Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hello Aloe!  

Among its numerous properties Aloe Barbadensis heals insect bites and psoriasis, relieves itchy dry skin, fights fungi and moisturizes skin and hair. It can also be taken internally for its laxative properties.

The clear, bitter gel of Aloe Vera is used extensively in the skin care industry. However make sure that Aloe is one of the first (and only) to be mentioned in the ingredients list – otherwise you are probably just getting more 'bad' stuff then 'good' stuff. Be aware that Aloe has the amazing capacity of penetrating deep into the skin tissue carrying water and nutrients with it. This means that any harmful chemicals contained in the product you are buying will also be absorbed.

A word of caution.  Avoid using Aloe Vera internally if pregnant, using steroids or if you are allergic to plants form the Lily family. In persons who are prone to very dry skin (such as eczema), Aloe Vera can cause local irritation.

The wonderful penetrative quality of Aloe and its light, cool texture makes it ideal to treat the sensitive area around the eyes. Today we are introducing Soap CafĂ©’s refreshing Eye Gel made with Aloe blended with nourishing and rejuvenating oils.  

If you are considering taking Aloe Vera internally look for a product that is cold pressed and make sure its a hundred per cent Aloe juice and gel. Be aware that most commercial Aloe juices contain sugar and salt as preservatives. Moreover they are diluted with high percentages of water. In fact, pure Aloe Vera - the real deal - is a concentrate and you will only need to take a small amount daily to feel its benefits. Pure Aloe Vera gel and pulp is available from Soap Cafe, Malta.

What do you use Aloe Vera for? Do you have any favourite DIY skin care recipes that you would like to share? Write in a let us know about your experiences with using Aloe Vera.

You can find more info and some skin care recipes using Aloe Vera here:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Balance  through Breath  - Nadi Sodhana  

Calming the mind with alternate nostril breathing pranayama practice

Pranayam is the practice of placing awareness on your breath combined with controlled inhalation and exhalation.  Different breath exercises have different effects on the body.  Some are cooling, others warming, some cleanse while others invigorate.  Among the best known is Nadi Sodhana , a simple technique which uses alternate nostril breathing to unblock the nadis, or energy channels in the body.
The Nadis tend to become blocked when we over-indulge as well as when we intentionally or unintentionally use negative thought processes.   It can be practiced anywhere and requires no equipment or preparation. 

Nadi Sodhana relieves headaches, purifies the respiratory organs and tones the nervous system .  In yoga this exercise is used to prepare the body for further practice and meditation.  It can help to relax the mind and consequently release tension from the body when practiced daily for a few minutes at a time.    

In Nadi Sodhana alternate sides of the nose are engaged, drawing in breath through one nostril and exhaling through the other. 

Start by sitting in a comfortable position with a straight back.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb.  Inhale through your left nostril.
  • Now close the left nostril with your third and fourth finger and open the right one.  Exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril and close it with your thumb.  Exhale through the left nostril. 
This is one full round.  Aim for three rounds to start with.  Increase your practice gradually to up to ten rounds.  Keep the ratio of inhalation to exhalation at 1:1 initially.  Aim at lengthening the exhalation as you become more confident in your practice.

Pranayam seeks to balance the five pranas of the body – the channels through which breath, energy and indeed life itself circulate through the body.  For instance Prana brings energy downward towards the navel.  Apana, it’s counterforce, draws waste and impurities upward towards the centre of the body.  When the two types of prana meet they are, in yogic tradition, burnt by Agni, the purifying fire at the navel chakra (centre).  Agni brings mind and body together.   If you are not a yogi or if you struggle with yogic interpretations think of it as oxidization of waste matter which in turn aids elimination of toxic elements from the body and generates vital energy.

Pranayam is always done on an empty stomach.  Try and stick to the same time for daily practice as the mind tends to accustom itself to routine.  Seek out the help of an experienced pranayama practitioner for individualized guidance since certain physical conditions may require specific adaptations to breath awareness exercises.  

Full instructions and info on Pranayam and Nadi Sodhana can also be found here:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Practice with a smile: A short meditation on being your own best friend.

The Taoist meditation practice known as the Inner Smile is said to activate the energy of compassion within us. It brings a sense of tranquillity and teaches us to be gentle and appreciate every little part of us. 

It is an ideal early morning or bedtime practice. This practice helps to make us conscious of points of resistance in the body and supports our ability to slowly become aware of and release unproductive thought patterns. 

But as with all calming practices it is important to be consistent and persevere. A little practice at a time will do the trick initially. The following is a short meditation based on the Taoist Inner Smile. 
  • The process is simple. Lie or sit in a comfortable symmetrical position. Allow your hands to rest on your knees. Straighten you spine and relax your throat and shoulders. 
  • Place your attention on your breath. Take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly and fully. Stay in tune with your breath throughout the meditation and use it as a way to bring your attention back to your practice. 
  • Find your smile. You may need the memory of a favourite spot or person you like to start you off. Note how your smile spreads across your face, relaxing brow and jaw. Focus on a central point on your forehead... and smile. Bring forward your warmest, most genuine, friendly smile and let it spread on your face.
  • Turn your attention to your body. Move slowly from your head to your neck to your shoulders and arms. Give them a warm friendly smile, taking a little time on each and noting how it feels.
  • If you experience tension or soreness at a particular site try this simple technique. Breathe in and as you exhale send the healing energy of your breath to the part of your body that feels uncomfortable. And smile at it, widely, brightly and lovingly. 
  • Continue giving your attention to the rest of the body including internal organs in this way for several minutes. The deeper you relax into this technique the longer you will be able to sustain practice.
  • Gently bring yourself back into the room. Thank your body for its service to you. It serves throughout your existence on earth. 
  • Keep the Inner Smile close to you throughout the day and return to it when every now and again. This will help to stay grounded and maintain ad sense of safety within. 
You can find a fuller version of the classical practice of the Inner Smile meditation at this link.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the Taoist Master, Mantak Chia.

‘’Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: 
 you become your own best friend. 
 Living with an inner smile is 
to live in harmony with yourself.’’

Smooth and cool: A selection of smoothie recipes to keep you hydrated and your tummy happy.

Summer is clearly here and our body starts to be drawn to lighter more refreshing foods.. The variety of delicious, juicy fruit and veg during the spring and summer seasons inspires us to create meals that are fresh, cooling, juicy, crisp, and raw. 


Enter the blender. Bring all your favourite summer ingredients together in a single glass. 

Here are some of our favourite combinations. There’s everything from cooling smoothies to a cleansing green juice.

The SPF Smoothie
 Rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E to promote skin regeneration. You can make it without the Camu camu powder and replace it with the juice of a half a lemon since Camu powder has a very high concentration of Vitamin C. Lemon makes a good substitute.

Green and Lean
The next smoothie will appeal to green drink fans who enjoy their nutritious kale shakes. I know that didn’t sound appetising. But the following might well tantalize your tastebuds as it contains delicious coconut water and zingy ginger.,smoothies

Ayurvedic Cooling Drink
Indian Ayurveda recommends foods that cool the system to beat the summer heat. Cooling foods include melons, pears, grapes, asparagus, cucumber and milk. Check out the refreshing blend published by with mouth-watering mango and revitalizing mint.

Cool as Cucumber
I’ll finish this little list of luscious shakes with my personal favourite: Sweet basil, cool cucumber and sweet cantaloupe melon. A fine, classy smoothie to help you chill out during a warm summer’s day.

We're curious about what smoothies you like you stir up. Write in and let us know what your favourite blends are this summer.