Behind the facade – a Northern Irish town

Heidi in Northern Ireland, Yoga Shiatsu
Pretty facades in Limavady

“Hello there”

People call to me across the street. Kids ask my name and say they like my shoes. Starting a new life in this provincial town is easy.

There are elegant Georgian town house in pretty pastels and charming independent shops, with plenty of posh coffee and pastries.  All against a rugged mountain backdrop.

Heidi Yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Nice pubs

Even in a pandemic, every amenity is available within a short walk. Everything is in perfect order, roads on a grid system, long tree lined avenues and wide pavements, filled with joggers and lap dogs. 

Heidi Yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Posh coffee and pastries

It is no accident that the town was designed on a cruciform road system, to represent the cross. Limavady Newtown was born in 1610, part of the plantation of Ulster, an initiative to ‘civilise’ Catholic Ireland by giving huge swathes of land to Protestant incomers.

Yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Naming the ‘Roe Valley’ cultural centre, former town hall, caused a row

Four centuries later, this history is alive in the names. New streets of Dickensian-style town houses are called Plantation Drive and Plantation View. Elsewhere a terrace row is christened Protestant Street.

Heidi in Northern Ireland Yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Names are not neutral

Religion dominates. Advertisements for Gospel ‘Drive In’ Services keep the faith going during lockdown. The brand new Orange Heritage Centre, a protestant fraternal order and one of the tallest civic building, hoists a banner gushing bonhomie. ‘Thanks to NHS from the Orange Family’.

“You English You don’t frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottoms…I blow my nose at you and all your silly English knights.”

Catholic friends taunt me by reciting scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Words that are hilarious on screen make me squirm when they’re directed at me.

Heidi yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Union Jack colours are popular

I brush it off as good humour. But I’m reminded that an English voice in a provincial town in Northern Ireland is akin to parading a Union Jack while singing God Save The Queen.

The Peace Agreement was signed more than 22 years ago. Whether I like it or not my English accent plants me firmly on one side of the divide.

Heidi in Northern Ireland, Yoga Shiatsu Scotland
Benevanagh and the Sperrin mountains surround Limavady

Walking away from the pretty town centre, I see majestic mountain scenery, once notorious bandit country. Murder Hole Road, one of the main routes out of town, acquired its name due to the number of hold ups and gruesome killing of stage coach passengers arriving from Coleraine.

Officials hoped to erase the memory by renaming it Windyhill Road in the 1970s – but old names stick.

Trees are black with crows on the outskirts of town. At sunset they congregate in thousands, their wings gleam against crimson skies. 

Huge birds loom ready to snatch the sandwich from my hands. A local farmer tells me constant vigilance is needed to stop them scavenging sheep. In lambing season, they swoop down to pluck out the eyeballs of lambs so they can feast upon their brains.

In myth and folklore, crows are harbingers of death. They escort souls to the underworld and conduct a post mortem for fallen comrades. It is unnerving to to see the birds in such large numbers. They lend an air of Alfred Hitchcock to the scene with their ominous Caw, caw.

Despite the breathtaking beauty and easy charm of this place, something makes here makes me uneasy. The plantation of Ulster was an effort to bring order to a place perceived wild, unyielding and difficult to understand.

The policy was driven by fear and a need to control – these troubling emotions as much as locals or landscapes, that are indomitable.


…old roots, new roots, uproot, reroute….

Old roots in Northern Ireland

When I am unsettled, I return to nature. These days I’m roaming woodlands and mountains in Northern Ireland, discovering places that feel bound by deep enchantment.

In the above picture I crouch in the roots of an immense Sitka spruce in Downhill Forest on the Ulster Way. Moss is thick, moist and soft under my hand. Apart from the odd spinning leaf, everything is still. The earth is sodden, sounds are muffled.

Ferns flourish in ruins

Lichen smothers trees and tiny ferns flourish in the ruined walls of an old mill. It feels no-one has set foot here for hundreds of years. And yet the place is alive with rippling waterways.

Moss and mechanics

The worldwide pandemic has caused huge upheaval this year. Established ways of living and working have been uprooted, perhaps gone for ever. Lives, jobs, homes and even the most well-established institutions are lost.

In my case, social distancing and lockdown restrictions made my hands-on work as a Shiatsu therapist impossible. All my face to face yoga classes stopped overnight. Soon after I was physically uprooted from the beautiful country cottage where I lived and worked.

It was brutal and unexpected but there were compensations. I overcame my deep rooted dread of teaching on camera and rebuilt my business online using Zoom. I acquired new students in Brighton, Birmingham, Italy and France.

And I was anchored by huge generosity. Clients offered to store my belongings, friends helped me pack and gave me a place to stay. This was an opportunity to reinvent myself, learn new skills, explore new places.

In the age of Covid almost every form of life, business and leisure, is ‘virtual’. I am discovering I don’t need roots in same way. Working online means I can be anywhere. I am liberated from the constraints of place and geography.

But let’s be honest, rootlessness is disconcerting. I find myself buying plants and planting seeds for friends. I can’t stop myself from sending out rooting, tenuous and on a tiny scale.

Returning to nature, I tread old paths, imagining the souls who walked there, I am connecting with the ancestors, establishing a lineage, the human alternative to roots.

lichen smothers old paths

Nature isn’t always a balm. It wreaks havoc too. Storm damage in the forest is shocking. Trees are brutally ripped apart, branches wrenched from the trunk, roots rise jagged towards the sky. There is fascination and terrible beauty in the destruction. Fungi and fern flourish in the wreckage. Chocolate coloured mushrooms ripen out of the rot.

Heidi Yoga Shiatsu Scotland, amazing Trees in Derry
Beauty in destruction

After the carnage, it’s reassuring to see the giant spruce, upright and orderly. Judging by the diameter of the trunk – more than FIVE metres wide – it’s been here a couple of hundred years. It is showing no signs of going anywhere.

Leaning back against the gnarly trunk, I am reminded that no tree is an island. These species are intimately connected, sharing resources, through an underground labyrinth of root fungi, that some call the wood-wide-web.

Roots are deeply communal, they give protection and support. They are conduits between trees, sharing vital nutrients in the way good neighbours loan cups of sugar and other supplies.

I take vicarious pleasure in this. Rootless, I am lying back, hoping I too can borrow from this vast benevolent network beneath the forest floor.

New Vinyasa Saturday morning class

With dark nights and wild weather upon us – there really is no better time to experiment with a warming vinyasa flow. A new online Saturday class starting November 7th @ 9.30am gives a warm up and a wind down. The 60 minute session blends a fluid and energising asana sequence with 15 minutes of relaxing restorative poses. Zoom links here.

The goal is to boost your energy and mood so you can get the most out of the weekend. This short sequence gives a taster of what to expect.

The class is intermediate level. Cost £6 or £5 concession.

Payment by Paypal

Click friends & family option to save a fee             

Lockdown and Lao Tzu and the rediscovery of the Tao

Heidi Yoga Shiatsu Scotland Tao Te Ching inspiration

THE GENTLE pace of life in lockdown reminds me of the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. The sacred Taoist text is essential reading for Shiatsu therapists – it also influences my yoga practice. Written in China in the sixth century BC, it gives the earliest account of meditation.

And yet, I must be honest, it is a puzzling book with riddles, contradictions and a topsy turvy take on life. Beneath soft sounding poetry lies a radical philosophy for rulers, kings and soldiers going to battle. It is guidance for the darkest hour, for those facing extinction, war and loss of empire.

The writer Lao Tzu cautions against force and instructs us to be ‘gentle and yielding’. He teaches about humanity by pointing to nature. Observing wood, water and the lie of the land, we are encouraged to return to the ‘ways of creation’.

The highest good is like water, water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive

Other manifestos call to arms – the Tao Te Ching appeals for stillness. It sees the ‘virtue of not striving’ and counsels us to embrace Oneness. The Tao is a cosmic order. The way of the Tao flows in harmony with this and avoids the separation of body and soul. Our tendency is to attach great importance to our ‘doing’, Lao Tzu reminds us of our great insignificance. We are to be as ‘newborn babes’.

If nothing is done, then all will be well

Tao Te Ching - inspires Heidi's Yoga Shiatsu Scotland

.This credo has much in common with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a self help book for ‘silencing the mind’ written in India around 500 BC. Patanjali calls for ‘non-violence’ and ‘non-grasping’. But this is not a high-minded moral instruction, simply a statement of how to be in harmony with the natural order.

Yoga is often associated with heated activity – warriors, sun salutations, breath of fire. It is also a practice in yielding. Body, mind and breath are mastered and surrendered. Surrender is the instruction most repeated in the sutras. This paradox of control and letting go is in the Tao Te Ching. 

The softest thing in the universe over comes the hardest thing in the universe…..bend to become straight

Heidi Dore Yoga Shiatsu Scotland

The concept is is difficult to grasp with logic alone. The way of the Tao, like Yoga, is a sustained practice not an idea or a leap of faith.  Feeling the Tao in the laboratory of the body and it makes sense. For example, practising a forward bend, we go deeper into tight hamstrings when relaxed and soft than when grasping. ‘Force is followed by loss of strength,’ warns Lao Tzu.

Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for things 

Yoga is an experiment with this principle. After the thrill of back bends, splits and curious balancing contortions, the ego faces its biggest challenge in the radical humility of Child or Corpse pose.

Now let’s be honest. Apply the philosophy of ‘not doing’ to a work deadline or a school exam and you risk being called a weirdo or a lazy bum. Can the way of the Tao work in the wider competitive world? Or is it a philosophy for Sundays or woolly idealists on retreat?  

Perhaps it’s worth remembering that Lao Tzu was a member of the royal court and not a philosopher in a cave. He gave solutions to the social and political problems of his day. His ideas were influential for centuries – and today China has a huge resurgence in Taoist practice despite attempts to stamp it out in Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Tao Te Ching inspires yoga Heidi Shiatsu Scotland

Taoism is a radical alternative to the principles of ‘no pain, no gain’ that operate in our modern competitive world, at home and at work.  Parents tear out their hair getting kids to do homework, homeowners bust a gut with DIY improvements, sports fans submit to punishing exercise regimes, businesses violate the environment for profit. 

Lao Tzu observes that ‘racing and hunting maddens the mind’ and proposes effortless doing – Wu Wei – as an alternative. This practice harnesses nature instead of triumphing against it. It flows around obstacles instead of obliterating them, it respects tides, gravity, seasons, circadian rhythms, the ebb and flow of energy.

It’s hard to make sense of this approach in a culture that makes a virtue of stress and striving. We squander the earth’s resources as we squander our energy – and lack reverence for both. When men lack awe – there will be disaster, warns Lao Tzu.

Lockdown turns these values on their head. We are told to ‘stay home’ and suspend all but essential activities, even the pursuit of profit. During this brief era of not doing, we spend more time in nature. We are deafened and astonished by bird song. Returning to the ‘ways of creation’, the way of the Tao, the earth is allowed to breathe again. Human activity declines and the result is the biggest drop in green house gases since records began.

We wait quietly while the mud settles and contemplate our extinction, if not from the deadly Covid virus then from climate change. The essential truths of the Tao is our ‘being unimportant’. This restores our sense of ‘awe’.

Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone

We seek complex solutions to problems at work, at home, in our bodies and the wider world. Usually we think we need to do more, buy more, work harder, devise more elaborate technology. In the stillness of lockdown we experiment with doing less. We sense new possibilities – a flavour of Wu Wei, being in harmony with nature rather than against it. ‘Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone,’ says Lao Tzu.  There is no manifesto more radical – dare we embrace it?

Images by Heidi Dore, Balmerino, Scotland, 2020.

Tao Te Ching Translated by Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, Vintage Books, 1989

Therapy for a painful knee joint

Shiatsu for knee injuries with Heidi Newport On Tay, Dundee
Shiatsu healed a knee injury – doctors said it would cause disability

KNEE problems are devastating when you love being active.

I know this better than most. My knee was broken in a hit and run accident on a cycling holiday in France in 2003.

At the time doctors said the injury would leave me partially disabled and I could not run again. My leg was in plaster and I was forced to abandon my yoga teacher training.  I was gutted.

Luckily I was given a free course of a strange sounding therapy called “Shiatsu” not long after my leg came out plaster. Thanks to this, I made a full and lasting recovery. Now I teach yoga for a living and and do all the physical stuff that keeps me joyful about life.  

I even went on to train as a Shiatsu therapist. Today I treat all kinds of knee conditions including replacement knees, arthritis and common running injuries such as the meniscus tear.

Shiatsu for knee pain with Heidi in Fife
Acupressure points for knee pain

If you are suffering from knee trouble _ I’d thoroughly recommend trying Shiatsu. Don’t be put off by the strange sounding name. It is a wonderfully enjoyable treatment using acupressure points, stretches and gentle manipulations to reduce pain and swelling and heal trauma from injury or surgery.

Treatments are effective because they work the whole body not just the injury.  In this way Shiatsu releases tension and realigns shoulders, lower back, thighs, hips, feet and ankles. Often hidden problems in these areas contribute to knee trouble.

Obviously, I’m a bit biased about the benefits of Shiatsu. Here is some information about the people with knee problems I’ve been able to help.

