Yoga & turning inward

Happy Saturday my friends. What will you do with this beautiful day? I just hiked with my mom… I am so lucky to have her near me, both of us be fit and capable of hiking, and live in a place that is seventy plus degrees in winter. I am filled with gratitude as I reflect on the beautiful morning we had connecting & being in nature.

Yoga with Mamma

That said, I want to apologize for my absence. I committed to a post per week when I started this blog last year. I have been closer to a post per month since the holidays. It’s that balance thing again. On the one hand I love getting sucked into the latest project or relationship and soaking up all the beauty of the present as I immerse into FLOW. On the other hand, I do not want things I love or value to fall to the wayside. Can you think of a time you experienced FLOW?

In positive psychology, FLOW, also known as ZONE, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields, though has existed for thousands of years in other guises, notably in some eastern religions.

-Wikipedia.org

For now, I am accepting my sporadic posting & relishing in abundance of other joys in my life. I still intend to set more goals around & improve my blogging skills in the future! Baby steps. I recently had coffee (no, tea actually – delicious tea with steamed, fresh almond milk & honey) with a dear friend who generously shared some amazing insights into the blogging world. Have you heard of SEO? New concept for me, but totally logical. Anyways, I am rambling off topic, just to say, I have much to learn about the online & blogging world.

Warrior Woman Yoga

In my absence from posting, I have been looking at my life and identifying areas I want to give more attention. I am learning that to grow, achieve my goals & realize my full potential I must emphasize personal development. Refuse to be stagnant or unchanged. Always challenge myself to become a better person. So I have been looking inward. Working on improving the consistency of meditation, my anxiety is alleviated and sense of peace elevate. I have a better understanding of myself, feelings & desires when I take the time to be quiet and listen. Check out my post on meditation for more on what I do in my practice.

Lotus Meditation: Yoga on John

But lately, it has been yoga. I love yoga – the safe place of self-love that is my mat, the joining with others for greater peace within & worldwide, the strength that shows up when you least expect it, the calming of the inner chatter that mindful breathing encourages… I could go on and on. I have been trying out a new hot yoga studio this month & enjoying the new faces, challenge & re-commitment to this practice. I left my previous studio in the summer to get outside more to hike, develop my personal practice further & save on the costs of going to a studio.

Yoga in Solitude

All this yoga has been encouraging and reminding me to look inward. My recent introspection has given me greater confidence in who I am & the goals I am setting for this year and beyond. When regularly looking inward and simply being with myself, I find grounding, purpose & confidence.

Yoga with an Open Heart

Another cool thing about yoga – it is for everyone. There is no room for judgment of the self or others. Yoga holds a different experience for everyone yet brings us together. Most studios have free intro classes, so if you have never tried a class I encourage & challenge you to do it! Get outside your comfort zone – this is where change will happen! Even if you don’t go to a class, just starting the day with a couple loving stretches or winding down the evening with a mini bedside practice can make a big difference in your peace, your day & your life.

Celebrating with Yoga

Lastly, here is one of my favorite people finding some balance & strength in yoga…

Early Morning Yoga

Chocolate Chia Pudding & Confessions of a Sugaraholic

Your hormones, taste buds and brain chemistry have been hijacked by the food industry. Not metaphorically, but biologically.

-NY Daily News: “Sweet poison: How sugar, not cocaine is one of the most addictive & dangerous substances”

Sugar is an addiction. The above article opens by stating: Sugar is the new tobacco. Wow. That couldn’t be more true. It is extremely hard to avoid sugar even when trying. But who tries? Sugar hides in most foods on the market & tastes insanely good! Excess sugar in the diet contributes to headaches, mood swings, anxiety, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, & obesity, not to mention chronic inflammation which is at the root of many other difficult health conditions. Check out this article on America’s Sugar Addiction for some shocking facts about sugar consumption.

Despite my love for all things sweet, alas, sugar is no good for the body, mind or soul. All my education, research & experimentation support this truth. I must say goodbye to sugar. Up until this point in my life, I have never been able to approach sugar in moderation. I always end up back at excess. So while some people can learn moderation, I believe I am an addict & must get clean. 100%. All in. Struggling with sugar has brought a new respect for those battling addictions to other drugs. Abstinence is hard. So hard.

I have had many nights of sneaky snacking, baking & eating entire batches of cookies (that’s normal right?), finishing off the ice cream at breakfast & repeatedly seeking comfort from food during the ups & downs of life. As someone who values preventative wellness & knows healthy eating is the foundation for a vibrant life, these cycles of overindulgence have come with guilt, self-loathing & predictable sugar craving/binge cycles. And let’s not forget the irritability, anxiety, low energy & lack of motivation that accompanies too much sugar in the body.

There is good news though! We can take back control over our physical, mental & emotional health. I am proud to say I have been clean 10 days! That means no regular ol’ sugar, added sugar, processed foods, natural sugars (like honey, agave, maple), or grains that quickly turn to sugar. Phew! It’s hard but awesome. I don’t know why this particular detox is working, but I am feeling stronger & more empowered each day. I don’t want to go back. I will complete this 30 day challenge (part of my Thirty before 30 goals) on Tuesday, November 4th & then assess my long term plan.

Check out this women’s health magazine article about cutting sugar out in 5 phases if you want to try it out in smaller steps. For a more immediate detox, try completing a Whole 30 (thirty days of clean eating)Mark’s Daily Apple is also a great resource for cleaning up the diet & eliminating processed foods & sugar. Check out the before & after stories and photos for inspiration!

If you have a feisty sweet tooth like me… try this chocolate chia pudding recipe I whipped up tonight. It’s a great reminder that there are ways to include treats without the added sugar & junk! This turned out so delicious that I ate some for dessert & the rest will be breakfast!

Chocolate Chia Pudding (AKA Easy Chia Breakfast Bowl)

Ingredients

  • 4 T chia seeds
  • 1 c full fat, organic, canned coconut milk (less milk = thicker consistency)
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice (opt)
  • 1/4 c organic pumpkin puree (opt)
  • optional mix-ins: raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, almond butter, frozen raspberries, cocoa nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder, dash sea salt

Directions

  1. Mix chia & milk in a bowl.
  2. Add remaining ingredients & stir until well mixed.
  3. Refrigerate at least one hour (or overnight for thicker pudding).
  4. Add mix-ins of choice (I actually mixed in all the items listed above before refrigerating).
  5. Serve chilled. Yum!

Easy peasy. The fun thing about this recipe is it can be adapted to all tastes. Plus, it packs such a health punch that it can be eaten for breakfast or dessert as party of a healthy diet. Use your milk of choice. Perfect your bowl by adding in or leaving out ingredients  – nuts, nut/seed butters, spices, dry/fresh fruits coconut & cocoa/nibs. You can try an apple or blueberry pie theme. I went for a cross between chocolate pudding & pumpkin pie. The options are endless!

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Much love & strength on your wellness journey!

The International Day of Peace: September 21, 2014

Guess what?

This Sunday, September 21, 2014 is the 33rd anniversary of The International Day of Peace. I bet you already knew that after reading the title of this post. But, what an important thing to be aware of! I just found this out thanks to my local chapter of TM (read more here about Transcendental Meditation). They are organizing a group meditation for peace that I am planning to attend this Sunday.

I am looking forward to connecting with my community and meditating on peace & love. Our world needs more of these things. Meditation is a small step that we can take to find greater peace within & thus send more peace out into the world.

The president of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace, John Hagelin, discusses how meditation is a key factor in the Global Peace Initiative:

“Violent behavior is rooted in the brain. The only way to prevent violent behavior is to restore balanced brain functioning. The Brain-Based Approach to Peace restores balanced neurological functioning on the individual & global scale.”

If you are interested in reading more about how the brain & behavior are linked, or just want to better understand how you can directly influence Peace through meditation, check out the Global Peace Initiative website as it breaks down this brain-based approach for reducing violence & global conflict. It explains the science behind & reasons why every person who meditates can make a big impact on global peace.

“It means that only a few thousand individuals are needed to produce an extremely powerful & scientifically demonstrable effect of orderliness & calm in the surrounding society – even on a national or global scale.”

-Global Peace Initiative

This day encourages us all to look at ways that we can make a difference. So often I hear folks (& my own internal dialogue) talk about how insignificant their actions are or how they are not wealthy or powerful enough to make change. Every small effort we make contributes to the whole. Awareness. Action. Compassion. Love. We can all send positive ripple effects out into our universe. We must believe we make a difference.

If you want to find creative ways to celebrate the International Day of Peace  or find events near you check out the official website for more information!

I want to share some photos of places that have inspired Peace…

peace4 peace5 peace3 peace2 peace1

Fall Detox: 21 Day Whole Food Challenge

Summer seems to be blazing on as usual in California despite the onset of Autumn throughout the world. The tireless heat & bright sunshine seems to almost convince us that winter isn’t coming this year. But it will, of course. Daylight savings time actually ends on November 2nd this year. That means we have 7 weeks left to get outside & enjoy the lighted evenings. Hikes. Bike rides. Beach sunsets. Once time changes most of us will trade these outdoor activities in for cozy nights at home, cuddled under grandma’s afghan, sipping hot licorice-mint tea & reading Outlander sequels (no, just me?). The point is seize the day – literally. Get outside & cherish this beautiful time of year.

As the season changes, I like to embrace the transition with a bit of a cleanse. A fresh start. This comes at the perfect time as I have just returned from a vacation filled with over-indulgences (like eating every piece of Scottish caramel shortbread I laid eyes on) & I could use an immune booster as I am recovering from a nasty cold. With a couple supportive team mates (my brave husband & competitive office mate), tomorrow – Monday 9/15 – launches our 21 day primal challenge.

primal laws

I love Mark’s Daily Apple & his 21 day challenge – this will be the third or fourth time I have completed it. However, the goal is to get back to the basics:

  1. Eat whole foods (with lots of raw veggies!)
  2. Get active throughout the daily routine. 
  3. Practice mindfulness.
  4. Sleep well.
  5. Play in the sunshine as much as possible!

1. Eat Whole Foods – Menu for the next three weeks:

Breakfast: Chia bowls (variations of this one from Oh She Glows) OR coconut oil fried eggs (eaten over sauteed vegetables with salsa & avocado)

Lunch: Salads, salads, salads! I love red cabbage & carrot salads lately. Lot of tiny chopped veggies with olive oil & balsamic. Roast chicken on top. More avocado.

Dinner: Lamb, fish, beef, chicken. Either baked, barbecued, pan fried, slow-cooked, shredded, or as burgers eaten on portobellas. On top of (or next to) lots of veggies.

Snacks: Mixed nuts. Fruit (berries are best as low-glycemic).Teas. Kombucha. Beef jerky. *After the first few days of missing the carbs, this high fat (the good kind!) & protein diet keeps me full easily & I rarely get hungry between meals.

AVOID: grains, legumes, sugar, processed foods, packaged items, dairy & alcohol

2. Get active throughout the daily routine. 

Take the stairs. Park farther away from the office. Commute by bicycle 1-3 times per week. Utilize a stand-up work station for a least 5 hours & take 3 walking breaks during the workday. Walk to the grocery store – or anywhere within a mile of home. Try this 90 days of action workout plan & see how many friends, family & co-workers you can get to join in!

3. Practice mindfulness.

Begin & end the day with yoga – even just a couple poses. Practice headstand daily (today is day #144 of my #headstand365 challenge). Meditate twice a day. Slow down. Stop & think (ie: be less reactive, pull over to look at cell phone, etc…).

4Sleep well.

Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Drop lavender essential oil on pillow case to calm the body & mind. Use blackout curtains. Natural alarm clock (slowly brightens like the sunrise). Keep cell phones outside of bedroom at night.

5. Play in the sunshine as much as possible!

Get outdoors first thing in the morning (water plants, take a walk) & after work (hike with friends, walk on the beach). Plan group activities, games, picnics & beach days on the weekend. Spend as much time in good company & in the great outdoors as possible! Oh, & go barefoot. Ahhhh – toes in the damp grass – what a feeling!

picnic

Meditation: finding peace within

It’s Tuesday. Monday was tough. Life is tough, sometimes. It is also beautiful & wonderful. There are highs & lows. So much joy. And sorrow. Everything whirls by at such a fast pace unless we intentionally slow things down. Practice mindfulness. Live in the present moment.

I am happy I made it to Yoga yesterday. I think it had been almost three weeks since I made it to class. When I’m not going I start thinking about the wasted membership money & consider quitting. I could practice at home, right? But then I go to a class & remember. Reconnecting with the yoga community and syncing my mind & body re-inspires & motives me.

meditation

Another way I slow down and find peace within is through meditation. Before I knew much about meditation, I thought it was more of an alternative lifestyle (just for hippies, right?) and that it would be difficult to learn. My mind is usually racing with endless thoughts and “clearing” it seemed impossible. But, as stress & anxiety continued to build in my adult life, I knew I had to do something to manage it. Eating well & exercising wasn’t enough to combat the negative effects of too much stress. So with guidance (my hippie mamma who grew up meditating in the 70’s) & instruction (a knowledgeable & inspirational teacher) I began meditating two years ago.

The technique I learned was simple. Meditate using a mantra for twenty minutes, twice a day. First to start the day off right (soon after waking up) & again to transition into the evening (right after work). With education & support from my teacher I felt connected & at ease with the method. To learn more about the Transcendental Meditation technique I learned watch this short clip from Good Morning America. You can also check out the official TM website for lots of information, research & videos!

I have enjoyed many benefits from regular meditation including elevated mood, increased patience with others, more frequent feelings of joy, greater ability to regulate emotions and relief from anxiety symptoms. I am excited about the continued potential for regular meditation to strengthen my relationships, increase creativity & clarity, and be a vehicle for growth & positive change.

What I love most about meditating is that it builds inner peace & the ability to contribute to a more peaceful world – the ripple effect. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about this & gives strategies for practicing mindfulness in daily life in the book Peace Is Every Step:

Practicing mindfulness in each moment of our daily lives, we can cultivate our own peace. With clarity, determination, and patience-the fruits of meditation-we can sustain a life of action and be real instruments of peace. I have seen this peace in people of various religious and cultural backgrounds who spend their time… watering the trees of love and understanding throughout the world.

There are lots of methods out there so do some research to find out what is best for you! For me, this works. As long as I practice regularly. So, this is my committment to one week of regular meditation. Scheduling in self-care & making healthy choices a priority in our daily routine is essential. A week is short enough to be realistic & long enough to re-commit myself to a practice that brings great joy & calm to my life.

oaks in the sky

Let me know what meditation techniques you love & the benefits you have found through adding a meditation practice into your life!