Ditch The Daily Coffee

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world.  More than 90 percent of adults use caffeine regularly, and on average consume about 200 mg per day.


With minimal life threatening side effects, the habitual use of caffeine means we can spend a lifetime under its influence.  Coffee does have its perks (wink), like antioxidants, increased energy, and even decreased risk of dementia, but at what cost?

Anything you do every day should be deeply considered. 

The latest research from Johns Hopkins Medical School reveals that although previous studies showed caffeine was providing multiple benefits including improved cognitive function, what was actually being observed was the elevation from a depressed state to a normal state.  In other words if we drink caffeine daily, we’re always either “high” or “hungover”, with “high” being close to what should be normal.  So we deceive ourselves into thinking coffee will help us wake up and perform better. 

The use of caffeine creates both physical and behavioural changes.  Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that caffeine increases the secretion of epinephrin (the fight or flight hormone), raises blood pressure, stimulates the heart, and produces rapid shallow breathing, which deprives the brain of the oxygen needed to keep your thinking calm and rational.

With a half life of 8 hours your morning caffeine fix still reduces the quality and length of your sleep, even 14 hours after consumption.  After a night of mediocre sleep you wake groggy, needing a coffee, which all leaves you feeling tired in the afternoon, so you need more caffeine, which leaves even more of it in your bloodstream at bedtime.  I’m sure you can see (and have likely felt) this vicious cycle.

You’ll only miss the habit while the addiction fades.  

Most habits take between 21-31 days to kick.  This is the time to be vigilant.  Making any change requires letting go of something.  Don’t leave an empty hole where your coffee habit lived, replace it with one or more of these healthy habits.

My Favourite Coffee Replacements

  1.  First Thing, Hydrate 
    • We wake dehydrated. Hydration is key to good energy.
    • 1/4 lemon squeezed or teaspoon apple cider vinegar in a tall glass of water.
    • Hydration is proven to be more effective at creating sustained alertness than coffee.
  2. Take Breaks 
    • Sitting is the new smoking.  We’re not meant to sit all day.
    • Walk, jog, or stretch for a few minutes every hour.
  3. Replace It
    • Replace with Tea; Rooibos, Pu’erh, Teeccino, or…
    • Try Damian’s Morning Mix (serves 1):
      • 1 cup – Almond milk
      • 2 pitted dates
      • 1/2 tsp – Raw Cacao Powder
      • 1 tsp – coconut oil
      • Dash of cinnamon and/or cardamom
      • Blend, heat, and serve…
  4. Nap Time
    • Your body naturally wants to rest around 1pm.  Why fight the feeling?  Sounds silly, but many of us can find 20 minutes to rest if we want to.
    • My favourite is to take your legs up the wall, close your eyes, be still, and rest for 15-20 minutes. This simple posture clears the mind, improves immune function, and is equal to a 1.5 hour nap. 

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You don’t have to commit to living without coffee forever, just for long enough to let the addiction subside… Try it for 30 days, and observe your energy closely.

I want to hear from you…  Successes?  Pitfalls?

Be well,

Damian Chaparro

Power and Effort

Styles of Practice

In this 4:27m interview, Peter explains the paradox between power and effort, and the difference between many of the popular styles of yoga today, and what he practices and teaches, particularly with the use of non-muscular effort and the subtle elemental energies commonly found in eastern martial arts.

Watch Video 

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Peter Sterios is coming to New Zealand and if you won’t be lucky enough to attend one of the his sold-out classes across the country, you might be interested in joining him for a more in-depth wellness experience at the award winning Aro Hā.

Join him HERE

WIN 2 Wanderlust Tickets


Craving conscious festivities?

WIN 2 SAGE tickets to Wanderlust Sydney or Taupo!  

Just take a photo that reflects ‘your yoga nature’.  Share the photo on Facebook or Instagram.  Increase your chances by tagging a friend into the competition.  Include @wanderlustfestnz @aroharetreats and #youryoganature  Post on Facebook, Instagram, or Google+  

Lastly, follow @aroharetreats to enjoy the creativity!   

**Max 1 entry per person each day. The winner will be drawn on Monday 15th December 2014.

** Estimated value over $1000.

The most powerful 4-letter word

‘Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.’

– His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama


The word is Love, not ‘in love’ which is a kind of temporary insanity, but a healthy all embracing love. A wise love that knows all humans as little expressions of life, little creatures rushing around hoping to run into a little kindness, appreciation and ideally adoration! All of this so that we avoid feeling separate, alone or excluded. Feeling any of these feelings is one of our most profound fears.

Love resides as a warm expanding gracious feeling within us. It is a good idea to feed and nourish these wholesome feelings, not just for the sake of experiencing good feelings but also for the sake of our physical health!

Recently Barbara Frederickson published a book with radical new research.**

She says: ‘Just as your body was designed to extract oxygen from the Earth’s atmosphere, and nutrients from the foods you ingest, your body was designed to love. Love — like taking a deep breath, or eating an orange when you’re depleted and thirsty — not only feels great but is also life-giving, an indispensable source of energy, sustenance, and health.’

Hang in there for the research as it is fascinating! I promise!

Love, and its absence, fundamentally alters the bio-chemicals in which the body is steeped. One of the love neurotransmitters Oxytocin, surges during love making, birth, breast feeding and the ‘in love’ stage. It also modulates the activity of the amygdala (Amygdala, two almond shaped ‘bits’ of the limbic system involved in the emotions of fear, anxiety and aggression (sympathetic state or fight or flight)).

Research shows that being kind raises the naturally occurring dopamine and oxytocin levels which:

  • Curb stress induced increases in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Reduce feelings of depression
  • Increase pain threshold

Working with oxytocin the Vagus nerve soothes the racing heart by orchestrating the parasympathetic (rest and digest system).

The vagal tone is the degree of activity occurring within the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in changes to the heart rate and other key functions. When the vagal tone increases or decreases, there are changes to the heart rate. Until recently, it was thought, that the ability or strength of the vagus nerve was set, a bit like our height.

However, recent research by Dr Frederickson, showed that when people practiced Loving Kindness Meditation for just one hour a week the vagal tone increased after a couple of months.

Higher vagal tone means:

  • More flexibility – physically, mentally and socially.
  • Physical regulation of bodily processes such as glucose levels and inflammation are more efficient.
  • Improved ability to regulate attention and emotions – even behavior and navigation of interpersonal connection.
  • Those with higher vagal tone experience more love in their daily lives, more moments of positivity resonance. And who wouldn’t want more of that??

Imagine that you spend just one hour a week with loving feelings and thoughts and it increases your mental, emotional and physical flexibility as well as improves your emotional regulations and your attention and focus. On top of all that it results in you experiencing even more love and positive moments – that is good return on your investment! I wonder what would happen if we do 2 hours a week?

Another recent study found the vagus nerve to be a possible treatment for chronic depression in people that didn’t respond to any other treatments.

Loving-kindness is a meditation practice, which develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. The practice begins with cultivating loving-kindness towards ourselves, then our loved ones, friends, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all humans on earth. Loving Kindness meditation is part of any good mindfulness program.

“Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness.”
– Dhammapada

Experience and give love and you will get it back tenfold.

By Charlotte Thaarup-Owen


Join Charlotte for her mindfulness retreat at Aro Ha, Oct 22nd.


** Barbara Fredrickson is professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. Her latest book is Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (2013).

Tired of being tired?

There are many reasons we feel ‘tired’, and many emotions that can surface disguised as exhaustion.  While we can’t address the multitude of causes here, the ‘break’ described below can help you connect with presence.  In presence we find the ability to observe ourselves more effectively, and in that observation we often find the answers to our challenges.

Tired businessman

Now, next time you need a reset, try this powerful 15 minute break.


Find some private space.


While I like yoga for its many benefits, any movement is helpful.

If you want to choose yoga, but you don’t feel you know enough just remember not to take it too seriously. Yoga is simply playful exploration mixed with presence.  If you’ve done yoga, you’re a yogi.  So, go for it!

My favourite quickie movement sequence is Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation).  Begin standing, eyes closed, connecting with breath.  Allowing our focus to ride on the breath is our most effective and available tool to bring us into the present.  Invoke breath awareness before you start your yoga sequence, and carry that awareness into your mindfulness practice.  Complete three slow, conscious, connected, sun salutations (A and/or B).   Mix in a twist, legs up the wall, or any of your favourite poses for flavour.  Move for 10 minutes, finishing your sequence in a seated position.

Sun Salutation


Once comfortably seated, create a tall spine, shoulders relaxed, eyes closed.  Let your attention focus on your full cycles of breath.  Begin at “10”, and with each exhale silently begin to count your way from “10” to “0”, and then return to “10”.  If you loose your focus, just return to the last number you remember.

Seem simple?  It is, and yet so effective when done consistently.

So, lets go take a break!  I’ll join you…

Turmeric Tonic

Flu Fighter, Cold Crusher, and All Around Immune Elixir 

In this Aro Hā winter tonic we’ve got the superb combination of orange, turmeric, lemon, carrot, and ginger. Can’t you feel it working already?

