Interested in a healthier diet this winter? Shift to a plant based diet.
What is a plant based diet?
Unlike most diets, a plant-based diet is defined by what it focuses on, not what it excludes. When you eat a plant based diet, you maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant based foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. Eat veggies, fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts. Include local and sustainably-raised dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat in smaller amounts if you wish.
Food writer, Michael Pollan, coined a 7 word phrase that makes it easy to know how to eat a plant based diet:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
"Eat food" means to eat real food (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and small amounts of eggs, fish, and meat if you wish), and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances.“
You can watch Michael Pollan's take on healthy eating in the wonderful PBS documentary: In Defense of Food. You can also read his book Food Rules, An Eater's Manual.
Here are a handful of food rules from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules that you can start using right away to eat healthier this season.
"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
"Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry."
"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle." Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."
"Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature."
"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.
"Treat meat as a special flavoring or special occasion food."
"Eat your colors."
The new year is an opportunity to get out of an eating rut and try some new plant based foods. Head over to your local grocery store, food co-op or farmer’s market and see what’s in season.
Plant-based foods to add to your diet this winter:
Simple plant based meals for winter using the Instant Pot
Nothing beats the cold like a warm bowl of stew or soup. I'm a huge fan of using the Instant Pot to feed my family warm food in the winter. Many of you readers will already know about or own an Instant Pot, but in case you're new to the game, I just came across a great guide in the NY Times: How to Use an Instant Pot.
Once you get the hang of the Instant Pot, you don't really need a recipe, but if you're looking for recipes, the internet is full of Instant Pot recipes. Here are a few that you might want to try this month:
Healthy happy plant based eating!
Treat mat as a flavoring or special occasion
Eat only f
Hello! There's a lot going on in the world that's challenging, and I hope we're all up for the challenge of making the world a better place. This is an excellent reason to stay healthy. We all have to eat, and what we choose to eat affects our own health and the health of the planet. To this end, I have created a downloadable Healthy Eating Tip Sheet (see below). In this blog post and in the upcoming blogs, I'll unpack the tips from this tip sheet.
In this blog, I discuss meal timing, meal spacing and why lunch should be your main meal of the day.
TIP: Eat 2 -3 times a day at roughly the same time during daylight hours.
Even as we humans have the capacity to eat whatever we want whenever we want, like eating ice cream at midnight, snacking on nuts while working at the computer, skipping lunch entirely, and binging on chips in the late afternoon, eating two or three meals a day at roughly the same time every day is better for your body.
Anahad O'Conner of the New York Times writes that "a growing body of research suggests that our bodies function optimally when we align our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep. Studies show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble." Dr. Satchin Panda, a researcher on Circadian science and author of the Circadian Code argues that our bodies function best when we eat our meals daily during an 8 - 10 hour window, eating our breakfast in the morning and finishing dinner by the early evening. (Read this article here.)
TIP: Make lunch the main meal of the day. This is when your digestive capacity is at its peak
Ayurveda, the healing tradition of India and sister science of yoga, and modern science are in agreement with regards to meal timing, meal spacing and what to eat when. Ayurveda has always emphasized that meal spacing and making lunch the largest meal of the day are keys to health and longevity. Ayurveda argues that when the sun is at its highest ,at the noon hour, is when the body is most primed to take in the largest meal. Scientific evidence support this. Eating the bulk of your food in the first half of the day is better for our health because we are biologically best equipped to digest food more efficiently and burn more calories in the earlier part of the day.
Ayurveda and growing scientific evidence suggests that you should eat a nourishing breakfast, a bigger lunch and an earlier, lighter dinner. Allow at least three hours between finishing dinner and going to bed. Allow at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Evidence suggests that 14 hour or more of fasting reduces inflammation and may help promote better weight. If you finish dinner by 7 PM, your body will have ample digestion time. If you are going to skip any meal, let it be dinner rather than lunch or breakfast.
Making the shift to a bigger better lunch.
A few generations back, the midday meal that we call lunch was called dinner. Folks stopped working and gathered at midday or early afternoon to eat their largest meal together. It was a time to be nourished and to relax. After this, folks would return to their work or chores. Later in the day, they would gather again for a smaller meal called supper. Supper: think something "supplemental." A lighter meal, not a large, heavy meal. This healthy pattern of eating is still practiced in many parts of the world.
This all sounds reasonable, but so many of us are away from home at lunch that it's hard to make lunch a priority. What can we do? Shifting our eating pattern to making lunch a larger meal requires planning, meal planning. If you work away from the home and gather with your family for dinner in the evening, plan to make enough dinner so that you'll have leftovers for lunch for the next day. Before serving your dinner, put away healthy portions for lunch for the next day in lunch containers. Then, serve yourself a smaller portion for dinner. Better yet, save the dense, heavy food for lunch and eat something lighter and more digestible like soup for dinner.
When it's lunch time at work, make it an occasion. Get away from your desk. Gather with your colleagues, your friends, or even take time by yourself, and take a real pause to eat and relax before getting back to work.
More strategies for healthier meals for busy people
Invest in good lunch containers. Use glass containers that you can reheat easily. Get yourself a food thermos. If you like to go out to eat, go out for lunch instead of dinner. Use a pressure cooker (like an Instant pot) or a crock pot to make save time and make healthy food at home. Hearty stews and soups make excellent lunches and can make great dinners when enjoyed in smaller portions.
Here are a few of my favorite stews for winter time lunches:
Ever since I was young, I have always loved ringing in the New Year. It has always been a special and potent time for reflecting on my past and envisioning the future. As a kid, I always enjoyed the ritual of writing New Year’s resolutions. As a yogi, this ritual has morphed into what I call a dharma alignment exercise.
The word dharma comes from Sanskrit, and it refers to your unique purpose and passion in life. The dharma alignment exercise is an opportunity to get clear on who you are, who you are becoming, what you stand for, and where you want to put my time and energy. The premise is that you are not entirely the same as you were twelve months ago. Hopefully you have evolved. That is the point! Hopefully you have learned and grown from the past year and have acquired new gifts and skills to take with you into the New Year.
You see, dharma is dynamic. I am and you are in a state of evolution. We are works in progress. Even as I still feel myself to be the same person that I have always been, I have been growing and changing during the last year, and my identity has shifted some. My desire is to be in a co-creative relationship with the Universe. I have come to strongly believe that the Universe has my back and is conspiring for my evolution, and the best thing I can do for myself and for the planet is to cooperate with this and figure out who I am and live this on purpose.
Over the years, I have developed a New Year's Reflection and Dharma worksheet with questions that I like to consider at the New Year. These serve as both reflection and planning. To use this worksheet, I would suggest setting aside a little time each day. You may choose to work on it for a week or even for the entire month of January.
Download the New Year's Reflection and Dharma Worksheet here.
The Busy Month of December
If your life is like that of most North Americans, the month of December is intensely busy with activities, to-lists, gift lists and holiday events. Peace and tranquility may be what you want, yet for many, this month and the holiday season is far from peaceful.
Yet, I believe in my capacity (and yours) to cultivate peace this month and and anytime.
