‘Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.’
In an effort to stay ‘mindful’ of the influx of information out there about this very topic, I have decided to get straight to the point and perhaps be a little more pro active with this particular blog!
On looking online at the mountains of research there is on mindfulness as a recovery tool, I felt totally overwhelmed, literally didn't know where to start, so in an effort to save you guys the same (ever so mild!) panic attack, which of course would completely defeat the point, I thought I would blog a little list about the exact Mindful apps/books and courses that one can dip in and out of but that can also genuinely aid healing and recovery, especially after cancer treatment, without requiring a trip to a monastery in deepest darkest Tibet.
Im going to dive in with the mobile techy option! I have to admit that when it comes to mindfulness apps, there are a lot out there! I could write a list an arms length but the one that has totally rocked it for me and actually had me practicing for three minutes at least, every night, is Calm: Meditation techniques for stress reduction.
It charges a small monthly charge but it is worth every penny. I love the choice of scenes that fill your screen and their matching soothing sound affects. I have been known to simply have that playing in the background while working - this lot have ‘calm’ down!
The choice of meditations are really inspiring and very practical, such as nine seven day programmes on topics such as managing stress or Seven Days of gratitude as well as a selection of times for various individual meditations on themes including loving kindness or deep sleep. There is also a kids option too (which my nearly six year old loves, though I cant promise that she keeps still through them!) Some are guided while others are not, but I have found this app to be the most affective in keeping me in a mindful routine.
Another one that I often dip into, not just for myself, but for my post natal clients too, is Insight Timer.
Again, there is a small monthly charge but there are libraries of choice, from different practitioners and timings to different themes, as well as a huge selection of courses, music, stories, guided and non guided meditations.
COURSES: The Haven MBSR Course
Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, of doing something for yourself
-The Haven, Fulham
I did an eight week course four years ago at The Haven and loved it. I had to commute from Surrey to Fulham but it was worth the journey, even while undergoing seven weeks of radiotherapy! It is a very thorough course, exploring all the different forms of mindful practice and the theory and study behind it all. I loved finishing every two hour class with a mindful exercise, mostly lying down under blankets and listening to Caroline Hoffman, the leader of the course, guide us through body scans.
The course is now available on line but the homework at that time was the key to the effectiveness of the course. They say it takes thirty two days to form a new habit so you are encouraged to practice every day and are given the appropriate CD’s and reading to help you. I found the homework a real distraction while waiting for my daily radiotherapy and it helped me feel less anxious and give the exercises a really realistic framework to practice them in.
We explored mindful eating, mindful walking, sitting and even speaking. From a post cancer point of view, it was the perfect course for me at that time, as everyone there had been affected by cancer so making for a very bonding and sharing environment.
My only negative feedback of a mindful course like this was that it merely felt I had scratched the surface of mindfulness and I felt like I needed to do another course to explore some of the themes more fully.
For more details check out: https://www.breastcancerhaven.org.uk/Pages/Events/Category/online-classes
020 7384 0099
Mindful Elephant Course
‘I love my clients and the process of teaching mindfulness - although, in reality, there is no ‘teacher’ and we discover the ‘learning’ together.’
- Gill Johnson, Mindful Elephant
For those based more around the Surrey area, there is a fantastic mindfulness course based in Godalming called Mindful Elephant (chosen because the name was quirky and memorable!)
Gill Johnson is a mindfulness teacher and facilitator for MBSR/MBCT group courses for the general public, schools, hospitals and workplaces. After a chronic pain condition Gill found herself attracted to the work of the famous Jon Kabat-Zinn (link) and discovered links that helped her deal with her own physical pain. She started to share them with hospital patients as a volunteer and she found the improvements so dramatic that she enrolled on a training course.
Making mindfulness accessible to everybody is something Gill feels very passionately about and she is involved in a number of other initiatives but as she admits, it is difficult to keep up with the ever evolving research that is coming out of the rapidly growing area.
If you are interested please feel free to contact Gill;
Tel: 07785 921 950
‘It is a real honour to hold a safe space and offer guidance for people to explore mindfulness’
I came across Shelila and her amazing Lollipop Wellbeing a few years ago, through social media. Sheila has a huge presence on twitter and runs courses in the Manchester area and occasionally Brighton. Her tips and posts on social media are a brilliant way of continuing a mindful approach to life while not on a course or afterwards.
Sheila set up Lollipop to provide accessible support for people who want to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing when it saved her life after approaching burnout from work related stress. For those who are not local she provides as many free resources as possible via her website including audio meditations and a monthly practice plan combining ideas for mindful living.
Shelia’s main focus within her mindful teaching is around self kindness, which of course, is something we are all in a little need of! Her recent blog ‘Everyday Mindfulness’ will resonate with a lot of us; http://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/growing-fearless-mindfulness-public-speaking-and-performance-anxiety/
Sheila discovered the self kindness area of mindfulness by accident. The more she deepened her practice the more it helped her with things like anxiety, grief and self criticism. When she attended a Breathworks Mindfulness for Stress (link) course after experiencing a lot of stress at work and in her personal life, she realised she wanted to teach because it felt like paying it forward. She is now a Breathwork associate as well as a Mindfulness teacher and as well as being a qualified personal coach working one to one with clients too, she is incredible active.
