Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I love wildflowers

I just got a bunch of wonderful seed and spread it... here are images of the flowers I planted.
Foxglove (
blanket flower (

and scroll down for the yellow flowers at the head of a post on the front page - the yellow ones are evening primrose.

I love gardening!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My first yoga therapy session (as a teacher) and Bikram

Image Compliments of
I am on my way to becoming a yoga therapist in the viniyoga style.  This may take me years - it's quite a long program to become a therapist - a full two years - and there is a stepping stone program as well that I'd need to complete as a prerequisite.

So... it's quite a ways away but I have started working individually with folks in my office.  I use Gary Kraftsow's Yoga for Wellness to help me find good types of sequences (ok... so I'm not officially therapying myself yet).  I trust his work.  Then I identify one to four postures to work with and I'm encouraging them to work on their own - to really "own" the poses.  I have two people I'm working with so far - one with recent knee surgery and one who runs and has tight hips.

Yesterday I made it to Bikram after a dentists appointment (out of the frying pan into the fire, eh?) and had a great class.  I didn't blow it out because I'd just had oral surgery (filling).  But I loved being in the room and practicing.  Then I taught a great clear and concise and hard class.  Woo hoo!

I just took a break from this post to teach my ergonomic workshop... OVER THE PHONE.  I won't be doing that again - it's very disconnected.  Luckily I've taught it a few times and have the patter down tight so I have my rights and lefts all secure.  It's so important to be really clear.  The group is in Vermont with a branch in Arizona so I just spread my worksite yoga beyond the borders of Vermont - first time!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Eat like a Greek for Health

Image Compliments of
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lengthen lifespan, combat cancer, protect against diabetes, help you breathe better, and improve rheumatoid arthritis. The summer is a great time of year to experiment with this delicious and healthy style of eating. Visit Oldways ( for great details and recipes to get you started eating Greek for health.
  • Bring fruits and vegetables to every meal. Consume whole, unprocessed, and local fruits and veggies when you can. Wash them well.
  • Next, add beans, legumes and whole grains like: barley, bulgur, whole wheat breads and pastas, buckwheat, wheatberries, rice, and quinoa.
  • Lean protein is the name of the game with an emphasis on seafood and fish, poultry and chicken. Red meat is an occasional treat, and portions are small.
  • For dessert, opt for fruits first.
For breakfast, try low-fat yogurt with fruit and nuts, or steel cut oats, or a veggie omelet. At lunch, you can “go Greek” by filling a pita with hummus and stuffing it with fresh greens and vegetables. Another great idea is a salad with olives, nuts, and a lean protein of your choice. Dinner starts with vegetables and grains. Try a new recipe each week (check Pasta with sauteed vegetables and beans or fish is a great solution and is quick to make. Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner in moderation, and a bowl of berries and greek yogurt for dessert.
Refer to the Oldways Mediterranean food pyramid as your guide to going Greek for health.
  Source: Oldways, On Health Vol 21 No. 8

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vietnamese Cole-Slaw Type Salad

This is an amazing salad.
4 large bok choy leaves, rough bottoms discarded, stems cut 1/4" bias and leaves shredded
4 big leaves Napa Cabbage
1 bunch watercress rough chop
1 large carrot cut into matchsticks
leaves from 9 stems each basil, mint, cilantro, rough chop
1/2 small cucumber (I used 2 whole cukes)
a chili, thin sliced (optional)
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts
grilled protein of your choice

Vietnamese Salad dressing
1/4 cut fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (used rice vinegar)
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 tsp hot pepper sesame oil (just used regular sesame oil)
2 tbsp agave nectar (we used honey)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp finely diced red onion or shallot

Recipe and Video Compliments of

The ultimate Indulgence - 2 hours of yin yoga

Image compliments of wikipedia

My studio head teaches yin once a week.  I rarely make it to the Thursday 6pm class, but I have been interested in this method, and have started reading up on it on my own.  I have Sarah Powers' book Insight Yoga.  Last night I did the long form series for stimulation of the kidney meridian.  For more on the kidney meridian, click here.

