Posts tagged thailand
How do you practice 'me' time... try Thai Yoga Massage?

I have been thinking a lot about self-care recently. My 'me' time most often consists of being active. Being immersed in a sweaty gym class, out for a long walk across the fields, yoga or lifting heavy weights in my PT sessions. All this activity takes its toll in the body, regardless of how 'balanced' the various activities may be. I realised last year that my 'me' time was not the same as self-care, and that this needed addressing.

(I have actually have no idea why I am striking this ridiculous pose whilst out for a walk in the woods!)

(I have actually have no idea why I am striking this ridiculous pose whilst out for a walk in the woods!)

Do I prioritise enough 'me' time? Or maybe more importantly, I then re-framed this question- do I tune into my body and create space for optimising how I feel and function?

I love having massages and have seen various wonderful massage therapists (as well as osteopaths and chiropractors) over the years whether it be purely for pleasure or as a remedial effort. I realised I needed to honour this more consistently in ensuring my body is optimised.

A couple of years ago I met Ana Benedict- the thai massage therapist at 'Thai Yoga Massage'We connected over our mutual love of health, vegan food and overall outlook on life.

What I love about Thai massage, and the reason I keep going back, is that it feels almost like a cross between massage and physio- both pleasurable and remedial! All the benefits of massage with the peace of mind that my entire body has had an MOT and any areas of tightness or potential issue have been dealt with.  

I also love that I feel chilled out but fully alert throughout. It means I can have wonderful conversations and absorb the brilliant insights Ana shares- and there are a lot of them! As someone that has worked with a lot of coaches in the past, this feels as good as many coaching sessions, with space to simply 'be' and share what's on my mind without judgement. This is a gift Ana has and for me the entire experience is priceless because of it.

As well as massage, Ana also holds qualifications in cognitive hypnotherapy, NLP (Master Practitioner level) and Reiki (teacher level), and has completed additional training in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) ...so you really do get a lot more than a massage.

Thailand and Thai massage is also dear to me as my sister is living out there at the moment, and I have always had a deep affinity with the principles of the Buddhist culture. Here's a funny story- when I visited my sister in Thailand for a month last year, I stopped in Chaing Mai city for one final time before heading to the airport to fly home. I had two hours to kill so decided to treat myself to my one final massage. When you lay down to begin, the masseurs will often ask in broken english something like 'how strong?'. Well I do love a good hard massage given the choice so I said 'strong please' then adding 'I do like it very strong' (thinking why not make the most of it as I wont be here any longer). Oh my gosh, it was the most eye watering experience EVER... at the end of 90 minutes she was literally holding on the rails of the curtained off cubicle and trampling over my back as it she was making wine! But I tell you what... I felt amazing afterwards ;-) 

In case you are worried reading that... Ana is nothing like that, she is incredibly intuitive and I never have to say a word and it is always just right.

Here we are a few weeks ago at the end of a session. :-)

So, what actually is Thai Yoga Massage?

As taken from Ana's website:  

"Thai Yoga Massage dates back more than 2,500 years and differs from other forms of massage in that no oils are used and the client remains fully clothed. Treatments are also given on a floor mat or futon as opposed to a massage couch.

Acupressure and stretches are used to release tension and encourage healthy energy flow in the body. In addition to the traditional techniques, Ana draws upon her training in sports and remedial massage to further maximise the benefits.

The result is an invigorating ‘workout’ of the soft tissues and joints. Think of it as the yoga class where someone else does the work for you!"

If you are short on time but you body is high in tension, Thai massage can also be carried out as a 'Thai Power Break' on an ergonomically designed chair- which is what you see in the festival photos below.

For those in the North Herts area, I wholeheartedly recommend you see Ana if you resonate with the above and would like to step up to creating a consistent self care routine that optimises you body. Her wisdom with the world is priceless and I feel privileged to call her a friend. :-)

I have a personal referral code if you decide to book with her... simply quote: INCAKE20 when you book your session.

You can check out her website HERE and Facebook page HERE.