For more details; www.lollipopwellbeing.com
BOOK - Wherever You Go, There You Are
Believe it not, I was given this book my (very mindful) mum in law! I love the title!
Written by the man himself, Jon Kabat-Zinn, this explores all the ways we can include mindfulness in our lives, whether we be a beginner or professional! It maps out the ways of cultivating a more personal mindful frame of mind where we can appreciate each moment at a time and help make moments for rich and full.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world and has written a zillion books on it all (but this one, in my opinion, is one of the easiest reads!)
BOOK - Mindfulness; A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in A Frantic World
‘This is precisely focused to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability.’
Another good read, this book gives a fantastic background to all things Mindful with a focus on more mindful based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) This means that the practice is more about doing a little every day for there to be any sort of effect and they help you out with a little CD in the back of the book to guide you through setting out a new mindful routine. It is a great one to have to hand if doing any mindfulness courses.
It is specifically for people who just want to include mindful practice in their daily life for their own wellbeing rather than for depression or a specific problem and it is recommended by the UK’s very own National Institute of Clinical Excellence - in other words, it works!!
A mindfulness course may not be your thing but if getting creative is, have a go at this. Easy to find, easy to do and perfect at helping you tune into that tiny, undiscovered space that might be waiting for liberation (and a little clarity!)
There are umpteen colouring books on the market at the moment. I have seen a huge selection at supermarkets as well as bookshops such as Waterstones but whether you sit down and do it for five minutes or an hour, alone or with your child, it is a very easy and effective way of getting some space and mindful time into your day.
Explore! There is so much out there on this topic but I hope these ideas may be useful. I have to admit that I do not always find it easy to come back to my breathe and focus on the now but I have also learnt that the practice of mindfulness is exactly that, practice. It doesn't need to be hours and hours every day but whether you prefer to find encouragement alone with an app or with a group in a class, it is definitely having a positive impact on many of us and if we can connect with that breathe on a regular basis and oxygenate our bodies and minds, healing has no limits.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
1. What do you love about running and why?
I love the freedom running gives you to walk out of your home and run. No monthly payments and no ties to times of classes. You can do it whenever you want to suit your life. Getting out in the fresh air, summer, winter, even in the rain can be exhilarating.
2. How long have you been running and how did you discover it?
I started running 6 months after my son was born 11 years ago with my sister in law to help loose the baby weight and was regularly running 8 miles. Stopped when I was pregnant with my daughter, was going to go back running after 4 months but was then diagnosed with primary breast cancer when she was 5 months old so all plans went on hold for a good year.
3 Do you think that having goals for this particular exercise is important and if so why? What goals have you had?
The only goals I have is to try to run 2 or 3 runs a week, usually 5/6 miles a time (I also cycle once a week too) I'm not competitive. I'd love to run a 1/2 or full marathon but it's not a big goal. Knowing I can run every week at the level I run with secondary breast cancer is a huge achievement. Many cant even do exercise let alone run at the level I run so I know I'm lucky. I'm on new drugs which give a good remission (I'm currently in remission) but I know things can change with my diagnosis. I exercise to keep my fitness up in case of these changes so I'm in the best possible physical state to deal with this.
4. Why do you think running is good for people having cancer treatment or for those patients moving forward with life after a diagnosis?
It helps physically and mentally through the treatment. Helps you to loose weight if you have put some on due to chemo and tablets. I blamed the tamoxifen for excess weight. I just needed to up my running, which I did, and it worked. I think diet and exercise is very important for anyone whether they have cancer or not. It is the only thing that you can control and help yourself with with a diagnosis. It does give people a focus and as I said it doesn't have to cost much. You have to find what's right for you.
5. What do you think are the disadvantages to running?
Can be hard on the knees and joints especially if you are on drugs for cancer. Easy not to be motivated if you run alone. It's good to join a group or get out with friends. Like any exercise you have to commit yourself and results don't happen overnight but you will run a mile, then two, then three and before you know it able to do a 5K and maybe a 10K!
6. How important do you think exercise is during cancer treatment generally and why?
Massively important like I said for the reasons of mental and physical wellbeing. Also reports out that it can help to increase the benefits of chemotherapy and I do think that it helps to get the toxins out of your body quicker. Exercise is very important - lots of studies show this in cancer patients. Macmillan call it a 'wonder drug' and promote it in their 'move it' campaign.
When asked where the inspiration for my business came from, it put a smile on my face and brought a tear to my eye. My story is a simple one, inspiration came from tragedy.
On February 26th 2015 I lost my wonderful dad to Cancer. Like so many of you out there this disease invaded my life and changed it forever, this is the story of how I used my grief to change my life in a positive way and create what I hope to be a lasting legacy.
Maybe I should start at the beginning, and introduce myself? Hello, I am Freddie, and I am the owner of a small fledgling business called Hanging by a Fred, yes I am ‘the’ Fred and here is the biggest surprise for many…I am actually a woman!
Before February 2015, I was simply a loving daughter caring for her wonderful dad whilst that disease took hold and ravaged his body in 6 short months. It may have changed his appearance but it never dulled his spirit, and I am grateful to have been there every minute to share each precious moment til the last.
My dad was a climber, a lifelong, committed, dedicated and rather talented climber and mountaineer. I grew up watching him and his passion for this sport, but never quite brave enough to join him until sadly it was too late. It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug (which said ‘I’d rather be climbing’) and book (of routes in Northumberland, where we live) be on his coffin, and be cremated with him.
