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What Is Tai Chi and How Can It Help Your Mental Wellness?

In our stressful world, we regularly hear about activities like meditation and yoga to help us calm and centre ourselves. While both of these offer countless benefits, we can’t forget about the life changing art of Tai Chi for our mental and physical health.

Often referred to as “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi Chuan is unique in that it is both meditative and an ancient Chinese martial art. Just as in yoga, there are several styles of Tai Chi, with some styles more focused on Tai Chi as a martial art and others more focused on Tai Chi as a renewing exercise for stress reduction and health. However, regardless of the style chosen, with Tai Chi, you work your muscles and your mind.

The  slow, constantly flowing, mindful movements and deep breaths that are characteristic of Tai Chi have been shown to improve memory, lower blood pressure, reduce balance and coordination problems, strengthen the body, and provide extremely strong mental health benefits.

How Tai Chi Boosts Mental Wellness

Recent and past scientific studies looking into the medical benefits of Tai Chi have found powerful results. Researchers, taking a closer look at these many studies, explained that Tai Chi offers just the right combination of body awareness, breathing, mindfulness, and movement that can contribute to healing. They also found that Tai Chi resulted in better self-esteem along with lowered stress and improvement in mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Tai Chi even made a difference for mood disorders.

The especially great thing about Tai Chi is that, unlike other activities requiring movement, Tai Chi movements are never forced, making them suitable for anyone at any age or fitness level. In fact, Tai Chi has actually been shown to reduce falls in the elderly, improve bone density, and contribute to a sense of happiness and purpose. This is a low-impact art form and exercise that is truly accessible to everyone.

Is Tai Chi Right for You? Try a Class!

Attending a class with a qualified instructor will help you learn the proper techniques of Tai Chi, so that you can practise the art on your own throughout stressful situations in your life and really receive the full benefits of Tai Chi. While you can watch videos or read books, there’s nothing like one-on-one instruction. Most of all, carving out time during your busy week to physically attend a Tai Chi class reminds you of the importance of focusing on yourself, the first step on your path to healing and living a calmer life.

I hold classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at three locations throughout York — Briar House on Mondays, Fulford School on Tuesdays, and Heworth Church Hall on Wednesdays. Mondays provide afternoon classes, while the Tuesday and Wednesday classes are held in the evening, allowing you to choose the class that best fits your schedule.

Wondering what to wear to a Tai Chi class? That’s the other beauty of this exercise. While you’ve undoubtedly seen the silk robes traditionally used in Tai Chi, you aren’t actually required to purchase anything specific to practise Tai Chi. Simply wearing loose clothing, so as to encourage the flow of energy, is encouraged. At some point, you may wish to purchase Tai Chi slippers for protection and support during the movements, particularly when performing Tai Chi outdoors, but others will choose to practise barefoot.

Need More Advice on Your Path to Wellness?

Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and related emotional problems also benefit greatly from my hypnotherapy and NLP services. If you have specific goals or needs that you’d like to discuss, I offer a 15-minute telephone conversation to see how I can help you reach your goals.

Mindfulness, in general, is another way to improve your mental wellness. Follow me on Facebook to see news about the upcoming release of my book on mindfulness, as well as for more tips on easing your stress and improving your wellbeing.

How to Find the Best Tai Chi Slippers For You

Any time you practice a new physical activity, it’s best to make sure that you have the best equipment available to you. This is so that you can get the most out of your workout but also so you can stay safe and healthy. If you are practicing tai chi, the equipment to focus on is your shoes.

You may be tempted to wear your normal athletic shoes while you are practicing, however they are not ideal for the careful, controlled movements that tai chi requires. They will provide too much traction which can cause you to injure your knees as you practice. The athletic shoes you have in your closet probably also have a slightly elevated heel which can throw off your posture as you learn in class. Slippers designed for tai chi will be the safest, most comfortable option for you.

Indoors or Outdoors

What sort of slippers that are best for you will depend on whether you attend classes inside, outside, or both. Slippers designed to be worn inside will be made of cloth and will be very soft and lightweight. Shoes designed to be worn outside will have a rubber sole and may resemble a traditional athletic shoe. You can also find hybrid shoes that have a very thin rubber sole if you prefer.

Choosing the Right Tai Chi Slippers

Tai Chi slippers are often inexpensive and are extremely convenient; they’re very easy to pack and carry with you. You will also feel a greater connection to the ground while you practice. That said, these sort of shoes get dirty and worn down easily if you don’t take care of them. They are not idea for practicing outside as they cannot protect your feet from rocky ground.

