100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 8

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy is not your typical health challenge! It is based on my personal experiences with getting healthy–a cumulative process that changes our daily habits incrementally.

However, because these changes are small and incremental, it can be easier to discount their importance, than it would be to make significant changes all at once. Don’t let your mind fool you! Keep moving forward with these small changes, trust the struggle, and believe that these crazy healthy habits will change your life, one week at a time.

For Week 8, we add back strengtheners, as counterposes for our core work. Practiced daily, these poses will improve your posture and balance, as well as boot your immunity.

I’ve included the full list of daily habits here, but you can page down to item #6 to learn more about our back work. These exercises should take less than 2 minutes to perform.

Do you have questions about 100 Days of Crazy Healthy? Feel free to email any time, or leave your comments below.

Good luck with Week 8! Let me know how it goes!

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 8

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. 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.

To perform bicycles, lie on your back, and bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Move intentionally, and on the breath, exhaling as the elbow reaches toward the knee, inhaling as you release the crunch. Count every time you reach the right knee to left elbow. Do not let the knee come forward of the hip.

To perform toe touches, lie on your back, with legs straight. Stretch arms overhead, and then lift feet and hands to meet each other, keeping arms and legs straight. Move slowly and intentionally, and take breaks as you need them. Always exhale as you crunch and inhale as you release.

To perform planques, begin in Down Dog, then bring knee-to-nose, knee-to-elbow, and knee to opposite elbow. Shift your hips forward to bring shoulders over wrists. Hold each for 20 breaths (or two sets of ten breaths each), and make sure you do them on both sides of your body.

6. After practicing your core work, roll over to your stomach, and practice poses to strengthen your back. 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. Some examples would be celery with almond or peanut butter (organic if possible), bell pepper strips with hummus and organic olive oil, asparagus roasted with grape seed oil and sea salt, spring mix with avocado, lemon and sea salt, or roasted sweet potatoes with grape seed oil and sea salt.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side. 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.

11. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are 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.

*Crazy Healthy Smoothies are balanced meals, prepared with awareness and intention to fuel the body. We include pure fruit juice, sweet and sour whole fruit, greens, healthy fat, and protein, for an energizing start to our day. It helps to think about smoothies from an ayurvedic perspective: how many flavors can we fit into one meal? Mixing sweet and sour fruits with bitter veggies, pungent nut butters, and spicy herbs (think ginger and cayenne) can help us start the day off feeling energizing and ready to tackle the world. Learn how to make Crazy Healthy Smoothies here.

 Photo: http://www.jillianhessel.com

 

100 Days Of Crazy Healthy Week 7

jeremypiven-yogaThe weeks are flying by! How did you do with quinoa last week? Did it simplify your morning routine? What were your favorite combinations of quinoa, fruits and nuts? Please share in the comments!

For the seventh week of our health challenge, we will continue with our commitments, and get in the habit of practicing yoga in public.

As an introvert, I found it difficult to stretch and exercise in public at first. I didn’t want to make a scene, or embarrass myself. It was only when I realized that stretching in public was an opportunity to inspire others to get healthy, that I was able to overcome my fear.

Once I stopped worrying about what everyone else was thinking, and trusted the struggle, I realized that the fear was not founded in reality. That it wasn’t crazy to stretch in public–it was smart! That is the word that is used over, and over again, when I practice yoga in public. Strangers walk up to me and say, “That is so SMART!” I should be doing that, too.

So, with this in mind, your challenge this week is to get creative with how you use your time. When you find yourself waiting around, don’t just stand there…bust a pose! It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something! If you need a little inspiration, look through the “Yoga Everywhere” and “Power Poses” photo albums on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life. And, by all means, share your #yogaeverywhere photos on our page, so you can inspire others to get a little crazy in the name of better health.

Daily Habits For Week 7

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. 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.

To perform bicycles, lie on your back, and bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Move intentionally, and on the breath, exhaling as the elbow reaches toward the knee, inhaling as you release the crunch. Count every time you reach the right knee to left elbow. Do not let the knee come forward of the hip.

To perform toe touches, lie on your back, with legs straight. Stretch arms overhead, and then lift feet and hands to meet each other, keeping arms and legs straight. Move slowly and intentionally, and take breaks as you need them. Always exhale as you crunch and inhale as you release.

