Friday, March 29, 2013

ABC’s for Skin Health

Lets face it, this winter was a tough one and unfortunately our skin is the one who takes the beating! Our skin dries out from the heat in our homes which causes dehydration. We tend to drink less in the cold weather than we do in the hot summer months which is even more dehydrating. Physical activity also tends to decline in bad weather and so circulation to the skin is compromised. Our skin is the largest organ of our body. We need to keep it as healthy as possible so that they rest of our body is working properly.

Paying close attention to the foods we eat can enhance the vitamins that nourish the skin. A good way to remember what to eat and ways to help nourish your skin is to say your ABC’s!

A is for avocado. They contain the best kind of fats that add emollients to the skin. They also help to block absorption of the "bad" cholesterol and aid in eyesight by their high lutein content. They are also unbelievably delicious!

B is for beets. They are rich in beta-carotene and high in phytonutrients that protect the skin.

C is for vitamin C, the vitamin that enhances the skin cells' ability to fight free radicals, the primary cause of skin damage.

D is for vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. We all realize that we get less of the beneficial effects of sunlight during the winter months. However, with Springtime here there is no excuse for not getting outside for at least 15 minutes of (unprotected) sunshine each day!

E is for vitamin E. A rich source of antioxidants and rich in emollients for the skin. Eggs, nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E.

G is for green tea. Green tea can reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (such as the rays of the sun), and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Skipping to O, omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds, walnuts, beans, olive oil and fish such as salmon and Coho contain the most omega fatty acids.

P is for plums. Plentiful plums are packed with antioxidants, which are healthy for the skin.

R is for rub. Rub your skin beautiful! While in a hot shower, take a washcloth with no soap and scrub your entire body until its uniformly rosy. As you scrub each day, your skin will release toxins trapped under it leaving you with soft, smooth skin within a few months! This improves your circulation, helps your digestion and allows your skin to glow.

S is for smile. A happy face is a healthy face. The act of smiling increases production of endorphins, the "feel good" hormones. When you smile, people smile back. Spread the wealth!

W is for water. Water, water everywhere! Hydration is key to moisturizing the skin. Water keeps the cells hydrated, while helping cells move nutrients in and toxins out which automatically leaves the skin looking better.

Z is for zzzzz's. Sleep, rest and refreshment are essential to healthy, radiant skin. This element is one that you cannot buy in a supplement or eat for dinner. Taking time to be conscious of your lifestyle and making the choice to rest and refresh yourself is your gift to yourself.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Holi!

Happy Holi!
Lets make this as a time to color one another's lives (not only with powders and dyes) but with words of encouragement, expressions of love, and acts of kindness.  

The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.

Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.

The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.

People spend the day smearing colored powder all over eachother's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sacred Pilgrimage to India 2013

I've recently returned from another amazing trip to India.  
I experienced endless highlights, but below are just a few.  Click on pictures to enlarge and be sure to check out a few of the links to some sweet videos!

The poorest of children beam with nothing but pure happiness.  Look at those smiles!
Click here to see them in action.
Children at the Bhaktivendanta Mission School doing their
morning yoga routine.  Click here to see their preciousness!

ISKCON's Food for Life kitchen where they make thousands
of bowls of kitchari for children every day.  They're literally
shoveling rice here in the kitchen, that's how much food we're talking.

Their kitchari was so tasty but very spicy
...otherwise the kiddies won't eat it!  

The Bhaktivendanta Hospital is the ultimate
holistic hospital.  I felt like I was dreaming!

An authentic Indian cooking class on how to
make dosas!  So fun and of course yummy.

I was choking back tears watching such tiny beings
radaite with devotion for the Divine.

We visited a weaver's village in Mayapur.  See them here!

Connecting with Mahatma & Jahnava was such a special part of my trip.

Yoga asana is an essential part of healing at the
Bhaktivendanta Hospital...they know what's up!

Morning puja at the temple.  Flowers, incense, light & love are offered.

We had countless interactions with cows during our travels.  They're
such beautiful beings and create such a sense of calm within you when
you spend time with them.  

Jagannath Puri, an extremely sacred place.  Jagannath translates to master of the universe
so hundreds of Hindu's come to worship each day at the temple.
Below me in this pictures was a monkey doing something dirty, see here.  

An artist at work on the floor on an intricate Ganesha painting.
This will take him 6 months to complete.   !

Beautiful Krshna with a sweet little girl at his side.

Covering up from the holy-hot sun.

Way too cute!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Healing Kitchari

While staying at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai during my first trip to India some time ago, we were served a yellow, mushy cooked food at each one of our meals.  I had no idea what it was - all I knew was that it was totally delicious.  This began my love affair with kitchari.  On this past trip, the joke between our group was how Lauren would finish off any of the kitchari left at the table!  I swear, I could eat it all day, every day.  

Kitchari means "food of the gods" in Sanskrit.  This hearty, one-pot dish is widely eaten in India, especially by sadhus, who leave it to cook while they are meditating.  It's also served in India's hospitals to children and the elderly since it's an easy-to-digest nourishment.  Therefore this recipe is great for anyone who is recovering from an illness, fatigue, or having digestive problems.  It's excellent for general detox at the change of season, hence the reason why I'm spotlighting it now as we bloom into spring.  Prized as a nourishing and cleansing complete meal in Ayurveda, it has been a staple in my diet when I'm sick, cleansing, or needing to give my system some serious comfort.  

Ghee, spices, rice & beans, veggies all cooking in a pot
= divine kitchari that tastes and feels oh-so-good.
1 cup split yellow mung dahl beans (available at health foodstores, Asian or Indian grocery stores)
1/2 cup long grain white basmati rice (feel free to use brown if you've got it, see below why white)
1 tbsp ghee (click here to learn how to make your own - it's so divine and healthy!)
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger root
1 tsp each: black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder
1/2 tsp each: coriander powder, fennel seeds, sea salt
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 inch kombu (seaweed)
5 - 6 cups filtered water
1 - 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional, but I love carrots, organic zucchini, spinach)

Wash rice and split mung beans well. 
In a saucepan warm the ghee on medium low heat.  Add all spices (except turmeric, bay leaves and kombu) and saute for one-two minutes until the aroma of spices are released.  Add rice and split beans and saute for another 2-4 minutes, mixing well to coat with the spices.  Stir in turmeric, bay leaves and kombu then add 5 - 6 cups of water, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook until rice and beans are tender (approximately 30-45 minutes).  If you're adding veggies, stir in the longer-cooking ones like carrots or zucchini sooner than later, and add the leafy greens towards the end.  Your finished kitchari should be the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth.  If you need to add more water you always can.  Taste test to see if it needs a bit more sea salt.  Serve with fresh chopped cilantro on top, or blend together the cilantro chutney below and serve with a generous tablespoon of it.  Either way, slow down and enjoy this uber comforting meal.  

Cilantro Chutney Recipe:
1 bunch fresh chilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp fresh ginger root
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp sea salt

Directions: Blend ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender until it's like a paste.  Use a dollop on top of your kitchari to add a zing to it.  This can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.  

Why long grain white rice?  
If you're using kitchari to cleanse, long grain white rice is used because the husk has been milled off to make the rice easier to digest.  While brown rice may be used - and will actually supply more nutrients - the husk makes brown rice much harder to digest (and may irritate the intestinal wall and cause gas or belly pain).  Also, long grain white rice has a lower glycemic index than short grain rice.  Who knew?

Benefits of Kitchari:
Kitchari gives strength and vitality, while playing a key role in nutritional healing.  It's a potent blood purifier.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mung beans are used to strip environmental toxins out of the tissues which is especially helpful for the reproductive organs, liver and thyroid gland health. 

Kitchari, being both rice and beans, is a complete protein.  It provides ten essential amino acids.  Animal proteins are "complete" in that they contain all ten essential amino acids, but plant foods need to be combined to make a "complete protein."  Rest assured that this wholesome meal is complete and totally satisfying, no matter what your diet may be.  Give it a try and see for yourself!  

In India, kitchari is often the first food for babies, not only because it is so easy to digest, it also heals and soothes the intestinal wall.  It's also fed to monks and yogis to help create a sense of stillness and deep inner calm to assist in spiritual inquiry and meditation practice.  

Make kitchari when you are sick, when you are sad, when you are cleansing, for others when they are under the weather, when you can't be bothered to cook, when you come back from a long trip, when you need to regain strength, when you need some serious comfort food. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CYH's Song of the Moment: World Without End, Boxer Rebellion

Every yoga class that I play this particular playlist with the Boxer Rebellion song above, a student comes up to me after class asking who it was.  It's such a pretty song.  <3 them!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comfort Foods Revealed

What comfort foods do you crave?  There can be a number of reasons for desiring a comfort food. First, you may simply just be hungry. The reason most food cravings occur is because a lot of people have waited too long to eat.  When you're hungry, naturally, you think about food. You probably aren't going to think about the foods that you don't like; instead, you'll most likely fantasize about your favorite foods such as a cookie or a cheeseburger!  For the average person, most don't crave a vegetable (although cravings for veggies will come over time after adding them in consistently!).  They like them, but they don't love them the way they do a slice of decadent cake.

Aside from being hungry, you might have an emotional reason for wanting a comfort food. Food cravings are really more psychological, then physiological. It's usually something that someone thinks that they really want, not that their body is telling them they really need.

These emotional triggers can be anything from feeling lonely or upset to being elated. You may link certain foods with making you feel better. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as muffins, or pastries, actually can chemically lift your mood. Carbohydrates, a large component of many comfort foods, raise serotonin levels (the "happy chemicals") producing a feel-good sensation in your brain.

Stressful situations can also cause cravings for comfort foods. If a person is feeling very stressed, they want to reach for something that they think is going to make them feel better.  So naturally, they go to those foods that they really enjoy.

A made-over comfort food of mine: Brown rice pasta tossed in
pastured organic butter, a few minced cloves of garlic, fresh
ground pepper with sea salt and a little brewer's yeast.
The taste and texture of certain foods may have a direct link to why you're craving them, and at certain times.  Crunchy foods create a loud noise while we chew…our mind's way to drown out the endless stream of thoughts.  Creamy foods can be relaxing…a way to ease stress.  Salt cravings can indicate a mineral deficiency.  Sweet cravings can signify a number of different reasons such as dehydration, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, lack of energy, or simply stem from a depressed mood.  Sour cravings may signify that your digestion could use a little assistance.  Liquid cravings (of any form) is another cry for hydration. 

Obviously, the best way to stave off cravings is to not get them in the first place. Be sure to eat every 3 to 4 hours and always pack a nutritious snack in between meals just in case plans change and you'll be off your routine or on the go. Resist the temptation to buy these foods while grocery shopping so that they're not in your house.  Keep in mind though; restricting your favorite foods completely can make you think about them even more. Instead make them occasional foods.  Better yet, learn how to prepare those favorite comfort foods in your own kitchen, in a healthier way! 

You can also try diversions or substitutions. Diversions usually include an activity such as taking a walk, calling a friend, practicing arts and crafts, surfing the Internet or reading a book. Sometimes our emotions are behind our comfort cravings.  Emotions are energy in motion so divert that energy somewhere else other than food.  A substitution could be having fresh crunchy carrots in place of chips or making your own pudding instead of chocolate mousse. 

Understanding the common reasons for your comfort food cravings, and diverting those cravings into something other than food can help you to stay in control of your food choices along with handling your emotions and stress in a healthy way.  Try these tips before mindlessly surrendering to your next comfort food craving:

1.     Take 3 deep, slow breaths right before you eat.  Take a good look at the food in front of you.  Notice it’s color, scent, texture. 
2.     Ask yourself honestly; What am I hungry for? Will this food nourish my body, mind and soul right now?
3.     Slowly take your first bite and place your utensil down.  Chew carefully and many times, savoring all that’s happening in this one bite of food.  Take each bite this slow and with much mindfulness.

The Who / What / Where / When & WHY of Comfort Foods
Deconstruct your comfort food cravings so that you can better understand where exactly they’re stemming from.  Answer these questions honestly and think way outside of the box, incorporating every aspect of your being into the equation.  This will provide you with much awareness and with awareness, change can happen!

What are comfort foods?

Who are your comfort foods?

Where do you crave comfort foods?

When do you desire comfort foods?

Why do you crave these comfort foods?

Do nice things for people who'll never find out.

My Granddad was a successful doctor in Milltown, the town I grew up in.  When I was younger I remember my parents reminding me how he used to pay for random students educations - without looking for any recognition what-so-ever.  Holy humble!

This picture was snapped at a place called Woody's Burgers in Port Antonio, Jamaica.  It was the sweetest little burger joint run by a lovely woman.  She whipped up the most delicious burgers for Lammer and I (yummy veggie options of course).  I couldn't help but snap a bunch of shots while we waited!  I left so inspired.