Post-surgery yoga

These are my go-to yoga postures I practice when recovering from endometriosis surgery. After surgery I usually only practice Hatha (physical) yoga after about 4 weeks or when I feel my body feels ready for some gentle exercise. Everyone is different though, so listen to your body and if a pose just doesn’t feel right, or hurts in any way – stop. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor.

As it happens I am currently recovering from major surgery. Due to multiple surgeries and having a stent in my left side, I haven’t practiced regularly for about 6 months. But patience and practice is key, over time strength can be regained and flexibility will improve.

So here is my guide to post-surgery yoga. It is restorative and relaxing, there are no standing poses. I would recommend natural, slow breathing throughout, if you can move with your breath that’s great too.

Pose 1 – Child’s pose

This is a restorative, hip opening pose. Kneel on the floor, touch your big toes then sit on your heels then separate your knees. Lay your torso between your thighs, Lengthen your tailbone from your pelvis and your skull away from your shoulders. Your shoulders should feel wide and relaxed. Hold for 2-3 minutes.

childs pose

 Pose 2 – Toe squat

The toe squat can be challenging, especially at first. This pose places pressure on the knees, toes, feel and ankles. If you have any problems in this area perhaps it’s best to avoid or try for a shorter duration with a cushion under your knees.

This is a great way to begin your practice, it is uncomfortable but also a big, juicy stretch for the feet and toes. It strengthens the ankles and opens the toes and feet.

Begin by kneeling, sit on your heels, then tuck your toes under, sit on the balls of your feet. Hold for 1-3 minutes.

toe squat yin yoga

Pose 3 – Cobbler’s pose

I find this pose incredibly soothing. It stretches the thighs and groins, opens the hips and stimulates the abdominal organs, helps digestion and eases period pain. It is also great for the lower back.

Sit on the floor with your legs straight, then gently bring the soles of your feet together. Rest your hands on your feet. Allow your knees to fall gently apart. Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed. If you find it difficult to sit up straight, sit on a cushion or block. Hold for 3 minutes.

cobblers pose

Pose 4 – Cobbler’s pose with forward bend

While seated in cobbler’s pose, try bending forward, move very slowly and place your hands, to the floor. Hold for approximately 1 minute.

forward bend cobblers pose

 Pose 5 – Baby dragon

This is a beautiful, hip and groin opening low lunge. It can be uncomfortable on the knees so place some extra cushion under the knee if you need to.

Begin on your hands and knees, step one foot between your hands. Make sure your knee is directly above your heel. Slide the back knee as far back as you can. Either place your hands on your front knee or on the floor, either side of your foot. Hold for about 3 minutes on each side.

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 Pose 6 – Frog pose

Another deep groin opening pose, frog pose helps alleviate menstrual cramps and aids digestion. There is a slight back bend involved which compresses the lower back. If you find it places to much pressure on your knees, place something soft under them.

Start in child’s pose and slide your hands forward. Separate the knees, then gently separate the heels as pictured below. Hold for 3 minutes.

frog pose

Pose 6 – Extended puppy pose

This pose is similar to when you see a dog doing a ‘play bow’, with their bottom up and head down. Puppy pose stretches the spine and shoulders, it is very calming. Hold for 1 minute. Oh and yes that’s my dog in the photo – he loves to participate in my yoga practice!

Come onto all fours, place your hands under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Walk your hands forward and slowly lower your chest to the floor. Keep your arms straight, just above the floor. Move your forehead towards the floor, arch your back towards the floor, rest your arms on the floor and push your hips back to lengthen your back. When coming out of this pose you can slowly move back into child’s pose.

puppy pose

Pose 7 – Gentle seated twist

Gentle being the key word here, if you’ve had surgery on your abdominal area, it’s unlikely you’ll feel like doing lots of twists! This pose stimulates the abdominal organs, improves digestion and blood circulation, lengthens and strengthens the spine, shoulders and hips, it is also a very relaxing pose so great for anxiety or stress.

Begin sitting cross legged. Sit tall, relax your shoulders and sit evenly on your bottom, keep your abdomen firm. While inhaling raise your arms above your head, then exhale and lower your arms to the right side of your body, the right hand should be on the ground beside you the left on your right knee. Rotate your head and tuck your chin in so it’s tilted to your right shoulder. Sit tall and breathe slowly for about 1 minute, repeat the process on the other side.

gentle seated twist

Pose 8 – Side neck stretch

This pose helps alleviate neck tension. While seated gently tilt your head to the right, extend the left hand down and hold your head with your right hand, you should feel a deep neck stretch on the left side. Breathe slowly and deeply, hold for one minute on each side.

neck bend yoga

Pose 9 – Meditation, either seated or lying down in corpse pose (savasana)

Savasana is just as important as all the other yoga postures, the goal is complete relaxation – which is difficult to achieve. I often meditate in a seated position, especially after surgery as lying down can be uncomfortable. If you choose to lie down in savasana, try placing a bolster or cushion under your knees to help alleviate the pressure on your tummy. Hold your position for at least 10 minutes and try to focus on the different parts of your body, relaxing each part as you go. See my recent blog post for a more detailed guide to meditation.

relaxing meditation

I’d love to know your thoughts, have you tried yoga before? How has it helped you?

