Om Shanti

Hey all!

I’m a total yoga beginner, and I’m in wayyy over my head with the whole yoga teacher training thing.  But for now, I’m totally going with it and learning through the process.  I’m not here to DO yoga; I’m here to simply PRACTICE yoga.  And in doing so, learn about me, my body, my spirit, my heart, and the universe that I encompass and embody.  I have nearly 6 years of “recovery” under my belt, and so many more to learn through.  I’m trying to take this new journey as simply being part of my own personal journey, because well, it is.  Although, I must say, I’m rather terrified of the fact that I’m actually supposed to TEACH yoga.  Uhm, can I even practice yoga without losing breath?  Okay okay, talking myself back into positivity… clear negativity and toxic thoughts, be okay with where I am…

In studying for yoga, I’ve been reading a lot of new books and articles.  It’s awesome and I already feel so much more enlightened.  I feel open to a whole new world—err, universe.  And I barely know anything at this point!  It’s exciting how the universe keeps giving us more and more to soak up, absorb, and experience through.  Love it!

So, back to my point then… I’ve been reading a lot about energy/chakras and our own power to heal.  I really do believe in a lot of that, actually.  My current job has great focus in Western medicine, and though I am thankful for Western medicine and I do think it has its place, I also think that we rely far too heavily on our Western medicine practices.  And the truth is, when you don’t want a pill to quickly solve a problem, but you want to actually figure WHAT the problem is in the first place, well, it’s hard to find a doctor to guide you through that process.  Trust me on this one—I’ve been searching for years, and continue to search.  (Natural medicine can be of great use.)  But also, through yoga, I am learning that I don’t always need to find someone else to help me learn through my healing process, but that I can listen to the internal sounds, waves, discomfort, and peace within myself.  I can guide my body through its journey to health and wellness.  Again, if an emergent situation were to arrive, I (and I hope you) would seek medical attention.  But for the process that I am currently in, I am learning to breathe through my discomfort and heal with my insides.  This belief system is also a major reason why I went into the field of nutrition and dietetics.  I believe (for the most part) in healing the body with the natural power of the universe–including the food that it has produced.

I am also working towards making great strides in my own body acceptance.  When I used to practice yoga, I struggled with being present in the moment and in my own skin.  Truthfully, I didn’t want to feel my body any more than I already had to on a daily basis.  Why be present in my body, I thought.  Hell, if I can be present outside my body, I’d be a lot happier.  But since coming back to yoga and sticking with it, I am learning to let go of some of my own expectations.  I notice that there are people who are smaller and those that are bigger than me.  I have a swimmer’s body, and I’ve always struggled with accepting that.  I have broad shoulders that are square and take up space.  I always wanted to be smaller…take up less space.  But I realize, when I look around, that we all take up different amounts of space, and isn’t it glorious that we are given this chance on Earth to breathe into the space we have?  Look at the world around you–the Earth, the galaxy, the universe and beyond.  We all take up very little space when you look at the bigger picture.  The smaller I wanted to be, the smaller my spirit shrank.  And eventually, that once bright, perky, giddy, free flowing, dancing, child-like, hippy, happy spirit shrank so small that it nearly died altogether.  I don’t mean that in a physical sense—so no matter what size or shape your body is or has ever been, I think you can relate to this.  I mean it in a total spiritual sense.  My soul was caged and my spirit was small, sad, and lifeless.

Certainly, I still go through dark periods.  I know that those times will always come and go.  But the more I continue to grow and learn through yoga, with yoga, through my discomfort, and with my own body in whatever shape it decides to take, I learn see my spirit grow larger, brighter and back into that hippy, happy burst of light—and bigger than it ever was before.

