Ready to glow?

So I didn’t make any resolutions, I am not going to encourage you to either, do what you love in 2015. I love it when my skin glows and I feel amazing because I am eating well, spending time doing activities that I love, like ballet, laughing till my stomach hurts with loved ones and buying myself pretty things.

When my hubby was in Nicaragua he did a home stay with a local farming family who mainly ate a vegetarian diet except on special occasions. We lead an alkaline lifestyle so don’t eat meat everyday (when we do it is mostly organic and raised humanely). So while there are no real resolutions, because of Ahmed’s humbling experience at the farm, we hope to be eating even more veggies this year. Once upon a time my hubby wouldn’t even touch spinach, he came back from this trip talking about kale patties. It’s not a bad idea to look into “Living [more of a] veg life.”

This three day plan, with smoothies, meals and snacks will hopefully leave you feeling wonderful. Wheat, dairy and meat free, the following recipes are my favourite go-to options for nourishment that beautifies inside out. If you aren’t up for the whole thing, why not try adding some of these ingredients to your weekly grocery shop or a meal or two?

Easy breakfasts that take minutes, which you can prepare the night before, hearty soups that can be made and frozen in advance and delicious dinners that don’t take much putting together. Remember to drink lots of water and herbal teas.

Day One: Lots of antioxidants, healing spices and potent super foods today. I am huge fan of ginger (especially in winter) and never need an excuse to enjoy chocolate.

Start the day with a cup of hot water and lemon.

Breakfast – Choc n’ Berry Super Pots

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I love desserts that are healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast! My raw chocolate mousse, featured on We Heart Living, will win your taste buds and your body over. Avocado, berries, chia seeds and cacao are incredible foods, putting them together creates a meal that is a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

(Serves 2)

One ripe avocado
½ cup of coconut milk
½tbsp of chia seeds soaked in a little water
2tbsp cacao powder
2tbsp maple syrup
½ cup water
1 cup of raspberries

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender (except the raspberries), adding up to ½ cup of water as needed to give a smooth, light airy consistency. Divide into 2 small dishes and chill in the fridge for several hours. Push the raspberries into the mousse, add some to the top and serve.

Mid-Morning – Beetroot, Pineapple & Ginger Smoothie

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This smoothie is fresh and energising. I love the deep rich flavour of amazing beetroot against the sharp sweetness of pineapple and zing of ginger.

(Serves 2)

360mls of coconut water
One beetroot, washed, scrubbed and cut into pieces
250g pineapple chunks
2″ piece of ginger, grated

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.

Lunch – Spicy Squash Soup

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Creamy buttery squash in soup, rocks. This soup is so comforting and it always bring me warmth, which is always welcome.

(Serves 3-4)

1tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g of butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1tsp curry powder
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
2” piece of ginger, grated
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/4tsp cinnamon
3 cups of vegetable stock

To serve – Fresh coriander and a swirl of coconut milk (both optional)

Heat oil in pan on a medium heat, sauté onion and garlic until soft.

Add the squash and curry powder and sauté until the squash begins to sweat. Stir in the apple, the remaining spices and stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once the squash and apple are soft and tender, blitz the mixture in a blender and serve with coriander and a swirl of coconut milk.

Snack – Date-Pops

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I’ve shared this recipe before and I absolutely love dates, especially when they are meshed with almonds and shredded coconut. Pop a couple of these in the afternoon to keep you going and glowing like pro.

(Makes 10)

250g dates (pitted)
Half a cup ground almond powder
Half cup unsweetened desiccated coconut (to cover with)

In a blender mix the dates with the ground almonds, this should leave you with a thick sticky mass. Form ten two-bite sized date-pops. Scatter coconut on a flat plate, roll the date-pops in the coconut and cover, pressing coconut in as required.

Dinner – Warm Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

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I know that vegetables are best eaten raw, but I love roasting them, especially with red onions. Something magical happens in the oven and vegetables take on a whole new level of yum when they are roasted in this way. It’s worth eating quinoa, the hero grain, several times a week. Read more about the benefits here.

(Serves 2-3)

1 cup of quinoa
Two small red onions cut into quarters
One zucchini squash cut into quarters lengthways sliced thinly
200g of mixed small tomatoes
Big pinch of cumin seeds
Big pinch of oregano
Himalayan pink salt to season
A tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

Wash and cook quinoa according to packet.

Meanwhile, in a roasting tin, add zucchini and onions. Toss together with cumin, oregano, salt and olive oil. Roast for twenty minutes. Add tomatoes to mixture and roast for another fifteen minutes

Once the vegetables are cooked, add the quinoa to the roasting tin, combine and serve.

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“First position please”

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We had our last ballet class of the the year over the weekend and while looking forward to some weeks off, I am also excited for next term, in the New Year. The barre is my happy place.

