Back to space

So my first blog after quite a silence goes back to the subject of space – which was covered in my first Yogandspice blog ever. And on the subject of space, our Yoga and Climbing breaks have just been featured in The Guardian As social distancing activities go you won’t find any with more space than that.

Why we need Space

Space is important in a yoga practice, space in our body, space in our minds, finding space for our practice. Ether, the space element is called Akasha in Sanskrit. It is a mystical word also meaning ‘all pervading’ and it is the source of Spiritual energy. In Ayurveda Ether provides freedom in which to move.

Ether or Space is also the medium through which sound is transmitted so related to the sense of hearing, the king of the senses. In the original yogic teachings, the Vedas, it is the sound of OM and mantras or chanting that put us in touch with the primordial rhythms of the universe.

So space is pretty important for yogis. But are your currently craving it? Or do you have too much?

Our space at Valley View

Since lockdown ended, so we could continue as a yoga retreat we have adapted and offered personalised or private retreats to individuals and couples. We have plenty of Space here and it’s balanced out by the other elements too. The Air is fresh and plentiful. We have log fires and Fire pits. There is a Water in our stream and a waterfall and you can walk barefoot on the Earth.

And best of all we have Space to meet with guests and students both outside and in our roomy yoga studio

Making connections

Social distancing can be a lonely business. Space is good but we need connection too. And it is hard, as we hide our expressions behind masks and avoid touching friends as we greet them or say goodbye.

I am one of many who is not able to see closest family this year as they are living abroad. As a little gesture of connection we decided last week to open for a small group, socially distanced, Veggie/vegan Christmas. . We’ve just a couple of spaces to fill and a beautiful space for guests to occupy.


Covid-19 Update

Regretfully, we have decided not to continue to host retreats for the remainder of 2020 due to Covid-19.

However, please feel free to get in touch with us to arrange a personalised retreat.


Seasonal yoga for life

Adopting a seasonal yoga practice helps us to live a balanced life both on and of the mat. In ancient traditions, the body is seen as part of the natural world rather than separate from it. Both Chinese Traditional Medicine and Ayurveda teach the importance of respecting the elements of nature. And that these are within us as well as outside. So we don’t want to get too wet, dry, hot, cold, damp – or even windy!

From Beijing to Yorkshire

Just outside Beijng

I lived for many years in Beijing where the seasons are very defined and people are aware of the different energies and how they affect the body. And most of the population still live according to the seasons changing diet, lifestyle and clothes on exactly the same day each year.

In Beijing I took a course in ‘Qi Gong’, working with the energy, which opened my eyes to a new way of exercising and living. On my return to the UK, I was fortunate to study with the Seasonal Yoga Academy in Glasgow where the practice is seasonal and works with the meridian or energy lines in the body. (This approach is also used in the increasingly popular Yin yoga where poses are held for a long time to release held tension.)

Here in North Yorkshire, it can be a heat wave one day (occasionally) and a storm the next. We can’t always be sure which energy to work with but I like to teach seasonally. It helps me to focus on a certain aspect of the yoga practice. In Spring we find our foundation; Early Summer is about connection and Summer is the time to open the heart. In Late Summer we come back to centre; Autumn is letting go, and Winter is about going with the flow. Some postures work specifically with the meridian line that is most accessible during that season. However I teach many postures year round, simply with a different emphasis.

Seasonal yoga for you

My study of the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda has added another dimension to the way I teach Seasonal yoga.  Ayurveda teaches that we are all born with a balance of the elements of nature in our body. These are known as ‘Doshas’: Pitta is Fire; Kapha is a mixture of Earth and Water and Vata is Air. Not surprisingly these Doshas can get out of balance (who doesn’t know someone with too much Fire? Or an ‘Air head’?) and this can lead to disease.

So on a very hot day a person with an excess of Fire may well want to do ‘hot yoga’, but would benefit more from a gentle style of heart opening practice. And if they could follow up with a walk in the moonlight by a stream that would be just perfect! Fortunately we have both moonlight and a stream here at Valley View.

And on a windy day like today we have a perfect place to snuggle up too.Perfect place to snuggle up


Filling our yoga studio – virtually

Filling our yoga studio - virtually

My immediate reaction to the idea of teaching on line was  ‘No way!’ I am a natural technophobe. The idea of filling our yoga studio virtually filled me with horror. While I accept the need for on line PR, and booking information, working with the computer has  never been my favourite job. In fact I’d put it below cleaning out the chicken coop and sorting the laundry cupboard.

Keeping busy

The Yogandspice menagerie

There is always something to do at Valley View. I was having a good time looking after our menagerie. And I was doubly blessed to have my daughter, Honor,  home from Europe and watching her rise to the challenge of becoming a care worker.

Homemade treats for Yogandspice retreats

Moreover we were stocking the the freezer with homemade treats for future retreats. I had even started sewing at night and have ten curtain tie backs and two bolsters under my belt! Filling time is never a problem at Valley View.  Finding time….. that’s another matter.

Filling our yoga studio

On rainy days Mark has been busy varnishing our yoga studio. It was was only formally opened in March and the final touches were scheduled for next winter. It’s been Honor’s gym and my private practice space. But it was designed and built to be shared.

Then, a few weeks into ‘lock down’, and feeling very blessed by our surroundings I began some on line training myself.  This enabled me to re-connect with the some of the Seasonal Yoga Team in Glasgow, and across the UK. And I discovered yet another silver lining of this unprecedented situation, for those of us lucky enough to be fit and well. A chance to participate in events which would normally involve an impractical journey. And I realised how important my yoga community is to me.

So that was the lightbulb moment. Now I am thrilled to have connected with former and current students and a couple of new ones too – creating our own yoga community.

On line classes

I am teaching seasonally. The level is accessible but I try to add interest and challenges for those who need them. There is a choice of times.

Monday 7.30 – 8.15 am

Wednesday 7.30 – 8.30 p.m

And Friday 7.30 – 8.15 a.m

If you can pay at this time, it  is £5 or £20 for the month and do as many classes as you can.  You can reach me via the Contact form. Email me on Or What’s App on 07962505906.


Space and quiet in our yoga studio

Yoga studio


What do you say when the world is turned upside down overnight? When new, and very real, concerns, new rules and new behaviour patterns change much of the world as we know it. I am surprised how quiet the world is. And never is this more true than when I lay down my mat in the space and quiet of our  yoga studio.

We now have space and quiet in the streets and on the roads too. And in the beautiful countryside where Mark and I are so lucky to be in lockdown. But social media is surprisingly empty and muted as well. Are we so shocked we don’t know what to say? Or are scared to plan, because we don’t know what’s round the corner. Or to reminisce because it seems too trivial in a time of crisis?

Perhaps some are enjoying the quiet. It’s been heartening to see so many walkers pass our door. Not just the usual hearty walkers and joggers but families, couples and individuals taking exercise because they have time.


Space and quiet in our yoga studio

Our spacious studio is always a quiet place. Our stunning situation ensures that. Purpose built for yoga and mindful meetings ,it is a roomy wood clad building with a comfortable and quirky mezzanine relaxation area.

Our plan was to share our beautiful site at Valley view, and our studio, with yogis and guests. To help you rest and recharge. Now we have a private retreat, sharing our space only with our menagerie who are enjoying the extra time and attention.

So while we, like many other businesses, are charting unknown waters and living day to day, we are some of the luckiest ‘lockdowned people’ in the country.

Lessons from yoga for the loo roll hoarders

I am enjoying the space and quiet as a time reflection. Time to realise that the ancient teachings of yoga are so pertinent in modern times too. I’m not talking about the postures or breathing – though they help us keep physically fit and relieve stress.  But it is Patanjali’s Yamas or Rules of Right Living that we need right now. From ‘Ahimsa’, do no harm… ‘Aparigraha’, do not grasp,  they have messages for all of us – especially the loo roll hoarders!  So while I can’t welcome you to Valley View and the space and quiet of our studio at this time,  I can encourage you to discover more about the true meaning of yoga.


Keep safe





How can yoga help you?

What can yoga do for you?

It’s official… David Beckham, Jennifer Aniston, Russell Brand, Ryan Gosling and Lady Gaga –  they are all doing it. Some pretty busy people make time for a yoga practice so they must rate it highly. But how can yoga help you?

Flexibility, strength and fitnesss

The obvious one

My experience is that most yoga students first come to class to work on their flexibility or strength. And that they feel the benefit of a regular practice very quickly.

Modern life, for most people, involves moving on one plane, sitting, standing, or if you are lucky, walking. So tightness or limited movement in the hip or shoulder areas are common. Moreover these are frequently accompanied by a degree of inflammation or lower back pain which makes movement uncomfortable and then exacerbates the problem. In yoga we work with the whole body, usually starting by moving the spine and releasing any tensions there and then mobilising the joints before stretching the muscles and opening the hips.

Generally a fit flexible body makes movement easier and is less likely to be injured if you trip or stumble. Especially as experienced yogis know how to avoid tensing up.  Which leads me on to…….

