10 Ways to Eat Better for More Energy, Mental Clarity and Vibrant Health

There's a fire in your belly called "agni". Agni is your digestive ability. According to the elemental theory of Ayurveda, fire is the energy of transformation, metabolism and digestion. Another important Ayurvedic principle states that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm – as without, so within.  

The fire inside reflects the fire outside. When I say the fire outside – I'm talking about the sun. When the sun is highest in the sky, our digestion is strongest. We have the most bile, which is the fire-y substance that breaks down our food transforming it into energy or matter which can be used to create the cells of our body. 

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Agni is a big deal.  

As the sun sets in the sky, our inner fire also subsides. Bile production decreases and as a result that big, heavy, late dinner doesn't get broken down efficiently and turns into "ama". Ama is the Sanskrit word for "uncooked". It refers to the sticky, sludgy, goo that's a by-product of your undigested food. Ama is responsible for that which ails you – low energy, heaviness (in body and/or mind), digestive issues, brain fog, aches, pains, anxiety, depression, and more. Ama is the root cause of every disease. 

Ama impairs agni. When agni is compromised ama results and the vicious cycle continues. How do we stop the ama-generating cycle in its tracks and stoke our belly fire so we burn through our food and attain thriving health? 

Below are 10 healthier eating guidelines for strengthening agni and reducing ama.  

  1. Make lunch your main meal and eat an earlier, lighter dinner. Try to eat the majority of your food during daylight hours when the sun is in the sky and your agni is burning bright. 
  2. Eat real food. Processed, de-natured food turns into ama. Choose a whole food, nutrient-dense plant-centric diet that’s preferably local, seasonal and organic (when possible).  
  3. Stick to a regular schedule of 2-3 meals per day allowing 3-6 hours between meals to fully digest your food. Wait until you experience true hunger before you eat. If you're not hungry at meal times "turn on" your agni with a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of chopped ginger topped with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt 20 minutes before eating. 
  4. Drink hot water between meals: 2-4 cups upon rising, 1 cup 20 min before meals and one hour after to aid in digestion. Feel hungry even though you ate a few hours ago? 80% of the time your body registers dehydration as hunger.  
  5. When you eat, just eat. Stop, sit and mindfully, taste, chew and savor your food slowly. 
  6. Eat to nourish your body, not to numb your emotions. Emotional eating leads to overeating, eating unhealthy food or simply eating when you're not really hungry. If your agni isn't hot and ready for your food, what you ingest will turn to ama. True hunger is accompanied by grumbling in your tummy, a feeling of emptiness and a willingness to eat anything – not just chocolate. When there's an urge to emotionally eat, breathe deeply, make yourself a soothing cup of tea, call a friend or just allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of stuffing them down. 
  7. Awaken your agni with a morning routine that supports regular elimination with lots of hot water upon arising, and at least 20 minutes of breath-based exercise.  
  8. Don't overeat. If you've had a cup of water 20 minutes before eating and you eat slowly and mindfully this shouldn't be a problem. If it still is, eat from a smaller plate and aim to stop when you're 2/3 full. 
  9. Eat for YOUR body. There's so much controversy about what the best diet is – vegan, paleo, ketogenic, raw.... In reality, there's no one size fits all approach. We're all unique, complex beings. Start by simply noticing how you feel after eating certain foods. Do you experience any digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, or loose stools? If so, try eliminating that food and see if it improves.  
  10. Stress less. The parasympathetic nervous system triggers the "rest and digest" response. When you're stressed out all of your blood and energy is preoccupied with the perceived or actual threat that's causing your stress. "Turn off" your stress response before eating by getting out of your head and into your body. A great way to do this is with a few rounds of deep diaphragmatic breathing. 

Honor and nurture your agni and your agni will grace you with excellent health, vibrant energy and a clear, uplifted mind.  

The Power of Play

Dina charya is the Sanskrit word for daily routine. It’s an Ayurvedic concept based on the idea that when we align our daily cycles with the cycles of the sun and the moon, we create the conditions for balance and thriving health to naturally arise.

The daily routine includes everything from daily exercise, proper nourishment, evening wind down practices to cultivating an easeful relationship to life and doing something every day just for fun. Yep, Ayurveda prescribes play as fundamental to promoting health.