After he died, I suffered a deep period of grief. I had already suffered a great loss and was trying to deal with that, then I lost my dad, my friend, my confident. I had been so strong for so long, trying to look after my mum and sort out all of the legalities…the aftermath, I lost myself. I felt so alone and utterly bereft. The grief took hold, and I became a shell of my former self. Friends said I had ‘lost my sparkle’ and even looked ‘dead in the eyes’. Writing these words, remembering this time, the tears aren’t far away, but there is also catharsis. I want to share my story, as I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, what you are going through, and that, although it does not feel like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you WILL be ok.
The idea for HBAF came to me in June 2015, as moments of inspiration often do, through a random conversation with a friend about wool. We were trying to organise a relaxing day of craft to get me out of the house and back into society, in a calming and relaxing environment. Unfortunately, after a few years of unemployment, I could not afford the course fee. Not a problem! She had wool, and I had…well I had rope, climbing rope, and lots of it! We never did have that craft day, but by the end of the week I had put together a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, competition assessment, sources of equipment, materials needed, outlets for sales and much more. I took this to my unemployment advisor, who referred me to the Pinetree Trust, who support new business start-ups and those who have experienced particular difficulties. Paul Redpath came into my life, saw my ideas and the few products I had made and the information I had gathered, straight away he loved the unique idea and my journey really began.
My idea was to upcycle retired climbing rope into the beautiful and useful ‘for him, for her and for the home’ to quote my business strap line. I make real statement jewellery, woven rope mats, coiled rope bowls, mug cosies, pet accessories and so much more.
I knew Christmas was looming, with that the crucial period of the all-important Christmas market season, so working on my business plan and start-up loan began in earnest. The details of this work aren’t important, but the fact that this idea gave me renewed focus and purpose in life, that I found my drive and ambition again, that my sparkle began to return, that is what is important here. I was, I am sure, making my dad proud. I was honouring his memory, creating a new life and building a future, and every day he was at the heart of it. What better way to deal with loss and grief?
Today I am five months in to my new adventure, I am steadily booked at a variety of arts and crafts markets through to 2017, I have just had a photoshoot on Hadrian’s Wall for my forthcoming website, and I am supplying an ever growing range of galleries and shops with my unique products…not a bad start! I have met and worked with amazing people, and made wonderful connections. I can’t lie, it is incredibly hard work and not everything works as well as I would like, but I love it. I am happy again. I have direction, and more importantly I have dreams for the future. Losing my dad has, in actual fact, given me life again.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or my business, but I know that there is one, and as long as I don’t give up it will be a bright and sparkly one. That is essentially my message to you all, never give up! Never surrender! Thank you for taking the time to read my little story, and good luck to you all. Xx
Check out Hanging by a Fred at:
www.hangingbyafred.co.uk (coming soon)
1. Please could you describe what ballet barre is?
BarreConcept is an all over body conditioning workout for all ages and abilities. A BarreConcept workout contains the grace, moves and posture of ballet, the core strength and control of pilates and the alignment of yoga. BarreConcept is a low-impact workout which stretches and sculpts the muscles whilst burning body fat. It is an up beat class with a focus on physical results and pure enjoyment.
2. How is this different from other forms of exercise?
BarreConcept combines a few different exercise types and has lots of variety depending on if you are a beginner or advanced exerciser. You can still manage to raise your heart rate and burn body fat without it being a high impact class that could put strain on your joints and old injuries. Because the class consists of many exercises put together in a fluid motion, you can easily practice a few individual exercises, broken down, at home in between your regular classes.
3 Why do you love it?
I love it because firstly it really does work & you see results very quickly but also I come away feeling energised, lengthened and my muscle tone feels firmer. Also for people who clock watch during a class, Barre is fantastic as we do 35 mins exercise at the Barre followed by a sequence of arm toning and core exercises followed by a deep stretch and relaxation. It’s so varied there is no time to get bored!
3. How long did you train for?
You have to be trained in either dance, pilates or yoga to sign up for the teacher trainer course in BarreConcept but once you have that I did an intense weekend Barre course followed by a practical and theory examination.
4. Why do you think this type of practice is particularly good for anyone recovering from surgery or illness/cancer?
Firstly, as it is not a high impact class, someone who has been away from exercise due to surgery and recovery will not find it an exhausting cardio class. Each exercise is modified depending on your specific body, injuries and post op specifications. Many people attend who have knee and hip replacements, breast surgery/reconstruction, back issues, running injuries etc to name a few. We do nothing in the class that will cause strain on areas of the body that are in recovery, each individual is asked to listen to their own body, stop when they need to or we modify exercises to suit you.
5. What would you say to anyone who is thinking about starting a class but is a bit nervous (for whatever reasons!)
Basically there is not a single person that cannot participate in a barre class, we cater for all and this is understood by everyone who comes to class. Even the very fittest student who runs marathons has their area of improvement such as not being able to reach their knees to stretch or has totally no balance. The main misconception is that people think its going to be a ballet class but it’s not at all we simply use the posture of a ballet dancer and positioning while performing the exercises. It’s such a feel good class, you’ll be comfortable participating from the start!
1. BarreConcept is a ballet-inspired, low impact workout that tones and sculpts the muscles using isometric movements and stretches. The method is a fusion of ballet, pilates and yoga and the combination of these three methods is an optimum regime for burning fat, increasing core strength, toning muscles and developing flexibility, not to mention relieving tension and stress. It's great fun, upbeat and hard work!
2. It's different because it brings the best of several methods together, in one hit. In one class, you'll experience the grace of dance, the burn of a legs & bums workout, the power of a pilates core-strengthening session and the stretch and relaxation of a yoga practice. Not bad for 60 minutes!
3. I love it because it reminds me of my youth as a dancer, it feels like I'm really working my body and actively changing it's shape and I don't have to jump up and down to loud dance music in a hall full of sweaty people! Plus, I know it's developing muscles that look after my joints and spine and I'm less likely to get injured doing it than something high-impact. I love teaching it for similar reasons - it just offers the perfect package and I enjoy seeing people develop in confidence over the course of a few weeks.
4. I trained to teach BarreConcept, which is a trademarked version of Barre (and there are plenty more out there!) over a 3-day course, but you have to be a qualified Pilates or Yoga teacher to join that course. I have a dance background which also helped.
5. Barre is great for people recovering from surgery or cancer treatment primarily because it makes you feel good! Once you are given the ok by your doctor to exercise, it's the perfect way to get back to living actively, working every part of the body back to health. Over a relatively short period of time, you will see a noticeable difference in energy levels, muscle strength and tone, flexibility, body shape, posture and breath control. Classes including relaxation also allow the body to slow down, release and regenerate new cells. This is vital in the healing process.
6. It's natural to feel nervous about joining a group class, whatever the method. My advice is to speak to the instructor before the class (by phone or email) about how you feel, and about your medical history. A good instructor will help you to feel included, supported and able - there is nothing worse than feeling you can't keep up....and an instructor should offer different levels of any exercise to cater for all the participants in the room. If they don't know about your history though, they won't be able to adjust things for you...so be brave and ask them to keep an eye on you! And it always helps to take a buddy along....
Mirror Mirror On The Wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Oh to be Snow White and have that fair complexion. Ever wake up and think more along the lines of Mirror Mirror on the wall, I wish I didn't have to look at all!?!
In our pursuit of ‘fairness’, natural skin care is another theme dominating social media feeds and new brands are constantly emerging, ranging in price, general success at achieving youth full, as well as healthy skin, minus evil toxins and promising plump, line free, spot and blemish free complexions. To be ‘fair’ we now not only need to be eating clean but exercising to stay lean and nurture every cell in our body and polish and maintain it naturally on the outside too!
Having had cancer I have gradually become more and more conscious of changing my own skin care. This has been a very slow process for practicality and cost reasons. I am a sucker for packaging, Ill be honest, but I want to know that these pretty labels are doing me good as well as looking good! I also want to know that I can buy these products without having to scour the aisles at the local health food shop and with supermarkets and high street stores now jumping on the band wagon, is being the ‘fairest’ of them all sustainable or simply another short lived craze?
With recent articles about much loved products such as ‘Johnson’s & Johnson’s' containing harmful ingredients, we are becoming more savvy with our skincare and pro active; reading labels and shopping around. Due to stress, higher rates of disease and illness we are not just aware of what we are putting in our bodies, but what we are putting on them too!
Labels on cosmetics and body care products are a tough code to crack. The industry is so shockingly unregulated that it’s usually impossible to trust the claims that manufacturers place on their products. A word such as “natural” can be used by anyone for anything. Even “organic” is misleading. Companies are supposed to use an organic label only if all ingredients are certified-organic, but they can also say it’s “made with organic” if it contains a minimum of 70 percent certified-organic ingredients.
With the ingredient lists on our bathroom products being a total minefield with ingredients such as Parabems, aluminium and sodium laurel sulphate transpiring to be some of the main culprits for causing so much bad press, we are demanding more transparency from the ingredient lists.
I am no beauty journalist (so please bear with me if this sounds like an article from Marie Claire!) I also apologise if it is slightly long, but after being pro active for my own wellbeing, I have embraced experimenting with different skincare products and wanted to share some of the brands that I have come to know.
Jennifer Young was approached a few years ago to develop a skin care range for the cancer patients at her local hospital. Jennifer took on the challenge and developed this incredible range of products that are suitable for everyone! While on one of Jennifer’s workshops last year, she told me something that has shaped my choice of skin care ever since.
‘Creams are a mix of oil and water and as oil and water don’t mix, lots of ingredients have to be added in order to turn oil and water into a cream…..Oils and balms can be very simple formulations and, as they don’t contain water, they are a more intensive experience. A little goes a long way.’
- Jennifer Young, Defiant Beauty
I now, personally prefer to stick to oils and balms rather than creams. Jennifer has worked hard to make a range of products that are natural, organic and do what they say on the bottle, but you don’t need to have been unwell to appreciate the care and quality.
The toner smells amazing, locking in lots of hydration and the hand balm is magic and a top present for anyone having treatment as the skin becomes so dry. This balm is easily absorbed and makes a huge difference. The skin oil is another favourite. It was primarily made to rub on scalps after hair loss. The scalp becomes so sensitive when having chemo and this is soothing, helping nourish the follicles making it less sore and irritated. I bought it way after my hair grew back and have been using it as a body oil too!
