Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

Enjoying a green smoothie in the morning starts my day off on the right note.

I have a secret. I don’t eat breakfast most days. No, actually, I drink it. In the form of a green smoothie. Yes, it looks like green sludge. I actually like that it looks so off-putting, because it tastes amazing. Much more smooth, sweet, and flavorful than you’d ever imagine. Honestly, it’s as good as any smoothie that uses just fruits. Nutritionally, it’s better.

To say this drink has changed my life would almost be an understatement.  If you Google around green smoothies, you’ll find all sorts of recipes and lists of benefits. Some of the benefits I’ve personally noticed:

  • Higher, even energy levels.
  • Better moods.
  • A clean, light feeling because the smoothie is full of fiber and nutrients.
  • Better digestion.
  • Calmer, brighter skin.
  • Food cravings are noticeably reduced.
  • A feeling of accomplishment for having loads of veggies as the first meal of the day. (I think this is important–so much of balanced eating is psychological and emotional as well.)
  • I’ve noticed that the smoothie makes it easier to stick with healthier eating throughout the day.
  • Filling enough to power me through Yoga teaching and practice, without weighing me down.

For some reason, I love drinking my green smoothies out of beer mugs. Never got into beer, so go figure. I do have a lot of random glasses and dishes around. Sometimes I add a drink umbrella for fun.

I’m forever indebted to my friend, clinical nutritionist, and fellow Yoga instructor, Kim Snyder, for blogging so extensively about the green smoothie. I’m so glad she got me into it. It’s made a huge difference in my life.

The smoothies I whip up aren’t exact replicas of any one recipe. The one pictured today was a tropically-inspired combo of frozen spinach, fresh pineapple chunks, banana, and shelled hemp seeds. The hemp seeds add a nice wallop of protein, fiber,  good fats, and zinc to the drink.

Pineapple Spinach Colada Green Smoothie

To serve 2-3

Combine the following in blender:

8 ounces (1 cup) frozen spinach

10 ounces filtered water (more if needed)

1 cup pineapple chunks

1 large banana or 2 small bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons shelled hemp seeds

Stevia or agave nectar (if needed, to adjust sweetness)

Whir up all ingredients except agave nectar or sweetener in blender . Test for sweetness, adding agave or stevia if needed.

Note: By using frozen spinach, you don’t have to bother with ice cubes. If room temp spinach is all you have on hand, though, by all means, use that and just add in some ice cubes.

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Eka Pada Koundiyanasana. I love arm balances!

Today’s post is gonna be a bit self-indulgent. I have the right, though. Birthday Girl’s Privilege. Yep, my bday is this coming Sunday. It falls on Easter this year, which I think is pretty cool, because it’s a time of rebirth and renewal.  No matter what creed or religion we follow (or don’t follow), the concepts of  renewal and rebirth are potent and hopeful.

In years past, I’ve been all about partying it up for my birthday, but lately I’m feeling more of the chill-out vibe. Not only that, I like to take my birthday as a time to reflect, renew, and just be good to myself.

Yoga always makes me feel brand new, so I’m including a few snaps of me in some funky poses. The first one is one of my favorite arm balances, Eka Pada Koundiyanasna. From there, we can go to the chin balance and then add more of a backbending element to the chin balance:

A chin balance. Anyone know the Sanskrit name for this one? I forgot.

Chin balance progression. Notice the unassuming and unimpressed cat lounging in the background. You'd better believe he can bend his back much more deeply than I can.

Another thing that makes me happy? Raw, gluten free,  dairy free, VEGAN cheesecake. Like these lovely samples sent to me by Earth Cafe. Yum yum! What a way to kick off my birthday weekend :-) . I’ll post more about them soon, but for now, let me just say that the flavors are poppin’, and they taste every bit as good as a traditional cheesecake, with the added bonus of not feeling like you’ve swallowed a brick after eating. Good times!

Finally, I can enjoy cheesecake again. Earth Cafe's are gluten-free, vegan, raw, and have no refined sugar. They taste amazing!

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Yup, that's me in a Vasisthasana (side plank) variation. How did I get here? Certainly not on the first try. Patience and hard work were key. No matter where we are in our practice, it helps to "See the good," as one of my teachers often says.

Patience and gratitude have been on my mind a lot lately. It started, perhaps, with my students. The first recent scenario was a new-to-me student asking me if the class I was about to teach (as a sub), “is going to be athletic?” Mind you, we’d not yet started class. Some people hate to feel as if they’re wasting their time. I get that. Fair enough. But sometimes it’s good to be open to new ideas and forms of movement. And by the way, the class was indeed athletic, as I usually teach more on the vigorous side to begin with. I assure you that the student in question was challenged and then some.

The second incident was a student I know interrupting my introduction to that night’s class by saying, “Well I need to get a workout because this is my only chance to work out.” Funny, because I’ve never not challenged that particular group. But the mere fact that I’d mentioned putting some restorative poses into the mix that day apparently set off alarm bells in this student’s mind.

Then another student seemed to think forcing herself into a headstand in one of the first Yoga classes she’d ever taken was reasonable, despite explicit instructions to not force one’s way into the asana. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. Oh dear! :-(

It’s moments like these that force me, as a teacher, to take a breath, take a moment, and regroup. To remember to see the good. To turn that positive into a negative. Clearly, each of these students was having a moment of impatience, and dare I say, a moment lacking in gratitude for where they were at in their practice and lives at that very moment. Frankly, it’s hard for me not to lose my patience with them sometimes in moments like these. I’m a fiery Aries and my dosha is pitta, after all  ;-)

BUT on the flip side of that, they were present, enthusiastic, and wanted to work hard and be challenged. That’s actually pretty cool, when you think of it that way.

We all have moments of impatience and ingratitude. Myself included. Bet on that!

But what Yoga teaches us is how to live through these moments. How to quiet the mind so the moment can pass. How to bring gratitude into our lives. Gratitude that we are well enough to even attempt the poses. Gratitude that we are well enough to use the breath. Heck, gratitude that we are indeed breathing! Gratitude for whatever our teacher offers us.

We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. The standard. This wasn’t always so, but today, we have cell phones, the Internet, Twitter, blogs (yes!), the grinding 24 hour news cycle, email, and countless other distractions to contend with. Can anyone say overwhelming?

The Yoga mat and the meditation practice offers us a safe space to step away from all of these distractions. It’s key that we do disconnect from all of that noise sometimes, in order to re-connect with ourselves and our higher selves!

Some days my mentor pushes us really hard in the Yoga practice. Other days, he gives us deeper, more restorative asanas to attempt in class. I’m grateful for it all. In the past, I might have felt differently, but getting deeper and deeper into the mind-body connection has taught this impatient woman a tiny bit about patience. Like another teacher I really admire often says, the Yoga has helped my mind be more open to “See the good.” And for that I’m grateful. Shanti!

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As a Yoga practitioner and teacher, and a lover of food, I found this New York times article on the overlap of Yoga and foodie culture interesting.

As a writer, I thought it was well-written, and the copy editor did a fantastic job with the headline. Reporter Julia Moskin certainly did talk to many of the big players in the New York Yoga world. Some were more “live and let live” than others. You’ll see what I mean when you read the article.

On this blog, I’ve explored some of my feelings about food and the mind body connection here and here.

Have a look at the New York Times piece:

Dried fruit is one of my favorite pre and post-Yoga snacks. My friend Kim Snyder, who is a clinical nutritionist and Yoga instructor, says it's best for you digestion to eat it on an empty stomach, then wait at least 20 minutes before eating anything else.

When Chocolate and Chakras Collide

I’ll be back soon to post on halva, and the many reasons I enjoy it in moderation.

In the meantime, a quick tip: Dried fruit enjoyed in moderation is a great way to fuel up before Yoga.

If I find my energy dipping before a class, sometimes a couple of dried figs or dates will help me out without weighing me down. Try to eat your fruit on an empty stomach. Yum! Oh, and by the way? For an optimal Yoga asana practice, try to be done eating two hours before you begin your practice. That way your body and mind can focus on the postures and the breathing, not the good work of digestion. ;-)

EDITED TO ADD: This is my response to the New York Times, in the “Comments” section:

As a food writer/blogger AND Yoga instructor/practitioner, this article really interested me. The whole judgment thing is soooo not my scene. I’ve run into that energy a few times in the course of my Yoga journey.

Eating where I’ve just sweated? Doesn’t sound appealing to me, but live and let live, right?

I absolutely think an awareness of what and how we eat is key, but, like some of the other posters said, there are many interpretations and paths. The people who seem to have hit upon the perfect diet for themselves must kindly remember that the diet that works for them might not work for another. Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, says as much.

For me personally, a dietary path that doesn’t include garlic, onions, and chiles doesn’t hold much appeal. With all due respect, I’ll pass on that path. I will aim to eat in an environmentally respectful way, and source any meat with extreme care (I don’t eat much meat lately anyways, but still).

The whole idea that enjoying bounties of this world is somehow wrong? I don’t buy that. Even the Dalai Lama says that one of our main purposes in life is to cultivate happiness. Because when one person is happy, that happiness can become contagious and a catalyst for positive changes. The opposite is true–bad moods are contagious and can lead to who knows what! Sometimes the simplest things in life can bring about happy moments. Enjoying a lovely meal is certainly a simple pleasure–if we allow it to be.

Just as a deeper understanding of the asanas (Yoga poses) develops with time, practice, and patience, so do our food choices. The same could be said of the depth of compassion and acceptance we cultivate for our fellow Yoga practitioners, no matter where they may be in their own personal journeys.

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A little shift of pace just for today, then back to the cooking stuff, I  promise. . .

That's me in a Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) variation. Photo by Conrad Turner.

I’m not a big calorie counter, truth be told. I like to be aware of calories, but not to obsess. Yoga has taught me a lot about the mind-body connection. The connection has deepened to the point that I can now almost instantly feel my body shift from “We’re hungry” to “We’re just eating for recreation at this point.” I do my best to listen. ;-)

Please understand that this connection did not happen overnight. Quite the opposite–it happened with time, with patience, and with dedicated practice. So if, perhaps, you’re hitting fatigue with your New Year’s resolutions (remember those?) take heart. Putting in the time and effort is key, and you’ll rarely regret doing so. What you will regret? Giving up or slacking off.

Staying active isn’t an all or nothing proposition, either. I still sometimes catch myself slipping into this mentality. I take a step back and remember: If you can’t do a full-on session, try at least a few minutes walking and/or stretching to refresh you and to keep the energy in your body and mind moving.

That all being said, it’s fun for me to keep active. I really do enjoy it. Love that endorphin boost! Sometimes I even get to be active on TV.

Recently, I showed up to a call time to shoot a TV fitness segment, and who did I spot but Kafi Drexel, who is the NY1 Health and Fitness reporter. We see each other around sometimes since we work (and run in) similar circles. But we also know each other from “back in the day.”  Yes, we attended Columbia University together, the Journalism School in particular.

Bosu Balls are great for training the body to balance in multiple ways.

The workout featured in that day’s segment involves lots of balance and lateral exercises designed to prep your body for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. It was no joke, folks. A serious calorie burner for sure! Everyone demonstrating the workout was sweating. Bet on that.

I’m just providing linkage for now. . .gonna figure out how to embed video before long! Click below to play. Try to find me–I’m the one doing my best to balance on the Bosu Ball. Kafi was kind enough not to put in footage of me wobbling ;-)


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