5 Facts to Know About The Australian Fires + How to Donate 

For almost 10 months in 2019, the world watched in bated breath as the planet’s lungs burned in a raging fire. The Amazonian fires were devastating and caused irreparable harm to vegetation and animal life in the area. 

It was a huge wake-up call for climate change denialists. 

As the flames in Brazil were beginning to calm, Australia was hit with a series of wild bush fires, and the country has been working tirelessly to extinguish the inferno ever since. Here is some information to clue you up on the current natural disaster that has the potential to affect all our lives.

WHERE ARE THE FIRES

The Australian bush fires have hit every single state across the country, but New South Wales is receiving the brunt of the burn. 

You might have seen a number of doctored images making the rounds, misinforming people about the state of Australia. Some might call it artistic expression, while others argue that its purpose lays in the shock value – if people think the entire continent is up in flames, they’ll spring to action. Either way, we can all agree that it is deeply concerning to find a few opportunists using the fires to create fake news. 

WHEN DID THE FIRES BEGIN

Similar to places like Cape Town and Los Angeles, Australia has a fire season. When the climate is hot and dry, fires start easier. On particularly windy days, they can quickly grow out of control. Having said that, Australia was coming out of an intense drought when a supposed lightning storm sparked the first of the fires.

To give you some context of the natural conditions, it was reported that a fire which began in the Victoria’s East Gippsland region travelled 20 kilometres in 5 hours in December. The flames are consuming land at a horrifying rate.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT DEATH TOLL

Australia has developed an incredible fire fighting system. In 2009, Black Saturday fires claimed the lives of 173 people, making it the most lethal case on record. As of 5 January 2020, 25 people have died including a few brave firefighters who put their lives on the line to help quash this natural disaster. 

Thousands of homes have been destroyed, and over 4000 civilians fled to the coast of Mallacoota to escape the heat, only to be stranded when the fires crept closer towards the shoreline. Thankfully, they have been evacuated by the National Navy.

Naturally, human lives have been prioritised, but close to half a billion animals have died in the fires. There have been heartbreaking images of kangaroos embracing each other with fear in their eyes and koala bears clutching desperately to volunteers who have rescued them. Together with the Amazonian fires, these two events have been calamitous for the animal kingdom.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT THE LOCAL CLIMATE

“For Australia, dangerous climate change is already here,” Penn State University professor Michael Mann believes.

It has been reported that, because of global warming, the conditions Down Under will only intensify. With the rising temperature of the planet, we’re set to see hotter summers, which will certainly result in fires greater than the ones we are seeing at the moment.

30% of the koala species has been wiped out, and other endangered species in the area are at risk of being exterminated completely – this will drastically change the natural order of the ecosystem. 

7.3 million hectares of land, larger than Denmark and Belgium combined, have been decimated (a little over what burned in the Amazon over months), entire towns have been levelled. Australia will never look the same again.

WHAT IS BEING DONE

Over 2 000 firefighters, hundreds of navy personnel and countless local volunteers continue to work around the clock to offer relief to those affected as well as to suffocate the flames that have engulfed Australia. 

“We need to fundamentally rethink how we prepared for, finance, and respond to disasters like this,” Nicholas Aberle, Campaigns Manager for Environment Victoria, said. Though their disaster management has improved over the years, a revised contingency plan that takes climate change into consideration would be strategically sound.

HOW CAN YOU HELP

There’s not much hands-on assistance anyone can offer from an ocean away, but you can donate to the Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army Australia, the NSW Rural Fire Service who continue to fund the relief efforts. 

If you’d like to extend a hand to help the devastated animal population the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and Currumbin Wildlife Hospital are also accepting financial aid.

REFERENCES:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/01/australia/australia-fires-explainer-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/476595-five-things-to-know-about-australias-devastating-wildfires

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2019 Yoga Trends That Won’t Get You Bent Out of Shape

2019 Yoga Trends That Won’t Get You Bent Out of Shape

The yogi revolution is growing by leaps and bounds. As more people come to appreciate the benefits of a crescent pose, sun salutations and the warrior sequence, the bigger the community gets. Not only does yoga increase your flexibility and aid in weight management, but through the conscious breathing and stretching of your body into these positions it actually strengthens your central nervous system. 

