[Yoga Series #4] Essential Oils for Yoga

I’m not a big fan of incense. I don’t like the burning or the smell. Its just my personal preference. Of course if I’m practising yoga as part of a class then I don’t complain; I’m not that adverse to it. However when I’m at home during my self-practise I prefer to diffuse essential oils.

ID-100120457Using a diffuser, the essential oils are diffused into the yoga practice space to create an inspiring and motivating mood and to enhance breathing.

The successful practice of yoga requires some motivation and dedication.  Yoga is a journey to a balanced body that is properly aligned with mind and spirit (yoga means union). Incorporating the intensely therapeutic properties of essential oils into the practice can help for a fulfilling journey. The following essential oils and benefits can help make yoga practice a much more unifying experience of body, mind and spiritual well-being. [1]

Vetiver, ginger and patchouli will be grounding and earth-connecting, while sandalwood and cedarwood are stabilizing, strengthening and centring. All of these essential oils will help with balance and stability in the yoga poses. A great blend for this is the Aromatherapy Blend – Vitality.  Energising ginger and clove help a depleted system recuperate, giving you essential support and vitality when you need it most. A pure essential oil blend which brings renewed vigour for life.

Myrrh, frankincense, eucalyptus and rosemary encourage the flow of energy and self-expression while helping you achieve steady, deep inhalations and exhalations. As I explained in my previous blog, the breathing process is hugely important to successful yoga practice in order to support the spine during the poses. [1]

Frankincense and Myrrh aromas have been used throughout time as aids for spiritual transcendence and peace, to manifest Heaven on Earth.  Frankincense is an excellent oil for yoga as it is fantastic for the respiratory and nervous systems. [3]

Myrrh is known to unite Heaven and Earth in a person, the spiritual with the physical. It is aromatherapy for manifestation of the spiritual in oneself.  Like with Frankincense, Myrrh works therapeutically on the nervous system, to calm the mind and instil tranquillity. It is an aroma to bring peace and inner stillness. Also like Frankincense it is also a very earthy aroma. Both Frankincense and Myrrh are ideal in supporting the philosophy of yoga! [3]

Lavender, geranium and chamomile are calming and relaxing. Try the Aromatherapy Blend – Women’s Balance, especially good for balancing our emotions relating to our female cycles.

FocusBergamot, lemon and orange are all citrus oils and can provide an uplifting and energising sense to the practice. Try the Aromatherapy Blend – Focus to help you take your mind into the body for those more challenging poses, focus on your breathing and even help you onto the mat in the first place (I know I sometimes need some encouragement!)

Neroli and ylang ylang promote transcendence and spiritual expression. Try the Aromatherapy Blend De-Stress to transport you to a place of tranquillity. This one is a favourite of mine for yoga, as it smells very earthy and deep.

[1] https://www.auracacia.com/community/be-inspired/how-to-use-essential-oils-in-your-yoga-practice

[2] http://www.yogabasics.com/connect/yoga-blog/using-essential-oils-in-your-yoga-practice/

[3] http://www.care2.com/greenliving/frankincense-and-myrrh.html

Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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[Yoga Series #1] Yoga for Foot Health

Our feet are our foundation. We often use language like “take a stand” or “stand on your own two feet”; phrases that represent our feet as an action of autonomy, and one of independence. Our feet create a stable base for us to live our lives.

Much of this is covered during yoga. I love my regular yoga practise and it really is something that unfolds over time, and is always a journey of self-discovery. It helps me listen to my body and thus get to know it. But I have recently found that my focussing more attention to my feet during my practise can really make such a huge difference to the poses and what I get out of my practise. If my feet are positioned correctly and active, then everything else follows.

So let’s look at the feet in yoga and see this in action. Being a reflexologist I’m always interested in feet! So below are a few poses I’ve selected especially for the feet.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) This pose is all about grounding through the feet, feeling the earth energy pulling us down but at the same time our cosmic energy pulling us up through the crown. Working with this pose will over time give you a great sense of stability, just like a mountain, and this largely comes through focussing on the feet. Spreading the toes and lifting up the arches while simultaneously grounding the foot down into your mat.