A daily well-being practice is key. Whether your form of self-care is yoga, meditation, walking, getting a massage (or all of the above!) make these habits and practices count this month. Make it to yoga class. Stop, drop and sit on your meditation cushion. Bundle up and go for a walk with your raincoat and umbrella. You will be amazed at how far even 15 minutes will go toward keeping you in a peaceful state.
(Want a guided home yoga practice? Click here.)
The practices of yoga and meditation and time spent outside in nature calm the nerves, release agitation, and soothe an over-stimulated mind/body. Practice yoga to steep in the sweet serenity of your deepest core. This is shanti, peace surcharged with ecstasy. Commit to your well-being practices so that field of shanti, felt on the inside becomes more and more a quality of your daily functioning: your thoughts, spoken words and actions. Commit to your practices and good habits so that you can stay in the space of open-hearted-ness toward yourself, toward those you love most, toward those who you may find difficult, and toward all beings.
Most people spend more time with family and friends during the holiday season, and thus, this season is an opportunity to cultivate our positive connections with others and spread goodwill. This isn't necessarily easy, especially in the times in which we are living.
To cultivate goodwill, we have to focus on the intrinsic web of unity that binds us together so that our common humanity and common divinity are active in our awareness.
To help me keep stay in a spirit of goodwill during the holidays, I look to the teachings of the Brahma Viharas, literally the "heavenly abodes", a list of four qualities or mindsets that are embraced by yogis and Buddhists alike as a means for cultivating peace inside and out.
The Brahma Viharas are:
Maitri – friendliness and loving-kindness, the wish that all sentient beings be happy.
How to practice this: Take care of your own happiness first! To express goodwill toward others, you have to fill up your own happiness cup first. Be friendly and kind to yourself first and you will activate your natural capacity to be kind to others.
Karuna – compassion, the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.
How to practice this: Cultivate the attitude of interacting with others on the basis of your shared humanity. Compassion is to see someone eye to eye even when it’s uncomfortable. Be willing to lean into conversations and practice deep listening.
Mudhita – empathetic joy, the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of others.
How to practice this: Emotions are contagious. Happiness is contagious. Brain studies are proving this with the study of mirror neurons. Surround yourself with positive and happy people. This will increase your odds of being happy.
Upeksha – over-looking, equanimity, literally “over-looking”, to look high rather than low, to focus on the highest in ourselves and in others, to stay broad-minded and in a state of equanimity with regard to ourselves and others.
How to practice this: Watch your nagging, especially with the people you live with! Instead, practice seeing these people in their highest, and helping them succeed. (This is particularly good advice for parents and spouses!)
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
May there be peace. May there be peace. May there be peace.
Thanksgiving is coming right up!
Here is a list of 13 tips for a making your Thanksgiving weekend healthier.
1. Plan to eat your Thanksgiving meal at midday or in the afternoon. This is when your digestive capacity is at its peak. Studies show that eating the bulk of your calories earlier in the day supports maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Plan several delicious plant based sides to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey. For healthy Thanksgiving food ideas, look here, here and here.
3. If you're not hosting, volunteer to bring a healthy dish to your holiday gathering. This way, you'll know that you have at least one healthy dish to put on your plate. Here's a list of healthy plant based Thanksgiving recipes.
4. Eat breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. This has been shown to prevent over-eating later in the day.
5. Sit next to healthy eaters. Find your healthy eating allies and enjoy strength and wellness in numbers.
6. Put veggies on your plate first. Take a larger portion of the healthier foods and a smaller portion of the less healthy foods.
7. Choose your indulgences wisely and enjoy them. There is a time for feasting. Consciously enjoy your dessert!
8. Slow down. Enjoy your food. Savor the flavors. Chew and swallow. Pause. Breathe. Repeat.
9. Focus on gratitude. Studies show that folks who make gratitude a daily practice open the door to more relationships, improve their physical health, psychological health, sleep better, are more empathetic, have better self esteem and mental resilience.
10. Drink digestive teas after your meal. Ginger tea, Cumin, coriander, fennel tea and licorice mint are all great choices. Here are some recipes.
11. When you're done eating, brush your teeth to discourage yourself from eating more than you need.
12. Move your body after your big meal. Invite your friends and loved ones to take a walk after your Thanksgiving feast. This will give your metabolism a boost and lighten the load.
13. Eat lighter and greener on Black Friday. It's a good practice to pulse between festive meals and simple meals. After a day of rich celebratory eating, dial it back. Think healthy and simple like green smoothies and vegetable soups.
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!
Don’t you hate it when you realize that you’ve been living life in the fast lane, being too busy, feeling stressed, not eating well and not resting enough, and you wear down on your immune system and you end up sick. Let’s not let that happen!
Here are some ideas to help you build your immunity this season.
According to Ayurveda, ojas is the life sustaining vitality that promotes immunity in the body. I think of it as your energy reserves and deep immunity. Ojas is responsible for sustaining your physical health, mental clarity and emotional well-being. When you have a lot of ojas, your cup is full. You are a picture of health. Your eyes are bright. You look well-rested and content. You build ojas by good, wholesome living. When you are living in the fast lane, you spend your ojas quick. Burning the candle at both ends is a sure way to deplete your energy reserves.
Late fall is an important time to build ojas. Here is a list of simple ways you can do this:
Restorative Yoga is a great way to build immunity and replenish yourself.
Here is a simple 11 minute restorative yoga and pranayama practice you can to build your immunity:
Here's to your health!
How to cultivate health and well-being in a busy, complicated world
These days health and well-being can be hard to come by. There is so much information out there about diet, exercise and lifestyle. You may wonder what diet you should be eating. Vegetarian, paleo, raw, vegan? Should you go gluten free? Should you cut out dairy? Caffeine? What is the best exercise for you? Yoga, pilates? Cross fit? Running? And what can you do to get better sleep, more energy and manage stress?
Ayurvedic wellness is a time tested tradition that excels at guiding individuals toward greater well-being through lifestyle habits, individualized diet recommendations, and mind-body practices.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means the “knowledge or wisdom of life.” Ayurveda is a holistic system of health and well-being that originated in the ancient Indian Vedic system of knowledge and is considered the sister sciences of yoga as it shares with yoga the goals of optimal physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Ayurveda offers a holistic lifestyle approach to health including lifestyle habits and guidelines, specific body practices, individual diet recommendations, and herbal remedies.
A central concept in Ayurveda is the tridoshic system. Health is considered to be the balance of three basic energetic forces or principles called doshas. When these doshas are in a normal state in terms of quality and quantity, there is a balance. When the quality or quantity of a particular dosha shifts, there is an imbalance.
In this post and accompanying audio talk, I give an overview of Ayurveda’s 3 dosha model. This knowledge can help you understand how to choose an appropriate diet, movement and lifestyle. Stepping into an understanding of Ayurveda allows you to align to your bio-rhythms and to the larger rhythm of nature.
