Good health starts with simply knowing how to breathe correctly, says Salt Rock nutritionist, lifestyle coach and yoga practitioner Kate Arnott. She shares her knowledge and some useful advice for sustainable, holistic health.
Being truly healthy is about more than just losing weight or being able to run or cycle for hours on end. It’s about having a strong immune system and following a balanced, sustainable lifestyle. And, according to Kate, it all starts with knowing how to breathe correctly.
“I truly believe that stress is the root cause of almost all health ailments. Stress directly affects our gut and poor gut health leads to all other illnesses. Being aware of and able to control your breathing is the very best way to manage your stress.”
After hearing a little about her childhood and upbringing, it’s not hard to understand why the lovely, petite Kate is as passionate about health and the natural environment as she is.
“My brother, sister and I were brought up in a mud house (also known as wattle and daub), designed and built by our mother, in the Midlands. All of our holidays were spent camping in the bush in rural parts of Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We were also always treated with natural, alternative medication and I’ve actually never been on an antibiotic for being sick. I think it can be hard for parents to remain true to their beliefs these days, but my mom did. I definitely got my passion for health and my connection to nature from her,” says Kate.
After attending boarding school in Hilton, Kate moved to Cape Town where she did an honours degree in nutrition science. Her special interest (and her thesis) was on stress management and gut health and the link between the two. “It was quite a new concept at the time, but I think people have a much better understanding of it these days.”
Although she was always very active growing up, competing in multiple Dusi canoe marathons and doing lots of trail running.
Kate only discovered the benefits of yoga a little later in life. “I found yoga to be one of the best forms of exercise to still give me a really good workout while also allowing me to enjoy the profound benefits it has on stress management.” She is now an advanced yoga instructor, having done over 500 hours of teacher training, and has been teaching for over four years.
After her studies, Kate found herself back in the bush, working as a massage therapist and yoga instructor at both Phinda and Londolozi Game Reserves for a year. Then she moved to Ballito where she took up a job working at a health shop. “I knew I wanted to be in nature and felt a strong pull towards the ocean. I loved working with Judy at Lifestyle Health and learnt an incredible amount.”
Now Kate runs her own nutrition and yoga practice, incorporating her knowledge and experience with her passion for ancient philosophies and alternative healthcare. During her yoga classes, Kate puts a lot of emphasis on correct breathing. “I cue every breath and my focus is on helping people manage their stress through their breath awareness. It sounds so simple – all you have to do is breathe – but it is truly such a profound healing modality. It improves your immune system and helps with inflammation, gut health, chronic pain and your mental state.”
Very often, Kate says, we try to overcomplicate things and rush through life to get to our goals. The key to living a healthy, balanced life though is learning to slow down and appreciate more. I think how we breathe is how we do life. There are so many lessons that you can take off the yoga mat and into everyday life.”
When it comes to nutrition, Kate also says we can use our food as medicine, but if we are in a chronic state of stress, we won’t extract the nutrients we need from the food we eat. “I believe in eating a well-rounded diet and don’t believe in extreme dieting. There is a time and place for supplements and vitamins, but I believe that if you eat for the environment, and your body is in balance, you’ll get the nutrients you need from your food.”
Kate, who is also a qualified Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, offers packages for her clients, which can include just the nutrition side, nutrition and yoga or just yoga. She offers private, group and online yoga classes.
“My goal is to identify where the stress is coming from in your life and the impact it’s having on your health. Then I use different protocols to ‘clean up’ the body, detox and minimise stress.”
Details: www.katearnott.com, @nutritional_alchemy, @kate_arnott_
KATE’S TIPS FOR IMPROVING HEALTH AND MANAGING YOUR STRESS:
1. Awareness: Be aware of how you talk to yourself and whether your thoughts are positive are negative. Find things to appreciate around you all the times – especially in moments of negativity (it could be a flower or a sunset … just something small to be thankful for). The more we practice doing this, the more we elevate our state of being and we’ll naturally make better choices to match that greater state.
2. Learn to breathe. Be aware of your breaths and find a trainer (yoga, pilates or any fitness trainer) who is breath-focussed and will help you. You will eventually carry those breathing techniques into your daily life, even when you’re not exercising.
3. Start slowly. Just take one step, and one goal, at a time. We all want to get to our goals quickly and often our approach is extreme and not sustainable. Small, daily changes will ultimately lead to a sustainable lifestyle.
4. Get into nature. Nature is so healing in itself and we need to realise that the more we support the environment, the more it will support us. Eat for the environment – well-balanced, quality-based diet. Use the produce to make simple food and don’t get caught up with fancy recipes and meals. Simplify.
5. Laugh and have fun. Don’t become too serious about your health and over think everything! Don’t take life too seriously. Learn a few simple, good practices and implement them slowly.
Text: Leah Shone | Photograph: Chris Allan Photo | Hair and makeup: Volenti Laurentina