Thai Goddess Squat Pose. This pose is an intense stretch of the foot flexor muscles on the plantar of the foot. Start on your hands and knees with your toes curled under. Gradually over time decrease the weight bared by the hands and shift over to the feet until you are in an upright position. The intense stretch can be painful and intense for the toes so don’t attempt this if you have any contraindication in your toes or feet. This stretch also works into the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon. It is a great foot strengthener. Start of with holding for just a few seconds and progress over time.

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Tree pose. This is a balance, and no matter where you have your other leg or foot lifted, the grounding foot and leg is always going to get a good workout. Concentrating on the foot here is crucial – the positioning of the foot must be good to maintain balance and prevent toppling over!

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). This is a great overall stretch for the body, both a resting and active pose, however if you concentrate on your feet during this pose it will open out a new level of discovery. Once I’m warmed up and my heels start to touch the mat, this is where focussing on grounding through the feet and toes, but lifting up through the arches can really help with alignment of the hips and engage the root lock (pelvic floor area).

Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana. This pose is great for helping to correct dropped arches and flat feet, stretching into the foot flexors. It’s also a great stretch for the ankle. In a seated position bend one leg so that the foot is beside the outside of the hip. This can be intense for the knee so don’t attempt if your knee is contraindicated in anyway. Either sit tall for 5 breaths or bend forward at the hip holding onto the foot of the straight leg.

Please note that I a not a yoga instructor.

Read the second in this series [Yoga Series #2]: Feet are our Foundation.

Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Holistic Approaches for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40, but it can affect younger and older people too. Roughly three times as many women have MS as men. [1]

MS is when the body itself attacks the myelin sheath in an auto-immune response. The myelin sheath’s function is to insulate the nerves. When it is compromised it causes the neurotransmitters to function less effectively, slowing or blocking messages between body and brain. This creates tingling sensations, fatigue, tremors, pain and trouble balancing.

Dr Mercola states “While your body does have the ability to repair myelin naturally, this process tends to become less effective as you get older. Now, however, researchers [from University of Cambridge] have uncovered a natural option that might play a major role in boosting the repair of damaged myelin in people with MS: vitamin D.”[2] This emerging research is also presented by the Multiple Sclerosis society.[3]

I have been aware of MS right from the beginning of my reflexology career through my tutor, Julie Crossman, and her experience with her close and continued work with MS sufferers. During my training and professional career it is always the nervous and digestive systems I focus on within a reflexology session for an MS sufferer. A course of Reflexology Lymph Drainage would aim to help too from the auto-immune angle: isolating the immune system reflexes intends to boost and seek rebalance.

Delayed nervous responses such as moving a hand away from a hot surface, or weakening bladder control can be debilitating. The latter example causes further problems because many sufferers deliberately drink less to try to reduce this symptom but in doing so can cause bowel problems and constipation. Less water is not going to help anyone: our bodies need around two litres per day to carry out its vital functions.

ID-100140238My advice alongside following a healthy diet (full of fresh fruit and vegetables and a good water intake), would be to take a high quality Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement, alongside a Vitamin D supplement (ensuring you intake lots of leafy greens too), Vitamin B complex, as well as boosting your antioxidant levels. The NYRO supplements are superior because they are plant-based and organic, and are synergistic blends. Vitamins and minerals don’t work in isolation so it is important to take a good quality Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement alongside a healthy diet to give yourself a good foundation.

Reflexology can also be beneficial from an emotional angle. Dr Mercola states “More often than not, some form of hidden emotional wound can also be found in patients suffering with autoimmune diseases like MS.” This has also been my findings from other readings of the condition by Ann Gillanders. The profound relaxation that reflexology invokes can create an emotional release for some people.

[1] https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms

[2] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/21/vitamin-d-multiple-sclerosis.aspx?e_cid=20151221Z2_DNL_art_2&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art2&utm_campaign=20151221Z2&et_cid=DM93237&et_rid=1273927785

[3] https://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-research/emerging-areas/vitamin-d

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s take care of our hands

Dry, cracked, bleeding hands was something that I used to suffer with, particularly over the winter months.

