breathing exercises for anxiety.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Yoga with Adriana Lee breathing exercises for anxiety

Below are a few breathing exercises to calm your nerves during an anxiety attack.

The most common symptom of having an anxiety attack or panic attack is the sensation of not being able to catch a breath. Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation, during panic attacks can be scary and can cause all kinds of unsettling symptoms like tingling sensations and muscle contraction.

The fact that you’re still breathing means that you’re okay and you are getting enough oxygen. However the rapid pace of short, shallow breaths can raise your heart rate, and blood pressure. One reason why you can’t get a deep breath even when you try is because you’re so focused on the inhale that you forget to exhale completely. Continuously trying to get a deep breath when your lungs are still full uses your chest muscles to expand your ribs more to try to fit more air in. This tightening of the chest muscles can cause chest pain or heaviness. The chest discomfort felt during an anxiety attack is usually not the heart, but the chest muscles.

During an anxiety attack, the sympathetic nervous system is turned on, meaning that you are in the fight or flight response. Deep, belly breathing turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, often called Rest, Digest & Heal. This has a calming effect.

Diaphragmatic Breathing, or Belly Breathing

The simplest breathing exercise for anxiety is diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a dome-like structure just under the ribcage. When you breathe into your belly, your diaphragm expands as you inhale, and contracts as you exhale. You can even feel it naturally move up into the rib cage when you hold your breath on empty for a few seconds.

  1. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest.

  2. Exhale completely.

  3. Start your inhale in your belly. You should feel the diaphragm expand into your hands, or the belly move out into your hands as you inhale.

  4. Continue inhaling into your chest, but only a comfortable amount.

  5. Pause with your breath held for a few seconds. You might count to 3 or 4.

  6. Exhale slowly feeling your belly empty before your chest.

  7. Pause briefly before starting your next inhale.

Repeat this breathing exercise for several rounds until you feel calm and your anxiety has dwindled. The rhythm is inhale belly rises, chest rises, pause, exhale belly falls, chest fall, pause.


Ujjayi Breathing, or Yogic Breathing

Ujjayi breathing is commonly used in yoga classes everywhere. This breathing exercise is slightly more complicated than diaphragmatic breathing but is very effective for anxiety. Ujjayi breathing is essentially a slow inhale and exhale through your nose, while slightly constricting the back of your throat as you breathe. This creates an oceanic sound. The reason Ujjayi breathing is so effective for anxiety is because the constriction of the back of the throat slows down the breath, and stimulates the vagus nerve - which turns on the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest, Digest, & Heal).

  1. To get a feel for ujjayi breathing, first inhale and exhale through your mouth as if you were fogging up a mirror.

  2. Then, try inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose continuing to make that whisper sound throughout.

  3. Finally, try inhaling and exhaling through your nose making that same whisper sound the whole time.


Lion’s Breath

This type of breath can feel a bit silly but is very helpful for anxiety.

  1. Exhale completely.

  2. Inhale slowly through your nose into your belly first.

  3. Pause briefly, one or two counts.

  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth while sticking out your tongue as far as you can. Keep your tongue reaching towards your chin for the duration of the exhale.

  5. Repeat 5-10 times.


Watch this video for an even better understanding of how to perform these breathing exercises for anxiety.


lessons from the lodge.

Lessons from the Lodge

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The other night I experienced my first sweat lodge ceremony. It was intense, but I learned a lot. I started seeing repeating numbers the day of the ceremony - all day. I saw 222, 333, 444, 1234 on the clock, in license plates, and on buildings. I knew spirit was ready to communicate but I didn’t know how.

I woke up pretty early on the day of the ceremony, around 4:30 am. Most of my day was pretty normal - aside from all of the repeating numbers and excitement, but normally on days that I wake up early I go to bed around 9 or 10 pm. The ceremony started at 8:30pm so I went into it already tired (note to self, or anyone planning to do a sweat: take a nap).

My friend who invited me to the sweat lodge gave me a few instructions to make sure that I would be ready. These were my instructions:

  • Bring a small plate for the feast, and a small tobacco offering for the water pourer.