Defiant Beauty is now training beauticians in specialist treatments with these products.
‘Therapists are taught that cancer is contraindicated for their treatments (except reflexology and reiki). Using my biologists brain I couldn't work out why and did the research - there was no evidence to support this, it was based on fear. I knew that those going through treatment for cancer wanted therapies and that therapies would benefit them. I knew therapists wanted to work with those going through treamtent and it was time to change things.’
Jennifer worked with insurers and a lot of experts to create routines and now offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Oncology therapies. These are the first accredited one day qualifications. I had a treatment a few months ago at the Hale Clinic in London and my skin looked amazing afterwards. It was one of the most relaxing treatments I have had, probably because I knew the products well, trusted Jennifer and her training and was intrigued how they were used professionally. I had an hours facial and my skin felt soft and looked radiant, even without make up!!! My hat is off to jennifer and how she has created not only an incredible range of products but has demystified the area of oncology massage/facials with a short and concise course helping therapists help others in this situation.
‘Back in January 2015, I was honoured to be involved in Jennifer’s new book ‘Recognise Yourself’. This book is a bible for anyone going through or affected by cancer treatment. The information on how to look after your nails, skin, hair and body is the perfect balance of research and patients experiences and is full of feel good information for the days you are feeling less than fair!
Defiant Beauty toner £20.00
Defiant Beauty hand balm £17.50
Skin Oil £17.50
‘Recognise Yourself’ Book; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Recognise-Yourself-maintaining-chemotherapy-radiotherapy/dp/1905367597/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459712971&sr=8-1&keywords=recognise+yourself
More information on Treatments at the Hale Clinic with the Defiant Beauty range can be found on;
The granny of natural skin care, Neals Yard have dominated the organic skin care market for over thirty years after opening in 1981 in Covent Garden. In the 80’s, Neals Yard were one of the first to encourage us to buy products without synthetic chemicals.
‘We believe in nature, honesty and transparency, and your right to know what goes into the products you buy’.
They are so much more than a skin care range and now offer courses in aromatherapy, nutrition and wellbeing and are involved in several environmental campaigns.
The rose balm has now become a staple. Particularly good for the colder months it gives a rich and deeper cleanse and smells amazing. My skin feels nourished and hydrated and in addition, it can be used as a face mask and works as a gentle exfoliator too if you use a flannel to wipe it off. It is more expensive than other cleansers but in my view, money well spent!
I have also been using the rose facial wash as well as the honey bee shower gel recently. Both cleanse my skin without stripping it dry. Having been the winter, it is interesting to see how well my skin reacts to cleansing this way (as my preferred method is an oil based cleanser) but these have been great and they don’t cost the earth!
Evening Cleansing; Rose balm (winter) £38
Morning cleanse; Rose facial wash £16
Bee Lovely Bath and shower gel; £14
I have never been a soap fan but was intrigued to know more about Ruth’s homemade products after seeing them on social media. Ruth and I have been in touch ever since and I am thrilled to see her business flourishing. After going through breast cancer herself, she wanted to take control of what she could use on her skin.
‘Many regular skincare products include synthetic chemicals that are known to interfere with our hormone systems and lead to increased levels of oestrogen….The majority of soap sold on the high street is not soap at all but chemical detergents, or a mixture of detergents and soap. Most contain sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which is a cheap foaming agent and also a known skin irritant.’
Ruth makes her soaps from scratch with natural oils and butters. It is a double sided coin as she finds the creative process so relaxing she thinks of it as a meditation. She now runs courses encouraging others to have a go and wants to share the satisfaction of creating a bar of soap with the enjoyment of being able to use it, knowing exactly what it had been made with. She also makes gorgeous lip balms. I absolutely love these products and they are the perfect size to travel with too. Once opened the soap can just be popped in a little container or wrapped back up in their wrapper and put in a little bag. I especially love the Cedarwood and Pine soap.
Soaps £5.00 per soap
Maggie’s bespoke range of oils for cleansing and exfoliating are unique but as an acupuncturist she has a passion for working with women to make a totally unique skincare range and treatment designed to help with all sorts of skin conditions. She has taught me not just how to nourish my face but how to massage it too so invigorating and energising the facial muscles and pressure points helping me relieve pressure on my sinus’s and ease congestion and puffiness around my eyes;
‘I work with a talent aromatherapist and we find synergy between my chinese medicine diagnosis and her encyclopaedic knowledge of aromatherapy and decades of experience.’
My appointment with Maggie was wonderful and my whole evening skin care routine has changed! What stands out about this range is that it is totally bespoke. Maggie gave me a treatment after chatting about my current skin care routine and what I currently use. She then put together a stunning package for me, explaining how to massage my face with the products she suggested as well as why they were better for me.
Yin1 treatment oil £33.00
This balm is absolutely beautiful. Anything that has rose in it, is a winner for me (can you tell?!) It smells blissful and doubles as a brilliant hand cream. Natalie has her own website and I have found her products in pop up shops and online. Her brand is doing so well and her instagram feed is buzzing! I use this balm as a night cream in the really cold months and my skin wakes up feeling super soft.
Rose and Geranium balm £15.50
Arbonne is a Swiss brand that is becoming very well known. The products are based on botanical research and inspired by nature. Arbonne were one of the first to go green in 1980 with no animal testing, paragons, mineral oil and nasties and their ingredient policy is totally transparent. I have a wonderful Arbonne rep who had skin cancer herself a few years ago;
‘I believe in Arbonne products because they reduce toxic load on our bodies and preserve the environment by using sustainable ingredients.’
- Sally Ann North
I am a bit precious about my hair (don’t ask!) and I cant go anywhere without my straighteners (Im working on it!) but I was keen to try a new shampoo and Sally Ann suggested one of the Arbonne range. The Daily Shampoo feels rich and though my hair is a little flyaway, it feels clean, healthy and shiny and there is no residue like some others I have tried. I have recently tried the pure vibrance conditioner too and it smells gorgeous.
I have also used Arbonne’s children's suncream. Their ABC Baby Care range is fantastic and I used the SPF 30 on my five year old and it didn't bother her sensitive skin at all and absorbed brilliantly. You are encouraged to use quite a large amount and I do like to use an SPF 50 as my daughter is very fair and she is prone to exzma, but she didn’t bat an eyelid when this went on! It is less chalky than some other natural suncreams I have used and is non perfumed too.
Nourishing Daily Shampoo £17.00
Kids suncream £28.00
Pai is a popular brand on the market at the moment and with a focus on sensitive and allergy prone skin, they were the first company to list all their ingredients in plain english which again, gives credit for transparancy.
Unlike many brands on the market, which commission factories to both formulate and manufacture their products, we have our own in-house R&D lab and manufacturing facility.
I stumbled across the KuKui and Jojoba Brightening scrub when my skin was really temperamental (after surgery my skin was not happy) and this not only made my skin clean but less irritable. It has a lovely lemon’y smell and gel consistency and it wasn’t too grainy either.
The rose hip oil has been an amazing skin care product for me ever since surgery. I have been really interested in the healing qualities of rose hip and I used this as a night treatment on my face for about three months (a bottle lasts a while) I have to say it felt softer and looked much brighter. I have also used it on scaring and it definitely helps the healing and elasticity. One snag is that I have also noticed that a slight orange residue has been left on my pillows but I have also seen a difference in applying this oil after a good scrub as it absorbs more effectively.
KuKui and Jojoba brightening exfoliator £26
Rosehip Bioregenerate oil £22
It is clear from the sheer amount of choice that skin care is now as important as healthy eating. I have met some amazing people working in this area and since this is long enough, I will soon be posting an overall list of these and all the other brands I have noted. Through our pursuit of ‘fairness’ we now want clean living inside and outside. Supermarkets, for one, are now making these products more accessible. Being able to click on a product and have it in our basket immediately is much more convenient and appealing to a younger market. With the help of bright photography, packaging and smells to rival a perfume factory, these brands have tapped into what the consumer needs as well as wants. Transparency equals trust and as a society we want to believe what it says on the bottle, both for our lotions and potions as well as diet.
The biggest downside is price. A lot of these brands are more draining on the wallet but aside from using totally natural products like beeswax and coconut oil, which has always been a favourite (I do use it as a hair treatment, body moisturiser, skin balm and bath oil too occasionally) we want products that are going to make us feel glamorous and feminine. For those going through treatment we also want to hold onto as much normality as we can and rather than having to go to ‘special’ shops, we can now access these products with minimal fuss.
Skin care is a hugely personal thing. Whether it be mashing an avocado onto our faces and resting with cucumber on our eyes or maxing out the credit card on bespoke aromatherapy products our pursuit of ‘fairness’ is something we are taking very seriously. My experience has dictated my awareness of staying healthy inside and outside, and if that is the highest price to pay, wouldn’t you agree that choosing organic toxic free skincare as one of the many pro active steps we can take to help our wellbeing, is totally ‘fair’ enough?
1. Please could you describe what Hatha yoga is?
There are so many definitions and descriptions of yoga, but basically yoga is a system which allows us to deepen our awareness and become more balanced. Most people come to yoga to benefit the body, to become healthy, strong, flexible and vibrant. Often we also find calm and clarity - yoga is freedom: as we return to the present moment we experience the true nature of our natural mind and a state of complete happiness.
Yoga is an ancient tradition which was developed in India and has existed in some form since at least 500 BCE (possibly longer). Yoga is a way of living, not a religion, and is therefore available to everyone.
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit (scriptural language of ancient India) word yui meaning to “yoke’ or “unite”. Yoga joins the body, breath, mind and heart back into union, and we experience a connection to something greater than ourselves, a seamless harmony of being; what athletes and artists describe as being “in the zone”.
(The Sanskrit word yoga means “union”, that is, union or harmony of body, mind and spirit.) **Short explanation!
The term hatha derives from ha, meaning “sun”, and tha, meaning “moon”, symbolizing life force and consciousness. Hatha yoga offers a way to experience this integration along a path involving very specific practices that purify the body, calm the mind and open the heart.
2. How is this different from other yoga practices, like Vinyasa etc?
Hatha yoga is grounded in physical practices, and therefore any form of yoga which uses postures (in Sanskrit “asana”) is Hatha yoga. Some have a direct uninterrupted lineage connected to India, others bear little resemblance to traditional yoga. Popular styes practiced today are: Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Kundulini, Power yoga... and many others which offer slight variations with a branded name. All Hatha yoga is Vinyasa Flow, vinyasa simply means “to place in a special way” and flow denoting the conscious dynamism of movement within and between poses. Some classes flow more than others: whilst some styles will be fast paced and dynamic, others will be slow and quiet (like yin or restorative). In looking for a class to suit your needs check how it’s billed, enquire with the teacher and try things out. Each teacher brings forth their own history, training, knowledge and experience... it’s often worth trying out different styles or teachers.
