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.
Thanksgiving is coming right up!
Here is a list of 14 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 or put a mint in your mouth 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.
14. Eat before you to the mall. This way, you won't be tempted to indulge in food court while you are doing your holiday shopping.
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!
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. Anyone who knows me knows 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. This course runs three times a year.
It's hot. Summer cooking can be a challenge because it's hard to feel like being in the kitchen. In the summer, I want to eat well, but spend a minimum amount of time in the kitchen. Buddha Bowls and salads are my go-to dishes for summer. They are seasonal and they will keep you cool (we don't want to ignite your pitta-heat) and satisfied.
I love to cook, and I'm an improviser. I love to search the web for new ideas and recipes and I love to see photos of tasty new dishes. Basically, I use the recipes as guides, not dogma. In this post, I'll share recipes I've enjoyed from the web and my own ideas around what else you can do to adapt them.
The idea of the "buddha bowl" is a bowl that combines veggies and whole grains (and omit the grains if you don't do grains) and add other sauces and condiments. The sky is the limit with these. Think quinoa, couscous, brown rice, wild rice, millet, etc. as a base. Add greens, sliced raw veggies, sauteed or steamed veggies, Add proteins like tofu, tempeh, garbanzo beans, black beans, hummus, chicken, salmon or egg. Top with flavorful sauces like peanut sauce, tahini sauce, green goddess dressing. etc. Add other goodies like saurkraut, sliced avocados, sesame seeds, nuts, cranberries.
Here are a few basic buddha bowl recipes to get you started:
Of course. It's summer. Eat your spinach, lettuce, argula, kale, chicory, dandelions. These all cool, detox and give you light and lively nourishment for summer. Salads are easy to make and the key to a yummy salad is the dressing. If you have a blender, you can blend up several salad dressings on the weekend and enjoy them all week long.
Here are some great salad recipes and salad dressing recipes:
Want to talk about what kinds of food are best for you? Take advantage of Annie's offer for free personalized wellness strategy session.
A wellness strategy session is an opportunity to explore where you are with your health and where you want to be. Together we discuss your current situation and create a strategy for your optimal well-being.
I offer FREE 30 minute wellness sessions for those wishing to explore their wellness evolution. Interested? Contact me.
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.
Here's a visual of foods to favor and foods to avoid in the summer:
Mark the shift from winter to spring
As yogis, we take our cues from nature. Despite the current human trend to disconnect from nature as we spend increasing amount of time in cars, computers and buildings, we are part of nature and our physiology is deeply affected by the natural rhythms. As yogis, we practice being tuned in to our breath and body. Alignment is what we do in yoga, and the transition into a new season is an invitation to align our physiology with the season. In the spring, there is a natural urge to make a clean, fresh start.
The equinox marks the shift from winter into spring. The weather is gets warmer. The daffodils start to bloom. There are blossoms on the cherry trees. The trees are leafing out. My kale plants have started growing again. Birds are chirpy. Depending on where you live, the warmer weather may come earlier or later, but March marks the transition into spring.
The winter weather in your area may have been mostly cold and dry or cold and wet. In either case, you were probably eating more filling and heavier foods, more fats and proteins, to keep your body nourished. Now, that it’s spring, there is a natural craving for lighter foods. You may be already feeling this.
How to eat to as you move into spring
I recently made a video with my friend and colleague, Alexandra Epple, about how to eat as we transition from winter to spring.
Spring, the season to detox
The body’s need for the heavier, rich foods of winter shifts to a desire for light, dry, simple foods that digest easily. Maybe you’ve noticed your cravings change. The arrival of the warmer weather often is accompanied by the desire to eat less of the heavier substantial foods of winter, and the desire to eat lighter foods such as fruits, fresh veggies and salads. This is the body’s way of telling you it’s time for a SPRING CLEANING.
This is a great time to do a CLEANSE or DETOX. You may have access to a reliable and appropriate CLEANSE OR DETOX, such as a mono-diet or a juice cleanse, but anyone can DETOXIFY THE BODY by simply adding more of the flavors of pungent, bitter, astringent tastes found in seasonal, bitter greens, berries, ginger, turmeric and simply prepared veggies and vegetable soups.