While you likely know the benefits of ginger and citrus, turmeric is a lesser known super food. It’s primarily used to decrease swelling, and inflammation.  Decreased inflammation = decreased disease. 

Turmeric is used to treat arthritisheartburndiarrhoea, intestinal gas, jaundiceliver and gallbladder disorders.  It is also used for headachesbronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, fever, menstrual problems, and even cancer

Sound good?  Try this juice first thing in the morning.


  • 15g Fresh ginger
  • 150g Orange
  • 120g Fennel
  • 60g Lemon
  • 70g Turmeric (fresh)
  • 160g carrots
  1. Peel the oranges and lemons
  2. Juice ingredients in the following order:  Ginger, orange, fennel, lemon, turmeric, and carrot.
  3. Scoop the pulp from the juicer into a cheese bag and squeeze out the last drops of goodness.
  4. Enjoy this life brightening tonic!

Note:  If you can’t find fresh turmeric, dissolve 2 tsp. of organic turmeric powder into 1 tbsp. of water, mix till well incorporate and add to the rest of the juiced ingredients.  Strain if necessary.

Be well,

Ranis Signature


Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Charlotte Thaarup-Owen to host Mindfulness & Wellness Retreat at luxe Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat

If you want to experience more peace and joy and less rumination and worry then you need to keep the brain agile through mindfulness. That’s the message from international Mindfulness guru Charlotte Thaarup-Owen who will be hosting a Mindfulness and Wellness Retreat at the eco-luxe Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat on New Zealand’s South Island from July 23 to 27.

In a busy world filled with online communication and information overload and a thousand rules on eat organic, read labels, don’t poison your family, be successful, look amazing it is harder and harder to truly live in the moment.

Aro-Ha’s nature based location nestled in the foothills of the surrounding mountains on the shores of Lake Wakatipu lends itself perfectly to living in the now and is an ideal location for this retreat.

Guests will spend five days with Charlotte with daily classes on mindfulness while still experiencing the Aro-Ha Signature Retreat of daily yoga, long mountain hikes, stunning wholefoods cleansing cuisine and daily massages.

The evidence based mindfulness approach practiced by Charlotte focuses on the now rather than the past or future. Those who attend the retreat and practice mindfulness can expect to improve their sleep, reduce stress, reduce aging, reduce blood pressure, improve memory and promote balanced emotions with reduced anxiety and depression.

The four night five day retreat will help you create a place of quiet amidst the chaos and demands of outside by training the mind to pay careful attention to reality, to prevent wandering and promote clarity of focus. Through non judgement, acceptance, curiosity and kindness retreat guests will explore the role of mindfulness training for self care and stress management.

For more information on the retreat click here.

For more information on Charlotte Thaarup-Owen click here.


Nourishing You

4 Habits of The Deeply Nourished

            The seasons are shifting swiftly here on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the southern horn of New Zealand. As I walk the ridgelines over Aro Ha and lean into the invigorating winds of autumn, I find myself craving more earthy foods that generate sustaining body heat. This includes root vegetables, especially the kumara (an exceptionally nutritious local sweet potato), oils like virgin coconut butter, and warming herbs such as ginger root. While calibrating my diet to the chill, I’ve also been meditating on the many facets of what nourishes us as human beings. What gives us deep vitality and the joy of wellbeing is an open secret – it’s the bare necessities nature has always provided for us. As Damian quotes to all our retreat groups, “Happiness is not something to be achieved, but something to be allowed.”

1  Hydrate for Health

Water composes 80% of a baby’s body, a percentage that tends to decrease as we age and, unfortunately, we settle into unconscious dehydration. Naturopaths now recognize what ancient medical traditions have advocated for centuries: hydration is the foremost remedy for most illnesses, and water is the elixir to lasting health.

No matter what your source of water, the first step towards full hydration is to drink lots of water – at least two to four liters a day plus what your body needs after exercise. Herbal tea counts towards hydration, however alcoholic, caffeinated, sweetened and artificial drinks all cause the body to purge liquid. According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, an author of several books on hydration, many modern ills can be cured swiftly with a simple water regimen. He advocates keeping our digestive enzymes strong by abstaining from drinks during meals, except for small amounts of warm water or herbal tea.

The next aspect of hydration is the quality of water you drink. Here at Aro Ha, we’re blessed with pure, living water straight from the veins of the mountains. Sadly, the sterilization of municipal water and the metal pipes that transport it have adverse effects on its quality. Water is in fact a crystal, and is “programmed” by what it comes in contact with. A Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto, has produced an astounding series of micro photographs of water crystals, revealing that by speaking to and projecting our intentions into water, we actually effect the coherence and beauty of its crystal structure.