Over-washing, not drying hands properly, washing with petrochemical-laiden handwash, trying to moisturise with petrochemical-laiden handcream, all contributed to the condition.

Once I started to train as a reflexologist, I knew something had to change. I had to solve this problem as my hands were going to be the tools of my trade!

Cracked skin on hands, knuckles
Cracked skin on hands, knuckles

The first thing to do is change your hand wash. Most hand washes available on the shelves on the highstreet will contain petro-chemicals: synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum. One main culprit is SLS or SLES (Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate). This man-made detergent will strip the skin of its natural oils and it leave it bare and unprotected, flakey and inflammed. You only have to do a quick google search to discover the known evils of this petro-chemical: a known irritant used in skin-testing trials; a penetration enhancer, a corrosive.

Dry, cracked skin on hands
Dry, cracked skin on hands

Next, ensure you moisturise. This doesn’t mean using a product contain petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum, parfum, propylene glycol or parabens. You will not be moisturising or nourishing your hands if the product contains any of these ingredients. Your skin might feel smooth and soft on the surface but these ingredients will not be nourishing your skin to help it heal. In fact they will be doing the complete opposite: blocking the skin’s pores and upsetting its natural equilibrium. In a nutshell, it will be making the problem worse. You might also experience a stinging sensation.

Switch to a brand that you can trust to give you a high quality product containing ethically sourced natural ingredients free from anything derived from petroleum: Neal’s Yard Remedies. My top recommendation would be the Bee Lovely Hand Wash. This is infused with moisturising organic honey and fragrant, uplifting organic orange and mandarin essential oils, to gently cleanse and subtly scent the grubbiest of hands. It is gentle enough for the whole hive, including children aged 3 years and over. It also comes in a large 295ml bottle made from recycled plastic which means it is safer for children to use (rather than glass).

Bee Lovely Hand Wash

There is also a hand cream to accompany the hand wash. If this doesn’t appeal, there are many other products that will look after your hands, nourishing, moisturising and protecting your skin, hands and nails with organic, natural ingredients.

If your hands are like those in the pictures above, you may need a product that is going to “kick-start” the healing process.

preservative-free cream, made with soothing organic Roman chamomile in a base of nourishing organic sunflower oil and antiseptic zinc oxide, helps prevent nappy rash.
Preservative-free cream, made with soothing organic Roman chamomile in a base of nourishing organic sunflower oil and antiseptic zinc oxide, helps prevent nappy rash.

The baby barrier cream is an excellent healing and nourishing cream. Although it is marketed at baby’s bottoms(!) this cream is excellent for working hands such as gardeners or mechanics, and eczema or dermatitis sufferers, and skin thinned by aging and long-term steroid use.

Take care of your hands while outside. Always apply handcream and wear gloves in cold weather. Make sure you dry them thoroughly after washing, and always moisturise afterwards. While at home have a bottle of wash and lotion next to each other at the basin to encourage good habits.

 

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Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Chicken Pox: A Mother’s and Therapist’s Perspective

My youngest daughter has recently contracted the common virus known as Chicken Pox (herpes varicella-zoster).

The virus can cause a high temperature, loss of appetite and the well known spots or rash. The spots start off looking like red spots, then they blister and finally scab over.

Once the blisters have scabbed over the child is no longer contagious, even though the scabs are still present and can still look alarming, particularly to other parents! They can take up to two weeks to fade and disappear.

Chicken Pox
Chicken Pox

During the blistering and early scabbing stages in particularly, itching can be pretty debilitating. My daughter didn’t try to scratch the spots but just stood there and cried in despair! At this point I used Calendula and Oat lotion. I chose this over the “traditional” calamine lotion because I always want to avoid synthetic preservatives that are found in many products nowadays.

Calendula and oat lotion is deeply soothing and calming, with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to this, it also contains Stellaria media (Chickweed) extract, a traditional herb renowned for cooling and soothing itching or red skin: ideal for Chicken Pox.