If your studio has a glossy floor, you may find that your feet slide if you’re a beginner. You will adjust to this in time as you grow more comfortable. A great option for cloth tai chi slippers can be found on Amazon. Do keep in mind when you are ordering that the exact size isn’t a guarantee so please check out the reviews and recommendations from others.

Tai Chi shoes designed to be worn outside will look more like a traditional athletic shoe that you can wear for other sorts, however it will be softer and have a slimmer profile. These shoes are more sturdy and will hold up longer and are also often available in bigger sizes than other options are.

Something In Between

The hybrid option is essentially a soft upper with a slim rubber sole. This option is useful both indoor and outdoor. They are more durable than the exclusively indoor slippers but are generally more comfortable than low profile athletic shoes. Your foot will be lighter and you’ll be less likely to end up sweaty than if you wear an athletic shoe. Double check with your instructor before you wear shoes in their studio that you have worn outside. They may prefer that you wear tai chi slippers or be barefoot.

Do you have a favourite pair of tai chi slippers or advice for someone else who is just starting out? Join the conversation on Facebook and get tips and share what you know!

Where to Find Hypoallergenic Alternatives to Down Pillows

Many people appreciate down pillows for their head and neck support, comfort, and breathability. However, these animal feather-filled pillows can be anything but breathable for someone who is allergic to the pillow’s contents or sensitive to the down pillow’s tendency to harbour dust mites. While proper cleaning techniques, such as cleaning using extremely hot or freezing water, as well as a dehumidifier, can make a difference in removing dust mites from your home, these are maintenance tasks that have to be repeated, and often, someone with allergies, asthma, or related conditions still has difficulty sleeping on down pillows.

If this describes you or someone in your house, then you may have wondered where to find quality alternatives to hypoallergenic pillows. These are special pillows that are specifically designed to prevent dust mites from entering. Allergy UK offers a list of recommended products, from complete anti-allergy bedding to air purifiers, on their website, but you can also visit a site as simple as Amazon for hypoallergenic alternatives to down pillows.

Breathe Easier with Hypoallergenic Alternatives

These pillows from In Style Furnishings are inexpensive and provide the same support as down pillows, but with hypoallergenic filling and a chemical-free, cotton-covered thread. Of course, since these pillows arrive vacuum sealed, you’ll need to give them a few days to reach their full size. These are clean, fluffy, attractive pillows that can help you enjoy all of the benefits of a down pillow without triggering your allergies or respiratory condition.

Another hypoallergenic option beyond pillows is to use a pillow protector. This waterproof pillow protector from Everlasting Comfort received high marks from Amazon users thanks to its ability to block bed bugs, dust mites, bacteria, and even sweat from the pillow, keeping it clean and allergy-free. One thing that even avid down lovers don’t care for is the way that the feathers in down pillows can poke through the surface. Using these pillow protectors over your down pillows will keep those feathers inside, providing you with even more comfort. These protectors are also great for travel, as you can easily put one over a hotel pillow.

Good Sleep Is Essential to Wellness

A key part of self-care is being well-rested. Research has shown that a lack of sleep contributes to heart disease, weight problems, and high blood pressure. It can even worsen mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Allergies can make a good night’s sleep feel more like a dream goal and less like a reality. Taking the time to invest in hypoallergenic pillows or hypoallergenic pillow covers can give you the rest you need without sacrificing all of the things you love about your down pillows.

Do you enjoy down pillows? Have you tried a hypoallergenic down pillow alternative? Tell me how it went in the comments or share with me on Facebook. You might also want to explore other ways to combat those pesky allergies, like healing house plants (yes, there are plants that can actually help and not hurt your allergies!) and salt lamps.

6 Best Organic Massage Oils

Massaging with oil is an enriching experience that can help you unwind after a stressful day, safely reap the many benefits of essential oils, plants, or herbs, and generally become more aware of yourself and the present moment.

You can apply massage oil directly to the skin after a relaxing bath or at-home spa day. You can also use massage oil as a way of diluting essential oils and avoiding the adverse skin reactions that can occur when applying an essential oil directly to your skin.

Here are six massage oils (and a few extra) that will nourish your skin as well as your mind:

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is one of the more easily absorbed oils, making it a favourite of aromatherapy enthusiasts looking for a carrier oil for their essential oils. With jojoba oil, you can add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender or rose before applying the oil to the skin. Jojoba oil itself has antibacterial 1and anti-inflammatory properties, and is especially known for its ability to heal the skin, as well as the scalp. If you have skin conditions such as eczema or dandruff, jojoba oil is thought to help heal and soothe dry, flaky skin.

