Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stiff Neck Frustration

This is what my neck has felt like all day, heavy!
Go away negative thoughts zebra!
As I type here right now, I may as well have one of those huge white neck braces on because I can barely turn my head.  I woke up with a MAJOR stiff neck.  I can easily turn to the left, but forget about turning to the right.  I have to move with my whole body or only turn my eyes towards the right.

Yea, you're reading this right - the limber yoga teacher who stretches, does pranayama and works out each day has a stiff neck.  But, how the heck could that be?  Let me enlighten you...

Last night as I got into bed I was restless after a loooong day at the office.  At the office, even though I'm the wellness director, much of my day is spent behind a desk, staring lazily at my glowing computer screen, typing away while remaining sedentary.  I'm flooded with things to do (aren't we all) and hop from one thing to the next.  It can get pretty hectic, so sometimes my shoulders will shrug up towards my ears as I hunch over my keyboard while my leg shakes for minutes/hours out of nerves.  My commute is a little over an hour and a half (just one way) so I'm in the car for at least 3 hours each day driving on some of the most populated highways in the tri-state area.  Anyway, last night was a beautiful summer night and I'm lying in bed with both windows cracked open to the sound of the crickets.  On any normal night this would lull me right off to a wonderful night's sleep.  However, for some reason my mind was filled with NEGATIVE thoughts.  I was feeling stress in my chest area, couldn't seem to relax my body and certainly couldn't slow down my thoughts.  I try taking some deep breaths...not working.  I catch myself creating these stories in my head about the day...things I didn't do, things I shouldn't have said, blah blah blah.  Finally after tossing and turning, I fall asleep and have a long night of that kind of half-awake state but deep dreaming.  The content of my dreams were uncomfortable.  The alarm goes off at 4:45am and I awake feeling like I didn't sleep at all.  I sit up and immediately grab my neck/shoulders and feel the shooting pain.  I must have slept on it wrong, I thought.

Then I got to thinking.

I didn't sleep on it wrong...last night my mind was consumed by negativity which paraded through the rest of my body creating stiffness, inflammation and stress!!!!  This is the perfect example of what you think, you become.  Well while drifting off to sleep last night my thinking was off in a totally dark direction and my body became a nervous, tension-filled wreck!  

Moral of the story:  Your body hears your thoughts.  It hears exactly what you're saying to yourself and the tone you're saying it in.  Tonight I'll go to bed consciously changing the tone of my (inner) voice. I'll speak only sweet, soft thoughts, while inviting every muscle in my body to relax.
Now, doesn't that sound pleasant compared to last night's rest?!

This blog post was originally posted on Live. Breathe. Grow.'s blog. I'm an Inspiration Nation blogger for them, and so proud of it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Breaking Up with Gluten

"That's it, gluten! We're officially over." says Lauren to the delicious and pliable whole wheat wrap on her plate. (She throws it into the garbage then wipes away a tear.) But then, the week after, she's enjoying the most delicious balsamic marinated grilled tofu melt on top of thick ciabatta bread. Heaven. The next day, bloated and crampy she throws the breaded parts of her yummy left overs into the trash and becomes emotional because she's forced to break things off with gluten yet again. (This emotional roller-coaster of a relationship with Lauren and gluten continue on and on.)

I've hesitated eliminating gluten for years now, in fear of having some sort of reaction to it and sure enough, I do. I have a gluten sensitivity which, for me, means that certain foods make me achey, BLOATED, congested, heachachey/fog-headed, and sluggish (both digestively/mentally/physically). Sometimes the effects come on a few hours after eating something with gluten, but often times they come the next day and may actually last for as long as 2-3 days. I can't take it anymore! As I'm writing this my bloated belly is petruding through my dress and the thin belt around my waist feels like it's going to bust off at any moment.  I need to chill out on gluten.

