Have you been thinking of trying yoga, or recommitting to a yoga practice? Here are some reasons to roll out your mat and give it a try! Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together body and mind. As it’s practiced today, yoga incorporates breath work, poses and meditation that have many benefits to your mental and physical health. Most people of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.
Relieve Stress and Anxiety
The practice of yoga eases stress and promotes calm and relaxation. This is what led me to the practice of yoga almost 20 years ago. The practice of yoga is known to lower cortisol levels-cortisol being your primary stress hormone. At the same time, yoga triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest response, which helps both mind and body relax. This rest and digest response also helps you sleep better, another benefit of yoga!
Improve Flexibility and Balance
This is why most people add yoga to their fitness routine – improved flexibility and balance. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. Balancing poses help with balance, but also focus and coordination. Many professional athletes are even adding yoga to their training these days to improve their performance.
It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in some yoga poses! Strong muscles protect you from conditions like back pain and arthritis. When you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility, helping you to prevent injuries. Increasing strength may also help you improve your posture, and prevent posture-related issues like back and neck problems.
All kinds of other Health Benefits…
Including (and I’m probably missing some) – improved respiration and lung health (through breathwork), balanced metabolism, weight reduction, heart health, bone health, boosts immunity, helps with high blood pressure, helps you sleep better, improves digestion, eases pain, and best of all…
Yoga makes you happier!
Studies have found that a consistent yoga practice improves depression by increasing serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), GABA levels (associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety) and decreasing levels of cortisol (stress hormone). And you’ll learn how to regulate the breath through breathwork, which is key in terms of lowering stress and bringing your mind to the present moment – both of which make you feel happier.
This is the ultimate soup for fall! The sweet taste of the butternut squash and carrots nourishes, while the spices provide warmth and help with digestion. It’s delicious. And, bonus, you’re house smells amazing when your cooking it.
Makes 4-5 servings
2 tsp ghee (sub coconut oil for plant-based version) 1 onion, chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp turmeric 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp clove 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1” pieces 3 cups of water 1/4 tsp black pepper 1 cup coconut milk
Melt the ghee in a large soup pan on medium heat. Add the onion, and saute until soft and translucent. Stir in the carrots, cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and all of the other spices and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the butternut squash, stir for a minute, then add water. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Remove lid, simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and let soup cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes). Add the salt, pepper and coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to blend, or blend in a blender in batches.
As I write this, we have fully transitioned into the fall season. Temperatures have dropped. The air has become dry and windy. The sound of blowing leaves fills the air. The colors of nature have shifted from green to brown. The days are getting shorter. You also might have noticed that your schedule has become more busy and hectic, and you might be experiencing more anxiety. You might feel more spacey in your mind. In your body, you might notice symptoms like constipation, dry skin, cold extremities, cracking joints and dehydration.
In Ayurveda, autumn is known as vata season. Vata carries the characterics you notice in fall – cold, dry and mobile. In Ayurveda, opposites balance. So in the fall, you want to focus on qualities like warm, oily (opposite of dry in Ayurveda), and stability/groundedness. Below are some tips on how to do this to navigate your way through the fall season gracefully.
Focus on eating nourishing, grounding, well-cooked, well-spiced and well-oiled food. Include sweet, sour and salty tastes. Foods that are warm and liquid, like oatmeal, stews and soups are great for vata season. Eat meals at regular times every day. Stay hydrated by drinking Ayurvedic Gatorade (instructions below) and warm herbal teas. Reduce your intake of raw and dry foods like salads, cold smoothies, crackers, rice cakes and popcorn.
Well-oiled food – olive oil, coconut oil, ghee
Well-spiced food – pretty much all spices! I especially like, cinnamon, cumin, astofida (hing), ginger, garlic and turmeric
Sweet taste – root veggies, like sweet potatoes; winter squash, like butternut squash; and cooked grains, like basmati rice and quinoa
Salty taste – add pink Himalayan salt or mineral salt to your food
Sour taste – add a dash of lemon or lime juice to your meals; cook your oatmeal with dried raisins or dried cranberries
Healthy fats – all nuts and seeds
Ayurvedic Gatorade – to warm water, add a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of pink Himalayan or mineral salt
Think relaxing and grounding. Vata season is associated with the air element. When you imagine the air element, think more of movement, like the movement of the wind – what is called mobile quality. The opposite of mobile is stable and grounded. This is the time of year to consider slowing down, and to get a good night’s sleep.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule, getting 7-8 hours of sleep. This means getting up and going to bed at the same time everyday.