Arnica Oil

Arnica oil is another soothing oil with particularly potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving qualities. This is the ideal oil for tired and sore joints, including sprains and bruises. This is a highly medicinal oil, as arnica flowers have been shown to help with a variety of medical conditions.

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated coconut oil is a more stable version of coconut oil, giving the product a much longer shelf life and a lighter weight than can be found in the usual extra virgin coconut oils. Like jojoba oil, coconut oils make for great carrier oils for essential oils. These oils also contain antioxidants and are popular choices for hair care.

Olive Oil

You might be surprised to learn that this pantry staple has uses beyond the kitchen. In fact, the vitamins and healthy fats in olive oil make it an incredibly rich massage oil, particularly when combined with essential oils to offset its characteristic scent. This is another one that’s also popular for hair care.

Sweet Almond Oil

Full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, sweet almond oil is extremely nourishing for the skin and well-absorbed. It’s also excellent for nails, making it a terrific pedicure choice post-foot spa.

Apricot Kernel Oil

If you or someone in your house has nut allergies, apricot kernel oil is a massage oil that is nut-free and known for its high vitamin content. It’s often used as a carrier oil, as well as for dry skin.

Honourable Mentions: Sunflower Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Sesame Oil, Avocado Oil

There many massage oil options available to you, all with their own healing properties and skin benefits. Sunflower, grapeseed, sesame, and avocado oils are all frequently used oils, but some of these oils have a short shelf life, are heavy (leaving you feeling greasy rather than relaxed), or are more likely to stain towels or other fabrics than oils  like arnica. However, they still have high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, their own benefits (like decreased anxiety or greater circulation), and many people love these oils. It’s worth trying out a variety of massage oils before to figure out what you like best.

There has also been great interest lately in infant massage. The gentle touch of infant massage is said to not only calm, but to stimulate a young baby’s physical and mental development. If you have a little one, choices like grapeseed and avocado are popular for providing light massage to a baby. Edible massage oils are best for infant, just in case your baby accidentally eats the oil.

Have you tried massage for you or a family member? Do you have a favourite massage oil? Find more tips for living a balanced life by following my Facebook page and joining the conversation.

Treat Yourself With These Home Spa Products

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to just apply to your home. We all need a little pampering every now and then, and a home spa day provides just the opportunity for rest and relaxation. The problem, of course, is searching through the seemingly endless product options that are available online. Instead of overwhelming yourself with choices, take a look at some of these tried and true products for a luxurious spa session without ever leaving your house:

Perfect Oils

I’ve talked in previous blogs about the benefits of Weleda arnica massage oil. This unique oil combines sunflower and olive oil with the arnica flower, a sunflower cousin that has major medical benefits. It’s been used to alleviate everything from a flaky scalp to inflammation, making this massage oil the perfect tool for your at-home spa day. Simply massage the oil into your skin after bathing. Arnica flowers are also known for their appealing scent.

Speaking of scents, essential oils dispersed through a diffuser or the use of bath products containing essential oils can promote further relaxation as you soak away the day. Ylang ylang, lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, rose, and camomile are some favourites for calming the mind and soothing the body. Just remember not to actually drop essential oils directly into the water without diluting them with what is known as a carrier oil (such as jojoba or olive oil) first! Otherwise, you may end up with skin irritation — not exactly the kind of relaxing home spa day you were planning.

Essential Bath Products

A warm soak requires the right bath products, and Weleda doesn’t only offer an amazing massage oil. You can also try their creamy lavender body wash.  This is a fragrant wash that combines organic lavender with sesame seed oil to soothe and restore. Other Weleda body wash options include wild rose, pomegranate, citrus, and sea buckthorn washes, all designed to provide excellent aromatherapy benefits and nourish your skin.

Remember Your Feet With a Foot Spa and Pedicure Tools

Our feet work hard everyday, but we often forget about them until they’re sore and achy. Pamper them with a high-quality foot spa to ease the ache, improve circulation, and help you unwind. Don’t forget to include a foot soak, like this tea tree oil therapeutic foot soak, and to finish up with a pumice stone and favourite lotion. Aloe, in particular, is a terrific choice for feet.

Relax with a Quality Robe

This personalised bathrobe will elevate your at-home spa experience. Plus, embroidered bathrobes makes amazing gifts, as well.

