What is Tai Chi?

In the recent BBC TV programme ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’, Michael Moseley tested Tai Chi and Zumba as forms of exercise to compare their effectiveness on our health. He asked can the slow movements of Tai Chi be as good for our health as the fast-paced activity of Zumba?

He found the Zumba group were all fitter after 12 weeks as was expected, with improved elasticity of their blood vessels and lowered blood pressure. They were surprised, however, to discover that the results from the Tai Chi group also showed the same benefits. Source: BBC. View this three minute BCC video.

So if you don’t want to break into sweat, or have limited physical flexibility, then Tai Chi offers you all the same health benefits as vigorous exercise, and more as you will discover. But what is Tai Chi? And what can it offer you? Read more…

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  • Posted in Tai Chi
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  • Fermentation – What are the health benefits?

    Most of us will have heard of food fermentation but what is it and why is it so good for us? Like many ancient practices that are now in vogue – meditation and yoga, to name just two – fermentation has been around for thousands of years, used in food staples such as bread, yoghurt and also in alcoholic drinks like beer and wine. However, here we’re discussing purely the health benefits of fermentation on foods, not alcohol. This ancient way of preserving foods with a short shelf life and adding flavour was before the advent of refrigeration.

    Essentially, fermentation is the process of using naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, to convert carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids. Read more…

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  • Posted in Healthy Living
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  • Desk Yoga Poses: Time to Refresh

    Autumn means going back to work, school, university and for many of us, long hours back at a desk. Desk yoga poses may help you to keep up the good work after the relaxation achieved during the summer holidays. Here’s a way to press your own ‘refresh button’!

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  • Posted in Healthy Living
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  • Sound Therapy: What can it do for you?

    I recently experienced something I had previously been cynical about – sound therapy. And for those who’ve never heard of it, this healing form of sound bath doesn’t involve being bathed in water but in sound or vibrational waves. As I lay on the mat, the therapist played different notes on a series of crystal bowls that are tuned to resonate when hit with certain instruments.
    Twenty-five minutes later as the therapist gently ‘woke’ me I opened my eyes. The effect was like a cross between a nap and meditation. My friend claimed I slept as I was tired, however, I felt different, less foggy than usual and she noted my eyeballs were brighter. I felt that for the first time I’d reached a meditative state.

    Sound therapy works on the basis that sound can have a profound effect on our neurological and other bodily functions as they have different pulses or rhythms and energy frequencies, e.g. our heart beats to the rhythms of three. Sound therapists use sound frequencies to interact with these in order to enhance and rebalance the body’s energy whether with gongs, drums, bells, bowls, tuning forks or the human voice. See video on sound bath therapy by CBS New York: Read more…

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  • Posted in Healing retreats
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  • Where to go on holiday in September

    Let’s help you find where to go on holiday in September – we’ve rounded up some of the best places.

    Summer isn’t over yet in September. In fact a holiday in September is best in the Mediterranean for example if you want to avoid the backing heat, yet temperatures are comfortable for the occasional excursions and also sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea. The water has gradually been warmed up throughout the summer, and still feels very pleasant even with a gentle breeze.

    Besides, with kids back at school, the crowds have disappeared and prices have come down. You are lucky if you can go on holiday in September to benefit from more pleasant temperatures, lower prices, and less crowded places. It’s indeed a good choice to go on holiday in September and enjoy those benefits.

    And if you don’t want to fly to the Med there are also home-grown destinations with so much to offer. Whether it’s Ayurveda massages in Wales or outdoor hot tub and spa in Yorkshire, there are plenty of retreats where you can immerse yourself in peaceful seclusion.

    If you want to check local temperatures we recommend the BBC weather website for weather reports about two weeks in advance. Once you are away the Met office site provides also useful local details.

    Here is our selection to help you find your holiday in September: Read more…

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  • Lithium batteries on planes: 8 tips on how to travel safely with batteries

    With the summer holidays fast approaching, many of us will be flying out of UK airports for our annual holiday. As we know, airlines have detailed guidelines on what is allowed onboard and that includes taking lithium batteries on planes.

    Lithium batteries are commonly used to power a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from mobile phones to laptops and children’s toys, however, they can pose a safety risk if not treated in accordance with transport regulations. While most lithium batteries are safe, some have overheated and caught fire, which could produce toxic and irritating fumes. Read more…

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  • Summer Retreat Offers

    Summer is here and our thoughts turn to relaxing and rejuvenating retreats. A week or even a few days of yoga, meditation, massages, delicious vegetarian or vegan fare, all in a serene environment can do wonders for the mind, body and soul!

    Neal’s Yard Holidays has a wide selection of summer retreat offers in rural settings such as quintessential English countryside and balmy island idylls – for more on this please see our recent blog on rural retreats. Walk in the woods and meadows, meditate under the stars or sun and just enjoy the summer.

    Availability ranges from early July to late September so, go on, take your pick from some of the best summer retreat offers below:

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  • Retreats in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

    To complement our recent blog on Rural Retreats in the UK here we are specifically focusing on retreats in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or ANOB, to use the acronym. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are designated to protect these areas of particular natural beauty including conserving both the rural landscape and the lives of those who live and work in them.

    In these spaces characterised by peaceful pathways, sweeping downs, wild meadows and ancient woodlands we can find a sense of tranquillity and be at one with nature. Lovely at any time of the year, our ancient countryside comes alive in summer with trees and flowers in full bloom.

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  • Rural Retreats in the UK

    As our cold winter has sprung into hot summer (for the moment skipping spring) we are drawn to the sunshine and to nature, and rural retreats. Instinctively we’ve known for many years what science now seems to prove, that being in nature nurtures us. A recent article in the Daily Mail discusses the ‘proven physical and mental benefits’ of spending time outside, from a walk in a forest (barefoot if possible) to a solo walk somewhere rural.

    There are rural retreats in the UK that offer the added bonus of glorious countryside where you can connect with nature, as well as enjoy yoga on the lawn, meditative walks, or outdoor activities like stand up paddleboarding or just bliss out by admiring the bucolic views from an outdoor hot tub.

    In addition to helping decrease stress levels, spending more time in nature helps us to re-energise and provides a heightened sense of wellbeing. The US Journal of Environmental and Public Health states (see published studies by NCBI): “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth – whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems – may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV (heart rate variability), … and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.” Could support for better health literally be located right beneath our feet? Read more…

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  • Posted in Wellness retreats
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  • How To Sleep Better

    When the clocks go forward at 1 am on Sunday we’ll lose an hour of sleep. Even if you’re not one of the one in three people who have difficulty falling and staying asleep or the one in ten who regularly experience insomnia, this news is never welcome. So, how can we all learn to sleep better?

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