P.s I am not being compensated to write this blog post, but for the purposes of full transparency when I mentioned my blog, she offered a complimentary treatment (the one I'd just had in the pic above) which of course I said yes to!

 

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Vegan food in Thailand!

I wanted to write my foodie experiences in a separate post to this one so here you go!

Fist thing I'm gonna put out there... Fruit! So much amazing fruit!! For example, on the last day I bought 4 beautifully sweet ripe locally grown mangos for the equivalent of less than £1 - you wouldn't even get one mango for that in the UK and it would not have tasted anywhere near as good either.

I also want to briefly mention here (though I'll also be writing a separate post at some point) about water! In Thailand everyone drinks bottled water. I knew it would be hot and I didn't want to be caught short. It just so happened a couple of weeks prior I had a conversation with a colleague about a water filter bottle called Puritii that is so sophisticated, you can even filter swamp water if you wished! Of course I was intrigued and I knew my trip to Thailand would be a perfect opportunity to try it. He gave me a bottle to put through it's paces and so I'll fill you in on that in due course, plus it makes an ideal opportunity to talk about water quality- a topic many have asked me about recently.

Anyway, back to Thailand food! Here are my overriding thoughts (obviously these are purely based on my limited experience)...

Things I found tricky/surprising about Thai food:

  1. Not many people understood what 'vegan' meant- vegetarian is very common but vegan not so. It seemed a little odd to me since it's a culture that naturally doesn't use dairy so it's only the egg (and fish sauce) that would need consideration.

  2. There is fish sauce and egg in many meat free dishes so I had to be very careful as it wasn't always obvious.

  3. In hindsight I should have got familiar with the phrase for vegan- which is 'jai' however his refers to Buddhist veganism which also does not include garlic or onion and I feel that would have been even more limiting in options and flavour.

  4. There don't seem to be any beans and lentils anywhere! The veggie protein of choice is tofu which is eaten in abundance. I do not eat it much at home, but was happy to switch whilst I was there. I did miss lentils and beans though!

  5. Even though there is an abundance of veggies, their are very few leafy greens- I found I was craving some spinach and kale. Morning glory is the only readily found leafy green in the markets so I ate as much as I could.

  6. Chocolate- it did not seem to exist! I was surprised that I missed it, not so much in a craving for sweet things as there was so much sweet stuff, but more as a desire for a little indulgence since there was no dessert I could eat- other than fruit, or mango and sticky rice (so good!) I did cook a chocolate cake though- see below!

  7. Thai people put added sugar in everything, even many of the fruit smoothies have added sugar unless you specifically ask for them without. All the seemingly herbal teas come sweetened with syrups as well. It seems crazy to me since the diet is naturally sweet.

Things I loved about Thai food:

  1. The amazing fruit needs reiterating here! I also tried durian for the first time- an acquired texture, much more creamy that I anticipated. I also loved their mini bananas, much sweeter then what we have in the uk.

  2. Lots of veg heavy dishes with light sauces. Limited gluten as most are accompanied with rice or noodles of some description. I liked the lightness of the meals (but I did eat a lot!)

  3. Lots of veggie/vegan restaurants in Chaingmai, once you knew where to look. They all served plenty of delicious vegan options which made life much easier! One of my favourite restaurants we went to was Bamboo Bee. I tiny little research with only 4 tables and a lot of customers- we had to wait an hour before we could be seated. The place is run by Bee herself and the dishes are organic vegan, yet such amazing value. A huge meal for 4 people (and we ate a lot of dishes) was well under £20. She also has an book with all recipes that I plan to buy and recreate- particularly the sauces as I could do with some new ideas in that department.

  4. Fresh coconut- I reckon if you were stranded on a dessert island you could survive a long time on coconut, drinking the water and eating the meat-such a perfectly packaged food!

  5. Mango and sticky rice. This was one of the first dishes I had at a little open air market. So so good, made with sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar if some kind and a whole fresh mango. Yes I know, total carb alert! I would love to try and make my won versions as a treat.

  6. I didn't feel very bloated through my trip, even though I was eating so much much sugar fruit, which is great as travel and change if routine often affects my digestion.

