How to Glow Part 2 - Yoga and Green Smoothies are Not Enough

I grew up on a healthy diet. My mom denied me sugary cereals (then it felt like major deprivation), would rather be caught dead than have pop in the house, and had no idea what Kraft dinner was (although dinner was her craft). I was also always active. I began dancing when I was 5 and lived and breathed it until I found yoga at 24 (which I then lived and breathed). So for the average person I was a picture of health as I had the biggies of diet and exercise down pat.

However, I relied on coffee to get me going in the morning and a glass of wine or more to wind me down at the end of the day. I was addicted to sugar and struggled with low energy, anxiety, stress, overwhelm and intermittent depression.

So when I began to delve deeper into yoga I had a sense that it might be the path to a healthy mind and a happy heart to match my relatively healthy body. And while I would leave a yoga class blissed out and feeling calm and centered, it wasn't long before the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors found their way back to the forefront and my mind would slip back into patterns of discontent and not-enoughness. When I had kids I dove even deeper into my practice to seek solace when my life became 100 times more difficult.

While yoga gave me innumerable tools for dealing, and provided temporary relief from the dissatisfaction I was experiencing, I still felt something was missing.

Now if you’ve been on the path of yoga for a while you’ve most likely stumbled upon Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga. And eventually my path led me to my Ayurvedic teacher. Initially my interest in Ayurveda came from a desire to empower myself with holistic remedies for colds and other common ailments to take better care of myself and my family, and to learn more about kitchen medicine and using food to heal. But what I didn’t expect was the power that simple habits would have on becoming more established in a state of ease. I never thought knew how amazingly effective my daily routine would be in making me more patient, more calm, more content, more balanced and more grounded. I respect my body more and care for my mind in a way that never occurred to me before.

Until recently I was repelled by the phrase “self-care” as it seemed new-agey, hippy-dippy and only fitting for crunchy granola types. But the more I actually practice self-love in the form of taking deep care of my body/mind/heart, the more I whole-heartedly embrace the concept of self-care as a way to appreciate and honor this precious gift of life. The simple daily habits I’ve outlined below have created a strong foundation to allow me to weather the storms of life, the challenges of parenthood and the obstacles that never cease with a sense of grace, love and acceptance.

  • I wake up around 5:15-5:30 without an alarm. I set a positive intention for the day and count my blessings
  • I check out my tongue and scrape it clean and wash my eyes to start the day with a clear perspective
  • I drink a quart of warm lemon water to flush my system and evacuate my bowels
  • I do my daily yoga and meditation practice
  • I give myself a nurturing oil-massage and then shower
  • I make a green smoothie to fuel myself with plant power
  • I spend the rest of my day taking care of my kids, teaching yoga, health coaching, preparing meals, running errands and tending to my business
  • At the end of my “work” (I hardly consider it work!) day I eat a light, plant-centric dinner around 6pm
  • I play with my kids (lately jumping on the trampoline) and get them ready for bed IMG_3651
  • Once the kids are in bed it’s my time again. I end the day with a hot tub followed by a second oil massage, a foot massage in bed and a good book, or if it’s been a particularly full day, some yoga nidra (conscious relaxation) or meditation and then go to sleep by 9:30

“The key to becoming world-class in your endeavors is to build your performance around world-class routines. It can be difficult, even futile, to predict or control what will show up in the middle of your workday. But you can almost always control how your day starts and ends. I have routines for both.”  ~ Darren Hardy from The Compound Effect

Inquiry practice: What about you? Are you making time for self-care? What do you need to do to take better care for yourself? Do you have daily rituals that seat yourself in positivity and provide balance to the demands of your life?

I coach students into these healthy body/mind/heart habits. I would love to talk to you about how you can bring them into your life. If you're ready to upgrade your lifestyle and your daily routines I would love to help. Set up a time to talk to me here and let’s chat about your current challenges with self-care and get you on track to creating a lifestyle you love and living into your full health potential. Don't wait if you're serious about changing the trajectory of your health – I'm only opening up my schedule for free strategy sessions for the next 10 days, then school is out for summer and I’ll be outside tending my garden and playing at the beach! I can't wait to talk to you so you can start feeling your absolute best : )

How to Glow Part 1 - Coffee and Tapas (not the Spanish small plate kind)

Two months ago I gave up coffee after being a lifelong (well, since adolescence) coffee drinker. When I started studying Ayurveda I learned that coffee might not be the best thing for my fiery nature. In Ayurveda the basic principle is like increases like, and opposites balance. Adding coffee (a stimulant) to my already stimulated life is a recipe for burnout. Not to mention I like my coffee with chocolate almond milk (another stimulant), which meant I basically started the day with sugar which would guarantee I would have cravings throughout the day. So after three years of thinking about quitting, I finally did. So last week my husband showed me this NY Times article about the benefits of coffee and how there's no scientific proof that it's bad for you. But I knew, deep down, that it's not good for ME. But the article was compelling and I entertained the possibility of indulging every once in a while.

A few days later I went to the farmers market and there was the cutest little coffee truck with specialty coffees such as Nitro cold-brewed coffee and other enticing choices. I paused and read the menu, seriously considering this might be a good time for one of those "once-in-a-while" indulgences. But I hesitated. I decided I would make my rounds at the market and circle back a second time and make my choice. So a few minutes later I returned to the truck, a stood in front contemplating my decision. I'm proud to say that this time, I walked away.

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Let me be clear that before I go any further I don't always make the best decisions. However, I was very proud of myself for aligning with my highest self  in that particular moment.

There's this cool word in Ayurveda that means "crimes against wisdom". Prajnaparadha is when we do something against our better judgment and do things even when we know they aren't good for us (like eating or drinking things that aren't good for us). According to Ayurveda, going against your intuition and common sense is the root of all disease, sickness and imbalance.