With such impressive health and wellness benefits, it’s no wonder people are colouring outside the square of different variation and locations to get their ‘om’ on. While we are familiar with ashtanga (focus on the pelvis and belly with swift movements), vinyasa (considered ‘flow’ yoga because of the extending postures) and Bikram (done in a humid room to accelerate cardiovascular activity), a few peculiar practises have now popped up. I’m always happy to try something at least once, but what do you think of the yoga trends created in 2019:

 

SNAKE YOGA

When I stumbled across goat yoga I thought I’d seen it all, but it seems serpents are sliding onto mats thanks to Canadian reptile-enthusiasts Tristan Risk and Joshua Burns. 

The idea behind this daring variation is to chip away at fear to reach complete calm and relaxation. While there is always a snake wrangler on hand, the creatures wrap themselves around a yogi’s body – moving as you do. Ideally, the added weight challenges your balance and ability to distribute weight. After a session, you might find you’ve bonded with the snake because of the intimacy of your proximity, Tristan and Josh encourage that too.

Here’s a 50-second clip of snake yoga in action:

CHAIR YOGA 

Yoga instructors try to find ways of making the exercise accessible to all ages and lifestyles, so you might’ve heard of this one a few years back as an alternative for the elderly. It’s grown increasingly popular and inclusive in the last few months. 

Most professionals spend hours seated at their workstations – the perfect setup for a session. Break the mundanity of an eight hour day by indulging in a few minutes of chair yoga to improve your concentration and posture, as well as increase mood levels. You needn’t worry about breaking into a sweat at the office either. This kind of yoga focuses more on breathing, mindfulness and ease of movement, less on form and technique.

AERIAL YOGA 

Hammocks are heavenly. I never go travelling without mine; ready to tie it up at the beach or secure it close to the campsite when I venture off the beaten path. They’re a kind of adult swaddling device, and a yoga session in a sling sounds like a great idea. Being suspended in the air will feel like you’re flying! 

But it’s not all fun and games because the variation has incredible benefits too. Your joints will get a break – hello spinal decompression – you’ll improve your balance and alignment; plus, all that spinning and curling will improve your core strength.

CHROMA YOGA 

To restore your natural circadian rhythm (which is your internal sleep/wake cycle), this revolutionary variation simulates a 24-hour day through light, sound and smell.

The session begins in blue light. Your body registers this at dawn, prompting your stress hormones to ‘wake up’. During this time your energy levels increase. Throughout the session, the light slowly warms and certain scents become pronounced until a red light brings melatonin rushing into your body to induce sleep.

Chroma yoga has been met with great scepticism, but the science about audio manipulation is sound. Not to mention, we know that light therapy is effective with people who experience Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) and the benefits of aromatic healing treatments are rarely contested.

DIGITAL YOGA 

If you thought pulling your teen away from their tablet was a challenge before, this trend is going to make it a whole lot harder.

We can shop, work, chat online; you never have to walk into a bank, pop into a post office, or ask your friends to set you up with a date to your cousin’s wedding because there are apps for that. Now, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to get the attention you need during a workout class. 

A friend of mine has been skyping into yoga classes himself for a few months now. Admittedly, I thought it was a bizarre concept, but when I joined him for a class, I understood the appeal. Essentially, you can roll straight out of bed and onto your yoga mat on a Saturday morning and still be monitored by a professional. Digital yoga would be ideal for people who travel a lot but still want to maintain their health. If you have a tight schedule, you can slot a session in without worrying about wasting time on the commute to the yoga studio either.

FACE YOGA

Just when we had resigned ourselves to lathering our skin with collagen to ensure it retains its youthful tautness, we stumbled across this wonderful trend. Spend just 20 minutes, every morning, on wrinkle-shrinking, muscle-tightening exercises and you’ll start seeing results in no time. 

The regal Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, swears by face yoga and so do Giselle Bunche, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston. 

 

REFERENCES: 

https://thelifestylelibrary.com/yoga-trends-2018/
https://www.wellnessliving.com/knowledge-sharing/yoga-trends-2019/

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8 Epic Outdoor Documentaries to Inspire You

8 Epic Outdoor Documentaries to Inspire You 2

In October every year, the Banff Film Festival World Tour comes to South Africa. It showcases about 25 adventure films that focus on a range of themes such as climbing, skiing, kayaking, biking, adventure, culture, and the environment. The films, which vary from five to 45 minutes, show people doing tricks on mountain bikes you wouldn’t think possible, pulling off crazy skydiving stunts just for the hell of it and cutting insane ski lines down backcountry mountains. It’s impossible to walk out of their not amped to do something adventurous yourself. Unfortunately, it’s on just once a year. The rest of the time you can check out one of these movies to get your juices flowing.

