Denise Connects

The Shine Project

It’s an honour to share the wonderful work of Catherine Scudamore and The Shine Project team – a cause that has truly touched our hearts and we are very proud to be a part of. 

The word ‘retreat’ is one that we often come across in the spa industry.  The type of fundamental retreat that Catherine is offering homeless women is incredibly inspiring – a place of refuge and acceptance, access to workshops and activities, and an environment of positivity and care.

I’ll leave Catherine to tell you more below and look forward to keeping you updated on The Shine Project. 

Love and blessings,

Denise x

Tell us a little about The Shine Project and how it came about?

A friend of mine introduced me to St Mungos, the charity for homeless people, in the summer of 2013. At the time they were trying to raise money to get a women’s initiative off the ground. I went to spend some time in their London and Bristol women’s hostels and realised I wanted to do something to help. Initially I started running workshops using the acronym SHINE (around the core themes of Self Esteem, Happiness, Inspiration, Nutrition, Exercise) in one of the Bristol hostels. I quickly realised that a more experiential approach was needed and decided to develop Shine into a retreat. I felt that the experience of something would be much more powerful than the conceptualisation of it.  I enlisted the help of some lovely friends and businesses, including ila, and ran the first retreat in early October 2014.

Tell us a little about the retreat?

I designed the programme with the hope that it would allow the women to experience the benefits of incorporating the SHINE principles into their day-to-day lives. We make it our number one priority that the women feel nurtured and cared for. Our approach is non judgemental and non prescriptive, and we just enjoy the experience of being together in lovely surroundings with plenty to do. Each day starts with yoga and exercise before sitting down to breakfast.  The day is then filled with practical sessions where the participants learn new skills. Being engaged in creative workshops is key to allowing the women to explore different aspects in themselves. The ability to create something can be extremely empowering. The activities on offer include pottery, decoupage and furniture painting. We also try to incorporate a session on some practical aspect of looking after yourself, the workshop on colour and style was especially fun. The days end with a meal followed by a movie.

What type of results are you hoping to achieve?

Our main objective is to give women in need a break, a proper opportunity to switch off and focus on themselves in an environment that offers respite from their normal everyday lives. I really believe that a positive experience, and the feelings that generates, can be revisited again and again – the cumulative effect of this is profound.  All the women have reported increased levels of self worth, motivation, happiness and health. It is my dearest wish that the experience helps them to stay focused on positive ways to help themselves and each other.

How was ila able to help?

ila has helped by providing gorgeous goodie bags for the women. I cannot describe to you the joy on the faces of our first participants when they were given a bag of products. The women were just delighted with their treats, and throughout the retreat they talked about what they had tried and enjoyed. ila also supplied us with their wonderful candles and these scented all the communal areas that we used. During the workshops we even used the ila Spa music and if it wasn’t on when the ladies started working on their projects they always asked for it! Thank you to everyone at ila for this generosity.

What future plans are there for The Shine Project and do you plan to run more retreats?

I am in the process of setting The Shine Project up as a registered charity. We plan to run 2 to 3 retreats in 2015 for women in need and more if we are able to.  I am also in the process of setting up shine.community: an online forum for the women to chat and access information related to the SHINE principles.

What can friends of ila do to help?

So much! Ideas for workshops, volunteers to help run retreats, small gifts for the women, publicity, fundraising… All would be hugely appreciated (catherine@theshinproject.co.uk)

01 December 2014

The energy of RAAS Jodhpur

I first visited RAAS Jodhpur in March 2014 and was immediately enthralled by its unexpected location in Jodhpur’s ancient city walls in the gaze of one of India’s largest forts. The energy felt so raw and palpable and I knew it would be the perfect place to launch our first ila only spa, and a wonderful showcase for the exceptional Indian ingredients and ancient healing arts at the heart of the ila experience.

Recruiting the right team was absolutely essential and everything fell into place with the appointment of Faraaz Tanveer as Wellness Director. Faraaz is an inspirational individual whose purity of mind, guidance and experience has been instrumental in helping the spa reach its full potential. It has been amazing to hear such positive feedback from guests in such a short period of time since we opened, and I am really looking forward to visiting the team again in 2015.

Interview with Faraaz Tanveer, Wellness Director, ila only Spa, RAAS Jodhpur

How did you come to join the team at RAAS Jodhpur as the Wellness Director?

In short: Denise called, I answered!

I had worked with ila before for a wellness centre project in Dubai and have always loved the philosophy and treatments. After my Dubai stint I spent a year in Rishikesh (India) learning and teaching yoga and meditation and then the following year travelling across India facilitating wellness workshops.  During this time I was in touch with Denise and we were on the lookout for an opportunity to work together again.

I love that ila walks the walk – Denise has a personal relationship with all the suppliers and the products are completely natural and pure. Each bottle is hand blended and packaged with love and all treatments are firmly grounded in deep knowledge of eastern healing traditions. 

An ila treatment is a guided meditation – no less. And there is no greater fulfilment I know of than to be able to take someone to that place: to introduce them to this beautiful possibility in their consciousness – where they can get a taste of their own being, pure bliss.  

So when the RAAS opportunity came up we both agreed this is it! I finished a consulting project in Doha and came down straight to Jodhpur to start in October.

What makes the ila only spa at RAAS Jodhpur so special?

RAAS Jodhpur is a heritage property where an old haveli (mansion) has been converted into a modern contemporary boutique hotel, while still retaining the rustic charm of the original building. The design and architecture of this hotel have won rave reviews and awards since its opening.

The ila only spa is housed in one of the oldest parts of the mansion – a 250+ year-old complex with an open courtyard in the middle. The ‘Puja Sthaan’/ place of worship dedicated to Mataji is situated near the entrance. The treatment spaces are located in traditional rooms with high ceilings.  The whole spa lights up beautifully in the evening with little earthen lamps.

The energy of the place is very grounded and calm. The place of worship and daily rituals perfectly complement the ila vision. I think it is the most ideal place for launching the first ila only spa.  Both ila and RAAS aim to present tradition in a contemporary setting while still maintaining the essence. I am fortunate to be a part of this collaboration.

What feedback have you been receiving from the guests so far?

The feedback from guests has been very good! Everyone loves the rustic charm of the set up and also the way it lights up with diyas (earthen lamps) in the evening. The guests especially love the facials and yoga classes. Some of them commented that before ila they never realised that a spa treatment could be so deeply healing. The guests also appreciate the care and effort that our team puts in towards maintaining positive energy in the area by performing the morning and evening prayer rituals.

I love the glow on their face when they step out of the treatment room. It reminds our team why we do what we do!

The team have a wonderful daily ritual, can you tell us more about it and how it helps the team connect to ila?

We start the day as a team with an ‘aarti’ at the ‘puja sthaan’/ place of worship. An aarti is a traditional vedic rite where we show reverence to the divine and ask for blessings through invocations, prayers and rituals. Our team does a short aarti with chanting and an offering of sweets. This is a great opportunity for us to come together as a group and set the intention for the day.

We also perform an evening prayer around sunset at the same spot when we softly chant some mantras and sit in silence for a few minutes. This is an opportunity to wind up the day with awareness and to clear the energy of the whole space.

ila’s healing philosophy focuses on the principles of love and awareness. These practices act as daily reminders of the same.  

 

31 October 2014

Getting your Beauty Sleep

It’s not called beauty sleep for nothing: from both a scientific and an esoteric viewpoint, sleep brings the ultimate renewal to our cells and systems. During the day we are in a metabolic phase, our cells requiring and burning energy. During sleep, most of our systems are in a heightened anabolic state, accentuating cellular growth and rejuvenation – particularly in regard to the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.

On a subtle level, it is no coincidence that the 16 petals of the throat chakra – the body’s sleep centre – are found on the face. Or that this is the chakra that governs our ability to express our purest inner truth – the key to our innermost beauty.

On a physical level, a good night’s sleep helps counter signs of ageing – from dark circles and swollen, bloodshot eyes to dull skin and wrinkles. It also boosts mental clarity, improves physical performance, takes the edge off emotional traumas, helps defend our body against pathogens and protects against everything from heart disease to stress. Not bad for the cheapest and most effective beauty treatment out there!

Understanding what we need to sleep well is essential. A room that is dark, quiet and slightly cooler helps promote deeper, more restful slumber. Not stimulating the mind with TV, alcohol, caffeine or close-up screen-time in the evening is equally important. A regular night-time cleansing routine not only give cells important breathing space to renew but also helps body and mind to shut down (much like the regularity of a nightly bath for babies). Finally, a glass of warm almond milk is great at night for the skin and is also an effective way to promote sleep and relaxation.

15 September 2014

The Subtleties of Ancient Beauty

There is a book that reveals the ancient beauty and healing secrets of Indian Princesses called ‘Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet’.

I love the name because it reminds me of the subtlety of India – knowingly or unknowingly – through its inference to beauty being far more than a physical manifestation …

Let me explain: In the Yogic scriptures, the chakra where beauty resides is the Manipura – the solar plexus chakra. Manipura means ‘shining jewel’ in Sanskrit and it is the body’s centre of radiant health and metabolism, boundaries and confidence, strength and beauty. Manipura relates to the element of fire. It is also connected to the function of the feet (as in movement, and the desire to assume responsibility for one’s life and drive transformation) and the eyes (through the ability to see the truth of our own purpose as well as the sparkle evident in our eyes when our true beauty shines from within).

To me, as the book moves through a vibrant exploration of the exquisite rituals, ancient remedies and beauty secrets that bonded and beautified the women of the Indian court, it also sends a much deeper message: one of the importance of such beauty rituals to boost the essence within and ignite our vitality and vibrancy through the ties of friendship and faith, ritual and reconnection.

It makes me question what it would be like if – instead of pouring all our energy into external beauty fixes – we directed our awareness inside and invested in the beauty that resides inside each one of us?

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) and Paschimottanasana (the Seated Forward Bend) both energise the Manipura. Nourishing ourselves with vibrant, raw food can also be a beauty routine in its own right (look at raw food chef Mimi Kirk – a breathtaking example of radiant beauty at 74!). Even something as simple as treating oneself to a pedicure, reflexology or soothing eye treatment can help boost and nourish our inner fire. Take note of how much better you feel next time you manage to squeeze one in …

 

07 August 2014

Mustique … where Mother Nature reveals her joy

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” has never resonated with me so profoundly as on my recent trip to Mustique.  I set off expecting to find a sophisticated, manicured island – but what I found completely blew me away.

To me, Mustique is like a Bohemian Princess.  It’s a truly magical place, so beautiful that it’s as if Mother Nature decided to use the island to show her joy to the world. A place where turtles have been coming to lay their eggs for thousands of years; where wild tortoises roam free; where some of the most sacred and healing trees of life like the Baobab and Moringa thrive; where two oceans meet to create so much ozone that fatigue melts away from mind and body in mere minutes; where bees produce the sweetest and most fragrant honey; where therapists have the softest healing hands and sweetest voices; where the full moon rises so peacefully over the sea; and where the beautiful white beaches and turquoise waters really are just the start of the story

I fell in love with the island – along with the people that I met there. It’s also my idea of luxury heaven, where everything is exquisitely subtle, refreshingly understated and wonderfully private.   I stayed at The Cotton House – the oldest building on the island, a colonial style former cotton warehouse that has been transformed into a world-class boutique hotel.  It’s warm, relaxed and traditional, and I just loved meditating on my experience at the Beach Café, morning fresh smoothie in hand and the energising ocean lapping in front of me. 

On a very personal level, I recently lost my father and have found myself feeling much more vulnerable and sensitive. I experienced the island truly embracing me with its gentle healing energy, and felt its big heart deeply restoring me.  There are very few places on this earth that have touched me like this and I’m so excited about my upcoming retreat there [10 –17th November 2014]:  a week of outdoor adventures, inner journeys, soulful food, rejuvenating open-air treatments and wellbeing rituals.  Mustique is a place where yoga and healing flow so effortlessly, so perfectly in harmony with our healing ila rituals. Combined with the divinely prepared organic vegan and raw foods of super chef Amy Oliver, it’s going to be pure alchemy for the mind, body and soul.

10 July 2014

The sustainability of Mustique

I’m privileged in my line of work to encounter all sorts of exceptional people in all sorts of exceptional locations. Mustique – a lush 1,400-acre private island hideaway in the Caribbean – is one such place, and its sustainability guru and Operations Director, Stuart Ward, one such person! I’m delighted to be working with Mustique and recently had the chance to catch up with Stuart about exactly what makes him and the island tick …

I’ll also be running a six-day retreat there from 10-16 November 2014, featuring outdoor adventures, inner journeys, soulful food, rejuvenating open-air treatments and mind-body-spirit rituals – all inspired by this natural island paradise. You can come on your own, as a couple or in a group, and choose to stay in a boutique suite at The Cotton House or in one of The Villa Collection’s beautiful sea-facing residences. The whole idea is to tailor the entire experience to your exact needs and I’m really very excited about it, for more information visit http://www.mustique-island.com/the-cotton-house/spa-and-wellness-retreat.

What drew you to Mustique?

Besides a set of coincidences and mutual acquaintances it was the climate, the air is good, the contrast of the Caribbean and Atlantic sides. An African scene with smiling faces and Baobab trees reminded me of my youth growing up in Africa.

What is a typical day for you at Mustique?

Up early with the dawn, head to the office, plug in with all the emails, etc. head out to inspect works, water, Eco Centre, conservation, depot, Cotton House and villas that may need attention or advice on issues, most days I visit a part of the island in more detail to observe what is going on with the flora fauna and so forth. Department meetings or HR issues after lunch followed by research into better-improved ways to carry out the operations from training to practical work. More paperwork, signatures, departmental documentation – but at the end the day a walk or swim!

What are your true passions in life and what inspires you?

My true passions besides my family are nature – as it simply amazes me. I see each moment as unique regardless of how small, from the reflection in an iguana’s eye to the sunset. The fact that I can witness leatherback turtles laying eggs on a beach and have very little visual pollution to obscure the night sky makes it special. Art, design, architecture and permaculture inspire me – creating simple lifestyles by understanding biomimcry is the challenge and the opportunity.

What is the future of sustainability in resorts?

Resorts will have to totally rethink their carbon footprint – from daily operations to embedded carbon from a cradle to grave approach. The supply chain will need to be examined to determine where goods, materials, or produce are being made, built, used, and produced. The ethics and good environmental practices of the resort and its partners will need to be transparent. Natural goods will become more prevalent in the choices that customers and clients will make. Guests will measure and gauge their experience not just on hospitality and service but on the total holistic approach including the environment, transportation, food, people, care, share, charity, and general wellbeing of everyone or thing connected to the experience. 

What makes Mustique sustainable and what are your plans to develop this in the future?

Mustique is at the transition stage of embracing sustainability. To embrace it and for sustainability to achieve acceptance Mustique has embarked upon several areas of concern. We have implemented stricter recycling practices and the results are good, with all glass, paper, tins, aluminium and white goods all being recycled. Garden waste is shredded and soon will be even more refined with the addition of mobile chippers. Food waste and plastics are a challenge and from August we will be able to deal with food waste fully as we receive a food composter rocket. Plastic remains an issue but to combat this we have stopped supplying plastic bags and invested in biodegradable bags for all garden services, rubbish, kitchen rolls, shrink wrap and sandwich bags.

The product range in the central supplies depot is constantly being vetted to eliminate non-environmentally friendly products. This is an ongoing change. Building materials need to be sourced responsibly as well e.g. FSC-sourced timbers or sustainable forestry practices, low VOC paints, non-harmful insecticides etc.

We have embarked on an “introduction to permaculture” course for 75 plus people and this is introducing sustainable gardens, food production, water harvesting, composting, plant selection and natural pesticide control measures. Planting targets of trees and shrubs all across the island is an ongoing activity.

This year we will install solar hot water heating for the company and 200KW of solar electric photovoltaic panels.

Transportation being a common issue and solar powered electric vehicles will need to be embraced over the coming years.

Lastly we have begun the benchmarking of the carbon for the total island; this will be used to measure us on our reduction of GHG emissions going forward.

The gradual shift towards a hybrid energy source is the goal and by 2020 Mustique should aim to be 60% off diesel generation and fossil fuel dependency. Changing people’s habits is the challenge!

What are your favourite destinations to visit?

My wife and I climb or hike a mountain every year; we choose more remote locations such as Borneo and Sri Lanka. This year is Kilimanjaro!

Botswana Okavango, Zambezi River, Namibia, Peru, Northern Thailand, Laos, Spain and the British countryside are also favourite destinations.

Describe Mustique in five words

Africa meets Caribbean turquoise sea.

 

I’ll be visiting Mustique soon – keep an eye out for photos of and insights into this unique destination in a future blog post

Love and blessings,

Denise

x

30 May 2014

Beauty Awareness – Hidden Chemicals

Go to your bathroom and pick up any of your cosmetic products. Look on the ingredients listing and see if you can find the words ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. Chances are you’ll soon come across one or the other. But have you ever stopped to think what they really mean?

Much has been written about harmful parabens, SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and various other hazardous ingredients that are put into our daily beauty products. ‘Parfum’ and ‘fragrance’ are equally harmful yet much less well documented or discussed – and surprisingly used in nearly every type of personal care product, even many of those that claim to be 100 per cent natural.

‘Parfum’ and ‘fragrance’ are patented terms that represent a mixture of dozens of chemicals: Chemicals that the cosmetic companies don’t want to and don’t have to declare to consumers. Amongst the thousands of chemicals hidden under these umbrella terms, most haven’t been tested properly either individually and or in combination with other ingredients. Furthermore, many are known to trigger side effects,

By remaining unlisted, these ‘hidden’ chemicals are continuing to wreak their havoc while we, the trusting consumers, remain blissfully unaware of their presence, let alone their dangers.

My message to you? Be aware. Read the ingredients. Spurn ‘umbrella’ terms. And don’t assume that ‘natural’ means safe …

The more we recognise the importance of our skin as the body’s largest organ – able to absorb and expel pollutants into and out of our bodies – the more we recognise the positive benefits of bathing on our health.  Enjoying a detoxifying bath several times a week is a small ritual that can add masses of vitality to your life.

07 April 2014

‘Re-treat’ with love

This month we announced the winners of our ila Therapist of the Year and I was delighted to visit Whatley Manor to give the wonderful Sarah Hickman her award in person.

While I was there, listening to the therapists excitedly discussing the benefits of ila facials (in particular the Marine Flora Facial), I realised it had been over a year since I had experienced one for myself! I was due to go away for a few days on retreat but instead decided to ‘re-treat’ from home instead: I booked a series of ila treatments at Whatley Manor (just 30 minutes from my house); ordered juices from Radiance Cleanse, and chose my corresponding ila products (Little Treats for Body, Face and Kundalini).

 

Day one saw me enjoying an Energising and Detox Renewal, and a Marine Flora Facial. The Bliss Renewal followed on day three, while I saved the Chakra Well Being for day five – a good move as by then, it felt like my whole being could absorb the subtle healing and energy of this treatment. The amazing Sarah and Jodie didn’t disappoint and all my treatments were utterly divine and healing.

The juices were delicious and nutritious; I didn’t feel hungry even when cooking for others. And the ila products perfectly supported me during the cleanse – particularly the Little Body Treats on days one and two, and the Little Kundalini Treats from day three onwards. 

It has truly been one of the most nurturing and empowering experiences – one of conscious ‘re-treat’ and gentle care. It also brought a little miracle: I had sinusitis and a raging sore throat when I started, yet within 24 hours, both had dramatically cleared.

A few days on, I feel calm and peaceful yet deeply energised. My skin is glowing and I feel my joy account has been replenished. I also experienced my home differently as I took time to appreciate it for all of its lovely, healing benefits – benefits that I am continuing to enjoy.

It’s not so much ‘having’ the time as ‘making’ the time to re-treat yourself. If you can manage it, you will be amazed by the results. You can also join me on a beautiful Cotswold retreat that I am hosting at the end of April at Lakes by Yoo, I will be at the  Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan from 22nd – 26th May or, for a very last minute indulgence, at The Alpina Gstaad from 9-12th March.

Love and blessings,

Denise x

26 February 2014

Happy 2014

Happy 2014! If you’re reading this, congratulations – you made it through the hectic festive period! I hope you managed to find some time to rest and recuperate and that 2014 has started well for you.

My year began with a fascinating meeting with renowned astrologer, Red Thread Agency founder, and homeopathic shaman, Debbie Frank, who gave me some fascinating insights into the move into 2014.

I’ve included a transcript of our conversation below – it’s fabulous January food for thought! 

Here’s to a wonderful year ahead for us all.

Love and blessings from beautiful India,

Denise x

Debbie, tell me about your journey – how did it begin?

30 years ago I became fascinated by the ancient maps of the heavens, the astrological chart we are born with. It’s our spiritual map, like an inner x-ray of our purpose, our challenges – our karmic and family patterns.  It shows our gifts and, most importantly, the timing of when we encounter the most significant points of transition in our journey; when, what and how we can heal all aspects of our being – physical, emotional, spiritual, mental.  I studied astrology and then psychosynthesis counselling – the ‘psychology with a soul’.  I found that working with this kind of transpersonal energy was very helpful for my clients, including high-profile individuals like Princess Diana.   

How did you take your work out to a larger audience?

The next step was learning about the concept of the law of attraction – I wrote Debbie Frank’s Cosmic Ordering Guide to Life, Love and Happiness in 2007 (Penguin). It was a way of teaching some simple techniques for working with energy and overcoming blocks.  I was very ‘out there’ during this period of 15 years when I wrote media horoscope columns for many publications including Hello, Sunday Express, Daily Mail online, Instyle, Daily and Sunday Mirror.  I learnt how to describe the metaphysical message of the stars in simple, accessible terms and loved the sense of connecting with millions of readers.

You then took a diversion to the East! Tell us about your Red Thread!

Red thread is a symbol of connection in China where it’s believed that people are spiritually and invisibly connected by the red thread, which can never break. 

I had always been interested in Buddhism but after I visited China and adopted my wonderful daughter and experienced the red thread first hand I became fascinated by Chinese culture in all its facets – Daoism, Buddhism, the literati and the beautiful Chinese works of art including porcelain, furniture, paintings and gardens, which in China are places of contemplation mindfully landscaped for meditation and the appreciation of culture and art.  Having completed The Arts of China Diploma at Christies in London I set up Red Thread (www.redthreadagency.com) recognising that ancient buddhas, art, gardens and objects have a spiritual resonance that can greatly enhance one’s life.  I source pieces for clients and advise on interiors and design for aesthetics and well-being.

Now you’re on the healing path of Shamanic Homeopathy.  How does this tie in?

I was always looking for ways to take my clients through life’s challenges and in 2011 I started my training in Shamanic Homeopathy – the deepest training yet!  I am specialising in esoteric homeopathy, which treats all energetic levels including the subtle bodies, to restore optimum well-being and health.  The homeopathic remedies work on a vibrational level to bring the spirit and body into balance prompting self-healing.  I’m also working with healing meditations, Chinese Medicine, flower and plant essences. 

Shamanic energy work is about releasing and clearing of trauma, emotional and physical pain, protection and alignment with divine source.  It’s the most powerful healing!

I’m interested to know what we should be focusing on in 2014.  Are there some strong planetary patterns at work?

We are currently in a three-year period of transition that is reflected by the Uranus-Pluto square.  Global tensions, revolutions and the breakdown of old forms can be seen in governments world-wide and on a personal level we’re experiencing internal revolution as we move away from old set-ups and thought-forms and live in a new perspective and emotional landscape.  It’s exciting, challenging and ultimately liberating – but as with any birth there can be painful contractions before the release!    

What should we tune into this January?

January is Capricorn time - the sign of the wise elder and manifester.  Each sign is associated with a part of the body and Capricorn is connected to the skin (our boundary between the individual and the outside world), and the muscular-skeletal system, all bones, teeth and in particular the knees, which are spiritually associated with humility and the capacity to move forward.  2014 began with a pivotal January 1st New Moon in Capricorn aligned with Pluto, the most powerful planet of transformation. It’s important to ask ourselves what we need to let go of so that we can start afresh, free from the issues of 2013. 

On a bodily level, it’s a great month to have a deep cleansing facial to eliminate toxins from the skin and release blockages.  Ila’s products also work spiritually and energetically to cleanse the skin.  What better way to greet 2014? To help our bodies flow in January some gentle yoga would help the intricate skeletal system to interface with muscles and tissues, stretch, release and help us to connect up!  We need to begin the year grounded in our bodies to prepare for the exciting path ahead.        

Debbie can be contacted for a personal chart reading on www.debbiefrank.co.uk

09 January 2014

A magical 2013

As the festive season swings into all its magical glory, we’re left reflecting on another wonderful year here at ila HQ.

Thank you for all your incredible support throughout 2013 – it’s been a year to remember and I feel truly blessed as I recall the people I’ve met, the new spas we’ve been welcomed into, and the lovely recognitions and awards we’ve been honoured with.

I’m particularly proud of ila being named “Best Natural Product Line” by Asia Spa Awards, “Most Effective Natural Product Range” in the Spa Traveller Awards 2013, and “SENSES Best Organic SPA Product 2013”. Not forgetting the Tatler Beauty Award and Harpers Hot 100 for our Body Oil for Vital Energy and Bath Oil for Glowing Radiance  – none of which would have been possible without our inspirational team of indigenous farmers, tribes and producers worldwide, as well as our fabulous circle of therapists, support staff and clients – I thank you all.

Other highlights this year include partnerships with John Lewis and Net-a-Porter, as well as a significant number of new product launches: Body Cream for Vital Energy; Face Scrub for Glowing Radiance; Little Treat Bags, Teeny Taster Bags, sample sachets and, most recently, our Essence of Joy home fragrance range – a vibrant jasmine-based explosion of happiness that is wafting around me as I type!

The Little Treat bags have been such a hit that we will soon be launching Little Kundalini Treats – watch this space! Next year will also bring the launch of our exciting new ‘über’ range, focusing on cellular rejuvenation … I can’t wait to share news of it with you in the New Year.

In the meantime, I wish you and your loved ones a happy and connected festive period and a healthy, prosperous 2014. The festive period can be as stressful as it is magical so be sure to take a little bit of time for yourself during these crazy few weeks and I’ll see you the other side!

Love and blessings,

Denise x

20 December 2013

Seasonal Sensuality

In the summer months our senses are awakened and balanced by nature: the warm sun on our skin; fragrant aromas; bright colours to nourish our eyes; the sound of birdsong; and an abundance of sweet tastes.

In winter, nature’s energy is more withdrawn, and the body naturally wants to follow suit. For this reason, I believe it is essential to consciously nourish our five senses during winter to maintain inner balance and health.

So how can we achieve this? Making the most of the winter light with morning walks is essential, while investing in a SAD light box can be beneficial not only for our mood but for immunity and skin as well.

Warm nurturing massages during winter are a must to nourish our sense of touch and smell – one a fortnight is ideal – ideally with rich fragrant oils such as vetivert and sandalwood.

Indulging in our ila fragrant candles, incense and diffusers during winter spreads rich healing aromas and improves our sense of security and inner peace.

The tongue is one of the most challenging senses to balance because of its duality in both speech and taste. Spices such as ginger, clove, cinnamon and garlic are very satisfying and help keep our internal fire strong in the winter months.

Listening to music nourishes our sense of hearing and with this, our sense of space. Indeed, there are few greater pleasures as the darker evenings draw in than lighting a fire, playing some meditative music and concentrating on deep, restorative breathing.

During the winter, our eyes are even more stimulated by screens as we swop summer evenings outside for nights in front of the television. Rose water eye pads help soothe strained eyes while eye exercises and consciously drinking in beautiful landscapes helps balance our sense of sight and aids digestion (the eyes being the sense organs that are connected to our solar plexus chakra, our centre of digestion and good health).

13 December 2013

Boosting Ojas

I have always loved this time of the year in the UK; there is a beautiful, rich and vibrant energy surrounding late autumn and the beginning of winter. Nature’s colours of purple, magenta, burnt orange and yellow reflect the most exquisite light and there is a final burst of energy and vitality before winter pulls us in.

Consciously tapping into this positive flow is one of the best ways to boost our ‘ojas’, a particular form of radiant energy that the Yogis perceive as our ‘essence of vitality’ or ‘the fluid of life’. Late autumn is the ideal season to build up this vital life source and gather the energy we need to stay healthy and radiant throughout the winter months.

There are many ways that we can create space in our lives to strengthen ojas: eating seasonal, wholesome, unprocessed foods like root vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere; sipping hot water or herbal teas to help keep our channels of energy clear and vibrant; meditating on a daily basis to allow time and space for us to attune our cells to receive that which is positive; self-massage with an oily scrub to stimulate our skin and the ojas, or radiance, in the skin. Massaging with oils soothes and nurtures the nerves, enabling the feeling sensation of ojas to spread throughout the body. Marma massage is also particularly good at this time of the year.

Above all, it’s essential to create space each day for down time, family fun and emotional nourishment. There’s nothing like shared laughter and the blissful company of loved ones to boost ojas and nourish the body’s vitality and immunity.  Take a brisk walk through November’s waning rainbow of colours with your nearest and dearest for an invigorating reminder of just how beautifully accessible this energy is to us all.

19 November 2013

Changing Times

Change is the first law of Nature. In fact, change is the mark of Time, while times of transition and how to adapt to them are key to conscious living.

To me, there is no greater time of year to acknowledge this than during the months of September and October – Nature’s most transitional months – highlighted by the September Equinox that brings autumn to the northern hemisphere.

When we align our energy and rhythm to that of Nature we experience more harmony, peace and radiance. But it is during autumn – when the frenetic joy and growth of summer slows in preparation for the sleep of winter – that we are most acutely able to ‘feel’ the benefits of this alignment and use it to deeply restorative effect.

During autumn, the earth is bursting with antioxidant and mineral-rich treasures; from pumpkins and squashes to beetroots and berries, they nourish our cells, boost our immunity, and stabilise our adrenal functions. The changes in light afford us more time to re-tune to our body’s needs, while the seasonal abundance and transformations remind us of the importance of gratitude for the present and hope for the future.

My yoga practice undergoes a more obvious transition during autumn, too: I relish the child’s pose; my mind shifts to a deeper place; I meditate for longer and feel my energy and expectations soften and slow. It’s as though I’m nourishing myself with a renewed balance and tranquillity. And it feels wonderful.

Autumn passes with the rustle of a leaf, so be sure to fully embrace its beauty while it lasts: take early morning and evening walks, make a ritual of your first log fire and consciously align your yoga practice to the season. You’ll never lament the end of summer again.

Just as autumn is a great time for restoring our body and mind, so too is it the best time to treat our skin: soaking in a warm scented bath; nourishing ourselves from top to toe with rich balms; and applying rosehip serums to our face to restore a balanced glow. And they all somehow feel so much better when accompanied by elderberry and ginger tea: a delicious diaphoretic brew that supports the body’s natural responses. To me, it’s the taste of autumn – especially when sweetened with a spot of local Cotswolds honey – and helps prepare me for whatever changes the season may bring.

18 October 2013

Soul-searching in Sayan

There are few places on earth where the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is so fine you can feel the vibrations between them. These special enclaves are rich in healing energy, creativity and visioning; their nature is strong, fluid and abundant; and the ease with which we can connect to it is heightened to almost magical proportions.

For me, Sayan in Bali is one such place. Hidden in the valley of the sacred Ayung River and flanked by rice terraces, coconut groves and lush tropical jungle, it is the perfect place to take time out to reconnect to our inner joy, essence and vitality.

It’s for this reason that I’m delighted to have been invited to facilitate a very special retreat at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan this October: three days of yogic-healing, chakra-balancing and personal immersion into the healing energy inherent in our own souls.

I have known many of the Resort’s therapists for a number of years. In my opinion, they count among some of the most heart-conscious, soul-connected practitioners in the world. I think of them as ‘medicine women’ who hold the essence of wisdom and love in their fingertips.

In addition to three intensely nurturing Chakra Blessing treatments, the retreat will combine yogic exercises and breathing with the deepest relaxation, meditation and sound healing to support a deep inner focus and facilitate an enhanced reconnection with our innermost selves.

I really can’t wait! I’ve visited Four Seasons Resort Sayan many times. Recognised as one of the world’s best resorts on the Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2013, it is nothing short of an honour to be in an environment charged with such energy and vibrancy, even before the benefits of retreat are incorporated.

There are still a couple of places left on the retreat, so whether you’re an individual seeking focus for the next chapter in your life, or a couple intrigued by the benefits of renewed reconnection, I’d love to welcome you to join me in Sayan. It’s going to be a beautiful journey.

Reconnect & Reenergise Retreat
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

24th-28th October 2013

For more information or to make a booking, please visit http://www.fourseasons.com/sayan/spa/october_spa_retreat/

11 September 2013

The Rhythm of Life

Life has a natural rhythm. The sun rises and sets. The tide ebbs and flows. Spring follows winter. Summer fades into autumn. Your body moves to the beat of your heart. Just listen to your breathing for a few moments …

Like the natural world, our inner rhythm follows cycles and undulations. But deep inside every one of us there is a natural stillness, an inner peace from which modern life too often disconnects us. This stillness is a quiet but powerful rhythm, an energy that we can reconnect to and use to restore harmony within.

One of the best ways to reconnect to this abundant positive energy is to align ourselves with the rhythm of nature. Here in the UK, we are now in the season of summer. Summer represents the peak of the year’s light energy, generating a feeling of contentment and security. Summer also holds the quality of love. It is the ideal time to rediscover and restore the joy of the eternal child, ease our emotional burdens, nurture self-awareness and align with the heightened vibrations of the natural world around us.

In summer, nature is expansive, abundant and joyful. When we align ourselves more consciously with this natural rhythm, we expand our inner selves and become more open to living in the present experience of pure love. In this way, we restore our self-awareness: the rhythm of stillness and inner peace within.

Our skin also reflects the seasons – aligning with summer’s inherent bliss opens us to basking in the glow of radiance and wellbeing. Rose is the oil of love and innocence and is a must for summer beauty.  A beautiful rose immersion can restore glowing radiance and joy. Pick some fragrant rose petals and mix with Himalayan salt crystals, then add some organic almond oil and a few drops of precious rose damsecana and vetivert. Scrub all over the body and then soak in a warm bath, followed by rose body oil. To complete the experience, try making my favourite rose summer drink: add a few drops of rose water to an elderflower cordial and sprinkle with fragrant rose petals … enjoy!

19 July 2013

Dying to be Beautiful

Here’s a question for you: Would you eat a cake that was five years old, preserved using toxins and petrochemicals so that it appeared ‘fresh’?

Of course you wouldn’t; it would be crazy to risk harming yourself by ingesting something so stale or toxic when you could easily bake or buy a beautifully fresh alternative. 

So why, every day, do millions of people around the world feed their skin the equivalent in harmful ‘treats’?

Our skin is our body’s largest organ. It is just like the liver in its multi-functionality: it protects us, forms a vital part of our immune system, and regulates our body heat. Whatever we apply to our skin is readily absorbed into our body, making its way into the lymphatic channels, which form a large part of our immune system.

The body will generally utilise anything that comes from nature, recognising its imprint as its own. What doesn’t come from nature, the lymphatic system will treat as a toxin, and will seek to defend itself by creating a reaction. In this way, petrochemicals and artificial chemicals create conflict for the body. A combination of both natural and chemical ingredients is equally confusing.

There has been a huge increase in lymphatic-based cancers and skin disorders over the last few years. The effect of petrochemicals and parabens on the skin and lymphatic system cannot be underestimated. Years ago I visited the Bristol Cancer Clinic where they had a shop selling all-natural products. Their advice to anyone with cancer was to use only organic skin care. I remember thinking at the time that people needed to be informed of that fact long before they ever had reason to step foot in that shop …

The skin responds to vibrant, natural, healthy ingredients, absorbing not just their nutrients but their life force too, just as when we eat vibrant, natural healthy food. As an organ, the skin is connected to our emotions and spiritual heart, making it deserving of all the tenderness and respect we can give it.

I’m a huge fan of Peter Lammas’s book, ‘Dying to be Beautiful’. It’s small enough to fit in your handbag yet comprises a huge list of harmful chemicals and their effects, easily enabling you to make informed choices when buying skincare products. At the end of the day, we all want to look good. But it’s not worth dying for.

16 May 2013

Interview with Gwyneth Paltrow

Our founder Denise Leicester caught up with Gwyneth Paltrow on how to experience a total heart immersion with Ila.

We love ila’s line of luxury organic skincare products and spa treatments not only for their physical benefits, but also for their spiritual ones. Today we chat with founder Denise Leicester on why she started ila, the importance of chakras, and how to experience a "total heart immersion" on Valentine’s Day, no matter what your relationship status.

Q: Why did you start ila?

A: In essence, I had a deep desire to bring my drop of change in supporting mother earth and truly offering women a range of products which nourished and cherished their hearts…as well as having radiant gorgeous skin.

 

Q: We hear a lot about ila products being helpful in opening up our chakras - what are chakras and how do ila products work with/awaken them?

A: The chakras are very subtle yet powerful parts our consciousness / mind located in our spine.

They are complex structures that hold memory and direct our consciousness. Their energy is felt first through our delicate hormone system and then through our organs. For example, the earth chakra governs the adrenal glands and our nose, so what we smell can affect how centered and safe we feel. The chakra of our deepest emotions and emotional wellbeing is known as ‘Anahata’ or the heart center: this center governs the thymus gland (immune system) as well as the skin and the hands. The heart is believed to be the seat of ‘Ojas’ (literally ‘vigour’ in Sanskrit) – the subtle radiant essence that is responsible for beauty and youthfulness. It is also believed to be the center of vitality for women.

ila products and treatments are created from this place of understanding, so every ingredient is chosen with great care for its purity and its resonance at the level of the chakras.

 

Q: A lot of your products include Rose Otto. What does this do?

A: Rose Otto is the most complex and special of all essential oils – it resonates so powerfully with the heart, nurturing and healing emotionally, uplifting spiritually, as well as rejuvenating and hydrating on a physical level. It stimulates and opens the ‘Ojas,’ radiant energy of the heart, so the skin glows … as well as inspiring love, joy and empathy. I believe Rose Otto is the most precious oil for women.

The poet Kahlil Gibran says ‘Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart’... what I adore about roses is that they have a spiritual quality which nurtures and affirms the light in the heart, as well as physically nourishing the skin and balancing emotions.

Emotionally: The smell and energy of a rose has a magic about it. Rosa Damascena helps heal emotional trauma and disharmony and restore a beautiful inner stillness and balance.

Spiritually: Rose Otto is known to expand the heart and elevate mind and soul to its highest vibration. It also energizes the chakras and strengthens the aura.

 

Q: Which products would you recommend for someone who has experienced a breakup?

A: I would recommend a total heart immersion!

Soak in our Inner Peace bath salts

…add some Glowing Radiance bath oil (with ila's Heart of the Earth CD playing)…the combination of rose sandalwood and vetiver are like balms to the heart…

…follow with the Glowing Radiance body cream (tuberose and rose) and Glowing Radiance face oil, not just to the face but also a few drops applied to heart points - the center of the chest, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

The ila Orange Blossom candle brings strength and the ila incense is magic.

21 February 2013

ila Therapist of the Year

Our treatments are a journey of reconnection to the essence – the inner source of wellbeing and joy that lies within us all. Our mission lies in supporting that journey through conscious products and actions.

ila products are brought to life in the hands of aware and passionate therapists; hence our ila training requires a commitment from each and every therapist to be open and fully present in their own journey of reconnection in order to hold that space for others. This can be challenging and requires an open and willing heart and mind.

Since ila’s inception five years ago I have been deeply touched by the sincerity, energy and loving kindness of our ila therapists and have seen so many really grow and develop. They are truly an inspiration and shining lights in the industry. This year we wanted to acknowledge our therapists through the ila Therapist of the Year Award – and I’m delighted to be able to share the news of the two winners with you below.

MADE SULASTRI from Four Seasons Resort Langkawi

ila Therapist of the Year (Rest of the World)

Lastri is grace in human form, with her extraordinary healing energy coupled with great therapist skills.  She is a wonderful role model for us all and exemplifies all we strive for in ila. Lastri shines in training and has a consistently positive effect on both colleagues and guests – but what I find so amazing is her commitment to her self-development from training as a Yoga teacher to Vipassana meditation.  Congratulations Lastri!

JODI CHIVERS from Whatley Manor

ila Therapist of the Year UK

Jodie is a perfect example of personal transformation through having an open heart and mind.  She did not stop after her ila training and continued to grow and develop.   Apart from delivering an extraordinary depth of ila treatments herself she is a great teacher: I experienced a treatment from one of the therapists at Whatley Manor, which was truly one of the most beautifully given ila treatments I have had; I was very curious to know who had trained Clare – it was Jodie. Her commitment and leadership is truly tangible. Congratulations Jodi!

In addition to our two winners, we are delighted to acknowledge all our finalists from around the globe. Not to mention the very many other dedicated and skilful ila therapists out there who consistently deliver excellence, care and love to lead their guests back to that place of connection, healing and joy.  Thank you for all that you do and all that you are.

Love,

Denise

25 January 2013

Thank you

Above: a view from our barn

I believe Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to express our gratitude and love to others. I am just back from eight days of silent reflection – the ultimate detox of the mind – and feel very fortunate to be approaching the festive period with a more grateful heart and peaceful mind.

I have recently received the summaries of the finalists and winners of our ila 'Therapist of the Year' awards and was deeply touched to read about their journeys and personal transformations through ila. Awards will be announced in the new year.

I would like to thank all the therapists who have trained in ila for holding the light of connection and bringing more peace into people’s lives, and for being such wonderful ambassadors of our brand.

Thanks to all our of customers for choosing ila and for helping to spread our word. And thanks to all of the staff at ila for exercising such commitment, compassion, joy, excellence and dedication to making ila a luxury for the heart as well as the body.

Wishing you all a magical Christmas and New Year.

Love

Denise 

20 December 2012

Relief for a Winter Flu

 

I often find the change of seasons a challenge health-wise. In the winter months our bodies need extra rest and nourishment, in alignment with nature’s rhythm. We can still be energetic but we need to be more contained, at least compared to the summer months when our energy – like the natural world around us – is more expansive.

I am a great believer in listening to our body’s language, so when it says ‘rest and stillness’ we should listen! If we don’t, the body will create sickness – after all, it always has the final say … I’m speaking from bitter experience today: I chose to ignore the signs my body was giving me last week and am now eating humble pie recovering from flu!

By day three, my streaming nose, dry sallow skin, virus and sleepless nights from coughing had left me feeling exhausted and miserable. To my delight, my lovely team sent me an ila box from the office complete with Bath Salts for Cleansing, Body Scrub for Energising and Detoxifying, and Body Oil for Vital Energy. I poured half the bath salts in that night in sheer desperation, scrubbed my body and soaked for 20 minutes ... my sinuses and head started clearing almost immediately and I felt a nurturing relaxation flow over me. I’ve always known that the combination of cleansing wild juniper berry and nurturing wild rose geranium has a positive effect on me, but I’d never felt the restorative effects so completely. My body literally drank in the Vital Energy oil; I focused around my chest and back where I felt cold and damp, then it was time for a hot water bottle and bed.

That night, I slept deeply and peacefully for the first time in three days. The following morning, though not fully recovered, I knew I was on the mend and felt my flow of positive energy returning – the products supported me in a particular way, rejuvenating me. I felt the kindness and care with which they are made, the purity of the ingredients and the gentle presence of nature’s great energy giving me the strength to help me recover. Now, as my energy is returning and my spirits all but restored, I feel a renewed commitment to sharing the love of ila this winter.

Take care during any seasonal transitions you may be exposed to and remember to listen to what your body tells you – it knows you better than you know yourself!

Love,

Denise

 

21 November 2012

Launching our Face Scrub for Glowing Radiance

 

"It will keep your skin radiant throughout the winter whether you choose to ski or simply bask in the sun"   - Condé Nast Traveller, November 2012

"It has the most amazing blackcurrant colour, smells divine and unlike other scrubs leaves your face feeling softly scrubbed and moisturised, rather than feeling like its been wiped down with a Brillo pad. Definitely one for the Christmas list"  - Jane Kellock, thewomensroomblog.com

"Work your mask harder by exfoliating before use so try ila’s Face Scrub for a Glowing Radiance."   - Harper's Bazaar, November 2012

 

I’m delighted to announce the long-awaited launch of our new Face Scrub for Glowing Radiance, the latest addition to our Glowing Radiance skincare range.

I’ve designed the Face Scrub to be as gentle as it is effective, making it suitable for all skin types and all ages.

The key ingredient is organic honey from the Cotswolds, which beautifully penetrates the skin and clears off dead cells. For older skin that tends to become dry and less plump, the honey evens out the texture and is a great moisturiser. For more oily skin types, the honey evens out texture and hydration, while its natural antibacterial properties keep dirt and germs at bay.

I’ve chosen blackcurrant seeds because they exfoliate gently without aggravation and sandalwood essential oil for its antibacterial, nourishing and skin-soothing benefits.

As with all our Glowing Radiance range, this face scrub is fantastic for sensitive skin. If you’re still a little concerned about using a scrub, I’d recommend mixing it with a small amount of our Cleansing Milk for Natural Beauty – which contains retinol and vitamin A from pomegranate as well as rosehip seeds – to make it even more gentle.

For older skin types, the ideal way to apply the scrub would be with a small amount of our Rainforest Renew Face Serum to achieve an even deeper level of skin repair.

Do keep the scrub on for two to three minutes to allow the honey and other ingredients to really get to work, making skin soft and radiant.

I am so pleased with the reviews the scrub has received so far and really hope you enjoy using it too.

Love,

Denise

 

 

22 October 2012

Vital Energy Body Oil a favourite

It’s lovely to see this fabulous review of our Body Oil for Vital Energy on the newly launched beauty and wellbeing website ‘Get the Gloss” (http://www.getthegloss.com/product/ila-the-body-oil-for-vital-energy) where Olivia Falcon, Tatler’s Beauty and Health Director, includes it in her top five products of all time.

Olivia says: "A far healthier alternative than a cup of coffee for waking up the senses - I use it every morning on wet skin as soon as I've got out the shower, not only does it leave skin feeling silky and slightly more toned but - it has this amazing citrusy scent of wild-crafted juniper berry and rose geranium essential oils - it's perfect for days when you feel like you've not had enough sleep and gives body and mind an instant boost"

I was inspired to create this gorgeous oil by a desire to bring warmth and energy to the body while detoxifying the cells; to create something that guards against the stresses of daily life while infusing the senses and body with vitality. In fact, this oil is typical of the depth of consideration behind each of our products, as it blends only the highest quality ingredients in ways that really maximise their inherent energy.

The two base oils – argan oil and rosehip seed oil – are both ‘dry’ oils, which enable a much better penetration into the skin (unlike greasy oils that sit on top of the skin). Both of these base oils have an anti-inflammatory effect on the cells and are rich in essential fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9. Argan oil has a high concentration of vitamin E, which repairs skin cells from damage done by free radicals, while the rosehip seed oil is the only oil with retinol vitamin A, which heals scar tissue. At ila, we use wild grown argan oil from Morocco and wild grown rosehip seed oil from the Andes, two of the most potent types available today.

On their own, these oils are highly effective, but we then add a very special blend of essential oils that works together to detoxify the body. Wild grown juniper berry is a natural detoxifier that helps the cells release toxins and cleans the lymphatic system. During the two to three years that it takes them to ripen, juniper berries absorb vast quantities of sunlight – a warming energy that they then bring to the body. In our Vital Energy oil, we combine them with rose geranium oil that also helps the lymphatic system to release toxins, drain the body of excess fluids and strengthen the immune system. The oil from lemongrass, which is also ripened by the sun, is used to bring more warmth to the body, while restorative and nurturing patchouli oil supports the body's cleansing processes. Finally, we use lavender oil as the ‘glue’ to make all the above oils work harder and to enhance their qualities.

It’s this in-depth consideration of each and every ingredient that is so central to what we do here at ila - and what makes our Body Oil for Vital Energy so effective at boosting body and mind.
 

Love,
Denise

 

03 October 2012

Achieving Inner Balance

The huge success of the London Olympics has left me thinking a lot about the relationship that athletes have with their own bodies and minds and the incredible steps they must take to enhance and maintain their athleticism - both physically and mentally.  I am also in awe of the relationship they must have with themselves to achieve the inner balance required to climb to the very top of their game.

The relationship we cultivate with ourselves is quite possibly the most important one we will experience in our lifetime. Over the course of human history, cultures and traditions have established systems to support and assist our discovery of who we are and ways in which we can establish and connect to our inner balance: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Of these, my personal favourite is the Chakra System: the subtlest yet most powerful system within us.


If we perceive energy channels as rivers (and energy as the ‘water’ that flows through them), a chakra is where two or more of these rivers meet, creating a vortex or spinning wheel of energy. There are thousands of chakras in the body but the seven main ones, located in the spine, are the ultimate directors of our mind and body – and the ones with the ability to connect us to our soul and the Divine.

The chakras hold very subtle aspects of our mind – the aspects of our fundamental consciousness – and their route into the physical is first experienced through the glands and hormone system. Each gland is governed by a particular chakra, as is each organ and body system.

Chakras need to be in balance to flow in harmony. They respond to essential oils, sound and colour vibrations as well as all other forms of energy around us. In turn, they affect all manner of our physical, emotional and mental health. 

Over the coming few weeks, I'm going to venture on a virtual journey into each of the seven main chakras to help increase awareness and understanding of this incredible system.  Maybe you'll be encouraged to explore the effects of your own chakras or maybe you'll recognise an area of imbalance in yourself that you can then work on addressing. I can't promise Olympic-standard inner balance, but even the marathon starts with a single step ...

Love and blessings,

Denise


PS I've recently been introduced to Pinterest so look out on ila's Pinterest Page for a special page for each chakra featured here. The boards will be left open for you to share pins about each particular chakra and your experiences in general. When all the chakras have been covered, we'll select five winners who will each receive an assortment of ila products. Good luck and enjoy!

http://pinterest.com/ilaspa/
http://pinterest.com/ilaspa/muladhara-the-root-chakra/

23 August 2012

Nordic Walking

The recent summer solstice has made me want to get outdoors and make the most of the longish days while they are still here to enjoy.

My favourite way of doing this is with a spot of early morning Nordic Walking, a surprisingly restorative activity devised by Finnish cross-country skiers in the 1930s. It’s a totally different way of walking that helps us restore our own inner rhythm.  It’s also a great way to clear your head, open your heart chakra and boost your senses and energy for the day – plus it’s twice as effective as ordinary walking at burning calories!

You can do it anytime, but nothing beats early morning. The Yogis tell us that 4 am till 8 am is one of the purest times of day, when Nature is at its most vibrant. Our adrenal glands are also most active in the morning and Nordic Walking gives us lots of energy. Walking outdoors in tune with Nature and our own body rhythm is the ideal way to charge our cells and organs with oxygen and reactivate our nerves and self-healing. It also positively changes our physical posture and balances and energises our emotions and thoughts.

If you’ve never tried or seen it, I admit it feels a little odd at first, but stick with it as it’s amazing how quickly you settle into a relaxed, natural rhythm.

 
The technique uses two special poles to propel you along, provide support and give your upper body a work out. They also take the pressure off the legs, joints and spine, making the technique suitable for anyone – young or old, fit or unfit.
 
To get into the rhythm, it helps to imagine that you’re on a catwalk swinging your hips and shoulders, with the right pole and left foot hitting the ground immediately in front of you at the same time, followed by the left pole and right foot.
 
But don’t just take my word for it – there are classes and instructors all over the country and the sport is rapidly growing in popularity: Try it once and you’ll understand why!
 
Love and blessings,
 
Denise
 
x
 
 
Photograph by Nick Holt. 
02 July 2012

Hidden Perils

Many years ago I visited a clinic that offered support and advice to cancer sufferers.  They advised all patients with cancer to switch from using chemically laden products to 100% chemical-free and organic. On site was a shop that only stocked chemical-free hair and body products, which were very limited at the time. 

 
I was very impressed by this and it led me to really think about my own experiences. Through ill health and a compromised immune response I had become deeply allergic and reactive to regular skin care products. (The final straw came via an eye serum bought in duty free, which resulted in puffy eyes and painful ulcers that took weeks to heal. It was at this point that I started making my own products.)
 

 

My own experience has taught me that my body happily accepts pure products that come from nature. What doesn’t come from nature appears to cause my body some distress – especially my lymphatic system, as it recognises these chemicals as toxins and creates a defence response in me.
 
But many people don’t see or feel their body’s distress until it has manifested as cancer. They don’t realise that the beauty and cosmetics industry is so poorly regulated that carcinogens, potent toxins and hormone disruptors lurk within many commonly used shampoos and skincare products. Or that the skin, the body’s largest organ, also acts like a sponge, soaking up every one of these chemicals and absorbing them directly into the bloodstream, before they are deposited in the tissues, heart, liver, brain ...  And for anyone still not convinced about the effects of these residual amounts, what about the accumulation of deposits from many tens of products daily or even twice daily for months, years, or even decades? 
 
I wrote last month about the ‘love’ that really matters. Eliminating chemicals from our skincare and shampoos, cosmetics and cleaning products has to be the best way we can show it to our bodies, and those of our family.
 