So why do we continue to make bad choices?

Basically there are five reasons (let me know if you can think of any others!):

  1. discipline
  2. commitment
  3. lack of structure or plan of action
  4. motivation
  5. lack of community support.

Tapas (not the Spanish word for small plate kind) is a Sanskrit word that means "fiery discipline". It's the inner motivation that keeps us focused on what is important and the fire that fuels our desire for change. It's our intense determination and burning yearning for transformation.

To tap into tapas, we have to know the "why" behind our desire to change. I gave up coffee because I want to be as healthy as I can and feel as good as possible. Our intention is everything. When we're clear about why we're doing something, we can always come back to it when we're in a crux time (like my moment in front of the coffee truck).

We all want to be happy and healthy. We are want to feel good and on purpose. When we realize that this is dependent on our ability to be disciplined to make the highest choice - in every moment, we might be inspired to cultivate some discipline.

happiness

Here's the thing. We have a zillion choices to make each day. It could get quite exhausting to ask ourselves, with every decision: "Does this bring me closer to where I want to go or take me further away? Is this choice in alignment with my highest self, or my patterned, egoic self?".

I don't know about you, but wherever I can streamline my life so I can free up brain space is incredibly valuable for me. The solution - create healthier habits. When we automatically eat better food, do our daily mindfulness practices, exercise and take care of our bodies, we are not only healthier - but we don't have to consciously make those kind of decisions - we just do them.

Now creating healthier habits - that's a whole other ballgame. The conundrum - starting a habit takes some tapas. The upside - keeping the fire of tapas burning once it's started requires much less effort.

Habit change is now the focus of my work (both personal and professional). If you want to talk to me about how to create healthier habits, I would love to hear about your highest aspirations for health and wellbeing. Set up a free 30 minute strategy phone session with me here.

How to Glow Part 2 coming soon...

Mind over Matter & Matter over Mind

How do you create wellness? If you define wellness as health + happiness, our wellness is a product of our physical health and the state of our mind. Our physical health affects our state of mind, and our state of mind affects our health.

So in order to cultivate wellness, we need to go at it from the physical (what we do with our bodies) and the mental (what we choose to focus on).

From the physical:

Studies have shown that the way we hold ourselves affects how we feel mentally. There was a study at UC Berkeley that proved that depressed people found relief by grinning for 20 minutes a day. There's also been studies done on body language and how "power poses" positively affect our sense of self worth. We know from experience from our yoga practice that even a few minutes on our mat can shift a bad mood. Or as yoga teacher Darren Rhodes always says:

"Shape shift to state shift". 

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And you can influence your state with the mind:

Have you ever had a daily gratitude practice? Numerous studies on the topic of positive psychology show how regularly counting your blessings can make you not only more optimistic, positive and happy, but also strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, makes us less bothered by aches and pains and helps us sleep better. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health.

One of my favorite yoga sutras is IV.15: vastu-samye chitta-bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah. It means, in short - the world appears according to how YOU see it. When we focus on the good, we experience life as beautiful. When our glass is always half empty, we'll never have enough.

How do you want to live? What kind of an experience of life do you want to have? I make it a daily practice to reflect on the things I'm grateful for because I know how easy it is for my mind to slip into negativity and lack. My wellbeing depends on it.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ~ Albert Einstein

We can almost guarantee that we can feel our best when we combine daily physical practices with mental ones to put our wellness in our own hands.

Do you have daily rituals that put you in a positive headspace and self-care habits to keep you healthy? I would love to talk to you about how you can optimize your days and feel your absolute best. Let's make a plan to talk. Set up a time here. (don't forget to click "confirm"). I look forward to talking to you.

 

 

Letting go feels good, giving away feels even better

Six years ago I took Max (at the time only 6 months old) to visit my sister in Nepal during her study abroad program with the School for International Training. I had done the exact same program 11 years earlier. flickr_130

My travels in Nepal changed my perspective forever. We trekked through eastern Nepal through remote villages and slept on the mud floors of the villagers houses who took us in with open arms and fed us dhaal bhaat (rice with lentils) for literally pennies. I trekked to Annapurna base camp - the tenth highest mountain in the world and saw the most magnificent views in my life. I spend months exploring the various Buddhist and Hindu temples in Kathmandu and around and attended my very first yoga retreat where I did my very first cleanse.

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I have so many beautiful memories and was touched so deeply by the warm, open people of Nepal. It saddens me so much to see the devastation that's occurred from the earthquake. If I could I would pack my bags and go and help. However, it's just not possible for me at this time in my life. So I'm trying to help in other ways. You can too.

This Saturday, May 9th from 11-4pm, Barb Vermassen and I are hosting a clothing and book swap and shop at my house. I've been wanting to do some major clothing and home purging so it's been very timely. This is a perfect opportunity to do some spring cleaning for a good cause! Please donate clothes and books you no longer need and do some shopping for yourself! All the proceeds will go directly to Earthquake relief.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure".

Oranj Fitness is also offering several classes next Tuesday, May 12th by donation for Nepal. One of those is my Foundation Flow at 5:15.

When you travel to a place like Nepal, you realize how little you really need. The people of Nepal are happy, kind and incredibly generous. Many still live in houses without running water and electricity and with wood burning stoves in the middle of their living room. Yet, they are completely content.

Look around. Notice how much you do have. Sometimes we get stuck in feeling like we need more, that there's not enough, like we're lacking in some way. We are so fortunate. We have more than enough.

We ALL can afford to give a little and make a big difference. When we give away, we get so much more in return.

xo, Dana

Spring Salads for Dinner

As we move into spring I've been craving more salads. These spring season salads are perfect for a lighter dinner. Roast Cauliflower and Grape Salad

Heat oven to 500. Roast a cut up cauliflower for 20-25 minutes.

Dressing: whisk 3 T olive oil, 1 T sherry wine vinegar, 1 T honey.

Toss dressing with 2 T capers, 1/4 c toasted pine nuts, 1/4 c grapes sliced in half, 2 T chopped parsley and roasted cauliflower

 

Three Pea Salad from The Forest Feast

1 c snow peas, 1 c peas, 1 c pea shoots, 1 T lemon zest, 1/4 c chopped pistachios, 1/4 golden raisins. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and honey

forest_feast_05

 

Fennel, Arugula, Apple and Smoked-Trout Salad with Horseradish Dressing

Ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill

1 1/4 teaspoons white wine vinegar, divided

2 cups arugula

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

2/3 cup smoked trout or smoked whitefish, coarsely flaked

1 red apple thinly sliced

Preparation

Whisk sour cream, 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, horseradish, dill, and 3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar in small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Place arugula, fennel, and onion in medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide salad between 2 plates. Top with smoked fish. Drizzle horseradish dressing over and serve.

 

Brussel Sprout Quinoa Pear and Chorizo Salad from Small Bites Sweet Treats

1 lb brussel sprouts

½ c quinoa

2 Bosc or Anjou pears

3 oz chorizo (optional)

½ c arugula

Preheat oven to 400

1. Boil 1 c water and add quinoa and ¼ tsp salt for 20-25 min

2. Toss brussel sprouts w/ 3 tbs EVOO and ¼ tsp salt and bake for 20 min

3. Sauté chorizo in 1 tbs EVOO for 3 min

4. Toss quinoa, brussel sprouts, chorizo, pear and juice of ½ lemon with arugula

Girls Gone Wild

My other title is: Why YOU Should Eat Your "Weedies"

Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of eating my weeds, or put more politely “invasive species” by my Ayurvedic teacher Cate Stillman. I was intrigued but didn’t know where to start. Three years ago after having accrued my very first garden, I was a raw beginner and didn’t know an invasive species from a cultivated one. But I was curious and the desire was there to learn more and integrate these superfoods into my diet (more specifically my green smoothies). Over the past few years, foraging has become more widespread and is picking up speed - and for good reason! Below are a few of my reasons for eating my “weedies”:

It’s free. My husband calls me “depression-era Dana”. I hate wasting. I squeeze my toothpaste tubes to death. Organic produce is expensive! You have an abundance of chlorophyll-packed greens right in your backyard!

It’s environmentally responsible. Take eating “green” to a whole new level. Wild-crafting is local, sustainable, seasonal and organic (provided you don’t spray your yard) AND your carbon footprint is non-existent.

It’s healthier. Farmed veggies have less phytonutrients than their wild ancestors and weeds that haven't been subjected to thousands of years of selective breeding.

It’s detoxifying. Green = clean. Leafy greens are bitter and many have pungent and astringent tastes which, according to Ayurveda, help clean the blood and detoxify the bodily tissues.

It’s stress-relieving. A stroll in nature is one of the best ways to ground and calm yourself.

It’s retro. Channel your hunter-gatherer ancestors. It’s the real-deal Paleo diet!

It’s life-affirming. Foraging connects you to the abundant nature of the universe and cultivates gratitude and appreciation for earth’s many gifts. It fosters trust in the fact that you are supported by life.

Are you ready to take a walk on the wild side?

Mild, entry level weeds include: lamb’s quarters (contains more protein, calcium, and vitamins B1 and B2 than cabbage or spinach) lamb's quarters

Purslane (has the highest amount of absorbable heart-healthy omega-3 fats of any edible plant AND scientists also report that this herb has 10 to 20 times more melatonin—an antioxidant that may inhibit cancer growth—than any other fruit or vegetable tested)

purslane

and chickweed (high in protein, liver decongestant, dissolves cysts, appetite suppressant)

chickweed

 

For the more daring: dandelion (excellent liver and kidney detoxifier, ranks in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value):

Dandelion-emoedgars-sxc.jpg2_thistle (liver detoxifier) and nettle (great for spring allergy prevention) **use gloves and blend or sauté lightly.

How to eat them: Blend them into a green smoothie, add to salad or sautéed greens, make superfood “greens” powder (see below) or bittersweet treats (see below).

WILD GREEN SUPERFOOD POWDER FOR WINTER (DRY IN SUMMER OR FALL) by Cate Stillman

De-Stem  & Dehydrate at 110 degrees (or spread on your trampoline in the heat of summer), until crisp:
1 lb dandelion leaves
1 lb lambs quarter
1 lb thistle
1 lb nettles
1 lb chickweed, or whatever else you have too much of!
Once the leaves are dry you may choose to put them in a coffee grinder or vitamix to make a powder. Store in a dark glass jar in a cool cupboard.
Add teaspoon of this powder in your smoothies in the winter.

BITTERSWEET TREATS a brilliant idea from Celeste Davidson: Dried cherries (or other dried berries or raisins) wrapped in dandelion leaves

This beautiful book is an excellent guide and cookbook to inspire you to go wild : )
feasting-and-foraging-1

 

Itch and Scratch

There's a Buddhist concept called shenpa which is taught by Pema Chodron using the metaphor of an itch and a scratch. When you have an itch, your instinct is to scratch it. But when you scratch, it itches more, and thus begins the vicious cycle. On the other hand, if you've ever resisted the urge to scratch, you've noticed that the itchiness lessens and eventually fades away.

In the case of shenpa, the itch is when a negative feeling or mental state arises, and we indulge ourselves to find relief.

I was thinking about how the itch can be a like a bad habit (chocolate after meals). When we give into it, the addiction is re-enforced. But on a day of particularly high willpower, we might be able to resist the temptation, and the craving goes away.

In yoga philosophy, the itch is like a samskara, a groove in our subtle atmosphere. Like deep tire tracks in a muddy road - sticking to the lines makes for resistance-free driving, forging a new path takes more skillful navigation and heightened attention.

I like this teaching of the itch and scratch in theory. I love metaphors and this one works. However, not scratching an itch is much easier said than done (or resisting the lure of dark organic chocolate-or any other habit that you're trying to break). Willpower is a commodity that runs out and isn't always there for us. (Hence the failure of every diet in history).

How do we sit on our hands to stop ourselves from scratching the itch?

Having recently immersed myself in the art and science of habit-change, I picked up a few tips:

1) Recognize that scratching will only make matters worse - and do you really want a scar? You must be invested in not scratching. You've got to value yourself enough to feel that you're worth more than an inflamed, irritated, red patch.

2) You need to commit to a better alternative - like calamine lotion (or a lovely naturally sweet tea to replace the chocolate)

3) Start meditating and doing other mindfulness practices (like the Buddhists do who came up with this teaching and practice mastering their psychology), so that you can put some space between the itch and the scratch and recognize it for what it is - a default pattern that doesn't serve - or a deeper need that's going unfulfilled - and forge a new path. And discover that the sweetness we seek is not found in 70% dark chocolate (well, maybe temporarily).

Lifestyle for Rebels

Lifestyle for Rebels is a way of living your daily life on your terms. It means prioritizing your needs and taking care of yourself because only YOU know what's best. It's being your body's best authority. It's about living with more integrity by aligning your daily actions with your highest intentions. And by syncing up, you step into the next level of your life's purpose. Six and a half years ago when I had my first son Max my life changed. I went from living a charmed life as a full-time yoga teacher in NYC to a stay-at-home mom in Kelowna. Not only was I navigating this new life of parenthood, but I was also having to adjust to living in a small town after a lifetime of being a "big city girl". I felt like my life was not my own. If you have kids, you can probably relate to that sentiment.

The thing that I struggled with the most was feeling like I had no control over my life, that I was living life on someone else's terms (my kid's, my husband's), I felt completely stuck in a life that seemed out of my power and that I was just "getting through".

Then I began studying Ayurveda, which is considered the sister science to yoga. The word Ayurveda means the science of life. The tools I learned helped me take ownership of my life, it helped me learn about myself in a whole new way, it helped my begin to prioritize my needs, take care of myself and quite frankly love this life.

The tools I learned are so basic and simple but were not part of my upbringing. I grew up watching my mother cook, clean and drive us kids around. She was busy ALL the time! I never saw her take time to take care of herself. I got through those first few years of parenthood by distracting myself with busyness. But the busyness was driving me to burnout. I got to the point where I knew I couldn't continue because when you're exhausted and run down, you have little patience for those around you; and if you have kids, you know how much patience is needed to be a good parent!

How I live the rebel lifestyle:

I'm figuring out how to be in the driver's seat of my life and take charge of my wellbeing.

I've learned how to read my body like a book and to give it what it needs.

I've created my own rule book for my body and my life with the boundaries I set on how to take care of myself.

Are you? Or are you living the status quo? The things I see as being the status quo these days are the "too busy" syndrome, the coping with alcohol, caffeine, drugs, sugar, Facebook, netflix, TV, internet. It's all the confusion about what's the best diet with paleo, low carb, low sugar, vegan, vegetarian, high protein, raw foods, supplements. It's the constant looking outside of ourselves for the answer to our health and happiness.

Let me be clear that I am by no means perfect and have it all figured out. But I am getting better at finding fulfillment through my daily habits. I know what works for me and what doesn't, and most importantly I'm living with better body integrity.

What's your body integrity?

Do you honor your body's signals for fatigue? Or do you override them?

Do you respect your digestion? Do you cooperate with your body's hunger/satiation cycles? (only eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full)

Do you feel stuck in outdated habits that are no longer in alignment with your health goals?

Do you have old relationships that you feel you've outgrown or ways of being in those relationships that no longer fit with who you want to be now or in the future?

Do you think you should meditate, do more yoga, make better eating choices but can't find a way to make it happen?

This stuff doesn't come easily. Even though you might know what's best for your body, there's often a disconnect between your knowledge of what's best for your body and the pull of your daily habits.

Knowledge alone isn't enough. Knowledge is power, but deeply engrained habits have a lot of momentum.Trying to stay motivated doesn’t work - motivation is fickle and unreliable. Habits are hard to change. Maybe you don't have a support system of people who will bolster and encourage you because they don't want to be left behind! And then there's the ego, who always gets in the way and doesn't want us to change and comes up with lots of very convincing reasons why. Maybe you feel like you're not even capable of changing and living at 100%.

Change IS possible. Thriving is your birthright.

You can step into better body integrity with the daily practices of Ayurveda. Learn the better body habits from my free talk here. These Ayurvedic practices are about maximizing life. They are about synching your daily rhythms with the rhythms of nature so there is more flow and ease in your life. They are about learning more about yourself, your constitution, and your tendencies so you know how to bring yourself back into balance with the right foods and the right lifestyle practices. They are knowing how to take care of yourself on all levels: body, mind, heart and spirit.

These daily habits empower you to become your best caretaker and immensely improve your quality of life.

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."-John C. Maxwell

I didn't figure this stuff out on my own. I wish I had these tools when I first became a mom. I'm eternally grateful to my teacher for sharing this knowledge. These essential body habits will help you thrive for a lifetime.

rebellife

 

If you want to live the rebel lifestyle, and are ready to transform your habits, join me for your health revolution with Align and Thrive. Find out more here. You only get one body.

Bondage and Yoga

Sneaky title huh ; )

 

I recently got back from a family trip in Mexico. Before I left, I decided this time I would commit to my daily morning yoga practice while I was on vacation. In the past there when times where I would keep up with my asana practice , and then there when other times where I never did so much as a downward dog. So the day before I left, I went to Lululemon and purchased a travel mat that I could stuff into my suitcase. When I arrived to our hotel I put it out as a reminder to step onto my mat each morning. And I did. (see a video of my morning practice at the link at the bottom of the page).

 

There are certain habits that I've come to think of as my "non-negotiables" (like my daily yoga practice). After feeling and noticing their positive effects, I've made them a priority in my day-to-day life.

 

Once you recognize the value of certain practices, the next step is creating strong boundaries around them to guarantee they happen. Otherwise, you fall victim to circumstance or other people's schedule and demands.

 

In the Tantric Yoga tradition there is a belief that we are inherently free (in Sanskrit, the word is svatantrya ). We are free to act, speak, and think in whatever way we choose. The problem is we often don't take ownership of that freedom.

 

I might be going out on a ledge here but I'll just assume that we all want to be free. We all want to feel in control of our thoughts, words and actions. But how often does the pull of old habits or old friends or family (damn peer pressure!) take us in the opposite direction of where we want to go? How do we take back our power and live in alignment with our highest intentions and deepest desires so we can know our own freedom?

 

One of my philosophy teachers Douglas Brooks would always say, "Yoga is to bind oneself exquisitely". It's through creating meaningful boundaries and a strong container around what we value and what is best for us that we can truly experience our freedom.

 

Yoga is a path of exquisite bondage - Douglas Brooks

 

When we commit to what we hold dear and cherish, we are solidifying our freedom of choice. On the other hand, when we're bound by other people or external circumstances, we give up that freedom. In short, we fall victim.

 

Appropriate boundaries create integrity - Jewish proverb

 

Creating boundaries doesn’t come easily. It takes discipline to stay faithful to our promises. Boundaries require inner strength and taking a stand for what's important. They ask you to take responsibility for your health and happiness. It requires that we first know what we need and then make it known to those around you (boundaries are as much for you as they are for your relationships-I made an arrangement with my husband to watch the kids so I could do my yoga practice). Owning our freedom requires effort. Once we do the work of defining and strengthening our boundaries, we can experience our innate freedom.

 

Contemplations:

  • What are the non-negotiables in your life? What self-care practices do you know you NEED to feel whole?
  • Who do you need to inform about your boundaries in order to make them happen?
  • What boundaries do you need to create ?

#lifestyleforrebels

 

Here's a peak into my morning practice:

Lagunamar Flow 2014 - Small

 

How to actually achieve your goals and the best decision I made this year

As the end of the year approaches there's a tangible pull to create new goals and set intentions for the year to come. There’s a natural momentum and desire to improve and upgrade as we turn a new leaf and begin a new year. January, which marks the start of our calendar year, is itself named for Janus, the Roman god with two faces. One face looks to the past and one looks to the future. I have a personal tradition this time of year of journaling wishes and dreams and choosing which seeds to plant, nurture and grow in the upcoming year. I also go back and read the goals I set the previous year to see how well I did.

What I noticed is-

Wishes and dreams alone aren't enough.

Trying to make changes on your own rarely works.

Doing the same thing I've always done gets me nowhere new.

What does work?

Enrolling people to support me and hold me accountable is extremely effective.

Trying something new yields different results.

Finding a guide or teacher puts you on the fast track to growth.

For example; A few years ago I realized that I needed and wanted to do more as a yoga teacher than just teach drop-in classes and a few workshops here and there. I didn't consider myself a “popular” teacher but wanted to reach more students. I began to do research on my own. I signed up for newsletters galore that inundated my inbox and quite frankly left me feeling more overwhelmed than informed. I was certain that I could do it alone. You can get everything you need and want on the internet right? It was a lonely and frustrating path. I learned a little, but it didn't amount to much.

Then I realized I needed a mentor. I wanted a guide who could give me the step-by-step instructions and lead the way. I’m a mother of 2 young boys with less than 2 hours a day to myself to work on my goals and passions. I didn't want to waste any more time.

I surrendered. I invested in a mentor. I enrolled in a course. And let me tell you…I will never look back. It was the best decision I made this year.

So…the moral of the story.

If you want change, if you’re ready to transform, don’t kill yourself trying to do it alone. It just doesn't work. Change is a bumpy road and hard to navigate. We need teachers with experience and training. We need community who shares our struggles and are looking in the same direction. It’s not only the most effective way, but the most fun.

So if your goals for 2015 include living with less busyness and more balance, taking care of yourself with nourishing food and better daily habits, or finally starting a meditation practice, join me next Saturday, January 3 at 3pm at the Heart School for a free talk on 8 daily habits to move you from stress to ease. Don’t waste any more time trying to figure it all out by yourself. Let’s come together and make a change.

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Immunity Boost - How to Build Your Ojas

Stress is an immunity-sucker. When we’re stressed we often don’t take good care of ourselves and are more likely to get sick. Also the busyness of this time of year can cause some of us to burn the candle at both ends and deplete our inner resources of energy – also known as ojas. Ojas is the Sanskrit word for “vigor”. It is the life-sustaining vitality that promotes immunity in the body. It is the fuel that sustains your physical body, brings clarity to the mind and balances the emotions. According to Ayurveda, ojas makes you healthy, well rested, light in body, clear in mind, energized, enthusiastic and centered. Building ojas is like filling up your gas tank and creating insulation from sickness and the holiday madness. Top tips for building ojas:

  • Eat pure, unprocessed, fresh, and seasonally and avoid heavy and difficult to digest foods
  • ojas
  • Daily exercise. Move your body for at least 20 minutes upon waking to clear the channels. It will also help with the next point:
  • Optimize digestion. Eat 2-3 meals a day and try not to snack in between. When you space your meals your body can completely digest your food and fully build up your digestive fire for your next meal. Fast on warm water between meals. When you eat, do so slowly, undistracted and while sitting in a calm setting. Include all 6 tastes. Here are my favorite winter salad recipes.
  • Daily meditation. Just as space is essential for food digestion, we also need space to digest mentally. Take time daily to sit in silence and connect to being-ness and learn how to not be sucked into the drama of your too-busy life. Start with one minute a day. Choose a point of focus such as your breath or a mantra. I recorded an intro to meditation here.
  • Self-massage for self-love. Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage with oil. Oil is likened to love in Ayurveda. This nurturing practice insulates your nerves and is deeply grounding. Use the best quality sesame, sunflower, almond or coconut oil you can find.
  • Get enough sleep. How to here.
  • Go outside. I’m quite fair-weathered but I can’t deny that time in nature always nourishes and refreshes me – no matter what the temperature. I’m thankful for my daily walk to pick up my son from school – I probably wouldn't spend too much time outdoors if it wasn't for that. Find a way to spend some time in fresh air every day.
  • Love, laugh, play, serve others. Tis the season to connect, celebrate and give. Snuggle with your loved ones, reconnect with old friends and distant family, put on some Christmas music that doesn't suck and have an impromptu dance party or immerse yourself in a warm bath with candles. Take time daily to relax and enjoy this precious life.

Sweet dreams are made of this...

I love sleep. I've always been a good sleeper. On the other hand, when I don't get my 8 hours, I'm no fun. I know the first few years of my boys' lives were so challenging mostly because of the lack of adequate sleep. Besides being a miserable %*$@# - the negative effects of sleep deprivation are vast and include weakened immune system (increase in autoimmune issues), a decline in mental and physical performance, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellness. What enough? Generally speaking, experts agree that 95 percent of adults need to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night to function optimally. And the best time to get that sleep is between the hours of 9pm and 6am. The hours before midnight count twice as much as the hours after.

Over the past few years of studying Ayurveda, I've come to understand more about sleep, how to set up the right conditions for restful sleep and the best times to get it. Below is your recipe for a good night's rest:

Avoid caffeine. If you must have your morning coffee, stick to one cup and don’t have any caffeine after noon. I recently gave up my nightly chocolate and noticed that I was tired much earlier than when I was having my after dinner sweet.  My new bedtime is 9pm and I LOVE IT.

Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex. Make your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and relaxing. Remove any traces of work (phones included).

Power down an hour or two before bed. The light from computer screens, televisions, and phones can hinder the production of melatonin, which means your body isn't preparing the hormones it needs to enter the sleep phase. Don’t try to catch up on work at night as it can be too stimulating and increase your stress levels.

Eat an earlier, lighter dinner. Our bodies aren't equipped to digest large, heavy amounts of food late at night. Try to eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day when bile production is high (plan ahead to make this happen-this is a great recipe to ensure you have healthy, hearty lunches for the week), and try not to eat dinner or drink alcohol after 7pm.

Relax before bed. Lately I’ve been doing yoga nidra every night and I sleep like a baby. Here is a 9 minute audio I made for you. I also give myself a foot massage every night once I get into bed. If you feel physically tense, try this 13 minute shoulder opening practice. A hot bath with some relaxing tunes or dip in the hot tub also does wonders for restful sleep.

Ayurvedic warm spiced milk. Try this natural sleep aid before bed: warm a cup of your favorite milk. Add a pinch of the following spices – cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric. Here’s another one. Savor…

Bed by 10. If you stay up past 10 you move into pitta time (element of fire and energy of digestion) and will get your “second wind” and most likely start to get hungry and partake in late night snacking – NOT GOOD! Also, if you're in bed by 10 you can get up by 6am. When you wake up after 6am you move into Kapha time, which is slow and heavy and you’ll have a much harder time getting out of bed. I've also found that if I get up early (recently 5:15), I’m not rushed and stressed in the morning and I have enough time to get everything done – including my morning yoga practice and daily meditation. And I'm much more fun to be around : )

Sweet dreams

A few winter salads and THE KEY to feeling satisfied

Have you ever noticed times when you eat that you can eat and eat and eat and never seem to feel full or satisfied? Most likely what you were eating only had one or two tastes. Lately when I eat I do a little check-in to make sure my meal includes all 6 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent). In Ayurveda, incorporating all six tastes in every meal aides with proper digestion and helps nourish and satisfy the body and mind, and reduces cravings and overeating.

Here's an easy guide to the 6 tastes:

Sweet: carbohydrates/grains, rice, bread, sweet fruit, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, milk, oils, meats, nuts Sour: citrus fruits, yogurt, alcohol, vinegar, cheese, tomato, raspberries, strawberries Salty: all salts, celery Pungent: garlic, onion, ginger, wasabi, black pepper, cloves, cayenne pepper, horseradish, salsa, jalapenos, all spices Bitter: coffee, rhubarb, tumeric, most green and yellow veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, leafy greens, cabbage Astringent: fruit peels, leafy greens, blueberries, cranberries, beans, legumes, peas, green tea, raw apple, pomegranate

Here are a few winter salads that fit the bill. They are delicious, nourishing and deeply satisfying!

Butternut, Apple and Pomegranate Salad from True Food by Andrew Weil

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (sweet) 2 T EVOO 1 t salt (salty) and black pepper to taste (pungent) 6 oz(9 cups) mixed baby greens (bitter) 1 apple, fuji, gala, cored and sliced (astringent) 1/2 c Balsamic Vinaigrette (sour) 5 oz goat cheese, crumbled (sour) 1/4 c walnuts, toasted and chopped (sweet) 1/4 c pomegranate seeds (astringent)

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or foil. Toss squash with olive oil and salt. Arrange in single layer on prepared sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, until squash is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Toss mixed greens, squash, apple and Vinaigrette. Top w/ goat cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds

 

Warm Winter Vegetable Salad

1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges 1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces 1 small beet, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces  (all the roasted veggies are sweet taste) 3 T EVOO Salt and freshly ground pepper (salty and pungent taste) 1/4 cup walnuts (sweet) 1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar (sour) 1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice (sour and astringent) 1/2 t Dijon mustard (pungent) 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley (bitter)

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss.