The Right Spa Products Can Make All the Difference

With Weleda arnica massage oil and body washes, essential oils, enjoyable tools for your feet, and a luxurious bathrobe, you’ll come home from work, school, or exercise ready to enjoy a spa-like experience right in your own home, reducing your stress levels and refreshing you for the next day ahead.

Have you tried any of these spa products? What are your favourites? Leave a comment below or share with me on Facebook, where you’ll want to follow along for more ways to feel relaxed and restored.

Top 4 Tai Chi Slippers on Amazon

When it comes to physical activity, it seems that almost every type requires a specific  wardrobe. Stretchy yoga pants and tops for yoga class. Swimwear for swimming. Even most martial arts classes have their own uniform requirements. Tai Chi, however, is different. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy new exercise clothing to feel comfortable or respectable participating in Tai Chi. In fact, you can really just attend a Tai Chi class wearing your own loose clothing.

Tai Chi is basically meditation in motion. Its careful, focused movements and breath work is potentially beneficial to everything from anxiety to the cardiovascular system. It’s a highly accessible Chinese martial art; nearly everyone can feel confident participating in Tai Chi. When it comes to what to wear to your first class, you simply want to wear something that doesn’t restrict your movement. Sure, you’ve likely seen videos or pictures of Tai Chi participants in silky suits, and while you may eventually find yourself wanting to purchase such items as you continue your Tai Chi work, you certainly never have to buy a wardrobe specifically for Tai Chi.

What About Tai Chi Footwear?

While there are definitely people who perform Tai Chi barefoot or while wearing trainers, the one main, simple wardrobe piece I’d recommend for your Tai Chi classes is a pair of thin, cotton or cloth Tai Chi slippers. Why do I suggest this? Trainers can negatively impact the Tai Chi movements, inhibiting the natural flow of your body. Rubber sole and athletic slippers, meanwhile, can also either feel heavy or prevent you from making the proper transitions during Tai Chi. Athletic slippers tend to be overly expensive, too.

What About Going Barefoot?

Many people absolutely have solid opinions about exercising barefoot (a concept called earthing). They view shoes as a kind of prison for the foot, preventing it from “communicating,” so to speak, with the ground below. This is understandable, but it needn’t (and shouldn’t) feel imprisoning to wear Tai Chi slippers. Instead, your slippers should help support your movements and your connection to the earth by being extremely lightweight, durable, and malleable. Proper Tai Chi slippers will allow you to practise on all matter of surfaces, especially the outdoor surfaces, comfortably and safely, without giving you this feeling of entrapment.

The Top Tai Chi Slippers

There are several varieties of Tai Chi slippers available on Amazon. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the exact size can’t always be guaranteed. You may have to try out different sizes of slippers to get the proper size that fits you. When buying Tai Chi slippers online, make note of the seller’s exchange policy (if not purchasing directly through Amazon), so that you can ensure the ability to exchange shoes for a better fit, if necessary.

Here are four favourites of Amazon customers:

 

 

These are the top martial arts footwear shoes on Amazon, and for good reason. These casual shoes are a wonderful choice for Tai Chi classes, notably indoor classes. The sole is specifically designed to give you free range of movement, but still provide appropriate support during your Tai Chi practise. While they are marketed as men’s shoes, women have also selected these slippers. It seems that these particular shoes tend to be small in size, so you may want to try sizing up.

 

 

If you prefer to try a rubber sole, these are a good option, particularly for outside Tai Chi classes. You’ll want to make sure, though, that you aren’t sacrificing your range of motion for the outdoor durability of the shoes.

 

 

Ranked in the top 10 on Amazon, these cloth Tai Chi slippers are extremely well reviewed by customers.

 

 

These comfortable shoes with a cotton sole are another popular choice for your Tai Chi practise. There is even a version of the Blitz shoe available for children.

Connect with the Earth — and Still Protect Your Feet

Meditative activities such as Tai Chi naturally make many participants want to connect with the world around them, particularly those who practise Tai Chi in outdoor environments. However, wearing light Tai Chi slippers improves the safety and comfort of your exercise and may even help with transitions — all without sacrificing the ground-foot connection.

What are your thoughts on Tai Chi slippers? Do you have a favourite pair? Or, are you still a barefoot enthusiast? Chat with me in the comments below or on Facebook, where I offer more tips on holistic remedies, mindfulness, and stress reduction.

