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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Filtering by Category: Health Tips

The 7 ways that yoga changed my life

Becca Crawford

 

Exactly 20 years ago to the month I had my first monumental wake up call. At 26 I burnt out as a young corporate lawyer after years of pushing myself to the extreme at high school, university and then at a top tier law firm. Too many long hours, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, pressure-cooker environment, little sleep, and binge drinking all culminated in finding myself lying flat on my back for 2 months with physical and emotional burnout. Every time I got up to go to work, the universe would raise its finger and strike me down. Bronchial pneumonia, an immune system that was completely shot, an osteo skeletal system that was so tight and ropey I felt like a wound up spinning top, and migraine headaches that made me want to jump off a cliff to end the pain. The universe was sending me clear messages that the way I was living wasn't sustainable. But I failed to heed to the warning bells my body was increasing screaming out until the sirens became so loud that one night I found myself in a hospital bed having wet myself from all the drugs I was pumped with and feeling poignantly the pain of (a wet) rock bottom. 

As I lay in that bed staring at the ceiling I knew that my lifestyle was unsustainable and that big changes had to be made. I needed to learn the hard lessons and rewrite my life from scratch. But what would it look like and how would I do it? 

While I knew I wasn’t happy in my job I didn’t know what else to do. I had no idea what my passion or purpose was back then other than a realisation that I was deeply unhappy and unhealthy and that I wanted something better for myself. It was a realisation that unless I turned my health around I couldn’t live a life of purpose and was only a fraction of who I could truly be. 

I had no tools, no mentor, and no one holding my hand through the process. Podcasts, blogs and social media did not exist. No doctor I saw ever asked about my diet, my sleep, whether I was exercising, whether I enjoyed my work or was happy in my relationship, whether I was stressed out of my brain or whether I ever saw the light of day. All I knew is that I felt broken, lost, confused and alone.

Until I worked out the bigger picture and hence my next move, in the meantime I would have to stay the course as a banking and finance lawyer BUT I instinctively decided to make 2 changes immediately: 

Firstly I decided I wanted to spend my weekends bushwalking as a way of immersing myself in nature and getting some exercise and fresh air. This started a life long passion of hiking and trekking taking me to numerous places around the globe. 

Secondly I wanted to try yoga. Back in 1999 yoga was still very alternative. People had only just started talking about it in the west and there were literally only a handful of yoga studios to choose from. I remember one of the partners at the law firm responding with "Why on earth would you want to do THAT?!" when I told him I was off to try yoga after work. 

I don't know why or how these 2 things came to me but somehow they felt intuitively right. It was though I instinctively knew that they would provide nourishment for my broken body and depleted soul. It was these 2 things that kick-started my journey into healing myself and then my life’s work in health and wellness. My passion for traditional wholefoods followed in the ensuing years as one door opened another and another.... 

I can’t say I loved my first Hatha yoga class but afterwards the teacher looked me in the eye and said "You have a lot of fire in you. I think you should try Iyengar yoga." I had never heard of that before. I found an Iyengar yoga school down the road from me in Melbourne where I lived and I was hooked after my first class. It was like a light bulb that went off inside me and I couldn’t get enough of it. Like a child starved of nourishment, I lapped up every instruction and found myself counting down the hours to the next class. It was dynamic, intense, precision focused, and deeply relaxing all at once. It was exactly what I needed physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Iyengar yoga is not trendy. You won't find flashy yoga studios. You won't see instructors and participants clad in the lasted active wear. There's no slick sexy marketing campaigns. There's no franchises and you won't get the feeling that you're in the latest "it" place. But there’s a deep well of rich instructions that form a strong foundation for the most rigorous practice I’ve come across. 

From there started a passion and deep respect that has lasted 20 years to the month. I've tried many systems of yoga during that time but I keep coming back to Iyengar. Before I had my kids, I would average approx 10 hours of practice a week but since having children my practice has been very sporadic and, at times (for months or even years), non existent. But like a cherished friendship with a life long friend, yoga is now so deeply ingrained in the fabric of my DNA that I simply pick up from where I left off when life affords me the opportunity. 

What has 20 years of yoga taught me? More than I can articulate but set out below are 7 of the most unexpected and potent ways that yoga has enriched my life: 


1. I’ve learnt that it all starts with becoming more conscious about ourselves


The point of yoga is to raise one’s consciousness. Starting with becoming more conscious about myself, I learnt how I was so out of deeply out of touch with my physical (and hence emotional) being. Yoga took me to places I never knew existed in myself. I learnt how unbalanced the right and left side of my body were, how the reason for many of my osteo skeletal issues stemmed from a broken collar bone from birth, and how inflexible I had allowed my body to become. Just to name a few. 