Here are 3 reasons to discover your Ayurvedic body type:
1) To optimize your diet. What should I be eating? (Why can my friend eat all the bananas, nuts, and pizza she wants, and when I eat these, I feel gassy and bloated?) According to Ayurveda, what is food for one person may be poison for another. It all comes down to digestion. Learning your Ayurvedic dosha or body type helps you choose your foods wisely for maximum nourishment.
2) To choose the best yoga or movement practice for you. What is the best exercise for me? (My friend loves hot yoga and I can't stand it - why is that?) According to Ayurveda, there are different kinds of exercises that are suitable for different body types. Knowing your dosha can help you choose an exercise program that is suited for you so you can feel grounded, energized and fit.
3) To create a balanced lifestyle for yourself. How can I bring routine into my day? What can I do to manage my emotions? What can I do when I feel grouchy? anxious? depressed? Ayurveda recognizes that people are prone to different mental/emotional tendencies. Discovering your dosha can help you recognize areas of strength and weakness. Ayurveda recommends daily habits to bring balance to your bodymind and life.
Click below to listen to the audio talk:
Interested in learning more?
If you are interested in the topic of how to align your body with the rhythms of nature for better sleep as well as for optimal energy, and if you are interested in better understanding how you can create a daily routine to support your health, please contact me. As a Yoga Health Coach, I am a holistic wellness provider trained and practiced in the daily habits and health principles of yoga and Ayurveda. I help people up-level their habits for vibrant living.
An on-going theme that I teach my clients and emphasize in my wellness courses and explore in my own life is how to step into the role of being your own best care-giver and how to prioritize self-care. This is the intelligent stance of putting yourself first when it comes to health. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
I see too many people, particularly women, taking care of others, but not actively advocating and prioritizing their health and well-being and I've been guilty of this myself! But, we all know that when you don't prioritize your health, not only do you suffer, your family and community suffers too. It doesn't have to be this way!
Self care isn't a luxury. It's a necessity.
A parent who is perpetually exhausted has little to give. A zombie mom can’t be an effective parent. A zombie in the workplace can't contribute to the greater good.
When you practice self-care, everyone wins!
A good way to begin to self-care is by remembering your own care-givers and becoming aware of your learned and inherited patterns of care-giving and self-care. These inquiries are important. Our own personal health evolution requires a strong examination of the habits and patterns that are present in our lineage. The habits that we learned from our care-givers that are life-affirming, we aim to perpetuate. The habits that we learned from them that are not life-affirming we should release.
Who were your primary care-givers? Name them. Your mother, father, older siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc. Your list can include blood relatives as well as the special people who showed up for you in your life and cared for you.
In what ways did you experience their care? Maybe it was through physical touch, nourishment, humor, coaching or teachable moments. If your caregivers are still living, consider reaching out to them and expressing gratitude for their care. If they are no longer living, find a way to remember them and inwardly express gratitude.
Was self-care something that was strongly modeled in your family of up-bringing? Did the adults in your life model self-care? Can you remember how your care-givers cared for themselves and/or reached out for support when they needed it?
You already know how to be a caregiver to your family.
What does it look like to be your own best caregiver?
What habits or practices do you regularly engage in to promote your wellbeing?
Practice daily self-care and you'll live a healthy life.
“There is no herb, supplement or drug that can entirely take the place of having an appropriate daily diet, lifestyle and stress-management routine.”
- Dr. Claudia Welch
“I prescribe regimens for the good of my patients.”
Self Care Basics
Bookend your days with morning and evening routines
The day is going to be busy, hectic, variable with school, projects, errands, etc. You'll be more resilient and effective with your day if you make time for yourself in the morning and evening. Bookend your days with routines and rituals that ground, nourish and calm.
Cultivate a powerful morning routine
Get up early so you can have quiet time before the busy-ness of the day begins. Make time for self care in the morning: reflection, meditation, reading, exercise, journaling, etc. Plan your day for efficiency and flow.
Cultivate an easeful evening routine
Honor your body’s fatigue and slow down after the workday. Avoid doing more work in the evening and choose instead to make time for doing something that is pleasant and relaxing. Play a game. Listen to music. Consider a bath, reading, self massage, meditation or journaling.
Prioritize Sleep. Make Early to Bed a Habit
The truth is, most of us are incredibly busy and many of us get through life on little sleep. We don’t give our sleep the attention it deserves. What we want to recognize is that fatigue is a basic, natural sign from your body, like hunger and thirst. We need to pay attention to fatigue, just as we pay attention to hunger, for example.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for good health. Early to bed is crucial for parents. Get off your screen at least one hour before bed. Get to sleep by 10 PM to get the best hours of rest.
Move Your Body Daily
Exercise daily and you'll be more successful at home, at work, or at anything you do. Exercise boosts your metabolism, is linked to better productivity, encourages better sleep, and makes for a happier you!
Prioritize Your Nourishment
Meal plan on the weekends. Eat a well balanced, whole foods diet. Up your veggies and greens! Drink water between meals. Sit down and relax when you eat your meals. Eat a bigger lunch and an earlier, lighter dinner for better energy, weight management, and less inflammation.
Carve out breaks for yourself. Take yourself on a date
Can you give yourself a half day a week and a full day a month for self care? What brings you joy and pleasure?
What would you like to do for yourself? Plan something that gives you joy and pleasure. A walk in nature, a visit to a museum, an outing with a friend. How can you make this happen?
Don’t lose sight of your passions, joy and desires.
Be an awesome parent, care-giver, worker, boss or employee, but don’t lose sight of yourself in the process. Keep prioritizing your personal passions, interests and desires.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. What the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman
Are you tired of being tired?
I can't believe how often I hear this. I get it. I'm 48 and may women (and men) in my age bracket just don't sleep as well as they used to.
This post is for you if..
Eat for the season.
I so appreciate how Ayurveda, the healing tradition from India that I am so found of, offers guidance for living in sync with the seasons of the year and suggests adjustments for diet and daily activities to stay healthy and balanced.
If we don’t live in alignment with the seasons, we can easily fall into imbalance and dis-ease. When we understand the nature of the season and how to adapt, we can weather the changes and thrive.
Ayurveda calls autumn a “vata” season. Vata is characterized by the elements of air and either. Autumn weather is changeable, varied, cool, windy at times, and rainy at times. Just like this week. Some of the qualities of this season are: light, dry, cold, rough, mobile, subtle and clear.
In the summer, when it was hot, you probably enjoyed your food and drinks on the cooler side and favored lighter foods like salads, cucumbers, and melons to stay cool and light. But, now that the weather is cool, dry and light, it’s time to enjoy the opposite.
In the fall season, favor warmer, slightly heavier, mushier, and even oilier foods and warm drinks that will nourish you and keep you feeling grounded in this season of change.
On Sundays, I do a kitchen practice I call Kitchen Sadhana, the practice of nourishment. For my Kitchen Sadhana Sunday, I organize my kitchen, shop for the week ahead, make a weekly meal plan and do food prep.
What’s in season is what you should be eating.
Think apples, pears, cranberries, fresh brussel sprouts, cauliflower, delicata squash, romanesco broccoli, rutabaga, rainbow carrots, leeks and beets. Look to your farmer's market and local grocer to see what's in season.
Here are some recipes to try this fall:
Need some seasonal recipe ideas? Check out the recipes page on my website, a collection of curated recipes for healthy eating.
Need reminders for what to do to stay healthy in Autumn? Check out How to Live Vibrantly in Autumn Tip Sheet.
Happy Autumn Eating!
Getting Healthy in the Kitchen
Do you fancy yourself a cook? A foodie? A health enthusiast? A locovore? According to habit change expert, James Clear, every action you take casts a vote for the person you believe you are. Do you go for burgers or go for beets? Do you opt for pop tarts or for parnsips? Do you meal plan or do you default to frozen entrees? When you change your habits, you change your identity. The actions you take daily, weekly, and seasonally in your kitchen cast big votes for the type of body you have now and the kind of body you are going to have in 3 months and in 3 years.
I call myself a cook, a foodie, a health enthusiast and a locovore. It probably started in my teens when I would turn my mom's kitchen upside down experimenting with recipes and food ideas. This identity was solidified in my college years when I worked at the vegetarian collective restaurant name the Che Cafe on the campus of UC San Diego. I made the weekly Indian lunch special, I worked the early AM sandwich shift, and I served food for the Wednesday night All You Can Eat special. People who know me know I love to cook and prepare healthy, local food.
If you want to be a healthy person, start to ask yourself, what would a healthy person do in the kitchen?
In this post, I share with you a lot of habits and ideas about how to make the most out of your time in the kitchen each day, each week and each season. I call this Kitchen Sadhana. Sadhana is a word from the yoga tradition that translates as a practice aimed at evolution. The habits I do in my kitchen cast votes for my future health and well-being. What I put into my body eventually becomes my tissues, my thoughts and my actions.
I define Kitchen Sadhana as:
A weekly Kitchen Sadhana will help you:
Seasonal Kitchen Tasks
These are tasks to do about every three months.
Weekly Kitchen Tasks
These are weekly tasks to prepare for good nourishment for the week ahead. These can be customized depending on the season and what you like to eat.
Kitchen Tasks for the Evening
More suggestions for Kitchen Sadhana Success:
Want to learn more about healthy habits and how to get implement them? Check out the Vibrant Living Habits course.
The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The trees in my back yard are starting to drop their leaves. The natural world is in transition and the Ayurveda tradition offers a wonderful lens from which to understand this season and practical guidance for healthy living.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered a vata season dominated by the elements of air and space. The qualities of autumn according to Ayurveda are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear. To see this in nature and in our own lives, think of dry leaves and skin, windy weather, erratic schedules, cool mornings and clear nights.
Because this season is dynamic, moving and changeable, there is a sense of excitement and possibility. At the same time, the qualities of dynamism and variability inherent to Autumn can leave us feeling overwhelmed or depleted, especially those of us who have busy schedules. Therefore Ayurveda recommends focusing on the qualities that balance vata.
To bring balance to the busyness of this season, focus on creating more predictable routines and boundaries to support them.
Ease happens in the body-mind when life is predictable. Not everything needs to be predictable, but enough of life should be predictable that there is a felt sense of rhythm to the day. Rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating, having fun and sleeping need to be pretty predictable, that is they should happen at similar times each day. This rhythm settles the nervous system and optimizes our metabolism and digestion.
I think of predictable morning and evening routines as bookends of sanity for my day. My days might be erratic and changing, but my mornings and evenings can be rhythmic and sane inducing.
A predictable morning routine for is to get up, meditate, move and, then eat breakfast. This sets me up for a productive and grounded day. Taking a break in the middle of the day to sit and eat a satisfying lunch gives me a well needed pause. My evening routine involves another round of some kind of movement and an earlier dinner followed by connection with family and relaxation. This sets me up for a good night sleep and a successful following day. When I stick to these daily routines, I stay grounded, calm and sane.
Of course none of this will happen if I don't plan it. My calendar is key for this. Of course I must enter into my calendar my appointments and meetings. and work commitments. I am also diligent about putting into my calendar my morning and evening routines as well as my lunch hour.
It's one thing to create my weekly schedule and health routines and put them into my calendar, but for my routines to happen, I must be diligent with boundaries. I have to hold myself accountable for what I put in the calendar which means I must get up when I said I would get up, take a break from work to eat my lunch, stop working in time to get some afternoon exercise, prepare and eat my dinner, and make time to relax. In the evening, I have to exercise boundaries to spend time with my people rather than with my screen, and to make sure I'm off all electronics early enough to read and wind down and get to bed by 10 PM. If I don't enforce these boundaries, I might sleep in and not do my morning meditation or yoga practice. I might keep working and not make time to eat a good lunch. I might stay on my screen too late which will wreak havoc with my sleep. Then, I'll go to bed late and not sleep as long or as deeply as I need. And, the next day, I won't be well rested or set up for a great day.
When I commit to my daily routines and make them predictable and adhere to healthy boundaries, my life is much more grounded and easeful I protect the time in my schedule set aside for movement, relaxation, friends and family. and I am therefore less likely to over commit myself to people or projects that sap my energy and downgrade my health.
How can you create a predictable routine for rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating and sleeping?
Where you can firm your boundaries in your life to make sure you are prioritizing wha't most important?
For more tips on healthy living this season, check out my tip sheet:
How to live Vibrantly in Autumn
Autumn is a time of transition. In Ayurveda, the autumn is the season is dominated by the elements of air and ether, which Ayurveda calls the Vata dosha (learn more about the Ayurvedic doshas here). Fall is a time of transition in the natural world. Plants and trees shed their leaves, the temperature begins to drop, and the wind begins to pick up. Depending on where you live, the temperature can be very changeable, warm one day, and cool the next. This is a season that is filled with possibility, and at the same time autumn can make us feel like we are up in a flurry!
The characteristics of autumn are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear.
Because in Ayurveda, we say “like increases like,” autumn is considered a Vata season because these qualities are similar to air and ether. This is a great time of the year to tap into possibility, but at the same time, this season can be aggravating to individuals, especially to individuals who have a lot of Vata in their constitution. However, we can bring balance into this season.
We can balance the Vata by inviting warmth, oiliness, deep nourishment, pleasant and loving relationships, and a sense of stability, routine, and groundedness.
The critical questions to ask ourselves are: How can we be grounded? How can we be nourished? How can we stay warm? How can we invite routine?
The fall season is dynamic, moving, changeable. The more you can stick to a routine for rising, eating, and sleeping, the more grounded you will feel. So there's also an invitation here to bring more routine into your life.
Sip hot water
Switch from cool or room temperature water that you may be may have been drinking in the summer to sipping warm or hot water or herbal tea throughout the day. You'll notice your body will begin to tell you when it's time to move away from room temperature water to warmer water, and this is going to help you stay warm for one, and it's going to help improve your digestion, which gets more challenging in the season of autumn.
Move your body
This is a tip for actually getting in your body because the Vata elements of this season, air and ether, will make it easy for you to not be as grounded. So the more you can actually be in your body by moving your body, the more grounded you'll be. Start the day and end the day with some kind of movement: yoga, walking, some kind of mild aerobic exercise. This is what you're going to want for optimal health, physical and mental, in this season.
Ground the body and cultivate calm with deep rhythmic breathing. In particular, focus on the outbreath. This season when you feel out of breath, you need to exhale completely and even let the exhalation be longer than the inhale, as this will invite you to be more settled and invite your nervous system to calm down.
Cook your food
In the summer, it was awesome to enjoy lots of raw food food right off the vine, picking things and eating raw salads. You'll find as the season cools off that your body is going to want more cooked foods, so you're just going to begin to reduce salads and cold raw foods and start to have more warm foods. If you really love salads like I do, you can enjoy wilted salads or braised salads like Braised Romaine Salad. If you eat raw salads, eat them at room temp, not cold, and have them accompanied by something warm like a soup.
Get grounding nourishment
The kind of nourishment that you do want to have now is grounding nourishment. Think of what foods are grown in the ground or what parts of foods are in contact with the ground, such as root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, turnips, squash, beets, and potatoes. All of these are really great to have in the autumn. Enjoy them roasted, sauteed, or steamed.
Favor your dark leafy greens
We know that our immune system gets challenged in the autumn as the cold and flu season picks up, so you want to really give your body lots of immune-building foods such as kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, all of those greens, If you still have dandelion greens in your yard, enjoy them. Saute them, steam them, and enjoy them with a good amount of oil this time of year, which is the next step.
Nourish yourself with healthy fats
You want to give your body satisfying nourishment. Fats help your body feel grounded and settle the nervous system. Enjoy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and ghee.
Spice it up
Maybe in the summer you weren't thinking so much about spices like cinnamon and ginger, but once the fall season hits, those pumpkin pie spices are delicious and they actually help your body optimize digestion. Cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cumin, cloves, garlic, tumeric - when you add them to your meal, it will help warm your body and optimize digestion.
This is really a tip for any time of the year, but fall is such a beautiful season and we know that being in nature improves your health in so many ways, including helping regulate hormonal balance and the sleep hormones. Specifically, being in nature can help optimize the production of melatonin, serotonin, and cortisol.
Love, laugh and have fun
As fall gets busy, make sure that you're prioritizing nurturing your relationships with friends and loved ones, as this also helps your immunity and helps you feel cozy.
Dress in layers
Start to dress in layers as the weather cools off. You want to keep your body warm with layers, especially your neck and head. This will help you avoid getting colds.
Eat an earlier, lighter dinner
This is a year-round habit, but in the fall especially, this is going to improve your digestion and help you get good sleep. Eating earlier gives your body a better chance to digest and detox.
In this time of autumn when things began to change, even just five to 10 minutes of sitting quietly and allowing the body-mind to digest the experiences that it has taken in is helpful. Meditation is supremely beneficial for building immunity, warding off stress, and cultivating a positive state of mind.
Unplug an hour before bed
Again, this is for any time of the year, but in the fall when things get crazy and there's lots of schedule changes and work to do, we tend to push it and want to work longer hours. This is going to compromise our health. So you want to get off your computer and electronic devices a good 90 minutes, at a minimum, before you sleep to give your nervous system a chance to settle for deep rest.
Go to bed earlier
Make sure you go to bed earlier. Aim for lights off by 10:00 PM so that you can rest deeply and build your energy stores and immunity for winter months.
Why Do a Seasonal Detox?
I hope you had a fun summer. I hope you enjoyed celebrations, travel, vacation, BBQ, ice-cream, and exciting late nights with people you enjoy. know I did. Getting back into the swing of work and family life after a busy summer can be tough. If you played hard in the summer, it's possible that you put on a few extra pounds, let your healthy diet slip a little, and tended to stay up later than usual. When September comes around, you may feel exhausted rather than rested. If this is the case, then you may be starting the busy fall season from a place of health depletion rather than health abundance.
This is exactly why Ayurveda. the health tradition from India and the sister science of Yoga recommends doing a detox each spring and fall.
Even though I eat a healthy diet, get lots of exercise, and have good self-care practices, I'm not perfect. and I don’t live in a perfect world. I sometimes cut corners, especially in the summer months when I'm on vacation having fun. I don't want to be a perfect human, but I do want to be healthy. Because this is the case, I’m a great fan of doing a seasonal detox. I do a detox every fall and spring to reset my course toward higher health and get into a place of better integrity with my body and mind.
A seasonal detox in the fall is an opportunity to reset your body and your mind for health and well-being for greater health and immunity for the upcoming season.
Doing a seasonal detox will help you:
Rid your body and mind of Toxins Ama is a term from the Ayurvedic wellness tradition that is defined as the undigested gunk that accumulates in the body and mind. These include physical and environmental toxins that might accumulate in our body from processed foods, poor quality foods, pesticides, environmental pollutants, and chemicals as well as mental and emotional toxins that might accumulate in our body and mind from over-busy schedules, stress, challenging relationships, too much media. It's pretty hard to lead a toxin-free life in this day and age, and that's why Ayurveda recommends detoxing twice a year.
Ama or toxins show up in a variety of ways.
Did you accumulate some ama over the summer? Modern life is full of toxins, and that's why a seasonal detox is recommended in the early fall and again in the spring.
When we take the time to slow down, clean out, rejuvenate, and re-set, we can come back to ourselves and tune into who we are, where we are, and where we want to be. Taking time twice a year to reset and renew ourselves clears the ama from our systems and keeps us from living on automatic pilot, being over-busy, and perpetuating patterns and habits that aren’t in our best interest.
Hit the pause button and reset your course. A seasonal detox is a time to
When you detox, you simplify your calendar so that you put yourself first for a few weeks. During this time, you hone in on your diet, self-care, sleep and movement. You commit to eating simple, healthy, whole foods. You add in more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and reduce or eliminate foods that can cause problems for your body such as processed foods, refined carbs, sugars, red meat, alcohol and caffeine. You commit to strengthening your Circadian rhythm by getting regular exercise, spending time outdoors, prioritizing sleep, avoiding late night device use, and generally becoming more mindful of your daily habits.
A detox not rocket science. A detox at its core is a return to healthy living. That sounds simple enough. And, conceptually it is simple. You could go it alone and be successful. But, humans are social creatures and we evolve faster in a group than we do on our own which is why detoxing with a guide and a community could make one's detox more successful.
If you are interested in joining my Fall Detox, I'd be happy to be your guide and invite you into a community of folks seeking higher health. Find the details here.
A fundamental principle of Ayurveda is that our habits, routines, and dietary choices should align with the seasons. Ayurveda views our physical bodies, along with everything in the Universe, as being made up of the five primary elements; earth, water, fire, air, and ether or empty space. These elements are expressed in the physical body as qualities of stability/support (earth), feeling/fluidity (water), heat and metabolism (fire), respiration and circulation (air), and space and lightness (ether).
Characteristics of Summer:
The characteristics of summer are heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity. These are all attributes of pitta dosha, which is why summer is considered a pitta season.