Yours in health

Meredith x

Creamy mushrooms and polenta

This is a winter warming recipe. It tastes decadent, but using cashew cream instead of regular cream makes it a healthier, vegan option.

Mushrooms are super healthy, full of protein and fibre but also loaded with nutrients like riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folate, thiamin and vitamin D to name a few.

This dish is nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory, perfect for the endometriosis diet.

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Serves 3 (or 4 small dishes), takes about 30 minutes.

You’ll need:

350 grams assorted mushrooms (I used swiss brown and white button mushrooms)

3 cloves of garlic sliced thinly

1 shallot sliced thinly

1 cup of *cashew cream

1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsely

1 teaspoon of *truffle oil (optional)

1 tablespoon of olive oil (for the frypan)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of polenta

*To make the cashew cream, soak 1 cup of raw cashews for 4 hours (or 1 hour in boiling water) then drain and rinse the cashews and blend with 1 cup of cold filtered water and blast on high for 1-2 minutes until a creamy, smooth consistency. If you prefer a runnier sauce then add more water.

*Truffle oil can be found at specialty grocers and markets. Some farmers allow customers to buy direct so try looking online.

Method:

Prepare the ingredients, then start cooking the polenta as per packet instructions. I like to add some olive oil to give a smoother consistency.

Heat a medium sized frypan and 1 tablespoon of olive oil on low heat. Add the sliced shallots and slowly cook, this process should take about 5-7 minutes. Then add the sliced garlic and cook for a further minute.

While your cooking the creamy mushrooms keep a close eye on the polenta, stir as needed and make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When it’s ready just turn the heat off and pop a lid on the saucepan to keep warm.

When the garlic and shallots are ready, increase the heat to medium and add the mushrooms, saute until they start to soften then add the cashew cream. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste. If using add a teaspoon of truffle oil and stir through.

Spoon the creamy mushrooms over the polenta and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Yours in health x

Meredith

Healthy banana pancakes

These pancakes are delicious and moist, best of all they contain no refined flour or sugar, I have included egg white but if you omit the coconut flour and use a cup of oats instead, you can exclude the egg white, just keep the pancakes very small so they don’t break apart when you turn them. They don’t need a sauce but in this photo I have topped with warm blueberries and a sugar free blueberry coulis. I also added some blueberries in the pancakes while cooking.

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You’ll need:

3/4 cup of *wholegrain rolled oats

1/4 cup of *coconut flour

1 cup of *almond milk

2 bananas (ripe)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 egg white (see note above if you are vegan)

*Coconut oil (for the frypan)

1/4 cup of blueberries to add into the pancakes while cooking (optional)

*Find these items in the health food section of your supermarket, or try your health food grocer.

Method:

Combine banana and almond milk in a blender and blast on high until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients into the blender and blast again until smooth.

Heat the pan on medium and add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, add 1/4 cup of mixture or a bit less and fry gently, the first side will need a few minutes, you’ll see it’s ready to turn when the edges start to brown. Turn gently, the other side won’t need as long.

Serve warm with or without a sauce, or keep in the fridge for a healthy snack.

Yours in health,

Meredith

Meditation

Over the last 5 months I have been unable to practice physical yoga, one thing I have been able to do though is meditate. Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice and some say meditation is yoga.

Meditation has brought me peace during my recovery and allowed me to relax even when in pain. It is hugely beneficial, especially if you are an anxious person like me and find it difficult to ‘switch off’.

I thought I’d share with you my approach to meditation, I usually practice every day when the house is quiet for around 15 minutes, I always feel better when I do, I sleep better and my mind is clearer.

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Here’s my step-by-step approach to meditation:

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Remember the point is to relax and focus your mind, so if you can stay awake the more beneficial the session will be, at the end you should be relaxed but also refreshed.
  • Close your eyes and start to focus on your breathing, take a couple of slow, deep breaths.
  • Start to focus and slowly relax your face, your lips, between your eyebrows, jaw, tongue and cheeks, then slowly move down your body focusing and relaxing every part of your body from your shoulder blades to your groin and finally to your feet.
  • Then focus on the sounds around you start outside the house and work your way inside, try and focus on each noise for a little while.
  • Allow the thoughts to come and go, don’t be disheartened if you feel like too many thoughts are distracting you, meditation takes practice, over time it will get easier. If you only have 15 minutes to spare, set a soft, relaxing alarm on your phone to gently remind you it’s time to finish your session.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

BPA and xenoestrogens

Bisphenol A or BPA is a chemical often found in many plastics and used as a lining to coat metals and can be found in cans that are used to store food. BPA can leach into food especially if exposed to high temperatures.

Why is BPA a concern? It is toxic in high doses, but it is also known as a xenoestrogen which is synthetic estrogen and can increase the amount of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a natural sex hormone, important for reproductive health and regulates the menstrual cycle, the balance of this hormone is regulated by the body, however xenoestrogens can disrupt this delicate balance. Xenoestrogens have been linked to endometriosis, breast cancer, testicular cancer, infertility, asthma to name a few.

BPA is not the only xenoestrogen around, they are found everywhere. Some other examples of xenoestrogens are parabens (a chemical often found in skincare), pesticides (found on fruit and vegetables), but they are also found in building supplies and chlorine products.

To make things more confusing and disheartening, there is new research which shows that even BPA free plastic containers may also be toxic and leach synthetic estrogen.

So what to do? These chemicals can’t be avoided completely but you can make a difference.

  • Avoid using plastic containers, if you do use them buy a BPA free container and place the food on a plate or bowl before heating in the microwave.
  • Buy organic food where possible.
  • Go for BPA free tinned food, usually organic tinned food is BPA free but check the label. My local IGA stocks these products in the health food section, but organic grocery stores have them as well (an example of BPA free coconut milk pictured below).
  • Buy natural, organic personal care products such as Sukin, Alterna haircare products and the Endota organic skincare range.
  • Go to a hairdresser that uses natural, chemical free colour and hair products.
  • Use natural, chemical free cleaning products at home, these products can be found in organic grocery stores.

BPA free organic coconut milk

Yours in health,

Meredith x

Oven baked beans

These baked beans are healthy, delicious and easy to make, eat them on crunchy toast, with polenta or with some steamed vegetables. Rather than simmering on the stove top these cook in the oven. Try and get hold of BPA free tinned beans and tomatoes, if you have fresh you can use those instead.

This recipe was adapted from the book Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros.

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healingyogi_bakedbeans

You’ll need:

2 x 400g tins of butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup of olive oil

2 celery sticks sliced

3 garlic cloves minced

2 x 400g tinned tomatoes

1/4 cup of parsley chopped

1 large red onion finely chopped

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (or 170 if your oven is fast).

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Gently saute the onion until golden and softened. Remove from the pan and mix with celery, garlic, bay leaf, tomatoes, parsley and remaining olive oil. Season with a little sea salt and pepper. In a large ceramic baking dish combine beans, vegetable stock and tomato mixture, combine well. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and add some water if it appears to be drying out, bake uncovered for a further 25 minutes.

The beans should be golden on top with a thick sauce. Serve warm.

The endometriosis diet

Through my blog the healing yogi I will be sharing the diet that works for me, it reduces pain, I feel less bloated and clearer mentally. From my nutrition studies I have learned that variety in the diet is key to optimal health, when you remove something from your diet (for example, dairy or wheat) you need to replace it with something else that’s going to provide the nutrients your body needs to thrive. From experience I have learned to listen to my body, if something doesn’t agree, then I remove it.

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The endometriosis diet usually consists of eliminating the following:

Processed food

  • Packaged meals and snacks.
  • Food and drinks with added chemicals, additives or sweeteners.
  • Refined flour, grains and sugar.
  • Smoked or processed meats.
  • All the above should be eliminated as it is difficult to breakdown, lacking in nutrients and inflammatory.

Soy

  • Tofu should be the number one soy product to avoid, as raw, unfermented soy is difficult for the body to break down. Soy is often genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides.
  • It is best to avoid soy products in all forms as it contains isoflavones which can increase estrogen levels.

Alcohol and caffeine

  • Health wise, there is nothing good about alcohol, it is difficult for your body to process and highly inflammatory. Eliminate completely or indulge on special occasions only. Caffeine is inflammatory and triggers pain or ‘flare-ups’, I have removed it from my diet and feel much better for it.

Red meat

  • Red meat is difficult to digest, high in saturated fat and it can be inflammatory due to the level of Omega 6 fatty acids vs. Omega 3 fatty acids, however it does depend on the animals diet. If you choose to occasionally indulge, stick to organic grass fed red meat and choose a small palm sized portion. Personally I abstain, I feel better health wise and ethically I believe it’s the right decision.

 Dairy

  • Similar story to red meat, dairy can be high in Omega 6 fatty acids, contain hormones and can be difficult to digest, however, yoghurt is an exceptional source of protein, calcium and good bacteria which is great for digestive health. If you feel okay after eating yoghurt I would suggest keeping it in your diet, I stick to organic, unsweetened yoghurt or kefir yoghurt.

 Gluten

  •  Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, farro, spelt and oats. Gluten is difficult to digest and most women with endometriosis are sensitive to wheat or gluten. Personally I can tolerate small amounts of these if they are wholegrains (unprocessed) and organic, but again, find out what works for you, try eliminating from your diet then slowly re-introducing them to see how your body reacts.

Vegetable oil

  • Oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower and corn should be avoided. Products containing trans-fatty acids should be completely eliminated as they are highly inflammatory and linked to heart disease and cancer.

So what should you include in your diet? I always try to buy organic and reduce the chemicals going into my body. Below is a list of what to include in the endometriosis diet:

Vegetables

  • Eat the rainbow! Different vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least 5 serves a day.

Fruit

  • Can be high in sugar but an essential part of a healthy diet, aim for 2 serves a day.

Wholegrains

  • Brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat are my staples. Nutrient and fibre rich they are a perfect accompaniment to a curry or stir fry.

Eggs

  • Always organic, free-range. Eggs that aren’t organic can contain hormones and pesticides, that’s the last thing your body needs! Eggs are one of the best sources of protein along with other essential nutrients. Organic, pasture fed chickens produce eggs that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.

Fish

  • Aim for oily fish that is high in Omega 3 such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Tinned salmon is a great option but choose a BPA free tin. I try to eat organic fish that hasn’t been farmed. I also try to avoid eating fish that is high in mercury (large predator fish such as swordfish, shark and blue fin tuna).

Poultry

  • If you choose to include poultry in your diet, go for organic chicken and only eat a palm size portion. Chicken from factory farms can be loaded with nasty hormones and chemicals.

Nuts and seeds

  • Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts, cashews and sesame seeds are some of my favourites.

Healthy oils and spreads

  • Cold pressed olive oil, has a low smoke point so use for low heat cooking or as a salad dressing.
  • Avocado oil, and avocado as a spread alternative to margarine.
  • Rice bran oil which has a high smoke point.
  • Coconut oil, has a high smoke point, but is high in saturated fat so only use in small amounts.
  • Nut butters are a healthy spread alternative.
  • Of course there are more than this, but this is a good starting point.

Water

  • Try to drink 1.5-2 litres a day, it helps with digestion and helps to flush out toxins. Herbal teas such as spearmint, peppermint and chamomile are hydrating and fantastic for digestive health.

Try not to feel overwhelmed with all the information, the best advice I can offer is to keep it simple and stick to eating things that resemble their original form, so exclude processed food and stick to healthy wholefoods. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

Raspberry coulis milkshake

Love the taste of raspberries but don’t like the seeds? Me too. Using a raspberry coulis you get maximum raspberry flavour without the seeds. Refined sugar free, this healthy milkshake is great in the morning or as a 3pm sugar craving killer.

The banana and raspberries add enough sweetness to this drink so it doesn’t need an added sweetner. Sugar is best avoided on the endometriosis diet so if you need a hit, best to stick with fruit or natural organic stevia, I find honey is too loaded with fructose for me and upsets my stomach so I avoid it, however play around and see what works for you.

Raspberries are extremely nutritious; they are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. This recipe also calls for banana which is also high in vitamin C and antioxidants but also contains potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and is also high in fibre.

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You’ll need:

1 cup of frozen raspberries (I always use organic berries to avoid pesticides)

1 small banana, roughly chopped

350 ml almond milk (a little over 1 cup)

Method:

Place raspberries and 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan and over a medium heat, stir until the raspberries break down, this should take a few minutes. Once broken down it should resemble a thick mushy liquid, then pour into a sieve and push through with a spoon into a bowl.

In a blender add the chopped banana, almond milk and the bowl of strained raspberry liquid. Blast on high for 1 minute or until smooth.

Drink and enjoy!

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that should only grow inside the uterus, grows on other parts of the body. Each month the endometriosis tissue bleeds and can result in inflammation and scarring that can distort the anatomy and cause internal organs to stick together. Endometriosis usually affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus but other areas of the body can also be affected.

The main symptoms are chronic pelvic pain, heavy bleeding including blood clots, irregular bleeding, pain during sex and can cause problems with fertility. Some women with endometriosis also experience other conditions such as anemia, mood disorders, IBS, fibromyalgia and internal cystitis.

Endometriosis affects approximately 176 million women in the world, or approximately 10% of all women in their reproductive years. It can have significant social and psychological impacts on the sufferer and those close to her.

There is currently no cure for endometriosis, only management of the disease and it is not known what causes it. Usually testing for endometriosis is done initially via ultrasound but the most definitive way of diagnosis is with an experienced gynecologist performing a laparoscopy.

For more detailed information and the latest news on research, head to endometriosis.org