The yin method is opposed to more yang styles of yoga, like Bikram or Ashtanga or even vigorous vinyasa.  Yang is all about doing - Yin is all about being.  I have had the pleasure of doing my yang work the last two days in the garden.  I've been transplanting day lilies all over the place.  It is such a pleasure to have gotten my movement in through home improvement!  And a deeper pleasure last night to sit down, while my husband worked, for two hours with my mat, blanket and pillows.

Once I worked out a clumsy way to use my cell phone alarm to give me 5-8 minute long countdowns, I settled in to practice.  Poses were: Butterfly (like badokanasana but heels away from the groin, and supported), saddle pose, Sphinx, Seal (this one was tough to hold for 4 minutes!), supported forward bend, spine twist, happy baby, and savasana.

I don't have pics of these unfortunately but luckily there is this resource if you are curious.  Yin Yoga Pose index  It took two hours to get through the sequence holding most everything for at least five minutes.  The twists I did 3-5 minutes on a side.  I went deep, relaxed, and I'll tell you what - I slept like a BABY for the first time in over a week.  We have an oversexed and territorial woodpecker who likes to get drummin' at about 5am these days.  We're going to hang some pie plates as deterrents but haven't gotten to it yet.  So I was able to sleep from about 10:30 through to 7am.  Wonderful.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vitamin D - gettin' the good stuff!

Image compliments of  THANK YOU IT'S A BEAUT!!

In my life as a worksite wellness practitioner, I write monthly health newsletters and have done so for over a year now.  Vitamin D is consistently in the news.  There are always vitamin-of-the-year trends (like selenium and vitamin E in the recent past, both of which were shown to be just fads in trials).  However, Vitamin D keeps coming up as providing some SERIOUS benefits!

Vitamin D plays a big part in reducing the risk for a great number of diseases: osteoporosis, some cancers, autoimmune infections, and cardiovascular diseases.  It's essential for calcium absorption, which is why you see many calcium fortified foods also now contain vitamin D.  How do we get this vitamin?  Both through diet and exposure to the sun.  Did you know that ten minutes in bright summer sunlight provides a blast of 10,000 IU of vitamin D?  (We'll get to dosing and IU - International Units - later.)

Blood levels of vitamin D in adults in the US are amazingly low.  77% of adults were shown to have deficient levels in a recent study.  Why is this?  We're inside more, we wear sunscreen (which blocks vitamin D absorption from sunlight), we don't, in general, eat enough of the foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D, and many parts of the United States don't get strong sunlight year round.

In fact, if you draw a line from San Francisco to Boston, any location above that line gets weak sun for most of the year - exception being the summer.  During the fall, winter, and early spring months, the sunlight at our latitudes is not strong enough to provide vitamin D for skin absorption.  And... don't get me wrong - I am not advocating tossing your sunscreen either.  It protects from many harmful aspects of sunlight, those that can cause skin cancer.

So what are we to do? 

The current recommendation is 400IU (International Units) of vitamin D daily.  International units are the measure of vitamins and other supplements, and can be found on the nutritional information of all vitamin supplements.  Studies are underway to assess whether that 400 IU number is enough.  It is projected that the recommended dosage may creep up to 800 - 1000 IU daily for adults.  And, for those who have vitamin D deficiency, taking larger doses (like 2000-3000 IU daily) may be needed to boost levels to the recommended amount.  Blood tests can determine your vitamin D levels, and check with your doctor before beginning a vitamin d regimen.  Signs of vitamin D deficiency are lethargy, muscle soreness and low energy levels, but those may be the result of extremely low levels.  You may want to ask for this test next time you get your blood work done.

Standing in the bright summer sun for ten minutes can bring a dose of 10,000 IU in one quick blast!  However, we do not recommend tossing your sunscreen.  How can you balance this out?  You can go outside during mid-day, in the summer, and sit for exactly ten minutes, which is not long enough to give a sunburn.  Set a timer to make sure you do not burn!  Then apply sunscreen as you would.  You'll get the health benefits of vitamin D without the dangers of sunburn and sun exposure over long periods of time.

How do we get vitamin D in the winter in the north?
Dietary sources are tricky.  Fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel are rich in vitamin D, especially when the fish is wild, not farmed.  In foods that are fortified with vitamin D (milk, orange juice, soy milk) there may be 100IU per serving, which means you have to chug a lot of milk to get a good vitamin d boost.