Why is it so essential that we build in activities that spark joy into our everyday lives? Well, because all work and no play makes us dull humans.

Play is something done for no other reason than it’s innate pleasure. Play has no purpose, except for the fun of it.

I once taught a workshop on handstands and I had a student approach me and ask me why we do handstands. It took me by surprise because my first thought was - why NOT do handstands?!?

She probably wanted to hear how they build overall strength, improve balance and the intricacies and benefits of inverting and reversing blood flow. Funny isn’t it, how adults need everything to have a logical reason.

My answer was simply, “because it’s fun”. It might not have been what she wanted to hear, but it was true.

Stewart Brown in his TEDTalk “Play is more than just fun”, talks about body play, which is a spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity. Handstands are a perfect example of this.

Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism (a really good book that I highly recommend) said that: "Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.” Brown echoed it when he said: “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.

He also said: “Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”

Play can unleash possibilities we barely dare to dream of. It can crack open creativity that otherwise laid dormant. At the same time, it offers lightness and liberation we often forget to seek in our grown-up lives.

We're never too old to play. In fact, George Bernard Shaw said: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing".

Even the Tantric Yoga tradition teaches that life has no other purpose other than for the play of it. This is expressed in the Lila Tandava - the playful dance of life. Life is an unfolding of creativity, of consciousness expressing itself in everything and every moment.

The Lila Tandava is an invitation into participating fully in our lives. It’s playing the game of life with curiosity, openness and acceptance for whatever is being presented in the moment. It’s an affirmation of life’s innate goodness, even amidst pain and difficulty.

It’s not taking ourselves too seriously, but having the willingness to try new things, experiment with new ideas and try on new perspectives. It’s gamifying our challenges to play our edges and expand our capabilities.

Play is a way of life. It’s an attitude and an approach to living that’s cultivated by creating a childlike wonder and curiosity towards everything. It’s choosing to be amazed and live with awe.

Like Mary Oliver says in her poem My Work is Living the World:

“Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

Join us this summer at the Play Retreat on Vis Island Croatia. 

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Once in a Super Blue Blood Moon

Tomorrow morning our night sky will be lit up by the rare "Super Blue Blood Moon". I never paid much attention to what the moon was doing unless it just happened to catch my eye. But over the past 6 years of aligning with nature's rhythms and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, I've attuned to these changing cycles and have began to notice the profound effect the natural elements have on our lives.  

This week in my Empowered Living course we're learning about moon cycles. We're talking about the 4 phases of the moon and the different energies that accompany each. I did a quick google search to confirm the exact evening of this week's full moon and discovered that Wednesday's moon is not your average full moon. 

A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence 

The term "Blood Moon" is used to describe a total lunar eclipse because it causes the Moon to turn a dark reddish color. This happens when the earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon. A "Blue Moon" occurs when there are 2 full moons in one calendar month. And not only is it a full moon, but it's a "Super Moon" which means that it will be closer to the Earth and appear larger than usual. Those of us in North America can see this one-in-a-lifetime occurrence (this hasn't happened in over 150 years) on the morning of January 31st. (see specific times here

Why should we be paying attention to what phase the moon is in? 

Our bodies are approximately 60% water. If the moon can impact the tides of the ocean, does it not make sense that it would impact the cells of our body just as profoundly? Part of living Ayurveda is paying attention to cause and effect. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. No doubt we've all experienced how a grey, rainy day draws us inwards to cuddle up on the couch with a warm cup of tea; whereas a bright, sunny day invites us outside to play and frolic. When we do this intentionally we're stepping into the current that's already pulling us. We choose to align with it as opposed to resist it.  

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How do we align with the full moon? 

The Full moon is a time of abundance, creativity, and generosity. Purna is the Sanskrit word for the quality of fullness. The full moon is an invitation into the full expression of ourselves. We feel more naturally extroverted, energized and activated. We want to harness this excess of energy and offer it outwards in a way of service, connection and celebration.  

Celebrate your accomplishments and achievements. While this should be a daily practice, this is particularly a potent time to acknowledge your efforts and recognize your successes.  

Count your blessings. Again, ideally part of your regular routine, but now more than ever bring your awareness to the abundance and good fortune that surrounds you. The full moon is an outer expression of the plentiful bounty in our lives.  

PLAY. During a full moon we're naturally drawn to connecting more with others. It's a beautiful time for intimate love-making, impromptu dance parties, gatherings with friends and crazy adventures. With increased strength and stamina, we have more capacity to push ourselves physically.  

Indulge in life's sensual pleasures. This is a time to enjoy elaborate and delicious feasts. Digestion is strong being in the "pitta" phase of the moon. You can also delight in a lovely at-home spa night with an aromatherapy scented bath and luxurious oil massage. Or pop in your favorite tunes and get on your yoga mat for a blissful flow

Begin to notice how the different phases of the moon affect your energy and shift your natural desires. Listen to your inner wisdom and honor its quiet requests. When you do, you'll live a life of more ease and balance.  

What I accomplished in 2017

I worked my ass off this year.  

Every quarter I set specific goals, laid out a plan and took action daily to accomplish them. Over the years of refining my goal-setting and time management processes, I'm getting better and better at hitting my goals on time, most of the time. While I work 6-7 days a week, I always stop working by 4pm. I'm a bit of a workaholic so my self-care habits are non-negotiable so that I don't burn out

My goals were hard-won, pushed my edges and weren't always easy – but discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.

Here's my list of accomplishments for 2017: 

It's been a great year and I plan to make 2018 even better. Hope you join me for the ride. 

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Getting to the Point.

I'm taking a public speaking course. One of the things we're practicing is eliminating filler words. Examples of filler words are um, you know, like, so, - basically words that dilute your message and make you come across as not as smart, clear or confident. Using filler words is a largely unconscious habit which makes it a hard one to quit. Awareness is the precursor to change, so once we know our tendencies, we can take steps to shift them.  

We often use fillers when we're not clear or confident. We "fill the space" while we process our thoughts and form our sentences. If we haven't taken time to refine our message, we're unsure of ourselves and hesitant so we diffuse it by using filler words.  

I was thinking about how this relates to life. Before I was clear on who I am, what my values are and what I want, I "filled" my time with extraneous activities like reading magazines and other time-wasters (disclaimer – there's nothing inherently wrong with reading magazines for pleasure if you're taking a break from the "real work").  

Over the years I've refined my direction in life and crystalized that I want to do with it. I'm more "on purpose" and my time is more intentional. I get a lot done because I know exactly where I'm going.  

One of my favorite quotes is by Tantric philosopher Douglas Brooks. He says: 

"You are the point the universe is trying to make

The invitation of that quote is to discover your dharma. What's the point your life is trying to make?  

In life, just as with our words, we want to get to the point. And state it with clear conviction - loud and clear. We want to stand strongly in who we are, speak our truth and unabashedly go for what we want. 

Everything - a horse, a vine - is created for some duty... For what task, then, were you yourself created?” Marcus Aurelius  

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How to Stop Procrastinating and Get 'Er Done!

In the last week I've had more than one conversation with several of my coaching students on how to stop procrastinating. Whether it's keeping up with course work, taking the next step towards our goals, or starting a new habit, we drag our feet when the task feels daunting. I've spent some time reflecting on this and wanted to share my insights with you. 

Why we procrastinate 

Based on personal experience and coaching my students, I've come up with 2 reasons why we put things off. The task is either not important or it's VERY important. If it's not important then we simply don't care enough to make time for it. On the other hand (and more often the case), if it's very important it often scares us. The important things (like focusing on our goals) often require that we step out of our comfort zone and into unknown territory. Humans detest discomfort and avoid it at all costs. When the time comes to step forward into our growth edge we slam on the brakes and check our email instead.  

Play the long game 

We're hard-wired to choose instant gratification over long term rewards. Mentally we know what's good for us, but in the moment, we just want to feel good. When we're building a new habit, we need to exert some effort. However, our nature is to take the path of least resistance. One way to overcome this roadblock is to 

Take a teeny, tiny step forward 

One of the methods I teach in helping people implement new habits is to make it so easy you can't say no. In a culture of all or nothing mindset it might feel pointless to take a seemingly insignificant step forward, but baby steps compound into giant results. If you want to start meditating regularly, start with just one minute a day. Another approach is 

Give yourself an out

If the task you're procrastinating feels like a big deal, set a timer for 5 minutes and tell yourself that you can quit after the 5 minutes is up. I use this strategy with coaching students trying to build a morning exercise habit. After 5 minutes you're getting your groove on and most likely will want to keep going. But knowing that you're allowed to quit tricks your mind into getting started. 

Find ways of holding yourself accountable 

One way I'm able to execute on big ideas is to tell people I'm doing it before I've even started. This is how I've created several of my courses and workshops. First, I write an outline, then I tell people about it, and THEN I actually create the course. Once I've put it "out there", I want to be true to my word (especially if people have actually paid for it). What kind of commitment device can you create to help hold you to your word? Do you need to tell someone who will keep you accountable? 

Don't pay attention to how you feel 

This is contradictory to the advice I usually give on listening to your body. However, since we've established that humans avoid discomfort, and discomfort is a requirement for growth, don't pay attention to it when it comes down to procrastinating on something you've decided is good for you. I exercise every morning, whether I feel like it or not. And sometimes I really don't feel like – but I get on my mat and go through the motions anyway.      

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The pain of putting things off is more painful than the effort needed to get started  

Once you've taken the first step it's rarely as bad as you made it out to be in your head. Guilt, shame, and anxiety are far worse than the effort required to complete the task. The longer we procrastinate, the more we erode our self-worth, lose trust in ourselves, and enforce old stories of being "someone who can't stick with anything". If we can remember this intellectually, we can just take a small step forward. The first step creates momentum. Once in motion, it's much easier to keep going.  

My number one strategy for avoiding procrastination: my Sunday planning session 

Every week I schedule a planning session with myself. I've built a ritual of going to my favorite tea shop, opening my goals spreadsheet, my Google calendar, my project management tool and planning the week ahead. (I teach this in great detail in my Do Your Dharma course). My weekly planning is key to continuously taking aligned action. Study after study shows that people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.  

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Keep score

Part of my weekly planning session entails scoring the previous week to see if I've kept my commitments to myself. I have a spreadsheet with the habits I'm currently working on automating. Everyday, I track my progress and give myself a +1 if I did the desired behavior, a 0 if I didn't. It's a very effective way to see how consistent I am. We tend to over or underestimate how much we do.  We're good at beating ourselves up and never feel like we're "enough" and we're not great at celebrating our accomplishments. A scorecard gives you a measure of reality that's undeniable.  

We all fall prey to the pull of procrastination. But with a few systems in place, and habits around getting started and taking baby steps, change is possible, and our goals, within reach.  

21-Days to Optimal Digestion Challenge

Last week I returned from a 2-week trip to Bali. The trip was amazing but I returned home with a bit of "Bali belly" (upset stomach, no appetite, constipation). After a few days of getting back to my routine and applying all the tricks up my sleeve for getting my digestion back in good working order, I'm happy to say that things are running smoothly (pun intended). 
 

This month in my Empowered Living course we're focusing on optimal digestion and strengthening agni (digestive fire in Ayurvedic speak). Digestive health is an area where Ayurveda really excels in. This ancient healing system understands that the root of all disease begins in the gut. Any imbalance can be traced back to impaired agni. Ayurveda views agni as the source of all of life and even reveres a god by the same name. 
 

Most westerners abuse their digestion by eating too much, too often, the wrong foods and at the wrong times. 60% of our energy goes towards our metabolism. So, if you're stressing your digestive system through unhealthy eating habits – you're going to experience low energy and mental dullness. 
 

Signs your digestion could use a little love: 

  • Emotional disturbances, with an increased tendency toward fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, lethargy, or depression. 

  • Low energy, weakness, or fatigue 

  • Suppressed or over-active appetite 

  • Indigestion: gas, bloating, constipation, nausea, hyperacidity, loose stools, a sense of heaviness, feeling tired or mentally foggy after meals. 

  • A tendency toward congestion in the sinuses, the lymph, or even the mind. 


If you have any of the above I would love to invite you to join the community in a 21-day optimal digestion challenge. I've outlined 21 tips for promoting digestive ease and balanced agni. Download the checklist and follow along in the Grow Strong Facebook Group. I'll be sharing articles, tips and tricks along the way to help you cultivate perfect health through strong digestion! This means you'll create a buffer against sickness as we move into cold and flu season. Strong digestion = strong immune system! 
 