 Breath control

Where yoga becomes more than an exercise class

Our breath is the only only physiological process which is both consciously and subconsciously controlled. Thus it links the two parts of the mind. So the greater the awareness of the breath the more we are able to control thoughts and actions. Pretty useful in all areas of life.

Yoga teaches awareness of the rhythms of the breath and also specific breathing techniques or ‘pranayamas’. Rhythmic breathing leads to rhythmic movement. When the breath falters so does the body. So the ability to keep the breath steady will help you deal with physical and mental stresses.

And for the anxious types, there are breathing exercises  which will help calm the mind.   These can be as simple as taking deep breathe into the whole of the torso: focussing on a three part inhalation or exhalation.

Physical awareness

Bringing the body back into balance

Yoga is a totally holistic practice which helps you become aware of imbalances or blockages. These might be causing pain or discomfort or simply preventing you from performing as well as you might.

In a good yoga class you will soon become aware of imbalances in your posture or even the way you The way we walkwalk. These could be impacting your knees, hips back or shoulders. Many issues start with badly aligned feet. It fact it is amazing how many aches and pains can be reduced by mastering the Tadasana or Mountain pose which looks so simple – just standing still!

The psoa muscle which connects the your spine to the legs, can also cause alignment issues, along with back problems and other pelvic issues. It is a particularly difficult one to deal with too as a lot of the tension it holds can be subconscious. Hence a holistic practice like yoga has more chance of sorting it out than hours spent pumping iron at the gym.

And of course a yoga practice will include one legged postures, which, once your body is in alignment, will help improve both mental and physical balance.

Mental awareness

Put your mind in your body

My yoga teacher always said ‘You don’t put your body into the pose – you put the pose into your body’

When you truly practice yoga your mind is in your body. The student who has perfect alignment but who is thinking about what he will have for dinner is not doing yoga. While the person who is struggling to touch the toes but is feeling what is holding him back and where his strengths and weakness are is on a journey.

Knowing how your mind and body work together, both where they do it well and where they need improvement, is a big leap forward in any training programme. And once you have mastered that you can begin

Breaking habits

Come out of the grooves

Habits are not always bad (though some are better than others!). What they do, however, is to create grooves, and our impulses find it very comfortable to run along them. Ever noticed how you tune in to the piece of music that you listen to often? It’s literally in the grooves.

Once we reach adult age we will undoubtedly have adopted a lifestyle with large amount of repetition. Our minds and bodies are stuck in the grooves. Helpful, perhaps to get us to work on time, but not so great if they involve eating badly, watching too much TV…………

Yoga breaks habits. We turn upside down; put our legs in the air; twist, turn and balance. Even more of a change for some, we slow down, we tune into our breath. And as we learn to break habits on the mat, we find it easier to break them in life.

Being in the moment

How yoga can help you with whatever you do

This is a skill that may be easier to perfect on the yoga mat than when racing through life. And once mastered it will enhance everything you do.

A fellow yogi and long distance runner once told me her best performance always comes when her only thought was ‘I am running’. Not ‘am I running my best?’ ‘Or am I going to win?’ Simply running with her whole being.

Whatever you like to do, or have to do, yoga will help you give it your all.

Letting go

Put in the work and enjoy the journey

The most important lesson that yoga teaches is from the ancient yogic text the Bagavada Gita: ‘Do your best and let go of the outcome’. A difficult one to take on board, particularly for the more competitive in nature. But so transformative when adopted. Success is transitory and once achieved at best leads the desire for more success; at worst it can be lead to a hollow feeling of ‘what was all the fuss about?’.

Whether your ambition is to build a business empire, compete successfully in a sport, be a good member of the community or simply keep your head above water in this crazy world we inhabit, put the work in and enjoy the journey. And if you find that your results fall short of your aspirations then let it go. You’ll fall more comfortably anyway.

Give yoga a try

If you would like to see how yoga can help you, many of our yoga retreats at Valley View are suitable for beginners. You can combine an introduction to yoga with a mini holiday too. Or if you want to delve a little deeper into the many aspects of a yoga practice we would love to help you do this.



What is Ama Pachana anyway?

From 20 -23 March we are very excited to be hosting our first Ayurvedic detox or Ama Pachana. If you are one of the many people wondering ‘What is an Ama Pachana anyway?’ then the best way to find out is to come along. You’ll get a chance to use our spectacular new yoga studio (if you wish); stay in one of our woodland rooms and to relax, recharge and rebalance.

But what is Ama Pachana anyway?

The Ayurvedic concept of Ama doesn’t have an exact translation. Western medicine doesn’t use such a concept. Ama is the sticky unpleasant residue that lingers in the body if foodstuffs are not completely digested. The Western diet is full of food combinations that play havoc with our digestion. We eat too much at the wrong times, or not enough at the right.