Denise
x
24 May 2012

Faith In Love

Recently a journalist asked me what made ila unique: our beyond organic philosophy, our focus on wellness, our beautiful treatments or our sustainable, ethical sourcing? 

I told her that all these branches derived from one root – love – and our utmost faith in it.

I wasn’t so much referring to the emotion of love – although I love what I do with all of my heart! – rather love as the most positive power on the planet, the essence of life, the energy of the earth.

I often ask myself about the strength of this love, and our relationship to it. Do we have a strong enough faith in its ability to hold us, nurture us, heal us and bring us the miracle of life’s joy, no matter what trials we face? Or do we instead place our faith in fear and its promises of pain, loss and torment?

In 2007 when I started talking to hotel General Managers about healing, they almost fell off their chairs. Today, my mantra has developed further to encompass love, without which healing can never be fully realised.

Love runs through every fibre of ila: from how and what we source to the way we make our products. Even our training leads teams of therapists on their own journey of self-love in order to deliver unforgettable healing experiences.

It’s a subject I’d like to delve into a little deeper over the coming few months, in an attempt to help swop ill-perceived notions of love for those that really matter - love for our bodies, our emotions, our essence and those around us - as well as to explore ways in which we can surrender to love’s tender care.

Warmest blessings,

Denise
x

20 April 2012

Rebalancing Within

We started and ended last week’s Emotional Detox Retreat at Chewton Glen in brilliant sunshine. In between, mists descended, clouds gathered and rain fell. It was a fitting alignment of the clearing that took place and of the renewed lightness that reverberated throughout the group on our last morning together.

One thing the retreat highlighted to me was how little time most of us dedicate to ourselves compared to our jobs, housekeeping, families and numerous other commitments. It’s hardly surprising that we so often feel as though we are running on empty, with barely enough energy to function let alone blossom and grow.

We all know the daily importance of healthy food, pure water and exercise to nourish our bodies and minds. But so few of us spend adequate time harnessing prana – the vital energy that feeds the universe of potential within us all. 

From yoga to gardening, pranayama (breath control) to singing, meditation to foraging, we each have our own way of connecting to this universal energy to fuel the light that shines within.

So why not set yourself a challenge this month: to dedicate half an hour each day to doing something truly nourishing. Switch off your iPhone, Blackberry, television, radio or computer. Focus on your breath and the earth beneath your feet.  Clear your mind, smile deep within, and reconnect to the unique and glorious wonder of you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Happy rebalancing,

Denise x

PS  If you miss your half hour, have a bath … recent research from Dublin University has highlighted the physiological benefits of bathing – dilating blood vessels, lowering stress-induced blood pressure and relaxing the adrenal glands and nervous system. More great reasons for a gorgeous soak!

Photograph by Kim Hartley. 

22 March 2012

Universal Motherhood

“The essence of motherhood is not restricted to women who have given birth; it is a principle inherent in both women and men. It is the attitude of the mind. It is love and that love is the very breath of life ... Let us remember that real leadership is not to dominate or to control, but to serve others with love and compassion, and to inspire women and men alike through the example of our lives.”
from “The Awakening of Universal Motherhood” an address given by Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), upon receiving the 2002 Gandhi-King Award.

As we creep towards Mother’s Day in the UK (18 March 2012; celebrated in May throughout much of the rest of the world) my thoughts always turn to the strongest example of motherhood of all – Mother Earth.

Creator of all nature, she is always there to nourish and guide us, selflessly giving us her beautiful form to inhabit so that we may develop and grow.

Everywhere, nature takes its cue from her might. As I look out into my garden on this sunny morning, the birds are making nests ready to give birth to new life, and the first buds are savouring the warmer spring air.

The essence of true motherhood lies in the lessons Mother Earth lays all around us:  the sewing of seeds for kinship and growth; the tolerance of hardship and hope of renewal; the combined beauty of strength and compassion; the vitality of spring; the joy of summer; the wisdom of autumn; and the peace of winter.

Like the best mothers everywhere, Mother Earth supports our endless blossoming and sustains the very essence of our being. By learning from her example and aligning with her patterns, we can all learn to reconnect with our own inner motherhood and – to quote Amma above – “serve others with love and compassion”.

Love and blessings,

Denise x

Photograph by Gillie Rhodes.

27 February 2012

Emotional Detox

As featured in the March issue of Elle Magazine.

Have you ever felt that you are on a toxic treadmill, with the same ‘feelings‘ and scenarios recurring no matter what changes you think you are making?

As the longer days hint at the promise of Spring, it is the ideal time for us to evaluate our own lives and align with nature’s imminent renewal.

But change is about so much more than making unattainable or quickly forgotten resolutions.

First, you have to truly want to change. You have to feel it in every ounce of your being. Thinking is powerful but it is our feelings and emotions that are the scriptwriters and directors of our lives.

Look to your heart as the receptacle of your feelings and emotions. Is it brimming with peace, happiness, joy, gratitude, abundance and love? If it is, you are truly in touch with your natural inner self and are no doubt in a happy, balanced state.

But if you feel anger or fear, resentment, jealousy, frustration or even boredom in your heart, the chances are you have disconnected from the truth of who you are. And from this disconnection toxicity manifests in the form of problems and limitations instead of opportunities and abundance.

This March, I’m delighted to be running an Emotional Detox Retreat at the wonderful Chewton Glen in Hampshire. It’s an opportunity to take time out from life as we know it and give ourselves the breathing space to re-evaluate and rewrite our own life scripts. The aim? To help eliminate those toxic feelings for good.

Across four nights (Sunday 11 – Thursday 15 March 2012) we’ll enjoy meditation and relaxation, Nordic walking and yoga, breathing exercises, sound healing and daily ila treatments  as well as Emotional Freedom Technique. I’ll also be conducting daily one-to-one sessions with light therapy to help maximise both physical and emotional harmony.  If you’re keen to find out more, please visit Chewton Glen’s website www.chewtonglen.com or contact the ila team at info@ila-spa.com

Here’s to a happy, healthy and altogether less toxic year for us all.

Love and blessings,

Denise x

19 January 2012

The Signs Of Winter

When we moved to the Cotswolds 14 years ago, I wasn’t so aware of the seasons. Now I am deeply connected with – and love – each one. I am so much more sensitive to all the little signs nature gives: the change in birdsong that tells me Spring is coming; our roses’ promise of Summer; the change in temperature as Summer turns to Autumn, seemingly overnight; the almost sweet-sadness of Autumn, followed by November’s stillness as Winter’s withdrawal sets in.

Nature is powerful here and her rhythms strongly felt. What I love best about Winter in the Cotswolds is the permission nature gives us to rest, nourish and retreat within. To me, this permission is putting my feet up and reading, or going for early sunset walks with our dogs before curling up together in front of a blazing fire... It’s scented baths and candles, incense and music. It’s nourishing my skin with rich creams. It’s early nights and extended dreaming. It’s a time for re-evaluation and reflection, a time when I mull over the last year and begin to nurture new ideas.

More than any other season, Winter teaches us the importance of allowing ourselves the space we need to adapt to seasonal and emotional change. Following nature’s lead and accepting her permission enables us to give our bodies the rest and stillness we so desperately need to renew.

So rather than batting out the same old resolutions for 2012, why not pledge to give yourself a little more time to strengthen in the face of change – be it seasonal, physical or emotional? If we learn to harmonise with the rhythms around us, we’ll soon rediscover the healing wellness that lies within. Here’s to a wonderful winter!

Season’s greetings!
Denise
x

Photograph taken by ‘Strange Ones’.

19 December 2011

Keeping In Touch

Welcome to Denise Connects, my regular column that will give us the chance to keep in touch with news about ila and how we can balance ourselves with the changing environment.

Denise

19 December 2011