27 Days in the Woods

Living Yoga

In the month of May, I participated in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge. The foundation challenged Canadians to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days in May. I missed the last 3 days of the challenge, so I am writing to share my experience of getting outside – for at least half an hour – 27 days in a row.

I realized that walking is a wonderful way to get around.

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I grew up in the suburbs – where things tend to be further apart – so I grew up driving to most of the places that I wanted to go. As an adult, I have struggled with a tendency to try to do too much, and getting somewhere faster had always seemed like a better way to get more done, so I kept driving places.

In May, I walked places instead. Walking, in this case, wasn’t just a longer way of getting somewhere – it was accomplishing my nature time. But over the course of the month, walking became less about accomplishing and more about enjoying. Walking, for me, is a more peaceful and enjoyable way to move through the world around me. As cliché as it sounds, I now see walking as an opportunity to really enjoy the process of getting somewhere, as an opportunity to soften my focus on the destination and enjoy the journey.

I learned a lot about my neighbourhood.

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A teacher I’ve studied with once said, “If you are on a tricycle, you are more aware of things than if you are in a Ferrari.”

In the month of May, I experienced firsthand the truth of this idea. Walking and spending more time outside in my neighbourhood allowed me to learn about it in new and different ways. I know the green spaces. I know the tree lined streets. Places that used to seem far away now seem a lot closer.

With the speed of a car – or even a bike – it is always important to watch where you are going. Walking around the neighbourhood or sitting in a green space affords you the opportunity to more fully be where you are.

I gained a deeper appreciation for the way that nature lifts my spirit and nurtures my well-being.

I remember one Sunday in particular during the challenge. It was a grey rainy day, and my partner and I were puttering around at home. If it weren’t for the challenge, we would have puttered the day away. But, both being the type to take commitment (very) seriously, we strapped on our rain gear and headed out to Shaughnessy Park.

We had a fantastic time being out and about. Sure, we got a little wet, but our spirits were lifted, our smiles were wide, and our hearts were warm.

On this day, I said to my partner, “I want to keep doing this – I can feel how important it is. I want to continue to actively and regularly seek time in nature when the challenge is over.”

In a nutshell, participating in the 30×30 Nature Challenge taught me important things about how I want to live my life. I am grateful to the David Suzuki Foundation for organizing and promoting this event – so grateful, that I became a monthly donor to the organization at the beginning of June!

Detoxify Your Body (Or the Kind of Foods Yogis Rub on their Bodies)

Ahimsa Living Yoga

sarah jamieson yoga

Have you done crazy things to detoxify your body?

When I hear about people doing a detox, it strikes me that they are often doing somewhat extreme and out of the ordinary things – like barely eating or only drinking lemon water or taking copious amounts of supplements. I’m curious about approaching detox in a less drastic and more maintainable way – simply by decreasing my exposure to toxins.

One way to significantly cut down on your exposure to toxins is to use toxin-free body-care and home-care products. A great rule of thumb is to avoid putting anything on your body that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. Last month, I wrote a post on Why Yogis Hug Trees and Rub Food on their Bodies, so this post – looking at the types of food that yogis might want to rub on their bodies – feels like an appropriate follow up.

Here are some of my favourite homemade – and toxin-free – recipes for body care:


Simple Skin Moisturizer

  • coconut oil

Rub it on your skin like you would any other skin moisturizing product. Your skin will likely seem a little oily at first, but the oiliness quickly fades.

Homemade Deodorant

  •   3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup baking soda

I got this recipe from another yogi, and she had suggested 6 Tbsp Coconut Oil, ¼ cup baking soda, and ¼ cup cornstarch, but I’ve been avoiding corn, so I decided to cut it out of the recipe. Coconut oil and baking soda has been working great for me so far.

Baking Soda Shampoo

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • ½ – 1 Tbsp water

Mix water and baking soda in a small bowl and take it into the shower with you. Work the baking soda paste into your hair, and rinse and condition as usual. It took me a few washes to get used to shampooing with baking soda, but from the very beginning I noticed a “cleaner than usual” feel to my hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil

I mix these ingredients in a spray bottle and keep them in the shower. Apple cider vinegar makes my hair really soft, and this mixture is supposed to be fantastic for decreasing dandruff.

Moisturizing Conditioner

  • ½ Avocado
  • Juice from half a lemon

Mix the avocado and lemon into a paste. Massage the paste into your scalp and rub it through hair. Leave on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse, shampoo and condition as normal. It didn’t happen to me, but I’ve been warned that lemon juice may lighten hair. If you don’t want to risk lighter hair, I would avoid this recipe.

