Brown rice nori

By Lee Holmes

Makes 4

Vatas will enjoy this vegetarian version of a typical sushi roll, usually made with sweet white rice that can raise your blood sugar levels too quickly due to its sky-high glycemic index. By using wholesome brown rice and tempeh, you can create delicious rolls that will make your insides and outsides happy. The fibre in brown rice and fermented soy (tempeh and tamari) will ensure these rolls are easier for vatas’ delicate bellies to digest. Bite down on raw cucumber and carrot to add crunchiness, and relish the creaminess of tahini and avocado, which add a dose of good fats to complete a balanced meal that’s as fun to make as it is to eat.

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) wheat-free tamari, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ghee, melted
65 g (2¼ oz/¼ cup) tahini
100 g (3½ oz) tempeh
370 g (13 oz/2 cups) cooked brown rice
4 nori sheets
½ avocado, sliced
1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, sliced lengthways into eighths
½ carrot, sliced lengthways into thin sticks
2 spring onions (scallions), halved lengthways

Combine the tamari, lime juice, ghee and 1 tablespoon of the tahini in a bowl. Add the tempeh and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.

Remove the tempeh from the marinade. Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and pan-fry the tempeh until golden 
on both sides. Cut into thin strips and set aside.

Combine the rice with the remaining tahini. Lay a nori sheet shiny side down on the bench. With wet hands, take a quarter of the rice and press it evenly over the nori sheet, leaving a 3 cm (1¼ inch) border along the top side. Lay a quarter of the tempeh, avocado, cucumber, carrot and spring onion on top. Moisten the top edge of the nori with water and roll up securely. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cut each roll into four pieces and serve with extra tamari.

Broccoli bhajis

Broccoli bhajis
By Lee Holmes

(Autumn) (pitta) 
Serves 4

If you like traditional bhajis, give this healthier version a try. Broccoli is loaded with essential nutrients and has many therapeutic benefits, including detoxifying properties. It also fills and satisfies the tummy for a long time. Make broccoli bhajis your favourite dish for taming potentially fierce pittas.

300 g (10½ oz/2½ cups) besan (chickpea) flour
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Himalayan salt, to taste
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) filtered water
extra virgin coconut oil, for shallow-frying
120 g (4¼ oz/2 cups) broccoli florets
Chia jam (page 235) and Carrot and beetroot raita (page 235), to serve

Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl. Gradually add the water, stirring well to avoid lumps. 
The mixture should have a smooth, paste-like consistency.

Heat some coconut oil (about 4 cm/1½ inches deep) in a medium, heavy-based saucepan over medium–high heat. Once the oil is hot (a small broccoli floret should sizzle and float), working in batches, dip the broccoli florets in the batter to coat well.
Drop into the pan and cook until crisp on all sides. Lay on paper towel to drain off any excess oil while you cook the next batch.

Serve warm with chia jam and carrot and beetroot raita.

Chia jam
By Lee Holmes

Serves 4

This natural, sugar-free jam suits all doshas. Fruit jams are delicious, but obtaining the desired consistency and firmness usually requires a large quantity of white sugar. This recipe uses chia seeds to create a perfect consistency, and rice malt syrup to add sweetness to the apple and berries. Delicious on its own, it can be used as a topping for pancakes – or a dollop added to the mixing bowl will sweeten up cakes, and a spoonful added to the pan will highlight curries.

1 apple, cored and grated
125 g (4½ oz/1 cup) mixed berries
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) filtered water
90–120 g (3¼–4¼ oz/¼–1⁄3 cup) rice malt syrup, to taste
35 g (1¼ oz/¼ cup) chia seeds

Combine the apple, berries, water and rice malt syrup in a small, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the consistency is thick.
Remove from the heat, stir through the chia seeds and transfer to a sterilised jar.
The jam will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

Carrot and beetroot raita
By Lee Holmes

Serves 3–4

520 g (1 lb 2½ oz/2 cups) sheep’s milk yoghurt
1 raw beetroot (beet), peeled and grated
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small capsicum (pepper), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Himalayan salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl by mixing gently with a spoon.
The raita will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3–4 days.

Yoga for Mental Illness


Yoga classes usually come with an unspoken promise: If you breathe and stretch, if you follow instructions and tune in to your body, you’ll come out feeling better. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that most people do feel some level of relief physical, spiritual, mental, or otherwise after a yoga practice, most of the time. But what happens when there’s something serious troubling one of your students for example, if they are struggling with ongoing psychological issues such as depression. Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better? Can it heal their mental illness?

