I Tried Switching to a Plant Based Diet & Here are my Unexpected Results!

I Tried Switching to a Plant Based Diet:

Here are my Unexpected Results!

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These days it seems like everyone is adopting a new diet! Plant based, paleo, gluten free, ketone...it’s hard to keep up! But I’ve personally been surrounded by more and more people eating plant based diets. Even Beyonce announced that she would be eating plant based to slim down for Coachella!

I have avoided meat in my diet for years. I followed a pescatarian diet, which means the only meat I ate was fish/seafood, for 4 years. Then switched to fully vegetarian for another 5 years. I did eat a lot of cheese. My family is Spanish and we appreciate good Manchego. And Gouda. And goat cheese. And... really just all cheese. I always told people I could never be vegan because I could never give up cheese.

But, after watching some documentaries that really made me think, I decided to try going fully plant based.

This meant no more eggs, no more dairy, no more cheese, a lot more questions when ordering at  restaurants, a whole lot of label reading… and a whole lot of questions from my family.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would feel a difference. I’ve been avoiding meat for over 9 years. Yes, I saw huge changes when I first removed meat from my diet, but that was a long time ago. I just thought what I was doing would make a difference in the environment and help me avoid future health problems. I was in for a surprise.

Here’s what I found:

Hello, Muscles!

I have pretty much always worked out, not daily, but regularly enough. I teach yoga & Pilates so I am definitely active. But I’ve always had sort of a “softer” physique. Which is totally fine with me. After less than six months eating totally plant based I can now proudly say that I have abs! And I kind of want to shout it from the rooftops!

That little bit of belly fat that just wouldn’t go away ever? Gone. Bye Felicia. Even though I had come to terms with my soft belly, I could really get used to my flat, toned tummy! Makes me wonder, were they just hiding there all along under a little dairy bloat?

Lately every time I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile they ask me where the rest of me went. And it Feels. So. Good.

Goodbye, Phlegm!

Gross. I know. But every morning I used to wake up and cough up some yuckiness when I would brush my teeth first thing in the morning. Sometimes I would get it during the day too. It was just something that I was used to having. For awhile I was really good about using a neti pot morning and night and that helped, but then I lost the routine. I honestly didn’t put it together that it could just be from eating dairy. It took me about a month to notice, but one day I just woke up and realized I hadn’t been coughing anything up. I felt more clear.

And that one time I ate pizza with cheese? That just reaffirmed it. I woke up the next day with a throat full of yuck - phlegm. Not to mention the digestive problems I dealt with for TWO days. Honestly, it made eating dairy totally not worth it. But luckily for me, I can still eat cheese!

 

I Can Still Eat Cheese!

Yes. I can still eat cheese. And not have any digestive issues or phlegm.

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Because there are amazing cheese substitutes! In fact, I’ve now been to two restaurants near me that make their own cashew “ricotta” to put on pizza and it is just as good as the real thing! I’ve even ordered a full on plant based cheese board - and it was delicious!

I’m not a big fan of eating a lot of soy, so when I started finding nut based cheese substitutes I was ecstatic! I even found a vegan cream cheese that is actually better than the real thing. I did not think that could be possible. (Now if only my favorite bagel spots would start carrying it!)

It has been a lot of fun trying new, healthy alternatives. Don’t even get me started on all the different vegan mac n’ cheeses I’ve tried!  I like to think of myself as a reformed cheese junkie. The one thing I thought I couldn’t live without, suddenly transformed into my new favorite food.

The Hard Part

While these past nine months have been much easier than anticipated, I have certainly run into a few challenges. Not all restaurants offer plant based options. And some aren’t even willing to try to make something more interesting than a salad with lettuce and tomatoes for you. Some menu items may not say that they contain dairy, but when the food comes it’s topped with cheese (and not the nut based kind).

Whenever someone who doesn’t eat like me wants to go out for lunch, I have to read the menu beforehand to make sure I can eat something. Sometimes I have to ask if we can choose another restaurant. But if I can’t ask to switch and I can’t get a full meal, I just have a protein shake before and order fries or steamed veggies if they have it.

