manuka honey
  • 1/2 cup water

Method:

  1. Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch springform cake tin with baking parchment and grease its sides lightly with butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F.
  3. Beat the butter, honey, sugar till pale and whipped. I use a freestanding mixer and beat for a solid few minutes.
  4. Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar-honey mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
  5. Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
  6. Once out of oven the cake may still seem a bit wobbly but, if it is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin and let cool for 30 mins.
  7. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice, honey and water in a smallish saucepan. Boil for a couple of minutes to dissolve honey.
  8. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin. If you like you can keep a bit of the syrup to serve with the cake.  

You can decorate this cake so many different ways – with lemon slices, almond slivers, fruit, powdered sugar. I served with a little fresh cream which complimented the lemony-ness perfectly. I will definitely be making this again. And again.

Hypno-Whatting??

We had our first HynoBirthing class today and it was fantastic. I decided pretty early on that I’d like to pursue this style of prenatal class and last week booked our sessions after a friend in N.Z recommended Auckland Hynobirthing. There’s a few to choose from so a recommendation is always appreciated.

Hypnobirthing_Book_3rd_Edition

I wanted to do these classes as I believe it flows with our beliefs, hopes for the birth and philosophies. One love, many paths! Both Luke and I trust our bodies and our instincts and are very much self-educators. We read, try to inform ourselves and then make our decisions based on what we feel is right for us and HynoBirthing sounded pretty awesome.

We’re supposed to start in January but as we’ll be running a retreat in Queenstown on the last class we did the last class first today with another group. Even coming into the class backwards was informative and completely empowering.

The word ‘hypnosis’ conjures up images of people in trances imagining they’re the lead violinist in a symphony or some witchy person swinging a crystal in front of your face. I know my Dad was definitely wondering where the heck we were off to this morning, imagining a  “you are getting very sleeeeeeeepy” type scenario. So the term ‘Hypnobirthing’ is almost somewhat misleading, particularly to people who haven’t had much experience with visualization, meditation, mantra and tuning the mind inward – all very yogic techniques of focus.

Here’s the Auckland Hynobirthing website’s definition of hypnosis:

“Hypnosis is a natural state of inner focused awareness. It is essentially getting into a state of deep relaxation and focus, just like guided meditation. We all go in and out of hypnotic states naturally on a daily basis when we are doing things such as reading, daydreaming, watching a movie or driving to work.

When we are hypnotized we are totally conscious and aware of our surroundings and of what is happening. We are comfortable relaxed and fully in control. No one can be hypnotized unless they want to be. Believe it or not, people that partake in the stage shows are consenting participants in what they are doing.

The human mind and body are so closely connected that we’ll never be able to achieve our desired goals without harnessing the power of our mind. For a very long time hypnosis has been used in the medical profession for a vast range of health issues with quite incredible results. Psychologists also use similar techniques when training top athletes and sports people to help them to focus and visualise their success.” – Auckland HynoBirthing Website

Fundamentally HypnoBirthing teaches that natural childbirth isn’t something to be feared and that it’s fear keeping the body tense, closed and thereby slowing down the birth process down. The techniques that are taught are designed to relax the mind and therefore the body, letting the birth hormones do their work. It’s basically the yoga of birth and it made me even more excited about the prospect of being able to work with my body in this miraculous event. Importantly, it also encourages this positive and empowering mindset long before labor to help get the baby in the right place and energetically feel like you, the baby and your birthing partner are a team.

If a woman completely trusts herself, her instincts and listens to her body birth can be a beautiful and very empowering experience.

“Where the mind goes, the body will follow. HypnoBirthing allows Mum to visualise her ideal birth and release limiting beliefs, fears or emotions that could stand in the way of achieving her ultimate birth experience.

HypnoBirthing allows Mum’s natural anesthesia (endorphins which are 200 times more potent than morphine) to replace the stress hormones that cause pain, turning birthing into a more comfortable, easy and empowering experience. When her baby is born she can be fully awake and involved.”  – Auckland Hynobirthing Website

Here’s the video of the beautiful and calm birth of our teacher, Claire’s little Oliver. Inspirational to say the least.

Today, since it was the last class for this group we went over birthing positions, the birthing partners role during the birth, the birth itself and then bonding with your baby afterward. We also reviewed the different stages of labor’s breathing techniques and how to determine which stage of labor you are at.

We also did two group meditations that are designed to help release any fears the mother may have relating to giving birth and also to becoming a Mother. It was just what I needed. For me so far the most overwhelming part of this hasn’t been thinking about giving birth, it’s been thinking about the first few months after the baby is born and beyond. There is so much information out there and everyone has an opinion and their own style of doing things. It can be completely overwhelming trying to take it all in. I’m realizing more and more that while advice always comes from the right place I will get into my own rhythm in my own time. I’m also the kind of person who learns by doing, rather than hearing or reading. I know I’ll make mistakes, I’ll be tired and grumpy at times but I’ll do my best and that’s all I can do. Just like the birth process, I can only do my best and whatever the outcome I know he’ll turn out fine.