 

I made two big jugs of delicious fruit smoothie to share with everyone on my last day, the recipes are below of you fancy recreating some of your tropical bliss as we move slowly into summer!

I also made my much loved banana chocolate cake for both a leaving party and a birthday... I made 4 cakes in total (following the same recipe I first made here in Lanzarote!) I had very limited utensils, no oven (only a microwave) and no measuring tools BUT it still worked surprising well and everyone loved it! It certainly helped satisfy my chocolate craving.

The original choc-banana cake!

The original choc-banana cake!

My version making the best of what I had! (that say's '27' on top)

My version making the best of what I had! (that say's '27' on top)

I managed to track down the cake ingredients at a local market... But it took ages as hardly anyone understood what I was trying to say! We had to use a translation app on the phone and show them the Thai phrase each time. Even then we went from stall to stall until we found what we needed. I thing the stall holders were quite bemused ;-)

I did eat a lot more carbs during the last two weeks that I have in a long long time. However in the past when I have tried a carb heavy diet (a year ago I experimented gin 80/10/10) I felt very bloated and it did not work for me well at all. Yet I did not feel at all bloated in Thailand. The two main differences were lack of beans- not sure if this combination of food works better!? And also the difference in climate. I am a big believe in eating locally grown foods in accordance with climate for optimal results. I now feel as though it's less an issue of the ratio of carbs/fat/protein but more an issue of the relationship to climate. Something I'll be export more. 

I'll leave you with a few foodies photos taken thought out my time in Chaingmai. All photos were taken on my phone. 

Plus scroll down for my smoothies recipes... 

The only photo I took of the smoothies (alongside a yellow watermelon - how cool?)

The only photo I took of the smoothies (alongside a yellow watermelon - how cool?)

For the smoothies I used fresh coconut meat which was amazing as it left little chewy pieces of coconut in the smoothie. This was in large part accidental due to the power of the basic blender I was using, if using a more highly powered machine it will be smoother, unless you stop blending whilst there are still some visible specks of coconut.  

Recipe: chocolate, banana, coconut smoothie

Makes approx  1 litre

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coca powder

  • 5-6 mini bananas (approx 3-4 regular)

  • Flesh of half a coconut (approx 1/2 packed cup)

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1 cup water

Recipe: banana mango, coconut smoothie

Makes approx 1 litre

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango

  • 3-4 mini bananas (approx 3 regular)

  • Flesh of half a coconut (approx 1/2 packed cup)

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1 cup water

Do you want to know what my favourite meal was.... yup, mango and sticky coconut rice served from a street trader ;-)  I already have my sights set on recreating the recipe... but since I haven't yet had time since returning this recipe looks like an easy start... though this one is more traditional!

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Reflections on my Thailand experience

Sitting in the departure lounge at Bangkok airport at 1am in the morning.... and it is the perfect place to begin writing this post. I can stay in the moment as I reflect on my experiences instead of the contemplating the hours of travelling that lay ahead.

My volunteering experience in Thailand almost didn't happen at all. My mum and I had originally planned a trip to visit my sister who is currently working in Bangkok, I wanted to extend my stay after the family holiday time together and found a yoga retreat centre. However what I failed to realise was that this particular centre was a 12 hour bus ride away and totally unpractical. So at the last minute I scanned the Workaway website (a more recent amazing discovery) and found an opportunity to volunteer in the construction of a yoga centre a short drive from Chaingmai city itself. 

It seemed perfect, and it did not disappoint!

I spent seven days at Yoga House getting involved with gardening, artwork and cooking. Most days I woke with the sunrise just before 6am and cycled to the early morning market for fruit- so much amazing fruit! I watched the sun come up whilst siting on the deck drinking hot water with fresh lime and eating some of the fruit, then got to work for a couple of hours before the heat of the day truly hit. Even though the temperature was over 40C most days I found it surprisingly ok, in fact without air conditioning my body acclimatised a lot better. I have never been a fan of air conditioning and this experience reinforced that.