Do grounding practices like meditation, restorative and yin yoga
Stay warm, layer up, protect your head and hands on chilly days
Try to get 10-20 minutes of natural sunlight every day
When I was in India a few years ago, I visited an Ayurvedic doctor who recommended drinking CCF tea. I had never heard of CCF tea before – it’s an Ayurvedic digestive tea made up of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds (recipe below). I’ve been drinking it almost daily for over a year, and its made a big difference in my digestion, my eating patterns (less cravings and snacking) and the quality of my skin. CCF tea helps to strengthen digestion and metabolism, and has a gentle detoxification effect. In fact, its included in most Ayurvedic cleanses and purifies the blood. It’s also helpful for proper nutrient absorption, having a clear mind, healthy urination and weight loss. Personally, I notice I have better digestion, fewer cravings for snacks and a clearer complexion from drinking CCF tea. Plus, I like the taste, and enjoy having a warm beverage to sip on throughout the day.
You can buy premade CCF tea mix, but it’s cheap and easy to make your own. Make a large batch to keep on hand for everyday use. I usually make about a quart of CCF tea daily, keep it in a large insulated water bottle, and sip it throughout the day. Locally in Colorado, I buy the seeds at Natural Grocers. You can also order them online from Mountain Rose Herbs. During the summer, you can also enjoy this tea lukewarm (never ice cold!).
I use a french press to make CCF tea. Boil about a quart and a half of water, add to the french press along with the seeds. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy at warm temperature. If you don’t own a french press, bring the seeds and water to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, strain and drink. Optional, add honey to sweeten.
To make a large batch, mix about 1/2 cup of all of the seeds, then use a few teaspoons to make your daily brew.
I have dealt with sleeping issues all of my adult life. And, judging from the amount of times I’ve given advice to people on how to sleep better, a lot of you have sleep issues as well. Recently, I’ve decided to really delve into this issue and make some changes to my lifestyle to address it. I’m studying to become an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, so I thought I’d turn to Ayurveda for some ideas. This blog is a list of things I’ve tried and incorporated into my life that have really worked for me to have a solid night’s sleep. Get ready, this is a long post!
My type of insomnia looks like this: I easily fall asleep, but around 4 am I wake up, and am unable to get back to sleep even though I am so tired. I can get away with this for one or two nights, but the cumulative effect of not getting a full night’s sleep after a few days, weeks and months really starts to take its toll on my energy and overall well being. In Ayurveda, this is considered a disturbance of vata dosha. I’ll be writing more about Ayurveda and doshas in the weeks to come if your not familiar. But basically, vata dosha is related to the elements of ether and air and overall needs calming and grounding.
Ok, so here’s the list of what I do to ensure a full night’s sleep…
In Ayurveda, keeping a daily routine, or dinacharya, is huge. This means getting up at the same time every day, eating at the same time, getting to bed at the same time. This way your body is conditioned to times of waking up and going to sleep every day, which will result in better sleep. Additionally, eating meals around the same time every day will help you have better digestion. This was hard for me to do at first, especially as I don’t have a regular work schedule. In Ayurveda school, we learn that the mind loves freedom, and the body loves routine.
Generally, you should be waking with the sun at sunrise, then getting to bed in time to get you 7-8 hours of sleep.
Light and Early Dinner
I used to eat dinner on the later side, around 7:30 to 8 pm, or even later. On nights that I would eat that late, I would always wake up the next morning feeling groggier than normal. That is because when my body was supposed to be doing detoxifying processes while I slept, it was still digesting my late meal. Now I aim to have eaten dinner by 7 pm. Also, consider making lunch is the biggest meal of your day, and eat a lighter dinner. Some light dinner ideas I enjoy are basmati rice/ quinoa with steamed or sauteed veggies, or a homemade soup.
Create a Night Time Routine
Now, I’ve always been a big believer in having a good morning routine. Until I saw an Ayurvedic practitioner, it didn’t really occur to me to have a night time routine as well. Here is what my night time routine for awesome sleep looks like:
No electronics 2 hours before bed – this is usually when I read a book
5 minutes of nadi shodhan (alternate nostril breath) followed by 15 minutes of meditation. I use Insight Timer for meditation and practice a mantra based meditation.
I do a brain dump every night – I simply make a list of things I want to remember for the following day. I keep a small journal on my bed side table for this.