1. MERU

This mesmerising film comes from world-famous photographer Jimmy Chin, the same man behind Free Solo. It won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and tells the story of climbers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, and Chin as they attempt the improbable first ascent of Mount Meru’s notorious Shark’s Fin, arguably the most technical ascent in the Himalayas. Anker, Chin, and Ozturk are an accomplished team, with respect to both their climbing and filmmaking. Meru couldn’t have been made by any other group—their extensive experience, grit, perseverance, and good humour made the expedition possible and the film absolutely gripping.

  1. 180 DEGREES SOUTH

Photographer, writer, and world-renowned adventurer Jeff Johnson follows in the footsteps of his childhood heroes, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, as he gains passage to Chile’s impeccable wildlands via ship. It results in exhilarating visuals, an understanding of the isolationist’s pursuit of wanderlust, and the introspective nature of travel. Along the way, he faces a handful of hardships — but amidst these moments, he’s taught that everyone, everything, and everywhere, has its own story to tell. The 2010 film is more than just a traveller’s documentary — it weaves modern-day adventure with Chouinard’s rise to become a prolific and important environmental advocate. 

  1. UNBRANDED

This unique film is one of the most visually astounding documentaries of the past decade. It follows four aspirational ‘cowboys’ as they traverse from Mexico to Canada, with more than 16 wild mustangs in tow. After graduating from college, four friends set out to foster a sense of adventure, growth, and understanding revolving around America’s wild frontiers — a 3000-mile journey taking place over 158 days, that quickly brings to light differentiating personalities, conflict, and emotion. While the 2015 film dawdles in certain aspects, it’s the inevitable takeaway that serves to keep viewers intrigued — that no matter where you are, or who you’re with, the intensity of the world’s wild, untamed persona helps to create an unbreakable bond that can’t be easily tarnished.

  1. FREE SOLO

Winner of both a Bafta and Academy Award for Best Documentary, Free Solo felt like it broke all kinds of boundaries when it was released earlier this year. The New York Times wrote, ‘Alex Honnold’s Free Solo climb should be celebrated as one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever.’ After watching this National Geographic film, you’ll probably agree. Free Solo gives viewers a rare glimpse into the world of a professional adventurer, rock climber, and all-around adrenaline junkie, as Honnold vies to become the world’s first to the summit of California’s famed El Capitan, without the use of lead lines or top ropes. Free Solo isn’t quite a documentary about climbing — instead, it’s a character analysis of Honnold — his quirks, his dimensional complexities, his adulated views of the world around him, and his undeniable enthusiasm that bewitches, mesmerizes, and motivates those within his circle.

  1. THE BARKLEY MARATHONS: THE RACE THAT EATS YOUNG

Starting out as a backwoods run loosely based on the 1977 escape of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin, from a state penitentiary, this now-famous race fills its 40 slots within a day of registration opening. Boasting only 20 finishers in the first 25 years, the race consists of five loops totalling (supposedly) 100 miles through the woods of Pennsylvania. The course – which changes every year – is so challenging that racers are given a 60-hour deadline. The documentary, which came out in 2015, is a hysterical peek into the gruelling absurdity of the race and the dedication of the joyfully suffering runners. 

  1. NORTH OF THE SUN

North of The Sun follows two friends, Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum, as they head to one of Norway’s most isolated stretches of oceanfront land — an arctic island (in an undisclosed location), somewhere in the great white north. In one of the coldest climates on Earth, they learn to live throughout the winter, utilising expired food caches and shore-strewn materials to survive, building their own driftwood cabin for shelter, and surfing their days away in the land’s frozen waters. North Of The Sun tells a story of survival, friendship, understanding, and perseverance — but, perhaps the most astounding principle of the film lies in the discovery of some of the greatest waves to ever be documented in the wild north.