The bedrooms were simple shed-like structures. I'll be honest it took me a couple of days to get used to the multiple frogs and lizards sharing my room every night (I felt like a contestant in 'I'm a Celebrity' initially). I was glad of the mosquito net 'shield'. I was also very glad to have taken eye mask and earplugs- who knew wildlife was with so loud!! There was one slightly amusing incident (amusing more in hindsight) in which I was in the middle of a coaching session with my coach and the lizards on the ceiling and walls were much more active with the light on. One fell off the ceiling right on front of my face and I leapt up launching my phone (on which I was Skyping) across the room!

We took part in yoga everyday during early evening, the warm glow of the setting sun bathing the floor tiles of the space with a golden hue. My flexibility improved in that short time and I nailed a couple of new moves- scorpion arm balance and headstand-to crow-to chataranga. Both of which I was very to happy to come away with and has re-motivated me with my yoga practice.

Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Ma, owner of Yoga House taught all the classes and had built the centre from scratch over the last year. I hugely admire his energy and vision and the generosity he extended to us all, with just two hours a day of work and a 100baht (£2) contribution towards all food each day. With other volunteering opportunities it is more typical that you work 4-5 hours each day without paying a supplement for food. I was more than happy with the arrangement at Yoga House, and even though the menu was typically vegetarian, I was well catered for with vegan food.... plus the fruit ;-)

I spent my days with a beautiful group of fellow volunteers and a couple of guests who were also staying at the centre. We prepared and ate all our meals together, and enjoyed so many random and interesting conversations around the table, sharing stories and teaching each other words from our languages. This is what I loved so much, the energy of the time together gathered around a table sharing bowls of food we created. 

This was a very similar experience at the Buddhist meditation centre and one of my greatest memories there also. I have lots more to talk about when it comes to food of course, but I'll save that for a separate post!

A few photos of how I spent my week, to give you the essence beyond that which words can say... 

A personal highlight was a trip to the local national park wth a beautifully clear waterfall steam that we swam and played in. After a couple of hours it thundered and as we made our way back to the truck the sky opened and it poured! The journey back in the open topped truck was an experience as we were pelted by rain!

The uniqueness of travel and volunteering in this way, is such that people flow in and out of your life, and I within theirs. You quickly create bonds and friendships, then those people then leave and others flow in. A beautiful dynamic, a test of attachment, of letting go, of appreciating the moments for what they are and the inevitable process of ebb and flow. 

There were between 4-6 other volunteers/guests at any one time, with a shift in group dynamic every few days as people came and went.

The other thing I loved, again similar to that I experienced at the mediation centre, is that some of the volunteers/guests are living there longer term. It reminds me that 'it could be me' if I choose to do so. When you go on a typical holiday abroad, the setup is such that it is a finite bubble of bliss. A luxury experience. It is not a real life setting and more simply a respite from 'real life'. The beauty of this paired back, cost effective experience is that it could become 'real life'. You are literally spending time in another persons real world. Yes, I may have left after a week but the setup was such that I couldn't have stayed indefinitely if I had wished...

Another big difference for me personally (and one in which I fully appreciated in jumping without pause from holiday mode to volunteering mode) is that holidays are for DOING, yet the volunteering experience is for BEING. I've touched many times on the shift between those two aspects of life and my own endeavours to spend more time BEing and as such become more heart centred in my approach to life.

The Yoga House created a beautiful space for that process. Set in a small village area outside the bustle of Chaingmai city, with old bikes to take out, hammocks hung from trees, a deck to perfectly view the sunrise from and a yoga den to use all day long. It created so much space to simply be. I appreciate not all volunteering experiences would create this same level of quiet reflection, and that many users of the workaway site would use the opportunity to find city centred locations to explore the surrounding beyond their work times. However I think the overall sense of doing away with luxury, pairing back to simplicity and coming to know yourself is still deeply embedded.

Travellers interest me. I had never realised that in previous years since I had never travelled! I am now beginning to see what I was missing out on! My motto, the words I wear around my ankle on a red chord, read: 'always be curious'. This last week I surrounded myself with curious people. People who not only want to explore but have actually stepped up into doing it. 

