Change The Story

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MONDAY MANTRA: Change the story.

In yoga, one of the highest values is satya (truthfulness). The concept of satya is far-reaching; it teaches us to honest with ourselves, as much as we are honest with others. It also encourages us to seek the truth in every situation, and recognize that sometimes the things that feel like a burden, are actually our greatest opportunities for happiness. What we want most is often waiting for us on the other side of the work we avoid.

Try practicing satya the next time you find yourself resisting the thing you know you need the most. Whether it is your yoga practice, work that is cumbersome, or a relationship that is difficult. Ask yourself if it is truly negative, or could there be a beautiful opportunity for growth in the very thing you are trying to avoid? Surrender to the truth, and make the choice that best supports your long-term happiness.

What Can I Learn From This?

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MONDAY MANTRA: What can I learn from this?

Everybody struggles. It’s a simple fact of life. Our circumstances are constantly changing–sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. The one thing that never changes, though, is who we are, We are the same person at age 5, age 25, and age 75. The more we connect with that essential sense of self through our yoga practice, the more we can control how we respond to the struggles in our lives. Instead of asking “Why do bad things happen?”, we practicing asking, “What can I learn from this?”. When we recognize that our struggles are our teachers, the easier it becomes to make peace with things outside our control.

It Is What It Is

MONDAY MANTRA: It is what it is, but it will be what you make it.

Our minds are constantly labeling our experiences as good or bad–this is human nature. But what would happen if we simply accepted experiences as they are, instead of judging them? This is the true purpose of yoga. Learning to still the mind so that we can find freedom in how we feel, how we think, and how we move. When we let go of judgement, and embrace what is, we realize that we already have everything we need to be happy.

Where The Eyes Go, The Mind Will Follow

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Hello friends! I’ve missed chatting with you! Please accept my apologies for my absence.

I have been working around the clock at my new yoga studio, Westside Yoga in Atlanta, GA. We are a power yoga studio, on a mission to make yoga accessible and fun for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The turnout at our grand opening was unbelievable–over 100 people showed up! It was so much FUN! We have an amazing team of teachers, and awesome community of yogis, too. I am really proud of what we are building, and how it serves our community.

Check out the photos of our grand opening on the home page at westsideyoga.net, and come practice with us soon!

I am grateful for your support of this blog over the past few years, and look forward to connecting with you more often in the days ahead.

For today, I thought I would share a little yogic wisdom to help you start your week off right. Hold these thoughts close to your heart, and they will change your entire week.

MONDAY MANTRA: Where the eyes go, the mind will follow.

In yoga, a focused gaze, or “drishti” is an essential part of every pose. When we focus the eyes intentionally, we minimize the chatter in the mind, and grow stronger in our ability to control our thoughts, our breath and our movement.

When we are aligned in our gaze, breath, and movement, we feel like all is right with the world, and everything is possible.

And nothing is more blissful than that. ‪

Namaste~

Amber

How To Use Coconut Oil For Healthy, Glowing Skin

It’s been really cold and dry in Atlanta this week, and my skin has paid the price! Chapped lips and dry hands are no fun, so I’ve kept a bowl of coconut oil on the bathroom and kitchen counters, as a reminder to moisturize throughout the day. I also wash my face with coconut oil every night and morning, using only warm water to rinse. A little oil remains on the skin, along with a lovely glow.

I first tried coconut oil as a replacement for soap and lotion two years ago, when my friend Lisa (AKA The Charmed Yogi) told me that it’s a great practice for removing dirt, moisturizing, and leaving the skin refreshed. It seemed too good to be true, so I asked her to write about it for this blog. I was so inspired by the simplicity and wholesomeness of the practice, that I played around with it in the months that followed.

At the time, I was also experimenting with Retin-A, and a few other products that my dermatologist had suggested. Although the synthetic products did seem to brighten my skin, I didn’t like the idea of using all those chemicals.