While the warm summer weather is appealing for most of us, too much heat creates imbalance. When the fire element becomes too intense, it creates an excess of the pitta dosha. To move toward balance, Ayurveda reminds us that “like increases like and opposites balance.” This wisdom is extremely helpful when considering your physical activities in the summer.
Summer often motivates us to up our game with physical fitness, especially in the Pacific Northwest where we have many rainy months and live for summer! The summer months are meant to be active provided you exercise at appropriate times and at an appropriate intensity.
Yoga tips for August:
Enjoy out the audio yoga practice below:
ALL LEVEL PITTA REDUCING YOGA PRACTICE - 24 MINUTES
Share it with a friend!
Ayurveda Foods for August
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up at the end of the summer. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will transition more smoothly to the dry season of fall and you will strengthen your immune system and prevent full colds and flus.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season: juicy fruits!
Enjoy the juicy fruits of August:
Enjoy melon, watermelons, grapes, apples, peaches, pears, plums. Eat lots of these. They are sweet and juicy and will cool and hydrate your body. They are gentle on digestion.
Foods that aren’t great to consume in excess in late summer because these will increase heat are:
My favorite ways to juicy fruits these are fresh off the tree or vine and I love starting my morning with a fresh fruit smoothie.
Try these smoothie combos for August:
Seasonal fruit crisp
You can make a fruit crisp with almost any kind of fruit. Plums, pears and apples are all great.
Mix filling ingredients and place in 9 X 13 pyrex pan. Mix together topping ingredients and spread over the top of the filling. Bake at 400 degrees of about 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Serve and enjoy!
What's your favorite way to enjoy the fruits of August? Leave me a comment!
Saludos from Pisac, Peru!
If you have been following me, you have probably noticed that I write and teach about daily rhythm and healthy habits through Ayurveda. Over the past several years, I have been on a personal mission to up-level my own and my family’s daily rhythm. As many of you know, my family spends time each year in a rural area in the Peruvian Andes. Here people’s lives continue to be interwoven with their majestic landscape and the agrarian calendar. In many ways, it has been here in the Andes where I have learned the most about rhythm and have been most successful at aligning my body and life to the rhythms of nature, which is at the heart of the practices and teachings of Ayurveda. Of course, Ayurveda comes from India, but anyone who has traveled to a region of the world where traditional cultures are still intact will find that traditional cultures naturally sync up with nature. That is how we evolved. Humans evolved with and within the cycles and rhythms of nature.
In this blog post, I want to share the key lessons I’ve learned about daily rhythm from the people of the Andes:
Practicing these healthy habits is easy in the Andes because the people around me have this as their lifestyle. In the U.S., it can be harder because many of these natural habits go against the dominant cultural norm. Nonetheless, I’ve found that keeping to these rhythms ensures vibrant health.
Interested in learning more?
If you are interested in support to align your body and lifestyle with the rhythms of nature, and if you are interested in better understanding how you can create a daily routine to support your health, please contact me. As a Yoga Health Coach, I am a holistic wellness provider, trained and practiced in the daily habits and health principles of yoga and Ayurveda. I help people up-level their habits for vibrant living.
In this blog, I'd like to share a lovely practice that I've learned in the Peruvian Andes to connect specifically to the energy of the Mother Earth, called Pachamama in the Andean world. Increasingly and around the globe, we are becoming a headier and headier species. It seems sometimes that we fully forget that our feet are on the ground. While I am a lover and user of technology to connect with people and to spread ideas, and I acknowledge that you are using technology to read this blog post, I am also very aware that I need lots of time with my feet on the ground, with my hands in the dirt, and I believe that many of our modern ailments could be healed and eradicated if only more humans spent time outside.
As I write this, I am in Peru, in a rural landscape, surrounded by majestic mountains, apus, and with views of corn fields, potato fields and quinoa fields. It is an inspiring and nourishing place. Being down here has taught me a lot about how humans can interact and connect to their natural environment. Here the landscape is considered animate and sacred and everyday people venerate Mother Nature. People here are still connected to an agrarian calendar with times for planting, harvesting, and fertilizing the land. They know where their food comes from and are actively engaged in the food system.
I’ll give you an idea of what this is like: Recently I spent the day with a Quechua family from a highland community. They live at about 13,000 feet. They live in simple but beautiful, traditional adobe homes, made of the earth, and painted with beautiful designs in clay paints. Their cooking stove is earthen and they cook and heat with wood. This family grows and harvests corn, potatoes, barley, wheat and quinoa. They also have a bountiful garden with herbs, greens, and flowers. They have animals: alpacas, sheep, cows and guinea pigs. They spin and dye their own wool and the women make incredibly beautiful weavings. They make their own medicines with the native plants of the environment. Their life is simple but very rich. Each time I spend time with families like this, I feel uplifted and inspired to create a stronger connection to the earth.
Wherever you are, reading this blog, I want to encourage you to develop a relationship with your landscape and ecosystem. I wish for you to create a stronger connection to your food source. Begin by paying attention to your environment. Is there a landmass, a mountain or hill, or even a rock that you particularly enjoy having in your environment? Or perhaps you have a garden, a forest or even a sweet grassy patch close by. I encourage you to get friendly with the earth in your backyard and neighborhood this week. As well, pay attention to the plants that grow in your environment. Think about where your food comes from. Grow a garden. Get to know your wild edibles in your landscape. Visit your farmer’s market. Eat a more local and seasonal diet. All of these are ways that we can deepen our connection to Mother Earth.
Make time for taking walks or hikes in nature and simply sitting outside.. It seems obvious enough, but now we have studies to prove it as well: nature is healing! Being in nature improves mental clarity, reduced inflammation, reduces stress, restores mental energy, improves vision, boosts the immune system, may reduce likelihood of cancer, is linked to longevity and improves your mood!
We all already know this! So, this week, step away from your desk, get out of your car, and get yourself outside. Here are some ideas:
Meditation Practice: Touching Earth
Here is a beautiful and simple meditation to connect with the earth that is inspired from the Andean Tradition. This meditation is for bringing the different aspects and parts of your being into harmony with the energy of Mother Earth. Mother Earth goes by many names in many cultures. In the Indian culture, she may be called Bhumi or Prithvi. In the Andean tradition, this energy is known as Pachamama. The Pachamama is considered the conscious entity that is our mother who supports and nurtures all life on this planet. She is venerated and revered daily in simple and elaborate ways by the Andean people.
This meditation is a variation of a practice that Oakley Gordon describes in his book, the Andean Cosmovision. This is a tool for grounding and coming back to yourself. Often in modern life, we get caught up in our heads thinking, rather than experiencing. This takes our energy upward, where it either concentrates and becomes uncomfortably heated or overly focused or else it dissipates, which can leave us literally feeling ungrounded.
This practice, is meant to help you ground and come back to a feeling of integration. When we are in contact with the Earth, with the Pachamama, we feel support and can better navigate whatever is going on in our life.
Begin this practice sitting on the ground. You can do this practice anywhere, but the effect might be more potent if you do it outside and sit on the earth.
Take a few moments and notice your energy, physically, mentally, emotionally , spiritually.
