Saturday, October 3, 2015

Breathing exercises in yoga

This article is a guest post by James Anderson from . Enjoy! :)

Pranayama is the best breathing exercise in yoga. Pranayama is a process of control over the breathing process in our body. it can be achieved by controlling the inhalation and exhalation breathing process through our nostrils. It refers to the breathing methods by which relaxation, meditation and concentration can be achieved. Pranayama consists of three stages which are inhalation of air, retention of air and exhalation of air respectively. All these exercises focus on increasing the time span for each of these three stages of breathing. For performing pranayama the backbone must be straight. Pranayama can be performed even while sitting on a chair but the simple rule is that you should sit straight.  There are many types of pranayamas:

  1. Anulom vilom pranayama : anulom vilom is one of the most common pranayama method. Padmasana is mostly used in this type. In this method, inhalation is done through one nostril while other is used for exhalation. The thumb is used to close one nostril while ring finger is used to close other. Common problems like cough, cold, tonsils can be cured. It is helpful in opening of blockage in the arteries which is also helpful in removal of toxins from the body.
  2. Kapalbhati pranayama: the word kapalbhati is derived from Sanskrit in ehich kapal means forehead and bhati means shining. In this pranayama fast exhalation and normal inhalation are performed simultaneously. Padmasana is used in this pranayama. In this process slow and deep inhalation of air with the help of both nostrils is done while expanding the abdomen. Exhalation is done while pulling the adomen in. repeat this process continuously. This type of pranayama is useful in purifying blood, enhancement of oxygen supply in the body, improvement in digestive system, useful for lungs and respiratory processes.
  3. Sheetkari pranayama: in the word sheetkari shee stands for the sound “sheee..” that is produced while performing this pranayama and kari means which produces. So, the breathing exercise which produces shee sound is called sheetkari pranayama. The technique to perform this is by clinching the upper and lower teeth, widening of lips, inhale slowly and deeply making sound ‘sheee. After this hold the breath for awhile and exhale through the nose slowly. By performing 10 to 15 rounds daily the problem related to teeth like pyorrhoeacan be cured and mouth can be kept clean. It is also helpful in removing excess heat from the body.
  4. Ujjai pranayama: in this pranayama tighten the neck muscles and make sound with closed mouth. Hold the breath, close right nostril and exhale slowly with left nostril. This pranayama removes cough and clears throat, cures snoring problem, strengthen heart muscles and is benefit for thyroid patients.
  5. Sheetli pranayama: in hindi, sheetal means calmness. This pranayam is helpful in relieving internal heat and maintaining mental, emotional calmness. This pranayama is helpful in purifying blood,refreshing body and mind. It is useful for the people who have blood pressure and acidity problems. this pranayama keeps the body and mind cool.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Environmentally-responsible Earth Friendly Products

Clean up! Clean up! 

Introducing Earth Friendly Products

We are all aware of our responsibilities towards safeguarding our environment, keeping it intact for future generation and safe for present ones

Many of us look for cleaning products that support our decision to protect the environment while maintaining a high standard of hygiene in our houses.  In this issue we present a selection of cleaning products by Earth Friendly Products that do just that…

Earth Friendly Products are environmentally-responsible products that are not tested on animals and do not include animal sources in their ingredients.

Here are some other important reasons why you should give them a try: 

  • 1.4-Dioxane free – For those who are not familiar with this chemical, Dioxane has been proven to be a carcinogen. Moreover it may irritate the respiratory tract and damage the nervous system as well as vital organs such as the liver.

  • Phosphate free – An increase in phosphate content in the earth’s water sources is bad news for lakes and rivers.  This is because it causes eutrophication which means that an excess of nutrients (such as phosphates and nitrates) is present in the water.  This in turn unbalances the ecosystem leading to an increase in harmful bacteria, toxic algae and lack of oxygen in the water. 

  • A neutral cleaner – A neutral ph means Earth friendly Products are gentle and non-corrosive on the surfaces you are cleaning and safe for your hands.

  • Readily biodegradable -  These products are broken down by microorganisms in the environment into harmless components such as water, oxygen and carbon dioxide.

  • Do not bio-accumulate - This means that the residue from Earth Friendly Products does not build up within human tissue or that of other living creatures.  This is because they are plant based and free from petroleum-based chemicals and other toxic ingredients such as formaldehyde.

Earth Friendly Products are available from Soap Café Malta  where you can find ECOs dishwashing liquid (in Almond or Lavender fragrance), ECOs Laundry Liquid, Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Orange Plus Floor Concentrate and the useful multi-surface Countertop Cleaner.

Read more about the concept of environmentally responsible cleaners here: 

How to make your house smell divine.

Home Sweet (and fragrant) Home…

 ‘Room fragrances’ are used to add a particular scent to our living environment and may include both synthetic and natural products.  