I went gluten free last fall for a little over 2 months and felt GREAT.   However, since then I began adding little bits of gluten back in here and there.  I avoid it whenever I can but as you have read, I do have some slip ups now and then!  As with all of the evolutions in my diet, I know it takes time to implement and stick to new changes. Saying goodbye (even limiting gluten) seems to be the hardest, but I have absolute faith that I will get there. I've already implemented some simple changes that have been really tasty and nutritious. For example:

-I love peanut butter and jelly so now I've been enjoying them on rice-cakes (which have always been a favorite food of mine).  Or on Ezekiel bread (see link and more about this below)

-I have been enjoying my hummus with chopped up carrots, celery or peppers.

-I'm placing things that I would normal eat with bread over a bed of greens or wrapping in a collard green.

-I've been limiting the amount of soy sauce I use when out eating sushi, and using Bragg's Liquid Aminos for the sushi that I order in.

-I grab whole pieces of fruit to snack on throughout the day and have been making my own fruit/nut bars.

-Luckily I've been off pasta and pizza for quite some time, which gives me hope because I NEVER thought I could move away from those foods. I swear by brown rice pasta, and even got the rest of my Italian family on it.  I've been making vegan pizza's on Ezekiel sprouted wraps (Please note, Ezekiel still contains gluten, but does not bother me as much as a white or whole wheat flour wrap would. You must explore what foods you can tolerate and can't with your gluten sensitivity. Those with an allergy towards gluten (or celiac) would NOT be able to consume products such as these.).  

Thanks, Ryan.  Now I will think of you each time I want
some fluffy bread & feel better because you have my back.   
The list goes on...and basically all of the changes have resulted in eating more whole, real foods at each meal which has been great! But just as with most meaningful relationships, you'll have a difficult time separating and calling it quits, and I'm clearly in this stage. I'm writing this to remind everyone that I struggle just like everyone else with making changes to my diet. During times like this I really have to take the advice that I give to my clients and be patient, stay focused, make the best decision I can at every meal and most importantly remind myself that it's OK if I slip here and there.

Have you gone gluten-free and have any ideas, stories, recipes or suggestions? Please share!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wendy's Brown Rice and Edamame with Almonds

Last fall I picked up and left for a journey out to California.  I checked into the Sivananda ashram in Grass Valley for a weekend of chanting with Jai Uttal.  The experience was unreal.  Anyway, that was where I met and connected with Wendy!  Please check out her recipe below and look forward to a few more in the future.  Thanks, Wendy!

About Wendy:  I’ve been veggie on and off all my life but recently moved more to plant based whole food (of Forks of Knives, etc.) diet.   Cooking is a meditation for me…chopping and dicing and experimenting with flavor and texture.  

I’m a nurse practitioner in Campus Health at NAU (Northern AZ Univ) and constantly appalled at the poor diet of my students…. So I’m teaching a lot of this to them as well.

My quilt quild has a huge potluck holiday party every year. Last year I was signed up to bring a salad. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in almost 2 weeks (I had been busy!) and so my challenge was to make something out of what I had on hand.  I didn't have a lot to work with, but I did have some frozen edamame.  I found an edamame salad recipe that I thought I’d try, but when I made the dressing I just didn’t like the smell or the taste.   It was time to create something myself.

I love the combo of ginger, soy, garlic, and honey, so decided to wing it and here’s what came was a hit with just a tiny bit left after the food line died down.  I had the leftovers for lunch the next day and it was even better!

Brown Rice and Edamame with Almonds

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2  cups shelled, steamed edamame beans
1 cup roasted almonds
2 generous Tbs honey
2 tbsp fresh shredded/minced ginger
1 clove crushed garlic
1/3 cup soy sauce

Bring 2 ½ c water to a boil; add 1 cup brown rice.  Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, covered until all the water is absorbed.

Steam edamame according to package directions, or about 5-7 minutes. Cool and remove the pods. You’ll need about 2-3 cups of the edamame “beans”

While the rice and edamame are cooking, prepare the dressing.

Whisk together honey, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.  In a serving dish, combine the rice, edamame, and almonds and toss with the dressing.

Refrigerate for 2-3 hrs or overnight.

So easy, so good, so healthy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pause during work and click this each day.

Whether you work in an office, at home, or just plain need a on this link at least once per day to R E L A X and enjoy.  A few minutes away from your day to break, breathe and re-ground yourself will only add to your productivity and well-being.  Bookmark it in your computer now!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Post-It Note Wisdom: The Journey is the Reward

This will forever be my favorite quote!  Reminds me to slow down
and enjoy this very moment...right now.  

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

This past weekend, the beau and I took a mini-vaca and headed up to our friend's place in Woodstock, NY.  Sunday was gorgeous, so we gave a visit to the well known, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary!  It was even more beautiful than I had imagined it, with animals roaming everywhere.  A smile never left my face throughout the whole visit!  We went on a tour to learn about all of the animals and about how so many of them were saved from terrible, inhumane situations.  To see them happy, healthy, LOVED, in the sun, and enjoying life was such a wonderful thing!  
Lovely day to visit the animals!
A pretty sheep just trottin' on by.
Lammer feeding the cow celery.
Jive turkey!
They all just hang out and do their thing.  I love it.
We picked up some organic, locally grown summer peaches.
Taste of summer.
I swear I didn't plan to wear my shirt with cute
animal print on the back, it just happened!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Makes Me Happy Right Now - The Olympics, yoga outside, gorgeous summer night concerts & more.

Last night I went to bed repeating the mantra LOVE, over and over again.  My heart center widened and I drifted to sleep with a sweet smile on my face.  I felt as if I were bursting with gratitude.  Today I'm ever-so-grateful for:

1.  BF & BF getting along.  There's nothing like the sound of your best friend and your significant other cracking up together, enjoying one another's company.  This weekend Frank, my long-time best friend from back home spent the weekend down the shore at our house.  He and Lammer had a blast together.  In the picture to the left, John is showing Frank how he "suits up" for a day of iron working with his heavy harness and tool belt.  Afterwards, a storm rolled in and the two of them stayed outside during the rain and played in the driveway.  They were like two little kids - I love it!!!

2.  The Olympics.  I can't imagine anyone arguing with me that having the summer Olympics on TV all day, everyday for these past few weeks has been the best thing ever.  So much excitement.  Also, so much inspiration.  I feel so lazy as I'm munching on snack foods while sitting in my living room watching these athletes do what they do, so it's been making me get the heck up and move even more than I already do!

3.  Enjoying a concert on your back.  Before your mind goes to a dirty place, hear me out!  The Celebrate Brooklyn stage in Prospect Park, Brooklyn is one of my favorite venues for a summer show. My great friend from college, Jessica, and I always book a show or two there each summer.  Last night we enjoyed Yo La Tengo and M. Ward while lying on our backs, staring up at the trees as the sun was setting.  We sipped white wine and just melted into our blanket.  Yum.

4.  This inspiring thought:  I close my eyes, think positive thoughts, and breathe goodness in and out.  

5.  Teaching yoga classes outside.  On days like today (breezy, sunny and gorgeous!) I teach my Office Yoga classes outside for the employees.  It's not only a treat for me, but certainly for them.  At the end of each class I let them lie on their backs and rest for a bit.  I give them the option of closing their eyes and just listen to the breeze, or two half close their eyes so that they can gaze up at the swaying trees and passing clouds.  Ahhhh...

Back in March of 2012 I decided to do these posts because it's really easy to be suckered into negative thoughts when we're surrounded by stressful media, unhappy people and whining Facebook status updates. My guru, Swami Vishnudevananda says that for every negative thought you have, replace it with 2-3 positive ones. I love this concept and practice it regularly. I usually find the most effective way of climbing out of a negative attitude is to think about something that I'm grateful for. Feelings of gratitude really lift you up. In honor of this concept, I'm starting a post with this same theme and will blog it regularly. I'll list a few things that make me happy, lift me up and keep me smiling! Let's face it, world peace is something that will never happen. However, I can create my own little world of peace and happiness in my mind through my thoughts! Please give it a try as well and share how it affects you.