How To Be Happy, When The News Is Not

We woke to the news of another senseless mass shooting today. And not just a shooting, but the deadliest shooting in US history. Horrific, unthinkable, unjustifiable tragedy.

From shootings, to hurricanes, to inflammatory politics, we can’t escape negativity these days, and it’s taking a toll on our collective psyche. So many people are hurting, and it’s hard to know how to begin to help. It’s also hard to turn our attention away from the bad news.

Some people can acknowledge and process these tragedies in a healthy manner, but for others this negative cycle can have a significant impact, making us feel stuck, depressed, and hopeless. If the news of the day is overwhelming you, here’s how to break the negativity cycle:

  • Mind your mind. The human mind is like a monkey–always busy, and looking for ways to get us in trouble, rarely focused on the task at hand. Notice how often your thoughts shift to the past or present, and think more about what is happening in the moment, than anything else. Remember that the present is the only thing you can control. When the mind wanders, think “be here now.”
  • Sort your thoughts. Just like you sort laundry, (whites with whites, and colors with colors), you can also sort your thoughts. Which are helping you? Which are not? Make the line between the two more obvious. Notice that all thoughts are either painful (and disempowering), or painless (and empowering). Work on fueling the empowering thoughts, and pushing aside anything that might disempower you.
  • Recognize repetitive patterns, and break them. Our mind repeats the same messages over and over again. In some cases this is good–affirming thoughts foster confidence and hope. However, when negativity rules our thoughts, it can create self-sabotaging habits that are hard to break. Get really honest about your thought habits, and get rid of the ones that drag you down.
  • Don’t believe everything you think. The ego rules the mind and convinces us that we are right, and everyone else is wrong. That our perception of reality is the ONLY reality. And it’s just not true. Nothing in life is that cut and dry, and no one is right 100% of the time. Remind yourself that no matter what it seems, you don’t have all the facts. Give yourself, and others, a lot of grace, by recognizing that not everything you think is founded in truth.
  • Trust the struggles. Challenges are an essential part of life, and trying to fight them only makes us more unhappy. We have a choice in every moment to embrace reality, or deny it all together. When life doesn’t happen on your terms, instead of getting angry or denying it, tell yourself “it is what it is.” And then figure out what you can do to make it better, and go do that.
  • Ask a different question. Instead of asking “Will it ever get better?” ask “What can I you can do to make the world a better place?” And don’t discount your answer. We might not be able to directly change every bad situation in the world, but we can always do something to make a difference in someone’s life. Remember that every small act of kindness adds up like the drops of water in the ocean. The more positive effort you put forth, the better the world will be. No act is too small…so go do something to make the world a better place.
  • Remember that nothing is forever. Everything is always changing, which is good news, when we watch the world struggling. Todays news will be tomorrow’s history. Life will not always be this way, so get to work to do your part. Take it one breath, one moment, at a time. Affect what you can change, and use your talents to help others, one random act of kindness at a time.

Should we keep watching the news? Yes, of course. It’s important to stay informed. But don’t let it consume you. Know your limits and control your thoughts, so you can use your energy for uplifting and inspiring work, helping to make the world a better place, and enjoying the happiness you deserve.

The-mind-is-everything.-What-you-think-you-become-Buddha-800x800.jpg

 

Three Things I Learned When I Almost Died

 

DSC_8593

Celebrating my birthday with family and friends in the spring of 1998–one of the few times I actually left my bed, while recovering from a near fatal car accident. 

Nineteen years ago today, a man named Freddy saved my life. Freddy was an EMT–the first to arrive at the scene of a devastating car crash. I was severely injured in the crash, and the doctors who cared for me after said it was a miracle that I survived. I had to be resuscitated three times, and was rushed to a nearby hospital in the minutes that followed. I was in critical care for eleven days, before being moved to regular hospital room.

The impact broke bones all over my body, including my C2, my shoulders, my collarbone, and my pelvic bone. I spent three weeks in the hospital afterwards. It took that long for me to get stabilized, learn how to walk again, and finally breathe without artificial support.