Synthetic fragrances include items such as scented candles and room diffusers.  But many others use aromatherapy oils and other natural products.   Oil burners, incense, resins, fragrance diffusers with wicking twigs, scented candles and soy wax melts are some of the wide selection of scent enhancers available to consumers.

Scents affect the way we feel generally or about a specific place.  Our olfactory sense dictates how comfortable we are in a place and determines our overall experience of it.  Think of your reaction to the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning or the warm tones of a rose petal and aromatherapy oil bath.  Commercial supermarket chains know this very well and use bottled scents of freshly baked goods in their air conditioning systems to induce a sense of well-being and subtly encourage customers to shop.

Scents influence our mindscape via out nervous system. Hence the smells we choose to surround ourselves with are important for our state of mind.  Oils and herbs can also be used to purify the air in your house.  Sage and rosemary are traditionally used to clean the air from impurities.  These herbs are used in ‘smudging’ , a shamanic practice which is said to clear negative energy.  This practice may well  originate from the fact that both sage and rosemary have antiseptic and insect repelling properties.  Lemongrass is a wonderful scent which similarly has both these attributes and is available both as an essential oil and in incense.

Using  an Oil Burner
An oil burner can be a great way to add a pleasant fragrance to your house.  Just fill up the burner with water and add ten drops of your favourite oil.  Water is used rather than oil as commonly thought.  The water will evaporate and diffuse the scent of the essential oil into the room.  Oil is not used as a carrier in this case since it will just burn once it is heated by the candle.    The choice of essential oil can vary according to your taste
and needs.  For instance floral scents such as lavender can be stimulating in a quiet, soothing way.  Woody tones like sandalwood or frankincense induce a deeper type of relaxation.  It is claimed that certain oils can help to reduce symptoms of asthma and common allergies.  Eucalypt, chamomile, peppermint and lavender are often used for this purpose. 

At Soap Cafe Malta you can even order customized scented candles as wedding favours or as gifts tailor-made to suit the preferences of someone special.  Customized candles can also be part of a specialised environment such as in a restaurant.  For instance a little known fact is that the scent of rosemary can be used to stimulate your guests' apetite while citronella and lemongrass can fragrantly repell annoying bugs. 

Visit Soap Café Malta where you can find a selection of oil burners in ceramic or terracotta.  Additionally Soap Café Malta stocks a wide range of high quality essential oils.  If you are looking for a different way to perfume your living quarters or your work space why not try scented soy melts by Nat-Wax also available at Soap Café.  Last but not least take your pick fr om a tantalizing variety of incense sticks including the renowned Agarbati Nag Champa.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Peach and Almond Milk Chia pudding

Tired of muesli?  Dig into the breakfast pudding!

Peach and Almond Milk Chia pudding. 


  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk or 11/2 cup almond milk and ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cardamom.
  • 1 tablespoon pure agave syrup or honey
  • Seasonal fruit for topping (peaches, figs and plums are pictured here)
  • Roughly ground almonds or pistachios for topping



  1. Combine almond/coconut milk, chia seeds, vanilla, cardamom and agave syrup in a bowl. Mix well to combine ingredients well.
  2. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 20 minutes stirring occasionally so that the seeds are evenly distributed through the mixture.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until the mixture thickens into a pudding-like consistency (this should take a couple of hours).
  4. Stir well before spooning into individual bowls.
  5. Top with fresh fruit and nuts of your choice.

You can keep the mixture refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Enjoy!

What meditation can and cannot do for you

Here we go again…another blog about some vague strategy to calm down, relax and live better.  But should we be dismissing meditation so easily?  Is meditation just for the ‘enlightened’?

Well actually meditation comes in various formats. 

Simple mindfulness, or full attention to your present actions, is something we all practice from time to time.  Mindfulness is one step along the journey and meditative practices can help to increase our focus and our ability to contribute to the present.  

Take it one step at a time.  Note how carefully you carry out everyday chores, how fully you can listen to the next person who talks to you and learn to give each the time and attention it deserves. We all know the value of an action completed carefully rather than haphazardly. We all appreciate  people who know how to listen fully and with genuine interest– it is nothing new to anyone of us. The charm of mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere and anytime, even while having a shower...

In the words of Tich Nath Hahn “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.’’

Later stages of meditation aim at creating a different type of consciousness, an awareness of our interconnectedness with all beings. 

Meditation can also be used to examine a problem, to follow it as it travels through our consciousness and creates blockages, to identify where we at fault if at all, what can be solved and what needs to be accepted.

As you evolve in your practice you may want to incorporate prayer into your practice.  They are used to ask for protection, to draw positive energy to a difficult issue and as a tool to keep the mind focused. What prayers you use depends on your religious convictions.  And if you have none there is still a lot of potential in meditating on nothingness – feel free to explore it.

I am one of those who believe that meditation should be taught in schools.  We all know the benefits:  a better ability to modulate stress, increased self-confidence, clarity in thought and improved focusing ability.  Meditators appear to be more energised, with lower anxiety levels which lead to better rest. Overall meditation promotes tolerance of the little (or big) annoyances   that life – being what it is - inevitably throws at us. 