I also offer a free, 15-minute phone conversation regarding my hypnotherapy sessions. Hypnotherapy is therapeutic treatment that has been shown to be effective for many of the same conditions that are also helped by Tai Chi, allowing you to tackle a condition with more than one therapy. Contact me by phone, email, or social media to learn more about how my services can help you to be your best self.

Why Self-Care Is An Important Part of Running

Self-care is a bit of a buzz word these days. We hear more and more about the importance of taking time for one’s self, and what such a thing might entail. The truth is that self-care looks different for every person. For runners, in particular, it’s easy to think that the act of running is itself an act of self-care, and that’s certainly true. Some form of exercise is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, runners find the activity to be a good conditioner for their bodies, but many also find the activity to be a great stress relief.

Running, however, can also be an intensive exercise, and runners (as well as all athletes) must take special care to prevent injury, recover from workouts, improve stamina, and stay in tune with themselves. This is where a different kind of self-care becomes valuable.

Don’t Skimp on Sleep

Casual runners often find that running is an easy way to tire you out for sleep, but it’s actually quite common for regular runners, particularly during training, to experience insomnia. The reason for this isn’t entirely clear, but overtraining may play a possible role. You can help sleep come easier by running early in the day or evening, as opposed to an hour or two before bed. Make sure that you’re well-nourished and hydrated during your runs and throughout the day. If it’s stress that’s keeping you awake, come up with a routine to help you unwind. Reading a book, journaling your stresses, doing some restorative yoga, or participating in tai chi are all ways to help strengthen the mind and calm the body for a more restful sleep.

You might also try having certain plants in the bedroom that are more likely to promote healthy sleep. While everyone is different, active runners should strive for at least the classic eight hours a night of quality sleep. Being well-rested will help your body to perform at its peak ability.

Remember Nutrition

Poor nutrition negatively affects your body and your performance as a runner. Carbs are discussed frequently around the time of a big race, but when planning for the big event, you want to be eating less-refined carbohydrates, like whole grain breads and wheat pastas, as opposed to refined carbohydrates that lead to blood sugar spikes. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and nut butters all provide the right balance of protein and fat that is particularly important during the recovery period post-run. Take it easy on the caffeine, however. While runners can and do enjoy their coffee and tea, too much caffeine can make it harder to get a restful sleep.

Care for Your Body

There are many different injuries that affect runners, with iliotibial band syndrome being one of the most common. With IT band syndrome, the thick band of connective tissue that runs the length of your thigh down to your shin bone becomes tight, swelling with inflammation and pain. IT band syndrome is one of the most common causes of knee pain in runners, and it can come on in even the most experienced athletes. It’s especially common in athletes who suddenly get back into training after taking a break from running.

To help guard against conditions like iliotibial band syndrome, there are a few things you can do. First, seriously consider regular massage. Massages aide in recovery and reduce inflammation. But, you don’t have to see a professional all of the time. You can invest in a foam roller (complete with instructional video) to regularly give yourself the kind of high-quality massage that is recommended by fellow runners and coaches alike. After using the foam roller, go ahead and indulge in a foot spa to further help your muscles recover.

Running as a Form of Meditation

A run can be a fantastic opportunity to explore meditation and mindfulness, especially if you’re running outdoors. Use your runs as opportunities to let go of the endless thoughts and distractions that tend to gather throughout our days, and instead notice the leaves on the trees, or the feeling of your feet as they hit the pavement. You’ll be more present and more alert, as well as feel less stress and a refreshed mind. An excellent book that teaches you how to run more mindfully is Chi Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

It’s important to remember that proper fitness is more than just going for a run. Complete wellness, from quality sleep to proper nutrition and injury protection, are all essential to your health and wellbeing as a runner. Running, just like any exercise, should be apart of your complete picture of health. When this happens, you’ll reap more benefits from running than you ever could have imagined.

Are you a runner? How do you practise self-care? Let me know on Facebook or in the comments below.

The Healing Benefits of 10 Common House Plants

Plants are incredible, natural sources of health and wellness. We’ve talked about how having certain plants in the bedroom encourages a restful sleep, but plants have other tricks up their sleeves, as well. Here are 10 plants that are known for their healing qualities, from medicinal plants and herbs to stress-reducing florals:

Aloe Vera Plant

The succulent aloe vera plant is perhaps one of the most well-known medicinal plants, used to treat sunburns, soothe skin irritations, and even act as an antiseptic for minor cuts and abrasions. Nutritionally, aloe vera juice is quickly gaining popularity as a healthy beverage. Aloe vera has been said to be effective in aiding digestion and boosting immunity, along with carrying antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Plus, aloe vera is an easy plant to grow at home, tolerant of most light and water conditions (although it prefers a bit of sun and infrequent watering).