When I first started cleansing my face (and eventually my entire body) with coconut oil, it felt strange, rinsing with water, instead of washing the oil off with soap. I was afraid my skin would break out, and I would feel dirty afterward. But, after a few weeks, I got used to the changes, and learned to love the light layer of oil that is left on my skin for protection.

I also love that my coconut oil regimen is simpler than washing with soap, and toning and moisturizing afterwards. It removes waterproof eye makeup in a snap, which is much easier and cheaper than using an eye makeup remover.

When I travel, coconut oil saves space in my suitcase. I used to pack a cleanser, toner, and mosturizer, but all I need now is a little block of coconut oil in a small container, to get me through a few days away from home (I freeze it before I travel and double bag the container to prevent leaks).

I know cleansing with oil might sound strange, but it not only works, it works better than anything else I have ever tried, and feels so much easier than my old routine. It has taught me that we don’t need all of those chemicals to stay clean, and it saves me hundreds of dollars each year.

Could you toss your commercial cleansers and switch to coconut oil skin care? You never know until you try, so give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

coconut_oilphoto:thechalkboardmag.com

Why Tapas Is Better Than A Resolution

It happens every January 1st. I wake to a brand new year, exhausted from the holidays, but also grateful for a fresh start. I’m anxious to make a plan to do more, to be more, and to feel my best in the year ahead. As the morning unfolds, I remember that I indulged more than normal lately, and I think, “I need to make a resolution!”

And then I remember that, in over two decades of striving to lose weight and get in shape, resolutions have not helped me achieve my goals. They feel like a quick fix at the time, but I eventually find myself back where I started–struggling with my weight, not sleeping well, feeling fatigued all the time, and battling the headaches that have plagued me for decades.

I wrestled with resolutions and chronic health problems for years, and always wound up feeling ashamed by my inability to get it right. I kept making the same mistakes over and over again, and gained and lost a lot of weight, until I discovered the value of tapas. Not the small plates you find in Spanish restaurants, but tapas, the yogic observance that teaches us to get healthy by enduring resistance on a daily basis.

For yogis, tapas means discipline, and refers to seeking and overcoming that which is difficult. By observing tapas, we cultivate better health and happiness. It usually implies asana (poses), meditation, and pranayama (breathwork), but it can refer to anything which challenges us. When we continuously lean into that which we resist, and allow it to refine us, we grow stronger and happier, every single day. Tapas helps us become all that we can be.

There is power in the overcoming. For example, when we push past our barriers to challenge our muscles, they tear before they grow back stronger. When we increase nutritious foods in our diet, we lose our taste for sweets, and crave more fruits and veggies. These are just a few ways that the practice of tapas leads us to build a healthy life, one hard choice at a time.

Choosing tapas (the path of resistance) might sound incredibly uncomfortable, but I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We can do so much more than we imagine! And what happens on the other side–empowerment, contentment, and joy–is absolutely priceless.

Like everything in yoga, the meaning of tapas is open to interpretation. For me, embracing tapas means I meet my yoga mat daily without fail, eat mostly from the earth, and strive to live in the moment.

Observing tapas inspires me to practice yoga for at least 20 minutes every day, even when I don’t want to. That way I can go to bed each night knowing that I at least did something to honor my body.

Tapas helps me choose a salad, when I would rather order pizza. It stings a little when the food arrives–that’s the resistance–but I quickly forget the pizza craving as I relish the energy I feel in the hours that follow the meal.

Valuing tapas is also helpful in my family life–it reminds me to stop and play games or read books with my daughters, even though my to-do list is a mile long.

My favorite thing about tapas, though, is that it gives me something to be proud of, as I look back on the year that just passed. No one is perfect (I certainly am not) but I did try overcome resistance every day last year. Not to lose weight, or look a certain way, but because I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be. Thanks to tapas, I can look back on 2014, knowing that I did my best to be healthy and happy.

