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Why Yoga Heals Everything

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A yoga class is basically just one big fat metaphor for life. It’s not only a physical practice, but the act of using breath and movement to tap into your subconscious to rewire the way you process relationships, situations, and emotions.

Holding challenging, physically active positions is a way of hacking your brain and recalibrating the body’s reaction to stress. While the way we respond to challenges is deeply ingrained in us, yoga is the opportunity to examine our natural reactions and actively change them. When we do this on the mat, we raise our consciousness and naturally begin to reexamine other areas of our life.

We all know that negative emotions and stress can make us emotionally and even physically sick. Yoga helps us retrain the way we cope with challenges and provides us with tools to control our emotions and stress levels in a healthy and mindful way.

Continue reading… 

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Who needs protein anyway?

When many of us think of protein a hamburger or muscle-bound weight lifter come to mind. Typically most people associate protein with animals, however there are tons of plant based sources of protein that allow you to build muscle, eat well and enjoy your life. Reducing animal sources of protein can actually be very good for you in a number of ways such as heart health, mental clarity, improving your metabolism, immune system strength, and better energy.

While we all know that protein is important, I wante to look at the the specifics of why it’s such an integral part of a balanced diet and thriving life.

Protein is very important for muscle reparation and cell growth, and plays a critical role in many other functions within the body. Apart from water, protein is the most abundant compound in the human body. It keeps your skin looking good, is a critical source of energy and weight control, provides the structure for organs and muscles to build and function upon, and regulates hormones, enzymes and antibodies. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels which impact mood and mental clarity.

Protein makes up the incredibly important neurotransmitters in our brain. These neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, gaba, and catecholamines – help us sleep well, cope with stress, feel happy, and protect us against depression and anxiety. If we don’t have adequate, quality sources of protein these neurotransmitters reduce in number and quality, and fail to regenerate themselves. (Our brains also need quality sources of fat, too. The lack of high quality protein and fat in our diets has lead to scores of mental illnesses that are now developing people earlier on in life than ever before, but I’ll save those details for another post.)

Clearly without protein our bodies are unable to function at optimal levels. While this list of benefits of protein is extensive, it does not mean that over indulging in protein is good for us either. For people who believe that protein should be the largest part of every meal and that the source should be animal products, lots of discomforts can accrue. Having too much animal protein can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and kidney issues.

Making sure you have a quality source of protein is the best way to ensure you get all the benefits without becoming susceptible to the risks. Many people feel that they just can’t fill up without eating meat (much of this comes from the belief that if you’re not totally full you’re still hungry). Protein is very filling however no matter what source it comes from, and is an important part of feeling satiated after a meal. Because protein is a source of energy, eating it with a complete carbohydrate ensures that the energy you receive from it will be distributed into the bloodstream over time instead of all at once. The fantastic thing is that there are some plant sources of protein, quinoa and beans for instance, that are both carbohydrate and protein.

Hemp seeds and spirulina are both complete proteins. Hemp seeds are an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and spirulina has tons of iron and chlorophyll to help oxygenate the blood stream. Both are great in a morning smoothie, and I like to sprinkle hemp seeds into soups and salads, and even on top of my almond butter and toast. Dark green veggies like spinach and kale have high amounts of protein too.

The great thing about eating plant sources of protein is that you get so much more than just protein out of them, things like calcium, iron, and antioxidants. By eating whole grains and plants your body can digest and distribute the nutrients very quickly and efficiently, without much strain on your system at all.

Next time you’re looking for a protein packed meal without meat and are not sure what to go for, fear not, veggies and whole grains will more than take care of all your needs. Plus, you’ll have tons more energy and any extra weight lingering as ‘winter storage’ will quickly shed itself. Start slowly if you need to also, beginning with cutting out meat Monday through Wednesdays. You’ll instantly notice a different and will feel less of those cravings you might feel for meat.

For those who do make animal protein their primary source of protein, please, please be mindful when you shop. Get free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free meat, eggs and other animal products. Not only is it better for the animals but it’s much better for you. The antibiotics and hormones that are used on animals in the US today are extremely detrimental to our health and negate the benefits that the protein we eat should be giving to us. Additionally, the amount of antibiotics we eat through animal consumption is leading to resistance of antibiotics that would otherwise help us get over a sickness. When it comes to animal protein be thoughtful, take your time, and know that a piece of meat is not a complete meal. Start with veggies, salad, bean etc, and use a palm sized piece of meat to fill out your plate and satiate your appetite

And if you’re looking for a protein packed, meat-free meal, try this one!

