Yoga retreats

Daily view
Daily view in La Gomera, my most recent yoga retreat.

I was chatting to a patient this morning about yoga retreats and it led me to reflect back on the ones I’ve been on.

The first one was way back when I first started studying Chinese medicine. It was a fantastically fun bachorlorette phase of my life. I was keen to make big changes in myself and the direction of my life. I booked a yoga holiday in Thailand. I think I was hoping for an amazing life changing spiritual experience. I expected to return home in a zen state, tanned and toned, looking and feeling fabulous.

The reality was a bit different. The venue was changed at the last minute. There ended up being only 4 of us which made the group dynamics a bit odd. One of the girls had a bit of an emotional break down midway through the week and the journey home was a nightmare. I was jetlagged, covered in bites and caught a really bad cold, probably from the plane. Not quite what I planned.

The second one was local to me. I remember there being a few issues with the booking and there were some very strong characters in the group which led me to withdraw a bit as I was desperate for some quiet time. The yoga classes however were amazing. Truly. I remember driving home and realising how incredibly different I felt. I made a note to myself at the time to remember that feeling. I think that experience led me to make some subtle changes in myself and my life.

The last one I went on just before Christmas, was an amazing location. There were some odd things however and the actual yoga itself didn’t really live up to expectation. But…. I met the most amazing group of people. We’ve stayed in touch, chat regularly and have some get togethers planned.

My reflection is to not make too many judgements on these experiences based on my expectations and perhaps thats how we should treat life. I learnt a lot from these retreats. In some ways they were life changing but perhaps not in the way I’d anticipated. I’d definately do it again and recomend to anyone to try it.

Health, Recipes, Womens Health

Warm Liver salad

At last! I’ve been threatening to do this for a while. A big thank you to a friend for putting this together for me.

You know it’s good for you, plenty of iron but…well, it’s knowing what to do with it. This is my effort below and I must say it was delicious. I didn’t have the ingredients to follow the recipe exactly but took elements from each. Bon appetite!

liver salad

Warm Chicken Liver Salad

200 g chicken livers
50 g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
knob butter
3 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette,
Salad leaves
crusty bread, to serve

1.  Cut livers into bite sized pieces and roll in the flour until each piece is coated. Heat the butter in a frying pan until quite hot, then add the livers. Fry on a medium heat for 3 minutes or until brown on the outside but still pink in the middle.

2. Arrange the lettuce on the plates and put the livers on top. Return the same frying pan to the heat and warm the balsamic vinaigrette for a minute, pour over the livers and lettuce. Serve with crusty bread.

Warm Calves Liver Salad (recipe for 4 people, so adjust to suit)

175 g spinach leaves
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, quartered
1 tbsp thyme leaves only
2 rashers back bacon cut into strips
350 g calves’ liver, or chicken liver
24 button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp pine nuts/kernels
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
ground black pepper

1. Wash and dry the baby spinach leaves and divide between 4 plates.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a low heat. Tip in the shallots and fry until brown. Add the thyme, bacon and liver and increase the heat to medium. Cook the liver for about 5 minutes; it should be brown on all sides, but still pink in the centre.

3. Remove the liver, shallots and bacon from the pan and keep warm. Turn the heat off, add the mushrooms to the same pan, and season with black pepper. Stir well to coat the mushrooms with the meaty juices, divide into 4 portions and spoon over the spinach.

4. Return the pan to the heat and add the pine nuts. Stir and fry until golden. Scatter the nuts over the individual portions of salad.

5. Add the vinegar to the pan, turn off the heat, and stir to scrape up any sediment. Drizzle the warm dressing over each salad and serve straight away.


Yoga adventure

I’ve been away this w/e on a yoga retreat. I’d thought to take lots of photos and write a blog whilst I was there but then I realised that was counter-intuitive. I’d gone on the retreat to take some time out, so I switched off my phone and did exactly that.

The group getting ready for a walk

The Venue

The retreat was held at West Lexham education centre in Norfolk. The centre is in a beautiful location and is custom built for yoga. The centre is a converted farm. Using natural reclaimed materials, the centre blends beautifully and respectfully into it’s surroundings and has a clever, subtle elegance about it.