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One simple 3-minute practice to become better everyday

I recently finished reading the book Triggers. As part of my work I'm always researching and studying ways to successfully create behavioral change and implement new habits. Whenever I find a new tool I get very excited and right away introduce it to my students and try it out myself. 

I've written about many of the concepts referred to in the book – like the power of your environment and the people you surround yourself with, taking baby steps, having a plan and keeping track.  

Triggers introduced me to a brilliant new way of holding yourself accountable to become the person you want to be with what he calls "daily questions". "Daily questions" is a series of questions you ask yourself at the end of the day to see how well you did with each one. You then give yourself a score between 1 and 10 for each. If you've ever tracked your steps or your weight – it's the same idea – what gets measured improves.  

What makes this technique unique and so effective is how you ask the questions. Instead of using your inner strict parent voice like "Did you exercise today?", he recommends starting the question with “Did you do your best?”. This simple but profound semantic adjustment makes all the difference.  

There's several reasons why the practice works so well.

"Daily questions" puts the emphasis on your efforts instead of the outcome. For example, obsessing with the number on the scale is the wrong way to approach weight loss. Instead, focus on the behaviors that lead to the result you're after. In this way you can put your attention on developing the habits of the kind of person who has the weight you're trying to achieve. 

In determining the questions we want to ask ourselves, we're deciding what behaviors will take us where we need to go. We're determining what we really want and who we want to become – that practice in and of itself is the first step in creating positive change. 

“The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it”. 

The daily check-in also reminds us to take things one day at a time.Incremental improvements compound into big results. By focusing on doing our best every day, we shrink overwhelming changes into manageable 24-hour bite-size chunks. 

“Daily Questions remind us that: Change doesn’t happen overnight. Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t, we won’t”. 

This commitment device also takes us out of victim mentality and assumes 100% responsibility for our actions. We will never change anything if we don't think that we have the power to do so. The daily questions remind us in our role in making it happen. 

We are the only ones who can hold ourselves accountable. It takes great courage to measure ourselves and face up to our own shortcomings. However, when we do, change is possible. 

“This ‘active’ process will help anyone get better at almost anything. It only takes a couple of minutes a day. But be warned: it is tough to face the reality of our own behavior—and our own level of effort—everyday” 


These are my daily questions:

Did I do my best to...

  • be grateful and appreciate what I have
  • exercise
  • meditate
  • do my MIT's first
  • develop new material
  • get to equilibrium zero
  • cultivate ease
  • make my courses a transformative and unforgettable experience
  • love up my community
  • not eat sugar
  • learn and develop a new skill
  • preserve and nurture my relationships
  • use buffer blocks to check my email
  • focus and be fully engaged
  • listen deeply 
  • be patient and loving with Max and Gavin


These questions have helped me live a more intentional, values-aligned and purpose-driven life. In small yet profound ways, they've helped sway me towards better choices in each and every moment. 

By the way, for all you techies - there's an app! I recommend enabling the reminder setting.

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Change your questions, change your life

What’s your wildly important goal?

Do you have one?

What’s that one thing, that if you realized it, would make all the difference??

Imagine yourself having achieved it…

What would be different?

How does it feel?

Now ask yourself…

How badly do I want this?

What am I willing to sacrifice in order to get it?

What would it actually take to attain it?

These are all good and important questions. 

Questions like these have the capacity to transform your life. 

Change your questions, change your life.

Ask the right questions, and your mind gets to work finding the right answers.

Then there’s the questions we don’t want to ask like:

What’s wrong with me?

What if I don’t have what it takes?

What if I’m inherently flawed and it doesn’t work for me?

These questions aren’t helpful.

Inquiry practice is at the heart of self discovery. It’s what I’ve used to tap into my inner guide and uncover deep desires that lie dormant inside me. Good questions are the keys that unlock doorways that open us up to possibility and potentiality. 

If you find yourself stuck, ask better questions and doors will open up where before there were only walls.

Sometimes we think there’s only one way to live our lives and to do our jobs. In those instances we haven’t asked the right questions and thus remain inside a box of our own creation.

Sometimes, one question can be the catalyst to an entirely different world.

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