I was heavily medicated during the recovery, and because of the meds (or maybe it was the closed head injury?), my memories are blurry at best. What I do remember vividly from that time, however, is the excrutiating pain in my side from the chest tube that was inserted above my right ribs. I also recall tears streaming down my face, as the nurses forced me to stand up and walk around my hospital room. I remember doubling over every time I had to cough, or my family tried to make me laugh, because my broken ribs were stabbing my insides. The rest, however, is pretty foggy.

I do have clear memories of coming home from the hospital, though. I had limited mobility, and time dragged in the three months after my release.

The recovery process was brutal. I had a lot of support, thankfully, from my family, our church, and our friends, but it was still overwhelming.  I wondered how life could ever be the same.

I eventually made a full recovery, although I still live with some chronic pain. The thing that helped the most?  Discovering the healing discipline of yoga. I found yoga (or maybe it found me?) five months after almost losing my life, and it transformed me forever.

That first class was ridiculously difficult, but when it was over, I felt like a completely different person. I knew I was onto something, and started practicing yoga every day at home, with videos. In the next few months, yoga slowly helped me reclaim my strength and my flexibility. I suddenly had muscles where I had not had muscles before–YASS! People said I looked strong, something I had never been told before. And, I actually felt strong, physically, mentally, and spiritually–stronger than ever before. My moods improved, and I finally felt happy again. I fell in love with meditation, and learned some pretty cool new ways to breathe. The more I practiced yoga, the happier I felt, and I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?

Looking back, I feel like I finally have perspective on the journey. I was given a second chance at life, and in the process learned three important lessons:

1. Life happens in the present moment. Prior to the crash, I spent a lot of time lamenting the past, and worrying about what might happen in the future. But, being stuck in bed, unable to move, for months on end, I could think of nothing but what was happening right then and there. It changed my brain, to be entirely focused on recovery, taking life one breath at a time. As I got into yoga, the message was the same–be here now, because the present moment is the only thing you can control. As I learned how to be more present, I felt more connected to my life and the people around me than ever before.

2. We are all connected in our struggles. Before I got into yoga, I was hyper-aware of my struggles, and how they affected me. I thought I was the only one who felt this way or that. By taking yoga classes, though, I started to see that everyone is struggling in some way–even the people doing crazy handstands were breathing and shaking! I realized that yoga is hard for everyone, and it’s pretty much a metaphor for life. Everyone struggles with something in life, and it is important to look for these similarities, more than our differences. Yoga philosophy teaches that any idea of being separate is merely illusion. We are all the same at our core.

3. We can’t get happy, we can only be happy. During my recovery, I often thought, “I will be happy when I am fully recovered”. But even after the doctors gave me a clean bill of health, I was still incredibly depressed, and focused on what I had lost. Except when I was on my yoga mat. I felt happy during yoga, because my teacher taught me to quiet my mind, and be the witness to what was really happening. To look for the beautiful more than the ugly. Both coexist always, and we can be happy simply by controlling our thoughts. We have the power to choose happiness in every moment, and push away the thoughts that don’t serve us. Connecting with the bliss within is where it’s at!

Almost two decades have passed since the crash that almost took my life, and a lot has changed. I am grateful to be alive, and inspired by the lessons I have learned. I challenge you to put them into action–foster awareness, seek connections, and choose happiness. There’s so much waiting for you on the other side, and most of it is better than you ever imagined.

~Namaste and love to all~

FullSizeRender 8.jpgOur family 19 years later, with Rev. Don Harp, one of the many angels who flew to my side, offering support and love after the crash, and beyond.

How Yoga Teacher Training Changes Lives

Westside Yoga Teacher Training Graduate Liz Jin shares her story of transformation!

Contrary to popular belief, Yoga Teacher Training is not just for people who want to teach yoga. It is a comprehensive course that is designed to pride a broad view of the power of this practice, perfect for anyone who wants to understand the fundamentals of yoga, as well as those who want to teach the practice to others. Topics covered include anatomy, physiology, pose alignment, energy management, philosophy, and much, much more.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my YTT experience lately, as we prepare for our next 200 Hour RYT yoga teacher training Westside Yoga, this fall. I will be co-leading the training with Rebecca Galla-Jones, along with some of our experienced teachers, and some very special guests from our yoga community.  Preparing for the course, and talking about it with our students, has reminded me that YTT was the beginning of all of the major health transformations in my life.

When I first got into yoga, almost 20 years ago, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was recovering from a life-altering car accident at the time, and was living with a lot of chronic pain. My first yoga experience felt impossible–everything hurt and I had to rest a lot. But I did what I could, and I was shocked that, afterwards, I felt less pain.

There was also this happiness thing. After class I felt happier, and more hopeful, than I had in quite some time. Maybe ever. I left that first class knowing that I would do this practice for the rest of my life, and I still feel that way today.

Back then, though, actually practicing yoga was really hard. I struggled a lot, but it was something I just knew I had to do. I added yoga classes to my weekly routine, never missing a Tuesday night class. As my gym added more classes, I put those on my schedule as well. I also started practicing in the mornings at home, with videos and TV shows. As I grew more comfortable on the mat, I was sick less often, and I had a lot more energy.

Daily yoga practice was life-changing. I noticed that the more I practiced and studied the meaning of yoga, the more the pieces of my life fell into place. I felt more confident, more empowered, and more ALIVE than I had ever been. My friends could see the change in me, but it was hard for them to understand what had happened. The power of yoga is difficult to put into words, and much easier to understand in practice.

Unfortunately, there were few easy ways for people to practice yoga back then. One day I had this funny thought: “If no one else is going to teach, than maybe I should.” It seemed ridiculous, to say it outloud to my husband: “I think I should be a yoga teacher”. We both giggled the first time I mentioned it.

But that thought turned into a calling I could not deny, and THAT is why I walked into LA Fitness and applied to be a yoga teacher. They didn’t care that I had never taught yoga before, and I didn’t care that the class only paid $17. It was just something I felt I had to do; it gave me purpose.

So…it was 2001, when I taught my first class, and there were no RYTs, no Yoga Alliance, and certainly no standards for yoga teachers. The manager at the gym didn’t take me seriously at first–at least not until I started filling my classes, and the members demanded more yoga on the schedule.

My Tuesday and Thursday night classes grew quickly in the months that followed, and it was exciting, but it also made me even more nervous about my teaching. Am I teaching this right? What if someone gets hurt? What if I get fired? My fears grew, week over week, so when I saw an ad for YTT in Yoga Journal Magazine, I jumped at the chance to get certified.

I applied to Peachtree Yoga Center in the summer of 2002, and began training that fall. I’ll admit I was intimidated at first, but it was clear that the struggle was there to serve me. Those long weekends of training added more to my life than I ever could have imagined.

It was during YTT that this practice really came alive for me. I discovered why yoga makes me feel so happy (samadhi, or bliss, is actually one of the eight disciplines of yoga), and learned new ways to add yogic techniques to my life. As I embraced yoga philosophy, and applied it to my life, I figured out how to control my migraines without medication, and finally got off the painkillers I had taken for years. I learned how to breathe more effectively, think more clearly, and be more of the person I always hoped to be. It deepened my faith, and made me feel like everything really is going to be ok. Most importantly, YTT gave me the background and confidence I needed to teach others in an effective and inspiring way.

Looking back now, YTT was, by far, the most empowering experience of my entire life. It opened my mind and my heart to possibilities that I never would have considered otherwise. Ask anyone you know who has completed YTT, and I expect you will hear the same.

The truth is that yoga is for everyone, and this training can help everyone. No matter what you have been through or what you are facing, learning how to apply yoga to your experiences can improve your life. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Yoga is the teacher, and it will call to you when the time is right. Answer the call, and give yourself the gift of becoming a true yogi.

We are thrilled to be leading Yoga Teacher Training on the Westside of Atlanta this fall. The course will run from September 8, 2016 -December 17, 2016 at Westside Yoga, and students of all levels and backgrounds are welcome. Feel free to contact me if you are interested, and I’d be happy to help you get started. Or if you just want to follow our adventures in YTT, like us on Facebook and find us on Instagram.

Much love,

Amber

 

Photo by Jamie Annarino at Westside Yoga

 

 

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.

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

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

ceee961c45292c6487357086911a260a

100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 9

Congratulations on completing Week 8 of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy! How are you feeling? Take a moment to let me know in the comments below.

If you are new to 100 Days of Crazy Healthy, look back through my prior posts for explanations of the the weekly habits listed below.