Now, put your hands on the earth and with intent, connect the energy of your body-mind to the energy of the Pachamama. Make a sincere request/intention to bring her energy into harmony with yours. Mother Earth is gracious. You are her child and she wants to nourish and support you. That is her nature.
With intent, you can consciously connect the various parts of your being one at a time with the Mother Earth, Pachamama. Connect your physical body, especially the lower half of your body, grounding and pressing your physical foundation into the support of the earth. Notice if anything shifts.
Next, connect your emotional body. Let the area of your heart connect up to the earth. Just allow your emotions to drop downward and ground. Notice any sensations.
Finally, let your mental body, the energy of your head, and mind, connect to the earth. Notice how that feels. Now, take a moment and just be. Consciously connecting and experiencing the energy of the earth harmonizing with your energy. Feel yourself to be connected and part of the bigger energy that includes you and the Earth.
Stay here as long as you like.
When you are finished, consciously and sincerely offer gratitude for Mother Earth, Pachamama. Thank her for supporting you.
Consider spending a few minutes in Savasana.
Developing Deeper Connections to the Earth through Awareness, and Ritual and Community
My family spends time in the Peruvian Andes almost every year. Each time I am in Peru, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to step into a more grounded relationship with myself and with the earth. My time in the Peruvian Andes shifts the ways in which I experience and connect to the earth. Over the years of spending time in the Andes, I have explored rich and varied ways to engage my sadhana (my spiritual practice) with the intent to experience a deeper connection to nature’s rhythms. I call these Earth Sadhanas.
As a yogi and Ayurvedic wellness coach, I have a strong desire to make offerings of wisdom teachings and practices to help people reclaim their connection to the natural world. I believe that a true path of yoga must go way beyond what we do on the mat and cushion and encompass all of our daily activities and help us reclaim our connection with the natural world.
Yoga and Ayurveda offer beautiful ways to engage a deeper connection and nurture a deeper alignment to the Cosmos, which includes the Earth, the Sky, the Star Filled Heavens and all the Beings therein. Practices to connect to the earth and cosmos are found in almost every traditional culture around the globe and I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn these connections in the Andes.
As I write this from the Andes, my environment is a rural landscape, surrounded by majestic mountains, apus, with views of corn fields, potato fields and quinoa fields. It is a place that nourishes both the body and the spirit. Being in the Peruvian Andes teaches me a lot about how humans can interact and connect to their natural environment. Here the landscape is considered animate and sacred and everyday people venerate Mother Nature. People here are still connected to the agrarian calendar and live in rhythm with the cycles for planting, harvesting, and nourishing the land. They know where their food comes from and are actively engaged in the food system.
Life at 13,000 feet
I’ll give you an idea of what this is like: When I'm in Peru, I often spend time with Quechua families from highland communities. These people live at about 13,000 feet. They live in simple but beautiful, traditional adobe homes, made of the earth, and painted with beautiful designs in clay paints. In the fields near their home, they grow and harvest corn, potatoes, barley, wheat and quinoa and they have a bountiful garden with herbs, greens, and flowers. Inside their home, their cooking stove is earthen and they cook and heat with wood. They raise alpacas, sheep, cows and guinea pigs. They spin and dye their own wool and the women make incredibly beautiful weavings. They make their own medicines with the native plants of the environment. They live a very rich and beautiful life with a deep connection to the earth.
Ayni, Sacred Reciprocity
One of the most beautiful teachings in the Andean tradition that I have learned is that of ayni or sacred reciprocity. The essence of this teaching is that we as humans are in a dynamic relationship with each other, and with nature. The idea of ayni is that when you give something, you receive something in return. This keeps the balance in the relationship and more than that, it nourishes the relationship.
In the Andes, ayni informs people’s relationships with each other, with their animals, with their fields and with the landscape. This plays out in people’s commitment to helping one another with planting, harvesting and house building. This plays out daily when people sit to exchange coca leaves and chew coca leaves together. As they exchange the leaves, giving and receiving bundles of 3 coca leaves, called a kintu, they are affirming their relationship of mutual support with one another, not only a social nicety, but also a necessity for survival in the high altitudes. People practice ayni daily as they greet their planting fields and offer gratitude, and specifically at the time of harvest when people make an offering to the earth before digging up the harvest.
This is relationship with the sacred landscape and this innate experience of the earth as being a conscious entity with whom you can have a relationship is a very different understanding than we have in modern U.S. culture, where we view the natural world and the earth’s resources as something we can use and take without offering anything in return.
Each time I spend time with families like this, I feel uplifted and inspired to strengthen my connection to the earth.
A Simple Practice to Honor the Earth
Our family and friends in Peru have created a simple and special practicde to honor the New Moon. On our property here in Peru, we felt called to create an offerings of thanksgiving to the Pachamama, Mother Earth on the New Moon. We engage in a simple act of giving thanks for Mother’s Earth’s bounty and beauty and for the majesty of the landscape. We feel deeply grateful and take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the land.
On the New Moon, we gather around the fire pit at dusk to share songs. We offer chicha morada (purple corn drink), coca leaves and sweets to the Earth, and enjoy one another’s company in music and conversation. It is a simple, heartfelt and enjoyable ritual that creates a deeper sense of connection between us as family members and friends, and greater connection and love for the earth.
The summer season has these characteristics: heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity.
These are all attributes of pitta dosha (fire and a little water), which is why summer is considered in Ayurveda to be a pitta season. And, even though some climates are also humid this time of year, the cumulative effect of intense heat is to dry things out, so summer is also considered dry.
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up over the course of the summer season. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will enjoy the summer season more.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season.
For a list and links to healthy seasonal recipes, click here.
Here's a visual of foods to favor and foods to avoid in the summer:
Download the tip sheet here:
Vibrant Living Summer Tips
As summer heats up in your area, Ayurveda has sound advice for staying healthy through the season.
Stay Cool, Calm, Content and Hydrated.
Summer Eating Tips
Summer Living Tips
Interested in more healthy living tip sheets, go here.
Our family loves to travel. We spend most of our summers on the go visiting family out of state, camping, and traveling to Peru. We travel by foot, plane, train, bus, car, and taxi. We sleep in airports, hotels, homes, cabins, and tents. I’ve gotten good at traveling, but it hasn’t always been this way. I've always loved the stimulation of traveling – taking in new landscapes, meeting new people, tasting new foods, etc. Yet, getting a good night sleep and keeping my digestion running smooth haven't always been easy.
That’s where the strategies of yoga and Ayurveda come in. Over the years, I have cultivated an effective tool kit of strategies to keep me healthy when I travel. Now, no matter where I am on the planet, I keep my daily routine, and I incorporate strategies, foods and remedies that keeps my body-mind healthy and happy.
These are my best travel tips:
Stay hydrated. This is my number one travel tip. It’s so easy to get dehydrated while traveling. In my experience, dehydration leads to feeling ungrounded, spaced out, grumpy. Dehydration also upsets digestion. I always travel with my water bottle. If it’s cold, I travel with a thermos full of hot water. Ayurveda recommends room temperature and/or warm water rather than cold beverages for sound digestion. To feel at home, I like to travel with a few of my favorite herbal tea bags. .