 Managing arthritis

Liz Rogerson is in her 60s awaiting knee surgery for severe arthritis. She loves the outdoors and hill climbing. Monthly Shiatsu significantly reduce pain and enable her to move normally for periods of time.  Liz books treatments before holidays and walking expeditions so she can keep going. On one occasion she was able to spend a weekend climbing steep hills in Abernathy after just one hour of Shiatsu.

She said: “I am usually in constant pain and unable to walk or stand longer than 30 minutes.   Following sessions I have less pain in my knee and can walk further.” Treatments also smooth out tension in the lower back, shoulders and neck which are aggravated by discomfort in the knee.

 “Shiatsu works on muscle weakness, pain and tension and aims to improve my general health and wellbeing.  Depending on what I’m needing on the day, I can feel energised or experience a profound feeling of relaxation after a session with Heidi.”

 Benefits for knee surgery 

Six years after knee replacements, Hannah, was struggling with simple movements such as kneeling and getting up and down from the floor. After half a dozen Shiatsu treatments she was able to kneel and stand up at normal speed and without support.
Beryl came to me a few weeks after a replacement knee operation – to help with pain and healing. After a few sessions the pain was much reduced and she was able to move confidently again.

Shiatsu with Heidi in Fife and Dundee
Shiatsu helped Yoga teacher Jim Tarran recover from knee surgery after a motorcycle accident.

Jim Tarran had a knee injury after a motor bike accident. Normal movement was restricted and he was in pain. This made work as a yoga teacher very difficult. He said three Shiatsu treatments shortly after surgery helped healing, reduced inflamation, swelling and pain.

 “Sessions with Heidi are profound and deeply therapeutic.  She is is a super sensitive therapist. She really helped me get over knee surgery. I would commend her to anyone,” he said.

Shiatsu benefits for cancer patients – a case study

Shiatsu relief for cancer stress with Heidi Dore in Newport On Tay, Fife
Shiatsu relief for cancer stress

A WOMAN with cancer contacted me today to say regular Shiatsu is “helping a lot” with the horrible side effects of treatment.

Amanda is an active woman in her late 60s. She is having chemotherapy for Myeloma – a cancer which starts in the bone marrow. She is also taking part in a case study to investigate the possible benefits of Shiatsu for her symptoms.  After just four sessions in three months, crashing fatigue, anxiety, shakiness and agitation are markedly improved.

1st Session: “I just want to feel normal again”

“The treatment made me bonkers,” said Amanda at the beginning of her first Shiatsu session in mid August 2017.  Feelings of agitation, “inner shakiness” and overwhelming tiredness were getting her down. Sleep was messed up and she was waking three or four times a night. Digestion was also disturbed with constipation, burping and acidity. Last but not least, facing her mortality was dampening her mood. “I feel fed-up at times. But the last thing you want to do is to dwell on the situation,” she said.

2nd Session: “Not Bad”

Sleep is still rubbish and the anxiety is still there. Amanda feels “jittery and shaky.” Tiredness is ongoing and she’s having to go to bed in the afternoon, which is “waste of time” she says. Overall things are “not bad” she concludes.

3rd Session: “Feeling pretty good”

“I’m still pretty tired and having the odd rest but tiredness is not as crushing as before. Digestion is ok and my mood is pretty good.”

4th Session: “Great”

Amanda picked up a chest infection just before the session – but up until then reported feeling great. Shakiness is a lot better. Sleep is disrupted with waking at 4am  -but this is a marked improved from waking 3 or 4 times a night. She is very tired at 3pm in the afternoon and but no longer needs to lie down.

“Shiatsu is helping a lot”

Shiatsu helps pain and stress levels - Heidi Dore in Newport On Tay, Fife
An important study on cancer and Shiatsu at St Barts outpatients will be published in 2018

Amanda is feeling very positively about the benefits Shiatsu. Most important her blood cells are returning to normal.

Click on the link for more info on cancer research & Shiatsu

Shiatsu for cancer

Although myeloma and it’s treatment is very complex, my Shiatsu approach is simple and down to earth. I work methodically to relieve individual symptoms, using acupressure points and stretches to stimulate or soothe.

The main focus in the early stages was to calm the agitation of the nervous system, create a nurturing experience to relieve the jitters. In turn this would impact on digestion and tiredness by allowing proper restful sleep. To achieve this there was was a big focus on the spleen and the heart.

As well as physical technique, I also believe it’s important to listen properly to the whole of the person, not just the “cancer”. For example, attending to a dry cough, sadness over a marriage break-up, worries about family. I also offered suggestions about yoga exercises to improve healing, such as supported chest openers to release tension in the arms and chest.