  1. VALLEY UPRISING

Valley Uprising, which was released in 2014, tells the story of the founding fathers of rock climbing in Yosemite. The film focuses on the three generations of counter-culture outdoorsmen who set up camp in the Valley and, much to the dismay of law enforcement, transformed the big wall landscape into what it is today. Back in the days when ‘dirtbag’ was more closely related to ‘outlaw’ and many of Yosemite’s stunning rock walls had yet to be climbed, these climbers pioneered not only the sport but the culture around it — from van life to environmental engagement. The film traces the history of climbing in Yosemite from the early days to prolific and influential modern climbers like Honnold and the late Dean Potter.

  1. DAWN WALL

This is the third movie on our list set in Yosemite National Park. In January 2015, American rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson captivated the world with their effort to climb The Dawn Wall, a seemingly impossible 950-metre rock face. The pair lived on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks, igniting a frenzy of global media attention. Blurring the line between dedication and obsession, Caldwell and Jorgeson spend six years meticulously plotting and practicing their route. On the final attempt, with the world watching, Caldwell is faced with a moment of truth. Should he abandon his partner to fulfil his ultimate dream, or risk his own success for the sake of their friendship?

  1. UNDER AN ARCTIC SKY

In the same vein as North of The Sun, professional photographer Chris Burkard’s Under an Arctic Sky redefines the audience’s understanding of the great white north. The film follows six surfers on a journey to the distant reaches of Iceland, one of the world’s most diverse locales, in search of the best cold-water waves the region has to offer. Confronted with the worst storm season in the past two decades, the group navigates, overlands, and surfs its way toward a greater understanding of the frozen landmass. Burkard’s exceptional vision brings us some of the most immaculate visuals of any outdoor documentary to date and couples it with an immersive plot that’s completely scripted by Mother Nature herself.

  1. THE GREAT ALONE 

This award-winning film documents the comeback of Lance Mackey, champion sledge dog racer. Taking place in the wild and unforgiving Alaskan wilderness, the film follows the four-time Iditarod winner on a journey of self-discovery, outlining a failed relationship with his father, Dick Mackey, who was a co-founder of the Iditarod Anchorage-to-Nome endurance test in 1973, and his inability to cope with the dynasty that the head of the family left in his wake. Aside from the various trials and tribulations that Mackey must confront throughout the film, it’s also a story of perseverance — fighting everything from mid-race health issues, mental incapacity, and even cancer, to overcome all the odds set before him.

 

Ashwagandha Sleep Tonic

Ash-WHAT? Classified as an adaptogen; that helps the body manage stress. Ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels and improve concentration.

INGREDIENTS:

Serves: 1

METHOD:

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and heat up over high heat on the stove top until boiling and frothy.
  3. Pour into a cup and sprinkle with dried edible flowers or cinnamon.

*substitute the honey for agave, 1 Medjool date, maple syrup or granule sweetener of choice.

So what does science say about ashwagandha?

  • Can reduce blood sugar levels; human studies found that ashwagandha successfully reduced blood sugar levels for both healthy people and people with diabetes (1,2,3,4) .
  • Can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels; (5,6) one study found that compared to the control group, adults who were chronically stressed and supplemented with ashwagandha had a reduction in cortisol from up to 30% (1).
  • May reduce stress and anxiety; over a 60-day study with a group of 64 adults suffering with chronically stress, the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia while only 11% average reduction was reported by placebo (not supplemented) group (5).
  • May boost memory; even though ashwagandha was used for boosting memory in the traditional Ayurvedic practices, there aren’t enough studies done on humans to conclude this.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:

I’ve always struggled with dealing with stressful situations and initially started drinking ashwagandha with my matcha lattes during stressful time periods and it has helped calm me down to an extent. When I found out that I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and that stress worsens your symptoms, I started drinking ashwagandha once almost every day. After about 2-3 months most of my symptoms were gone and of course, it was NOT JUST because I was drinking ashwagandha but I suspect it had a part to play in managing my cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Why did I choose to use almond milk specifically in this recipe? Almonds contain tryptophan; an essential amino acid that promotes good sleep.

Ashwagandha like any other adaptogens can be pricey but remember a little goes a long way. Since everyone reacts differently to adaptogens, start with a small amount and slowly increase dosage with time. The recommended dosage is ¼ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon daily. Drink about one hour before bedtime or enjoy as a calming drink any time of the day.

 

CAUTION: If you are pregnant please consult with your practitioner before taking any adaptogens. Even though it is herbal, one can never be too careful. 

 

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