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Image / Self / Health & Wellness

How are six of Ireland’s leading wellness experts keeping their head right now?

by Lizzie Gore-Grimes
20th Jan 2021

We could all do with a little support right now. Lizzie Gore-Grimes asks six trusted wellness experts about the daily self-care that works for them.

Lou Horgan, yoga teacher 

For reasons that will become clear when you read her words below, Lou Horgan is one of Ireland’s most inspiring and highly-thought of yoga teachers.   

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

Almost 17 years ago I began a programme called The Artist’s Way, it changed my life. The cornerstone of the practice is writing three pages on waking. It clears all the “gunk” spinning through my head when I wake. I take a shot of Symprove probiotic, I’ve been doing that since January and I’m enjoying the effects, after that I drink a pint of warm water with the juice of a full lemon.

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

I’m old school, a personal recommendation from someone I trust is where I find the best advice. If I am looking for supplements I visit The Hopsack in Rathmines and talk to the owner Finn for his encyclopedic knowledge.

What’s on your current podcast list?  

Russel Brand is my go to podcast, I love his mix of the psycho-spiritual, political and humorous insights on life. I subscribe to Rod Stryker’s app Sanctuary which is a mix of conversations/yoga practices and yoga nidra (enlightened sleep practices).

Last book that moved you?

My comfort book is Alchemy of Womanhood by Dolores Rice which I have read countless times. A small, short, beautiful almanac, it acts as a reminder of the truth, beauty and power of being a woman.

Daily self-care ritual that you can not live without? 

Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning, hands down. Obviously as a yoga teacher, movement, stretching, breath practices, meditation all keep me humble and grounded, but first hot lemon!

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?
I am barefoot all day, whether in the house or in my garden I go without shoes. I have been a barefoot advocate for all of my working life. It not only develops greater strength in our feet and legs it is paramount in fundamental pelvic floor health particularly for women. But even more valuable is the effect when we connect directly on the earth outdoors. It has the effect of negating the static or charge that builds up as a result of  too much time spent indoors in insulated, wifi dense homes. The Earthing Institute is a great resource to read more about it.

Also, I am sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. I have never had an opportunity like this for rest since becoming a mother 14 years ago. Running my own business and running a home and carrying the emotional needs of a family is exhausting and I am realising the level to which I was running on empty.  We have all been caught up in a pace of life that is unsustainable. I am learning some really valuable lessons throughout this lockdown. I realise my “new normal” will not be as it was when we return to life post Covid and that is a good thing.

What words of advice or self-case support would you like to share with others?

Nature is giving us the most incredible backdrop right now – mostly blue skies, bird song, spring bursting to life. Get out and breathe the clear, clean air that is so abundant right now. 

Sleep! The most potent healing and immune boosting practice of all. 

Take your shoes off and walk barefoot, your whole body will benefit. 

For everyone, but particularly those whose lives have not slowed down as mine has, 

Try a daily yoga nidra practice, it deeply soothes the nervous system and regenerates just as sleep would. 

Elongate your exhale. This simple but phenomenally effective practice calms the nervous system like nothing else.

Smile at people as you pass them, we are socially distancing not disconnecting from our shared experience as a human family.

louyoga.com; on Instagram @louhorganyoga

Susan Jane white
Photo by Jo Murphy

Susan Jane White, nutritional cook, columnist and author  

“Taking the hell out of healthy” as she says herself. Susan Janes’s encyclopaedic knowledge and witty, irreverent writing style make her books (Clever Batch, The Virtuous Tart, The Extra Virgin Kitchen) an absolute joy to read.  

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

I hand my children the Nintendo Switch. No judging!

I’m a nicer person when I’ve done some meditation and yoga first thing in the morning. My family and community are in a safer place because of it.

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

My gut. When it’s not on speaking terms with me, or I notice shallow breathing, I self-assess until the trigger becomes clear. Gottman advises morphing into your own anthropologist, looking at your current situation as if behind a lens, and observing it. Gently, without judgement. What would that anthropologist record? Or have on file? I think we all have our own innate answers as to why we might be stressed, have stubborn skin, mood swings, and so on. I figure that looking after myself should not be complicated. It’s usually me who adds the complications.

Your current podcast list?

I love BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze – it blows my mind. I often re-listen to episodes and imagine myself on the panel, such are my feverish Lockdown delusions. The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances White is great craic when you need some laughter back in your belly. She often features Irish comedians too, like Alison Spittle and Aisling Bea.

Last book that moved you?

I’m having a moment with clever retellings of Greek mythology. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller gets my top lovebomb as Most Moving Ever. Although, this is closely followed by Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls. Not an easy read, but an urgent one all the same.

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?

I’m getting my children and my husband to do the housework. I’m also netting a lot more sleep, and teaching my boys how to properly massage my shoulders. There’s also a lot more dark chocolate in my life.

Daily self-care ritual that you cannot live without?

Dark chocolate. Downward dog. And daydreaming.

What words of advice or self-case support would you like to share with others?

Erm, dark chocolate. Downward dog. And daydreaming. All three should see you through.

susanjanewhite.com; on Instagram @susanjanekitchen

Leisha McGrath

Leisha McGrath, Chartered Work and Organisational Psychologist and Coach

Leisha is a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and experienced Coach with over 20 years experience. Having suffered and recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome between 2014 and 2019, Leisha brings the learning from that extraordinary experience to bear on her coaching work.

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

Full disclaimer; I am not a morning person. For years I fought off any sort of morning routine, but living with chronic fatigue for over four years will change that. Since becoming ill, I have extensively explored different practices. These days, on the recovery side of illness, I meditate for ten minutes with breathing techniques that gently ease me into my body.

Recently, I’ve incorporated a Shamanic spiritual practice into my morning routine too. These practices did not come overnight; I fought and resisted routine – but the difference now is that these are practices which fit me. 

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

I am a psychology practitioner at heart but if a theory tells me a certain practice should make me feel better and it doesn’t, I don’t adhere to it. I believe in a holistic approach to self-care. Whether that’s less screen time, or more inward reflection, journaling, humour, movement, rest, nature and creative expression, I also look to happinessresearch.com or other professional podcasts and publications and am drawn to Functional and Biological Medicine which seek to understand why our bodies are behaving in a certain way, fixing the underlying causes, rather than medicating the symptoms. 

On your podcast list? 

When I was sick, my central nervous system got overstimulated easily so I didn’t listen to a lot of podcasts. This is a key feature with clients too, whether they realise it or not. People keep themselves so busy they are disconnected from themselves. But if I feel like it, I’ll pick a topic on TED, Harvard Business Review and Coaches Rising Podcasts. For wellness: MindBodyGreen and Thrive Global. And the Deliciously Ella podcast, which resonated as she was also sick and recovered largely through her own research too. 

Last book that moved you?

I love science-backed research that can enable and empower us to live authentic, healthy lives. I’ve just finished Period Power by Maisie Williams. Everyone should read this book. It has wellness and science at its core. Empowering for me, but also, for my pre-teen daughter and clients. 

I had just finished reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle when my mum was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2002. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t taken something from the book. 

Daily self-care ritual that you cannot live without? 

When I was ill, I read a lot about the healing powers of nature and decided to give it a go. Now, it’s a daily practice for a sense of perspective and connection, even if it’s five minutes looking up at the sky. I love to get in the sea or at least walk by the sea, which I try to do most days. 

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?

I’m allowing more time each day for me and I am no longer checking in on the news, and while I don’t normally hand out advice to clients, I have handed this advice out freely over the past few weeks.

What words of advice or self-care support would you like to share with others?

Self-care is supposed to be a nourishing practice, and not another ‘should’ on your list. Make small changes and build from there. But don’t become obsessed with yourself either. Real wellness comes from being in community with ourselves and with others, so strike a balance and keep in regular touch with yourself and the other important relationships and aspects of your life. 

lma.ie ; on Instagram @startwith3minutes

breathe with niall

Niall O Murchu, founder of Breathe With Niall 

Niall is a former international athlete, traditional Irish healer and certified Wim Hof method instructor. Since 2018, his popular #WimRise events see groups of people meeting at dawn to swim in the sea.  

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

The alarm goes off, my eyes open and I immediately start to do breathing exercises. I breathe deeply and calmly. Each breath starts to change the chemistry in my body, getting oxygen deep into my nervous system, making me feel energised, calm and ready for the day. 

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

Strangely, this type of advice tends to find me. People often recommend books, podcasts and people to me. So, I experiment and explore and often find some real treasures. At the moment, I’m doing Dr Joe Dispenza’s meditation course. I love it. 

What’s on your current podcast list? 

I used to listen to podcasts all the time. But then I realised that it was too much to take it. So, I stopped and instead try to listen to less and just enjoy some silence, which is a rarity in our house with four young children. But, I do keep an eye on Joe Rogan. Some of his podcasts have changed the direction of my life.

Last book that moved you? 

I’m throwing in a wild card here to say Roald Dahl. At the moment I’m really enjoy reading books to the children. We’ve worked our way through most of Roald Dahl’s masterpieces. His book Going Solo (part two of his autobiography) plots his adventures in Africa and the Middle East during World War Two. He’s a master storyteller. 

Daily self-care ritual that you can not live without? 

Breathing exercises and the cold. You’ll find me everyday in an ice bath or the sea. Cold water balances our hormones, improves our circulation, boosts our immune system and makes us feel great. Long live the cold! 

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?

I’ve slowed down. I take more time to sit and breathe. Or, just play with the children. Or, enjoy a cup of cacao in the garden. 

What words of advice or self-case support would you like to share with others?

Our breathing is like a remote control for the nervous system. If we’re breathing erratically we’ll feel anxious and on the edge. If we breathe deeply and calmly, we’ll feel at peace. We can change how we feel and think simply by changing how we breathe. So, take a deep breath and exhale all the way out. Do that a few times and you’ll feel more relaxed and at ease. 

breathewithniall.com ; on Instagram @breathewithniall


fabulous pharmacist

Laura Dowling, Pharmacist, aka @fabulouspharmacist

Pharmacist Laura Dowling has gained a huge following on her @fabulouspharmacist account on Instagram thanks to her no-nonsense health advice, humorous spin and infectious energy.  

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

My youngest boy (7) climbs into the bed for snuggles every morning at about 7am so this is always a lovely start to the day. If I am feeling energetic I will practise yoga for an hour, but this involves getting up at 6am and sometimes I am just too tired. I make sure to have breakfast every morning – usually yoghurt and fruit with nuts, seeds and chopped dark chocolate. It is my favourite and sets me up for the day. I go to bed looking forward to breakfast.

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

I look at the HSE, NHS and WHO websites for regular, up-to-date and evidence-based advice. I read credible journals. I follow some instagrammers who, like me, give unbiased clinically supported advice. I fear that many people follow popular bloggers who may not have the expertise to be giving out heath advice as unfortunately there is no policing of what people say on social media.

What is on your current podcast list and why? 

I like Amy Schumer’s ‘3 Girls, 1 Keith’ – it’s hilarious. ‘Slow Burn’ for good storytelling and ‘Stuff You Should Know’ for random discussions on all manner of things.

Last book that moved you?

I don’t get much time to read books and it is something that I miss. I have just ordered Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, which promises to be a good read. It is about the hard conversations we need to have about death.

Daily self-care ritual that you can not live without? 

Eating well. I always try to make healthy food choices. I really believe that we are what we eat. I also try and get some exercise everyday. I’m still practising yoga at home, doing some zoom bootcamp classes and going for walks. Exercise is so important for those feel good endorphins.

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?

I wash my hands ALL the time, as in ALL the time! it is so important. I am walking more as a form of exercise. The home-schooling is tough but we muddling through.

What words of advice or self-care support would you like to share with others?

I would say to talk to people if you are feeling upset or anxious. Your feelings are real and important. Try not to drink too much, it’s so tempting but it can creep up on you. Get plenty of sleep – you cannot underestimate the power of sleep. Eat well, exercise and be careful about social media and misinformation. Follow who you like but be cautious about who you actually take advice from.

On Instagram @fabulouspharmacist

michael ryan

Michael Ryan, Meditation and yoga teacher 

Michael is an internationally accredited yoga teacher who has studied with some of the world’s leading yogis. Voted Best Yoga Teacher in Dublin, Michael also teaches the Irish President Michael D. Higgins.

What’s the first thing you do for yourself in the morning?

Breathe. I usually do three or four rounds of 30 deep breaths. It is a profound and simple technique to clear the mind and revitalise the body. 

Where do you look for credible self-care advice?

I am of the opinion that what we need to hear to support our wellbeing is continuously being offered to us. Sometimes it comes through friends, sometimes strangers, a sunrise, a moment by the sea. Our greatest challenge in learning to look after ourselves well is learning to listen more deeply. 

What is on your current podcast list?  

Insights at the Edge with Tammi Simon. She is creator of Sounds True Publishing. And she podcasts with a huge amount of incredibly prolific humans. On subjects revolving around spirituality, cutting edge science, meditation, etc.

Men,This Way with Bryan Reeves explores what it is to be a man in our modern world. These can be very confusing times for a lot of men. Our roles are changing and with that there is upheaval and uncertainty. 

Last book that moved you? 

The last book that really resonated with me was called Iron John by Robert Bly. Robert Bly was a poet, storyteller, and was one of the first people to facilitate work with men’s groups. He talks about the different stages men go through, the challenges that must be undertaken in order to grow and evolve and be content. 

Daily self-care ritual that you can not live without? 

Three things. The first is my meditation and breath work – I really notice the difference when I make the time to do these practices. Second, the tonic of a swim in the sea everyday. The third thing is to do nothing. To take some time to sit, maybe with a coffee and simply just be quiet for a few minutes and notice the surroundings. 

What change if any have you made to your routine since Covid-19?

Life has changed for all of us. There is so much we took for granted that is absent. All the ways we move around the world and interact with others throughout our day. My life has got quieter. I have started to offer my work through the web. At first it felt completely at odds for me – as if I was teaching to my phone – but now I really see the benefits of our technology and how important it can be when used wisely. 

What words of advice or self-case support would you like to share with others?

Deep rest is an essential ingredient of a healthy, happy human and we in the west tend to be starved of it. So much of our lives tends to revolve around paying the bills and getting the job done. I know for many it’s busier than ever at the moment. But if you do find space in your day try not filling it with anything. Try sitting and breathing consciously for a few minutes and lying down with some peaceful music and let yourself rest.

michaelryanyoga.com; on instagram @michaelryanyoga


Read more: Coronavirus Commune: meet the families who found a way to thrive through the crisis

Read more: Stop trying to fit in: how to find your authentic voice and embrace your true self

Read more: How to save a marriage after 10 years, two kids, multiple miscarriages and redundancies

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