That’s the real goal with yoga.  Not to see your muscles grow or your waist to shrink, and not even to see your flexibility become greater.  The real goal is to see your mind open, your heart explode with love, your emotions become more settled, and your spirit to grow brighter than it’s ever been.  I have faith in myself and in you.  As I continue down my own journey of health, wellness, and personal growth, I send you all lots of love and hugs.  Om shanti shanti shanti <3

Happy living, breathing, being, my beautiful friends xox

yoga-cat-inner-peace

Digestive Balance

How does one achieve balanced digestion? I think we’ve all read a million and one tips out there—on the internet, in magazines, in various books. We’ve also heard a million different things from our doctors, the news, and of course, from Dr. Oz. But what is best for overall health and digestion? Truthfully, there is no one answer because everyone is so vastly different. What I would recommend for one person might be the total opposite for the next. Listed below are 10 very basic recommendations. Do keep in mind, however, that if you have any specific health problems, even these tips might not be quite right for you. For example, if you have a history of diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, or IBS, these tips might need to be tweaked.

I also do believe (at least in part) in various “diets” when it comes to digestive health, and I generally pull tidbits from different mythologies. Some helpful tips can be found in Ayurveda medicine, the blood type diet, low FODMAP eating, etc. So for each individual, recommendations will vary.

SO with all that in mind, here are 10 basic tips for healthier digestion…

1.) Warm water – Drink about 10 ounces of very warm water first thing in the morning (do this before anything else.) Simply run your tap water until it becomes warm, fill a glass, and chug away. Also, drink room temperaflaxture water rather than cold water throughout the day. Cold water can slow and aggravate the digestive process.

2.) Eat seeds and bran regularly – flax seeds, chia seeds, wheat bran, oat bran. You don’t need both every day, but try to get some of each here and there. For example, add chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkle bran over your cereal, mix ground flax into your oatmeal, sprinkle any of these over a salad or mix into a rice dish.

3.) Eat more produce! Many health professionals recommend that you eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit, daily. I would say to start there as your goal, and then increase, as you can. Obviously, the more, the better. Snack on veggies, add vegetables to your morning eggs, have a salad with lunch and dinner, have fruit at breakfast or as a snack. Plant-based diets are best, so begin your meals by planning what plant foods you’ll be having. And you’d be surprised what prunes and/or warm prune juice can do for you! (Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised… I guess that one’s obvious.)

no-dairy14.) Avoid dairy. This is somewhat controversial. Being someone who LOVES dairy, it’s a hard one for me. I have read studies that have shown that children with chronic idiopathic constipation had tremendous success when the only dietary element that changed was the elimination of all dairy. In general, I would say avoid dairy if you struggle with gut problems (chronic constipation or diarrhea.) If you love dairy as much as I do, then treat yourself once in a while, but don’t consume it regularly. If you’re having bowel problems, give up dairy for a period of time to see if it helps.

And no, we don’t need dairy to get enough calcium and vitamin D. However, if you were getting most of your calcium and vitamin D from dairy, then you will need to be sure that you find other sources on a daily basis or take a supplement. (Dark leafy greens, fortified soy/almond milk, canned salmon, almonds, dried figs, tofu, soybeans, fatty fish, egg yolks.)

5.) Move your beautiful body! If your body isn’t moving, your digestion probably isn’t moving, either. Get walking, dancing, biking, jogging…whatever. It may also be helpful for you to take a *light* walk following meals for about 10-15 minutes. Do not go running right after you eat or do any stressful activity. That will compromise digestion; however, a very light stroll with a loved one may be beneficial.

6.) Practice yoga. You don’t have to take a yoga class every day, but it may be helpful for you to do a few specific yoga poses on a regular basis to aid in your digestive process. There are specific poses that would be recommended for you depending on your personal digestive process, such as constipation vs diarrhea vs heartburn, or a combination or 2 or all 3

of those. Yoga also does wonders for those of you who tend to hold stress in your digestive tract—or anywhere in your body for that matter!

7.) Practice deep breathing. Every cell of your body needs oxygen. Regular exercise and yoga help to bring oxygen throughout your body. Deep breathing exercises also help. Be conscious and aware of your breath, and practice Ujayi breath (as one does in yoga practice.)

