I had the privilege of attending a restorative yoga teacher training with Jodi Boone last weekend. Restorative yoga is a very restful form of yoga where you 'hold' poses for longer than a normal yoga class while supported by blocks, blankets and bolsters. The beauty of this type of yoga is that it's the antidote to stress, and you may experience a profound feeling of peace and relaxation during and after the practice. I was drawn to this type of yoga after attending many 'power', flow, Bikram and vinyasa types of yoga classes. I would often feel like I got a good workout for my heart and muscles, but it didn't feel like yoga, and I wasn't receiving the benefits of feeling rested and peaceful. I knew that yoga was originally developed to prepare the body and mind for meditation, and these fast-paced classes were not doing that for me. Faster forms of yoga have benefits for sure, but to truly get the restful benefits of peace for body and mind, it's necessary to slow down and restore.
Another aspect of a restorative yoga practice is that studies have shown it to be correlated with healthy weight and weight loss. Why? Because so many of us have stressful lives, and high levels stress hormones like cortisol encourage bodies to hang on to fat cells, and are linked to belly fat and weight gain. Restorative yoga moves your body's nervous system from the sympathetic 'fight or flight' mode to the parasympathetic 'rest and digest' mode. Do you think our bodies might process food better if we slow down and let them? In the parasympathetic mode, blood flows from your extremities back to your core so your heart, liver and organs can get the blood and nourishment they need for optimal functioning. Restorative yoga is like an adult nap, and when you rest with awareness, there are profound benefits for your body and mind.
Check Jodi's and Heather's websites for some restorative classes around Seattle.
I want to know what you do to stay organized! I'd like to do an 'independent study' on ways to stay on top of the many 'to-do' lists, plans, chores, errands, etc that we have. Do you ever feel like you're swimming upstream in it?
Do you have an app you love? Do you have an organizational scheme for your stack of papers? Do you keep notes in your head? Do you journal on paper or on your phone? Do you use a calendar with reminders? Is your email inbox your 'to-do' list? Is there a book that really helped you? Did you simplify something? What do you do to manage the many hats you wear?
I bet that even if you don't feel organized, there is one part of your life that you have pretty well set up. What is that part of your life? What do you do there to stay on top of things. For example, I use a billing software for my business that acts as bookkeeping tool, and I use the same app for both scheduling and invoicing which keeps all my clients' info in one place. I put today's client folders in one stack in my office, move them to another stack when they need to be billed, then after I bill and invoice, I file them away. Hence, feels like there is a streamlined flow between paper and online records (this was not always the case and it used to drain me!)
Where do you thrive in organizing your life?
Please leave comments!
Have you heard everyone going crazy about antioxidants? Do you even know what they are? Here's the scoop on the basics... followed by a recipe!
Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds found in some foods and beverages (coffee and tea). Antioxidants are comprised of vitamins, minerals and flavanoids. 'Popular' naturally-occurring antioxidants include Vitamins C and E, polyphenols (resveratrol in wine, grape skins and anthocyanins in berries) and carotenoids (lycopene in tomatoes, carotenes in orange and yellow veggies), and many more. And yes, there are flavanols in chocolate and carob!
What makes them so special? Well, antioxidants protect cells in your body from 'free radical' damage. Free radicals are nasty unpaired molecules that oxidize whatever they touch (like turning metal into rust). Oxidation occurs naturally in your body, and you are exposed to it in your daily life by pollutants in the environment. So you have unpaired molecules floating around turning your juicy healthy cells into nasty rusty cells, and your superman antioxidant comes along, steals up that extra oxidizing electron and stops the chain of decay. See? They are ANTI-oxidants.
Antioxidants keep your cells healthy, and have been shown to fight off diseases such as some cancers, heart disease and Alzheimers. Your best bet is to get them from food sources and 'eat from the rainbow'... a wide variety of different colored foods will likely cover your bases (think rich dark blues and reds, yellow, orange and greens). And a little snack of berries, dark chocolate, green tea or red wine will fight off those free radicals.
Now the obvious choice would be to share a Superfood rainbow salad or something, but instead I'm sharing a dessert recipe from my childhood. You can get antioxidants from all sorts of places. This recipe contains carob, raisins, honey (polyphenols) and almond butter (Vitamin E), so it's an antioxidant-packed cleanse-friendly dessert!
Carob Coconut Balls
1/2 cup carob powder
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1-2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
Stays good up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator!
Well, it's spring cleanse time for me! I'll share a few more nutrient-packed recipes that I enjoy. First off, here's how to sprout some beans! These pack a punch of nutrients and add an interesting nutty crunch to salads, stews or stir-fry (oh my!).
Step 1: Start with a handful of dry beans (I used mung beans-- they're weird and green and cool and I feel super healthy using them :)
You can use just about any bean like lentils, chickpeas, adzuki, white, black. What cool bean have you tried?
Soak them overnight (or 8 hours) in water. Mason jars look hipster, so that's why I like them. Any container that you can drain water in and out of will do. They will triple in size so start small.
Step 2: For the next 3-5 days, rinse the beans with water a few times each day and drain the water out. Basically you want to keep them looking just barely wet, without being soggy.
Some awesome people have cheese cloth lying around (do you?), and those rockstars could use that to cover the jar for easy rinsing. Pantyhose would also work. I'm too lazy (and am also afraid that I probably DO have a pair of pantyhose from the 90's buried somewhere) that I just use my hand to keep the beans from falling out when I drain the water. Don't avoid making sprouts just because you don't have cheese cloth :)
Step 3: Chow down! 3-5 days of sprouting and they're ready to eat! Throw them onto something delicious and chomp away. After they look nice and sprouty, you can move them in the fridge to retard their growth. They should stay good for a week or so, but you can rinse after a couple of days to keep them fresh. They will start growing little green leaves like tiny trees. How miraculous is that??
Here I've made a veggie-rich lentil stew, dished it into a roasted acorn squash, and topped with sprouts and avocado. Yum!
Here is the completed video for my deep relaxation practice. Hopefully you'll have your eyes closed, but just in case you peek, there are some nice flowers and landscapes to look at :) Happy relaxing!
I've recorded a 15-minute progressive relaxation guide.
The irony is that in trying to figure out just how to do a recording like this, I came across a few technological hurdles... I won't go into the details, you'll get bored. Needless to say, instead of having a beautiful Youtube video with pictures of sunsets, I have a simple mp3 audio file for your enjoyment. Do you ever want to punch a computer? I do! I'm going to listen to my relaxing recording right now to calm down :)
Here's a picture of a sunset and a flower. Recording is below...
Music by Laraaji
Last week we went to Austin, Texas for a mid-winter vacation and a reprieve from the dark gloom of the Northwest (see SAD). I decided to apply elements of wellness coaching to the trip, and Josh (so graciously) was totally game. During our planning, we brainstormed ideas and expectations we had about the trip, and I wrote up a Vision Document. This includes a 'vision statement' (the big picture) and 'intended outcomes' (how we'll achieve it). When we got back, we read it over and rated our success on a 10-point scale.
It was an energizing, unique, fresh and inspiring trip. We explored a new city, checked out the live music, ate great Mexican food, learned to dance the Texas 2-step, visited Canyon Lake (pictured) and bathed in some sunshine! I also decided that margaritas count as my fruit servings for the day :) We agreed that the vision document was a nice way to organize thought and intention, and was the backbone of our trip planning process.
For my self-care, I received a massage and dropped in on a yoga class. For exercise, we walked 8 miles through the South Congress neighborhood on Tuesday, 12 miles through downtown on Saturday, and had two nights of Texas 2-stepping. At Canyon Lake we rested, watched the deer, and did some wine tasting and pizza delivery. Back in Austin, we saw 7 live bands, including Dale Watson (an Austin icon). Josh met one of his philosopher idols, Matt Dillahunty, and got to geek out at the taping of one of his favorite podcasts. He also came in $52 under budget. We were able to strike a nice balance between rest and activity. Sure we had our tired moments, and some places we wanted to visit were closed, but flexibility and unpredictability were both part of the plan.
Our vision document is posted below. Words we'd like to add after the fact are 'music, dance, exploring, tacos' :)
What would your ideal vacation vision be?
Vision Statement & Intended Outcomes for Josh and Laura in Austin
We are energized by a fresh, unique and inspiring vacation.
We have a plan to reference, but allows for improvisation. Priorities to visit: Barton Springs, Canyon Lake, Continental club, Laura’s massage, and the taping of the Aetheist Experience podcast.
We keep expectations in check, being willing to have a good attitude if things aren’t optimal. Sub-optimal circumstances are part of the plan.
We remain open-minded and flexible. We can laugh at obstacles and enjoy the journey.
We treat ourselves (and each other) with gentleness while being in a new place and learning how to get around.
We walk daily.
We feel free to drink but not overindulge daily.
We are free and open with money, trusting our instincts to not overspend. Know that we can have a fancy night out if we want! Josh has a cash budget of $100/day.
Well, 5 days into a new food trial, and feeling fine. Jury's still out on the chicken experiment. I liked it one day, and then wasn't thrilled with it as leftovers. I had to smother it in sauce and convince myself it was tofu. My winning recipe finds are below.(If you're a food photographer, please don't laugh at me.)