My first attempt at ballet was a disaster. I ended up at a clueless downtown Toronto dance studio where the quality of teaching was so poor I’d be at my chiropractor in agony every week. Then I discovered Ballet Espressivo and so much has changed since then.

Having always epitomized a ballet dancer with grace, elegance, beauty and an incredible physique, the dancer’s body is something I have always been in awe of. It’s movement to music and life is something I have coveted and even dared to dream about but never quite had.

Amateur dance is something most people find themselves doing throughout life. My first introduction to dance was in an expressive class at high school where I couldn’t touch my toes in a stretch and was made to feel quite inadequate by a teacher for my size and shape.

While her remarks didn’t deter me from dancing and choreographing Bollywood routines in the privacy of my room, it did rattle my confidence and restrain me from asking to attend dance lessons.

Years later, I became a cheerleader at university, after losing a bet with the boys and found myself enjoying it. Dancing in a group of girls was so much fun and I loved our coaches and even went on to become cheerleader of the year. Finally inspired by Shakira, I took to belly dancing.

Yet the videos on YouTube of ballet dancers taunted an unrequited dream, their ethereal moves impressed upon me an art form I craved to explore but never had the courage to try. Then earlier this year, I finally watched Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Natalie Portman’s stunning performance stole my heart.

I started to research ballet and came to learn that as well as being a beautiful art form, that the study of it could help me to strengthen my weak and aching lower back. What I needed more than anything was the internal and infinite strength of the core and this was enough to push me to finally pursue ballet.

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If there is one thing I have come to appreciate more than anything in this wonderful practice, it is a teacher who values her students and puts their wellbeing at the top of her list. That is why the hours spent at Ballet Espressivo under the instruction of Donna Greenberg, a teacher who believes in the deeper connection between art and wellness, have been the most enriching experience to my health this past year.

“When you come to class and do barre, it isn’t an escape. It’s not therapy but it is development and that development can help you through the hardest times in your life, because one has made a commitment to themselves.”

Greenberg’s style of teaching has been a progressive experience. It stems from having met a mentor early in her training, who, although strict, understood and encouraged a holistic sensibility towards learning dance and movement, one that Greenberg felt, she had a natural inclination toward. Greenberg has expanded upon that over the years in her own artistic journey.

What I find most inspiring, is her holistic approach to teaching. Greenberg gets student to work hard and try their absolute best by encouraging them to be mindful. In other forms of exercise and movement, my brain often wonders, when doing ballet, for that full hour or so I am totally focused.

You work hard; she doesn’t treat you with any less reverence than she would a professional. Just because we aren’t going to be prima ballerinas, doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the same respect or quality of education.

Greenberg believes strongly in adult education because there are many people who didn’t have the support or means to do it as a child and that is why she offers classes to adults specifically. There are up to three evening classes everyday, at a variety of levels as well as strengthening floor barre and a modern dance class (which is my favourite).

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If there is one thing Greenberg wants students to take away from her classes it is a love for ballet and the confidence to pursue dreams and goals. Not everyone is supposed to be a professional, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the art form.

“The beauty of ballet and dancing is that you get to express yourself, build strength and learn a discipline that helps to develop a higher sense of yourself, a better sense. Even if that is unattainable, it doesn’t matter because the benefits are there for you.”

Amongst the benefits of doing ballet, beyond the more obvious ones like, being toned and stronger, are a responsive body, improved balance and co-ordination. You can also have greater extension of limbs, more connection to how you move in general and in particular, much better posture. Greenberg feels that people with good posture look younger and more vital and I totally agree. I aspire to people who know how to carry themselves and are comfortable in their own skin.

Posture is our greatest weapon against ailments as we age. Sitting is said to be the new smoking. Learning how to use our muscles efficiently and hold ourselves correctly while we sit protects the spine (the key to our central nervous system) and can protect us from so many things later in life.

So I haven’t just learned to dance; I have also learned how to heal and not just physically but emotionally. Greenberg is an intuitive teacher and understands her students in a different capacity and you don’t get away with much in class. She sees your shoulders hiking up before they even do, an elbow dropping before you even realise it’s fallen.

Beyond that, Greenberg recognizes when we are afraid of old wounds and pushes us gently towards them, through dance, we learn to accept the parts of our bodies and selves that we don’t always want and find a way to connect to them once again. Really all we are doing is trying to mobilise our limbs and work with scar tissue, but it always feels like we doing so much more that that, going deep into those places that have suffered the hands of time.

A dancer’s body is not always about being the perfect size. It is about being strong and having a connection, knowing how to use your body efficiently not just for dancing but to move and breathe throughout your life.

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That in actual fact, a dancer’s body, is a beautiful thing to behold, because what it gives you is optimum health, wellness and awareness and it is seriously good fun, especially with Greenberg. If you are looking for something to enrich your mind, body and soul in 2015, seriously consider ballet.

Find out more: http://balletespressivo.com

– Photos by Zeeshan Safdar