8.) Create flavor profiles of food that work for you and your body. It’s hard for me to recommend just one type of flavor or food because everyone’s body is quite different. For example, if you tend to be constipated, I would suggest that you add warming spices to your diet, such as cumin and cinnamon. If you struggle with diarrhea, you may benefit from cooling flavors, such as fennel and cilantro.

9.) Try the squatty potty… I know it might seem silly at first, but I do think that it can benefit many people who struggle with bowel issues.

10.) Eat at roughly the same times each day. Your schedule is bound to change to some degree, but completely skipping meals or have an incredibly erratic schedule will place stress on digestion. Your work schedule may be variable, which I understand; I’ve been there, but do your best to keep your meal times within a 2-3 hour window. So most days, have breakfast between 6-8AM, lunch between 12-2PM, and dinner between 6-8PM.

And finally, to keep it all simple, be sure to get enough of the healthy versions of the 5-F’sfiber, fluid, fat, fitness, and fun :) Fiber in the form of whole grains, produce, nuts and seeds; fluid in the form of water; fat in the form of olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, olives; fitness in whatever way you and your body enjoy; and fun because without fun, we’d all be a ball of unhealthy, imbalanced stress!

Happy eating, happy pooping :-D

Homemade Energy Bars for Yoga Practice

I guess you could say a lot and a little has been happening around here lately. I feel a bit out of sorts. I’ve been super busy with jam-packed days of work, yoga, studying, errands, and the miscellaneous-ness that life throws at us all. Work is always busy, and I struggle with not letting it suck me in or get me down. It’s a process, I know, but it feels so heavy some days that by the time I get home, I have all I can do to just sit up straight and continue breathing. I’m sure you can all relate to that feeling. And with every job, there comes drama. Am I right or am I right…ladies? Yep. And that’s enough to suck the life out of anyone! Nevertheless, I am ever grateful for my job, my truly beautiful co-workers, my amazing manager, and my place of work in general.

Also, this month, I began an 8-month journey that is YTT (Yoga Teaching Training). Yes, indeed, I am studying to be a yoga teacher! I decided to take this training for a number of reasons. At first, I thought that it would open up my own eyes to a whole other side of health and wellness and how we can and do care for our bodies; and that, I believe, is INCREDIBLEY important. So, I really wanted to learn more about this area of health. I also fully appreciate yoga, and I think that it helps me in many ways—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I always said that I went into the field of nutrition because I truly believe in the power of food. Well, now I am venturing into the world yoga teaching because I truly believe in the power of our own bodies and our connection with the universe. Once I began the training, I realized a lot all at once. This training, though it will be helpful in my wellness practice and career, is really about ME. So far, in the few short weeks that I’ve been involved, I have had A LOT of negativity come flooding forth from within. I compare myself to everyone else in the class and feel very inadequate, as if I really don’t belong in this training. I am, quite honestly, a yoga beginner. What was I thinking when I decided to jump in head first into a process and journey that is bigger and deeper than anything I could have ever imaginedyoga books?! I have left classes and cried the whole way home because of how overwhelmed I feel. I also continue to struggle with fitting-in in general down here in Orlando. I have yet to make a friend in my 9 months of living here. That in and of itself is starting to take a toll on my psyche. And so with all of that being said, I have realized that this yoga journey will be much more about me than it will be about anything else.

On a side-note, I LOVE one of the books we’re reading. Wheels Of Life by Anodea Judith. It’s an incredible book about our chakras. I highly recommend it!

In other news, I’ve been jumping from one doctor appointment to another. I rarely go a week without seeing at least 1 doctor. I won’t get into any details, but I’ve been dealing with some random things that have been throwing off my own personal health and wellness balance. But I’ve been trying to meditate and breathe through the process of it all.