Mint

Mint is a fragrant, fast-growing plant that you may not have realised is quite the healer. There are many varieties of mint, from peppermint to spearmint, and all have health benefits. Peppermint is known for its ability to quell stomach upsets and headaches, while spearmint tea has been extensively studied for use in certain hormonal conditions. It also helps lower blood sugar and, yes, helps stop bad breath in its tracks by killing the offending bacteria.

Some gardeners are hesitant to grow mint in their yards, as the herb has been known to take over gardens, but with a little careful planning, you can easily grow mint. The trick is to grow your mint in its own container, separate from the whole of your garden. Like aloe vera, mint is a tolerant plant; it will continue to grow under most any condition.

Ginger

Ginger is an extraordinary plant that has been used in ancient medicine for centuries. Ginger root, alongside honey and lemon, makes an immune boosting tea that is soothing for sore throats. Ginger tea is also healing for stomach upsets, and is particularly recommended in moderation for expectant mothers. Ginger is extremely versatile, serving as a tea, a spice, a candy, and an ingredient in a wealth of recipes.

You can grow ginger in a garden, or you can pick up ginger in all of its forms at your local supermarket.

Basil

Basil is likely in your spice rack right now, but there is so much more to this common food ingredient than as a dash of flavour. Basil is naturally antibacterial, which is perhaps one of the reasons it came to be so commonly used in meals. Basil also contains phytochemicals, compounds found naturally in plants that are thought to help protect cells from damages leading to cancer.

Basil, like ginger, may be a little more difficult than other plants to grow at home, unless you have a proper garden or area for growing. But, then, basil is also an easy store find.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a beautiful composite flower plant that, like ginger, makes an immune boosting tea that can be easily paired with honey, lemon, and even mint. Echinacea has long been a popular cold and flu remedy, as well as a medicinal herb for general immune support.

Echinacea as a plant often eludes gardeners. It seems to be here one minute, and then gone the next. However, if you have the means, growing echinacea provides an exciting challenge, and the plant is beneficial not only to humans — it is beloved by bees and butterflies, too.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus is a beautiful plant reminiscent of something you’d see on a summer holiday, but it isn’t just a pretty plant. Hibiscus has long been observed for its ability to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol profiles, provide natural antioxidants and cancer-fighting polyphenols, as well as fight bacteria. The most common way to take hibiscus is probably as a flavourful, refreshing tea that has a floral, berry-like taste.

There are a couple of varieties of hibiscus, one of which wouldn’t be particularly easy to grow in Britain, thanks to our tough winters. The hibiscus syriacus variety (known in some places simply as common hibiscus), however, is a stunning plant for any garden and a great deal hardier than its counterpart.

Give the tea a try before you grow by ordering hibiscus tea at places like Ocado or Amazon.

Camomile

Camomile is perhaps most famous for its use as a calming herbal tea that soothes the mind. This healing plant has other uses, too, though, from treating skin conditions to easing insomnia. Regularly drinking camomile in tea form has even been shown to potentially help manage diabetes.

Camomile is a vibrant plant to grow, and camomile beverages have a bright, unmistakable yellow colour with a lightly aromatic fragrance. This is an extremely soothing plant.

Orchids

You may be surprised to see this plant on the list, as orchids aren’t routinely talked about in medical circles like ginger or camomile plants, but they do have a rich history in traditional Chinese medicine. In China, orchids are regularly used to make teas and relaxing essential oils.

Orchids are also naturally wonderful air purifiers, and terrific plants to have in the house to help the air quality.

Rosemary

Another popular herb, it might be easier to ask what rosemary doesn’t do than what it does, as rosemary has been associated with cancer prevention, brain and eye health, less inflammation, greater antioxidant activity, pain relief, and even longer hair!

Related to mint, rosemary can easily be grown in a large container and is tough enough to last for many years.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a powerful plant when it comes to controlling diabetes and possibly even maintaining or regaining liver health. Silymarin, the main ingredient in milk thistle, is believed to be a major player in its healing effects. It’s also being studied in cancer research.

Milk thistle is most commonly taken as a capsule, but it can be crafted into a kind of tea, as well.

Nature as a Chemist

What is your favourite healing plant? Have you tried a hibiscus or camomile beverage? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, or on Facebook, where I share more easy, unique ways to enhance your wellbeing.

What Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Overall Health

One of the most important things to understand about wellness is how each part of your body plays a role in your health. You may be surprised to learn how some of the smaller features of your body, features that may not always draw your attention, can actually provide clues to your overall health. Your eyes, for example, can reveal to your doctor valuable information about your blood pressure and even diabetes. Your feet, as well, can offer insight into your health.

Let’s take a look at some common foot symptoms and what your feet might be trying to tell you:

Wounds That Won’t Heal

If you have a wound or ulcer on your foot that isn’t healing, you might want to check your blood glucose levels. Open sores, particularly on the bottom of the foot, are an extremely common problem in people with diabetes, and can be caused by everything from circulation issues to neuropathy related to diabetes. All of this, of course, can turn serious. Diabetic neuropathy can also cause foot tingling or numbness. If any of these things occur, visit your GP to discuss the problem, as well as your blood sugar control. Open wounds can end up causing dangerous infections.

Toenail Problems

When examining your feet for problems, take special note of your toenails. Spoon-shaped nails could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency, such as anaemia caused by a lack of iron (or its opposite, hemochromatosis, too much iron), as well as a variety of other conditions. Toenails that are strangely coloured, particularly yellow, could also indicate medical problems, some even serious. This is another time when you’ll want to pop into your GP for a quick foot check-up.

Foot Spasms, Tingling, or Pain

Foot spasms or pain can be a sign of a long day at the office, or an athletic injury, but just like the other symptoms on this list, it can also be a sign of something more concerning. Nutritional deficiencies, circulation problems, injuries, and more can all result in pain or tingling. One condition, plantar fasciitis, is a common cause of heel pain and results from inflammation of the connective tissues on the bottom of your foot. Your GP can help sort it all out.

Swollen Feet

Swollen feet can be another signal of circulatory problems and definitely warrants a visit to your GP. If swelling and even pain is felt more in your joints, like your toes, you might have a form of arthritis. Of course, swollen feet can also just be a sign of too much stress on the feet, but if you’re noticing the symptom regularly, a check-up can help ease your mind.

Freezing Feet

We’ve all had those moments where our feet are icy, and chances are good that you just need some extra layers on your feet, but if your feet are always cold, you could have anything from a thyroid condition to, yes, the aforementioned circulatory issues. If you’re overly tired or have noticed unusual weight gain alongside your freezing feet, you might ask your GP for a thyroid check. If you’ve noticed other signs of circulatory problems, like foot swelling, you might also want to mention this to your GP.

Flaky Skin on Your Feet

A common cause of flaky feet is athlete’s foot, a scaly, red foot condition that is so named because of its association with sweaty feet inside of too-snug shoes. Athlete’s foot typically starts between the toes, and causes unpleasant sensations, like burning and itching. Luckily, your GP can prescribe an easy fix for athlete’s foot, such as an ointment.

Of course, you can also have certain types of skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis on your feet, as well. Either way, there’s certainly no need to suffer when you could see a medical professional about the problem.

Time for New Shoes?

Poorly fitting shoes can be quite damaging to the feet. Bunions, corns, and calluses all can result from wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. If you do end up with these conditions, there are a few steps you can take (after, of course, investing in new shoes!):

  • For bunions, special shoe inserts can help while your toes heal. Your GP may also recommend a splint to help straighten the toes.
  • For bunions, corns, and calluses alike, pamper those feet. The use of a warm foot spa, followed by the gentle use of a pumice stone, can help heal and soothe these skin conditions.

What About…the Smell?

No one wants to talk about smelly feet, but odour is another area where your feet are trying to tell you something! Poorly smelling feet can result from conditions like Athlete’s foot or just basic daily sweating. Ease the problem by regularly wearing clean shoes and socks, switching out your shoes everyday, keeping your feet well groomed, and letting your feet get some air by going barefoot when you can at home.

Who Knew Feet Could Tell You So Much?

Your feet are at the lowest point of your body, and as such, they can be important signals to problems with the body’s circulation, thyroid, nutritional profile, and so much more. If you’re concerned about what your feet might be telling you, contacting your GP is never a bad idea.

Your feet are a reminder to take care of yourself from head to toe (literally). Curious about more ways to improve your health? Follow my Facebook page and check out my thoughts on mindfulness, hypnotherapy, and the benefits of tai chi.

