Exploring Self Through Yoga

GingerIf you have ever been to a yoga class you have probably heard your teacher say “listen to your body” or “pay attention to your breath” or “honour your body” or something of the like.  To be honest when I first started participating I had no idea what these nutty teachers were talking about.  Listen to what? who? where?  I was so focused on looking the way everyone else looked or figuring out how to do one of those crazy push-ups (chaturanga) to realize that I had no idea how to listen to my body.

I approached yoga like I approached my running. Grin and bear it to get to the end! Initially it was more important to make it through a class and get a good sweat on than it was to pay attention to any of those “fluffy” things my teacher was saying. I mean really how do you  “listen” to a body anyways it can’t say anything.  Then one day it happened I heard it! I was doing my best at forcing my body into some crazy hand balance pose (Bakasana or crow) when I realized I full on wasn’t breathing. I was holding everything in so tight that I didn’t realize it was this misdirection of effort that was continuously knocking me out of the pose. I wasn’t listening to my body!

Many years later I began teaching yoga myself. I would find myself giving the same direction about listening to your body and your breath, while encouraging my students to find their personal edge.  Then it occurred to me…do they have any idea what it feels like to listen to their body? do they know what I mean when I say “find your edge”? or are they doing the exact same thing I was doing trying to do…win at yoga?

It was through this realization that I allowed me to modify my queuing, and *fingers crossed* this has helped my students. Yoga has afforded me the opportunity to not only explore through my solo practice but I have also been given the gift of teaching others and learning through their experience, breath and postures.  It is during these times of exploration and learning that I have found yoga to open me up to exploring alternative ways of absorbing new material and allows me to actually understand what my body is saying.

Now after that huge lead up…time to explain what I mean by our bodies talking.  Through my life as a runner and a poor food choice maker (is that a thing?) my body has told me things weren’t right but providing me with achy knees, eczema, a sore stomach, irritated bowels, and now you probably know more about me than you probably ever wanted to.  It was by not listening to these discomforts that I drove myself down deeper into this spiral of pain and unpleasantness. However, not sure if you are or ever have been on one of these spirals, over time my body stopped telling me what it didn’t agree with (probably because I told it to shut it so much with the use of antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.).  After my body found its equilibrium again I started to feel “normal” so the next time I had some type of unpleasant flare up I once again blamed it on my body instead of what I was doing to my body.

How did yoga help with this? It gave me one single second.  It gave me a second here or there to just sit with my body.  It gave me the opportunity to learn that pain isn’t some type of punishment that my body is dealing out, but it is more like a memo. Once I was able to start slowing down, getting out of the mind set of winning at yoga I was able to listen.  Now, please don’t be mistaken, I am still a fairly competitive person (and in the worst way…you know one of those people that says they aren’t competitive but are) but I respect that part of me and use it to motivate me but understand that it isn’t always the right voice to listen to all the time.

So what, right? Who cares if I can understand what is up right? Well for one really care.  It is awesome to know that when my stomach acts up I should probably lay off the dairy or that when my yoga teacher is telling us to push deeper but listen to our breath I know what my breath should sound like for me.  It is awesome and empowering to know that achy knees means I need to build strength, that low energy means I should check how many veggies I am eating, that moving deeper into a pose might be right for some but it’s not right for me.  Yoga has taught me how to use those precious seconds in my life to learn a little bit more about myself and what my body needs.

So next time your yoga teacher says listen to your breath or your body use those seconds to listen and hear what your body is throwing your way, and then ride the wave of the positive benefits of the new connection.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

Probiotics – What’s the Deal?

You ARe whatAs of late I have been asked several times why someone would even bother taking a probiotic and what the benefits could possibly be.  After explaining it for the 3rd time in just a handful of days I figured it might be worth wild to explore the benefits of probiotics in a blog post.

Just starting it is important to understand that our bodies are full of various different forms/strains of bacteria at any given point.  We often plug these guys into two categories “good” and “bad” bacteria.  Our body’s goal is to achieve and maintain balance or homeostasis, so too much of one or the other can trigger our bodies to go into action and to attempt to start balancing things out.   The problem is with all the “food” (processed, chemically latent, chemically preserved items) we have at our finger tips we tend to have more of the bad stuff than the good.  Another way we can throw this delicate balance for a loop is the use of good ol’ antibiotics, antibiotics are non-discriminatory meaning that they wipe it all out not just the bad stuff.

So what is up with probiotics?

1. Absorption: probiotics can assist in the body’s absorption of nutrients (vitamins and minerals).  There are some vitamins (such as the Bs) that are made in our intestines.  A healthy balances of intestinal bacteria (good and bad) is what helps our body’s do this optimally.

2. Immunity: balance is always key. There is a pretty strong relationship between what is happening in your gut and how capable your immune system is.  If your breakdown and absorption of food is compromised, plus your intestinal ecology is all out of wack your body will have a hard time supporting your immune system.

3. Lady Health:  having unbalanced intestinal flora can lead to infections, and for us ladies yeast infections and urinary tract infections can be an issue when an imbalance is present. Probiotics can be used orally or vaginally to help bring balance back to the body and ward off infections of this type in the future.

4. Digestion: these little bacteria guys do wonders in breaking down food. If you are often finding yourself feeling bloated, gassy, etc.  Maybe try introducing some probiotics to your life to assist in the break down of food. Some studies have even shown that the use of probiotics might help to increase tolerance to dairy.

5. It doesn’t have to be a supplement. Probiotics are living organisms that get this don’t have to come in a pill! Sure a supplement will give you that boost you might be looking for, but having foods such as Kefir, Kimchi, Komboucha (lots of Ks!), Sauerkraut, etc in your diet might just give your body the sustainability it needs to stay healthy and operate optimally.

So basically probiotics can be a great addition to an already healthy supportive diet.  There are many different strands and varieties out there, and variety is the spice of life, so maybe go get yourself a kombucha or load up on some delicious organic sauerkraut and see what a properly balanced belly feels like for you.

Are you still interested?  If so check out some of these articles:

Harvard Health
Berkley Wellness
Huffington Post

 

Food Time – A Many Mushroom Risotto

I don’t know if you knew this about me but I LOVE mushrooms. I think they are one of the greatest things out there, cooked, raw, mashed into a paste anyway you can think it up I want to eat them. So a couple of weeks ago during a meal prep day I decided to make some delicious Many Mushroom Risotto, and it was so tasty!   Just for the fun of it I made this one vegan and trust you don’t lose any of the delicious creaminess or flavour you would get had I used butter and cheese, plus it cuts the fat/calorie content so it ends up being a super healthy meal.

Enough talk, I am sure you are all salivating so here is the recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Many Mushroom Risotto:

Serves 8-10 as a main meal

mushroom risotto1.5 cups Arborio rice
2 tbsp oil (I used grape seed oil it’s better for frying)
4 cups Vegetable stock (I use homemade, but if you need to get store bough get organic)
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
3 Leeks, white and light green parts chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
4 sprigs of Thyme, finely chopped
1 Portobello Mushroom, diced
*4oz (250g) Cremini Mushrooms, diced
*4oz (250g) Oyster Mushrooms, diced
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Prepare all ingredients so that you can easily toss them in, a lot of stirring is involved and you don’t want to let your risotto burn because something wasn’t already chopped up.

2. Heat half the oil in a large skillet or stew pot.  Once oil heats up add in all of your mushrooms, cook them down until they are soft 5-7 minutes.  Once cooked remove and set aside.

3. Add other half of oil to pan and heat, once heated add in leeks, onions and garlic cook for 2-5 minutes until the onions become soft and translucent.

4. Add in arborio rice stir in dry rice for about a minute to coat with all the juices that are going on in the pan.  Add in 1 tbsp of lemon juice, stir until evaporated.

5. Add 1/2 cup of broth to the rice mixture and stir until completely absorbed, then add in another 1/2 cup of broth.  Continue this until all of the broth is gone, stirring constantly. This should take 20-25 minutes and is a great arm workout, for one arm at least.

6. Once all broth is added into the mixture add the cooked mushrooms, fresh thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined and serve immediately.

*these sizes are just one prepackaged container of mushrooms, also if you want to add more go for it, it will be super delicious!

Let me know what you think of this recipe.   I hope to be back blogging on a regular basis shortly.  School is starting to calm down (not really but I keep telling myself this) and my work and life schedule is starting to actually find a nice balance.  I hope to bring you more updates, workouts, yoga routines and recipes soon.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Learning

During this mission/journey of discovering more about myself and make myself a healthy, happy and balance human I have learnt that any time I think I have figured something out I really haven’t figured it out at all.

I am personally a pretty big proponent of pushing your limits, encouraging yourself to the next level and breathing through discomfort, so learning to listen to my body has been a challenging lesson for me to learn.  It has taken a considerable amount of self-encouragement to learn that because I am listening to my body does not mean that I am being weak or giving up.  And to be honest I am really still struggling with fully believing that,  but it is slowly starting to sink in that just because I choose to hold back a bit and give my body a bit of a rest does not mean that I am throwing in the towel.

Yoga has probably been my best teacher in learning this lesson. Time and time again the instructor will tell you to go to your limits but to be sure you are listening to your body because your  “limits” they change every day.  What you were capable of doing yesterday is not necessarily going to be what you are capable of accomplishing today.  Just because I can go into full wheel does not mean that every time I practice the pose I should go into the full position.  Because it is something that is practiced in yoga regularly it has become less of a challenge for me to listen to my body and hear what it is saying.

However, when it comes to running (for example) what my body is telling me is much more difficult for me to hear. I think most runners out there can relate. There is something about running  that just makes you want to get in that extra mile, shave down those extra few seconds and to continue pushing yourself until you unlace your shoes.  But I am learning to respect my aches and pains and to respect them instead of ignoring them.

Time to start taking my own advice.

Besides the physical aspect of learning to listen to your body’s queues, it can be just as difficult if not more to pay attention to mental ones. I am learning that sometimes your physical body needs to take a break in order for your mental body to catch up.  It might not seem stressful but dealing with stress, lack of sleep, planning, organizing, couple with numerous other activies can wear anyone out.  I believe this is why the spa was invented.

So if you take away one thing from this it is learn to listen.  We so often pay so much more attention to others in our lives and remind them to take care of themselves that we miss out on taking care of ourselves.

Happy Wednesday Everyone. 

Let me know in the comments below how you relax?

ps. please note I have updated  “Workin’ It” and “Run Club” check them out.