Top 5 Vegan Beauty Product Picks

Greetings dear readers! I hope you’re all enjoying the archived posts – It’s taking me a while to get them up but on the bright side I’ve also had a chance to revisit my old content and even make minor improvements to some of the recipes.

But enough about food already. When I relaunched the blog one of my goals was for it to become more of a lifestyle guide and resource – of course food will probably always be the focus, but I’d like to offer my musings on different aspects of being vegan wherever possible, so this is exactly that.

Vegan beauty products, unlike vegan food, are not quite as easy to get a hold of here in Bahrain (I can’t speak for the rest of the Gulf or the Arab world but I’m willing to bet it’s around the same). They are available – you just need to dig a little harder to find them, as well as do some research on which mainstream brands are already vegan (you’d be surprised!). So without further ado I give you, my top 5 vegan beauty product picks of the moment!

1. Green Bar Rose Plant Water

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Not only does this stuff smell incredible  it also works wonders. I’ve been using it daily for about 5 months now and I’m in love with how soothing and cleansing it is to my skin without being abrasive like most commercial chemical toners. Rose water is traditionally used in Middle Eastern culture as an anti-inflammatory, so it’s also great for sensitive skin. I adore that it’s 100% natural and additive free, plus have I mentioned that Green Bar is a completely local brand and concept? Points all around in my book.

The rose plant water is available to buy here on their website, and the good news is they ship regionally and internationally too.

2. Sante Organic Compact Powder

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I generally don’t wear a lot of make-up, but my essentials are three-fold: bronzer, mascara and tinted lip balm. This one is a bit of a cheat because while it’s actually a compact powder, I buy a couple of shades darker and use it as a bronzer, and it works great. First I have to say I love that it’s matte – far too many bronzer powders come with an unnecessary glittery sheen that makes them impractical for everyday use. Second it’s completely organic, vegan and filled with all natural botanical ingredients including chamomile and organic jojoba. It doesn’t make my skin break out and is perfect for applying in layers too so you can gauge how much coverage you need.

I buy mine at the Organic Foods and Cafe in Seef Mall, but you can also order it online here (oh and another bonus? It doesn’t break the bank like my Guerlain bronzer used to).

3. OrganicCare Beauty Balm

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Another local Bahrain-based brand that I’m immensely proud of is OrganicCare. Entirely homemade and handcrafted by a truly dedicated and knowledgeable entrepreneur, all their products are organic, and natural with wholesome ingredients that are safe and toxin-free. Now on to the Beauty Balm – is perhaps the best face product I’ve ever used, hands down. The balm is highly nourishing and gentle, and while it’s intended as a make-up remover I actually use it as my daily moisturizer, morning and night.

A special blend of skin loving cold pressed organic oils and butter that feeds your skin. Use it with our 100% organic cotton and hemp cloth to remove oils, dirt and makeup. The results can be seen right after one use, with incredibly radiant, glowing skin with a smoother, more refined texture. The difference can be seen instantly and just keeps on improving with use. OrganiCare’s Beauty Balm can be used as a moisturizer, for face, lips, cuticles, dry patches on body or heels.

What I love about it is how light it feels on my skin (even though it’s oil-based), it never makes me break out. It also smells so citrusy and fresh, gives me a great glow in the morning and has made my skin incredibly soft. Not to be missed if you live in Bahrain I highly recommend you get in touch via the Facebook page here. For international readers, stay tuned – I’m sure she’ll be branching out soon.

4. Barry M Blink Precision Eyeliner

 

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Another one of my make-up must haves (although not a daily essential) is a solid eyeliner pen, because let’s face it; aint nobody got time for actual liquid liner. While I used to live for Rimmel and Maybelline’s eyeliner pens, I’m beyond happy to have found a vegan alternative. Yes that’s right, all Barry M’s products are 100% vegan and cruelty free! They also have a great line of nail polishes and a full range of make-up, so it’s definitely a great go-to. You can find them at Boots stores here in Bahrain, and virtually everywhere in the UK as well.