The short answer, according to experts in the fields of yoga and psychotherapy, is yes. But though they give yoga the nod as a potential mental health panacea, practitioners warn that for certain ailments, including depression, it’s typically best to combine yoga with intensive supervision by a trained therapist to ward against the possibility of negative effects.

Asanas for Emotions
Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Today in the U.S., many therapists incorporate yoga and other body-focused practices in their therapeutic work. There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the intersections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.
How does it work? According to Dr. Eleanor Criswell, a licensed psychotherapist who has taught courses in the psychology of yoga at California’s Sonoma State University since 1969, “Yoga is incredible in terms of stress management. It brings a person back to homeostasis [or equilibrium]. For people who have anxieties of many kinds, yoga helps lower their basic physiological arousal level.”
Criswell is on the advisory board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is also the author of How Yoga Works: Introduction to Somatic Yoga. She points out that “for the general person, yoga greatly enhances mental health: mood, sense of self, motivation, sense of inner direction and purpose, as well as physical health and physical health is so important for mental health.” In the therapeutic context, adds Criswell, yoga “lowers the ego boundaries, so you are more receptive to other people’s input, including the therapist’s. The person becomes more somatically comfortable, so they can actually hear what’s being said and can reflect on it. It also enhances sleep and increases contact with dreams,” which can be useful tools in therapy.

Criswell’s experience is borne out in dozens of small studies on the effects of yoga on mood changes. Dr. David Shapiro, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, has overseen several such studies. In his research, he’s repeatedly seen negative emotions drop while positive emotions rise. Even more encouraging, students dealing with more severe depression saw a greater increase in positive moods than other students.

Reverse Effects
Dr. Sophia Reinders, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist based in San Francisco, emphasizes the importance of working closely with a therapist attuned to body-centered emotional healing. “An emotional release during the practice of asanas can lead to an unexpected experience of joy and ease or it can bring up fear, sadness, or other difficult feelings,” she explains. “If we get frightened by what is coming up, we might push it back down, which means back into the body.”

Reinders, who is also a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and an adjunct faculty member at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, adds that a therapist’s guidance through the process of dredging up emotions helps patients settle into a new sense of themselves, as they begin to let go of old hurts and bad patterns. “Before we can shift out of an imbalance, since we have used the imbalance to feel safe, we need to find a new way to feel safe, a new place to dwell. And for this, it is important to first find or create a sense of empowerment somewhere in the body.”

Extra Help Required
For any person, this can be a delicate process. For those dealing with mental illness, there’s at least some potential for yoga to be harmful if it’s not monitored. “Without proper supervision, a student can have increased sadness or suicidal ideation, so you’d want to be really on top of whether the yoga experience is beneficial or not,” says Criswell. “Sometimes the higher sense of alertness enables acting on bad impulses … depressed people can feel more depressed with relaxation.” That doesn’t mean yoga is inappropriate, Criswell insists. It’s just that those with imbalances should embark carefully on a practice that can open up a person so deeply.

The same, Criswell says, is true for post-traumatic stress sufferers, people with psychotic tendencies, or manic-depressives. “Sometimes yoga can increase the manic state,” she says. “Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. In general, what you see in yoga class is people becoming happier but it needs to be within a manageable range.”

While the idea of helping a student through serious mental health challenges is probably overwhelming to new teachers, remember that you don’t have to do it yourself. Keep a referral list of body-aware therapists on hand, and keep a watchful eye on any students who have confided in you about their mental health status. If they seem to be withdrawing emotionally or socially, Criswell advises, offer them your referral list, or suggest they find a therapist of their own.

Stay Positive
Ultimately, the yogic mindset that unpeels psychological worries is the same sort of focus that helps all yogis, whatever their mental health status. Reinders outlines a process of “refining the qualities of attention,” which begins with asking students to become aware of any chronic criticism or devaluing that is part of their habitual thinking. Instead, Reinders says, suggest that they bring a “spacious, loving, curious, playful attention” to their mental and physical state (through yoga or psychotherapy)—and positive change will occur.

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise and Why it Makes Us Happier

By Leo Widrich

Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear.

What triggers happiness in our brain when we exercise?
“Yes, yes, I know all about it, that’s the thing with the endorphins, that makes you feel good and why we should exercise and stuff, right?” is what I can hear myself say to someone bringing this up. I would pick up things here and there, yet really digging into the connection of exercise and how it effects us has never been something I’ve done. The line around our “endorphins are released” is more something I throw around to sound smart, without really knowing what it means.
Here is what actually happens:

If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose are this, writes researcher MK McGovern:

“These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.”