Keep your bedroom clean and tidy. Create a calming environment. Get rid of any lights in your bedroom, use black tape on top of any electronics that have a light that doesn’t turn off, like an electric toothbrush, air conditioner, etc. I got rid of my clock radio with a digital display. Obviously, no TV in the bedroom!
Use a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase at night, or diffuse lavender oil.
Drink a spiced milk or a calming tea – I like good ole chamomile tea. There are a lot of herbal teas on the market now for calming or good sleep, find one you like.
Right before bed, rub some sesame oil on your feet. This is a great grounding practice. I have one old pair of socks that I’ll put on right after this so I don’t ruin my sheets.
Cut Out Caffeine
Now, I know this is going to bum out you coffee and tea lovers. If you are drinking coffee and tea daily and having any kind of sleep problem, you should try cutting out caffeine completely. Even that early morning cup of coffee may be affecting your sleep that night. And, if you are waking up in the morning craving the stimulation of a cup of coffee, that is a sign you didn’t get the best quality sleep. I quit drinking coffee about a year ago and I notice I actually have MORE energy in the morning without it. Here are some tips on how to quit drinking coffee if you are addicted to it (which I was!)
You can use calming herbs to support deep sleep. Lavender essential oil is great for this, I use a few drops on my pillowcase, or you can diffuse the oil in your bedroom. Chamomile tea is a good calming tea to drink before bed. Nutmeg is also a sedative herb, try making the nutmeg milk recipe below.
Spiced Milk Recipe
1 cup almond milk (or any milk)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coconut oil
Optional: honey to taste
Bring all ingredients except for honey to boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Take off heat, let cool for a minute or two before stirring in honey.
I am always in search of weeknight dinners that are healthy, easy to throw together and tasty! This ramen bowl recipe is something I’ve found myself making pretty often lately with whatever vegetables I have. It’s light and fresh tasting, with a little saltiness from the miso. The base of this recipe is vegetable broth. You can use store bought, or make your own in your crock pot. Making your own is really simple, and I’ve included directions for that below.
Ramen Noodle Bowl Recipe:
Makes 1 serving
Gather: 2 cups vegetable stock 1 section of ramen noodles, cooked* 1 TBSP miso 2 cups of chopped veggies, your choice (here I used zucchini, carrots and asparagus) Tamari sauce to taste Drizzle of sesame oil *I use the Lotus Foods brand of rice ramen noodles, which I get at Costco Optional add-ins: chopped tofu, sesame seeds, fresh cilantro
Make: Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. Add the vegetables, and cook until veggies are tender – about 10 minutes. Using a ladle, remove 1-2 ladles-full of broth into a small bowl. Add the miso to the small bowl, and whisk until smooth. Then add the miso-broth concoction back to your soup. Add the noodles, top with tamari sauce and sesame oil, and serve!
Crock Pot Veggie Broth Recipe
Makes about 3 quarts
Gather: 1/2 bunch of celery 1 onion 4 carrots 2 bay leaves 3” piece of kombu 1 TBSP minced ginger
Make: Chop all of the veggies, and put in the crock pot. Fill the crock pot with water, and cook on low all day – 8 hours. This long cooking process will extract all of the nutrients from the vegetables, for a mineral rich broth that is so good for you! Then strain and use! I store the broth in mason jars in the fridge. This broth will keep for about 5 days. Use the broth to cook grains, make soups and stews, or even drink on its own.
You can also save and use your veggie scraps to make a good vegetable broth. I’ve used broccoli stems, cauliflower stems and leaves, ends of carrots and asparagus, onion and carrot peels, etc.
One root veggie I try to include in my diet is beets. Beets are full of antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium and iron. And, did you know that eating beets can help with athletic performance? Beets have a high amount of nitrates. These are different from the nitrates found in package meats, which are toxic. These good nitrates help your circulation, resulting in more oxygen being delivered into your cells, resulting in increase athletic performance! Another reason I like to include beets in my diet is that it nourishes supports the liver. Our liver is an important organ in our body that helps with our bodies detoxification processes. Try this easy, ready for instant pot, beet soup to get more beets into your diet!
Borscht (Instant Pot Recipe) with Cashew Sour Cream
For the cashew sour cream (optional): 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water Apple cider vinegar to taste (I just add a splash)
Make: Clean the beets. Put 1 inch of water at the bottom of your instant pot. Put the steamer in the instant pot, then add the beets. Set the pot to steam for 7 minutes – then let sit and release steam for another ten minutes. Let the beets slightly cool, remove the skins (should be super easy) and chop.
Rinse out the instant pot, then add all of the ingredients. Cover with about 2 inches of water. Cook in the Instant Pot on the soup setting for 45 minutes.
To make the sour cream, drain the cashews, then add to a high speed blender. Just scantily cover with water and add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar. Blend. Adjust by adding water if you need it thinner, or maybe increasing the vinegar.
When the soup is done cooking, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, then drizzle with the sour cream.
A few weeks ago I started to share my goals for this year. This year I decided to ditch writing out things I want to do, and instead choose guiding words that I want to manifest throughout 2019. It’s basically just like choosing your theme or themes for the year. My words for 2019 are simplify and creativity. Today I’m focused on the word creativity.
What does it mean to have creativity as a guiding word? For me, its living a more creative life. Growing up, I was always super creative – I especially loved creating things – arts and crafts. In college I studied art. Following that, I worked in the art world for 12 years and had a custom greeting card business at one time. I used to love knitting and sewing and creating new things. I feel like that creativity has started to fade in my life, and I want it back!
Here are some ways I’m going to lead a more creative life this year…
Cooking – I think cooking is such a great way to be creative. One way I will be more creative with cooking this year is baking more. I rarely bake, but I want to get back into making homemade breads, crackers, bars and “healthy” cookies. I’m studying Ayurveda, so I will also be experimenting and creating Ayurvedic recipes.
Movement – One way I express creativity is by creating new yoga sequences to practice and teach. And also by taking different types of classes – both within yoga and outside of yoga. Lately I’ve been taking yoga classes that teach a different alignment of the spine, and I would like to take more nidra and kundalini classes. I would also like to learn and practice tai chi more. And dance more!
Shake Up Your Routine – I think keeping a regular routine is important, but you gotta mix it up sometimes and be spontaneous! Leaving my mindset open to the idea of putting work aside for the night and going out to dinner, live music or even just to chill out is what will be happening this year. Travel is also a great way to break up your routine, and I’ve got some travel planned for 2019.
How do you cultivate creativity in your life? I would love to hear!
I thought I would share here my goals for 2019 (you know, accountability). This year I decided to ditch writing out things I want to do, and instead choose guiding words that I want to manifest throughout 2019. It’s basically just like choosing your theme or themes for the year. My words for 2019 are simplify and creativity. I’ll be writing a future blog post on creativity, this one is about what simplify means to me.
Simplify means to reduce to basic essentials, streamline and clarify. For me, this means to focus on one thing at time, stay organized and clear on what I’m doing and why and to keep my material possessions decluttered.
Here are some actionable things around simplifying I will be doing this year:
Decluttering – I started a major decluttering of my belongings last spring that I am just finishing up now – so I am starting off with a clean slate. I went through my office items, books and clothing and kept only the items that I love and truly use. If you want more information on how to do this, I recommend reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo if you haven’t already. What I want to work on for 2019 is being strict with what items I bring into my house, and buying sustainably made, quality goods.
Keeping a Daily Routine – Having a daily routine is a huge part of Ayurveda, which I am currently studying – in Ayurveda it’s called Dinacharya. Having a daily routine where you wake up, eat and go do bed (and more) at the same time everyday helps simplify your life by taking out all of the choices on how to spend your time. It is also essential for good health, as your body loves having a regular eating and sleeping time every day. I’ll be writing a blog post on Dinacharya soon, but until then, here is a good article to get you started. I’ve already incorporated this into my life, but I need to get back on track with this, especially being in bed by 9:30 pm.
Organizing – I’m naturally a pretty organized person, but there are a few areas of my life where I could use some help. Those are finances, scheduling, and keeping track of tasks. I’ve decided to try keeping a bullet journal this year, which should help with the scheduling and keeping track of tasks. If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling, you can find many videos on YouTube. I’ve also noted in my journal a day during the week that I balance my accounts. I know it seems strange that just keeping a planner would help simplify, but I have an irregular schedule that is a cause of stress in my life.
Anyhow, I hope you found this interesting! Do you have guiding words for 2019? If so, please leave a comment with your guiding words.
Is one of your goals to work on your health and nutrition? You are in luck! For the month of January, I have discounted my 3 month Wellness Warrior private coaching program by $100. You can learn more about working with a Holistic Nutrition Coach, and what is included in my coaching programs here.
I wish you all a healthy and happy new year! Next week I’ll be sharing my guiding words for 2019.