Luckily, this hasn’t happened too many times. Most restaurants seem to be adding more and more plant based options. I’ve also been noticing a lot more totally plant based restaurants popping up. I always have somewhere new to try!

When I travel to a new city, it’s even more fun! I always look up plant based restaurants in advance and try to make it to as many as I can. When you can’t rely on meat or dairy to add flavor, you have to get a little creative to make the meals exciting. Some of the most interesting (and delicious!) meals I’ve had were totally plant based! The best part about eating a big vegan dinner? I don’t feel bloated or tired after a meal! Actually, I feel pretty good!

The Verdict

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Eating plant based has been a pleasant surprise. Although I didn’t expect to see or feel any physical results, I feel awesome and I look good too - if I do say so myself! It has been much easier to follow than I had anticipated. And while I can’t say that I’ll never eat eggs or dairy again, I know that I will be more mindful of how I feel after eating every meal so I know how my food is affecting me. As long as I keep feeling this good while following this diet, I don’t see a reason to add meat, dairy, or eggs back in!

back to basics: take flight with crow pose

"Bakasana—the beloved Crow pose.

This pose is typically the first arm balance that yogis learn. It takes more trust than strength to execute this particular pose. However, once you’ve gotten the hand of Crow pose, all other arm balances become simple."

Read the full tutorial I wrote for beYogi.com HERE! Here you'll learn step by step hw to get into the pose, modifications for how to get started, AND step by step instructions for how to get into the full expression with straight arms!

If you tried it, let me know in the comments below!

a yogi's guide to self love

Love yourself. Yes. But how?

You've heard this phrase in yoga class, in Pilates, in meditation, in your conscious book club, even at your juice bar. You've heard this phrase so many times that you would think by now you'd get it. And yet you don't.

Just love yourself.

But what if you've spent years and years judging yourself, wishing you could change parts of you so you'd look like more like someone else, and just generally not loving yourself? What if you're just not sure how to love yourself? What if it's just not that simple?

Read the full article I wrote for YogaClub HERE!

back to basics: how to ease into chaturanga dandasana

"What yoga flow class would be complete without Chaturanga Dandasana?

Contrary to popular belief, this Chaturanga Dandasana is not a transition. It’s a pose that can be held all on it’s own. Chaturanga Dandasana strengthens and tones your upper body, core, and legs. And as a yoga instructor, it’s the pose I always see practiced incorrectly."

Read the whole article I wrote for beYogi.com HERE! You'll find step by step instructions and ways to modify the pose as you're building up the strength for it!

finding space in savasana: a guide to sacred stillness

It's every yogi's favorite pose. But what does Savasana actually mean, and how can you get the most out of it in your yoga practice? Savasana literally means corpse pose. It represents death. But not in a morbid way or in a sad way, either. It represents death in the same way that in the fall, trees shed their leaves. Or a snake sheds its skin, or a deer sheds its antlers. It represents a letting go in order to let in.

The Easiest & The Hardest Pose

Savasana might be the easiest pose in your yoga practice to execute, but it’s the hardest to master. What could possibly be so hard about Savasana? All you have to do is lay down right? Stillness — that’s what’s so hard. Our bodies are constantly going and going...and going. When we ask the body to stop, sometimes it doesn’t understand. When we unconsciously fidget all day, it becomes a challenge to stop for 5 -10 minutes at the end of a yoga class.

What’s going on in the mind during Savasana? 

Read the full article HERE!

Source: https://yogaclub.com/blogs/news/how-to-fin...

say goodbye to sciatica with these yoga poses

Burning, tingling, searing pain traveling from the buttocks down the back of your leg. I hope this does not sound familiar, but if it does, you are probably dealing with sciatic nerve pain. The bad news is, it hurts. The good news is, you can practice yoga to relieve the pain.

What is the Sciatic Nerve?

The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in the body. It begins at the low back and then runs down the back of each of the legs. It runs from spinal nerves L4 through S3. These nerve fibers unite to form the sciatic nerve behind the piriformis muscle, which is typically where the pain seems to stem from in many sciatica cases. At the popliteal fossa, back of the knee joint, the nerve splits into two branches.

Read the full article I wrote for beYogi.com HERE!

