Happy Weekend!

ImageThis quote is quite fitting for the weekend, as the weekend is a time when most of us can get still again. This past week was particularly busy for me, and waking up this morning to stillness and and open day has made all the difference. When I am too busy, my mind can’t open. I have to get still, to find peace and clarity. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try creating stillness, either by taking a day off, or going to a remote place to be alone. Hope you are able to see this weekend by creating space : ) Happy Weekend!

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The Benefits of Buckwheat

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With a name like buckwheat it’s hard not to think that this product is related to wheat. But in truth,  it has no relation at all. Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, who’s closest relative is rhubarb and sorrel….who would have thought? Lately we have been making buckwheat pancakes,  and just kind of assumed that they were healthier than regular wheat pancakes. Until we did some research, we didn’t realize how beneficial this food really is. There really are quite a few benefits of buckwheat but I’m just going to list several that stood out for me.

It’s gluten free! There is so much hype lately about benefits of going gluten free. Both of us tried going gluten free and discovered that, for us, the hype was true. We both felt lighter, healthier, less bloated, and just overall better.  So in our search to find healthier gluten free alternatives (especially for pancakes) buckwheat is king. There are many ways to incorporate it into your diet, but our favorite option is in pancake form!

Low glycemic index. Recent studies have shown that buckwheat may aid in helping manage diabetes. After reading the book “Wheat Belly” I was blown away to find out that a couple pieces of wheat bread can spike your blood sugar as much, or more than a snickers bar!? Buckwheat has a low GI and is a better alternative to bring those blood sugar levels down to normal.

Mood enhancer. Buckwheat contains tryptophan, which has been shown to improve your mood. Thus, making you a little bit happier. Who doesn’t want to eat something that is not also healthy but can lift your spirits as well!?

Its Chemical free!! Buckwheat grows so fast that farmers don’t have to use pesticides or herbicides. It can grow in very poor soil while also enhancing the soil quality.

Buckwheat sounds like a win win option for everyone, not just individuals who are trying to lead a gluten free lifestyle.

Top 5 Reasons to Juice!

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1.    It’s and easy way to get your greens. It is commonly known that most Americans do not meet their daily intake of vegetables and juicing is an easy way to meet those needs without all of the laborious work of cooking. Just throw a healthy amount of kale or spinach into your juice and you’re set for the day!

2.    Your skin will be GLOWING! Give it a little time but after you’ve consistently juiced for several weeks, your friends are going to be complimenting your skin and asking what’s your secret to looking great.

3.    It extends your life expediency. Studies have shown that nutrients in juice help keep your cells from dying ahead of their time, which, in return, allows them to benefit you a little bit longer.

4.    It helps restore pH balance! There has been an overwhelming amount of research lately that shows an acidic pH can lead to cancer. Normalizing your pH can help stop cancer in it’s tracks. Leafy greens and low sugary veggies will help balance your pH so if you still aren’t ready to completely change your diet yet at least you can start with incorporating a healthy juice to assist your body in that pH fight.

5.    You’ll feel much better. Who here doesn’t know that vegetables are good for you? The antioxidants and nutrients found in vegetables will have your body functioning better, you will wake up feeling more energized and your body will thank you for it. Everyone seems to want to consume more veggies and you’ll never have any regrets incorporating them into your diet!

Simple Pleasure-Doing Nothing

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Sunday was a rainy day, a lazy day. Matt and I spent the entire day inside, reading, browsing the internet, and watching our favorite movie “Garden State” for the millionth time. We had to resist the urge to go out and “do something”. I’ve noticed that if I don’t do something each day, I feel a bit worthless and unproductive (even on my weekend days). In “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the Italian attitude towards a lazy day.

“Il bel far niente means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’… [it] has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert quoted from the book “Eat Pray Love”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Geography of Bliss”, as it’s been a few years since I read the book for the first time. Eric Weiner writes about this “beauty of doing nothing” as a concept in happiness studies. He highlights this idea most beautifully through the concept of the café. Cafés, Weiner explains, are a place where Europeans can spend an entire day, people watching and socializing without an ounce of guilt. The most delicious part of this pastime is that it costs very little money, if any, but can provide you with a tremendous amount of joy, peace, relaxation, and reconnection.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels guilty spending an entire day doing nothing. So why is that? What is it about our culture that has made us feel as though we have to do “something” everyday? Why do we feel guilty spending an entire day in our pajamas, reading, drinking tea, and laying around? And, if you say “but I am too busy to take a day off” should this be so? Our culture has glorified the concept of busy, and I know I have days where I’m rushing constantly from one thing to the next. It doesn’t feel good to be too busy, to have obligations, a planned and packed schedule. In fact, when I get too busy, I begin to feel as though I’m not in control of my life. I miss the option of spontaneity. There is something freeing about having the option to do whatever you feel like doing, in that moment, for an entire day. This is such a simple pleasure; one that anybody can enjoy regardless of economic status. I’ve written about the importance of creating space in order to feel mindful, connected, or creative, in the past and the concept of doing nothing is connected to the concept of creating space. How would people’s lives change if everyone in our country took one day off a week to enjoy the beauty of doing nothing? Try this sometime and allow yourself to really enjoy the day.

Happy Weekend!

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When love is your religion, every person, every heart is an opportunity to offer gratitude, prayer, homage. Every person you come into contact with is an opportunity to spread love. It may be as simple as a smile, but remember that every interaction with another being exchanges some energy. You get to choose what type of energy you want to share. Happy Weekend.

The Importance of Setting Intention

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I was in final savasana the other day at yoga, laying on the floor, legs and arms resting, palms up to receive, when the teacher discussed setting your goals for class. He explained that not everyone will have the same goal, and that our goals can change from class to class. Some people come to yoga to get in shape, some to relax, some to connect their mind and their body, some come to heal physically and/or emotionally. Of course, yoga will give you gifts that you may have never hoped for, but it is always good to have an intention, or a goal, and remember what that goal is so that you don’t get discouraged when comparing yourself with others. You may have a different goal than the person next to you.

Matt and I have also recently gotten into the show Scandal, for those of you who don’t know this show, it is basically about a group of lawyers, working for the main character (who is also a lawyer) Olivia Pope. They call themselves gladiators in suits, and “fix” problems that need fixing (mainly hired by politicians and other power players that reside in Washington. Olivia always asks her clients what their “end game” is, meaning, what are their goals. What is best-case scenario for the end result of their work together? What Olivia is really doing is setting an intention and a goal to shoot for.

This concept of goal and intention setting is so important for life as well. What is your end-game for your day, or your job, or your yoga class, or your conversation with your husband? Setting your intentions can be such a powerful step to take prior to entering into an experience, because it gives you something to aim for. This simple step of setting your intention/goal, can also prevent you from becoming side-tracked, or disappointed with the end results. For example, I recently competed in the Yoga Asana Regional Championship, and my goals while training were focused on my postures. My intention for the competition was to provide a graceful, strong demonstration of the postures that I could perform. It was to perform my postures to the best of my abilities. There was no strategizing to score points, or maximize my overall score. However, when I checked the results of the points, I found myself disappointed with my overall point score, and feeling discouraged as I compared myself to all the other amazing yogis’ points. Timeout. My postures were awesome, and I had left the competition feeling inspired, proud, and as if I had conquered something major. My “end-game”, my intentions and goals revolved around my postures, and I had reached my goal. Reminding myself of my original goal, helped to re-frame the entire experience for me, and reminded me of what a powerful tool intention-setting can be.

Remember this very simple concept before you begin something (even something as simple as a yoga class). Some days, my goal for yoga class is to really push myself, to conquer the monkey mind that tells me “I can’t do anymore”. Some days my goal for yoga class is to have compassion for myself because I am prone to believe that I have to do everything perfectly. I often put a lot of pressure on myself in life, a byproduct of which is pain and suffering, so some days, allowing myself to sit down and rest for a posture is my goal. Some days, when my life is crazy or I’ve had a particularly negative thought process for the day, my goal is simply to be in the moment, and to connect my body with my mind. The point is, that your goals can change, and simply by setting an intention prior to beginning, gives you a purpose.

10 Tips for Bikram Yoga

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1. Hydrate before class! I like to begin hydrating 2 hours before class, and stop drinking water one hour before. This gives you enough time to drink plenty of water, and then enough time before to urinate most of it out so you don’t have to go during class. Seriously, hydrate. Your urine should be clear. Enough said on that subject. Hydration is non-negotiable.

2. Electrolytes can be a game-changer. I’m so grateful an experienced yogi let me in on this secret early in my practice. I like to take one electrolyte capsule an hour before class. Since I started taking these before class, my tendency to feel nauseated or dizzy decreased drastically. I have been using these for a couple years.

3. Breathe. Slowly. Through your nose. And with control. This is key. This is crucial. Your breath is what links your mind to your body, and if you lose control of your breath, you cannot gain control of your mind. If you notice yourself panting, or breathing uncontrollably, stop and rest until you gain control of your breath. When I first started Bikram yoga, I couldn’t get enough oxygen, ever and thus, I breathed with my mouth open. The teachers would always yell at me to close my mouth and breathe through my nose from their podiums and I thought to myself “If I close my mouth, I will die”. Eventually, I closed my mouth, and I didn’t die. Actually, I became calmer, stronger, and more relaxed. Breathing through the nose is key, even though it’s counterintuitive. Try it even if you think you might die.

4. Cold water is worth its weight in gold. A lot of Bikram devotees will tell you that cold water is a cheat (in fact the hardcore yogis skip water all together during their practice) but let me tell you, when I was first starting Bikram, cold water was a godsend. During first savasana, I would lay down, take a deep sip of cold water and almost cry in gratitude for that little treat. Many times I contemplated how amazing it was to feel so grateful for something as simple as cold water. I like to fill a 32oz Nalgene bottle to 12 oz and then stick it in the freezer, then in class I have 1/3 of the water bottle full of ice to keep my water nice and frosty. Also…don’t drink too much water at one time during class because it will make you feel sick, especially in camel posture.

5. Don’t judge. Don’t judge your practice, just try to notice where you are at (e.g. flexibility, mental strength, stress level) and enjoy yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Do your best and be present in your body. Your best today will not be your best yesterday. Everyday is different. Judgment takes you out of the moment, and out of that mind/body connection. “Judging” pertains not only to your postures, but also to your body. The mirror in Bikram can be your worst enemy in the beginning, but learn to use it as a tool to see your postures, not to compare your Body Mass Index to the girl (or guy) next to you. Use the mirror as an opportunity to learn how to love and accept your body.

6. The Golden Rule. Be a good yogi neighbor. Don’t grunt, pant or invade your neighbor’s mat. Breathing should not be audible during your practice. Refer to tip #3 if you have anymore questions on this one. If you can, please brush your teeth before AM yoga practices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smelled morning breath during pranayama deep breathing. This is avoidable with 2 minutes and a toothbrush. Don’t drink water while your neighbors are balancing. Don’t walk to the bathroom or leave the room while your neighbors are balancing. Wait until the posture is over to do these things. Balance takes focus, and focus takes a lot of energy, so be courteous when your neighbors are in the zone. Don’t come to class drunk, buzzed or on drugs! I’ve seen some wrecks in the studio and it’s not fun for anybody when someone faints during the second posture because they decided to get high before class. Hangovers never make for a good yoga class either (refer to tip #1).

7. Wear clothing made with athletic material and bring a change of clothes. Cotton will just weigh you down, especially when it’s drenched in your own pungent sweat. The less you wear, the better you’ll feel when the room is 105F. You will not want to wear your clothes home whether you shower or not because they will be disgusting. The person who introduced me to yoga explained “it’s like you jumped into a pool of your own sweat” and though I didn’t believe him before trying Bikram, after my first class I realized it really is like you “jumped into a pool of your own sweat”.

8. Bring two towels and a hand towel. One regular towel to place on your mat during practice, one for drying off after class, and a hand towel for placing under your face during the spine series or for wiping your hands before standing head to knee, standing bow, bow, and rabbit.

9. 100% correct for 40% of the time is better than 40% correct for 100% of the time. If you practice Bikram regularly, you’ve heard this line many times. Unfortunately, many people don’t follow this rule. What Bikram meant when he coined this phrase was that you want to do the postures correctly, even if it means you must rest for half the time in order to muster the strength for the correct postures. Yoga is about honesty and integrity. It’s about connecting the mind with the body and leaving your ego at the door. I’ve seen too many people kicking their leg out in standing head to knee pose before their standing leg is locked. Don’t be that person. It took me an entire year before I even tried to kick my leg out. I didn’t have the strength or the flexibility yet, and now I kick my leg out every time. Be patient and be honest refer to tip #5. Just accept where you are at in each posture and be honest about it.

10. Yoga mirrors life. What I mean by this is that the lessons you need to learn in yoga are often the lessons you need to learn in life. Use your yoga practice as a growing opportunity ALWAYS. Do you compare yourself to others in class, do you notice that you think self-defeating messages, do you refuse to allow yourself a break even though you are dying, do you panic during uncomfortable postures? How we practice yoga is often how we practice life, so take notice. Your yoga mat is the perfect place to begin making life changes and personal transformations.