There is a lot going on inside our brain and it is oftentimes a lot more active than when we are just sitting down or actually concentrating mentally:

So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. The somewhat scary part is that they have a very similar and addictive behavior like morphine, heroin, or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it’s actually good for us.

Don’t do more, but focus on when
Now here is where it all gets interesting. We know the basic foundations of why exercising makes us happy and what happens inside our brain cells. The most important part to uncover now is, of how we can trigger this in an optimal and longer lasting way?
A recent study from Penn State shed some light on the matter and the results are more than surprising. They found that to be more productive and happier on a given work day, it doesn’t matter so much, if you work-out regularly, that you haven’t worked out on that particular day:

“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.”

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Reynolds wrote a whole book about the subject matter called The First 20 Minutes. To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity in every day life peaks:

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”
So really, you can relax and don’t have to be on the lookout for the next killer work out. All you have to do is get a focused 20 minutes in to get the full happiness boost every day:

“On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”(University of Bristol)

Make it a habit
Starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier said than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note is that exercise is a keystone habit. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.

In a recent post from my colleague Joel, he wrote about the power of daily exercise for his every day life. Coincidentally, he follows the above rules very accurately and exercises daily before doing anything else. He writes:
“By 9:30am, I’ve done an hour of coding on the most important task I have right now on Buffer, I’ve been to the gym and had a great session, and I’ve done 30 minutes of emails. It’s only 9:30am and I’ve already succeeded, and I feel fantastic.”

I’ve spoken lots to Joel about his habit of exercising and here are some of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for success and make your daily exercise fun:

Put your gym clothes right over your alarm clock or phone when you go to bed: This technique sounds rather simple, but has been one of the most powerful ones. If you put everything the way you want it for the gym before you go to sleep and put your alarm under your gym clothes, you will have a much easier time to convince yourself to put your gym clothes on.

Track your exercises and log them at the same time after every exercise: When you try to exercise regularly, the key is to make it a habit. One way to achieve this is to create a so called “reward”, that will remind you of the good feelings you get from exercising. In our big list of top web apps, we have a full section on fitness apps that might be handy. Try out Fitocracy or RunKeeper to log your work outs. Try to have a very clear logging process in place. Log your work out just before you go into the shower or exactly when you walk out of the gym.

Think about starting small and then start even smaller: Here is a little secret. When I first started exercising, I did it with 5 minutes per day, 3 times a week. Can you imagine that? 5 minutes of timed exercise, 3 times a week? That’s nothing you might be thinking. And you are right, because the task is so easy and anyone can succeed with it, you can really start to make a habit out of it. Try no more than 5 or 10 minutes if you are getting started.

The highest level of happiness happens at the beginning
As a quick last fact, exercise, the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest:

“The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.” (McGovern)

So, if you have never exercised before (or not for a long time), your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Leo Widrich, co-founder of social media sharing app Buffer, set out to uncover the connection between feeling happy and exercising regularly.

Eat Right for Your Shape

By Lee Holmes

Eat Right for Your Shape takes a fresh look at the ancient healing system of Ayurveda and applies it to the way we eat and live. This book has been cooked up in the Ayurvedic kitchens of Kerala, where I spent time last year studying Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking.

Originating in India, Ayurveda presents a holistic approach to feeling well and living in harmony with yourself and your surroundings. It is a union of the mind, body, senses and soul.

Through nutrition, yoga and meditation, it focuses on treating the individual as a whole rather than a specific issue or disease, so that you can achieve balance and good health, not only in your physical body, but also in your mind and spirit.
Immersing myself in Ayurveda and its philosophies inspired me write a practical based book with an emphasis on balance and self care.

In this book, I’ll show you how to apply Ayurvedic principles to your life. I cover eating habits, digestion, daily routines, yoga and meditation. One of the starting points is establishing your own particular dosha or constitution to enable you to tailor the principles and recipes to suit you. There’s a comprehensive questionnaire in the book to help you do this.

Following that is a chapter on basic yoga poses and breathing exercises unique to you to help pacify your dosha or shape, and I’ve included over one hundred and twenty delicious and nourishing recipes that correct your doshic imbalance, in order to create harmony, weight management and health. In the book I offer a wealth of practical advice to eat right for your own dosha or shape.

I believe that this is more than just a book about losing weight and eating right for your shape. It has been the hardest book I’ve ever written but it’s the one I’m most proud of.