 

age gracefully: what you need to know about yoga for seniors

Yoga is for everybody, and everybody.

No matter your age, there is a yoga practice for you! Beginning a yoga practice can be intimidating for anyone, but it can be especially tricky for those with mature bodies. However, with the benefits that yoga for seniors provides, make it worth practicing.

Anti-Aging Benefits of Yoga

Practicing yoga does a lot for the body as you age, not to mention what it does for the mind. As a yoga teacher, I have noticed that some of my most dedicated students are over the age of 50. These same students tend to be the ones that tell me what a difference they feel in their bodies after just a few weeks of regular practice. It’s easy to feel the difference!

Retains youthful glow.

Read the full article I wrote for beYogi.com HERE! The article shares benefits of yoga as we age, contraindications, and poses to practice!

 

to sit or not to sit? that is the question.

This might make a few people uncomfortable.

   And I'm okay with it.

I'm not going to pretend to have an opinion on sports. I'm not going to pretend to like or understand or care about sports. It's cool if you do. Athletes are badasses and I can appreciate that. 

I'm also not going to pretend I get why this whole sitting during the anthem thing is such a big deal. I've asked people who do care to explain it to me, and let's just say the answer was confusing.

Because it's just a song. Just like the flag is just a piece of fabric.

And none of that matters.  

Symbols are symbols. You can put value to them or choose not to. I've seen plenty of symbols that probably meant something to someone but meant nothing to me. 

I think people are important, much more important than a symbol. I think equality and loving kindness matter more than a symbol.  

And I think if sitting down or standing matters that much to anyone, they should really reevaluate their lives.

What matters?

Nationality does not. Religion does not. Kindness, however does. And compassion does. Your ability to be there for someone in need does matter. The way you treat your loved ones does matter. The way you treat this planet we share does matter. 

I hear people talking about respect. Respect for their country, their military, their perceived freedom. How about respecting human fucking rights? How about respecting our planet and helping care for the environment? What about animals?  

I care a lot about sentient beings. Things with feelings. Do you know what doesn't have feelings? A song. A flag. A country. A symbol.  

But I guess these players did something right. They got the guy that sits in the Oval Office playing with the Twitter machine all day and night pretty worked up. They got a lot of people with really skewed values all fired up. They've started a conversation that basically shows us just how deep this divide really is.

It's amazing how something as simple as sitting or standing can show you so much. 

 

 

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kali ma.

Kali,

the divine mother, appears to be fearsome.

She is the goddess of destruction. She rides a lion and wears a garland of skulls and a skirt made from dismembered arms. She dances in graveyards. But she is the most compassionate goddess of all because she is willing to destroy the ego. Her love is so fierce that she destroys evil in order to grant liberation. She destroys our attachment to the temporary body, to the material. 

Kali destroys that which holds us down. 


Hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, floods.

These things all bring destruction. They carry Kali energy - if you really look hard past all that seems to go terribly wrong. These catastrophes bring people together. The aftermath is unity, compassion, and maybe just a little enlightenment.

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remember to ground down.

This hurricane is causing whirlwinds of energy - not just the storm, I mean in people. There is so much worry and so much fear. It's a direct hit to the root chakra. 


Remember to ground down.

Sink into earth energy. Think dense, cool, heavy. When you start to feel anxiety creep up or your mind spins in circles, bring your awareness to your feet, your legs, and the base of your spine. Ground down through your feet if you're standing or through the sit bones if you're sitting. Connect, and feel the heaviness of gravity holding you down. I like to think of gravity as mama Earth holding us close.

Sink into that feeling. Let your muscles relax. Feel your bones get heavy. Breathe. 


Remember that you are safe, everything will be okay. 


If you chant, try the mantra Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. This mantra calls up Ganesha energy. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and takes the form of an elephant - sturdy, strong, and grounded.

I hope that if you are living in the path of Irma, you stay safe!

Namaste!

Chanting, Ganesha, & the Magic of Yoga

Something amazing happened. Unknowingly, I took my first step onto the path laid out for me. 