While Ama originates in the digestive tract it starts to create ‘dis-ease’ when in moves into other weak spots in the body. Ayurveda sees Ama as the root cause of conditions such as skin irritations, arthritis, sinus problems, inflammation and of course digestive issues.

Burning toxins

Ama Pachana means to burn Ama or toxins. During the Ama Pachana you will be served a light but sustaining diet of freshly grown vegetables. With rice and other gluten free grains and some easily digestible pulses. The tasty dishes will be washed down with fresh herb teas and special toxin burning spices.

You will also learn about the Ayurvedic Doshas or the elements. When out of balance these elements combine with Ama to wreak havoc in the body.  Changes in diet and lifestyle can bring you back in balance and improve physical and mental well-being. And help with weight loss too.

Following a restrictive diet of any kind, while continuing with your work or home commitments is very hard. If you join us on the Yogandspice Ama Pachana  we will nurture, support and encourage you. There will be plenty of activities to keep you occupied and plenty of relaxation time too. And you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the Valley View site and learn alongside others.

Ayurvedic Ama Pachana





What do you eat on a yoga retreat?

What do you eat on a yoga retreat?

What do you eat on a yoga retreat?
Home grown seasonal food

One of the most common questions asked of retreat organisers  is ‘what do you eat on a yoga retreat?’ And, depending on who is leading the retreat, and where you will be staying, the answer will differ. When you choose a yoga break it is generally assumed that you want to eat in a way that will help restore and recharge. If your retreat is in a hotel or guest house however, there may well be a full menu with some ‘healthier’ options.

Yogic outlooks on food

On the other hand, if you are staying in group accommodation, and have a resident cook, the menus usually reflect yogic values. These will almost certainly mean eating fresh health giving foods. But many yoga teachers and schools follow the yogic directive of ‘Ahimsa’ or do no harm, so offer only vegetarian or vegan food, often organically grown.

I’m on a special diet – will I be catered for?

The good news is that if you follow a special diet you will almost certainly be looked after.  My experience is that retreat chefs and leaders expect to cater for a range of dietary needs and preferences. Good nutrition is part of a yoga teacher training. Many yoga teachers avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as gluten and lactose. But it is always worth informing the organiser of your needs at the time of booking. And nut allergies can be a problem if a chef is cooking for a group so do check.

I’m a fussy eater – will I go hungry?

Yoga retreats are about nurturing and nourishing. Again I can only speak from experience and mine is, that unless on a detox like our Ayurvedic Ama Pachana, you will find that you eat more than at home. And you will have time to enjoy and digest your meal. Even with set menus, there is usually a good choice of dishes and something for everyone. And most cooks will be only too happy adapt dishes to cater for fads and phobias.

Why we are Yoga AND Spice!

Food is an important part of the Yogandspice philosophy and all retreats at Valley View.  The quality of our energy is directly related to the air that we breathe. If food is not freshly grown and freshly cooked then it lacks energy, also known in the yoga world as Qi or Prana. There is an anecdote which highlights this in  Why The Chinese Don’t Count Calories. When living in Beijing we had an unfortunate invasion of little creatures – but they left the processed and packaged foods untouched, knowing it had no nutrient value!Home grown vegetables

Ancient teachings from both East and West agree that the energy of an ingredient (whether it heats or cools the body), and the balance of flavours in a meal, impact our health. This is a big subject, so suffice to say here that we use herbs and spices to create dishes that are tasty and nourishing for the whole body.

Gut health

Potatoes with Ayurvedic spices
Home grown potatoes with Ayurvedic spices

Gut health is a massive subject at the moment. Chemists and health food shops abound  with  products to help achieve it. Simply eating  locally grown food in season as in traditional diets can bring back the balance naturally. We do use spices from other cultures which have a tradition of eating for health. And you’ll find your fair share of pulses and rice on the menu in tasty dhals and stews. However, our main ingredients are those most suited to our own soil and climate – and your digestion. We host yoga retreats in North Yorkshire so, while Yorkshire pudding might not be on the menu every time you’ll be amazed what we can do with  cabbage, potatoes, courgettes and beets! And our greens selection includes radish, beet and turnip leaves. Some of the most nutritious greens available but seldom served in shops as they just don’t travel.

Something to keep you sweet

vegan chocolate brownies
Our vegan chocolate brownies


And we do believe that we all need a little sweetness to keep us sweet so there is usually a daily treat on offer. How could you have a yoga retreat in North Yorkshire without some home baking? We use our own pumpkins and apples to make pies and cakes – and our vegan chocolate brownies are legendary.


There is always an option

At Yogandspice we try to follow the yogic teaching of Ahimsa, do no harm. To us that means not eating meat and only using our own eggs and a limited number of organic dairy products. And we find that for most guests, even confirmed meat eaters, a vegetarian or vegan interlude is a positive experience. But if not, it’s just a ten minute walk through the woods to the pub.








The Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing retreats 2020

The Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing holidays
Yogandspice seasonal yoga and food week-end

Yogandspice was noted for food, foraging and five hours of yoga in the Guardian 10 of the best UK and wellbeing retreats. And of course our spectacular location. We are in the North York Moors National Park, but within walking distance of the beach. We know this is a special place.  But it is great when someone spreads the word as in The Guardians Jane Dunfords piece Recipe for a detox.

Food foraging and five hours of yoga

Food, foraging and five hours of yoga are part of our flagship Seasonal yoga retreats. The next one, featured in the Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing retreats, is  Seasonal yoga and food 19-21 June. These are full on week-ends for students who enjoy an energising style of yoga. And for people who want to participate in workshops and activities during their retreat. But there is free time to relax by the Valley View stream too. And a chance to chat with friends around the log fire in our new mezzanine relaxation area with and forest views.

Ayurvedic detox

Coming even sooner is our Spring Ayurvedic detox 20-23 March. While supporting yoga is part of the schedule, the focus of this four day/three night break is the healing power of nature. And eating home grown Seasonal home grown foodseasonal organic food to restore gut health. According to Ayurveda ‘dis-ease’ results from undigested food particles, or emotions/experiences  which form a substance called AMA. This AMA makes its way into the bloodstream and then wreaks havoc in the body. By following a simple diet of vegetables, and easily digested grains and pulses (no wheat or gluten) we can encourage the AMA to make its way back to the digestive tract where it is eliminated.


By joining a group for detox where all meals are prepared you remove a De stresslot of the stress that would accompany following a special diet in your home of work environment. And as stress contributes to toxic build up, de-stressing is part of the detox process.

The schedule includes time for walking, guided relaxation and cooking sessions so you can re-produce the Ayurvedic dishes at home. This enables you to continue the detox at home.

Because, according to Ayurveda we all have a different balance of the elements or ‘Dosha’s in our make up, some foods are more helpful to some than others. Every participant will be do an Ayurvedic assessment at the start of the week-end to make sure the diet and herbs are supportive.


Top ten reasons to book a yoga retreat in the UK

Connect with the natural world on a retreat.
Connect with the natural world on your retreat.

Yoga encourages us to be aware of the impact of our choices on our own health and that of the planet. As a species we haven’t done brilliantly so far. A retreat is an opportunity to live mindfully for a short period at least. To connect with yourself and the natural world

By choosing a UK venue for your retreat you….

1) Don’t have the stress of the airport experience, from packing and parking, to time pressure, to the to the hustle and bustle of security and the potential for delays.

2) Don’t need to worry so much about your carbon footprint.   Choosing not to fly is somewhere you can make a difference.

3) Don’t put your body out of balance before you even arrive. Even if there is no jet lag involved, plane travel is dehydrating, the food is not fresh, the atmosphere is artificial and harbours germs. In Ayurvedic terms flying increases your VATA (air and space element) while yoga retreats should be all about grounding.

4) Don’t have to readjust to a climate or diet that is not necessarily suited to your body type. Ayurveda teaches us that our gut health is best nurtured by eating food from our own country, in season of course.

Time for the positives….. you….

5) DO have a chance to car share with other participants – so making friends before you arrive. Most retreat organisers will be only too pleased to put you in touch.

6) DO have the option of using the our bus services which so need your support. According the the Department of Transport only 4 per cent of journeys were made by bus last year. When you travel by bus you help to save buses for others. And in our area we have the amazing Coastliner service too. So why not take the coast road ?

7) DO perhaps travel by ferry from The Netherlands  or Scandinavia. It’s low stress; low impact and climate difference  is not significant. 

8) DO spend your retreat connecting with the energy of the seasons – something the UK does very well.  

8) DO open your eyes to the beauty of the UK countryside with its immense variety and abundance of flora and fauna – and wildlife

9) DO have the flexibility to stay on one more night – or longer. Easy for drivers and pretty feasible with most forms for public transport too.

10) DO (and here’s where you may see my bias!),  visit some amazing places. Whitby, which has just been named the UK’s most popular holiday destination, is only two miles walk, cross country, from our protected woodland site: Yogandspice at Valley View.