So drink the purest water available to you. If living spring water is an option, it’s worth a periodic trip to the source. Otherwise you can invest in a purification or a aqua revitalization system.  Consider getting a beautiful glass bottle to carry & remind yourself to drink throughout the day.

2  Support Electrolyte and Mineral Balance

            Salt is an often-overlooked ally of hydration. If you’ve ever taken oral rehydration salts after “hitting the wall” during a long hike or intense exercise, you know how quickly it enables your body’s cells to retain water. In addition to hydration, natural salt is a rich source of the myriad trace elements and minerals that we need for peak health. Many naturopaths council that normal table salt, which is refined and contains anti-caking agents, actually leaches minerals from the body. It’s important to take moderate amounts of high quality salt, such as Himalayan pink, volcanic, or sea salt.

3  Know Your Food Intimately

            Here at Aro Ha, the gardening team is working towards food independence, while the chefs serve sumptuous farm-to-table vegetarian meals. Part of the retreat experience is to become a “localvore” for your time with us, meaning your diet is as locally sourced as possible. As our head chef Rani says, “My biggest passion is to turn local ingredients into food packed with nutrients and love.”

            Back home, it’s hugely beneficial, and surprisingly convenient, to be a localvore. Get acquainted with the farmers’ markets in your area, and better yet, visit local farms to buy food directly. Many farms now offer CSA (community supported agriculture) produce shares, and encourage you to tour the farm to see for yourself what sustainable growing looks like. Of course, the most local food is what you grow yourself! Every gardener will attest to the joy and economy of growing herbs, fruits and vegetables. What tastes fresher and more delicious than a meal from the soil you turn yourself?

4  Fast Periodically

On one of our recent retreats, we had the privilege of hosting Jason Shon Bennett as a guest educator of nutrition. He’s a huge advocate of periodic juice cleansing, and having just done a three-day cleanse following his advice myself, I can attest that it’s a powerful way to shed weight and tone the muscles. Furthermore, fasting brings a deep sense of lightness, wellbeing, and mental clarity. With a wealth of scientific research backing up his insights, Jason teaches that a skillfully undertaken juice fast allows the body to metabolize diseased tissue, purge toxicity as excess fat gets burned, and produce dramatically elevated levels of human growth hormone to build muscle. Fasting has the added benefit of making food even more gratifying afterwards, as your stomach has contracted to be more readily satiated, and your now hyper-sensitive taste buds will discover a whole new world of flavors.

While the typical Aro Ha retreat doesn’t include fasting, our reduced calorie, vegan, mostly paleo diet brings many of the cleansing benefits in a gentle, pleasurable way (not to mention how energizing it is for the sub-alpine hikes!). Our guests have been unanimously thrilled with the toning, weight loss, and increased vitality achieved through an amalgamation of our nutrient-dense diet with hiking, yoga, exercise, and contrast spa therapy.

            As the seasons shift, I wish you health, joy, and the best of luck on your own unique journey to deep nourishment.

Aroha nui,


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Gold from Luxury Travel Magazine

Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat wins Luxury Travel’s Best New Property to Visit for 2014

Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat in Glenorchy, New Zealand opened a mere four months ago and has already won a coveted Luxury Travel Magazine Gold List Award.  The luxe wellness property on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is thrilled to be acknowledged alongside such industry stalwarts as Southern Ocean Lodge, The Little Nell, Huka Lodge, Saffire Freycinet, Likuliku and Qualia.

“It is such an honour for a humble property such as ours to be recognised in our early days” says co-founder Damian Chapparo. “We aim to combine luxury, adventure, nature and wellness in one stunning setting and thank Luxury Travel Magazine for helping spread our word.”

Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat offers four night/five day and six night/seven day retreats in the heart of the South Island with a focus on nutrient dense organic nutrition, yoga for the soul, massage for the body, hiking for the brain and wild mother nature for life enrichment.  The purpose built sustainable property keeps guest numbers low for maximum health results and also offers a series of guest experts retreats throughout the year.

A typical day at the recently opened luxury health destination, Aro-Ha Wellness Retreat, includes sunrise flow yoga, sub alpine hike in New Zealand’s World Heritage Area, daily massage, mindfulness practice and a whole foods cleansing cuisine program that is gluten free, paleo friendly and filled with micro nutrients and active enzymes. Guests stay in Zen inspired luxury accommodation in neutral hues, exposed beech wood and drink in the healing alpine views of mountain peaks thrusting skyward from an azure lake.

After seven days of care and attention from Aro-Ha’s elite staff, expect to feel calmer, clearer and more present with a leaner, stronger more flexible body, improved mood and focus.

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