For those who are well into the challenge, Week 9 will be a piece of cake! I’d like you to get in the the twisting habit (habit #11), so set a timer and twist for 30 seconds (or 10 full, deep breaths) in both directions, at some point during the day (preferably after your sun salutations, but any time is fine). You can choose between a seated twist, or one of the supine twists, pictured below. Also, when you find yourself waiting, or sitting for long periods of time, twist in your chair, also pictured below.

Twists are a powerful practice for restoring balance and increasing energy. As you grow more comfortable with this habit, you will find yourself twisting often throughout the day, like hitting a reset button on the mind, body and spirit.

Namaste~

Amber

Daily Habits For Week 9

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. 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, 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.

l_101812265

photo: http://www.yoganonymous.com

workplace-yoga-spinal-twist-in-chair

photo: http://www.chrisdorchak.com

SpinalTwist

photo: http://www.acefitness.org

 

100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 8

yj200403_spot6

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 6

photo copy 23Congratulations on your efforts in the first five weeks of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy! What changes have you noticed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

For the sixth week of our health challenge, we will continue with our commitments, and add quinoa for breakfast, to increase our intake of nutritious foods from the earth.

Quinoa is an energizing, filling alternative to cereals and processed foods. It can be made in advance, and stores well in the freezer, so don’t be afraid to double your recipes! It has a slightly pungent nutty taste, which works well with sweet and salty tastes.

Always rinse quinoa before cooking (even if the package says pre-rinsed) for the purest, cleanest results. Prepare according to package directions, and add fruits, nuts, seeds, sweeteners, salt and spice to your recipes as desired. Add a small amount of grape seed oil to quinoa after cooking, to minimize the dry taste (about 1/2 t. oil to 1 cup quinoa). My favorite quinoa concoctions are as follows:

  • Apples, raisins, walnuts, cardamom, and cinnamon
  • Bananas, blueberries, and pecans with sea salt
  • Pears, apples, cinnamon, honey, and sunflower seeds
  • Cherries (dried or fresh) with pecans, maple syrup and sea salt
  • Golden raisins, walnuts, and Garam Masala (indian spice)
  • Strawberry and fresh mint with a hint of lemon juice

I’ve not provided recipes on purpose–I don’t think you need them. This health challenge is all about learning to trust our intuition, and customize our health habits to our personal needs and goals. Play around with different flavors, and trust yourself! Less is always more in the beginning, especially when working with spices. Also, aim to use about 1 c. fruit and nuts to 1 c. quinoa, and use spices the way you use salt and pepper–a little at first, and then add more if it isn’t enough.

If you get tired of eating quinoa every day, it’s ok to substitute a Crazy Healthy Smoothie* sometimes, or even alternate every other day. The point is to explore new possibilities, so just keep experimenting, and enjoy of the journey of learning new ways to boost your energy with nutritious foods from the earth.

Daily Habits For Week 6

1. Prepare a double batch of quinoa, twice each week, according to the instructions above. Decide which days you will make your preparation, and refridgherate or freeze what you do not use the first day, in a airtight container.

2. Spend 3 minutes each morning creating new, delicious tastes for your crazy healthy breakfast, as described above, or invent your own!

3. 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.

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

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. 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.

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

9. 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.

10. 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.

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.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Raising Healthy Kids

When I was a little girl, I believed in fairy tales. That no matter what kind of trouble might find me, there would always be a hero rushing to my rescue.

As I got older, I realized that this is not how life works–no one comes to save us, we have to save ourselves…

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.

I started having headaches when I was in kindergarten, and no one could figure out why. I visited doctors, changed my diet, and tried to get more sleep, but nothing seemed to help. I suffered a lot…loudly at first, and then silently, when people got tired of my complaints.

The headaches were relentless throughout elementary school, but I learned to hide my pain. I actually got quite good at it. As I got older, the headaches became more frequent, and new health challenges presented themselves–food addiction, depression, insomnia, and recurring sinus infections. I hid those as well. No one knew how much I suffered.

Until one day, I couldn’t hide my health problems any more. When I was 26, a near-fatal car crash left me with a dozen broken bones, and a long road to recovery. It was then, at rock bottom, that I finally realized that life is not a fairy tale, and the only way I would ever find happiness, was to rescue myself.

I spent most of my twenties recovering, and all of my thirties fighting my way to good health. My body healed from the crash, but a new challenge presented itself–autoimmune thyroid disease. I had to fight even harder, to get back on stable ground.

It took time, and a lot of hard work, but saving myself from a lifetime of ailments and injuries was the most worthwhile thing I have ever done. I learned how to control my energy, pain, strength, moods, weight, and illness with food and exercise. In the process, I traded my victim mentality for the commitment of a warrior, trusting the struggle, and seeking whatever it takes, to live life in balance.

I’m 43 now, and these lessons feel like some of the greatest blessings in my life! I am grateful for all that this crazy healthy life has revealed, and I feel called to share what really works with others, in every way that I can.

As a wellness coach, one of my favorite things to do is teach parents how to empower their children with the awareness, beliefs, and consistency that are essential for a healthy life. I call this approach “The ABC’s of Raising Healthy Kids”, and I will discuss how and why it works at Whole Foods in Atlanta (West Paces Ferry location) next Tuesday night, June 17th. Everyone is invited, there will be food, and it’s FREE!

Please plan to join me at 7 PM in The Cafe. Reserve your spot by emailing stephanie.watson@wholefoods.com, and let me know if you have any specific questions you would like me to address. As always, I am here to help, and appreciate your comments and feedback.

Image.

 

Life’s Short, Learn Capoeira

photo copy 63Yesterday was a Walking Dead kind of day. I felt like a zombie, after 48 hours of non-stop action.

The craziness started on Saturday, with a surprise road trip to Athens, GA for my friend Melissa’s 40th birthday party. And then there was the 550 mile drive to Vero Beach on Sunday, that took longer than it should have, and kept us all up until 2 AM. Which would have been no big deal, if I had been able to sleep it off. But no…there was an early morning wake up call from landscapers, trimming palm trees with chain saws, outside my bedroom window yesterday morning at 7 AM.

Of course, the girlies never heard the chain saws, and slept until 9 AM. They recovered well from our late night, but I was definitely not myself. Instead of our normal play on the beach/swim at the pool/play at the park vacation routine, we parked ourselves at the pool for the entire day. It was all I could handle, or so I thought…

As late afternoon rolled around, I remembered that it was Monday. And the Capoeira (pronounced cup-where-uh) class I had been planning to take with my family, would take place tonight. I knew we should go, even though I was really, really tired, and didn’t feel like dancing.

This crazy healthy life has taught me that good things happen when I show up, even when I don’t feel like it. And learning how to dance like this must certainly be worthwhile, right?

Isn’t that amazing?

It was 6 PM when remembered my intention to get the girls to Capoeira, and the class started at 8 PM. I texted hubby (who had been working at his Vero office all day), packed up the pool bag, rushed home for a quick dinner, and got our messy selves to the Capoeira class, just in time to shake it like the Brazilians.

And thank God we did, because it was AWESOME. Seriously, the most fun I have ever had with my family. Here’s what it looked like:

 

The dancers were welcoming, and I fell madly in love with the teacher, a wonderful, 60 year old African-Brazilian man with dreadlocks, named Xodo (pronounced show-doe). I want to adopt him and take him back to Atlanta. The dancers were awesome, too. So encouraging, and ready for anything.

photo copy 61

The history behind this art is rich: Capoeira was created in the 1800s by slaves in Brazil, as a form of martial arts. The goal was to teach self-protection, but they had to make it took like a game, so that they slave owners would not prohibit it’s practice. The result is a beautiful, empowering art, that has lived on for centuries. It might look difficult, but it’s actually very simple in practice.

When we dance Capoeira, we keep hands in front of our faces, and our eyes on our opponents, asserting ourselves with awareness, staying low and tight, and constantly react to every move. It’s all about awareness and movement. Kinda like partner yoga, but much faster and louder! There are also times that we chant, clap and show off our craziest dance moves.

The class was fantastic. We laughed, and danced, and banged sticks on the floor, and lived in our bodies for 90 minutes. With strangers. But it didn’t matter that we were strangers–we connected on the love of movement. It was primal, and so incredibly joyful! I really can’t wait to try it again.

If you get to Vero Beach, find Abada Capoeira and dance with them. If you can’t get to Vero, find a Capoeira troupe near you and run, don’t walk, to the next class. You will be glad you did–the best kind of crazy healthy fun. 
photo copy 62