Travel with nourishing and grounding food. There is nothing worse than being hungry while traveling, and there is nothing worse than being somewhere like an airport terminal or gas station convenience store with no good food choices. I love to try new foods wherever I am, but on travel days, I always bring along my own nourishing food. Fresh fruit, cut up veggies and nuts are a must. Instant oatmeal is great for early morning breakfasts on the go (simply add hot water to a thermos cup). Other options are avocados and fresh bread, par-cooked veggies or salads. To make sure I get my daily dose of greens, I like to bring along super greens powder to add to juice or water.
Support your digestion. Traveling can easily upset digestion. These are some ways I support my digestion while traveling:
Support your sleep. Do you find it hard to sleep in new places? I am a sensitive sleeper. These are the strategies I use to sleep soundly when I'm traveling:
Stick to a routine. No matter where I am, I follow the same morning and evening routine. My routine helps me feel at home wherever I am. These are habits for the morning and evening routine that will keep you grounded and centered anywhere on the planet:
Do yoga. A few poses every day while traveling will help your body feel comfortable and strong. Whether your travel includes lots of plane or car time, or lots of hiking, a few sun salutations in the morning or some supine poses in the evening will refresh, enliven and keep your body from getting stiff or sore. (Yoga on the go? Check out my free yoga resources. You can play them right from your smartphone.)
Use essential oils. Essential oils are great for travelers.
This week I'm going to a local health fair. To share my ideas for spring foods, I decided to create a couple of new infographics. You have probably already heard me talk about smoothies and buddha bowls as great foods for spring. They are great because they are full of fresh seasonal ingredients that are full of prana, life force, and help promote lightening and cleansing of the body. If you are someone who love visuals and needs pictures to help you get these food ideas into your life, you'll enjoy these.
Read more and watch a video about spring season foods and ideas on my blog: Foods to Favor in Spring
What is sattva?
In the yoga tradition, there is a beautiful word, sattva, which stands for the qualities of goodness, balance, harmony and serenity. These are the qualities that yogis aim to cultivate through their practices, and indeed the very qualities that most of us can attest to wanting more of in our lives
Sattva is one of the three gunas or elemental qualities that are described in the yogic traditional texts. The tradition describes how these three elemental qualities make up the essential aspects of nature: energy, matter and consciousness. They are:
We need tamas to slow us down after a long day, to wind down and to rest. But, when tamas rules our bodies, we get sluggish, complacent and even obstinate.
The goal is to bring all three gunas into balance and yet to favor, maximize, and cultivate sattva.
How can we cultivate sattva?
I live a complex life and I bet you do too. I know that on any given day the energies of rajas and tamas will be strong influences on my body mind. It's so common or all of us to get swept away with busy-ness, overwhelm, stress, and frustration. It's also common to become dispirited and complacent with when we experience boredom and tedium.
The best way I know of to cultivate sattva is to build in daily sattvic habits to buffer the rajas and tamas.
Cultivate sattva with these daily habits:
Here in Olympia we are coming out of a week of Snowpocalypse. If you're in my region, you know what I'm talking about! Our region is ill-equipped to deal with a big snow storm, so schools and many businesses were shut down last week. Lots of folks lost power and were snowed in. For our family, it was a stay-cation of sorts. No school, no work, no internet. So, we had lots of family time. We played games, went sledding, walked in the snow, read books, and slept in. After a week of diminished work and school activities, we all felt quite rejuvenated. Despite the obvious discomforts caused by this storm, the week at home was, in many ways, a very pleasurable experience.
Kama - Enjoyment or Pleasure
The word pleasure or kama, in Sanskrit is a concept I am teaching in my yoga classes this week. According to the Vedic teachings, pleasure or enjoyment is one of the 4 Aims of Life. Kama refers to the pleasure of the senses. It is both an aesthetic enjoyment and also an enjoyment of emotional connection and affection. In Vedic teachings, taking time for enjoyment is considered a responsibility of householders. For me last week, this was taking in the simple pleasure of enjoying the rare (in the Pacific Northwest) winter wonderland with my family. This pleasure involved all my senses. I enjoyed the brightness of the snow, and the clear skies with stars at night, crackling of snow and ice under my feet, and the touch of my warmest, puffiest coat and thickest mittens. Because it was more difficult to prepare food, the simplest meals were more satisfying.
Of course we experienced the discomforts that come with a big storm, like no power which in our neighborhood also means no water! Luckily we were prepared and were able to ride it out. But, the point I want to make is what could have been a negative experience turned into a very positive experience because we chose to make it that way. It was in many ways, all about mindset. Having an attitude of seeking enjoyment and positivity is a skill and a practice that involves the mind and the body.
Counter-acting our Built-in Negativity Bias
I am reminded by the teachings of Dr. Rick Hanson. Dr. Rick Hanson is a psychologist who studies and writes about the inner skills of personal well-being. Scientists believe that humans have a built in "negativity bias." We are hard-wired to look out for negative experiences and to prevent them if possible. This is an evolutionary trait that has in Rick's words made us more apt to dodge sticks than to chase down carrots. Rick says we are "velcro for negativity" and like "teflon for positivity." By this, he means that we are going to be on the look out for anything negative and any negative experience will "stick to our ribs" more than a "positive experience." In the case of the snowstorms, we are wired to be more preoccupied with the hazards and discomforts of a storm than the silver lining of pleasurable time with family and natural beauty.
Tilting toward the Positive
A big part of my job as a yoga and wellness teacher is to help people's minds and bodies become more resilient by guiding folks realign to what is already good, and build on that. One of my favorite practices that I am teaching this week is Taking in the Good. This is a practice I learned from Dr. Rick Hanson. It is the simple practice of noticing, appreciating and even basking in what is positive, enjoyable and pleasurable in one's life. This basking or soaking in the good involved all of the senses. An example is being outside in the snow or anywhere where you realize you are experiencing something pleasant, and taking the time enjoy the all of the accompanying sights, sounds, feelings, smells and even flavors. By doing so, we begin to slant our mind-body toward more positivity. We can even begin to change our brain! This is neuroplasticity. If we always tilt toward the negative, we become more prone to a negative mindset. Each time, we incline our mind-body toward the positive and pause and appreciate the positive, we build neuro-pathways that incline our lives toward resilience and positivity.
Soaking in the good practice
This is a practice you can do anytime and anywhere. When you become aware that whatever you are experiencing has a pleasant quality, bring your awareness to that experience. If it's early morning and you just poured yourself a cup of hot tea. Take a moment and enjoy the warmth of the mug on your skin. Breathe in the aroma of the tea. Pause, soften and breathe. Let your body relax. Exhale again. Even before you take your first sip, anticipate the pleasure of the warmth and taste of the tea in your mouth. Then, when you take your first sip, linger with the flavors and sensation. Don't rush on to the next task of the morning. Soak in the good for just a few more moments. It's that simple. Fill up your cup with what's good and build on that for the rest of the day.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.