6 Misconceptions About Tai Chi

Tai Chi is many things to many different practitioners. For some, it is a powerful Chinese martial art. For others, Tai Chi is a meaningful health therapy or fitness plan. Even as Tai Chi has remained in the news as a valuable, healthy exercise for mind and body, there are still numerous misconceptions about this ancient art.

Let’s dispel some of these Tai Chi myths.

Misconception 1: Tai Chi Is Too Slow to Offer Any Health Benefit

Often, a person’s initial understanding of Tai Chi comes from something that they’ve seen on Youtube or in movies. They may have even watched a fitness video of Tai Chi and felt like the slower, continuous movements of Tai Chi couldn’t possibly be offering the workout they desired.

This is one of those areas where looks can be extremely deceiving. On the contrary, Tai Chi is actually one of the most beneficial activities that you can do for your overall health. Research has found that Tai Chi benefits memory, even possibly delaying the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s. Additional studies have found that Tai Chi contributes to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, greater balance and coordination, increased muscle strength, and wider flexibility.

Tai Chi is, of course, not an intense physical activity. Instead, it is often referred to as a kind of meditation in motion that still offers incredible cardiovascular benefits. However, it is the very difference between strenuous exercise and Tai Chi that helps offer these benefits. Intense aerobic exercise has its place of importance, but the calming, strengthening, mentally focused activity of Tai Chi provides separate, even unique benefits — the full spectrum of which research is only beginning to uncover.  

Misconception 2: Tai Chi Is Not an Effective Martial Art

Tai Chi is absolutely an original martial art, dating back to 13th century China, in fact. While Tai Chi is perhaps more often undertaken these days for the myriad health benefits, the martial art aspect is still a key component of the movements and forms. You must learn the basics of Tai Chi before you can proceed more deeply into Tai Chi as a form of self-defence. These deeper techniques include actions known as sparring and push hands, as well as expanding upon the visualization techniques and foundations of the art that you learn early on when beginning Tai Chi. Ultimately, it’s down to the individual martial artist rather then the art itself. A diligently practitioner of just a few years in one martial art would easily defeat a poor practitioner of 20 years in another art.  So making comparisons is never really a valid thing to do.

Misconception 3: It Has to Be Done Outside/In a Group/In a Certain Environment

The beauty of Tai Chi is that it can be practised anywhere, from the park to your own home. While a class is extremely beneficial in helping you learn the proper techniques involved in Tai Chi, and to experience partner movements and other Tai Chi activities, once you’ve learned these techniques, you can easily practise them at home on your own, as well. Tai Chi can be whatever you need it to be to fit your lifestyle.

Misconception 4: Only Certain Ages (Usually Older) Do Tai Chi

Tai Chi is for everyone! While it is of high benefit to elderly individuals for its gentleness and specific health benefits, including research showing it can even reduce the risk of falls and strengthen the mind, anyone of any age can — and should! — consider trying Tai Chi. This is an extraordinary exercise that will change your overall health for the better regardless of age, fitness level, or even injury restrictions.

Misconception 5: You Have to Have a Specific Uniform to Practise Tai Chi

You do not have to wear any specific uniform to practise Tai Chi. Generally, loose clothing is recommended due to the flow of energy (known as Qi) that is an essential part of Tai Chi practise. You can choose to wear shoes, particularly if you do practise outdoors and to assist with balance in your movements, but many Tai Chi practitioners choose to perform their movements barefoot. Eventually, as you find yourself enjoying Tai Chi and wanting to feel more connected to the art, you may wish to purchase traditional Tai Chi attire, but it certainly is never required.

Misconception 6: Tai Chi Is Just Like Yoga

Tai Chi and yoga are both wonderfully beneficial exercises, and even have similar goals, but they are also completely different. While yoga consists of specific postures that are often held for certain lengths of time, Tai Chi is more dance-like, consisting of a constant flow of movement without those same pauses.

Most of the moves and poses of yoga are practised on a mat, while Tai Chi is typically spent standing and moving around, quite possibly making it a little easier for those who might find spending time on the floor to be difficult. There are a variety of styles of both Tai Chi and yoga. If you take yoga, you might consider trying out a Tai Chi class to note the differences and determine your preferences.

Tai Chi Can Make a Difference in Your Health and Wellbeing

If you’ve never tried Tai Chi, or are looking to return to Tai Chi practise, consider attending one of my classes in York. I offer classes three days a week, and am also available for a 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and goals beforehand.

You’ll be amazed at how this ancient art form can completely transform your life.

To learn more about the benefits of Tai Chi, as well as other wellness tips, follow me on Facebook.