Self Teacher Study – Plant Nanny

I found this really cute app called Plant Nanny. It helps you drink enough water. It was rated as the best App of the Year in 2013 and has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times. It’s free and slightly addicting, in a good way…

I’ve been playing with this app for a couple of months and I can tell you that it works. So much so that I’ve shared it with 60 people. From the App Store description:

Plant Nanny combines health with fun to remind you to drink water regularly. The cute plant keeps you company every day by living in your phone. In order to keep it alive and help it grow, you must give it water at certain periods of time.

One of the first things I talk with new clients about is the importance of being well-hydrated. One of the reasons people try yoga is because they want to increase their flexibility. Being well-hydrated is an essential first step towards reaching this goal.

Inflexibility (muscle tightness, cramping, etc.) is just one side effect of dehydration. Being well-hydrated has many positive effects on the body and mind. According to the CDC, drinking enough water can help with:

  • Managing body weight
  • Clear thinking
  • Mood stability
  • Regular digestion
  • Prevention of kidney stones

Paying attention to your hydration levels involves paying attention to your body. That’s not always an easy thing to do. Many people find that it’s easier to focus on another person’s well-being, as a way of beginning the process of taking care of themselves.

Nurturing someone else helps them do the very thing they need to do for themselves.

How the App Works:

  1. Start a plant. Select any of the free varieties, pick a pot and a background for it. You can even give it a name.
  2. Enter your body weight and activity level to determine how much water your plant needs every day.
  3. Select your favorite drinking container and pick a water measurement.

Say you pick a glass that holds 8 oz of water. When you water your plant you press the glass icon button. Above the icon is a number. If you need to drink 64 oz of water every day, you’d need to water your plant 8 times a day.

The idea is to drink water at the same time as when you water your plant. Each plant bobs and chirps when you water it. However, if you forget your plant it gets sad and eventually dies. [Hint: Don’t start a plant at night.]

The first time I forgot to water my plant I tried reviving it with my “Drops of Life.” You start with ten drops that be used to help your plant grow faster or can revive a dead plant. None of my plants died but I did waste a lot of Drops trying to resuscitate my sad little plant.

After your plant grows up (takes 1-2 weeks) you move it to your garden where it produces seeds every day. You can use these seeds to buy exotic plants, fancier pots and unique backgrounds.

Plant Nanny teaches you how to take care of yourself through a personalized approach to health and wellness. It also teaches kindness, empathy and self-care.

Interested in learning some additional strategies for staying well-hydrated? To schedule a free initial consultation visit: Book Now

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Aparigraha: Yoga’s Answer to Streamlining the New Year

With the holidays behind us and a new year ahead, this seemed like a perfect time to discuss the yogic practice of Aparigraha.

For me, New Year’s is less about making resolutions and more about getting organized. As a minimalist (who loves to shop) Aparigraha comes in very handy with decision-making. I use it when deciding what to keep and what to let go of. It also helps me determine what I want to bring in to my life.

The yamas and niyamas (morals and observances) are the first two branches of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. These primary steps offer a self-disciplinary code of conduct that aids in balanced spiritual development.

Aparigraha is the fifth yama. It’s translated as non-possessiveness, or the absence of greed. The objective is to free your mind from covetous thoughts. One way to accomplish this is through the minimalist lifestyle.

According to the Yoga Sutras, when the mind is purified of greed you obtain the siddhi (paranormal power) of remembering all of your past lives. This is if you believe in reincarnation.

Aparigraha teaches us to take only what we need. It’s kind of like doing an inventory of our lives. It raises the questions of what do we cling to and what is weighing us down? And not just material things (although that’s certainly part of it). We may hold on to:

  • Our identity, or who we think we are
  • People (partners, friends, enemies, children, etc.)
  • Dogmas/Beliefs

Aparigraha is an invitation to release that which does not serve you. Those boxes of papers that you haven’t touched in five years. Clothes that you haven’t worn in over a year. Unbalanced relationships. Former teachings that are no longer relevant.