3. How is this different from other yoga practices, like Vinyasa etc?
I love yoga because it makes me feel grounded and content. When I attended my first yoga class in my early 20s I knew I had found something which could really change the way I thought and felt: yoga made me feel deeply content, like being at home with myself. Throughout young adulthood I had wrestled with insecurities and anxiety, despite a confident and outgoing exterior. Although I had a great childhood, there was a lot of internal struggle, we had moved around a lot and therefore I spent a lot of time on my own, friendships were not long lasting, and I had a tendency towards introspection. Yoga for me is about developing the tools to navigate who I am in order to live a life which is more comfortable. It’s about acknowledging the experiences and decisions which have shaped us, paying attention to the thoughts and sensations of the moment, in order to respond to life less from patterns of defense but more from integrity.
4. How long did you train for?
Yoga is a lifelong practice, and as such we are continually learning. I have practiced for over 20 years, originally in Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, a series of dynamic but repeated postures and breathing exercises. I am grateful that I discovered the Ashtanga tradition as it established me in a commitment to practice yoga regularly. Then (as now) I practiced most days at home, and in the studio 3 times a week. I travelled to India to broaden my knowledge of Indian and Hindu culture, studied yoga informally, and attended Vipassana meditation courses. Vipassana is a wonderfully simple technique which uses self-observation as a tool for self-transformation. It had a profound effect on me and transformed my yoga practice. Since then I have continued to attend workshops, trainings and classes with many reputable teachers of all kinds of yoga and personal development. Yoga supported me throughout my pregnancies and is invaluable now as a mother; learning to adapt, adjust and accommodate. After having my children I wanted to do more nourishing ‘work’, so I took a yoga teacher training course. I completed the 18 month 200hr training with YogaCampus, the training body of London’s The Life Centre, and I am certified by The British Wheel of Yoga. Additionally I trained to teach yoga for pregnancy and postnatal recovery with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, an inspirational teacher and voice in the field of women’s yoga and health (read her amazing book “Yoni Shakti”). I continue my professional development by ongoing study, intensive training courses, and study days with BWY.
5. Why do you think this type of yoga practice is particularly good for anyone recovering from surgery or illness?
Yoga offers a variety of tools and techniques with which we can work towards integration and a balance of energies on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Practicing yoga can change our attitude towards life and towards our experiences, we develop the inner strength and stability that enables us to face and deal with all the experiences and crises that life brings us. Yoga strengthens the body to help deal with the uncomfortable side-effects of treatment, both during and after treatment.
Yoga asanas stimulate the muscles, increase blood flow, balance the glands and enhance the lymphatic flow in the body, all of which supports the body’s ability to remain well. Many gentle techniques will promote healing by clearing toxins, removing blockages that hinder the free flow of energy and raising energy levels.
Breathing exercises release tension and replenish energy. We learn how to replace poor ineffectual breathing habits with more healthy, life-enhancing ones. Simple breathing exercises can help to deal with the strong emotions that a cancer diagnosis gives rise to: panic, grief, despair. We observe how our emotions affect our breathing, but when we learn to change our breathing patterns we can create more serenity and balance. The breath is the link between body, mind and spirit.
Meditation develops mental focus and sharpens our powers of observation and perception, we are able to see thing more clearly as they are and understand the workings of the mind. Using the mind with intention to create a positive outcome affirms self-love. Deep relaxation allows the body to relax, the mind to quieten, and tension to dissolve. As body and mind ‘let go’ inner healing can take place.
8. What would you say to anyone who is thinking about starting a class but is a bit nervous (for whatever reasons!)
There are many different approaches to yoga, so take time to do a bit of research. First contact the teacher, find out about what classes are offered and let them know about your health. A teacher might ask to meet for an individual session to get to know you, and learn how to adapt yoga practices to suit your individual needs. Often one connects with a particular teacher who seems to offer exactly what is needed at that time.
Many people feel a little apprehensive before taking their first yoga class, whatever their circumstance, but we all begin somewhere! A good teacher will reassure you, explain things in great detail, and show kindness and compassion. If particular yoga postures feel challenging, don’t feel compelled to do everything. There are always adaptations, and the benefits of yoga extend well beyond your ability to achieve any particular physical shape. Listen to your own intuition, listen to your body and allow it to tell you what is right.
Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change to the body.
If the thought of having your feet touched, let alone massaged, makes you squint and look like you've just sucked a lemon, your not alone! I not only hate feet and everything about them; weird shapes, discoloured nails and rough skin among others, but I happen to have the most sensitive feet on the planet. When it comes to my own feet the only good thing about them is that they keep me standing! However, having my feet ‘tickled’, as my daughter puts it, is weirdly one of the most therapeutic things that has come out of cancer treatment for me.
There is no doubt, Reflexology is a hugely powerful treatment. As a little bit of background for you (Warning, History alert!); It dates back to the ancient civilisations in Egypt, India and China. The oldest evidence of its use comes from a pictograph in the tomb of an Egyptian physician near Cairo but it wasn’t introduced to the Western world until the early 20th Century. Dr William Fitzgerald, an American ear nose and throat dude, came to London and introduced the ‘Kengtitude zones theory’ in 1916. The re-discovery of some form of systemised foot treatment is accredited to Dr William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. It was in 1915 that an article entitled “To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe” was published in “Everybody’s Magazine”, written by Edwin Bowers, which first brought Dr Fitzgerald’s work on Zone Therapy before the public.
A guy called Dr George Star White and Dr Riley, his wife, went on to develop this theory, making the connections to the hands and feet but it was a women (of course!) Eunice Ingham, “The Foot Therapist’ who made the final connections, asking why not treat the hands and feet to treat the body. In 1934 the phrase Reflexology was coined. Ingham died in 1974 after devoting forty years of her life to reflexology. What a gal!
Reflexology has been used frequently in fertility, cancer and later stages of pregnancy as well as other major illnesses as well and as a regular treatment for general wellbeing. Clearly I am a massive fan but it was when I started having it as a complimentary treatment offered by the hospital where I was having radiotherapy, that I really began to understand the true benefits. It made such an impression that after treatment finished in 2007 I enrolled in an evening foundation course. Punchy for the old energy levels at that stage of recovery but I had been so inspired by my reflexologist, who had opened up this pathway and made me want to learn more. I met Lisbeth at Parkside oncology hospital, where she volunteers as a therapist, and she became my real life angel. Wings and all!!
‘Reflexology is not my job, it is part of my life. It is my passion. Its a treat for me to give it and see what it brings to everyone.’
- Lisbeth Doeff
I explored regular reflexology during treatment because, not only was it complimentary (always a bonus) but I really noticed that my body needed a helping hand in flushing out the chemo drugs, maintaining some wellbeing and helping my system heal as well as release negativity. Chemo and radio made me feel like The Marshmallow Man with jet lag; so weak and bloated and the fatigue seriously frustrated me. I was emotional, low and though doing my damnedest to put a positive light on things, Lisbeth had this incredible ability to tap right into this, recognising how draining that was in itself and helping me understand what was going on inside my body as well as my head. This, in turn, helped release other emotions so deepening my own healing process. It balanced me and transformed my
ashen complexion to a rosy glow and I started to appreciate I was doing the best job I could.
Its not always relaxing! I was, and still am, frequently on the ceiling during treatments, and though this doesn't sell it as a lovely fluffy relaxing treat, it is exactly what I need physically and emotionally. It is as if my system is getting a work out inside and out. I come away feeling rejuvenated, calm and energised. The discomfort I feel only reflects the tension I hold in certain areas of my body, namely my lower spine, digestive system and adrenals.
I have learnt so much from seeing Lisbeth. She has taught me that healing not only comes from relaxing holistic treatments but from a deeper spiritual understanding, a nutritional perspective as well as an emotionally balanced mind. Reflexology helps on all these levels. It helps digestion, it clears my thyroid and adrenal sluggishness, releases tensions and helps flush toxins. I am so much in my head it is a wonder I can hear anything other than the conflicting voices yelling at each other across what little mass of brain I do have, but having regular reflexology helps shut them up and brings some p & q! I love how I can feel the energy and attentions draining away from my head and into my feet.
Whether you are going through treatment for an illness or simply feeling out of balance, keeping your body functioning well on the inside is imperative. Seeing my foot as a map of my body seemed pretty bizarre but strangely fascinating. Im no scientist but there is a lot to be said for ‘itchy feet’! Lisbeth also practices massage, mindfulness and reiki but her intuition and patience are what makes her treatments such a profound experience.
She believes that
‘Different treatments work for different people and they have to try what they think will help them…..It is important as a therapist to know where your boundaries are and to do what is best for them as individuals……I am always training and still learning.’
Reflexology is good for anyone, unwell or not. I just so happened to discover it because of an illness. I am so glad I did and am committed to having it regularly. It isn’t going to stop me getting cancer but it certainly helps keep me sane and feel proactive in assisting my body deal with stress. Having had more than one diagnosis there are areas that I know Lisbeth will give special attention and because I have known her so long, it makes the treatment much more effective. If it is something you are interested in, look up The Association of Reflexologists for more information.
Anything you do during this healing time is for you and should be tailored to your wellbeing, no one else's. Lisbeth’s most important lesson to me was to Trust. To trust in my instinct and to trust in myself and my own ability to beat this and that, whatever happened, I would be ok. More importantly, I trusted her and I would trust her with my life, not just my feet. After all, clearly they do more than just keep me standing!
Effective way of internal massage on vital organs and internal processes; Helping with circulation, energetic flow, digestion and balance and wellbeing
Accessible and often provided in hospitals for free.
Not too expensive
Widely spread therapists through UK
Can have alongside other treatments to compliment
Not necessarily relaxing depending on the practitioner
Need regular treatments to see results
First few treatments can have side effects
Not good in first few months of pregnancy or for DVT and some types of cancer
These are a collection of blogs written by other cancer patients, survivors, friends and family as well as wellbeing and health therapists who wanted to share their expertise to help inspire and encourage us with recovery and healing. Over the last thirteen years I have put a lot of time and focus into my own self care and I have explored many activities and products that I wanted to share, so I have written a few too! Enjoy xx