Various other exciting updates are on the tip of my tongue, but I will save some for other posts. I will leave off with a new recipe! I LOVE the website YouBars.com where you can create your own protein/energy bars. However, they can be a bit pricey, so I sometimes just make my own at home. Here’s the latest version I’ve been whipping up…

DRY INGREDIENTS

pro bars

¼ Cup Rolled Oats

1 Cup Brown Rice Puffs

¼ Cup Freeze Dried Berries (I use blueberry or strawberry because I like them best)

2 Tb. Cocoa Powder

¼ Cup Peanut Butter Powder/Flour

1 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 Cup Protein Powder of Choice (I use Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein, Vanilla)

WET INGREDIENTS

¼ Cup Nut Butter of Choice (I use sunflower seed butter)

¾ Cup moist & chewy dried dates

½ – ¾ Cup Water (try ½ cup and see if you need to add a little more for moisture)

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

3 Tb. Maple Syrup (or other sweeter, such as raw honey, agave, brown rice syrup)

1.) In a food processor, blend together the oats and brown rice puffs until they resemble flour. Add in the other dry ingredients and pulse until blended together into a flour mixture. Place in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2.) Into the food processor, add your dates and ½ cup water; blend. Then add in the rest of your wet ingredients and blend until a wet mix forms.

3.) Add your wet mixture into your bowl of “flour.” Mix until combined. Add in additional water at this point, if needed.

4.) In an 8×8 baking dish, lay plastic wrap down to cover the bottom and all sides. Plop your “dough” into the pan and using a spatula/your hands, pat it down into an even layer.

5.) Place in the fridge for at least several hours.

6.) Remove from the fridge and cut into 8 bars.

7.) I wrap each bar in plastic wrap and store them in an air-tight container in the fridge. They last for a quite a while; I’ve used mine for up to about a month.

Nutrition Info (for 8 bars): 194 Calories, 3.75g Fat, 79mg Sodium, 25g Carbohydrate, 3.75g Fiber, 16g Sugar, 13.75g Protein.

Enjoy!! And I will leave you with this closing of Namaste:

I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.  Namaste, and happy eating, happy breathing, happy being. xox

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but it seems as though, the older I get, the more I like them. I think that, for me, they’re not just about the new year; they’re also about my next year, as my birthday is shortly after the 1st of the year. And now that I’ll be entering my thirties, it’s time to make some goals :)

Happy-New-Year-2015-Tree

So without censoring myself, here are my “New Year’s Resolutions”…

1.) Commit to yoga and meditation

I’m starting a yoga course 1 week from today, so I’ll sort of be forced to make yoga a priority. But I need to also make it a priority in my heart and soul, not just in time. I will be practicing 3-4 times per week for 90-120 minutes each session. Other days, I will be committing to practicing 20-30 on my own. Additionally, I also commit to meditating for 10 minutes each day. Meditation can mean so many different things, so I have a wide window of choices—sitting in stillness and silence, mantras and positive focus, listening to calming music with the focus on only 1 though, watching the sun rise or set, starring at the stars and Universe, etc.

2.) Prioritize and stick to boundaries

I tend to work way too many hours, and no matter how many times I tell myself that I am not overworking, I do. I need to work towards setting boundaries so that I can meet my own personal goals. I need to commit to working out in the mornings, otherwise, I get stuck at work and give up my own health goals.

3.) Chew less gum

Yes, this is a bad habit of mine. Truthfully, it’s more than a habit; it’s an addiction. I’m a super anxious person, so chewing on something helps me to “stay busy” even when I’m not doing anything. I also tend to suck in a lot of air when I’m not chewing gum—the opposite of what most people would think. So, without something in my mouth, I get more bloated and full of air. I need to find ways to work on this addiction.

4.) Cook and bake more

I need to do more of what I love—what makes me feel happiest in my skin. And for me, that’s cooking and baking. I’ve always loved being in the kitchen, ever since I was a tiny tot. I started really helping out around the age of 4; I grew up in the kitchen, mixing, concocting, creating, baking.

5.) Make friendships

This is hard one. In 2014, I move 1200 miles away from most of my friends and family. I’ve moved before—but this time, it feels even harder to make friends. I haven’t made a single friend in the 9 months that I’ve been living here. I’m not sure how to accomplish this goal, but I suppose I just need to be more open, more spontaneous, less fearful of what others are thinking of me.

6.) BLOG more!