The case study is not complete – more to follow.


November offer – Half price Shiatsu for people with Scoliosis

Shiatsu & Yoga for back pain with Heidi Dore in Newport-On-Tay, Fife, just a few miles from Dundee city centre
Shiatsu can give pain relief with gentle pressure along the spine

TO CELEBRATE great results for a woman in excruciating pain with scoliosis, I am offering half price therapy to people with the spinal condition.

When my client in her 70s came for her first treatment last week she said morphine was the the only thing that gave relief.  Pain levels ranked at the most severe 10 –  on a scale of zero to 10.

Reducing morphine dependency for Scoliosis

To make life bearable, the grandmother usually takes morphine 30 minutes after waking.  Amazingly, the day after the first Shiatsu, her back pain was so much reduced she totally forgot to take morphine. And my client didn’t even realise until around midday after a busy morning in Dundee. Four days on – she has reported that back pain seems better.

To help me investigate the benefits of Shiatsu for scoliosis on a bigger scale, I will be offering half price treatments to people with the spinal condition during November 2017. Please share this offer with family and friends who might benefit.

Enjoyable and effective therapy

Shiatsu is a hands-on therapy from Japan using acupressure points, stretches and manipulations. It is performed through clothes on a futon. It is both thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing – and effective. Treatments work the body from head to toe, on the side, back and front.

Therapeutic location

Yoga for backspin & depression with Heidi Dore in Fife & Dundee
Scoliosis therapy  – with a beautiful view

Sessions are held in a beautiful Fife-based studio in the coastal village of Balmerino, just a few miles from Dundee. Allow 90 minutes for the first treatment, which will also include tailored advice on gentle stretches and exercises to help the condition such as a baby cobra.

Shiatsu is a holistic therapy which means every session also aims to improve wider physical and emotional health issues such as low mood and energy, poor sleep patterns and digestion.

Contact Heidi on 0753 6837 853 or

Shiatsu reduces pain & anxiety for cancer patients

Yoga and Shiatsu with Heidi Dore in Fife, Scotland - 5 miles from Dundee
Shiatsu works from head to toe

A groundbreaking study at Britain’s biggest NHS trust has found Shiatsu reduces pain, anxiety and stress for people with cancer.

The hands-on Japanese therapy also improved sleep, confidence and gave patients at Barts Health NHS Trust in London a greater sense of wellbeing.

Shiatsu improves quality of life

“Treatments really helped with oedema, which was quite limiting. Pain relief has also been very effective. The quality of my life has improved,” said one participant.

The study involved 44 men and women having chemotherapy for a range of different cancers or in palliative care. Participants had six sessions, approximately once a fortnight.

Pain reduction

Shiatsu helps pain and stress levels - Heidi Dore in Newport On Tay, Fife
Shiatsu study worked with cancer outpatients at St Barts in London

Hour long appointments were in an NHS out patients clinic at St Barts. Shiatsu helped fatigue and neuropathy – but symptoms that benefited most were stress, anxiety and pain.

There were “highly significant” increases of two points on the Likert Scale which gives patients six options ranging from 0 – not bothering me to 6- bothering me greatly. One person went from 6-1 after Shiatsu. Average scores improved from from a bothersome 4.5 before treatment to a much improved 2.2 after a course of treatments.

Compassionate listening

Patients also said they felt better for “being listened to” and “being heard” in the one-to-one sessions. One participant said: “It is a relief to be able to open up. Treatments decreased my pain and increased my inner strength.”

Neil Browne is a clinical lead therapist at St Barts and one of the team of six conducting the study.  He said the “significant improvements in both presenting symptoms and perceptions of well being” suggested more research was needed to build on the evidence.

” A larger study would ideally involve patients with a variety of presenting concerns so that we can compare results for different outcomes. We are just finishing looking specifically at cancer-related pain and Shiatsu but need larger numbers for symptoms such as nausea. It will also ideally involve a quantitative element. For example, using salivary cortisol tests to measure stress reduction.”

The European Journal of Integrative Medicine has published a summary of the research. The full study will be published in 2018.

In 2008, a Shiatsu study in Israel found it was effective and safe for common cancer-related symptoms such as nausea, vomiting,  insomnia, fatigue, muscular pain and body image dissatisfaction

Shiatsu popular at Penny Brohn cancer charity

The cancer charity Penny Brohn UK says Shiatsu is popular with patients. It says the reported benefits include improved energy, confidence, symptom control, relaxation and clarity of thought.



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