Chickweed
Stellaria media (Chickweed)

We had only one full day of itching and feeling miserable in general. I used the Calendula & Oat lotion regularly during this day, as well as giving her an oat bath. To do this I simply put half a cup of organic porridge oats into an old sock and knotted the top. Then I placed it under the running water when filling up the tub.

calendula_oat

I genuinely believe that the two above remedies reduced the time of itching and discomfort for my daughter (and subsequently me!) and am now prepared for my older daughter to contract the virus too!

In addition to the above, I really wanted to give reflexology, however my youngest daughter is very much a person who knows her own mind and would not be persuaded. I would have liked to give some short and gently zone therapy with emphasis on the thymus and lymphatics to help the immune system fight the virus, and the solar plexus for calming. My older daughter is more welcoming to the therapy and she is already receiving reflexology regularly in the anticipation of catching the virus.

It should go without saying, that in addition to topical lotions and medicines such as paracetamol, what the body needs the most in situations like this is water, and plenty of it.

Now that the worst is over for my youngest daughter, I am now applying Organic Rosehip Seed Oil to reduce any potential scarring. Rosehip seed oil contains vitamin A, vitamin C and the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, which are fantastic ingredients to encourage skin rejuvenation, moisture replenishment, and healing.

rosehip

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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What can we do for Eczema?

Eczema is dry, itchy, flaky, red and inflamed skin (and sometimes worse). It is largely a chronic condition meaning that it is long-lasting and can be controlled but not cured.

Those suffering with eczema usually suffer also with other conditions such as asthma and hayfever. This is because they are all types of allergies; the body has an inapproprate allergic reaction to antigens that are usually harmless (e.g. animal hair, pollen, dust). When the body reacts in this way it releases huge amounts of histamine which then causes inflammation, itching, sneezing, wheezing etc. It is usually the immune response that causes the damage to the body, not the allergen itself. (1)

So what can we do for eczema, and why do people suffer with eczema? I believe it has a lot to do with the gut. If we don’t have good gut health then the toxic overload is too much for our bodies and the skin will try to help by excreting those toxins. Remember that the skin is an outlet as well as a protective barrier and receptor. So cleaning up diets, eliminating processed foods, sugar, caffeine etc. and increasing the intake of vegetables and water is going to have a profound effect in the long term. I think we all have room for improvement with our diets!

But in the shorter term something is needed to apply to the skin to reduce the symptoms and give relief. This is particularly true for children whom are a large group of atopic (hereditary) eczema suffers.  Any petroleum-based products are not going to do this. The skin might feel soft and moisturised initially but after continued use the product will block the skin’s pores, causing imbalances in the skin’s natural equilibrium and resulting in even more problems.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its replacement, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are both known irritants. Beware of products labelled “sensitive”. Many products on the market are full of chemicals that have no place on the skin. However, most people can tolerate them. For those who can’t, the manufacturer removes the problem chemicals, and replaces them with some that are actually worse, on the basis that the customer is unlikely to react to both. (2)

The following products are those which myself and colleagues have seen to be helpful with treating eczema:

NYRO baby balm. This balm protects and calms the skin with a combination of gentle, moisturising ingredients, including olive oil, coconut oil and shea nut butter. Apply as required to affected areas. One mother kindly shared these amazing photographs of her daughter’s eczema, before and after using the NYRO baby balm for 6 weeks.

eczema before

eczema after

For small patches of eczema or dermatitis, consider the NYRO Stellaria Cream  which is fabulous at reducing itching. Chickweed, a traditional herb renowned for cooling and soothing itching or red skin, is the active ingredient in this formula.

Another fantastic product to try is the anti-inflammatory and deeply soothing Calendula and Oat Lotion, which is suitable for extreme dryness and sensitive skin.

calendula_oatOne particular customer has experienced great success with seemingly uncontrollable eczema by the daily application of organic virgin coconut oil. The Neal’s Yard Remedies coconut oil is raw, unrefined, unbleached, and processed without heat to retain its unique balance of nutrients. Applied directly to the skin, coconut oil makes an extremely effective conditioning treatment, gently soothing dry, sensitive skin or scalps.