5. Bath and BodyWorks Fine Fragrance Mist

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Because it’s almost virtually impossible to find perfume that’s vegan (barring Stella McCartney – which I may have to try out sometime soon) I pretty much stopped wearing perfume. Instead I opt for body sprays from Bath and Body Works which I much prefer as they’re so light yet still fragrant, floral and sweet. My scent of choice varies but my favourite has to be the Japanese Cherry Blossom. I also love that they have smaller bottles for travel or when you’re on the go. Now as for the brand, this is a bit of a tricky one – not all BBW products are vegan as some do contain animal ingredients (including lactose and gelatin) but they are definitely 100% cruelty free and do not test on animals, so as long as you read the ingredients on what you buy, you should be fine.

Available at Bath and BodyWorks stores (obviously) – my favourite one to frequent is the one in City Centre Mall, downstairs next to Carrefour and Lakeland.

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So there you have it – a sneak peak into some of my favourite vegan beauty products! It’s worth mentioning that I’m still in the process of totally veganizing my make-up bag, so I do use a combination of vegan and non-vegan products, but I’m slowly transitioning and finding accessible products like these is a great help.

What are some of your tried and tested  vegan beauty/make-up/hair products? I’d love to know!

 

Return of the blog

That’s right, the blog is back!

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(The blog on the blog – blogception?)

This time my extended hiatus was due to a very unfortunate series of events in which my dreadful web host (I won’t name and shame, but I’m quite certain you might know which one it is already) decided to delete my ENTIRE site without so much as an e-mail’s notice. Needless to say I was beyond frustrated when I learned that there was nothing I could do to get it back.

After a good week of feeling upset, helpless and sorry for myself, I harassed my previous host through countless web chats to get access to my domain and purchased new hosting. I then thanked my lucky stars that Wellsphere had an online log of every post I ever made and decided it was time to get to work and redesign, rebuild and re-populate my blog from scratch.

The problem with this of course (besides being incredibly time consuming) is that all old comments have disappeared, along with some of the static pages of the blog. I also had to dig up all my old photos and re-upload to match them up with posts, so not all of them are exactly the way they used be. But despite it all, I have returned and I couldn’t be happier to be typing up a blog post once again! I have some fantastic new recipes and reviews up my sleeve and I can’t wait to share them.

I should mention that not all posts and recipes have been restored just yet – it’s proven to be a much slower process than I originally anticipated so please bear with me while I get all of the old content up and running. I’m also uploading all my recipes separately to recipage for quick retrieval, but again the collection on there is far from complete – so If there’s a recipe you’re looking for that you can’t find just leave me a comment below or drop me a message on Facebook and I’ll be sure to add it to the top of the recipe queue or even just e-mail it to you.

Before I depart – I’d like to wish all my wonderful readers who observe and celebrate it, a very warm Ramadan Kareem. And also – for every person who sent me an e-mail, Facebook message or tweet – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support means the world to me, and I can’t thank you enough for your patience. Stay tuned for new recipes and updates!

 

Meal Prep Monday: Red Lentil, Split Pea and Butternut Squash Dal

Good morning folks! It’s time for a new series on the blog *drum roll please*…

Meal Prep Monday! (at this point the imaginary crowd in my head oooh‘s and aaaah’s)

So I’m kind of cheating – I don’t actually do my meal prep on Mondays – but Meal Prep Saturday just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

I’m sure you’ll forgive me once you see how delightfully easy it is to make this recipe.

The  idea behind this new series of posts is simple – quick, delicious and nutritious dishes that you can cook in bulk when you’re short on time.

Time is a luxury that I frankly, don’t have very much of anymore. Turns out being grown-up is pretty time consuming (despite the fact that I am unmarried and childless – much to my mother’s not-so-secret dismay). So upon realizing this I figured I have two options:

  • I can mope about how I have no time anymore to do all of the things I used to love (ie. cooking, working out/running, yoga, reading, journalling) and spend any free moment feeling too absolutely sorry for myself

OR

  • I can acknowledge man up, organise my time and do something about it.

After many months of doing the former and a rejuvenating getaway trip – I chose the latter.

As part of my newfound bout of productivity I have started to do all of my cooking and meal prep on weekends. I make big batches of easy, healthy dishes along with some staples like grains, dry beans, steamed veggies and a couple of  big leafy green salads to essentially live off during the week.

I also bought this awesome lunchbag which carries all my meals for the day. So convenient I can’t even begin to explain.

 

Enough mindless chatter – let’s get down to business with this week’s recipe.

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 cup of split peas (pre-soaked for two hours or overnight – not necessary but will significantly reduce cooking time)
  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped
  • 1 heaped cup of butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 cups of organic vegetable stock (Kallo brand is my favourite)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tsps organic coconut oil OR vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Sweat onion and garlic in coconut oil (or a splash of veg stock for a low fat option, personally I love the flavour and richness coconut oil adds here) for a few minutes on medium heat until translucent, then add the tomatoes. Add the cumin and coriander and stir well – careful not to burn the spices.
  2. Add the lentils, split peas, squash, vegetable stock, water and spices. Bring to a boil then cover and let simmer on low heat for about 35 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally to avoid sticking (the lentils will form a creamy puree quite quickly which can burn if left unattended).
  3. When the split peas have cooked through and the whole mixture resembles a chunky soup – it’s done. Add fresh coriander on top and stir through. Serve with some brown rice or quinoa and savour!

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The inspiration behind this Dal is down to one of our old interns in the office who was (as many others are) fascinated with my veganism. One day she brought in the most delicious lentil soup made by her grandmother which she offered me a taste of – and I have been craving it ever since.

The addition of split peas adds a wonderful texture, and of course a higher nutritional profile.

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Not to mention a beautiful golden hue.

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Fragrant, delicious and most importantly heartily filling even all on it’s own. The perfect companion to any lunchbox, if you ask me and several of my co-workers who exclaimed “What are you eating? It smells so good!”

 

Do you do a big prep or cook during the week?  

What are your go-to work/school meals? 

 

I’d love to see them! Share them with me via social media.

 

 

Sadhana Yoga Retreat Pt. II

Hello dear readers! As promised I’ve returned with part II of my trip recap. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave your comments and/or questions at the end, I love hearing from you.

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On my way to Nepal I had wondered what the food would be like – I knew I wouldn’t have any problem finding vegan grub or even communicating my dietary needs thanks to my copy of Vegan Passport (highly recommend this book to any vegan travellers!) so I was mostly excited to experience the flavours, textures and colours of Nepali cuisine. On my first night there, I arrived far too late to venture into the tourist district of Thamel for a bite to eat, so I settled for some room service, which funnily enough turned out to be one of the tastiest meals I had the entire trip!

Dal and wholewheat plain roti. Terrible photograph, but it was delicious I promise. Excellently spiced and seasoned and heartily filling. The perfect light dinner before I was knocked out with exhaustion. What I was really looking forward to however, was the all vegetarian fare I had read about at Sadhana. Having already been reassured via e-mail that my vegan dietary needs would be met to – I couldn’t wait to have my tastebuds dazzled by fresh, wholesome, plant-based South Asian cuisine for 10 days. And they were.

 

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Above is a picture of a typical lunch: Sauteed green beans with fennel seeds, nepali squash in a spiced tomato sauce, brown rice, dal baht (read: broth-y lentil soup), curried potatoes, and what I gathered was a mix of sauteed marrow and other local greens.

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Super simple, but It was my favourite little dishes the whole time there – I almost always had seconds of it. Prior to mealtimes, we all recited the Bhojan Mantra – a prayer intended to cleanse the food of all impurities. As Bipin, our program leader always said, “If we have pure food, we can have a pure mind.”

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Breakfasts were by far the most awaited mealtimes at Sadhana – after a long morning of  meditation, Neti cleansing, Yoga, and hiking – we were positively ravenous.

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This was by far my favourite breakfast – masala spiced semolina porridge, made with dried fruits and nuts, topped with banana slices, freshly shaved coconut and a cherry. Although mine was dairy-free it tasted divine – almost decadently creamy enough to be a dessert!

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Another favourite was pureed bananas (in lieu of buffalo yogurt), topped with chopped apples, dried fruits, nuts and coconut – seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon. It may sound like baby food – but I gladly lapped up this all-raw breakfast. Another new-t0-me culinary delight, was momo’s.

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Momo’s are traditional Nepalese dumplings – often stuffed with pork or chicken and fried as street food.