Interestingly, it is less the sense of physical exploration that I refer to (but of course that plays a part with interesting stories and insights to tell) but more the mental sense of exploration, of growth and change as a person. In being around others on this path, it raises my own excitement, energy and inner confidence to continue to do the same.

Travel changes you significantly, there is no doubt about it.  From my experiences so far, it has presented me a whole new window on my life and on my world that is difficult to grasp quite so profoundly any other way. When you are outside of your own culture, comfort zone and norms of society you become more consciously aware. It is impossible to run on autopilot when your ingrained social context is taken away. You get curious and question more and assume less, something I am striving to do more in my everyday life.

I'm smiling softly as I wrap up the draft of this post, now flying somewhere over Moscow only a few hours away from landing on home turf. I feel there is so much more to say as the energy is bubbling up inside me, but that can wait until it finds its moment. 

I smile because not only have I left this week with a host of beautiful memories, but also with the notion this can happen all over again as soon as I want it to. I design my own life, on my own terms. I now plan to prioritise travel in my life, to deeply enrich my personal growth and my mind-body connection, but also in equal part enrich and strengthen my offering as a coach, my work with 1-1 clients and also in the creating of retreat experiences and the longer term dream of creating a 'centre for BEing'.

I am home for just seven days before I take off again for the biggest experience of my life so far. As a gift to myself for my birthday next month, I decided to step fully beyond my comfort zone and live for the entire month of May at Rainbow City in Portugal. In saying 'yes' to this opportunity it brought butterflies to my stomach, it still does! I have no idea what to expect, but at the same time fully acknowledge that to be the beauty of the experience. Open mind, open heart. I can't wait to report back from there soon!

Here again are the links to Yoga House and Workaway in case you want to explore them for yourself (neither of these are affiliate links in any way). I loved every minute of my experience, and highly recommend volunteering as an incredible cost effective way to explore the world (or even just the UK as I did at the mediation centre) and meet inspiring people, and maybe in the process find a little more of yourself.


Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where I feature roundups and special offers plus my FREE ebook. If you are new round here you might like to check out my 'About' tab up top. To buy healthy nibbles you can also find me over at my sister site Wholeplus. 

Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places:

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Travel far enough and you meet yourself

I have mentioned 'travel plans' quite a bit recently, in conversations and social media posts, and a few have you have got curious and had conversations with me about it. So I wanted to share with you all a little more of what is going on for me in my life right now.

At the beginning of this year I didn't set a typical New Years Resolution, but instead I gave myself a word to focus on this year, a word to live into.... My word was 'EXPERIENCE' and my focus was (and still is) to have as many 'experiences' over the course of this year as possible. Many, but not all, of these experiences will involve travel so that I can immerse myself in another life, another community, another person's world. I am seeking 'experience' in the widest, most openminded context possible.

I want to bring all these experiences back to my own evolution, living from the heart, and the ways in which I can most powerfully show up and serve my clients, friends and colleagues.

Last week, I was volunteering at Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre (I still have so much to say in another post about this experience) and next week I am flying out to Thailand to visit my sister but then also spend time volunteering as a yoga wellness centre.

For May I decided I would take the biggest leap yet. It still gives me butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. For my birthday month I wanted to do something monumental, something that I would remember all life long. For the entire month of May I am visiting Rainbow City ... I have no idea what to expect, but I know it will be an amazing opportunity for growth, soul searching and powerful inner creation. My heart is wide open for what may lie in store.

Remembering back to this post last year when I had just taken my first solo flight abroad makes me realise just how far I have some in my personal growth. I would not even have considered doing this just a few months ago. It would have been so far out of my comfort zone and my awareness of it even being an option on my life.

If you'd like to connect me as I travel, I am continuing my work with clients (and simply curious people) so please do get in touch and let's set up a conversation.

 

P.s Here is a little taster of the incredible, sustainable, off grid community that is Rainbow City...


Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where I feature roundups and special offers plus my FREE ebook. If you are new round here you might like to check out my 'About' tab up top. To buy healthy nibbles you can also find me over at my sister site Wholeplus. 

Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places:

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