To perform planques, begin in Down Dog, then bring knee-to-nose, knee-to-elbow, and knee to opposite elbow. Shift your hips forward to bring shoulders over wrists. Hold each for 20 breaths (or two sets of ten breaths each), and make sure you do them on both sides of your body.

6. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack. Some examples would be celery with almond or peanut butter (organic if possible), bell pepper strips with hummus and organic olive oil, asparagus roasted with grape seed oil and sea salt, spring mix with avocado, lemon and sea salt, or roasted sweet potatoes with grape seed oil and sea salt.

7. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake.

8. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side. 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 practiing 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. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are 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.

*Crazy Healthy Smoothies are balanced meals, prepared with awareness and intention to fuel the body. We include pure fruit juice, sweet and sour whole fruit, greens, healthy fat, and protein, for an energizing start to our day. It helps to think about smoothies from an ayurvedic perspective: how many flavors can we fit into one meal? Mixing sweet and sour fruits with bitter veggies, pungent nut butters, and spicy herbs (think ginger and cayenne) can help us start the day off feeling energizing and ready to tackle the world. Learn how to make Crazy Healthy Smoothies here.

 

 

100 Days of Crazy Healthy, Week By Week

Are you ready to get crazy healthy with me this summer? If so, here’s what you should expect:

We will start out slow, adding 7 minutes of exercise and self-care in the first week (congrats who have already started–how did it go?). Each week, we will add a new focus that requires a few extra minutes out of your day. It will force you to make different decisions about how you use your time. Some of the distractions that you are used to, will have to fall away, such as TV, and social media. Remember, we are only doing this for 100 days. You can decide afterward if you want to go back to your old habits. For now, just stick with the program, and let go of that which is not essential, to make time for getting healthy.

The idea is to create new habits every week, and keep repeating them all summer long, until they become a part of who you are. Some of the habits will feel boring, such as repeating the same sun salutations every day. This is on purpose. Others will feel difficult. This is also on purpose. Your mind will try to dismiss them as unnecessary. Stories will show up for you about what is possible, who you are, who I am, and they will all create resistance to the journey. Pay attention to these stories, and ask yourself if they are founded in truth. If they are not serving your desire to get healthy for good, reject them, and get on with the work you need to do, to feel better by Labor Day.

By the end of summer, you will be spending about an hour each day on healthy habits, but it won’t feel like an hour, because it will be broken up into small increments, all day long. You may choose to do your yoga all at once, for approximately 30 minutes, or you may break it up. An example would be to practice sun salutations and core work in the morning, and twists, hips, back strengtheners, and balance at night.

Below is the the framework we will follow, to get crazy healthy before summer’s end. It may change slightly, based on feedback from participants, so check back here every week for specific instructions.

Also, feel free to leave your questions below, or contact me through my Facebook page. I’m here to help–don’t hesitate to reach out! And send me photos of your journey. Bust a pose in public whenever you can and invite strangers. They might hesitate at first, but eventually they will smile, when you tell them about your commitment to getting healthy, and you will leave them with a reminder to take care of themselves. And that’s what this is all about…being the change we hope to see in the world.

Namaste~

Amber

100 Days of Crazy Healthy

Week 1: tongue scraping, warm water first thing, 5 sun salutes (7 min)
Week 2: 2 extra minutes smoothie for breakfast (9 min)
Week 3: 2 extra minutes veggie snacks and 5 minutes core work (16 min)
Week 4: 3 extra minutes soup/salad for lunch or dinner (19 min)
Week 5: 3 extra minutes hips (22 min)
Week 6: 3 extra minutes quinoa for breakfast (25 min)
Week 7: 3 extra minutes stretch in public (28 min)
Week 8: 2 extra minutes back strengtheners (30 min)
Week 9: 1 extra minutes twists (31 min)
Week 10: 4 extra minutes green juice for snack (35 min)
Week 11: 1 extra minutes backbends (36 min)
Week 12: 5 extra minutes balance for core strength (41 min)
Week 13: 5 extra minutes meditation (46 min)
Week 14: 15 extra minutes preparing foods from earth (61 min)
last two days: 1 extra minutes of reflection and reconciliation, twice daily (63 min)

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Get Healthy With Me!

ImageHow do we heal ourselves holistically? This is the question we will answer in my upcoming workshop at Evolation Yoga Atlanta on 4/26 from 3-5 PM. It’s going to be so much fun! I hope you will join us.

During the workshop, we will practice my Detox Flow Yoga Sequence, learn some new nutrition, immunity, and skin care tricks, and answer all of your questions about how yoga and Ayurveda can enhance your life. You will leave with a copy of the Detox Flow Yoga Sequence for home practice, as well as many innovative ideas and opportunities for better health and well-being. All levels are welcome, so please join us, even if you’ve never practiced yoga before!

Space is limited, so register soon by clicking here. And, as always, feel free to email any questions you might have.

Namaste~

Amber

 

Time Matters

1391767_485484761558997_1565215455_nYoga playtime with the girlies

Did y’all hear that a little snow brought our city to a standstill last month? I was one of the thousands of people that were stuck on the road for most of the day. It took me 7 hours to travel 13 miles. Lucky for me, the gas tank was full, and I had snacks on hand, so it was not as much of an ordeal as it could have been.

Even so, it was pretty stressful to be stuck in the car for hours on end.

My journey began at 1 PM, just after the snow started. By 7 PM, I was still 3 miles from home, and really thirsty, so I stopped to buy water at Walgreens.

The store was empty, but for 3 or 4 people and a single clerk. Shoppers were quick to pick out their items, and hop in the check out line–everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. As I paid for my water, the man waiting behind me placed a 6 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, and two bottles of red wine on the counter. Another man walked up after him, and they struck up a conversation.

“You’ve got the right idea, buddy! Stocking up for a long day tomorrow.”

It struck me as so funny, because I had been thinking along very different lines. Sitting in the car for hours on end had stiffened up all of my muscles, and my joints ached where I had broken bones many years ago. I was not thinking about getting my drink on at all…instead, I was giddy at the prospect of having an entire day at home to stretch, flow, practice arm balances, and cook healing foods.

As they say, to each his own…

But I wonder what would have happened if I had encouraged my fellow shoppers to think differently about how they spent their snow day. This crazy healthy life has taught me that time is our most valuable asset, and we must spend it wisely. Every day is an opportunity to do better, and to be better. It’s all cumulative.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share what we are looking forward to doing, while we are trapped in the house:

1) Learning how to cook healthy foods. The girls are learning to roast veggies, make green juices, sauté fruit, and make spiced nuts. This means our kitchen will be a big fat mess for the next few days, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. Let the dishes pile up…we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

2) Memorizing Sun Saluation B. They girls have been practicing yoga with me for a while, but our practices are more whimsical and silly, than organized. Helping them learn Sun Salutation B will teach them how to wrap structure around their personal practice. And maybe, just maybe, they will even teach their friends! We play dance music to make the experience fun, and crack lots of jokes, so it feels more like a game than a chore.

3) Talking about how yoga philosophy complements our Christian faith. I have been reading snippets of Patnajali’s Yoga Sutras to the girls for the past few weeks, and it’s started some really important conversations about their friendships, their goals, and their personal habits. Concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) help them understand to choose their words and behavior carefully, santosha (contentment) teaches them to be grateful for their blessings, and bramacharya (non-excess) teaches them the importance of everything in moderation.

These are just a few of the crazy, but healthy ways we will spend our icy days at home. I think it’s some of the best things we can do for our kids right now, because, as Andy Stanley recently said, “In the areas that matter most, you can’t make up misspent time.”

Truthfully, part of me wants to park the kids in front of the TV, and curl up in bed with a good book. Mama could use a day off, now and then, too. But I won’t. Because time matters, and those of us in the Deep South have been given the gift of a whole lotta extra time to kill this week…and my crazy healthy family is going to make the best of it.

 

Top 10 Reasons To Join Me At The Southeast Yoga Conference

644591_313959722044836_1998231812_nThe first weekend in October is one of my favorites of the entire year. It’s when yogis from across the country gather in my hometown of Atlanta, GA, to practice yoga with some of the most respected national and local instructors, at the Southeast Yoga Conference. 

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Nicole Jurovics, co-founder of the conference (Melissa Katz is also a co-founder), about how amazing this year’s conference is going to be. I really can’t wait, and wanted to make sure y’all know what it is, and why you should join me at The W Hotel Downtown, Oct. 4th-7th.

And remember, you can take one class, or take them all. It’s up to you. As I have said before, every little bit makes a difference.

Top 10 Reasons To Join Me At The Southeast Yoga Conference

10. You get to see what your favorite yoga instructors look like in real clothes, at the super-fun kick-off party on the top of the W Hotel (the view is breathtaking).

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9. You can learn how to pronounce all of those crazy Sanskrit words.

8. Jim Bennitt will explain why tantra is not a sex ritual.

7. Brock and Krista Cahill will teach you how to fly. Seriously.

6. Jessica Ewart will teach you how to detox with Ayurveda (it’s so much easier than The Master Cleanse).

5. You can finally solve “The Mystery of The Core”, with the man who knows more about the anatomy of yoga, than anyone I have ever met–my teacher training mentor and great inspiration, Sean Tebor (that’s him below–have I ever told you how much I adore him?!!).

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4. Local inspirations Isabelle Casey, Gina MinyardMarti Yura, Octavia Raheem, Rutu Chaudri, and Cheryl Crawford will be presenting. You really need to know them, if you don’t already.

3. It’s easier to get a hall pass for a yoga workshop than a girls/guys trip.

2. There’s no better way to learn a lot about yoga, in a short period of time, from people who “get it”, and can help you grow.

426328_313959485378193_62350205_nGina Minyard and Sarah Faircloth help Lisa “The Charmed Yogi” deepen her backbend

And the Number One Reason To Join Me At The Southeast Yoga Conference (drumroll, please):

1. “I regret spending the day practicing yoga” said no one, EVER.

I really, really hope to see you on your mat at The Southeast Yoga Conference. And if we haven’t met yet, please introduce yourself. I would love to know you.

You can register here.

Happy National Yoga Month, namaste, and most of all, stay calm and yoga on!

Amber

430383_313959615378180_95598110_nDavid Regelin assists Rachelle Knowles at the 2012 SE Yoga Conference

Blog, Interrupted

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Last month, when I wrote the original post about learning to cook without recipes, I thought I’d have time to get all three articles written before we left on vacation. Life had other plans, however, and I haven’t had a chance to finish what I started. I keep thinking I should be writing, but my heart has led me to just live, instead of push so hard, as our summer draws to a close.

I promise I will finish the cooking series soon. But, in the meantime, I wanted to share a few cool things that have happened since I wrote the last post.

My New “Job”

The big thing going on for me right now is that I am chairing the Wellness Committee for our daughters’ school this year. It’s not really a job, but it feels like one. It’s keeping me super busy.

I am creating a new educational program that will empower parent volunteers to teach their children’s classes about the fundamentals of wellness. We will have a dedicated “Wellness Ambassador” for every classroom (i.e. parent volunteer), who will be responsible for leading short, but powerful, classroom lessons about what it means to be healthy. The time commitment for volunteers is less than ten ho
urs for the whole year. The idea is to ask for a small commitment from a lot of parents, and create an army of mentors, to show our students that our community values good health.

School starts tomorrow, so I have been feeling a bit crunched to get the lessons completed, and recruit volunteers. I’m also a little nervous about how it will be received. So far, the feedback has been good, and I have a dozen parent volunteers signed up, but I still need another 40. It’s a good problem to have, though, because it gives me a reason to talk about health and wellness within our community.

Vacation

Another thing that has kept me busy the past few weeks is trying to just BE with my family before summer draws to a close. We took one last vacation to our new favorite getaway, Vero Beach, FL, last week. It was a much needed break from our routine, that allowed us to stop doing, and just play as a family. We visited with friends who live in the area, built sandcastles, played frisbee, and took day trips to some of the parks in the area. I tried to see it all through our girls’ eyes, and play with them, rather than observing.

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And, as I always do when we travel to beautiful places, I took some new yoga pictures.

Yoga Pictures

I started taking yoga pictures while on vacation two years ago, when we were in Moab, UT. Taking pictures of poses might seem unyogic, because poses really aren’t the point (uniting the mind, body and spirit is the point, for those who are new to yoga), but the truth is that they have helped me enhance my practice.

At the time of the first photos, I needed them for my business, and Moab seemed like the prefect place to take them. I was right…the pictures helped me build credibility and attract new clients. Surprisingly, though, the photos also became a way of benchmarking my practice.

For the first time, I could see how far I had come in my yoga practice, as well as how far I had to go. Looking at the photos afterward helped me identify imbalances and weakness in my body, which is important because physical imbalance often correlates with emotional and spiritual imbalance. This is why we often feel better mentally after asana practice.

By focusing on improving my poses, other parts of my practice improved as well. I was able to breathe deeper and meditate longer, as I got stronger and more flexible.

Here are some photos to illustrate my point. This photo was taken in Moab in September 2011. After I saw it, I started working on lifting my leg higher in the backbend.

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And this photo was taken in March 2012. It’s easy to see that the pose is much more open than before.
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Six months later, in July 2012, I was able to go even deeper into the backbend, drop to my elbows, and lift my leg much further.

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See what I mean? This is why I always try to take yoga pictures whenever we travel. It doesn’t take very long, the pictures remind me of how it felt to be on vacation, and they inspire me to be more deliberate and organized in my yoga practice. I also think it’s good to have these keepsakes for my children–I hope it will inspire them to work hard to stay healthy throughout their life.

I’m telling you this because, while we were on vacation, my husband got some great shots of poses I have been working on. Here’s my favorite. The rest are on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life–check them out when you get a minute!

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Keeping The Faith

The last thing I wanted to share with you is about the importance of faith in this crazy healthy life. For me, sustainable wellness is created through a combination of nutrition, exercise, and faith. I’ve tried getting healthy with just nutrition and exercise, many times, and it never lasted very long. It was only when I started believing that anything was possible, trusting my struggles, and seeking God in my yoga practice, that it all finally clicked.

One of the many ways my family cultivates our faith is through service to the homeless. We believe that by serving others, we draw closer to God. Our favorite way to serve Him is to set aside an afternoon to buy food, make sack lunches, and deliver them to a park downtown, where Atlanta’s homeless congregate during the day.

Watching our healthy, blessed children share treats with our homeless neighbors always humbles me, and reminds me that, in God’s eyes, we are all equal. That how He sees us is more important than how the rest of the world sees us.

I know it’s true, because every time we feed the homeless, God shows up in big ways. Like the time I decided to take the girls down to the park by myself. I was afraid of managing food delivery and my three young girls without hubby’s help, but I decided to trust the struggle and do it anyway. I was glad I did. Because, as we drove away from the park, we saw this man, carrying an enormous cross up a hill. next to a ONE WAY sign, pointing up hill. A picture worth a thousand words.

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I don’t know about you, but I had never actually seen a man carrying a cross up a city street until that day. Watching him struggle put so much into perspective.

God showed up again, this past Sunday, when we took ice cream and waters to that same park downtown. When we arrived, everyone lined up, and our girlies handed out the ice cream and waters. We served approximately 50 people (2 ice cream treats each and a bottle of water), and it cost less than $50.

As we were handing out the last of the ice cream, we met a man named Jerald, who had the name “Amber” tatooed on his his arm. I’ve never seen my name tatooed on someone before–it caught me by surprise! Jerald said God must have sent me, because his beloved daughter’s name is Amber as well. He told us he is proud of her, because she is in college in Savannah, and she’s making something of herself. He also shared his good news–he just got a job as a cook at Georgia Tech, and is slowly getting back on his feet.

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Johann (pictured below on the right) quoted scripture beautifully, and his love of God was infectious. He was joyful to the core. Our girls told him that they had read Jeremiah that morning during home church (another family tradition, when we can’t get out the door on Sunday mornings), and wouldn’t you know it–Jerald and Johann had also studied Jeremiah that morning! My girls thought that was really cool, and have prayed for Jerald and Johann each night since we left them.

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What’s Next

This feels more like a journal entry, than one of my blog posts, but I felt called to explain my absence, and share these thoughts with you today. I think the point is that it’s good and right to make plans, but it’s also important to loosen the reigns sometimes. Amazing things happen when we allow ourselves to just live.

Today marks a new chapter for our family, as all three of our girls are in school for a full day for the first time. I think it is also the beginning of something big for me, in this crazy healthy life. I’m not sure exactly what it will look like yet, but I am grateful that I can share the journey with you here. Thank you for reading, and look for more about cooking without recipes soon!

Blessings,

Amber

How To Create a Home Yoga Practice

HomeYoga660For many people, it’s really hard to practice yoga at home.

I struggled with my home practice for years, even after I earned my teacher training certification in 2002, and especially after I had kids. Every time I got on my mat, I would remember the laundry that needed to be put in the dryer…and the snack I forgot to prepare for my kids…and the trash I should have taken out…and on and on.

I finally realized that staying on my mat is difficult by design. The poses aren’t the work in yoga. They might stretch and tone my muscles, but the real yoga happens when I arrive on my mat, and surrender to the experience.

If you think you might be ready to practice yoga at home, remember that you don’t necessarily need books, DVDs, or podcasts. All you need to practice yoga at home is a quiet space, a mat, your breath, and a willingness to listen to your body. You can add a little music, too, if you feel moved to do so.

Here’s an easy way to think about sequencing your practice:

1) Warm Up

Sun salutations are a great way to begin a home practice (I recommend starting with 3-5 rounds). Move through the first round slowly, holding each pose for several breaths. Add in some stretches as you see fit. For additional sun salutations, listen to your body, and decide whether it is best to transition between poses with every breath, or every few breaths. There are benefits to both applications (read more about that here). Remember to always keep your mouth closed, and breathe through your nose.

2) Build Strength and Awareness

Next, pick 3-5 standing poses, such as side angle pose, triangle pose, chair pose, or any others you remember from previous experiences. Hold each pose for 5-10 full breaths. Find your drishti (focused gaze in front of you, or looking up) in each pose, and hold steady. Practice each pose 2-3 times.

3) Balance

Afterward, challenge your balance in tree pose, and dancer pose for 10 breaths each. Again, focus on your drishti.

4) Stretch

Hip openers, such as pigeon pose, and backbends, such as bridge pose, are best saved for the end of practice. Hold each for at least twenty breaths (and don’t squeeze your butt).

5) Twist and Reconcile

Finally, it’s always best to finish with a twist and savasana.

This is an introductory approach to practicing at home, so of course you can substitute more challenging poses as you feel prepared. You can also add more sun salutations, to increase the intensity of the experience. As you grow in your home practice, you may also feel called to play with arm balances, inversions, and maybe even the poses on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine. Take your time easing into more challenging poses, and trust the process.

Before you know it, magic will happen, and you will look forward to your home practice more than you ever imagined.

Photo: http://www.mindbodygreen.com

Crazy Healthy Food 101

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I was five years into my yoga practice, before I discovered the connection between the food I was eating, and the quality of my health. I had embraced the value of working hard to control my mind and body, but I was totally reckless in my relationship with food.

Despite my efforts to be healthier, my weight was fluctuating, and I couldn’t get rid of chronic migraines. Why wasn’t working out, and practicing yoga, enough to make me crazy healthy?

My super-smart yogi friend, Charlie, explained that working out and yoga would never bring my health into complete balance, if I wasn’t eating nutrient-rich diet. He convinced me to try a fruit and veggie detox. It sounded crazy, but I was desperate, so I took his advice.

What I did was extreme–just fruits, vegetables, and water for two weeks. No medications, no caffeine, and no added sugar. Just a lot of bananas at first, and then other raw foods toward the end.

During the detox, I tried to eat something small every hour that I was awake, so I was never hungry. I learned to change my mind about why I was eating. It was really hard, and it took a lot of discipline, but it was definitely worth every sacrifice.

After it was over, I never wanted to return to my previous habits. My headaches went away, and I was able to better control my weight on this nutrient-dense diet. I realized that, more than anything, food is fuel, and the quality of the food we eat affects everything about our health. Our bodies need, and deserve, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Charlie’s fruit and veggie detox is a radical approach to getting healthy. It worked for me, but it will only work for you, if you are ready for an extreme change.

Those who want to ease into this crazy healthy life, can begin by following these simple tips:

1. Just say no to fake foods. Health-inhibiting foods are anything that contains gluten, dairy, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors, and added sugars or sweeteners (stevia is ok). Genetically modified foods are also health-inhibiting, so avoid non-organic soy and corn products. I think of these as fake foods, and things I don’t want in my body.

2. Stock up on foods from the earth. Animal products and fake foods are lower in nutrients than whole foods, so use them in moderation. Try to fill your fridge, cabinets, and countertops with fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and gluten-free grains. Fresh foods are higher in nutrient content, but it’s ok to supplement with frozen and canned when necessary.

3. Make a plan to be successful. Write down what you ate today, and yesterday, and determine what percentage was nutrient-dense. Commit to increase that percentage by 10% each week, until you reach 80%. Over time, the healthy stuff will “squeeze out” the fake foods. Your palate will change, as you refine your diet, and soon you will crave the healthy stuff, more than the fake stuff.

3. Learn how to roast vegetables. The best advice I ever heard for increasing veggie intake is that most vegetables taste great roasted. It’s true, and so easy: just toss with grapeseed or sunflower oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 450 for ten minutes. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and sweet potatoes are my favorites. Get in the habit of preparing extras for leftovers, also, to save prep time the next day.

4. Drink mostly water. Self-explanatory, but this can be a big change for a lot of people. Drinks other than water can actually be dehydrating, and health-inhibiting, especially if they contain caffeine. You can allow yourself one cup of coffee or tea if you must, but remember that caffeine can be harmful in large doses.

5. Avoid absolutes. You don’t have to be 100% raw, or totally vegetarian to be crazy healthy. What you do need to do, is find a balance that works for you. I feel better when I limit animal products, but you might find that you need a little now and then. Do some research, try new recipes, and figure out what makes you feel your best. It’s also important to remind yourself that you can still have an unhealthy treat once in a while. You are not giving up ice cream forever; you are simply reframing it’s place in your life.

I know it seems overwhelming. It kind of is, until you get into a groove. But trust me, you will be glad you did. It’s been ten years since I switched to a nutrient-dense diet, and I really can’t imagine eating any other way.

I understand why this approach works now, and will talk more about that in future posts. In the meantime, give these tips a try, and trust that they will, over time, lead you to the crazy healthy life you always hoped for.

*Photo: http://www.rawfullyorganic.com

Guest Post: Wash Your Face in Coconut Oil….For Real

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I read an article several months ago touting the health benefits of coconut oil, that got me curious about its relatively new found popularity.  While coconut oil does have the highest saturated fats of all oils, it’s not an engineered fat.  In fact, according to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, “Nearly 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is of a type rarely found in nature called lauric acid, a “miracle” compound because of its unique health promoting properties. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.”

Intrigued by the oil’s nutrient profile, I decided to find out more, and that’s when I discovered the amazing skin benefits of coconut oil. It’s touted as being anti-bacterial, and supposedly has anti-aging properties. So I researched further, and found a blog post about using coconut oil to cut costs in a beauty regimen. So, I decided to try it for myself…and I’m glad I did.

I bought a jar of organic coconut oil (which is solid not liquid).  It doesn’t liquefy until you add some heat or warm it in your hands. I was hesitant because it’s very ‘oily’ when you rub it on your face. Surprisingly, once I rinsed my face and patted it dry with a towel, my skin was NOT overly shiny or greasy. It felt clean and moisturized.

I’ve been washing my face with coconut oil for months, and it’s great. I don’t even need to follow with a thick night cream, like I used to.

I also use it right when I’m getting out of the shower to moisturize wet skin, or for chapped lips.  I’m the world’s laziest person when it comes to a beauty routine, so if I can find something to help me kill two birds with one stone, I’m one happy yogini. Coconut oil has so many uses, and you can probably find a million of them.  A medium sized jar will last you a while, and it costs less than $10.

Do you have ideas on how to use coconut oil?  If so, let me know here.

Namaste.

The Charmed Yogi

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Lisa Agostoni is a certified yoga instructor based in Atlanta who focuses on holistic yoga. She incorporates anatomy-aware asana, pranayama, meditation and personalized attention in her classes.  Lisa teaches aerial and mat yoga at Vita-Prana Yoga in Smyrna, Ga.  Lisa blogs about yoga, meditation and life as The Charmed Yogi on charmedyoga.com.

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Beating the Weight Loss Blues

The new year is here, and a lot of people are making resolutions to lose weight in 2013.

As a former yo-yo dieter, I understand the sentiments behind these resolutions. I remember days when it seemed like I might never get back to my ideal weight, after ballooning to 194 pounds with my second pregnancy in 2005 (that’s a lot on my 5’8″ frame!). I knew exactly what I had to do to get back in shape–eat healthy food, sleep well, and practice yoga daily–but it still felt out of reach. I was too tired, too discouraged, and too busy to give it the attention it required.

After several months of resisting the process, I eventually got back on track in the summer of 2006 (a year after my second daughter was born). My weight has been easier to manage ever since, even through my third pregnancy in 2007. It feels good, to be back in control.

But I’ll never forget how I struggled in 2006. It makes me wish that I had known then, what I know now, about weight control. If my 41-year old healthy self of today, could talk to my 35-year old overweight self back then, here’s what I would tell her:

1) Let go of the story. It’s human nature to create stories about what we can and can’t do, and then repeat them over, and over again. What’s your story about weight loss? Write it down, and ask yourself which parts are true, and which are false. How could you change the story to support your goals? The Little Engine That Could had it right…if you believe you can, it’s easier to climb the hill.

2) Eat real food. If you want to lose weight, you need to consume nutrient-dense fuel. Whole foods contain the greatest ratio of nutrients to calories, so they need to be at least 80% of your diet. It’s the only way to create sustainable energy for exercise, and the rest of your day. Nutrient-dense foods also support hormonal balance, and boost immunity. You wouldn’t fuel your car with questionable gasoline, so why fuel your weight loss with fake foods?

3) Make exercise an everyday thing. Start small, and give yourself several months to create a sustainable exercise routine. Find two or three simple exercises that give you the results you want (flatter abs, stronger legs, greater flexibility, etc.), and practice them for at least ten minutes every day, for at least a month. These short workouts create a foundation for a sustainable program, so make sure you are strong in your commitment, before you build on it. After a month of consistent daily exercise, it will be easier to add variety and endurance to your workout plan.

4) Trust your struggles…they will someday be your greatest source of pride. When you think back to your greatest accomplishments in life, were any of them easily earned? Why would you expect weight loss to be any different? Be sure of what you hope for, push yourself to try new things, and be grateful for the opportunity to grow stronger with every barrier you dissolve.

This is what I wish I had known back then, in the midst of my fight to reclaim my figure and my health. What insights, and resolutions, have helped you best manage your weight over the years?

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Resolve To Let Go

January is the busiest month of the year in the yoga business. My clients are rejuvenated after holiday vacations, and highly focused on new year’s resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, and eat healthier food.

I love the enthusiasm, but I try to remind everyone that resolutions are rarely enough to create sustainable change in our lives. If we hope to stick with our commitments for 2013, we must resolve to be healthier, but also commit to practice new habits, and cultivate non-attachment to experiences and outcomes.

Most of us already understand the practice part, and are adept at setting goals. We want to get back in shape, so we commit to work out every day. We want to lose weight, so we swear off processed foods and refined sugars. It’s easy to measure: either you did it, or you didn’t.

Learning to let go of attachments is a totally different animal.

What exactly are attachments? They are stories we tell ourselves about our experiences, that keep us stuck in non-productive thoughts and behaviors. We think they have power over us, but they really don’t.

From the moment we are born, we form attachments to people and experiences. We associate good or bad with everything that happens in our lives, and make repetitive choices, based on these beliefs. For example, as adults, we think chocolate chip cookies are a reward, because when we were kids, Mom rewarded us for good behavior with a homemade Tollhouse. It can be difficult to separate the cookie from the feeling of being nurtured by a parent…but it’s easier when we realize that it’s founded more in interpretation, than in truth.

The same is true for exercise. Many of us struggle to change our routines (or lack thereof), because we are attached to the way we have always done things. When we try to learn a new exercise (running, yoga, etc.), we face resistance, and our attachments lead us to think that our previous strategies must have been better. The potential to better ourselves is often outweighed by the potential for failure, or simply the desire to stay home and catch up on our TV shows.

The sneaky thing about attachments, is that they often feel right, but are usually wrong. This is why it is so important to learn to let them go. They tell us that we can’t resist a piece of cake, or a glass of wine, but is that really true? Are we so weak that we can’t say no to habits that ultimately make us unhappy? We think that losing weight is the secret to happiness, but doesn’t real joy come in knowing that we are nourishing our bodies with exercise and healthy food?

Resolutions are the first step in learning to let go and live well, but they are prone to fade away, if we are not also practicing self-study and self-discipline. If you want to make the most of your new year’s resolutions, acknowledge your attachments, and learn to let them go. When we empty ourselves of attachment, we create more space for happiness and good health.

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