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2. I’ve learnt that physical strength flexes our emotional strength 


By pushing myself to the edge of my physical limits, I soon discovered how this flexed my emotional resilience. The more physically strong I became, the more emotionally stronger I became. 

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3. I’ve learnt that inversions can help overcome fear 


I went from being the kid in the playground at school who loved doing handstands all day to some 15 years later being petrified of doing the same thing even against a wall. Fear overcame me when it was time for inversions with clammy hands, sweating and increased heart rate. It took me 10 years to do my first unaided headstand. I discovered that the more inversions I did, the more I loosened my grip on fear in all areas of life. Inversions provide me with a sense of freedom, lightness and playfulness that have translated to all areas of my life. They are also an antidote for depression and heaviness, and give our internal organs a much needed break. 


4. I’ve learnt to relax within effort

Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled or riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life
— B.K.S. Iyengar

Holding a pose for what seems like an eternity is a characteristic trait of Iyengar yoga. The idea is that only after a certain period of time the muscles get the signal that they have no choice but to relax. 

Within that time your body is screaming at you to remove yourself at all expense from the uncomfortableness of it all. My teachers taught me that how we respond in an uncomfortable pose is characteristic of how we respond to uncomfortable or intense situations in life. At first I squelched at how I would respond. A pose would trigger feelings of panic and rage that I wanted to escape from- typical of how I always responded to bad news (a trait I learnt as a kid from my mother). Over time I observed these feelings, and started to breath and relax into the messiness and uncomfortableness of it all. I can’t begin to tell you how this helped me tremendously in giving birth twice naturally without drugs to my 2 babies (averaging four kilos each). I owe my calm births to my years of yoga that preceded them. I greeted the contractions like a challenging pose and simply breathed and tried to relax within the effort.

Finding a way to relax within effort has been one of the most valuable lessons for me in copying with life in general. For life throws at us mess, discomfort, inconvenience and often downright atomic bombs and semi trailer collisions. It’s how we respond to these events that defines us. 

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5. I’ve learnt that support is not a sign of weakness but a way to strengthen our ability 


For those not familiar with Iyengar yoga, the key point of differentiation is its use of props such as bricks, bolsters, benches, walls, ropes, chairs, planks, straps etc. These are used to support you in a pose and /or allow you to go much deeper into the pose than you otherwise would without props. 

At first I thought the use of props was cheating. Then I discovered how much deeper I could go, how much more aligned I could be and/ or how I could stay in the pose for so much longer aided with props. 

I learnt that it’s not only ok to rely on props, they were necessary to advance my practice. 

In the same way I’ve learnt that it’s not only ok but essential to ask for support from friends or professionals when I’m feeling stretched, blocked or to move to the next level. It’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of being open to becoming a better version of yourself. 

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, we can’t do it all ourselves. Rely on support when it’s available. 

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6. I’ve learnt that flexibly in the body translates to flexibility in dealing with life 


When I started yoga I could barely reach down to my knees in agony. I would have described my personality back then being a reflection of my body- tight, rigid and uncompromising. I was startled that within 8 months of consistent practice I was able to get my hands flat on the floor. In learning how to increase the flexibility in my body, I also started learning how to become more flexible in my mind with how to deal with life. 

A brilliant analogy one of my yoga teachers taught me was to become less mercurial and more like putty. When responding to life’s events (positive or negative), instead of spilling everywhere like mercury on a board, we can become more like a piece of putty that is firmly planted on a board and simply moulds to where it needs to go without bending too much out of shape or becoming imbalanced. 

No matter what life throws at me, I’m learning to go more with the flow, responding gently and graciously than react outrageously. This one is still a big work in progress! 

I will point out though that when it comes to matters of principles and values, I stand firm. In matters of fashion and style, sway with the wind. 

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7. I’ve learnt to redefine “all or nothing” 


I used to think that unless I could devote at least 2 hours to a yoga practice it wasn’t worth doing it at all. I used to scoff at people who would do anything less than that thinking it’s not worth it. Then I had babies and they turned that mentality swiftly on it’s head. I mean, what mother of small children has a lazy 2 hours up her sleeve most days?? 

Ive learnt to redefine “all”. I’ve learnt that 5 minutes is “all” I have some days and that’s better than no practice at all. It’s the little small daily increments that add up and count for a lot. 

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Since having kids going to yoga classes has been replaced with doing my own yoga practice either at home or outdoors in sunshine at my local beach often using my kids as props 

I wish to pay immense gratitude to the late BKS Iyengar and to all my yoga teachers over the past 20 years who have taught me so much (especially Tony Rothburg from Bridge Yoga School in Richmond Melbourne who started my love affair with yoga with his unconventional humorous and playful style).

Now I’d love to hear from you - what lessons have yoga taught you that you apply in day to day life? 