Simple protein salad:
roasted butternut squash (450 oven, coconut oil, salt, 20mins YUM)
easy balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic, dijon, salt, pepper)
Simple protein salad in a jar:
Same salad as above, added some more chopped fresh veggies (cukes, carrots, snow peas, sprouts) and put it in a jar for easy lunches!
Thai Chicken with Spicy 'Peanut' Sauce
The sauce was really delicious... and it looked beautiful! Luckily Ballard Market sells spiralized zucchini, because a spiralizer I have not.
Kale and Egg Quiche with Sweet Potato 'Crust'
Turned a breakfast recipe into dinner, because why not?
This was phenomenal! A bit of miso adds a robust flavor to the eggs and veggies. The sweet potato crust was easy and delicious! It came out more like a casserole, but who cares?
Today I bought chicken for the first time in 17 years. Since age 18, I've been a self-proclaimed vegetarian, not strict like animal-rights activist, but just didn't really enjoy looking at raw meat, and felt better in my soul eating a plant-based diet. In massage school, I added fish for more protein and variety. I've had a bite of steak here and there... mostly I find the amount of chewing required annoying.
Lately I've been thinking about the patterns and routines that we find ourselves in either intentionally or unintentionally. No one told me to stop eating meat, I just decided to do it. I've considered and re-considered many times the decision, and just kept deciding not to do it. But when I really think back on my life, I remember a distinct drop-off of my energy levels right around the time I stopped eating meat.
So I've started reading up on high protein food programs that are becoming more popular like Whole 30 and paleo. For a long time, low fat was the craze, and now it turns out that low fat often means high sugar... and sugar is shown to be linked to all sorts of chronic diseases like diabetes, liver and heart disease. In fact, many 'diets' (and I use that word to mean 'food program', not 'weight loss' program) are cutting down on carbohydrates, and adding in more healthy fats and proteins. I notice that when I think of the word 'protein', my mouth starts to salivate. I don't personally jive with a lot of what Whole 30 preaches (strict rules, a whole list of 'do nots'), but I am intrigued by the thought of shaking up the routine I'm in (high ice cream, thoughtless meals, quick food, and I think I've cleared out the bulk chocolate almond bark supply at Whole Foods). One thing Whole 30 states matter-of-factly is that they just believe people should eat animal protein.
While I can't say I'm trying out Whole 30 (I'm not), I can chose what I like from different sources and come up with a personalized plan that works for ME. One thing I'm becoming better at through wellness coaching is just trying something out for a week at a time. I have vast spans of weeks ahead of me, why not take one week to shake things up? Also, I love trying out new recipes, and this is great way to narrow down the paradox of choice on the internet.
So far these are my roadmaps: breakfast recipes and dinner recipes.
That said, I had a sad moment in my heart when I walked over to the meat aisle. I picked up a chicken package, read the back, and felt a little at ease knowing that the company is 'certified organic, free range, and certified humane'. I really hope those chickens had a good life... I'm sure they would love knowing they had 3 minutes of fame in a blog post! This post is for you, chickens, thank you!
This year my sister Sarah told me about a course offered at UW called 'Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives'; and for a January resolution, she decided to interact more mindfully with her phone-- before turning over the phone to check it, she will take a breath.
This class and resolution encouraged me reflect upon how I interact with technology as I'm sure many of you do as you go through your day linked to devices, accounts, media, texts and emails. In one sense, it's pretty amazing that we have these tiny computers we carry everywhere... we have all the information we could ever want or need RIGHT there with us at all times. We can chat and connect with almost anyone immediately. We are NEVER ALONE... dun, dun dunnnnn.
The flip side of this marvelous ability to connect is that we are not often alone with our thoughts either, and rarely do we sit there and just do nothing. Have you noticed this in your life? Do you ever find yourself scrolling and scrolling and thinking, 'I don't really want to be doing this right now'? If you're like me, you may have a love-hate relationship with your devices.
One way to turn this relationship into a more functional one is to start by noticing those moments, and noticing your reactions to your interactions. When you are scrolling or reading, notice the feelings and emotions that arise, label them, and address them. Are you reading something, becoming mad, and then just getting madder as you go? Do you become tense or start holding your breath? What other options are available to you in that moment? And before the urge to read or check something even arises, what options are available to you? Do you stop and notice the urge and then check? Do you stop and notice the urge, and then decide not to check? What new pathway could exist for you in that potent moment? If you ever feel like your device is controlling you, take a step back and see if you can remind yourself where your power resides.
You may even find that taking a 'technology fast' suits you. How long would you like to be unplugged from your devices? What would feel refreshing? What do you have to lose or gain from disengaging? I'd love to hear what you come up with.
I am a lifetime learner and researcher in happy, healthy, fun living.