As a reflexologist, I am very much aware of the power of stress and what it can do to the body. If you are suffering with eczema it could be exacerbated by stress, or vica versa. A course of reflexology might help the situation, calming the sympathetic nervous system and in turn stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and allowing the body to regain a state of relaxation and homeostasis. During the reflexology sessions particular emphasis would be paid to specific reflex points, particularly those of the digestive system, endocrine system, lymphatics and immune systems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the lungs are linked to the colon; they share the same meridian. This ties in with the commonalities between eczema, asthma and hayfever, and highlights another reason to look to improve digestive health. They are both organs of elimination.

Along with a cleaned-up diet, a cleansing and healing supplement such as aloe vera juice and/or beauty oil might also be used to help with the healing and replenishing process.  Aloe vera juice is an excellent digestive tonic. Beauty oil is a blend of avocado, hemp, flax and evening primrose oils.

(1) Ross & Wilson Anatomy & Physiology  in Health and Illness. p371

(2) Closed discussion thread

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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What’s all the fuss about Parabens?

Parabens – what are they? Why are more and more manufacturers labelling their products as paraben-free? Why is paraben-free so important? One of my customers asked me these questions this week and so has spurred me on to write this (previously promised) blog post.

ID-100115115Parabens are synthetically made chemicals, derived from petroleum, and are produced very cheaply and used by the beauty industry to increase the shelf-life of products largely to prevent fungal growth within products. The individual ingredient usually ends in paraben e.g. propylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and less commonly heptylparaben, isobutyparaben, isobutylparaben, benzylparaben.

There is an opinion that the amount of parabens in each product is so tiny that it is negligible to the potential risks. This opinion is flawed because it does not take into consideration the very nature of personal-care products allows for daily exposure to these chemicals and the continued and gradual build up of toxicity within the body. What are the effects after prolonged and repeated use?

Parabens, once entering the body, mimic oestrogen, thus creating imbalance in our endocrine system. As they are fat soluble, so they are stored within our bodies. The absorption of substances through the skin and mucous membranes is particularly disturbing, because the body’s normal filters, the kidneys and liver, are bypassed.

Oestrogen mimicking is a concern because even the smallest amounts can disrupt the normal hormonal balance of the body. Oestrogens are known to be a cancer trigger. So one could deduce that increased levels of oestrogen in the body could be a potential cause of cancer. This is why parabens are linked in particular to breast cancer, as studies showed that parabens have been found, intact, within breast tumours. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/radiation-chemicals-and-breast-cancer/parabens.html

Parabens are also known as a reproductive toxin causing infertility issues, generally from low sperm count. Some countries have enough doubts about their safety that they have been banned in product use, especially for children’s products.

Beware, though, of brands labelling their products as “paraben-free” when they have switched the parabens for another synthetic and potentially hazardous preservative, simply to save the brand name over concerns of health risks to the consumer. But this is for another blog post.

So you know how I’m going to summarize don’t you? Use a brand that you can trust. Use organic. Use natural. Use Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic.

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Reflexology?

Many of my clients ask me, “what made you want to become a reflexologist?” and this is certainly an interesting question.

The short answer is that it just “came” to me. I woke one morning and knew that this is what I wanted to do.Feet together

Building up to this answer, I enjoyed regular reflexology during my first pregnancy. I always found it hugely relaxing, and liked the thought that by having reflexology my baby was receiving benefits from the treatment too. However, even back then, I still believe reflexology came to me; it found me.

I was introduced to Dr. Gowri Motha’s Gentle Birth Method by my yoga teacher, and was enlightened to improving my lifestyle and well-being in order to optimize my pregnancy and to give birth to a healthy baby. Throughout the book, each week of pregnancy gave information and advice and included here were various recommended complementary therapies. I wasn’t able to afford every treatment it suggested (however tempting it seemed!) but the one that leapt out at me was, yes you’ve guessed it, reflexology.

My reflexology training is hugely rewarding and satisfying. I have a greater understanding of the human body,  not just anatomically, but also those deeper aspects such as stress, emotions and thought processes – they each impact on our physical well-being and should not be underestimated. Taking an holistic approach to healing is something of which I am particularly passionate. I doubt I will ever stop learning and developing my knowledge and experience on this incredible journey.

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Image copyright Jackie Marsden 2016