I’m not saying that new year’s resolutions are bad, just that they never worked for me, and I have found something I value much more. Tapas has taught me to make small, daily investments in my health and happiness, trusting that they will all pay off somewhere down the road. It’s a faith walk for sure, but it brings peace and continuity to my life.

As we begin another year, consider tapas as a path to a healthier life. Be disciplined, and do the things that you resist the most, every single day. Trust the struggles, and remember that getting healthy is hard on purpose…that’s what makes it worthwhile.

Happy new year, friends, and thank you for joining me in this journey!

Namaste~

Amber

 

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 13

We made it to Week 13 of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy! How are you feeling? Which parts of the program have helped you the most? Send me a note, I would love to hear about your experiences.

For Week 13, we will add 5 minutes of daily meditation to the mix. This practice will help us feel more grounded in our new healthy habits, and help cultivate a sense of peace and empowerment in our lives. 

If you are new to meditation, you might be surprised how simple, yet challenging, it can be in practice. Mediation is a discipline of surrender–something that feels more difficult than it actually is. We are so busy these days that it seems hard to sit still. But is it really? When we meditate, we learn to free ourselves of the impulse to do, so that we can simply be.

Meditation is best performed first thing in the morning, but if this is not possible, it is ok to work it into your day at your convenience.

Instructions for mediation are below, in item number 1. As you meditate, reject your “monkey mind” and instead, let the mind get quiet, and pay attention to the quality of the breath. As the mind empties, we reconnect with our innate peace and joy, and are reminded that it is always there waiting for us.

Daily mediation might feel impossible and frustrating for the first two weeks, but keep meeting the cushion every day. Just like asana (yoga poses), mediation becomes more accessible with daily practice. Over time, the discipline that initially feels impossible will become the one that you look forward to the most, and it keeps getting better from there. 

Trust the struggle and let me know if you have questions!

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 13

1. Upon waking, prepare yourself for meditation. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Sit on the floor with the legs crossed (preferably near a window when the sun might shine in, or in a lit room), with a cushion or pillow under your seat. Make sure it does not come forward of your hips, so that your hips are higher than your knees, and that your seat is comfortable. Close the eyes and mouth, and breathe through the nose. On the inhale, think “so”. On the exhale, think “hum”. So hum is sanskrit for “I am that”, and it reminds us of the importance of just being. If you would rather use a meditation in English, consider replacing “so hum” with words that serve as reminders to live authentically, such as peace, truth, or love. The mind may wander, but do not judge the thoughts. Let them come and go, reconciling with the breath and mantra frequently. After a week or two of practice, the mind will quiet more quickly and you will get to a place where there are no thoughts, and a sense of peace will wash over you. It feels wonderful–like all is right with the world–and will inspire you to meditate more frequently.

2. After meditation (or before, if you prefer), scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

3. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

4. Enjoy quinoa with fruit and nuts, or a crazy healthy smoothie, for breakfast every morning.

5. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

6. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises, as described in Week 3. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

7. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back, as described in Week 8. Stretch your arms forward, and legs straight back. Lift your right arm and left leg, lengthening forward and back, and hold for 20 breaths. You may break this into 2 sets of 10 breaths if you wish. If you feel pain in your lower back, lower your arm and leg until you feel balanced. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, as long as you are meeting resistance and breathing into it. Lower limbs to the ground, and repeat on the other side, also holding for 20 breaths. Next, lift both arms and both legs at the same time. Try to relax the lower back, and let the hands and feet lift as they reach. Note: the photo above shows the pose performed with palms facing the earth, but I prefer to practice these poses with palms facing each other. Both are correct, so you may decide which is most effective for your purposes.

8. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack, as described in Week 3, or substitute a green juice, as described above.

9. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side, as described in Week 5. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

10. After practicing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

11. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake, as described in Week 4.

12. Practice twists for 30 seconds on each side (about 10 full inhales and exhales). As you twist, keep your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, and allow your inhales to fill the belly. As you exhale through your nose, draw the belly back toward the spine. Think about what is happening internally as you twist: the movement in the spine is creating more space in the body, and your breathing is applying gentle pressure to your internal organs, to improve how they detoxify your body.

13. Practice backbends for 10 breaths, three times in a row. Choose one of the poses below. Remember that back bending compresses the vertebrae, so it is essential to move slowly and with intention, keeping length in the spine as much as possible. Length is created by grounding through the foundation of the pose, and creating lightness and extension in the upper half of the pose. Also, take care to keep the lower spine and butt relaxed at all times.

14. Work with balance for 5 minutes, practicing Warrior 3 Pose, Eagle Pose and Dancer Pose for 15 full breaths on each side, as described above and pictured below.

15. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the crazy healthy fight on my Facebook page. And remember, you can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle!

Meditation-for-Beginners

Photo credit: the-yoga-connection.com

100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 12

Welcome to Week 12 of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy! Eighty four days down, sixteen to go! How are you feeling?

For Week 12, we will spend 5 minutes on balance poses, preferably during our yoga practice. Practice each of these poses on both sides, for 15 full breaths each. Keep the gaze soft, and breathe deeply through the nose, into the belly, during each pose. Let the mind get quiet, and pay attention to the quality of the breath. As the mind empties, we create more opportunities to unite the mind, body and spirit for better health. 

In Warrior 3 Pose, create length in the body by reaching the arms forward, and the foot back, as you lift simultaneously.

In Eagle Pose, tuck the tailbone and lengthen the spine, reaching the top of the head toward the sky, as the foot roots into the floor.

In Dancer Pose, allow for heaviness in the lower body, and lightness in the upper body. The backbend opens up as we push the foot into the hand and lift the chest and foot toward the sky.

s always, feel free to contact me if you have questions! Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 12

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Enjoy quinoa with fruit and nuts, or a crazy healthy smoothie, for breakfast every morning.

4. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

5. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises, as described in Week 3. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

6. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back, as described in Week 8. Stretch your arms forward, and legs straight back. Lift your right arm and left leg, lengthening forward and back, and hold for 20 breaths. You may break this into 2 sets of 10 breaths if you wish. If you feel pain in your lower back, lower your arm and leg until you feel balanced. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, as long as you are meeting resistance and breathing into it. Lower limbs to the ground, and repeat on the other side, also holding for 20 breaths. Next, lift both arms and both legs at the same time. Try to relax the lower back, and let the hands and feet lift as they reach. Note: the photo above shows the pose performed with palms facing the earth, but I prefer to practice these poses with palms facing each other. Both are correct, so you may decide which is most effective for your purposes.

7. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack, as described in Week 3, or substitute a green juice, as described above.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side, as described in Week 5. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

9. After practicing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

10. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake, as described in Week 4.

11. Practice twists for 30 seconds on each side (about 10 full inhales and exhales). As you twist, keep your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, and allow your inhales to fill the belly. As you exhale through your nose, draw the belly back toward the spine. Think about what is happening internally as you twist: the movement in the spine is creating more space in the body, and your breathing is applying gentle pressure to your internal organs, to improve how they detoxify your body.

12. Practice backbends for 10 breaths, three times in a row. Choose one of the poses below. Remember that back bending compresses the vertebrae, so it is essential to move slowly and with intention, keeping length in the spine as much as possible. Length is created by grounding through the foundation of the pose, and creating lightness and extension in the upper half of the pose. Also, take care to keep the lower spine and butt relaxed at all times.

13. Work with balance for 5 minutes, practicing Warrior 3 Pose, Eagle Pose and Dancer Pose for 15 full breaths on each side, as described above and pictured below.

14. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the crazy healthy fight on my Facebook page. And remember, you can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle.

We can do hard things, so trust the struggle. I’m always here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

Eagle Pose

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Warrior 3 Pose

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Dancer Pose

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 11

Welcome to Week 11 of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy! By now, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed, bored, or discouraged with this process–and that is totally normal! It’s not easy to transform our lives! Practicing yoga every day, and changing our diets brings up our stuff–the emotional barriers that get in our way. To overcome these feelings, remember to stay in the present moment, and make one choice at a time. It all adds up, so even if you slip a little, remember that you can get back on track quickly, by recommitting to the program and believing that everything is possible.

For Week 11, we will add backbends to our daily yoga practice. This habit should take you approximately one minute each day. Choose one of the three poses below, and practice each for 10 full breaths, three times in a row. Full backbends are best practiced after sun salutations, standing poses, and twists, but remember that you can always use less intense backbends as stretches throughout the day. An example would be standing tall, stretching arms up with palms facing each other, and bending back slightly to stretch upper back only.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have questions! Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 11

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Enjoy quinoa with fruit and nuts, or a crazy healthy smoothie, for breakfast every morning.

4. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

5. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises, as described in Week 3. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

6. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back, as described in Week 8. Stretch your arms forward, and legs straight back. Lift your right arm and left leg, lengthening forward and back, and hold for 20 breaths. You may break this into 2 sets of 10 breaths if you wish. If you feel pain in your lower back, lower your arm and leg until you feel balanced. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, as long as you are meeting resistance and breathing into it. Lower limbs to the ground, and repeat on the other side, also holding for 20 breaths. Next, lift both arms and both legs at the same time. Try to relax the lower back, and let the hands and feet lift as they reach. Note: the photo above shows the pose performed with palms facing the earth, but I prefer to practice these poses with palms facing each other. Both are correct, so you may decide which is most effective for your purposes.

7. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack, as described in Week 3, or substitute a green juice, as described above.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side, as described in Week 5. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

9. After practicing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

10. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake, as described in Week 4.

11. Practice twists for 30 seconds on each side (about 10 full inhales and exhales). As you twist, keep your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, and allow your inhales to fill the belly. As you exhale through your nose, draw the belly back toward the spine. Think about what is happening internally as you twist: the movement in the spine is creating more space in the body, and your breathing is applying gentle pressure to your internal organs, to improve how they detoxify your body.

12. Practice backbends for 10 breaths, three times in a row. Choose one of the poses below. Remember that back bending compresses the vertebrae, so it is essential to move slowly and with intention, keeping length in the spine as much as possible. Length is created by grounding through the foundation of the pose, and creating lightness and extension in the upper half of the pose. Also,   take care to keep the lower spine and butt relaxed at all times.

13. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. And remember, you can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle.

We can do hard things, so trust the struggle. I’m always here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

420_camel_yoga9.imgcache.rev1295543770444 d24b4d53851c1951_4-Bow-Pose-1

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10 Tips for a Healthier Lunchbox

 Healthy groceries

Research shows that children think more clearly, and perform better in school, when fed a steady diet of nutritious foods. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live, “The foods children consume early in life…ultimately supply their brain power. A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure children get an array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids, and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing brains.” This means that moms like me can greatly influence our kids’ potential for success in school, by making healthy choices for their lunch boxes.

Packing snacks and lunches is also a huge opportunity to teach strategies for long-term, sustainable health. If children are at school for more than half their waking hours, then at least 50% of their dietary habits and preferences are being formed during this time. Every food you pack sends a message about what they should or shouldn’t choose to eat.

So, as you think about what you will send for lunch this year, remember that you are not just feeding your kids–you are also shaping their approach to lifelong wellness. Do your best to teach them how to create sustainable energy, and long-term health, with nutrient-dense foods. You, and your child, will be glad you did!

Here are a few strategies that work for our family:

1. Pack fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds first. Figure out what your kids like, and pack those healthy foods before anything else. Raw fruits and veggies have more nutrients than most other foods. Apples, bananas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and pitted olives are some of my kids’ favorites. Let meats, dairy, chips, and sweets take up the smallest fraction of the lunch box, so that the majority of their foods are nutrient-dense.

2. Make it fun. My kids love to play what we call “The Rainbow Game”: pack fruits and veggies of every color of the rainbow except one, and tell your kids they need to report which one was missing when they get home. Use cookie cutters to create different shapes for fruits and sandwiches. Or create your own unique games to make them smile at lunch and snack time, when you can’t be there to do it in person.

3. Take your kids shopping! Empower kids with nutrition information, and encourage them to choose healthy foods at the store. Teach them how to read food labels, and let them decide what’s best (make sure to veto unhealthy choices with love). Keep a positive attitude, and let it be their idea whenever possible.

4. Start an ongoing dialogue about nutrition. Talk about the power of nutrient-dense foods, and why you make the choices you make for their meals. Ask your kids about the foods they ate at school. What vitamins and minerals were in your apple? Why were strawberries a healthy choice? If they don’t know, help them look it up. The more they understand the reasons behind your decisions, the more likely they are to accept them.

5. Save time with leftovers and prepared soups! Make sure you have a lunch-box sized thermos on hand, so reheated leftovers and soups stay warm until lunchtime. Get in the habit of doubling dinner recipes, so you have enough to send for lunch the next day. Boxed and canned organic soups can also be lifesavers, on days that you are short on time, or low on groceries.

6. Empower kids make their own trail mixes. Kids love to be creative! Make it easy for them to design their own trail mixes. Keep a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and gluten-free cereals on hand. A small handful of mini dark chocolate chips can make trail mix more palatable to picky eaters; it also adds antioxidants, and the sugar content is negligible.

7. Teach kids to choose water over sugary drinks. Milk and juice are high in sugar, and are therefore not good choices for kids that are trying to learn. And, of course, sodas and sports drinks are a big no-no. Kids that have too much sugar from these kinds of beverages at lunch, are bound to crash in the afternoon. Sugar also decreases their immunity, creates inflammation, and adds empty calories to their diet. Water is always best in the lunch box.

8. Don’t forget about healthy dips and stuffings. Kids love to dip and stuff foods. The trick is to give them nutritious options. Try to avoid ketchup and ranch dressing. Fresh salsas and bean dips, however, are great choices! Hummus is widely available, and comes in a variety of flavors. Nut butters are also a healthy option–try cashew, sunflower seed, or almond. Stuff baby bell peppers with hummus, and teach kids to dip and fill fruits with nut butters. You might be surprised how much they like it.

9. Forget the bread. Even if you are not allergic to gluten, bread is just not good for you. It is lower in nutrients than whole foods, and hard for the body to process. Why? Because wheat has been genetically modified so much over the years, that our bodies no longer recognize flour as food. It can create inflammation, sinus problems, insomnia, and stomach issues. If your kids insist on bread, try to limit how much you serve (maybe send half a sandwich instead of a whole, and double up on the fruits and veggies), and ask for gluten-free breads at your local store.

10. Put dessert in its place. It’s okay to send dessert to school, just not every day. Teach kids that dessert is a treat, to be enjoyed on special occasions, or sometimes just because! And remember, not all desserts are created equal. A piece of organic dark chocolate with cherries and almonds is always a better choice than a gummy bear with high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring.

Most of all, try to be grateful for the chance to influence your kids’ eating habits. It might feel like a chore, but trust me on this: teaching our children about nutrition is one of the most powerful ways we have to show them how much we care.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

It’s the thinking that gets me in the most trouble. Like last week, when I was on vacation with my family, and there were paths to hike and oceans to swim. The thinking told me that, as long as I was moving and exercising throughout the day–which I did–it would be ok to blow off my daily yoga routine. I’d just stretch a little, and practice a few standing poses and arm balances here and there, but I knew all along that it wouldn’t be enough. It’s the discipline of daily practice that grounds me, and there are no acceptable substitutes.

Why does my brain do that? Why does it completely ignore my truth, and tell me manipulative stories that get me in trouble? Or maybe the question should be…why do I believe it, when I know better? I should have met my mat every day–where there is a will, there is always
a way, even on vacation.

Neglecting my practice last week has caught up to me, in a big way. My neck is locked up, every muscle in my body hurts, I’ve lost some hard-earned flexibility, and I am struggling to get back in the yoga habit. I know I will get back to normal in a few days–I have been in this uncomfortable space before–but it makes me cranky and frustrated to have to fight so hard to reclaim my practice.

I wanted to share this as yet another reminder of why we must trust our struggles more than our stories. Every choice we make, every single day, affects our overall health. Our brains often get in the way, distracting us and making it seen impossible to make the right choice. But don’t let that voice fool you–it might be clever and tempting, but it is also where regret is born, and it can be overcome.

That’s what this crazy healthy life is all about–learning to let go of our attachments to the story, so that we may live in our truth. We already know what we need to do to be healthy and happy, so don’t let the thinking get in the way. Question everything and trust the struggles–what we want most is always waiting on the other side.

Thanks to my teacher, Steve Ross, for this reminder today. You inspire me in more ways than you will ever know. 

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 10

Can you believe it’s already Week 10 of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy? How are you feeling? What changes have you noticed along he way?

Week 10 is just like Week 9, with the addition of homemade green juice, as an alternative for our afternoon snack.

Nutrient-dense green juices are highly detoxifying, energizing, and balancing. They can be an acquired taste, if you are new to this crazy healthy life, so trust the struggle, and play around with balancing bitterness with sweetness, by adding more or less apples and carrots. This juice should not feel like a sweet treat–if it does you are using too much fruit! But it also should not be overly bitter. Balance is the name of the game.

It’s a little easier to make green juice with a juicer, but no worries if you do not have one of your own. Green juices can be prepared in a blender (just add about 1/2 cup of water), and strained through a super fine strainer, nut milk bag, or cheese cloth (strainer is easiest–I bought mine on Amazon and it is XOXO brand).

What you will need:

3 c. leafy greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, cilantro, and parsley work well)

4 stalks celery

1 medium apple

1 carrot

1 lime or lemon

1 inch ginger

1/2 t. turmeric

pinch of cayenne

Juice all fruits, vegetables, and ginger in juicer (or liquify in blender). Add spices afterward, whiie still in pitcher or bowl used for straining, so everything can combine as poured into the serving cup.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have questions! Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 10

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Enjoy quinoa with fruit and nuts, or a crazy healthy smoothie, for breakfast every morning.

4. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

5. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises, as described in Week 3. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

6. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back, as described in Week 8. Stretch your arms forward, and legs straight back. Lift your right arm and left leg, lengthening forward and back, and hold for 20 breaths. You may break this into 2 sets of 10 breaths if you wish. If you feel pain in your lower back, lower your arm and leg until you feel balanced. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, as long as you are meeting resistance and breathing into it. Lower limbs to the ground, and repeat on the other side, also holding for 20 breaths. Next, lift both arms and both legs at the same time. Try to relax the lower back, and let the hands and feet lift as they reach. Note: the photo above shows the pose performed with palms facing the earth, but I prefer to practice these poses with palms facing each other. Both are correct, so you may decide which is most effective for your purposes.

7. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack, as described in Week 3, or substitute a green juice, as described above.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side, as described in Week 5. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

9. After practicing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

10. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake, as described in Week 4.

11. Pick one of the twists pictured below, and practice for 30 seconds on each side (about 10 full inhales and exhales). As you twist, keep your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, and allow your inhales to fill the belly. As you exhale through your nose, draw the belly back toward the spine. Think about what is happening internally as you twist: the movement in the spine is creating more space in the body, and your breathing is applying gentle pressure to your internal organs, to improve how they detoxify your body.

12. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. And remember, you can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle. Don’t think, just do. I’m here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

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