But why is the state of ‘presence’ so elusive?  Why is it so hard to sit still? We all know the scenario – the minute we decide to sit, be silent and meditate, a myriad of thoughts start to crowd our mental landscape.  Our brain suddenly becomes as crowded as the shelves of a convenience store.  Our attention wanders off to what we want to do, what we think we should be doing, what we think we should have done in the past or some other random fancy thought.  How then to curb the tsunami of thoughts and restore rest and balance to our overworked mind?

 Start slow.  A couple of minutes a day will be enough initially.  It is useless to push yourself into a no-comfort zone until you are truly primed and are familiar with what your mind can withstand.

 Stick to routine, however short. Picking the same time and space to meditate every day will help the mind to adjust a little faster.  We are after all creatures of habit.

  Learn to attend to yourself.  Get in touch with how you are feeling and listen carefully.  It may not be the right time – then postpone your session to another quieter time.  If you are hungry, thirsty or rushed, treat yourself with gentleness and give yourself what you need before attempting meditation. Trust yourself on what you need.   Later on your mind will settle down and collect itself more easily. 

 Your breath is your metronome.  You have heard this said a million times.  Follow your breath.  It will guide into relaxation and through the landscape of your mind.  When your attention wanders off simply put your awareness on your next breath and stay with it for a few moments.

 Don’t expect your mind to present you with a bed or roses.  True meditation is challenging.  That’s why you have to work at it gradually.  Meditation will bring up issues from the past.  It will open up the proverbial can of worms.  But it will also show you ways to release these pent up memories and patterns which may often manifest as physical tensions or unconscious behaviours. 

 You are not a guru.  Shy away from claims or beliefs that meditation can make you more popular, powerful or superior to others in some way.  Be aware that is just a common stumbling block to those who embark on the quiet self-reflective path of meditation.  We all like to feel special and we are all prey to vanity.  Well… meditation is not about being special.  It is about living as well as we can, as respectfully as we can, as smartly as we can (here I need to make a distinction between ‘smart’ and ‘cunning’.  If it is not ethical, then it is not truly intelligent). 

‘’...a son or daughter of good family who studies the Dharma ...should not study with the aim of boasting, debating, or arguing, but only to attain liberation. Studying in this way, with intelligence, he or she will have little pain or exhaustion.’’

 You are not a follower.  Meditation is a personal and intimate practice.  If you decide to practice in a group make sure you are in the company of people whom you can trust and feel safe with.  A good and experienced teacher can give you worthwhile guidance. But no one needs to dictate what you think or be pushy about how you practice (unless you’re a Zen Bhuddist monk!  But that’s a different ball game…). Ultimately your meditation practice has to suit you individually

Meditation is not about living on cloud nine isolated from all that brings us pain.  Meditation is a tool for self-knowledge. It is about embracing life as it is and acting honourably, practically and compassionately.

Interested in meditation?  Here are some links to get you started.  

The Differences between Fragrances and Essential Oils - Part 2

Essential oils: Nature's Healing Garden


In the last newsletter we discussed properties of fragrances.  This week we look at how essential oils are produced as well as some of their benefits and contraindications. 

Aromatherapy oils are extracted from different parts of a variety of plants  They  are the volatile essences found in the flowers, stem, leaves, bark, resin or in the fruit of a plant.

  • Some essential oils can be very expensive for the consumer because of how it is produced.  Rose Otto is one of these costly oils.  After all it takes a thousand petals to produce a drop of this delightful and rejuvenating oil.

  • The oil itself is usually not fatty or oily.  In fact naturally occurring essential oils are often highly volatile.

  • They enter the bloodstream via the skin in the form of massage or bath oils but can also be used in oil based perfumes.  They can similarly be used in compresses or can be added to a base of organic lotion or shampoo to enhance its qualities according to the needs of the person using it.

  • Essential oils are normally chosen because of their therapeutic effects. In fact they influence the nervous system and are able to alter moods, relieve pain and may have antiseptic qualities. Similarly they can have moisturizing or astringent properties.  In other words aromatherapy oils contain within them the healing power of the plant they are derived from.

  • Essential oils are made up of a complex set of naturally occurring chemicals.  Some can contain hundreds of different compounds.  Much depends on the plant source being used.

  • Aromatherapy oils are often used with a carrier oil.  In a few cases these natural oils can be used directly on the skin.  For example tea tree is commonly used on its own to treat fungi and minor skin irritations. 

  • However care needs to be taken with regards to specific allergies when using essential oils.  Moreover certain oils could have adverse effects if used incorrectly.  For instance some oils could have an irritant effect to the skin while others such as citrus need to be used away from sunlight since they may have a bleaching effect on the skin.


Soap Cafe Malta stocks a large selection of high quality essential oils as well as carrier oils. You can also order a customized massage or bath oil designed to suit your needs or your preferences.

Read more about essential oils here: