Maya Fiennes in the Sunday Times


Maya Fiennes in the January 2010 article of the Sunday Times.

A happier, healthier, slimmer you for 2010
Combining the latest knowledge from the world's experts, over the next three weeks we've a ten-point plan to get you into shape by Edwina Ings-Chambers


It's time to get holistic about your health. Not just because it's January and time for new resolutions, and not just because the release of the movie of the international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love will have us all feeling the need to get some spiritual speed in our lives.

No, holistic health is important because it is not just about how the body works, it's about understanding how our minds and emotional selves play a part in keeping us healthy.

Over the next three weeks, we will outline a brilliant 10-point plan to get you physically and emotionally to a place of genuine wellbeing. We will show you how to recover your energy, how to stop your past from holding you back, and how to measure your homocysteine levels, a key to good health that most of us have never heard of.

We will also have a special issue on how to concentrate on you: how to find "me" time, how to feel strong and confident in yourself, how to find a purpose in life and how to exercise smart. Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to how we feel and how we look, and once we're physically and mentally healthy, everything we wish for in life has a way of coming true.

Alongside all of this, we will feature delicious recipes from the Nordic Diet, a diet for life that's not about punishing yourself and cutting back on calories but about guiding you to eating healthy, but scrumptious, food, the kind your body actually needs to function at its optimal level.

To kick it off, we're focusing on the fundamentals. We look at how to get your gut working properly, because what your body digests and absorbs affects your energy, your life span and your state of mind, as well as your general health; how to relax properly, with exclusive tips from the LA guru everyone is talking about; and which health and beauty supplements you should choose from the thousands on offer. We also introduce you to the best foods for good digestion and to protect against ageing. This new year, there really could be a whole new you — we'll drink (two litres of water a day) to that.

1: LEARN TO RELAX

According to the yoga guru Maya Fiennes, learning to chill out is one of the most powerful ways to reinvent yourself. "Relaxation is key to crea­ting a happier, healthier self," she says. "For most women, there is just too much going on, not just physically, but in our heads as well. Our minds are on overload. If you learn to breathe properly and focus on the present moment, you will find it easier to tap into your intuition, that little voice that tells you what it is that would really make you happy."

A former classical pianist, Fiennes, who has been dubbed the Nigella of relaxation, has dev­eloped a celebrity following in LA, where she lives with her music-producer husband, Magnus (brother of the actors Ralph and Joseph). It's not hard to see why she is in such demand — she offers strategies that anyone can try without having to check into an ashram.

Fiennes's tips are startlingly new because they are quick and maximise those dead zones of time — queuing in the supermarket, sitting in traffic or waiting for the computer to do its thing. They are based on balancing the chakras, the seven power centres of the body. And the good news is, you can access this energy without contorting your limbs or standing on your head.

Chakra-balancing on the go

First chakra Governs confidence and security

Area of the body Feet, legs and colon

Remedy Traffic-light chill-out: whenever you're in the car and you hit a red light, use those moments to take three deep, cleansing breaths. Make it a habit. You won't take any longer to get where you're going, but you might arrive a lot less stressed. Other places you can adopt this ritual include the bus stop, supermarket queues, waiting for your computer to reboot. Ask yourself these three questions. "Where am I right now?" Here. "Who am I right now?" Myself. "What's the time?" Now.

Second chakra Governs creativity

Area of the body Sexual and reproductive organs

Remedy Washing-up meditation: anything you do with awareness is meditation. Just quietly concentrating on your own breathing is meditation. Chores are a great way of practising. Enjoy the feeling of the warm water on your hands; focus on the colours of the bubbles. Look at each plate or dish. You are making them shiny and new again. You are doing this as an act of love for your family or friends. It may seem a little Stepford Wives, but go with it. Just be there in the moment and see how it feels.

Third chakra Governs self-esteem

Area of the body Solar plexus

Remedy Confidence-boosting exercise. Fiennes often suggests the following tip to actors who suffer from stage fright, but it can be used in any situation to banish butterflies in the stomach. Inhale through the nose, then exhale powerfully through the mouth, making a long "Shhhhh" sound. Repeat several times.

Fourth chakra Love

Area of the body Heart

Remedy Kissing-hands ritual. If you want to bring love into your life, lie down on your back with your hands by your side. Slowly bring your left hand to your mouth and kiss it, while visualising receiving love. Then do the same with your right hand, only now imagine giving love, to yourself and others. One woman who did this exercise at a Fiennes workshop met her future husband in the lift on the way out.

Fifth chakra Governs communication

Area of the body Throat

Remedy Meditation. When you're about to meet someone who annoys you, go to the ladies' just beforehand, inhale through the nose, exhale noisily through the mouth. Repeat 10 times, visualising the person smiling. By the time you see them, you will be too chilled to let them get to you.

Sixth chakra Governs intuition

Area of the body Third-eye point

Remedy Tap into feminine energy by closing your right nostril with your right index finger. Touch your left ring finger to your left thumb. Inhale and exhale to the count of three. Breathing through the left nostril brings in calming, intuitive energy.

Seventh chakra Governs spiritual connection

Area of the body Crown of the head

Remedy School-run mantras. For the most stressful traffic situations, Fiennes recommends playing CDs of mantras in the car and chanting along. "Whenever I give a lift to someone who doesn't know me very well, they say, ‘There's something wrong with your CD, it keeps repeating.'" When you feel yourself losing it, stop, acknowledge the feeling and say to yourself, "Okay, I am going to change this."

Yoga for Real Life by Maya Fiennes (Atlantic Books £14.99); mayaspace.com



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