How to live and eat for spring
To balance the COOL DAMPNESS of spring, we want to INTRODUCE foods, flavors and experiences that are:
If we do this, we will be less likely to experience COMMON SPRING IMBALANCES such as
Let’s talk food!
TASTES TO FAVOR AND ENJOY IN THE SPRING:
FOODS TO FAVOR:
FOODS TO REDUCE:
Suggested Spring Meals:
LUNCHES AND DINNERS:
More adventures in spring season eating
Need some recipe suggestions? Here's a collection of plant based recipes.
Do you have a spring recipe or tip to share? Contact me.
Happy Spring Eating!
Move your body. Lighten up. Reduce stagnation. Lose winter weight.
Spring is the easiest season to UP YOUR EXERCISE GAME. After the winter, your body is STRONG and ready for ENDURANCE. Physical activity improves circulation, increases heat and results in a feeling of LIGHTNESS. It’s a good time of the year to push yourself physically with a more intense workout. It’s easier to work out hard in spring than in winter.
Prioritize EXERCISING DAILY preferably first thing in the morning, outside as much as possible. Be mindful of your individual constitution with regards to exercise. Different bodies need different types of exercise. YOGA, WALKING, TAI CHI, QI GONG, JOGGING, DANCING, HIKING, and BIKING are all great forms of exercise. What kind of movement do you like?
Exercise outside in the AM if possible. Why?
Morning according to Ayurveda is governed by the Kapha (earth and water) dosha. It is a HEAVY, SLOW TIME. In the morning, the body is stiff. Blood oxygen levels are low. The body vibration is a little stagnant and dull. At the same time, your body also has a ton of potential energy from a good night’s sleep. If you get moving, you put that potential energy in motion for the rest of your day.
Move your body in the morning to build a strong vibrational field for your day and start the day feeling: LIGHT, GROUNDED, ENERGIZED, and OPEN.
5 reasons to exercise in the morning:
Spring time yoga tips:
Morning movement, make it so easy you can't say no. Try this morning yoga practice:
Want to improve your wellness this spring?
I offer complimentary 30 minute wellness strategy sessions for individuals interested in exploring their wellness. In a thirty minute session, you can expect to get clear on your health goals and take away at least one action step to get you started moving in the direction of greater wellness. Sign up for a session here.
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.
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:
Eat for the season.
I so appreciate how Ayurveda 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 fall a “vata” season. Vata is characterized by the elements of air and either. Autumn weather is changeable, varied, windy at times, cold. 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 water and drinks on the cooler side and favored lighter foods like melon, cucumber, and salads 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, cranberries, fresh brussel sprouts, cauliflower, delicata squash, romanesco broccoli, rutabaga, rainbow carrots, leeks and beets. My garden still has loads of kale and there are still some dandelion greens to be found.
These are some of dishes I’m enjoying this fall:
Need some seasonal recipe ideas? Check out my Vibrant Living Recipes Web page, 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!
Three months of being away = a very weedy garden
When we got back to Peru, we returned to a garden full of raspberries and weeds. We enjoyed eating the raspberries straight off and bush and adding them to smoothies, but what do I do with all that green stuff? I mean, the dandelions, thistle, plantain, and dock and more. They had three months to grow uninterrupted and were strong and mighty and prolific. A few years ago, I only saw them as ugly invasive weeds and I dug them all up and threw them onto the compost pile right away. That was before I knew about the health power of wild invasives.
The Mighty Green Weeds
Dandelions are some of the healthiest greens around. And, they’re all around! In your yard and garden, along roads and pathways, in fields. Here’s a list of their benefits:
Ayurveda is all About Embracing What’s Seasonal - Balance the Heat of Summer with Bitter Greens
Bitter greens like dandelions grow abundantly all summer long and their bitter flavor is exactly what is needed to balance the heat of summer. According to Ayurveda, like increases like, and it’s opposite reduces. So, hot salsa will make you feel hotter, but bitter greens like dandelions will actually cool you off.
What To Do with all those Dandelions
You can enjoy dandelions all summer long and include them in your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here’s some ways to enjoy dandelions:
Enjoy your summer bitters!
Hi. I'm Annie. I teach vibrant + soulful living through yoga and Ayurveda.
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