I’m hoping that it becomes a book that you can turn to at any point in your life to get in touch with your constitutional needs and understand how to bring harmony into your life through food, nutrition, mindfulness and meditation.

I want you to be able to use this book in your own kitchen and feel excited about the recipes, enjoying their special and unique feel-good curative capabilities.
The ingredients used in this book come directly from nature, and I’ve included nutritionally dense foods with potent healing properties so that you can enjoy food the healthy way.

One of the big attractions of the recipes is that they’re created with simple ingredients that are grown and picked in tune with the seasons, which makes them so full of flavour and undeniably satisfying. A home truth about Ayurveda is its emphasis on freshly prepared earth-based foods. Big tick!

Whatever size you are or desire to be, the recipes and principles in Eat Right for Your Shape will help you to bring your body into balance so that you’ll become the size and shape you were always meant to be.

When you learn and implement achievable and simple practices and embrace nutrition, based on Mother Nature, you’re more in tune with your uniqueness and that is where you’ll find true contentment, health and happiness.

The book embraces guiding principles rather than strict rules. This isn’t a restrictive fad diet like so many others endorsed in the Western world as a result of our reliance on processed foods and changing food systems. It’s a balanced and considered approach to lifelong health, one that will give you complete control over the interplay of your bodily systems to keep your true self feeling balanced, healthy and calm.

I hope you’ll jump on board this adventure with me and find balance and happiness in your life.

My mantra; ‘following your own path will serve you greatly when adopting Ayurvedic principles, so let go of comparing yourself to others and make your own way to your preferred weight and maximum health’.

White Fish Soup with Saffron

By Lee Holmes

Bring on the convenience of a one-pot meal that just simmers on the stove-top, ready to be enjoyed to it’s full potential.

White Fish Soup with Saffron is a beautifully light and flavourful soup that’s injected with dose of precious saffron, a spice so colourful and aromatic that it changes the profile of a meal and acts as a versatile medicine that has been used since ancient times.

The foundation of this dish is fish stock, a nourishing and gut friendly building block rich in essential minerals: iodine, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, silicon and sulphur that will provide your body with an variety of nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids to boost the gut and the brain.

Fish stock also contains gelatin, to help seal the digestive tract and improve the digestion of food through its hydrophilic (liquid attracting) properties.
If you prefer, you can use vegetable stock in this recipe but don’t be afraid of fish stock, really it’s affordable and ever so simple to make. There’s no roasting or long simmer times, all you need is half an hour in the kitchen to get a good result.
To make fish stock, start by washing fish trimmings and bones, and then place them into a waiting stockpot. (Remove the gills as they can make the stock bitter). Some people like to include the heads because of their thyroid boosting properties and you can pop in the skin as well, but it really is personal preference at this point.

Adding some roughly chopped fennel, leeks, and carrots, will enhance the taste and give the stock an extra boost of nutrients. Grab a large handful of parsley throw that in and some water to cover, then bring to the boil and simmer it with the lid on for about half an hour, scraping off any scum that may rise to the surface.

Once the time has elapsed, the stock is then removed from the heat and strained, discarding fish trimmings and the vegetables. Most types of fish can be used for stock, but try to avoid salmon, red mullet and oily fish.

All recipes aim to achieve a balanced and neutralised gut, efficient digestion, maximised nutrient absorption, and therefore improve your general wellbeing.

White Fish Soup with Saffron
Serves 4
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 leek, white part only, chopped
• 1 medium fennel bulb, fronds reserved, bulb chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• juice of 1/2 lemon
• grated zest of 1 lemon
• 400 g (14 oz) tin additive-free chopped tomatoes
• 1 small red capsicum (pepper), seeded and chopped
• pinch of saffron threads
• 2 thyme sprigs
• 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) fish stock or vegetable stock
• pinch of cayenne pepper
• 400 g (14 oz) boneless white fish fillets, whole or roughly chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
• 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
• pinch of freshly cracked black pepper
• Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
• Add the onion, celery, leek, chopped fennel and garlic, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until soft.
• Add the lemon juice and zest, tomato, capsicum, saffron and thyme, reserving a little of the thyme to use as a garnish. Cook for 2–3 minutes, then add the stock and cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25–30 minutes. Add the fish and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
• Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. (Alternatively, purée the soup before adding the fish.)
• Add the salt to taste, reheat if necessary, then serve sprinkled with yeast flakes, if using, and black pepper, and garnished with reserved fennel fronds and thyme.