The Yoga

The company holding the event are called Adventure Yogi. I was so impressed by how the w/e was put together. We started our day with a silent walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside and then settled in for 2 hours of yoga. (Yes 2 hours!) Kirsty, our yoga teacher immediately put us all at ease starting off gently, loosening off all those tight areas and building up to a more intensive practise and ending with restorative relaxation. The focus (as Kirsty explained) was so not much about “how it all looked” but about “how it felt”. We were encouraged to tune in to our bodies and work to what was right for us.

I’d not done any yoga for many years and I was a bit apprehensive as to whether I would be able to keep up. Any issues I had about body image and my self-doubt quickly disappeared and by the end of the w/e, encouraged by Kirsty, I did a head stand! I was so grateful to Kirsty for taking the time to gently nudged me into doing it. Whilst I knew I probably had the physical strength to do it, my ‘head’ was telling me I couldn’t. I felt a bit emotional afterwards and it made me realise  some of the negativity I was holding on to.

We managed to do around 12 hours of yoga in 3 days. It was so beneficial to spend that time just focussing on being in your body and quietening the mind. There was plenty of time to rest during the day and included in the cost of the w/e was a massage treatment which was an absolute luxury. (Big thank you to Michelle!)

The food

The food was fantastic. It was vegetarian based. Lots of delicious beans and veg prepared by Tatu, a talented passionate cook. The food had such flavour and we were not left hungry. Mealtimes were a relaxed social experience. On the last evening, Tatu treated us to a banana chocolate desert which left us all salivating with delight. (We had worked hard).

In summary

If you get the chance to experience something like this then do it! I’ve been on a few things like this over the years, some better than others but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Adventure Yogi. In one word, the w/e was perfect. I’ve come away with a quieter more focussed mind that I haven’t had for a while. It’s made me think about my work life balance and about incorporating more yoga practise into my daily life. I shall be doing this again..and again. Namaste 🙂



Winter coastal walking

I wanted to share this fabulous walk we did over the Christmas holidays. It’s the first time I’ve been to Norfolk and this was probably the best walk I’ve done in a long time.

We parked at the pay and display car park at Sheringham railway station.

Sheringham station

We crossed over the railway track and directly behind the toilet block/tourist info building is a bus stop where we caught the CH3 bus to Cley next the sea. Timetable for the Coasthopper bus service can be found here. (The bus only runs hourly at this time of year!)

The bus stop for the start of the walk is the first stop after you see the “Cley next the sea” sign. Across the road from the bus stop is a small road/track which heads towards the sea. About a mile down this track you come across a sign for the Norfolk coastal path pointing to your right along the shingle beach.

Signpost on beach, Norfolk coastal path

The landscape is beautifully stark. To our left stretched the sea and on our right were marshes and mudflats which are home to migrating birds. The first 3-4 miles are actually quite hard going across the shingle. You don’t notice it at first but we soon realised we weren’t covering the miles as quickly as we thought. (Good for toning those gluteal muscles!)

Shingle beach at Crey next the sea

We’d both worn our heavy-duty walking boots as we weren’t sure if the route would be muddy. A few miles in, I was questioning whether I would have better off in my trainers. On balance I think I was glad of my boots as they gave some ankle stability in the shingle and there were parts of the route where we had to pick our way over the edge of the marshes. Could probably get away with trainers if you’re not too fussy about risking a wet muddy foot/feet.

marsh meets beach Weybourne

Once past the marshes, to the right can be seen the Muckleburgh collection, just before you reach Weybourne. As you look to your right, artillery can be seen on the skyline (see photo below).

Muckleburgh collection

Once past Weybourne, the path becomes a little more undulating as you head along the grassy cliff edge. The firmer ground is very welcome. Plenty of places to sit and ponder with a sandwich and a flask of tea.

Norfolk coastal path

It’s worth keeping an eye out for the North Norfolk railway to your right. If you’re lucky you’ll see the steam train go by. (Choo choo).  Next, you’ll see the golf course and a final relatively steep short hill will take you to the lookout station just outside of Sheringham where there are plenty of benches to sit and look back over your route.

View from lookout station Sheringham towards Crey next the sea

Once at the lookout station, you need to continue for approximately 1/2 a mile along the coastline via the Esplanade in order to make your way back to the railway station. This is probably where you need a map/ google maps to find your way but there are also lots of signposts.

We did this walk 28/12/13. You can see from the photos it was a beautiful sunny day although the maximum temperature was 7° and with the wind, it was pretty chilly. We were dressed very warmly including bobble hats and gloves and were armed with turkey sandwiches and  flasks of tea which were much appreciated.