I’ve struggled with this one for various reasons—not prioritizing at work, simply not making the time, being so rundown that I can’t focus long enough to contemplate a post. I also place heavy, high expectations on myself. If it isn’t perfect, why bother? And I do that with this blog, too. So then I end up going long stretches without a post because I feel like it just won’t be good enough. I need to write freely without the personal expectations. Let it flow and let it be.

7.) Speaking of which, I need to write more in general.

8.) Body acceptance

Of course I struggle, just like everyone else. But I need to let myself eat healthy, let my weight go where it will, and let go of the self-judgment, fear, anxiety.

9.) Stop comparing self to others

For some reason, I think I do this more now than I did even a year ago. Moving to Florida has somehow made me feel even more self-conscience. Maybe it’s my job, my loneliness, my lack of personal support/friends, the gym I go to. Whatever it is, I need to STOP. Some ideas for how to stop include: more positive thinking, having mantras, recognizing and redirecting thought patterns.

10.) LOVE MORE :) Myself, others, and the world around us!

So there’s my honest list. What are yours?

Whole Food Eating: Post One

I am going to begin what will be a series post on why I believe in “whole food” eating. I will explain my opinion in regards to various topics, including but perhaps not limited to disease prevention and management, mood balance, psychological health, and mental wellness, digestive care and bowel habits, and body image. This will be an opinionated series that is meant to help others move towards whole food eating for health and wellness purposes. Living in America can be tough when it comes to making balanced choices, but it is not as hard as we think it is. I counsel individuals on a daily basis regarding how they can begin to make changes in their own dietary habits to move towards a more balanced way of eating.  If you are currently regularly consuming fast food and processed food-like products, I would not expect you to eat a completely whole food-based diet right off the bat.  But rather, this series of posts, and this blog in general, is meant to make you and everyone take a look at their eating habits, their mental health in regards to their food relationship, and learn to make some changes that would better themselves and their well-being.  And lets face it, there is truth in supply and demand—so if more of us demand availability of whole foods, we might just see the supply. So here goes…

 


 

Let me begin by stating: I’m not a fan of the “clean eating” trend that has swept across our country, globe, Internet, and blogosphere. That being said, I am obviously a fan of whole food eating. Please refer to blog title. Is there a difference, you ask, between “clean” eating and “whole food” eating? Well, by George, yes, I answer! Personally, I equate “clean” eating with “good” eating. If your food is not clean, then it must be dirty in some way—or bad, wrong. I disagree with labeling food as good or bad, so that’s why I tend to disagree with the clean trend/fad. I believe that it can make one think a little too hard about their food choices—is this product clean, clean enough, too many ingredients, too few, too many carbs, too little protein, too much sugar? I think that when we place a heavy emphasis on a weighted word, such as “clean,” we inadvertently place a moral connotation to the word, the food, and more importantly and dangerously—ourselves. Now, I also don’t want you to think that I believe we need to eat “whole” food 100% of the time, so don’t get me wrong there, either. But, I do think that we should strive for more of a whole food based diet. This is for maaaaaaany reasons. So, let me get started on my ‘splanin!

In this first post, I would like to speak to the mental health aspect of whole food eating. I think that we rely far too heavily on food labels. When nutrition labeleverything we eat has a label, how can we resist reading it, especially when we are told that we ought to be reading and scrutinizing the label of every product on the grocery store shelves? And yes, some people do need to pay attention to food labels, if they are buying food that has a label. However, if we choose foods that don’t even have a label to begin with, then perhaps we are altogether better off. For example, if you buy canned beans, you should read the label to ensure that you are purchasing a lower sodium or no-salt added product. On the other hand, if you purchase dried beans and you cook them yourself, there is no need for a label at all. In fact, most people who regularly look at food labels are often looking at (and obsessing over) calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. And that, my lovely readers, is just not necessary.