One word of advice – take your time with this process. It can be difficult to begin and easy to get carried away. Start by asking what can I change? Baby steps are huge with this kind of work. Notice where the sticky spots are. You could also try any of these exercises:

  1. Eliminate Food Waste: In my home we have a weekly menu, where we keep track of what food is in the fridge, which meals are on deck, and when the expiration dates are.
  2. Create a Capsule Wardrobe: Reduce clutter by donating or selling any clothes that you don’t wear. The clothes that you wear regularly form the basis of your capsule wardrobe. [Read: 7 Tips to Help You Create Your Capsule Wardrobe]
  3. Reset to Zero: This is a lovely way to describe what happens to our minds when our home environment is put into order. It’s like hitting a reset button on your mental state – especially helpful before beginning any new projects. [Read: Reset to Zero]

These are just a few ways that you can streamline the start of your New Year. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

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A Yoga Joes Holiday Salute

Just for fun, a client gave me a set of Yoga Joes for Christmas.

(It made my day)

By sheer coincidence, I discovered them a week ago. I saw an ad and my immediate thought was:

I want those!

I didn’t know anything about Yoga Joes, I just thought they were great. Turns out they were a Kickstarter project.

Dan Abramson created Yoga Joes to help promote yoga practice, especially among people who might not be likely to try yoga. He hopes to inspire beginners, men and veterans. In one interview, he explained:

Because yoga is for everyone, it reaches far beyond the cliche of a skinny, pumpkin spice latte white girl. All kinds of people can benefit from the strength and focus that comes from a good stretch, and I hope people who look at this toy, will consider giving it a try.

It’s the sort of thing I’ll never buy for myself, so it was a perfect gift. I received the original Yoga Joe set, with Headstand, Meditation (a.k.a. Easy) Pose, Cobra Pose, Warrior One, Warrior Two, Child’s Pose, Tree Pose, Crow Pose, and Downward-facing dog.

I really like the attention to detail. And I appreciate the accuracy of the poses, such as how the foot is placed above the knee in Tree Pose. The body type of the models is true to form (observe the shoulders in Child’s Pose:)

It was one of many gestures of kindness from all of the amazing people that I’m blessed to work with. To express my gratitude, I put together a little Yoga Joes salute in their honor.

I had so much fun playing with my new toy. They’ll most likely travel, but these are their starting points.

From our home to yours, wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

 

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Home Rituals – Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie

My friend Camilla introduced me to this pumpkin pie recipe when we were college roommates. She made a dairy-free, gluten-free version that was outstanding. Honestly, it changed my whole outlook on pumpkin pie.

I’m thankful that I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities. But I picked up a few tricks while living with people who do. Like this Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie.

I like the filling even more than the traditional recipe. It’s simple enough – just replace the sweetened condensed milk with coconut milk and maple syrup. I couldn’t remember the exact ratio so I looked up these recipes:

King Arthur Flour – Pumpkin Pie

Primally Inspired – Paleo Pumpkin Pie

I also did a little research on what pumpkin is good for. No surprise here – pumpkin is considered to be a superfood. Some of the many health benefits of pumpkin include:

  • High in Vitamins A and C
  • Boosts vision
  • Rich in beta-carotene
  • May reduce the risk of cancer
  • Prevents wrinkles
  • Balances electrolytes

Combining pumpkin with coconut milk and maple syrup takes this recipe up multiple notches. In The Skinny on Skin Care I talk about why coconut is so beneficial for your skin.  (Tip: eating coconut also nourishes your skin from the inside).

Maple syrup does wonders for the body too. I like to cook with a variety of natural sweeteners and maple syrup is one of my favorites. [Read: Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie]

Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie

Filling:

1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

 

Crust:

One 9-inch unbaked pie crust (I use a variation of this recipe: All Butter Pie Crust).

 

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk three eggs until well combined. Add pumpkin puree, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  2. Combine filling using an immersion blender.
  3. Refrigerate filling overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Roll pie dough into a 13″ circle and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.
  6. Pour filling into the unbaked pie shell.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until a knife blade inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional: Top with sweetened whipped cream or coconut whipped cream.

Create Your Own Sleep Retreat in 6 Easy Steps

I just completed a ten day sleep retreat. I didn’t plan it, it just happened. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was until I started sleeping 10-11 hours at a stretch.

Last month I struggled with insomnia. I’d wake up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and my busy mind would not let me fall back asleep. It was a rough couple of weeks, but it gave me a firsthand experience of what many people struggle with on a daily basis.