Protein salad

I’m always on the go, so I like to have something fast and nourishing ready when I need something quick. I always recommend having something ready to go in the fridge so that I don’t make any poor choices based on lack of time, only to find myself hungry thirty minutes later because I didn’t eat any nutrients. The following is a great recipe for a salad that stays fresh for several days and is packed full of protein and antioxidants.

1 cup pinto beans
1 cup black beans
1 cup corn
3 stalks celery, chopped
one whole red bell pepper, chopped
Half a red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1-2 tablespoon hemp seeds
1-2 tablespoon chia seeds

Mix all ingredients together and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar when ready to enjoy. If your stomach is sensitive to beans try soaking them with a kombu leaf (a seaweed leaf). This has the enzyme that breaks down the complex sugar that leads to gassiness and discomfort. This salad is fast, filling and extremely nourishing, good for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.


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Five Ways To Make Lasting Change in 2013

I love how inspiring a new year can be. We leave behind last year’s worries, bad relationships and work frustrations with the intention to start fresh and make the most of the year to come. It’s a chance to take up cycling, travel to a new destination, or simply slow down a little more. As excited as we may feel working towards our resolutions in mid-January, many of these ambitious goals fall by the way-side by March. Before we know it we’re back watching Friends re-runs and drinking one too many martinis on a Tuesday night – so much for that early morning pottery class.

Why does this happen? Why do most people make the same resolutions year after year without ever accomplishing anything? The difference between people who make things happen versus those who simply give up is habits. We are products of our habits.

Being able to recognize, isolate, and change these habits is the only way to accomplish lasting change.

When we are out of our comfort zones we make the most progress in any area of life- business, spirituality, fitness, relationships– staying in the same cozy routine doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Risks reap rewards.

Here are some tips to reach your goals and make healthy habits stick. Whether it’s losing ten pounds, getting a promotion or simply learning to be on time, remembering these tips will make a difference in your journey for real change.

1. Pick one thing at a time and do it now

There’s nothing more impossible than trying to overhaul our routine, habits and personality all at the same time. There are very few people who can effectively get in shape, change careers, volunteer with the elderly, and start a knitting club all at once. We are products of years of doing the same things, the same way, over and over again. We do not change quickly.

Pick one thing and stick to it. That way you can focus on it and after thirty days of consistency, whatever you’ve chosen to change, learn or exclude will feel very natural. For added inspiration watch this video http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

2. Offload your power onto your environment

Schedule your time, don’t tempt yourself with bad food, develop self-control, prepare for success. Look at the fillers in your life – what is your tendency to do in between meetings, meals or phone calls? Do you scroll around Instagram or do you write a thank you card to someone, read an inspiring article or take some deep breaths?

If you know that when you go home you’ll sit down in front of the computer searching for the end of the internet every night, take your exercise clothes to work and go straight to the gym afterwards. You may feel tired after a long day but a few minutes into lifting weights or running will be energizing and refreshing.

If you always get a pastry with your morning coffee, invest in a coffee machine for your house and brew it at home. This will save you money, reduce paper cup use, and protect you from some seriously unnecessary calories and butter.

Discover where your weakness is and plan to avoid it. Develop an opposite, healthy action that will help you realize your goal.

3. Seek good company

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Think about that. Who are your closest relationships with? Do those people inspire and motivate you, or do they enable bad habits and detract from your growth?

Find people you admire and spend time with them. Get coffee, play tennis or make a dinner together. Positive, inspiring people are extremely energizing and can make challenges seem a lot more manageable. Don’t know where to meet these people? Find a meet-up group, go to a Chamber of Commerce Event or attend Toastmasters. There are exciting, interesting people everywhere who love to connect. Find them and develop genuine relationships. It will change your world.