Eat in a quiet, settled atmosphere and enjoy the different tastes dancing on your tongue : )

Yoga for Rebels

Growing up, my mother was quite the rebel. I was, like I'd imagine most kids are, embarrassed of her. My family was quite different from the conservative republicans that surrounded us in Houston, Texas. At the time all I wanted was to be like everyone else. As a child I was insecure and shy. I never spoke up and lived life as a people pleaser, always telling them what they wanted to hear. The only time I felt free was when I danced and performed, which I did until I found yoga in 2000. Through the practice of yoga I've come to know myself more deeply. When I became a teacher I learned how to speak up. Through introspection and self-observation I'm finding my voice.

I've done a lot of self-inquiry in the last year as I clarify what exactly yoga is to me and what I am offering as a teacher. As yoga explodes there has been so much talk about what is "real" yoga. Although the conversation has gotten quite exhausting, it has prompted me to ask myself that same question. There is no one answer, as there rarely is for the difficult questions. In this case for me, asking the question has been more important than finding the answer. We each need to decide for ourselves what yoga is, why we come to our mat, and what we want out of our practice. The question invites us to dig deep beneath the surface and dive into the most profound inquiries of who we are, and what we hope to do in this life.

What I've discovered for myself is that I value integrity. I desire authenticity, creativity and diversity. I've come to realize that my mission is to inspire others to own their individuality, to be themselves fully and embrace every part of their being with love and acceptance.

Now I also realize this isn't easy. We need to support each other and release our judgement. We need to work together to create an environment that embraces differences. In whatever way we can, boost those who are being themselves. We also need to be willing step out of our own box and challenge the status quo, to venture in the unknown and try something new. We need to be vulnerable and brave enough to speak our truth, to follow our heart and do our dharma. The world needs each one of us to be more uniquely ourselves.

Champion the right to be yourself; dare to be different and to set your own pattern; live your own life and follow your own star. -Wilfred Peterson

p.s. I'm no longer embarrassed of my mom. She is a true inspiration of someone who makes her own rules and crafts her own life. I'm so proud of her and so grateful to have her as a role model. xo

 Yoga for Rebels. Oct 18

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Strong Back Soft Front

your task This quote was the inspiration behind the theme of love for my recent back-bending workshop. Love isn't something outside of ourselves that we need to somehow "find".  Love is a state of being.  Love lies at the center of our existence. Love is what we are.

Rumi invites us into the inquiry: where we are blocking ourselves from experiencing love? As human beings we have a deep desire for love and connection. We also have a deeply embedded fear of rejection and shame. However, the problem is; the only way to open our hearts and to create a meaningful connection is to allow ourselves to fully be seen.  We have to be willing to be vulnerable and exposed in the face of that fear and doubt. We have to let go of how we "should" be in order to be who we are.  We have to love ourselves enough to know that despite our flaws and oddities, that we are worthy of love.  I heard somewhere that a student once asked a teacher "how do you open your heart", and the teacher replied: "you never close it".  Somehow, we have to build our capacity to stay open, to be boldly authentic and live a life of courageous integrity.  We have to cultivate the strength to bravely be ourselves, to be imperfectly perfect and see the beauty in every flaw. We have to risk getting hurt, risk failing, falling, being rejected and judged.  Once we accept ourselves, and receive ourselves with an open heart and an open mind, our self-love becomes an invitation for others to do the same.

Zen Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax put it perfectly in this quote:

"All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that's flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that's soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet - strong back and soft front - is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.

How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly - and letting the world see into us." - Joan Halifax

A New Year pep talk

It’s January and time for a fresh start, time to make resolutions, set goals and intentions for the New Year. I’ve been particularly engaged in this process because I've decided to really go for it this year – to aim high and dream big. It’s a scary process venturing out of your comfort zone, but I've always been a bit of a thrill seeker so I get a rush out of stepping into unseen territory. I met with one of my friends and marketing mentor in November to ask the big questions of what I want, what my vision is and what I’m here to do – in other words: what’s my dharma? So I went through a process of self-inquiry, re-visiting what I've already done and love. Then the next question is: with what I know and love, how can I best SERVE? One of the most profound teachings I got from the Landmark Forum (thanks Lulu!) which I attended in December was: whether or not you achieve your goals and what actions you take to work towards them is directly related to how big, wide, deep and meaningful your goal is. The goal has to be bigger than you and for more than just yourself. You need a powerful answer to the question: HOW COME (why do you want what you want and desire your goal)? What’s important that’s outside of YOU? That is the passion that will fuel your effort; which is the next ingredient needed to achieve your goals.

Success in any realm comes with consistent, persistent effort, or abhayasa.

"Abhyasa (practice) is a dedicated, unswerving, constant, and vigilant search into a chosen subject pursued against all odds in the face of repeated failures, for indefinitely long periods of time."- B.K.S. Iyengar

I came across this Ted Talk by Angela Duckworth that outlines the formula for success: GRIT = passion + perseverance.

It’s practice and love that brings success--not IQ, natural talent, circumstance, etc. (we're really good at making all kinds of excuses for not following our dreams). It’s trying and trying again, despite all the challenges and obstacles that will get you there.  Show up like someone who has already achieved your goals would. So I've been making lists, putting action steps in my calendar, working on staying organized and procrastinating a little less. This year will be busy but I’m excited and ready to do the work. Stay tuned.

So what do YOU want? Why do you want it? What do you need to practice to get there? Stop making excuses and start doing the work. And keep at it and stick to it. And when you fall, get up and try again. Start NOW.