Which leads us to supplements.
Because sun exposure can be tricky and have negative side effects, and food sources are few and far between, supplements may be for you.  I personally take seven seas fish oil and vitamin d3 supplements, along with one or two other things.  Vitamin D3 supplements come in many doses, even up to 2,000 IU capsules.  Check with your doctor before taking large doses, to see if it's really necessary for you.  Who knows - maybe you're one of the 22% of the population with adequate levels of the vitamin, in which case - keep at it!

Vitamin D in the news.
Keep your eyes peeled for the results of this great study that's starting soon.  The Vital Study is getting underway testing Omega-3 and Vitamin D3 supplements - together and separately.  Omega 3 oils are shown to help cardiovascular health, and the disease fighting vitamin D will be tested as well.  Harvard and the National Institutes of Health will be working on this five year study, involving placebos, double blind testing, the works.  They're testing people over 65 to see how the supplements affect risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and stroke in people with no history of those conditions.

That's the scoop on vitamin D - keep it in mind next time you get your blood tested.  I went to the doctor today and am scheduled to have a full blood panel done - it's been ages since I've even had a primary care doctor, so it's time.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Social support means so much.

Image courtesy of frogboots365 photo - THANKS!
I just wrote a 14 page single spaced case study on the PATH wellness program in Vermont Schools. I work for PATH, loosely, during the day - yoga teacher by night! So it has been a long and stressful last ten days. Thankfully I am on the other side of it.

Hubby was gone for the weekend, leaving me lots of free time to go to a Bikram yoga seminar with Lynn Whitlow, and to work on the case study, and to teach, all of which I finished by about 2pm on Sunday.

However, as I was slogging it out (writing) and working on my personal yoga practice, I felt a distinct lack of human connection and support. I ended up taking yesterday off because I was so burnt out. I even found someone to cover my class last night so I could stay home and have an evening with my husband. It was so important to have the physical and social and emotional connection with him. It righted my balance so much.

It's not all about doing - work, yoga, exercise, achieving the body you want to have, etc. It's sometimes about being with those you love, and that's all it needs to be.

The posture clinic with Lynn was amazing. I was only there for Saturday because of work, unfortunately, but I got a great dose of serious teaching. I was refreshed in the seriousness of Bikram, as a prescription for health. I will talk more about this in the future... but I wanted to just get back on the blog, post a pic of a peony to honor the beauty going on in my own garden, and to say thanks to my husband for being my partner and my social support, the one who rights me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Very happy to announce....

I've been awarded a Wellsphere Top HealthBlogger award! Woo hoo - check out my badge!

I'm going to a posture clinic with Lynn Whitlow of west coast Bikram yoga fame this weekend and I couldn't be more excited. Something has happened in my Bikram practice recently. My hips have completely opened up and I'm able to hold the foot both hands in namaskar during tree and I'm able to get up with the upper body in toe stand pose.

I taught a great class yesterday in the worksite, teaching most of a viniyoga routine that has been medically proven in an evidence based study to alleviate low back pain and stabilize that area. The executive director of the organization has been to all of my yoga classes. I'm so proud of them - talk about executive buy in.

I also have created an ergonomics workshop that I've given twice now. Once to a room full of guys! Most of my worksites are more non-profity but this one was all guys. They were good sports and asked some great questions.

Lots going on with work, wellness and yoga and I'm quite busy. I just wrote a proposal for the National Wellness Institute - they're calling for webinar presenters for the fall 2010. Hope I get it. And I'm working on a case study in wellness profiling a group of 19,700 people. It's amazing work.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Back on the Mat - Bikram or Bust

It's great to be back on the mat. I've taken a bit of time off the blog, getting my head back on straight, and doing a bunch, a BUNCH, of work - teaching in the studio, I led a great ergonomics workshop at a client (will repeat once more Monday and on a conference call to Arizona later next week) and am writing up a case study on wellness at work. Phew!

I finally got back to taking some Bikram classes. I practiced on Monday, Thursday and Friday (and heading tomorrow and Monday) to classes taught by people!!! No more of this practicing Bikram on my own. Well... not as a mainstay. I've decided that after the end of this week I'm not subbing anymore and am just working on getting my practices in consistently.