4. Think of others

If you want to be miserable think about yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own troubles and worries that we feel we can never change or accomplish goals. Sometimes you have to forget about fighting habits head on and go and help someone else. By being of service to those less fortunate we increase our capacity for love and find more gratitude in our own lives. We must learn to be happy and consider others’ happiness as our own joy. Find children to tutor or volunteer at an animal shelter once a month. It’s worth the effort.

5. Be cheerful

Make up your mind to be happy. Have confidence in yourself and in your life. Surprise people with light heartedness and be kind to strangers. Be grateful for everything and consider obstacles to be tests of your character. If you’re reading this article you have access to a computer, which means you probably have a bed and a home and an education. These are big blessings that we must be thankful for every day.

Take this opportunity to choose one thing you want to change and start today. Be resolute, write it down and make a brief plan. Good luck and happy new year!


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5 Tips to Developing Good Habits… and living life to the fullest!

‘Freedom is the power to make the decision today that is the best for our future self’

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Habits are behaviors that are acted out subconsciously. They create grooves in our brains, which is what makes them so hard to change. A habit can be lighting up a cigarette first thing in the morning or lacing up your running shoes first thing in the morning. Both are subconscious, behavioral and automatic.

Our habits define us. They are what encourage us to make the decisions we make every day. The decisions that we make shape our lives and lead us to blissful self-expression or a downward spiral of self-destruction.

The body loves routine, so when we settle into one it becomes very comfortable and difficult to change. Is your routine energizing and exciting or is it causing you to gain weight, feel lethargic, and take you out of touch with yourself?

When it comes to nutrition, having good habits is everything. Will I have a croissant for breakfast or a fresh organic mango? Will I pick up a bag of walnuts for a snack or a donut? Will I eat fast food for lunch or something from the Co-op?

So many decisions are made in haste and have only short-term benefits: I’m in a hurry, I’m craving something sweet, it’s the only thing in my house/office/purse.  

Being mindful enables you to break out of habits that inhibit your ability to make the best decision for yourself, and to instantly become more energized and joyful.

What’s important to know is that changing one habit creates a domino effect, so making more changes becomes very natural and enjoyable. This is why it’s crucial to focus on one thing at a time.

Drink a latte every morning? Switch to green tea 3 days a week. Those caffeine (and dairy) cravings will quickly quiet down. Love snacking on candy bars or ice cream? Try natural sugars such as berries, and when indulging look for delicious and chemical free dark chocolate covered pretzels, or coconut-based ice cream alternatives. Used to unwinding at happy hour after work with your colleagues? Try hitting a spin class or finding an interesting talk to attend.

The key is not to cut out things you love, but to replace them with more wholesome habits that you can still enjoy and that create positivity in your life.

A huge part of emotional and physical health is paying attention to your mind-body connection. If you constantly fall prey to habits that you know aren’t good you create a conflict in your system. When you make positive, mindful decisions, your personal environment becomes harmonious, leading to more overall happiness and wellness.

Steps to changing habits

  1. Introspect  – What habit do you do every day that you want to change- pick ONE. Eating late at night? Too much sugar? Facebook addiction? Ask yourself, why do you do these things?
  2. Cultivate the opposite habit – Drink calming tea at night instead of eating – a lot of times we think we’re hungry when we’re actually just thirsty. Look for something to snack on without added sugars. Read an interesting article or watch a TED talk instead of flipping to Facebook to zone out. Take time to think and be MINDFUL- don’t look for a quick fix.
  3. Be gentle with yourself – Big change starts with small steps. The most important thing is to have the right intention and to constantly reinforce the fact that you are not controlled by your habits. Remember one positive change leads to many more.
  4. Have a buddy – When you tell someone your goal is becomes that much more real. We tend to feel more obligated to succeed when someone else is watching and supporting us. Set a goal with a friend or partner and notice how much more motivated and committed you feel.
  5. Listen to your body – When you notice your cravings or bad tendencies your habits are no longer subconscious. They are out in the open and available for you to recognize and choose a better option. In need of caffeine around 3pm? Talk a brisk walk around your building for ten minutes and breathe deeply- it will energize you and get you to do something different than just heading to the vending machine or coffee shop.

Remember that change comes from will power. You must have the will power to want to get the most out of your life. When you commit to doing the best for yourself your life will become a lot more harmonious, with love, opportunity and happiness appearing in abundance.