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Not these momo’s. Durga, one of the co-founders and resident momo connosieur at Sadhana, showed us  how to make the all vegan stuffing consisting of green beans, onions, cabbage, carrots, textured vegetable protein (they called it Tofu, but it definitely wasn’t), and a truly hefty dose of seasoning. IMG_1865

She demonstrated a few ways of stuffing and closing the dumplings, which looked like beautiful little mini baguettes. And then we got to work.

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I have no proper photos of the end result, but they were out of this world. Steamed and doused with a chutney sauce, served alongside some hearty potato and bean based soup.

Enjoyed at a candle lit dinner outside on the balcony. One of the best nights at Sadhana for sure.

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Now, although Part of the 10-day program at Sadhana Yoga Centre includes a 3 day fast followed by a gastro-intestinal flush – most of us chose to ignore that bridge until we had to cross it. But come day 7 we were faced with a brutal reality.

Apples.

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Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic. The whole idea of the gastro-intestinal cleansing is to purify your entire digestive system and get rid of accumulated toxins. The fast program looks like this:

1st Day of fasting : 6 Apples (2 for Breakfast, 2 for Lunch, 2 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.
2nd Day of fasting : 3 Apples (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.
3rd Day of fasting : 3 cups of Lemon and Honey water (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner) and unlimited amount water & herbal teas.
4th Day : Gastro-intestinal flushing then broth, lentil soup, and khichadi for dinner. (yogic food, baby food).

Since I don’t have honey, I was often given extra apples, and during the last day I pre-requested some pressed apple juice (since we were also to be completely silent on the final day of fasting). Overall the fast was quite challenging, even for a seasoned Ramadan faster like myself. On the last day I found myself getting a little bit light headed during the yoga sessions, but a little sea salt and warm water did the trick.

Then came the long awaited cleansing day.

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We gathered around in the courtyard after morning meditation and Durga explained to us the process.

The first step is to drink 2 glasses of warm salty water as quickly as possible. Then,we were asked to perform 6 simple asanas, 8 times each, as well as 3 additional movements. The aim of all the movements is to massage the stomach, and help the water to run down the various channels and to activate bowel movement.

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And so we did. It was pretty nerve wracking at first – downing all that salt water and jumping around like an idiot, unsure if it was going to work or not, but I did as I was told and kept going through the exercises, and drinking more water.

I think I drank about 12 cups of salt water before it started to work, but many others were done a lot earlier – I think my anxiety was definitely a bit of a mental block to the process. All in all, the flushing was a pleasant experience, but quite exhausting. We spent the rest of the day resting and lounging about, eagerly awaiting our Kitchadi – lentils, mungbeans, rice and ghee cooked down to a creamy baby-food consistency. I of course had mine sans clarified butter, but the whole idea is to have food that’s easily digested and that will lubricate the intestines so to speak.

***

The whole experience at Sadhana was nothing short of magical.

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I left feeling re-energised, relaxed and completely at peace. I had worked through a lot of the issues that had been leaving me feeling drained, and generally unsatisfied with life as of late, and felt confident about stepping back into the real world with somewhat of a “plan”.

I met a lot of wonderful, beautiful people – whom I’ll miss terribly, but I’m happy regardless to have shared with them and have been a part of all of their respective journeys.

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Until next time, friends!

 

 

 

Sadhana Yoga Retreat Recap: Part I

Imagine waking up in a place so breathtakingly picturesque, that you felt as though you were engulfed in a postcard.
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A place where the sounds of trees rustling, birds and crickets chirping and the gentle breeze form a soothing soundtrack of sorts.
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A place where the air is crisp, spiked by the almost intoxicating aroma of incense and spices wafting upwards.
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You might find yourself, at the Sadhana Yoga Centre, in Pokhara, Nepal.
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At least, that’s where I stayed for 10 beautiful days last month. The experience was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. It was – in a word – rejuvenating.

Funnily enough, I didn’t get around to planning this trip till about a couple of days before I left. I had originally planned a two week long stint in India (a place that has been on my travel hit list for as long as I can remember) however was forced to reschedule it to later this year. So there I was, with two whole weeks off of work, with absolutely nothing planned. I freaked out for about 5 minutes, then I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got online and started researching potential last minute destinations one of which was Nepal, at the recommendation of my father who had been to Kathmandu a few months prior.
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In the process I stumbled across Sadhana Yoga Centre – a yoga and detox retreat located in the heart of the mountains in Pokhara, Nepal’s second biggest city, favoured by trekkers and backpackers due to its close proximity to the Annapurna mountain range. It took about 10 minutes on their website and Facebook page for me to be absolutely sold – their 10-day yoga holiday package sounded exactly what I needed, and as luck would have it, the scheduled dates worked perfectly with my leave.
So I did it. I packed a bag (should’ve been a backpack, in retrospect – a word to the wise), booked a flight and hopped on a plane a mere two days later, not knowing what to expect or what I was getting myself into. After two flights and a considerable 6 hour delay in India due to weather conditions, I arrived in Kathmandu. I got some sustenance and sleep at a nearby hotel and headed to Pokhara early the next morning.
The domestic plane was definitely the smallest I have ever been in. It was positively tiny seating only 16 people and was so narrow, passengers and attendants had to duck down to make it through the aisles. The take-off was less than smooth, and I managed to distract myself from the fact that I could hear the engine whirring right behind my head by ogling the view of the himalayas peeking up beyond the clouds.
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A car ride through the town of Lakeside and a strenuous mountain climb later (on account of my unnecessarily heavy luggage), I arrived at the center. It took me a while to take in the view – I stood on the rooftop balcony and just marveled at the little stretch of heaven that lay before me; it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
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On the first night we had an orientation session with the founders of the centre, Yogi Asanga and his lovely wife Durga. He explained in detail what we would be doing for the next 10 days; an intensive Hatha yoga course, daily meditation sessions, other activities as well as our 3 day fast and gastrointestinal flush which came towards the end of the ten days – but more on that later.
Our days at the centre generally looked like this:
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For some the early start was a hard to stomach at first, but I relished it – and found myself looking forward to the daily wake up call administered via loud brass bells, ashram-style.
Having never tried meditation at all before, I was a little intimidated and disoriented going in. At first I felt restless, my joints rang with pain, and I thought that my efforts to clear my head would forever be futile. After the first few days I slowly began to get the hang of it, and even looked forward to the afternoon meditation session which was by far one of my favourite activities of the whole trip. It’s an incredible sensation that I can’t even describe – just the feeling of letting everything go, focusing on your breath and really becoming one with your being – it’s phenomenal. I walked away on a natural high every single time without fail.
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After our morning tea break we did a daily Neti session, AKA nasal cleansing. It basically entails cleansing the nasal passages by way of warm salt water being passed through one nostril and out the other. A series of rather comical (and messy-gross, I know!) breathing exercises ensue to dry your nose. As unpleasant as it may sound, it worked wonders for me, especially since I got a cold my second day there.

Afterwards we had our 90-minute morning yoga, outside in the courtyard.
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Followed by a nature hike in the surrounding mountains,
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Where we often stopped to take photos.
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Everybody say Namaste!
and then came breakfast long last.

In the afternoon there was always some free time, much of which for me was spent reading (I read 5 books during my trip all together) and journalling, much of the time in the silent lounge or balcony on the top floor.
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In the afternoons we got into the habit of doing Karma Yoga – which basically means being one with your actions, or your work. The whole concept at Sadhana is to spend time focusing on the work itself, to do something positive for others and to work selflessly, without the expectation of renumeration. The chores would be simple – gardening, organizing photo albums, watering plants – but my favourite activity was of course, helping out in the kitchen.

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On this particular day we were learning how to make Momo’s . But more on that later.

After Karma yoga we had yet another tea break on the rooftop (complete with popcorn – a Nepali tradition of having sweet masala tea with salty popcorn), followed by chanting or Bhakti yoga.
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Chanting is basically devotional singing. Each day we would sing three different bhuddist Mantras, some accompanied by drums other instruments. At Sadhana it’s regarded as another form of meditation, so the singing is done in a meditative pose, with your eyes closed. The repetition of the mantras is said to uplift you towards your higher self. It was actually a lot of fun and very cathartic – at the end you could truly feel the vibrations passing through your body.
After chanting came another session of yoga, followed by a hearty dinner. We always ended with Trataka – candle meditation and breathing exercises, the perfect thing to conclude a long day.
That’s all for now – I’ll be back soon with part II of my recap where I’ll tell you more about, yep you guessed it, the delicious food.