To share some stats about sleep disorders… according to the American Sleep Association:

  • 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
  • Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.
  • 30% of adults suffer from short term insomnia.
  • 10% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. Approximately one third of Americans report that they get less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period. Sleep disorders have been linked to drowsy driving, obesity, and death (due to medical errors).

People are taking steps to address sleeping disorders. Many luxury hotels and resorts have started offering Sleep Vacation packages. In an effort to combat stress, many couples are choosing to sleep alone.

[Recommended Reading: British couples too stressed to sleep in same bed.]

The practice of Sleep Yoga also encourages practitioners to sleep separately. Sleeping alone increases relaxation and allows for a more individualized dreaming experience.

Sleeping alone is one of 6 recommended steps for creating your own Personal Yoga Sleep Retreat. If spending a couple thousand dollars on a weekend getaway doesn’t fit your budget, a DIY home sleep retreat is an affordable and effective alternative.

Step 1: Take a Stay-cation. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time at home. Clear your schedule, and resist the impulse to fill it back up again.

Step 2: Clean your bedroom. Wipe down surfaces, vacuum, wash your sheets. Sort through clutter and donate items you aren’t using anymore.

Step 3: Avoid caffeine. People have different sensitivity levels to caffeine. As a general rule, if your goal is to fall asleep by 10pm reduce your caffeine intake after 5pm.

Step 4: Minimize exposure to artificial lights (this includes screen time). Candlelight or low lights will help you wind down.

Step 5: Bathe before bed. Take a shower or (even better) a bath. Adding a cup of Epsom salts to your bath will relax your muscles and increase your ability to sleep. Put on clean sleeping clothes and relax in bed with the lights off.

Step 6: Sleep alone (if you have the option to do so). It makes a huge difference in the quality of your sleep.

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Intro to Pranayama Training Course

“When the breath wanders the mind is also unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Excerpt from the Intro to Pranayama training course:

My Story

I started practicing pranayama ten years ago. I spent two years studying the techniques and theories. Before then, I’d received a very brief introduction to pranayama through drop-in yoga classes. The intricate breathing practices were interesting, but I was much more attracted to the physical practice of yoga.

When I decided to become a yoga teacher I started learning basic pranayama techniques. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t have much patience and foolishly thought it was too easy for me.

The truth was that the idea of meditation was a little terrifying. I had been working with an anxiety disorder and the suggestion to sit quietly with my own mind seemed impossible.

[Recommended Reading: Up to 67% of People Would Rather Receive an Electric Shock than Meditate]

There’s a saying in yoga: That which you resist is the thing you need the most.

Hindsight being 20-20, pranayama was exactly what I needed. As a kid I was diagnosed with asthma, so my lungs were already weak. A solid pranayama practice would have helped immensely. But my ego was getting in the way of my ability to take care of myself…

My yoga teacher could see that I wasn’t breathing properly. He insisted that I learn the basic techniques. I went on learn the more advanced techniques and over time the theories began to take root. Eventually, I began to experience the more profound, subtle effects of pranayama.

What did I learn?

Pranayama training gave me a great appreciation for internal yoga practices. I also respect the many health benefits of asana practice. Americans have explored this facet of the yoga diamond extensively, due to our appreciation of the athleticism of the human body.

But I will say this…

If you never go beyond the physical practice of yoga you are shortchanging yourself.

The best analogy I can offer is:

If you take a bunch of vegetables, cut them up and put them into a pot, pour water over them but never turn on the stove… and somehow, you’re expecting that it will transform into soup.

Obviously, that’s never going to happen.

The way to light the fire of yoga practice is through comprehensive application and cultivation of the internal practices. It’s absolutely essential to have a well-rounded understanding of all of the branches of yoga in order to make real progress.

There’s a popular misconception that yoga can be anything to anyone, which is simply not true. Not in the traditional sense of what yoga is – a path to Self-realization and union with the divine.

So let’s begin…

For more information please visit: Personal Yoga: Intro to Pranayama Training Course

 

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Asteya: Yoga’s Answer to Hungry Ghost Syndrome

I met a hungry ghost at a dinner party. I know the type, but had never met one who was so far gone. We had an eye opening conversation that got me thinking.

The concept of hungry ghosts comes from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese folklore. Hungry ghosts are lost souls, often depicted as having long, thin necks and huge swollen abdomens. According to tradition, evil deeds such as killing, stealing and sexual misconduct lead to becoming a hungry ghost.

“Defined by a fusion of rage and desire, tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding impossible satisfactions, hungry ghosts are condemned to inhabit shadowy and dismal places in the realm of the living. Their specific hunger varies according to their past karma and the sins they are atoning for. Some can eat but find it impossible to find food or drink. Others may find food and drink, but have pinhole mouths and cannot swallow. For others, food bursts into flames or rots even as they devour it.” – Hungry Ghosts: their History and Origin

This person was a living embodiment of the hungry ghost archetype. I soon realized that I was talking to a black hole of self-despair. I tried helping her but after a few attempts she became hostile so I let it go…

At the end of the night she had a flashback to a past trauma (poverty and starvation). She kept repeating:

“I was so hungry.”

One way she chose to deal with this was by directing her anger at the wealthy class. People she had never met or had any direct contact with. In her mind taxation was the solution to wealth inequality. She admitted that she lives beyond her means and has significant debt.

The interaction left me feeling drained and unsettled. One way I handle troubling situations is through research and contemplation (Jnana Yoga). My reflections led me back to the third Yama of Ashtanga Yoga: Asteya.

The Yamas are the universal ethical practices of yoga. Paired with the Niyamas (observances) these moral restraints form the foundation of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

Asteya means non-stealing. One could say that stealing is a response to a sense of powerlessness which stems from feelings of not being enough.

In this context, stealing extends beyond more obvious forms of theft (examples: pick pocketing, burglary, etc.). Stealing may also include:

  • Other people’s ideas
  • Disregarding personal boundaries
  • Having an envious state of mind
  • Taking up a person’s time or attention
  • Energy (succubi/incubi)
One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling ‘drained; and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. – The Psychopath: The Mask of Sanity

She had what I would call a hungry ghost syndrome. Somewhere along the way these people lose their connection to their personal power. It may be a result of abuse, resulting in any number of dependencies.

Asteya is a reminder that we are enough. Learning how to cultivate personal power is an excellent way to reverse hungry ghost syndrome. Building our energy reserves allows us to feel balanced, strong and healthy when we go out in the world.

Some ways to do this include: meditation, taking care of your body, self-love, and alone time. In my Intro to Pranayama course I teach people how to access their own complete, full source of energy.

Final thought from the Yoga Sutras:

Once non-stealing has been permanently established, all riches will be available.

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Superhuman Healthcare – CranioSacral Therapy

This Independence Day I found new freedom in my body. I was blessed with an amazing gift of a CranioSacral treatment. It rocked my world, to say the least…

It’s been ten years since my last CranioSacral treatment. I can remember feeling very relaxed but was unaware of the subtle effects.

My awareness of my body is very different now. Meditation has played a big role in that. During this treatment I had a much better understanding and appreciation of the internal effects.

What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on treatment of the whole body. This method uses light, still touch to guide the body and nervous system into balance.

Sheila Hennessey is a licensed massage therapist and CranioSacral specialist. She provides treatments in Parker and sees private clients. She is a registered therapist with the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. From their website:

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists understand how an optimally functioning healthy nervous system performs.  We are trained for years on how to use acute perception skills to perceive subtle physiological changes.  We also are aware of the energetic map that underlies one’s basic health and symptomology.  We believe that health is never lost no matter what the ailment.

What happened?

To say it was very relaxing would be an understatement. My nervous system had been on overdrive for months, from moving amidst a series of life challenges.

As the stress-induced body armor melted from the heat of the Bio-Mat I entered a parasympathetic state. This allowed my body to begin the healing process. With Sheila’s expert touch and gentle guidance the layers of tension began to dissolve.

A few highlights from this session:

  • Subtle shifts and tingling sensations in my body.
  • The healing effect on my neck.
  • Sweating and detoxifying.

Afterwards I felt very light and balanced. My alignment and posture improved a great deal. I felt calmer and more comfortable in my whole being. I enjoyed this enhanced state for days on end.

I recommend this therapy to anyone who practices yoga and meditation. Not only is it phenomenal for relieving the effects of prolonged stress, it does wonders for the central axis of the spine. This gentle process can also help expedite the development of the mind-body connection.

If you are considering CranioSacral treatment, I highly recommend you contact Sheila.

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Superfood Peanut Zucchini Noodles

Swift as the wind

Quiet as the forest

Conquer like the fire

Steady as the Mountain

– Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Can you feel it?

Things are heating up. There’s a buzz in the air, like we’re on the precipice of something big. It’s almost palatable, electric.

It’s not great for sleeping but it is good for getting focused. And whatever we focus on, grows…

Summer heat brings thunderstorms. As the storm approaches, sink down and root. Take slow, deep breaths.

Just stay cool.

Summer is a great time for detoxifying and introverted asana practices. It’s also the season for salads, juice, and other raw foods.

There are a few raw dishes in my culinary arsenal that have withstood the test of time. Zucchini noodles are one of them.

My love for zucchini noodles (zoodles) began with a simple salad of wide noodles (using a vegetable peeler), marinated for fifteen minutes in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt.

Easy to digest = easy to absorb the prana of the food.

My brother sent me this spiralizer for Christmas. I’ve been waiting for the warm weather to try it out.

My first project: Peanut Zucchini Noodles. I found some inspiration here:

Crazy Good Peanut Noodles (Quick & Easy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo)

And here: Easy Healthy Dinner: Peanut Chicken Noodles

Zucchini is a superfood that has incredible health benefits. Peanuts and peanut butter are powerhouse foods too, especially for men.

A Word of Caution: Please read ingredient labels, avoid trans fats, and choose organic whenever possible (especially zucchini – avoid the conventional GMO variety). Toasting nuts adds flavor and kills mold. People with peanut allergies could substitute almonds/almond butter.

Superfood Peanut Zucchini Noodles

Makes 3 servings

Sauce

5 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp Sriracha (I like MM Local)

Combine in a saucepan and warm on low until peanut butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stir Fry

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 carrot, cut into 2″ slivers
1 bell pepper (yellow, red, or a combination), cut into 2″ slivers
1/2 c green onion, sliced (reserve green parts)

Preheat a large saucepan or wok on medium low. Add coconut oil, carrot, pepper. Gently stir fry for 5 minutes.

While cooking julienned vegetables, spiralize 2 medium zucchini with the wide, fettuccine blade. Set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp minced garlic and white parts of green onion to the stir fry. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until garlic is fragrant. Turn heat off.

Add zucchini noodles and green onion parts, fold in sauce. Finish with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil.

Toppings

1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, toasted peanuts
Himalayan pink salt

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Summer Skincare is Getting Juicy

Outdoor Fitness Classes – Parker Tai Chi and Qi Gong Club

Outdoor training season is one of my favorite times of year. Navigating the weather can be a bit of an adventure here in Parker, Colorado. We get flash hailstorms all summer and it can get pretty windy at times. Which is a big reason why I’m so grateful to have a new indoor training space.

On nice days it’s amazing to train outside here. The sunsets are gorgeous and the skies are incredible. And after a long winter it feels so good to soak up the warm sunshine while exercising.

One of my local outdoor training spots is the Parker Norwell Outdoor Fitness park. Park gyms are a very cool phenomenon. I’ve seen a few of them in my travels around the country. This one was designed by the Barkholt family from Denmark:

During travels in Asia, the family experienced how the public outdoor fitness parks everywhere offer easy access to exercise, and the perfect supplement to the family’s walking and running routines.

This experience inspired the Barkholt family to develop their own unique line of outdoor fitness equipment, expressing the very best of Danish Design: quality, functionality and aesthetics.

There’s one piece of equipment that I really like – the curved pull up/stretching bars.

It’s perfect for practicing a full range of strength and flexibility exercises. A few of my favorite exercises include:

  • Hamstring Stretches
  • Flat Back Stretch
  • Hanging Spinal Stretch
  • Leg Lifts Series (for core and leg strength)
  • High Bar Stretching

These exercises are highly beneficial for all levels of experience. If there was one thing I could recommend that people do for themselves this summer it would be to train outdoors 2-3 days a week.

I’ll be co-hosting a series of small group sessions at the Norwell Park Gym and other local outdoor training spots. Contact me if you’re interested in attending a free seminar on how to do these exercises.

For more information visit the Parker Tai Chi and Qi Gong Club’s Facebook page.

 

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