“Oh now wait,” you proclaim! “What about those who are overweight or obese or who have high blood pressure and need to watch sodium intake or whatever else?!” Well, truthfully, if you eat a whole food diet and you understand serving sizes and portions, you don’t need to read labels—you don’t need to count every calorie or gram of fat. For those of you who obsess over each calorie and gram of fat, I very much think you could benefit from letting go of that obsession, as well. I certainly don’t mean that in a harsh way; on the contrary, I feel for your struggle and I relate in many ways.

reading labelsMany of us scrutinize labels–which product has more calories, fat, sugar, sodium?  If you’re comparing two products, sometimes it’s hard to not scrutinize the labels, and we’re taught that this is what we ought to be doing!  The government has placed a great emphasis on label reading, and they have recently made nutrition labels larger and bolder.  They have been successful in moving label-reading into the restaurant world, as well.  Now, not only are we label-reading in the grocery store aisles, but when we’re looking at menu labels while trying to enjoy an evening or lunch out with friends/family.  We have placed such an emphasis on labels that we have forgotten that labels are VERY new in the world of nutrition and eating.  It wasn’t until 1990 that the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was passed.  This act required that all packaged foods have nutrition labels.  It also stated that all health claims must be consistent with terms defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, such as “low fat” or “low sodium.”  And in 1991, the act further explained that the labels must list the “most important” nutrients in an easy-to-follow format.  And here is when we really began scrutinizing food labels.  Truthfully, the move toward more food labeling began in 1980, when the USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) published the 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  These guidelines emphasized various “healthy” behaviors, such as maintaining an “ideal” weight.  Also, these guidelines stated that we ought to avoid too much dietary fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium.

According to NationalEatingDisorders.org, the incidence of bulimia in women aged 10-39 tripled between the years 1988 and 1993.  According to TheEatingDisorderFoundation.org, in 1970 the average age a girl started dieting was 14; however, by 1990 the average age dropped to 8.  Hmm, that seems odd now, doesn’t it?  During the years that we began emphasizing “healthy” eating habits and label reading, we saw spikes in dieting behaviors and eating disorders.  So maybe label-reading isn’t the healthiest practice, after all.

A whole food diet will absolutely still contain some food labels, but it will contain many less. Eating carbohydrates in the form of starchy vegetables, fruits, fresh dairy, and products purchased in bulk (rice, quinoa, barley, millet, polenta, rolled oats, buckwheat groats, etc.) allows you eliminate MANY labels from your home cabinets. Purchasing animal proteins from local butcher shops, fish markets, and eggs from neighbors with hens or local farms eliminates more labels. And eating more plant-based proteins also eliminates labels, such as beans, legumes, and hemp seeds. Consuming fats in their natural form eliminates yet more labels—nuts, seeds, flax, chia all from the bulk bins, and olives from the olive bar, fresh nut butters, avocado, and fresh whole milk cheese and yogurt from local farms.

By getting the labels out of our homes, we establish a healthier relationship with food and its nutrients. The human body needs macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) to survive, along with many vitamins and minerals. When we spend so much time evaluating whether a food has X number of calories or X grams of fat or sugar, we are completely forgetting about what is in the food that we truly need. For example, what do we know about peanut butter right away without even referring to a label? That per 2 tablespoons, there’s roughly 190-200 calories and probably 15-16 grams of fat. If you’re a young female, I can almost guarantee that you knew that answer right away. But what nutrients are in the peanut butter that your body craves and needs to live to its fullest potential while fighting off early aging and disease? How about vitamin E, niacin, choline, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, and omega-6 fatty acids.

Photo credit: PsychologyToday.com

Photo credit: PsychologyToday.com

THIS is what whole food eating does. It helps us to nourish our bodies and minds while working towards letting go of unnecessary obsessions over grams and calories. When we feed our bodies right, we are not deprived or over-indulged. Your body can give you more information than any food label ever could. Living without the label is a great step toward intuitive eating and the mind-body connection. Whole food eating forces us to eat natural foods while letting go of obsessions over counting what’s in the food, such as carbs, fat, and sugar. I urge everyone to get rid of as many labels as you can. If there a no-label option, choose it. Try it out and see how it effects you and your mind-body connection.