Oily Hair Spruce Up

  • corn starch

If you hair is oily and you are running short on time to wash your hair or you just don’t want wet hair, sprinkle a little corn starch in your hair. As you first start to sprinkle, it looks like your hair is greying, but after brushing your hair a few times, the corn starch doesn’t show up and your hair will look less oily.

Here are some of my favourite homemade – and toxin-free – recipes for home care:

Window & Glass Cleaner

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part water

Works way better than any window cleaning product I have ever purchased.

Homemade Hand Love

This one isn’t food, but it is easy and awesome!

  • Add 1 part castile soap to 3 parts water.

I use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap, but you can get all different kinds of scents and you could add essential oils if you like. Add the mixture to a container with a pump.

Multipurpose Cleaner

In a 700ml container, add:

  • 250ml water
  • 150ml white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. castile soap
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • And, then fill the rest of the container up with water.

I recommend adding some water first because straight vinegar and castile soap react with each other. The castile soap solidifies a bit and turns white. It’s not a big deal because it settles back to a clear liquid, but it does take a couple days to “unreact”, so I like to avoid it in the first place.

Clean the Kitchen Sink

  • Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda in the sink and scrub. Works wonders!

These home made body and home care products are some simple ways that I keep toxins out of my body, my home, and our environment. They are a great way to practice ahimsa, the yogic practice of non-harming.

Do you have any favourite homemade recipes? Post them as a comment below – I would love to try them out!



Why Yogis Hug Trees and Rub Food on their Bodies

Awareness Living Yoga


Pause for a moment and ask yourself this question: What are the side effects of my yoga practice? The unintended and unexpected things that have changed since you started practicing yoga. Think about all the different aspects of your life.

Subtle physical shifts – like better balance or improved hand-eye coordination – are often the first things to pleasantly surprise us. Side effects related to our emotions or mental states sometimes arise more gradually and, without reflection, may go unnoticed. I remember realizing, a few years into my practice, that I rarely had imaginary conversations any more.

What do I mean by imaginary conversations?

When I was upset or angry with someone, I used to play out conversations with them in my head. Conversations where I was able to say the exact things I wanted to say and I always put the other person in their place. An air of righteousness infused every word I said in these fictional dialogues. Even though no one else was directly involved, these conversations would often be quite emotionally distressing. But, despite that unnecessary distress, I never tried to stop having these conversations. I just woke up one day and realized they were (for the most part) gone.

I actually used to be proud of my busy and engaged mind because I thought it was indicative of intelligence. I was always thinking, reflecting, and problem solving. Years ago I would have proudly told you how busy my mind was. But, these days, when I hear people talk about their busy minds, I feel really grateful for how much calmer mine has become as result of practicing yoga.

Different sorts of side effects

The side effects related to improved physical, mental, and emotional health are often amazing and life-changing, and it is wonderful the way that they can catch you off guard – like my imaginary conversations disappearing. But, it is a different sort of side effect that I love the most.

I love that yoga eventually leads people to act differently.

With time, a dedicated yoga practice begins to influence how you decide to move through the world. You can see evidence of this shift in many of the behaviours associated with yoga practitioners: making ethical purchasing decisions, trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and eating healthy whole foods.

How could the practice be responsible for transforming peoples’ actions in this way?

Yoga in action

The relationship between the practice of yoga and growing care for the people around us and the planet we all live on plays out in the context of the eight limbs of yoga that Patanjali offers in the Yoga Sutras.

With a dedicated yoga practice, we begin to find a meditative state with more ease, and we develop a growing awareness of our interconnectedness. The ethical concepts (offered in the first limb of yoga) become more integrated as we see ourselves as less separated from everything around us. The practice of ahimsa (non-harming), for example, begins to arise because we see how causing harm to other people and to the planet we all share is inherently harming ourselves. Instead of a paradigm where we don’t hurt people because it is “bad” or “wrong,” the yoga practice guides us towards a place where we don’t harm because we are actively revealing our inherent compassion and generosity.

The impetus to study and practice the ethical guidelines grows stronger as a result of what we have experienced in our practice. We begin to make decisions based more on our collective well-being. We start to do typical yogi things like drink out of glass jars, make home made body care products, eat organic food, and passionately talk about peace, love, and interconnectedness.

Yogi things

I often reflect on how my “pre-yogi self” would have rolled her eyes at so many of the different things that I do these days. My day-to-day life is filled with unintended and unexpected side effects of practicing yoga. Fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have even envisioned myself sitting in meditation – let alone rubbing coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch on my armpit and calling it deodorant.

Yoga is a wonderful and magical practice that continues to transform us in ways we could never predict. What have been the surprising side effects of your practice so far?


Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov