Curiosity Gap Recommends: ‘Yang Sheng: The Art Of Chinese Self-healing’ by Katie Brindle

With all of modern supposed advances, most of the people, when asked how they are, seem to reply that they are ‘tired, stressed, exhausted, anxious etc’. A sign that not all is right in read more

Wellness Know How: Ilapothecary

Sometimes life sends us an unexpected gift of a person, treatment or lesson that ends up being so transformative, you struggle for words to do justice to describe it. I had a pleasure of meeting Denise Leicester, founder of Ila, a little while ago, when she launched Soul Medicine. Listening to her voice and accompanying music can make even the hardened cynic well up in tears, so when news trickled in that she launched Ilapothecary, a place on Kensington Church Street – to relax, learn, have treatments and individual consultations, my wellness radar pinged up. A holistic hub based on years of learning and practical experience, a synergy of naturopathy, homeopathy, herbology and much, much more. After I left Ilapothecary, having spent over two hours with Denise and Sophie Andrews, an incredibly talented practitioner of various modalities, I was so moved, I struggled to contain my emotions, searching in vain for words to describe the true depth of the experience. Now, a few weeks after my treatment, having processed the treatment and organised my thoughts, I am ready to share the insights with you.

My ‘getting-to-know’ the essence of Ilapothecary started with the filling in of the questionnaire for Denise. The statements I had to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ were interesting, but a bit random to my mind, ranging from ‘I sometimes feel separated from within’ to ‘I can only accept factual ideas that can be demonstrated and proven’ and ‘I have swollen ankles and feet’. Deep analysis of not just your health, but inner world and the way your mind works. I sent it off to Denise and asked for advice on the treatment she thought I would be best suited to have. Truth be told, I was drawn to quite a few of them, from reflexology, to immunity to hormones and digestion. I was delighted when Denise suggested ‘Re-Balancing Reflexology’ with a ‘Kidney Pack’.

Tip: During winter, place a hot water bottle on the area where your kidneys are located, as it will help your body feel nurtured and relaxed.

I was asked to arrive ten minutes early, in order to settle, discuss questionnaire and have the treatment, but life had a slightly different plan for my journey that day. Even though I left home early, Circle and District lines, unknown to me in the beginning of my journey, weren’t running as planned. I waited, got impatient and dashed out from the tube station when it became blindingly obvious that the train I needed, will arrive well after my appointment was supposed to start. A taxi driver ( not Uber!) came to the rescue and when he deposited me outside Ilapothecary, I realised that if I took the tube, I would have gone to a slightly different address to what was in my confirmation e-mail. Stressed and tired, even though it was still morning, I opened the door, stepped into Ilapothecary….. and as if by magic, calm descended on me. From the moment my feet came over the threshhold. The place was sunny, warm, quiet and felt like an old, comforting friend, waiting to envelope me into a big hug.

Products with Purpose, treatments with Meaning

The space inside is divided into three areas – the front is dedicated to the store, with plants, jars, balms, tinctures and dry, as well as fresh, plants cleaning the air, while you peruse the selection. Its not huge in size, but its almost impossible to resist the explorer emerging to the forefront. A space to browse, explore, smell, touch. To ask questions and learn. To allow your senses help make decisions for you. What beckons you in, why? What product should you try, what role does numerology play in the creation of products?

Further down, up a few steps is the area where I sat down to discuss results of my questionnaire – take your shoes off, feel the wooden planks under your bare feet creaking a little under the wright, lengthen your breaths, have a cup of freshly made herbal tea, as you arrange your thoughts. Snack on a bowl of coconut chips & almonds, feeling like a guest welcomed by an indulgent and warm host.

Denise, a petite, calm woman with kindly inquisitive eyes, sat at my feet and told me that the results of my questionnaire, developed together with Dr. Zulia Frost, came back as ‘balanced’. She explained the balance of chakras and elements – Earth, Water, Wood, Fire and Metal and said that instead of a ‘cleansing’ treatment, my body would benefit from ‘rejuvenation’. She offered me insights on my stress and sleep levels (spot on). Recommended walking and visualisation. Advised on doing digital detox maybe twice a week (hm, that so far has proved tricky, even with an app now giving me details of my daily time spent online).

Denise is one of those people who are quietly observant and unassuming, yet she possesses vast knowledge of different professions and modalities, all of which led her down her life’s path, culminating in a way into something mesmerising – both Soul Vibrational Medicine Music and Ilapothecary. Having worked for many years as a nurse and being privy to her patients painful journeys of recovery and in some instances loss, Denise changed and transformed as both a professional, as well as a human being. Being a nurse is one of the toughest professions, as it’s not just about the knowledge and responsibility, its also the constant pressure that walks side by side with this very caring & noble profession. Having been right in the middle of it for years, baring its heavy weight on her shoulders, Denise wanted to turn her experience into something more joyful. She dreamt of creating something that will support people during the periods of transition and change and later help them lead a more balanced life. Each of Ilapothecary products not only help to make your skin and body look and feel better, they also come with in-built emotional support.

For many years Denise explored the fields of homeopathy, aromatherapy, nutrition, counselling,complimentary medicine, naturopathy, formulation, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga and other disciplines. She learnt about plants and herbs, she experimented with oils, focussing on purity and potency. She worked with numerology, crystals and Native American healers. Explored the intricacies of inflammation in our bodies, as well as medicinal properties of plants, focusing on finding and creating modern natural remedies that address problems like anxiety, sleep, exhaustion & stress holistically.

There is much more to Denise’s life journey than just leaving one profession and moving onto another. She faced her own sickness, which took a while to resolve, especially when traditional medicine wasn’t very helpful. Denise is also very closely attuned to the inner beat of India and it is a place that she calls her spiritual home. She studied yoga and Marma healing in Kerala, exploring subtleties of body and mind connections, chakras and energy work, doing her own spiritual work along the way, filtering her emotions and letting them inform her work. As Denise continued to change and evolve, bubbles of emotions were coming to the surface and needed to be let go with grace and reflection. Her teacher also taught her a very valuable lesson that she shared with me – in order to be well, happy and balanced, we all need to focus NOT on what’s wrong with us, but what is right, allowing that to lead us forward on our spiritual journey along life’s rollercoaster. Once Denise learn that lesson herself, her health started improving. Not surprisingly India is incredibly special to her because that positive affirmation awoke the light in her and continues to keep it burning evenly, brightly and strongly.

A couple of months ago all this finally came together and Ilapothecary opened its welcoming door to the public. There is also an online store for those who can’t immediately come to visit or have a treatment in London. Denise works with two practitioners, Sophie and Pedro, who deliver treatments in the private room at the back of Ilapothecary, based on protocols developed by Denise, at times with their input. Sophie in particular, blonde hair and a peaceful smile on her lovely face, imparts calming vibes on you as soon as you start talking to her.

But it’s not just the protocols and products that play an important role at Ilapothecary. The labels of the products, perfectly executed in a subtle simple way, were developed by an ex-Mulberry designer. Each has a number, a name, an explanation of what it does, leading ingredients, as well as the full INCI. Products that can be purchased and are used during the treatments, explain the ritual behind each product, harnessing the positively healing energy of the people who craft and lovingly create them in Cotswolds, using a lot of British grown plants and herbs. Interestingly Ilapothecary is located at No. 99 on Kensington Church street and this number signifies a number of transformation according numerology. After having my first treatment there and now having used a few products ago home, I can sincerely say that indeed that is the case. If you have an open mind, are curious and ready for change, no matter big or small, those products, recommended to you, will certainly help you change the way you feel and see the bigger picture of the world. In a gentle, respectful way that feels as natural, as the warm sun shining in the summer and the moon emerging at night.

Now that you know a little bit more about Denise and Ilapothecary, let me tell you about the treatment I had. After I drank the warm herbal tea that Sophie made for me during my consultation with Denise, she took me to the treatment room that is separated from the store and relaxation area by the thick curtain that absorbs all the exterior sounds, offering your privacy, tranquility and rest. The room also has a beautiful skylight and you can see the birch trees and its branches swaying gracefully in the wind. Not many treatment rooms can boast about natural light, something that benefits not just you, but the practitioner that works on you, instead of being hidden underground or in a dark room all day long. That can affect both mood, as well as therapists own energy. Natural light in the treatment room also allows the energetic ebb and flow of seasons and hours of the day into the room, enhancing the treatment.

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New Year, your DNA – iamYiam

As always new year starts with bombarding us with suggestions for the ‘new you’ – new diets, food fads, supplements, gym memberships – which on most occasions do nothing, but overwhelm us at the time when we need to gently transition from the season of festive indulgence back to busy lives in a cold time of the year, when body needs nurturing, not detoxing. Granted, some of those marketing tools have become somewhat less aggressive, but it still ends up putting you under pressure to ‘perform’. Instead of that, what I want to put forward for your consideration is the one tool in your arsenal that can help you make the right decisions for YOUR body thanks to the science and which can lead to profound changes and long-term benefits for you that you will see and feel. Say hello to a

DNA kit
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Reflections on 2016

This year has been anything, but predictable. Tempers flared, unexpected political change swept us off, hearts got broken, conflicts escalated, joy seemed to dimmer in the world, yet we all seem to be marching forward. So, as we close the page on 2016 and start anew in 2017, I thought I would look back & reflect, get grounded in present and move forward with positivity, aspirations and hope.

Lesson in politics: first we had Brexit and I never felt such vibes of utter despair in London. The town was quite, people clutched their coffee or water cups, as kids got dropped off at schools and a new work day loomed ahead. Then America went to vote and the result felt like a groundhog day. A few days after the results of the US election got announced and confirmed, I went to a book group hosted by a friend, where I watched two American women reflect on what happened. Yes, there were simmering anger undercurrents, yet they both talked of the lessons learnt, open dialogue and moving forward talking to each other, learning from past mistakes. I left the group that night deep in thought and full of admiration for those two women, who even though they belong to an older generation & in theory might find change hard, seemed to draw lessons and have strong desire to learn, in order to change things for the better in the future. I think this can apply to all spheres of life. A lot of things in life happen outside of our control, but it is up to each one of us to decide on the best actions to take when we don’t get the result that we desire. Blaming others doesn’t help and neither does being angry for long. What helps is taking the time to understand why this or that happened and what we can do next time to hopefully get the result that resonates with us.

Lesson in business: as in the past, I tended to step on the rakes yet again. I have a propensity to get excited about businesses, ideas and work of others and get behind them with my support. Yet what often happens is that people accept that support, at times not even bothering to thank me, let alone reciprocating when it comes to the work that I do. When I recently mused about it to my acupuncturist before the start of the session, he asked me if that made me feel angry. If I got asked this question a year ago, I would have probably instantly said ‘yes’. Surprising myself, without even thinking, I actually shook my head and sincerely uttered ‘no’. Thing is, I give my support willingly and if that support isn’t reciprocated, I only have myself to blame for the expectations I might harbour. Others can’t do to us what we don’t allow them, so if I felt disappointment, I could only lay the blame at my door. The way forward is to sit down and think whether I want to continue supporting those people or brands or wish them luck and take a step back from them, stepping into my own limelight. I have ambitions, I am good at what I do and I am capable of swiming in my own lane. What I send out to the universe I will get back.

Lesson in health: this year quite a few people I know or know of through friends became ill. Some of them are older, so maybe it wasn’t a total surprise, but it made me think how we all rush and talk of being stressed, but not many of us, myself included at times, actually take the time to address our own life balance. Giving advice to others is always easier than following it yourself, right? Our bodies are smart and send us signals when we overdo things, yet often we simply don’t listen. Signals become more urgent and if we don’t react, a big boom can happen. This summer I took the time to digitally detox & contemplate my own lifestyle & work choices. Did the world stop? Hell no, most people probably didn’t even notice my scaled down presence on the social media, but I came back to London feeling so innately happy, I just grinned from ear to ear most of the time.

Then I started running again and got to the end of the year running almost on empty. And you know what? I will slow down for the festive time – this post is my last one for 2016, I will indulge and spend time hugging those I love. And then in January I will shift up a gear & move in my own lane, at a speed that works for me, making sure I integrate daily ‘love myself’ ritual, which includes mental self-care, fitness & nourishment. I am a giver by nature, but I can’t support others, if I don’t nurture myself & we, women, can be pretty bad at that. I become snappy and frustrated and it is often my loved ones who bear the grunt of it, while the outside world observes a happy face. I don’t pretend to be who I am not, but I am no longer tolerant of letting myself down and mirroring it on those I care about. My family and friends mean the world to me and they appreciate me for who I am, on good and bad days. Well, they deserve more of good days. So while I won’t be detoxing my body in winter, I will aim to do sport more regularly and consistently, I will meditate daily and I will continue my daily gratitude practise, when at the end of the day I write down or list mentally five good things that happened to me that day and for which I am grateful. No matter how trivial, this is what allows me to finish one day positively and start another one in the same way. As Jason Wachoub, founder of Mind Body Green, said in his recent BoF talk, the best sport for you is the one that you actually end up participating in. It’s not about trends, it is about finding what works for your body and fuelling yourself physically, emotionally, nutritionally and mentally. My ‘Bible’ for the year ahead is the book recommended by Emma Cannon called ‘Live Long Live Well’ by Peter Deadman & this is a subject that I want to write more about next year.

Lessons in life: Life is what we make of it, or so the saying goes. We are who we surround ourselves with. And if the relationship doesn’t work, think what needs fixing, as well as how the other person views it. My husband recently returned from a business trip and said to me something that actually deeply touched me. We had an argument recently about something that I felt quite strongly about and I huffed and puffed about the subject for a while. Yet something clearly hit the nerve, as he looked at me after that trip and said pensively and sincerely:’ You know what? I now understand exactly what you meant that day! Recently I ended up repeating the same thing to someone and it felt so right & so true’. This truly was a gift and I felt a very profound shift and gratitude for his listening ability. After all, most of us are good speakers, but are we good listeners? In a way I learnt a lesson from him too, that listening is such an important skill, the importance of which should never be underestimated. It is something that I try to drum into our kids, yet sometimes need to be better practised at myself. You can’t force change – be it on yourself, or on others. You start with baby steps and then change takes hold – all you have to do is be determined to do it!

I admire honesty and integrity and authenticity. I admire people who are able to give to others, without asking anything in return. This year I asked one of the editors whose work I greatly admire to mentor me. She kindly declined, giving me her reasons. A couple of days later, I wrote her a long letter, telling her that I understand the reasons that she gave me and was grateful for her honesty. I also asked her to lunch or dinner, as I wanted to know what she thought about my career path and prospects within the industry that she knows so well. I never heard back from her, even though I know that the letter was delivered to her office. Do I admire her work? Yes, without a doubt. But my admiration for her personally diminished a bit, because even in the busiest schedule you can find the time to extend a little bit of generosity to the other, who clearly follows the work that you so.

Or maybe the lesson here is this: sometimes it’s better not to approach someone you admire because without meaning to, they might disappoint you or you will feel let down, when in actual fact they never owed you their time in the first place. Let alone a sliver of a conversation. But your stepping towards them will leave a scar that might take time to heal. So before you take that leap of faith, think twice if you should or rather, what are your expectations? If you genuinely have none, someone’s indifference to an excited stranger will pass unnoticed, like a fleeting glimpse into the crowd that won’t alter your life. Don’t idolise people, don’t expect them to be kind or caring and don’t presume that because you admire their talent or work they might be inclined to pay attention to YOU – but be thankful, if they do. When that happens it will have a wonderful mutual impact, even if you never see each other again or your paths won’t cross. After all, in one way or another we all have benefitted from kindness of strangers and hopefully reciprocated it back to another person. Only recently I bumped into Jilly Cooper, a writer who I have adored since my late teens and whose books have always brought laugher and joy to me. I haven’s seen her for many years, yet she gave me the most wonderful smile when I reminded her of our meeting many years ago and proceeded to question my how my life has changed since then. I will cherish those few minutes in her company for the rest of my life, as well as her generosity of spirit!

If you do a kind deed & the recipient lets it go unnoticed, especially when the person knows you, walk away and don’t make the same mistake again. Having said that, don’t let your heart harden – there are people out there who will value, appreciate or mentor you. Or smile at you when you really need it, but least expect it. Have high expectations of yourself, work hard, network and do your best to seek like-minded people with whom you look in the same direction. The world is not such a bad place after all, when you are part of the tribe that celebrates individuality, as well as team work. And if you need any inspiration from some amazing people, leaf through Richard Reed’s, founder of Innocent Smoothies, new book called ‘If I could tell you just one thing’.

‘If you put your head on a pillow late at night and think it hasn’t been a good day, wake up next day and change something. It might be your ideas or read more

Royal Brompton Hospital-please help to save their children’s services

Last week I attended not a glamorous presentation or a frivolous party, but an annual members meeting at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea. Truth be told, RBH is a very special place and I care for this hospital deeply, as incredibly kind and knowledgeable professionals work there, doing their utmost best to help their patients to get well. As Mr. Robert Bell, RBH’s Chief Executive said in his address, they ‘treat humans who have a heart or lung disease’. Last year alone this hospital, which has two sites, 450 beds and 3,000 staff, performed 424 life-saving operation on children, many of whom couldn’t have survived without their surgeries.

What never ceases to amaze me that is that Brompton hospital accepts many very sick patients that other hospitals aren’t equipped to treat, yet their mortality rate remains one of the lowest across UK hospitals board-and believe me when I say that they treat very sick children and adults indeed.

People who work at Brompton, be it the catering team, the nurses, the surgeons, dietitians, pharmasists or a physios not only are incredibly skilled, but most of them possess almost un-human empathy for their patients, not only that, they also extend incredible kindness and help to the families of their patients.

I was rendered speechless, and believe me, it’s a rare occurrence, when in February as part of Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart services in England by joint committee of primary care trusts, it has been recommended that Royal Brompton’s heart surgery for children should stop-if that happens, all other services for children treated at Brompton will follow, including their long-term cystic fibrosis patients. Royal Brompton hospital, where Diana, Princess of Wales used to be a patron, is primarily heart and lung hospital, well known all over the world, yet some bureaucrat who obviously doesn’t care about the people and who has never experienced the anguish of a child being incredibly sick because his heart is failing, thought it is a good idea to take away the cardiac surgery away from Brompton.

What is this country coming to, if someone in the high political or bureaucratic hierarchy is even contemplating the idea of closing one of the best hospitals this country has-what chance would sick children with heart and lung disease stand to be treated-and time is precious commodity for many of those children, sometimes it’s a matter of days, if not hours. I have seen children go from struggling for a breath, while they await surgery or an organ transplant (with cystic fibrosis it’s often not only the lungs that are ravaged by disease, by stomach and heart too for example), to them making an amazing recovery due to superhuman efforts of the Brompton team-doctors do work in shifts there, but they often overstay their hours, going beyond their call of duty and every day making it their professional mission to find the solution to the most complicated problem-bear in mind that even the most experienced surgeon doesn’t get paid anywhere close to the bonuses bankers receive and even very experienced cardiac nurses struggle financially, yet they all give so much more to society with amazing dignity and grace, when the stresses and pressures of their jobs are enormous.

Doctors and nurses see deaths on a daily basis and one would think that in order for them to do their job and remain sane in the process, they need to distance themselves, think pragmatically and logically, but I know for a fact that Brompton’s PICU and Rose Ward staff actually take their patients to heart, soothing them, reassuring them and trying their hardest to help their little patients to regain their health, if possible.

Another thing that is wonderfully refreshing, forgive the pun, is that Brompton doesn’t even smell like a hospital when you go through its sliding entrance doors and it feels like home to many families whose kids have long-term health problems. Brompton has many long-term kids i.e patients that they see from diagnosis throughout treatments, surgeries and recovery and parents end up ‘living’ on the chairs placed beside their children’s beds. Most of us take good health for granted, but think for a moment that your child is so sick, he or she needs to be hooked up to machines to help them breath, oxygenate their body and monitors to keep track of their heart rhythm, blood pressure,etc for days, if not months and that the only home that the child knows are the four walls of the cubicle that he shares with three or five other little patients-Royal Brompton is a home and a place of hope for many children and their exhausted and worried families.    

I have signed the petition and urged many of my friends to do so, yet my local MP, Glenda Jackson, didn’t even bother to reply to my e-mail, urging her to get involved. I believe in fighting for what you believe in in a peaceful way, and I think RBH deserves to continue doing what they do best, saving lives and giving hope to their patients, be it grown-ups or children. When you are a a member of the hospital team you remain under under scrutiny and constant pressure and stress, so I think that places like Royal Brompton deserve all the support they can get because they make our already fragile world a much better place for being in it. Yes, only a person who actually lost a family member can truly understand what agony the families of the heart and lung patients go through on a daily basis, especially if it’s a newborn baby boy or girl who is struggling to breath or a teenager, who you love beyond words, yet you can’t help him or her and have to delegate that care to someone else. 

Pause for a moment and imagine that you can develop lung disease or a heart problem at any moment, after all noone knows what tomorrow will bring. Royal Brompton remains a source of hope and inspiration, a place that makes a difference to thousands of people in their quest for health and gives hope to parents of very sick children. Now look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t feel like getting involved………