The route is around 8 miles. It’s essentially an easy walk which is mainly flat and there’s no tricky navigation. Walking on the shingle slows you down a bit in the beginning. With lots of photo stops, tea stops and general messing around/admiring the views stops, it took us nearly 4 hours but could be done much quicker.

A highly recommended walk!

Chinese Medicine, Stress

Raw chocolate mulberries, a christmas gift idea!


I love nosing around Sante health shop which is below my treatment room in Trinity st, Colchester. Linda, who owns the shop is very particular about what she sells. Where possible everything is organic and ethically produced. They sell an array of high quality supplements and over the counter remedies (check out the manuka honey throat lozenges). There’s a fantastic selection of hair and beauty products that don’t contain loads of potentially toxic chemicals which I must say make good Christmas gifts.

Maybe I shouldn’t spread this around but there is also a small selection of chocolates, in particular Raw chocolate covered mulberries. Huge OMG!

I was drawn to them because white mulberries  or “Sang Shen” are used in Chinese herbal medicine. You might find them in a herbal formula that treats premature aging or wasting diseases as white mulberries are indicated to tonify blood and yin. Also they moisten the intestines so would be used to treat constipation in the elderly for example.

Mulberries taste like little toffees. When they are covered in raw chocolate then….well…they are GOOD! I’m planning to give these as gifts for my older relatives but mainly I shall be buying them for myself…ha ha.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, Menstruation, Womens Health

Nourishing the Blood

A patient of mine recently asked if I could help her 17-year-old daughter. Probably due to medication for her epilepsy she had been having a continuous heavy menstrual bleed for about 3 years. (It is here I bite my tongue and make no comment about her consultant advising her to “just put up with it”!) So I said of course and two treatments later, the bleeding had stopped.

However, three years of heavy menstrual bleeding had taken its toll. This poor young lady was incredibly pale in the face. Examining her tongue, it was again pale with an orangey colour. She was also exhausted. It was fairly obvious that she was very anaemic or as we would diagnose in TCM, Blood deficient.

Blood deficiency represents a little more than just anaemia. It refers to the lack of available nutrients in the blood. Symptoms may include: muscle cramps, spasms, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the limbs, dry hair and skin, hair loss, blurred vision, floaters, tired, dry or gritty eyes, dry brittle or withered nails, infrequent, scanty or lack of periods (amenorrhea), dizziness, fainting, poor memory, tiredness and vivid dreams.

This case though, got me revisiting Blood nourishing foods. Telling a teenager they’re having Liver and onions for tea might not go down too well but the fact is that Liver is one of the best sources of iron along with shellfish, beans, nuts and seeds and good news…dark chocolate!

So I’ve been hunting for a good hassle free liver pate recipe and found this:


Not a bad idea to be mindful of the nutrients we’re getting. So why not splash out on a tray of oysters once in a while and try making some homemade liver pate.

Acupuncture, Dental anxiety, Tuina

Study Backs Acupuncture For Reducing Dental Anxiety | Dentistry news | Dental News | Cosmetic Dentistry Guide

Study Backs Acupuncture For Reducing Dental Anxiety | Dentistry news | Dental News | Cosmetic Dentistry Guide.

Having a background in Dental hygiene, I welcome little reports like this. Whilst acupuncture and Chinese medicine are a lot more than just a relaxing, feel-good treatment, it’s ability to relieve anxiety are well documented. Many people have a fear of going to the dentist. The problem is, that minor work which can be fixed easily gets put off until complex treatment is required. Many people wait until they’re in pain before visiting the dentist, which frankly is too late!

For patients very nervous of going to the dentist, an acupuncture session prior to treatment might be helpful. My advice would be to start simple. Find a dentist you like, someone who is prepared to talk you through treatment and be kind and patient. Most traditional acupuncturists would be happy to time your acupuncture treatment prior to your appointment with the dentist. We can also leave you with some ear seeds, that can help prolong the feeling of relaxation.

Dentistry has moved on considerably since the days of extracting teeth without anaesthesia and aggressive restorative work. Most Dentists are focussed on providing conservative and preventative treatment which should lead to minimal amounts of work being required.

There are also a number of other uses of acupuncture within the dental field. TMJ dysfunction/pain for example, pain following complex extractions/infections, recurrent mouth ulcers, sensitive gag reflex and trigeminal neuralgia.