 

I was maybe 21 or 22 years old. I was married to someone who had been keeping big secrets from me since the very beginning. My heart knew something was off, but my head couldn't figure it out. Knowing that you're being lied to, but not having any proof or any reason to believe it is a tricky situation. I was in love. We were riding this roller coaster together. Big highs, and even bigger lows. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Like pieces of me were getting lost along the ride. I floated on.


I don't remember how I found it. But somehow I learned about a group of yoga teachers that taught all donation based classes outdoors.  I found this great teacher and I went to her classes really regularly. Sometimes I was the only one who showed up. It was my therapy.


Those hours spent doing yoga in the park made me feel sane. They helped me see that there was so much more out there. And that it was okay to want more.


One day after asana practice she taught the group the chant to Ganesha. I had never chanted before. I had no idea who Ganesha was. I'd seen pictures of him before, but I never really knew who he was or what he represented.


She explained that Ganesha was the remover of obstacles. He is depicted with the head of an elephant and the body of a boy. His ears are large, for listening. His belly is large enough to digest any problems, any obstacles, anything that we can't stomach alone. He is often depicted riding a mouse, which symbolizes how light he is - free of any attachments to weigh him down.


Chanting felt... natural, but also other worldly all at once. I felt like this weight had been lifted. And it felt good.


Chanting opens up the most beautiful space around everything. This space is always there. Sometimes we forget because we're so focused on what's happening in our minds. When we chant, the sounds bring us back home to that space within.


After that very first chant to Ganesha, I had a strange almost out of body experience. Maybe not out of body, but certainly out of mouth. I went to the teacher after class to thank her and give a donation, and something strange came out of my mouth. I asked her where she trained to become a yoga instructor. I told her that I had been thinking of becoming one myself.


In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind. I felt like I had just lied to her. But to my surprise, she told me that she knew that I would do it. That I would become a yoga  instructor. Her faith in me gave me faith in myself. I let the thought linger. 

 

That night a friend of mine who is quite psychic read my tarot cards. The message could not be more clear. The cards told me that I was stepping onto my life path - the path of a healer. They told me to follow through with the thoughts that I had been having.

 

Sometimes signs are subtle. Sometimes they're so subtle that we may miss them. Other times, signs are neon

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reminiscing. missing.

I missed my grandfather today. I wished he could've been here in Barcelona with me. To show me the places he knew. That were his.


I've always felt that Barcelona was mine. Not mine in a possessive sense. In the way that a certain style is yours, or a habit. Barcelona was mine.


But today I had that sense that he was missing. This city where he had grown up. Where he had lived. That was his. Here I was just reminiscing about every day I'd spent here, without him.  Without him as a guide or a mentor. And now he was missing.

 La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

Packing 101

I am gearing up for a one month backpacking trip through Europe! I leave in five days and I haven't given much thought to packing yet. This isn't my first long trip through Europe, nor is it my longest so I'm actually not worried about packing at all. In fact, I've made plenty of packing mistakes in the past so I feel super ready to never make those same mistakes again. At this point I'm kind of a pro - which is why I am sharing my do's and don'ts of packing for long trips!

 Montserrat, Spain 2013

Montserrat, Spain 2013

Do:

  • Check the Weather:

Get a solid idea of what weather you should expect in each place you're going to. This will help you avoid having clothes you never end up wearing. But also - pack layers in case the weather changes unexpectedly. 

  • Take Only a Backpack:

I took a three month trip to Europe a few years back and made the gravest rookie mistake of all time. I took a giant suitcase. It was the biggest hassle and such a pain to carry up and down steps ALL. The. Time. After a particularly long day partying in Croatia, I went to leave my hotel in this beautiful, old, but very lively area with super worn down stone steps wearing my favourite combat boots. I got about one step down carrying my giant suitcase before I slipped on the slick, worn stone steps and landed right on my tailbone catching the giant 50 pound bag in my lap... in front of several outdoor restaurants and tons of tourists.  You don't need more than a backpack's worth of stuff. And trust me, you really really don't want more than a backpack. I promise. 

  • Leave Some Space in your Case. 

Don't take a case, definitely take a backpack - but backpack doesn't rhyme with space. Leave room for things you'll want to buy. My last trip I started out all fine and dandy with my backpack...until I had to buy a second backpack to wear on my chest because I couldn't fit all of my new stuff. You already know you're going to want to buy things. I would definitely try not to buy too many things in each spot but leave a little room in case there's anything you really love or want to buy for people back home. 

 Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2015

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2015

Don't:

  • Don't Forget an Adapter!

It's so much easier to get the adapters you need while at home than it is to have to go find them while traveling. Check to see if different countries you're going to require different adapters. For example, the UK uses different electrical outlets than the rest of Europe so you'll need both. There are also universal adapters which are super clutch. 

  • Don't Take Appliances!

 For starters, you don't really need them. I've brought hair straighteners and curling irons with me before and didn't even realize that they didn't work until weeks into the trip. Because I never even tried to use them. Oh and also reason number two why you shouldn't take them is they won't work. Sorry. Let your hair go au naturale for your trip. Many AirBnB's also have hair dryers anyway so if you really must use one you can probably find one where you're staying. 

  • Don't Sweat It!

Other than your passport, you can pretty much buy anything wherever you're going. If you forget toothpaste it'll be okay, they brush their teeth in other countries too. If you're taking trains everywhere, it may even make more sense for you to buy full size toiletries once you arrive, rather than buying mini ones to take on the plane and then just having to buy more once they run out. 

 

 Sevilla, 2013

Sevilla, 2013

inspiration.

Sometimes it's good to remember that inspiration comes with preparation. When I have no inspiration, if I push myself to at least set up my space- whether that means setting up my easel and putting everything into place and mixing paint, or making tea and getting a notebook and my laptop ready for writing - the simple act of setting up my space creates the right mood for inspiration to come join me where I am.

Sometimes you just have to start. Light a candle. Make it special. Dress a certain way to prepare yourself for it. Put on music that inspires you. 

When I was younger, if I so much as painted  my nails I would get struck with ideas for a new painting. If I tried to do homework, simply holding a pen or pencil made me want to sketch. But I think as we get older and we get more responsibilities, we become less inspired because it feels like there isn't enough time for creativity. Of course that's not true. Creativity fuels you. Creating can give you energy to do everything else you do with just a  little bit more joy. 

Let inspiration hit you. And if it doesn't, seek it out. Create space for it. Tell the universe " I'm ready". And let inspiration meet you where you are  

 

set yourself free.

So humbled.


One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.


I could see her pain. I could see her confusion. She almost wanted to stop coming so that she wouldn't cry.


Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry.


We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.


Crying sets your pain free.


Human beings are not meant to carry the heaviness of emotions with us. We're meant to feel them. Process them. And then, let them go.


And in doing so, we set ourselves free.

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release through yoga.

So humbled.

One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.

Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry. 

We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.

Crying sets your pain free.

This made me feel so grateful that I get to do this work and hold space for people. I get to be a part of their emotional healing journey. 

I cant imagine devoting my life to anything else.  

 

sacral chakra & creativity

I've been wanting to write a blog about each of the chakras for a long time now, but not anything formal or even informative.  I just wanted to write the first thing that comes to mind about each. What I've written below actually wrote itself yesterday. It's about creativity. Which is exactly what I think about when I think about the second chakra. 

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But first, a little about the second chakra.

The second chakra is the sacral chakra, or svadisthana. The element of the sacral chakra is water.

Flow. Movement. Emotion.

 Amorgos Island, Greece  

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Imbalances here can show up as bottling emotions, or being overly emotional, intimacy issues, repressed sexuality, or issues with addiction. It can also show up as writer's block, loss of creativity, or a loss of authenticity

My svadisthana mantra is "Creativity flows through me like water." And some days it's, "I feel, I'm in touch with my emotions, I'm in touch with my sensuality."

So below is what I wrote yesterday about living a creative life. I felt like it was appropriate to share along with this. Hope you dig. :)

Writing can me to tears.

Reading about writers writing gives me butterflies. It's something that I know is mine. I can feel it in my blood. It rushes through my veins like words rush onto a page. 

I feel this way about teaching yoga. Sometimes I feel this way about painting too. 

You don't have to stick to one calling. You can have all the callings you care to. I nourish my inner creator every time I step on a yoga mat, every time I pick up a paint brush, every time I write.

Sometimes I feel like I don't do it enough but the truth is, I just do it when I feel inspired. And sometimes that's five times in one day and other times it's five times in one year. 

The reason I'm writing this is because it asked to be written. But also because I want you to know that you have permission to create whatever your heart desires. 

You have permission to become anyone or anything that you choose. You do not have to stick to the path you're on.  As human beings we are truly blessed with the ability to create. And we do it every day. We create style when we get dressed. We create culinary art when we cook. We create so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

 And that inner artist in you is begging to be recognized. Just to be acknowledged. Then maybe inspiration will flow to you too. And if it doesn't, just play. There is nothing wrong with making art that isn't "good", whatever that means. It's the process that counts, the journey if you will. The act of making the thing, not the thing itself that is important. 

This is our gift. 

To create. To be inspired. To play. To connect with our divine. Our inner creator. 

This is the magic that exists within each and every one of us. 

Whether you choose to accept the gift, or not is your choice.

This is a public promise to myself that I will write when I feel inspired. That I will paint when I need colour. I will move when my body asks me to move. I will live creatively, because it's the only way I can. This is my soul pledge. 

This is a formal invitation to join the movement. There is enough room for all of us. There is enough inspiration to go around for everyone. Will you come create with us? 

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how to let go: say goodbye to stress in seven days.

More and more people every day are experiencing stress. In fact I am constantly seeing articles online about the rise of stress related illness, and about the number of people who report feeling stressed at work or overwhelmed.

So what's causing this trend? And how do we start to reverse it? 

The top three common sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities in that order. These are all real things that we have to deal with to be a functioning part of this world. Neither money nor work can actually be avoided, and I'd be willing to bet the same people who say that their family responsibilities are a source of stress still love their families and wouldn't want to avoid them.

So if we can't avoid stress, what's the solution?

This is not the part where I prescribe a cure all or say some magic words and render you stress-free. Sorry.

This is the part where I offer you a solution that works - but it takes a little effort on your part. Consider this a seven day stress relieving challenge. 

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Day One: Where is your time going?

Do some soul searching. When was the last time that you felt truly free? It probably wasn't the other day when you got stuck in your Facebook news feed for 25 minutes when you meant to just go in and send one message. 

Maybe that was me. Oops. But maybe you've done the exact same thing. Or maybe you've spent six hours of your day binge watching Netflix. Recognize where your time is going. Ten minutes here and there, or a few hours a day may not seem like a lot right now but trust me the time adds up. This time is basically stolen from you.

Most people also don't feel particularly fulfilled after scrolling for half an hour or watching an entire season of something in a week. Usually once you finish that season, it's just like, what's next? 

Do you know what two things rarely seem to go together? Stress and fulfillment. More on that later.

For day one, your task is to recognize where your time is going. Be radically honest with yourself. Take notes all day. Write down every time you open social media and how long you spend on it. Write down what shows you watched and how long you sat in front of a screen - this gets fun when you time how long each commercial is and find out how much time you're being fed advertisements. 

Ideally you'll keep this time diary for the entire seven days. But getting one full day in will at least give you an idea of where your time goes. 

Day Two: What can you let go of?

Now that you have an idea of what is sucking up your time, it's time to make some decisions.

If you realize that over the course of one day, you spent an accumulated two hours of your time on the Facebook app, it may be time to delete the app. I'm not saying delete your account, just make it less easily accessible. Instead, give yourself 25 minutes at the end of the day to go through your news feed on your laptop or computer. Set a timer & stick to it. 

Let go of the things that steal your moments. 

The moments that make up your day are the moments that make up your life. Do you want to spend it scrolling? 

Release the things that aren't bringing you bliss to create space for happiness to grow. 

Day Three: What are you grateful for?

Create a gratitude practice. 

One really simple way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal by your bed and write in it morning and night. In the morning, write down three things that you feel grateful for. And at night, write down three things that you are grateful for that happened that day. 

Now I've already suggested that you keep a time diary for the week so if you're like, dude, I hate writing why are you making me write every day? Then another sweet way to practice gratitude is to do a daily gratitude meditation. 

You can totally find guided gratitude meditations on the Mindbliss app, or on YouTube, or any site that has meditation videos. One of my favourite gratitude meditations actually comes from the Tim Ferriss podcast. This meditation with Tony Robbins is super short, 11 minutes total. It's an excerpt from their full podcast. The full episode is amazing if you're into listening to podcasts, but if not just do the short meditation piece.

Eventually gratitude becomes a habit. It is literally a muscle that you build up. Once that muscle is strong, you'll begin to feel gratitude spontaneously throughout the day. Maybe you'll feel grateful every time you feel the warm sun on your skin, or every time you see a flower. These are moments of beauty. Look at you, getting those moments back!

Day Four: What jewels are you hiding?

This is where we get into fulfillment. Each and every one of us has something that lights our soul up. I love this quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, "The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them." 

Today you're going on a treasure hunt.

Think back to the last time that you felt truly, blissfully, free. Maybe it was last month, maybe it was in childhood. We are all creative creatures. What was it that as a child you loved to do? Maybe you danced, or played sports, or ice skated, or made crafty things. Maybe you loved to tell elaborate stories, or sing, or color.

I was in love with art. I loved to sew Barbie clothes and draw and write poems. Now I know that as an adult I need to write and paint and make things to fulfill my inner creator. This is a non-negotiable. And when I neglect these needs, my inner creator turns into one of those hangry beasts from the Snickers commercials. Not cute.

Do you know what happens when you don't eat for a long time? At first there are regular signs of hunger like the stomach growling. But after some time those signs subside. It becomes a dull ache. Something that you learn to live with, to cope with. It becomes background noise. (Until eventually it becomes literally all you can think about)

Your jewels, your talents, your creative needs have always been there. But because the body doesn't physically need for you to create to survive, those needs become background noise. A dull ache, a feeling of emptiness. Something missing. 

Stress & fulfillment cannot co-exist. 

Find out what it is that would fulfill you. Maybe your jewel is listening to people. Beautiful, go volunteer at an elderly home and listen to the stories of their youth. Maybe your jewel is dancing. Beautiful, take a dance class once a week or make it a habit to go dancing once a week. Maybe your jewel is yoga. Beautiful, do it #everydamnday.

Make these things a priority. 

Day Five: What moves you?

What literally moves you? Movement is medicine. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it another million. Movement is medicine

Your body is built to move. It is not built for this world that we've created. It is built to climb, to run, to crawl, to dance. Your body should move in every way, every day.

But not everyone has time for that. So make it a point to move in some way every day. And make it a point to change the way that you move as often as you can. 

Exercise releases endorphins. Simple. It relieves stress. But when we're stressed we don't think that we have time to exercise. When in reality, it would ease our suffering. 

Often the thing that you resist is the thing that you need most. 

If you are already a regular yoga practitioner, then change up your routine. If you're a dedicated Barkan method practitioner, then switch to a Budokon class instead. Just try something different - even Pilates or a bootcamp class. Nothing good grows from stagnation.

Overall, the most important thing here is to move. 

Day Six: Where is your mind?

Come back to the moment. 

When you're stressed, your mind is not here. Your mind is probably trying to juggle all of the things on your plate and spinning in a vortex of repeating negative thoughts and worries.

So come back. 

When you are at home or at work there is nothing stressful actually happening. You won't be eaten by a dinosaur. You won't be chased by a bear. It's all good. The problem is that it doesn't feel good in the mind. And your entire experience happens within the mind.

Try sitting or lying down and taking a slow scan of your body. Notice exactly how your body feels in this moment, starting from the bottoms of the feet and moving your way up to the scalp. Notice each and every muscle, every joint, notice the sensation of clothing on your skin, notice the surface that you're sitting or lying down on, notice the sensation of hunger or fullness in the belly. Get completely plugged in to your body. 

And breathe.

Bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe deeply. Even if it's only for five minutes. Coming back to the moment will significantly reduce, if not eradicate your stress. 

Do this every time you feel stressed. Every day if you have to. Until it becomes a reflex. 

Do not let stress steal your moments. Live in the here & now.

Day Seven: Who's in charge?

Who's in charge? You? Or your thoughts? How do you take back control?

Medicate. 

Just kidding. Meditate. 

Become the observer.  

Meditation helps you to train your brain to observe your thoughts, rather than attach to them.  So when your head starts spinning with stressful thoughts, instead of getting caught up in them you observe them and let them pass. 

Start a meditation practice. Start small, just five minutes a day. After five days, move up to six. And then add another minute every day until you make your way up to whatever amount of time you can set aside. Maybe that's 20 minutes once a day, or maybe that's an hour in the morning and an hour before bed.  

I use the Mindbliss app for guided meditation, but you can meditate on your breath as well. They have meditation journeys that you can do which usually start as shorter amounts of time and gradually add a little time. Find one for stress relief! 

 Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my  Greece retreat!

Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my Greece retreat!

It's time to break free from stress. Say goodbye!

I hope these stress relief lifestyle changes work for you! We will be going into all of these and more on my yoga retreat Awakening in Amorgos this August 19-26th! Pay your deposit by May 15th to save $200 off! Come ready to find true transformation and learn habits that you can take with you back home to lead a healthier, happier, stress-free life! I hope to see you on the island!

root chakra & ganesha.

In honor of the #SevenDays7Chakras instagram challenge I thought I'd post a blog about my own personal experience with each chakra and I plan to let this be sort of stream of consciousness-y, rather than informational or planned out. 

root_chakra

Starting with the Muladhara chakra, or root chakra. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the root chakra is Ganesha. Ganesha is the Hindu god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. The very first chant I ever learned was the chant to Ganesha. I cried that very first time, without quite knowing why. It opened up something in me. That same night I found my spirit animal. Ganesha is also the lord of beginnings. It seems fitting that the chant to Ganesha would be my first chanting experience. 

I've chanted to Ganesha countless times since then. Sometimes joyfully, sometimes choking on tears every other syllable. The reason I think of Ganesha when I think of this chakra is because he is the ruler of the Muladhara chakra. "He guards the gate to the pelvic floor" as MC Yogi puts it. He is the remover of obstacles, depicted with an axe to cut through the delusions/illusions or maya of this world. He has a big belly, able to digest all of life's problems. He's also a child god, created by Shakti. I love the story of the birth of Ganesha. Hinduism is rich with elaborate and magical stories. 

To understand the birth of Ganesha, it's important to first understand Shiva & Parvati.  

Shiva&Parvati

Shiva is the great creator. He dances universes into existence. And Parvati is the mother of the universe.  Shiva would often leave for months at a time, dancing in the forests as Nataraja. One day while Shiva was away, Parvati created a statue of a boy out of some clay. He was so lifelike that she decided to give him life. She named him Ganesha. She grew quite fond of him and treated him like her own son. One day she asked Ganesha to stand guard at the door of the palace while she went to take a bath. While Parvati was in the bath, Shiva came back home. Ganesha, following orders and not having met Shiva, wouldn't allow Shiva to come in. Shiva was enraged, and asked his soldiers, the Gunas, to move him out of the way so that he could enter his own home. Each of the Gunas tried, but Ganesha stood his ground. He would not allow Shiva to pass. Shiva grew so angry that he lost his temper and killed the boy, chopping off his head. Parvati heard the fighting and came back to see her now lifeless son. Her rage was greater than Shiva had ever witnessed. She threatened to destroy everything in creation. Brahma, the Creator, took issue with this and pleaded with her to stop. She agreed not to destroy the universe on two conditions; one, that her son be brought back to life, and two, that he become a god worshiped forever above all other gods. Shiva agreed and quickly found a replacement head, the head of an elephant. Ganesha received the name Ganapati which means leader of the Gunas.

ganesha_art

The chant to Ganesha is simple, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. Om is the universal sound. Gum is the bija mantra, or seed sound of the root chakra. Ganapataye is the formal name given to Ganesha. And Namaha means I invoke you. 

Click this link to hear Wah's version of the Ganesha mantra on Spotify. 

This chant not only taps into root chakra energy, but it also expresses a willingness to release attachment and a little prayer to help remove obstacles. Happy chanting!