  • Women wear long cotton skirts and cover their shoulders.

  • Women do not attend on moon time, because this is a time for women to be nurtured and honored.

  • No jewelry or shoes worn in the lodge.

  • Bring a towel and a change of clothes.

  • Drink plenty of water all day to prepare.

  • Have an intent & prayer.

When my fiance, Mike, and I got to the location of the lodge we were nervous but excited. I think he was more nervous, and I was more excited. We gave our offerings and met everyone there. A woman, who I later learned was Aztec, explained more about the lodge to me. Men and women would be on separate sides of the lodge to balance the energy. Before going in, we would walk around the fire clockwise, kneel down, and say aho mitakuye oyasin which means all my relations. I had heard that before, aho mitakuye oyasin, in other ceremonies. She also told me if I ever needed water or needed to get out to use the restroom or anything I would say aho mitakuye oyasin and ask.

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Before we went in, we were smudged by my friend with white sage and juniper berries. An altar was set up with a buffalo skull, and elements that represented each of the directions. I had journaled earlier in the day about my intentions and prayers for each direction. In the Lakota tradition, there are seven directions: center, west, north, east, south, above, and below.

  • Center represents Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery), or Spirit.

  • West represents the Introspection round. It is connected to water, rain, purity, releasing ignorance, The messenger of the West is the Black Eagle and is also home of the Thunder Being. This is the round where we pray for babies, born & unborn.

  • North represents the fulfillment round. It is home to winter, wisdom, and the buffalo nation. The buffalo means a great deal to the Lakota people and represents sacrifice. The messenger of the North is the crane. This is the round where we pray for teenagers.

  • East represents the healing round and new beginnings. East is associated with the sun and brings light and life to all creation. East is home to the elk nation and the messenger is the brown eagle. This is the round where we pray for adults.

  • South represents celebration of love and truth. It is connected with life after death and directs those who walk into the next phase. South is associated with the owl nation and the messenger is the bald eagle. This is the round where we pray for elders.

  • Above is the direction of the sky, and is called grandfather.

  • Below is the direction of the earth below us, called Unchi Maka or grandmother.

My overall intent was to connect to Spirit and receive clarity. I journaled something for each of the directions and had prayers written out. Maybe I should have reread it more because honestly the heat made me forget all but my intent to connect to Spirit.

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The women walked in first and I was between the other two women. We walked clockwise around the fire, past the altar, kneeled and said aho mitakuye oyasin, then crawled into the lodge going clockwise around a pit that would later be filled with hot stones. The Aztec woman was to my right, and another woman to my left. Seven stones were brought in for each of the directions and they burned sweetgrass, one of my favorite smells. It’s sweet yet earthy and it’s one of those smells that feels familiar, like sage or palo santo.

The first round felt lighthearted and warm, but not intensely hot. Four songs were sang, I didn’t know the words so I couldn’t join in but I remember thinking how much I loved it and how I wanted to keep coming and eventually learn the songs so I could sing too. Three people had drums in the lodge. The sound of the drum is so grounding for me. I felt at home.

After the first round they opened the door and cool air came in. Then they added many more stones, I can’t remember if it was 14 or 18 but it was a lot more.

The second round we prayed out loud. I had never done this before. All of the prayers and intentions I had journaled earlier in the day completely left my mind. I said a short prayer when it was my turn. The other prayers were much longer. I tried hard to listen but I was so hot my heart and head were pounding. I started to lay down, earlier I was told that laying down made it less hot. It kind of helped. I must have been hyperventilating though because my arms went tingly and numb and my hands started to involuntarily ball up into fists. That freaked me out. In retrospect I was totally fine. But I didn’t feel fine, so I asked for water halfway through the round. Normally after the prayers we would get water anyway, but since this was my first one I didn’t know that. I drank water and poured some on myself too to cool down.

The third round was the healing round. This was by far the hottest and most intense. Fourteen more stones were placed in the lodge. A chanupa (a ceremonial pipe) went around with red willow in it. I layed down the entire time, which felt like a long time. It got intensely hot and the same numb, tingly feeling happened in my arms. I tried repeating mantras in my mind to stay grounded. It kind of worked. This was the most humbling round for me. I waited for a message from spirit; a sign, a feeling, a vision, something. But what I was expecting never came. What did come instead really surprised me.

After the third round, food that represented each of the four directions came around. Someone explained that we enjoy each bowl passed around so that the spirits can enjoy it too since they do not normally get to experience food. The bowls started with the woman to my left and went clockwise so I was last to receive each bowl. We began with water. Then corn, which is food of the first people and eaten by most tribes. Then, buffalo meat. I’m vegan. Because it started to my left, I knew far in advance what was coming my way. At first I didn’t really know what to do. It felt like it was a part of the ceremony, but at the same time I didn’t think that I would offend anyone if I didn’t eat any of the buffalo meat. I was kind of torn. When the bowl finally got to me I said a little gratitude prayer for the sacrifice of the buffalo. And then I instantly knew that I had to eat some. I thanked it in my mind as I ate it. As I ate this buffalo meat, I felt the spirit of the buffalo. I almost cried. I felt its’ warmth, its’ strength, it’s willingness to sacrifice itself for others. I felt it’s beauty.  I can’t express in words the gratitude that I felt. It wasn’t the type of gratitude you feel in your body, it was a deep, spiritual gratitude. It gave me strength.

This was my message from spirit. This was my lesson. Not to start eating meat and change my lifestyle, but to embody the buffalo. To live in service for others. To use my strength, my warmth, my compassion in service to others. Without the sacrifice of the buffalo, the Lakota people would not have survived the harsh winters. So the buffalo is respected, honored, and loved. The next bowl that was passed was a bowl of blueberries. Eating sweet blueberries felt like a celebration. I received my message from spirit in a way that would never happen outside of the sweat lodge.

The fourth round began with 8 stones, fewer than the rounds before and so much less intense. This round felt more celebratory. There were drums and singing again. A few people shared songs from their traditions. The Aztec woman next to me shared hers. Her voice was beautiful and reminded me somehow of childhood. Her song felt like a Christmas song in Spanish that I had forgotten, even though the song wasn’t in Spanish. I felt tears stream down my cheeks and mix with the sweat that had been running down my face all night. I cried the entire time she sang.

When we finally left the lodge, the air felt cool. I then understood what my friend had said about feeling as though you’d been reborn. The lodge itself is warm, dark, and humid - as if we were in the womb of mother earth. I received so many lessons in the lodge, that leaving it felt like being reborn.


Benefits

There are many benefits to doing a sweat lodge ceremony. The benefits clearly are not just physical, but also mental and spiritual.

Physical Benefits: the body is detoxified, provided with antibacterial benefits, and wound healing benefits.

Mental Benefits: the mind is cleared of any distractions. You have to learn to be in the moment, or your mind may create stories about the heat and keep you focused on the discomfort. It is a very meditative experience.

Spiritual Benefits: the ceremony allows for introspection, connection to the earth, and connection to spirit.

how to use a neti pot & why.

How to Use a Neti Pot & Why

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Over the past ten years or so, neti pots have gained popularity in the west. However, neti pots have been used for centuries in the practice of Ayurveda. But what is a neti pot, why should you use one, and how should you use it?

A neti pot is basically a small teapot-like tool used for nasal irrigation. The pot is filled with lukewarm distilled water and salt from a saline packet then rinsed through one nostril and out the other. It helps to clear out any blockages in the sinuses, relieves allergies by removing pollen, helps with cold symptoms, and can even help with rhinosinusitis when used properly.

Neti pots can be used regularly to prevent colds, the flu, and allergies. However, it is possible to overdo it and those who use their neti pot daily without taking breaks may be at a higher risk for rhinosinusitis. This may be because the salt gradually depletes the mucosa in the sinuses. Without this protective layer, you may be at a higher risk of infection.  As a general rule, you should use your neti pot daily for 1-3 weeks and then take a break of approximately a week or longer if you wish.

Neti pot safety is extremely important. Your neti pot must be thoroughly disinfected between uses, and can never be shared. I use only distilled water, but some sources say it’s okay to use water that has been sterilized (look for sterile on the bottle), or tap water that has been boiled and then cooled down to a lukewarm temperature. Tap water and spring water contain bacteria that your stomach acid can easily take care of. But your sinuses don’t have acid to break down bacteria - which means that bacteria will remain in your sinuses causing infection that could spread to your brain. There have been 2 cases of people who died from using tap water in their neti pots. Even if it’s rare, this risk should be taken very seriously.

When adding salt, it is best to use saline packets. These have been pre-packaged with the correct amount for a neti pot. I would not recommend trying to guess the dilution amounts yourself. These saline packets can be bought online or in almost any drug store.

How to Use:

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  1. Make sure that your neti pot has been disinfected before each use. You can use boiling water.

  2. Pour one saline packet into your neti pot.

  3. Heat some distilled water and fill the neti pot about a third of the way or halfway. The salt dissolves better into warm or hot water.

  4. Fill the neti pot with room temperature distilled water, and if needed, allow it to cool to slightly warmer than room temperature.

  5. Bend over a sink and breathe naturally through your mouth.

  6. Place the spout of the neti pot into your right nostril. Then tilt your head to the side until you find the right angle for the liquid to flow easily through one nostril and out the other. If you are very congested, the flow may not be easy so take your time.

  7. Allow ½ of the liquid to run through the right side. Then remove the neti pot from your nostril and level your head over the sink, allowing any leftover water to flow out of your nose.

  8. Blow your nose gently through both nostrils. If you only blow one side, you may hurt your ears.

  9. Then repeat through the left nostril.

Aside from the physical benefits of using a neti pot, nasal irrigation is also said to have energetic benefits. The third eye chakra is located between the eyebrows. This energy center is along the sinus pathways. Using a neti pot may help to clear energetic blockages of the third eye, improving intuition. This can be a great tool for yoga teachers and healers.


yoga class themes for spring.

Yoga Class Themes For Spring

Springtime is a time to reawaken the body from a sleepy, often sluggish winter. It’s a time of renewal, cleansing, and balance. These yoga class themes are perfect for getting energy moving in spring.

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Planting Seeds:

Winter is a time of quiet contemplation, while spring is a time to plant seeds and grow your future. Take a moment in meditation at the beginning of class to decide what you are manifesting - what seeds you are planting. Throughout the practice, remind yourself of this and envision what your life will look like once you have grown or manifested the things you desire.

Some poses that could work well in this class would be Tree pose, any grounding poses such as Malasana or Goddess, and poses with arms actively reaching upwards as if blooming as in standing backbend, Urdhva Hastasana, Crescent Lunge, Warrior 1, or Hanumanasana.


Spring Cleaning:

As the weather warms up, it is necessary to clear away the cobwebs from our homes and bodies. What better way to do that than with a detoxifying yoga class?

This theme would work well in a dynamic yoga class that includes intensifying levels of twists, such as supine twist, lunge twist, Marichyasana B & D, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (basically anything Parivrtta, or Revolved), Ardha Matsyendrasana, possibly working your way up to side crow or Eka Pada Koundinyasana I depending on the level of the class. This could also work well in a yin or restorative class with a focus in twisting, poses that move breath into the belly, and other detoxifying poses such as wind removing pose (Pavanamuktasana).


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Bloom When You Are Ready:

Nature doesn’t hurry - and neither should you. Throughout this practice, slow down each and every transition in order to feel exactly what muscles are firing and exactly what the breath is doing as you move. Let every action take longer than usual, like a lotus flower reaching through layers of mud before it’s finally ready to bloom.

This class theme could incorporate styles like Budokon yoga where the focus is on the transition and not the pose itself. Movements like flowering lotus or cobra roll would fit the theme beautifully. Slow movements such as tai chi could also be incorporated, or slowly moving from poses like reverse warrior into extended side angle could achieve this theme.

Rise with the Sun:

This class theme takes inspiration from the Native American Medicine Wheel, where the wheel is divided into four sections that represent each of the Four Directions. East is the direction that yoga is traditionally practiced in to honor the rising sun, and East also happens to be the direction that represents springtime. The energy of the East is that of springtime, birth, the element fire, the rising sun. East moves us into action.

Poses that could work well in this class are poses that use big muscles such as the glutes and quads and inspire forward moving action, such as Warrior poses, lunges, and Chair pose. Poses that connect to the element of fire or create internal heat would also work well - this could include twists, abdominal exercises, Navasana, plank pose, and pranayama such as Kapalabhati, Uddiyana, or Nauli.


Phoenix:

Still taking inspiration from the Medicine Wheel, a class themed around the Phoenix is perfect for spring because the direction East not only is connected to the fire element, but for many tribes it also is represented by winged animals such as owls, hummingbirds, and hawks. The Phoenix is a mythical bird that goes up in flames, only to be reborn from the ashes. Practice with a spirit of renewal, rebirth, and tapas or spiritual heat.

Poses that would work well in this practice are bird themed poses such as Garudasana (Eagle pose), Bakasana (Crow pose), any of the pigeon themed poses such as Kapotasana (Pigeon, a deep backbend entered from Camel pose), Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one legged king pigeon, a hip opening and backbending posture), Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon, a deep backbend with both feet reaching towards or touching the head). Any poses that ignite tapas or connect to the element of fire would work well here too.

Honor the Earth:

A yoga practice that inspires love for the earth is perfect for Earth Day. This could be centered around ways to be more sustainable, gratitude for the Earth, or appreciation for the beauty of the Earth.

Poses that would work well in this class are grounding poses such as Malasana, Goddess, Chair, Tadasana or Mountain pose, and Vrksasana or Tree Pose. If the practice is centered around sustainability, warrior poses represent the strength it takes to make the necessary changes to save the planet. If the practice is centered around gratitude or appreciation for the beauty of the Earth, heart opening poses and poses where hands are touching the Earth would fit the theme.

Honor the Mother:

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An empowering practice that ignites the goddess within is appropriate around Mother’s Day. Embody each of the aspects of the mother - devoted, loving, fierce, protective, creative, divine, invincible. These divine qualities are in each of us, whether or not we are mothers.

Poses that would work well in this practice would be Goddess Pose, hip opening poses that open the sacral chakra - our creative center - such as Baddha Konasana, Malasana, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or Hanumanasana, heart opening poses that inspire gratitude such as Ustrasana (camel) or Natarajasana (dancer’s pose).


you're sweet enough already.

True story. I have one tattoo.

That would be really lame if that was the whole story. I swear it’s not.

So I got this one tattoo that is basically never visible, and I told my mom about it. Because even though I’m almost thirty, I knew she would lose her mind if she saw it one day and it caught her off guard. And even though I told her about it, she lost her mind. I was somewhat prepared for this, though I’ll admit her reaction was a little more dramatic than I expected. There were tears, there was yelling, I was hung up on, the whole shebang.

Long story short, I capitalized on this moment because I’m a good little negotiator. We made a deal that I would never get another tattoo again - as long as she quit drinking Diet Coke. It’s the best deal I’ve ever made. I only wish I would have gotten a tattoo sooner.

You could argue that I should be able to get whatever tattoo I want because it’s my body and it doesn’t affect anyone. But some people would argue that she should be able to drink whatever she wants because it’s her body and it doesn’t affect anyone. And they would be wrong. Like so seriously wrong. Because it affects her health, which affects the lives of literally everyone in my family.

Maybe I’m a little dramatic too. Because I straight up agonized over my mom’s diet soda drinking habits. Or maybe I’m completely rational and I understand the negative effects that diet soda has on the body. I understand how aspartame - the calorie free sweetener used in most diet sodas - can ruin your body. Calorie free sweetener sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it? And yet, this substance can cause a myriad of problems - including weight gain (kinda defeats the purpose of being calorie free), headaches, depression, anxiety attacks, vertigo, seizures, nausea, numbness, heart palpitations, tinnitus, hearing loss, memory loss, tachycardia, vision problems, irritability, muscle spasms, joint pain, difficulty breathing, loss of taste...I can literally go on but I think you get it.

So. How do you know what sweeteners are bad for you and which are okay? Use my guide to navigate which ones to stay far away from, and which you can totally invite into your cup of coffee.

Run, Don’t Walk Away from these Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners can cause a slew of health issues. They can mess up the balance of your gut microbiome, which can trigger autoimmune disorders, metabolic disorders, and diabetes.  Basically run from these.

  • Aspartame  - Equal, NutraSweet, found in lots of diet sodas/diet foods, even gum!

  • Acesulfame - also found in sodas, juices, and dairy products like yogurt and ice cream.

  • Neotame - basically aspartame. Found in food products.

  • Saccharin - Sweet‘N Low (aka Sweet n NO)

  • Sucralose - Splenda

Just Say No

  • Agave Nectar - I know everyone toutes this as “healthy” because of the lower glycemic index, but it is still high in fructose. This means that your liver still needs to convert that fructose into glucose, glycogen, lactate & fat - which puts strain on your liver and can lead to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. In unrelated news, agave also makes tequila. Which is also bad for your liver. Pick your poison? Or don’t.

  • Brown Rice Syrup - There’s a couple reasons why this is on the naughty list. This syrup is made from brown rice and enzymes - often barley enzymes. Barley = gluten. So if you knowingly or unknowingly are sensitive to gluten, this could cause health problems for you. Reason number two, is arsenic. Studies have shown arsenic levels to be high in organic brown rice syrup. Limit your intake of foods that use this syrup as a sweetener.

  • Turbinado - AKA raw cane sugar. It’s not actually totally raw. It goes through some processing that removes nutrients and impurities. It’s not that bad for you per se, but also not so good.


The Good Stuff

  • Sugar Alcohols - For example: xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol. These come from processing the carbohydrates in berries and fruits. These are natural and contain up to 3 calories per gram. Full disclosure, these are not for everyone. Your body doesn’t totally absorb these so they ferment in the large intestine - which can cause bloating and/or gas. They can have a laxative effect on some people and can cause digestive problem flare ups.

  • Stevia - When I first heard about Stevia I was a total skeptic. (To be fair, I’m always a skeptic.) But then I went to an herbal tincture making class and the herbalist literally had a stevia plant. I ate a little leaf and it literally tasted like candy. Her son called it “the candy plant”. So cute. So I became a (mostly) believer. Just make sure you are buying raw organic stevia. Otherwise it could still be bleached and contain harmful additives.

  • Monk Fruit - Sounds totally religious. I’m into it. But actually it’s just the fermented pulp of the fruit. This one has been used in Asian cultures medicinally for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains antioxidants, called mogrosides. Like sugar alcohols though, monk fruit can trigger digestive issues in some people. Always check the labels and make sure you’re getting pure monk fruit or you could wind up with harmful additives.

  • Maple Syrup - This probably goes without saying but make sure it’s pure 100% maple syrup. Maple syrup contains minerals like zinc, and polyphenol antioxidants. The darker the syrup, the sweeter the antioxidant content.

  • Honey - Honey contains tons of antioxidants, and bee pollen is amazing for your immune system. Definitely buy raw, and preferably local honey. Local honey is great for allergies since it exposes you to local allergens through bee pollen. Manuka honey from New Zealand has major antimicrobial properties and the highest nutritional content of all honey. Go New Zealand bees.

  • Dates - These are awesome to sweeten your smoothies, raw desserts, and honestly just to eat on their own. Or with almond butter. Or sunflower butter. Pro tip: take out the seed, replace it with a walnut, smother in sunflower butter, and eat. I consider myself a date eating pro, obviously. I don’t recommend eating a lot in one sitting because they are still high in fructose. But undoubtedly better for you than eating a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

  • Molasses - Molasses is made as a by-product in the sugar making process. First, raw sugar cane or sugar beets are crushed to remove the juice, the juice is then boiled down to produce sugar crystals. Molasses is what is left after the sugar has been removed from the juice. Blackstrap molasses is the most nutrient dense type of molasses.

  • Coconut Sugar/ Coconut Nectar - This option is still processed, but it does contain some nutrients like zinc, potassium, and short-chain fatty acids. So it’s not bad, but you can still do better. Coconut sugar comes from coconut blossoms, not coconut fruit.

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