Conscious Christmas: Handmade Gift Part 2 - Easy Homemade Buckwheat Bag

Thank you Rhonda Winterbach for contributing this blog post! This quick and easy homemade heating bag is filled with buckwheat.  Heat in the microwave for a minute or two and you have an instant heating pad for relaxing after a hard day, aching muscles, neck pain and cramps. Or place it in the freezer for an instant cold pack! Here is a basic tutorial of these nifty little therapy bags. Enjoy!

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Materials:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Fabric of choice (preferably an organic cotton)
  • Sewing thread
  • 6-8 cups of Buckwheat
  • Scissors

Method

  • Fold a 20 by 14 inch piece of fabric in half lengthwise, right sides facing.
  • Iron fabric to create a defined crease.

1

  • Sew long side and one short side leaving approximately ¼ inch edge

2

  • Fold the open end about ½ inch and iron down

3

  • Turn bag right side out and push out corners with a pointy hand tool
  • Fill bag with desired amount of buckwheat (approximately 6-8 cups)

4

  • Sew the opening with a top stitch
  • Done!

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Conscious Christmas: Gift Guide for Yogis

Here are my top picks for great gifts for yogis. Make a CD of your favorite yoga tunes

To inspire a home practice and great resources for teachers: Sequencing guide and Yoga Resource Manual

 

This book was a gift and I always find great poems in it to support my themes in class: Risking Everything: Poems of Love and Revelation

 

One of my favorite Jivamukti teachers Ruth Lauer-Manenti who is known for her story-telling, compiled a book of many of her dharma talks in these two books. I'm getting one for myself for Christmas: Offering of Leaves and Sweeping the Dust

 

A gift certificate to their favorite yoga studio, or a private session with their favorite teacher.

A donation on their behalf to a charity that supports something that’s close to their heart. One and that keeps on giving:

 

A self-care package. Put together a nice woven basket with some homemade body butter or massage oil, bath salts, tea, and some organic dark chocolate.

 

Conscious Christmas: Handmade Gifts Part 1

Hands down, handmade Christmas gifts are the most meaningful. When you take time out of your busy day to create something for someone you care about, it's always a win-win in my experience. It's so much more gratifying as the giver and so much more appreciated as the receiver. I've come up with quite a big list to draw from and even enlisted the help of a great friend of mine, Rhonda Winterbach, another mother of two little boys (coming in part 2). We hope these ideas inspire you to get your creative juices flowing. For a family member (from the kids): Decorated picture frame. Michael's sells all the supplies you need: plain wooden frame and crafts such as buttons, beads, plastic figures for decorating. Get a cute photo of the kids printed, lay out all the fixin's on a table and let the kids go to town! Get some letter beads and string on the kids' names, use tacks or glue to connect the string to the top 2 corners of the frame.

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For your significant other: Up-cycled chalkboard picture frame. I found the frame at Value Village and bought chalkboard spray paint at Michaels. In your best handwriting, write your favorite quote, song lyrics or poem.

gift 1

For a friend who likes to cook: Recipe Book. Collect your favorite recipes and put them in a pretty recipe book or binder.

For the kids: Felt Games. I'm doing this tomorrow! I can't wait : )

Butterflies

Fish Pond

Christmas Tree

Flower Garden

Autumn Leaves

Dinner Plate

Rainbow

Jack-O-Lantern

Faces

For a girlfriend: Handmade Body Butter. My friend Monique made some for me and it's DIVINE! She's also selling them and donating the proceeds to the Kelowna Hospice and Palliative Care.

For a chocolate lover: Love in a cup. Get a nice BIG mug and fill with ingredients for Maca Spice Hot Cocoa (makes 4 servings) (recipe below). In a separate bag, fill with 4 Homemade marshmallowsMake a label that says: "Warm 1 cup of your favorite kind of milk, whisk in 3 Tbs of mix, top with homemade marshmallow, snuggle on the couch with your favorite book and ENJOY!"

  • 8 Tbs raw cacao powder
  • 4 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 5 tsp maple sugar

For the foodie there's always: Homemade cookies, Granola, Spiced nuts and Truffles

For the plant-lover: Mini Succulent Garden. See how to here. I might make one of these for myself : )

Mini Succulent Garden

If you have any good ideas let me know! Happy crafting : )

Conscious Christmas: Gift Guide for Mini Yogis

The mad rush of shopping season is officially upon us! Here are some of my top picks for gifts for kids. In general, I try to avoid plastic, commercial brands (if possible), electronics and battery-operated and gimmicky things (I find they usually only have one use and the kids get bored of it quite quickly).

These books are not only engaging for the kids but have a deeper yogic message and are just as entertaining for us. IMG_0859

The Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton, Elmer by David McKee, If... by Sarah Perry, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, Ganesha's Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel, The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, and anything and everything by Dr Suess!

My kids are currently obsessed with puzzles. On any given day the entire living room floor is completely covered in puzzles. I'll take not being able to walk without stepping on a puzzle piece to having my child glued to an ipad anyday. IMG_0863

Rainbow Kids Yoga Cards 

Top Quality Wooden Building Blocks - worth the investment. Shure ArchiQuest. I think Melissa and Doug make something similar.

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Crafts, crayons, markers, watercolors, colored paper, homemade playdough and anything else that encourages them to make art.

What they're getting this year: Hape Quadrilla - marble railway

My friend Tara has a lovely tradition in her family for the holidays. The kids collect some of their toys to donate to the Salvation Army for their gift hampers. "It teaches the children to share with those less fortunate and to let go to receive. It's actually an exciting activity! This year it's big for a 4 and 6 yr old to say they are okay with giving their xmas gift we were to give to them to another child/family. This is the true gift in giving and will serve them in their life as it has for me. " - Tara Pilling

If YOU have any good ones I'd love to hear them and would be delighted to add them to my list! Also, if you have any alternatives to physical gifts, I would love to hear them too.