I don't know why, I can't even believe it, but I was discounting this practice for a little while. I was thinking I was only making "marginal" gains in my body with Bikram and was looking to add some new stuff in. Well, I am going to add some new stuff in, but am going to get 4-5 Bikram classes in as well. The power of the practice escaped me while I was not getting into the hot room with a teacher for a little while. Classes are actually challenging for me right now, first time since training that's happened.

I'm also pushing it to my limits, which often pushes me off balance. For me, when I'm pushing to my flexibility edge, I often don't have the strength to support it for long. However, I know I've made progress by working out there on the edge. On Friday, I worked half moon to full bend, deep backbend (saw the edge of my towel) and am able to hold my face to the legs (even with my large bosom) for a bit and pull up on the thighs. Man does that feel good. Heart pounding from the get go in class.

I want to do more ashtanga work, but I really have a problem with all that forward bending in room temperature. It's no good. The first day I did it in the morning I was sore at the hamstring attachment point top of the thigh. That's dangerous stuff. However in practicing Bikram, I'm all delightfully sore in the heart of the hamstrings, right where you want to be working. The meat of the muscle.

Next weekend great posture clinic with Lynn Whitlow coming. I'm missing a bunch of it - teaching Friday and Sunday morning prevent me from getting there for more than Saturday day but that's fine. Sunday after I teach then practice on my own I'm going to a restorative 2 hr class. I CANNOT WAIT to bliss out. Big week of work, huge draft due Friday, so not much blogging for a bit. Namaste!

Friday, June 4, 2010

First official Mysore practice

I'm glad I was alone... I don't think it was very pretty - but I did it along with my Richard Freeman video. I made it up to about 90% through the standing series. I didn't stop because I had to, I stopped because I want to ground myself in the basics before moving forward.

Things I DIDN'T get:
- My sun salutations this morning were sluggish and I'm still dealing wtih a wrist injury. I didn't stay up off the hips.

- I didn't have the bandhas. Not for long at least!

- I didn't have the exact breathing, though I did my best on that front.

That said... I am looking forward to doing more. I have to be careful practicing in regular temperature however, as the muscles (especially the hamstrings) are tight. Amazing that this practice is done in the morning!

I'm also looking for tips on working the transition from chaturunga through up dog staying up off the hips.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When we struggle with motivation.

Motivation. It's such a loaded word. For me, it's associated with a lot of "should's" that seem to float around my brain.

Usually a period of distinct lack of motivation, at least for me, coincides with some events in life. I have had two disappointments in the last two weeks, and am feeling that lethargic feeling that comes with feeling down, and not being terribly active.

My solution to these times of lack of motivation is patience and gentleness to myself. I know that soon enough I will be back in the swing of things, eating in my healthy way, moving in my healthy way, and that to force myself up to that level of activity means not paying tribute to the real me, the actual me, the authentic me.

The authentic me needs time to rest and reflect right now. I will be back, but on my own terms, of acceptance and love.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When one door closes, another opens. Usually a bigger better one. Like French doors with stained glass, right?

Sadly, this yoga teacher training I wanted to attend has been cancelled. I applied for a scholarship to do social media and blogging to publicize the training. I must say I was really hoping to go. So I found out yesterday there were not enough attendees so they had to cancel it.

This disappointment and my last - the unexpected passing of my dear aunt, have led me to the kitchen. In my past, as I recover from Compulsive Overeating Disorder, I might have gotten junk food to numb out the pain. I did something slightly different this last two weeks. I cooked a fabulous dish definitely serving as comfort food (lasagna last night and brisket two weeks ago). But the difference between bingeing on junk food and cooking a dish that requires time and effort, care and attention, is huge.

I love losing myself in cooking. Especially a complicated recipe like lasagna, where you simmer the sauce, boil the noodles, grate the cheese and assemble.

I will find my way back to my mat this afternoon for a trip to the hot room to do some Bikram. It really has been too long. I'm also dabbling a little bit with home practice and am wanting to dip my toe into ashtanga to work my upper body strength. Unfortunately I tweaked my wrist a little bit ago and am just starting to get my chaturunga back.

When I thought about going to Bali in August, I wanted to do a lot more vinyasa based yoga to get strong in that way as well. So I am going to pursue that goal over the summer, while still practicing Bikram as well. I am giving myself a little time to grieve this small loss before pushing on ahead and trying to practice every day.

Hoping you find love on your mat today.