Namaste
Soulla x

 

Tips for eating and sleeping on international flights

Becca Crawford

 

I’m getting asked a LOT of questions about whether you can take food on international flights, and what food to take etc. I haven’t eaten plane food for about 15 years instead preferring to take my own. I average 3-4 international trips a year so I’ve got plane food down to a fine art. It’s easier than you think. 

Before we dive in I will preface by saying that flying is one of the most unnatural things you can experience- from changing time zones, to radiation exposure, to the “food” offered on flights, to the air you’re breathing, to sitting for extended periods, to broken sleep and to being surrounded by a high concentration of people in very small area. So this now becomes an exercise in damage control. Is it any wonder you leave the flight looking and feeling like you’ve been in a washing machine?! Hopefully the tips below will ease the damage and have you bouncing back in no time. 

FOOD.

Yes, you are allowed to take your own food on planes. Liquids (which include tinned food and tubed toothpaste!!!) must be under 100g/ml. Declare anything that needs to be declared at the destination which is typically meat, dairy and eggs. Each destination country is different but this is a good general rule of thumb. The stuff I refer to below that I frequently take into USA goes through without any issues after I declare it. 

Before I leave I buy some fresh fruit and veggies – enough to keep me going for about 2-3 meals depending on length of flight. When heading back to Australia from overseas I head to the local farmers market or marketplace to buy produce. I tend to buy these the day before or the day that I’m flying out so that they remain fresh. Things like lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, capsicum, carrots etc. 

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Non-perishables that are great on planes include grass fed beef jerky, wild salmon jerky (bought this baby in Seattle!), activated nuts, goji berries, flaked coconut, nori seaweed, tinned wild fish less than 100g and raw dark chocolate (getting stuck into my 100% variety). If you’re taking cheese or hard-boiled eggs be sure to eat within 12 hours due to lack of refrigeration. I prefer not to bother with cheese and eggs as there’s plenty of other sources of protein that I list above that don’t require refrigeration. Tinned salmon spooned into cos lettuce worked a treat. Yes take plastic spoons (biodegrable if possible, though I’ve had my non biodegrable plastic ones for about 15 years and keep washing and re-using them). 

Things without pips and that don’t require chopping are easier (e.g. I prefer not to take a bunch of cherries, a large tomato or a block of hard cheese. Instead I would buy blueberries, cherry tomatoes and pre-cut large chunks of cheese or veggies into smaller pieces). Use common sense. Having said that, I did take an avocado and used a plastic knife to cut it and all was well in the world. 

Don’t forget to drink lots of water with a pinch of unrefined salt. I always carry a small container of salt in my handbag when travelling to add a pinch to all my drinking water and to sprinkle over my food. Unrefined salt = minerals. 

When flying back from overseas into Australia, note that Australia has stricter laws than most countries in that all food must be declared so try eating as much of it as possible especially all fresh foods on the flight, else declare it. Bringing in opened packets of goji berries, coconut flakes, chocolate, my activated nuts and UNOPENED Aussie beef jerky back into Australia was no problem for me when I declare it. If the beef jerky was opened they would have confiscated it.


SLEEP.

I sleep poorly on flights so I take a natural melatonin (I like Young Living chewable Immupro) and I wear blue blocking glasses to block out all the blue light which disrupts melatonin production (and hence makes it harder to fall asleep). Young Living oils like lavender or RutaVaLa™ (which is a calming blend of Lavender, Valerian, and Rue) applied topically can support a deeper sleep. I can not sleep if I’m even slightly cold so I wear layers upon layers of warm clothing including 2 pairs of socks and a pashmina. I take a neck pillow too. 

Try to get your circadian rhythm back by adopting the time zone of the destination city as soon as you land even if this means staying up all day when all you want to do is sleep. 

Getting out into sunshine and grounding your feet in the earth help to adjust your circadian rhythm. 

Quality coffee, raw cacao powder, 100% raw dark chocolate and Young Living peppermint oil all help me stay awake! I always travel with raw cacao powder, raw cacao butter and peppermint oil to make a minty hot choc with boiling water. 

If you must eat the food know that the eggs are probably powdered and hence constitute oxidised cholesterol. Sorry to break that bad boy to you. I would avoid. The yogurts are typically low fat and flooded with additives. I personally would prefer to fast than eat plane food (though the fruit salad would be ok if I was pressed to eat something). Still, fasting is not a bad option to get your mitochondria firing…If you’ve made your mind up to eat the plane food then eat it, make peace with your decision and DON’T STRESS ABOUT IT as stress is more toxic than the most toxic food. Got it?!


RADIATION and other lurgies.

A mineral rich diet goes a very long way in supporting the body after exposure to radiation and other toxins. 

Young Living Melrose essential oil is touted to protect against radiation bombardment - I inhale a few drops in the palm of my hands and apply topically. 

I also like to rub the almighty Young Living Thieves essential oil blend on the soles of my feet (neat) before boarding, and on my neck and chest (dilute with a natural carrier oil if it feels too “hot” on your skin). I use the Thieves Room Spray or if I run out I cheat and simply dilute Thieves in a small spray bottle of water and use that to spray all around me on the plane and directly on my neck to generally support my system during the flight against any lurgies. Thieves is Young Living’s signature blend and the most copied essential oil in the world. So be on guard for imitators and cheap alternatives. If you want the real deal, or want more info on Young Living generally, simply fill out the contact form on this page of my website and I or one of my team leaders will contact you to explain it all to you as you need an existing Young Living member to set up a YL account for you. 

I like to keep things really simple and practical for the average person and not get too fancy with different expensive equipment that reduces radiation exposure because most people can’t afford it or just won’t do it. Travelling healthy shouldn’t be too burdensome or expensive otherwise it becomes a form of stress and, as I keep on saying, stress is more toxic than anything you can put in or on your body. Just do your best to minimise toxic exposure in all its guises and enjoy your travels to the full extent. 

Happy travelling!

 

Brisbane 25th May Healthy Homes / Healthy Swaps / Essential Oils gathering 

Becca Crawford

 
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My recent talk on the Gold Coast in mid April on swapping out the toxins in our home was fully booked with many disappointed to not have secured a spot. I’m delighted to announce that I’m heeding to your requests to run another identical talk in QLD – this time in Brisbane on 25th May (1PM - 4:30PM in Toowong).

If you have already been to one of my Healthy Home talks please come again and bring friends to help them onto a less toxic, more nourishing path. After all, it all starts with a friend helping a friend, who helps another friend, and so on. My journey started over 20 years on the grassy knoll of Bondi with a friend telling me that conventional apples were sprayed. I was so shocked, disgusted and outraged that the “food” that I thought was healthy was actually covered in a toxic film. This then sparked a journey that radically altered the course of my life. And of course one door opened another door and from an exploration of our food system the path then lead to an investigation of the ingredients found in personal care products, household cleaning products, pharmaceuticals and everything in between. Chemical Sh%tstorm is how I would sum up what I discovered. Is it any wonder why we have this epidemic of chronic illness and degenerative disease when so much of what we ingest, touch, inhale, and slather on our skin, hair and scalp is questionable at best or toxic at worse. 

In my next Healthy Home talk I’ll show you how simple, easy and cost effective it can be to rid your house of all hormone-disruptive toxic chemicals and healthy swap to all-natural, super powerful products. In this no nonsense, comprehensive 3.5 hour talk I’ll explain how you can use therapeutic-grade essential oils and oil infused products to:

  • healthy swap ALL your conventional personal care products and household cleaning products to create a toxic-free home environment for your family;

  • turbo charge or enhance the fundamental pillars of health to take your and your family’s health to a whole new level; and 

  • healthy swap conventional pharmaceuticals with safe, yet powerfully effective, alternatives (this is very empowering as a parent!);

  • add a beautiful energy and spirit to your home making it a safe, inviting and comforting sanctuary. 

There’s no time like the present to start kicking toxic chemicals to the curb in the ONE and only environment you can control! 

Learn More, or Book Here.


I can’t wait to see you in Brissie!!!


Hi Soulla, a huge thank you for the amazing session last night. It was such an eye opener and I am feeling so inspired and ready to dive in. I was up til after midnight checking my existing personal care products only to find many of the “clean” options I have been using are scoring really high in the toxic category. Perfect time to start swapping them out! Thank you for sharing such a wealth of information and being so generous with your time. I so deeply appreciate it 🙏 
— Kate
Thank you so much for such a fantastic morning talking everything oils! Your session was brilliant and covered everything I could have hoped for. Your beautiful energy, integrity, knowledge and lovely, relaxed way of educating and sharing information was infectious (in the very best way!). Thank you again as I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again in Melbourne as you’re like a breath of fresh air and really motivated me to up my oils game. Absolutely love Young Living!! 
— Tracie
Soulla, I would have been lost if we hadn’t crossed paths. I am so different than everyone over here. You and our Young Living tribe have given me so much love and support. Without that I’m sure the stress would have taken over! 
— Kelly
Hi Soulla, I just wanted to reach out and tell you how much I appreciated today. Thank you. This is the start of my journey, yet after today’s workshop, I walked away feeling:
* empowered by the knowledge you shared
* clear on the direction I wanted to take; and
* motivated to change
The first thing I did when I got home was run all my favourite household products through the EWG website. I’m now scared to touch some of them but I’m grateful that I now know what is really inside them. I can’t wait for my Young Living Healthy Homes kit to arrive. Thanks again!
— Fabiana