Welcome to Day One!

Here is today’s video: day one

Today we are talking about two very important building blocks of a strong immune system: breathing and hydration. These may seem painfully obvious, but if we stop to think about it, they are two factors of our health that have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle.

Breathing

Proper breathing is scientifically proven to benefit the immune system, as well as many other systems in the body. This is because a deliberate, deep breath can stimulate a parasympathetic response in the body to calm us down, which is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response that happens as a result of stress. Chronic stress can be taxing on our adrenal glands, thus raising our likelihood of catching a cold or other viruses.

Thankfully, we can bring our awareness to our breathing, slow down, inhale deeply and exhale slowly. This is such a simple practice to add to the day, but it is easy to overlook its importance.

Hydration

Water is an essential component of our bodies. It aids the digestive process, transports nutrients within our cells and plays a role in regulating our body temperature. Adequate hydration allows the kidneys to remove toxins from the body.

As we know, sugar can weaken our immune system. Drinking water can help to get sugar cravings under control. We often become unintentionally dehydrated, and mistake dehydration for hunger. It is then when a craving for quick energy…sugar…might kick in.

So how much water do we need to drink? Recommendations vary. A healthy person should drink to thirst, keeping in mind that the general recommendation averages 8-10 glasses per day. But as each person is different, you may require more or less. An easy way to determine the adequacy of your water intake is the color of urine. Pale yellow and clear is what we are striving for, but if it is dark you may need to drink more water!

Ok…so we know why breathing deeply and keeping hydrated are simple steps on the path to good health. How can we make sure we are doing both regularly? Please watch today’s video for ideas. In addition here are a couple of links you might be interested in:

Why You Should Practice Deep Breathing

Breathing for Relaxation

Emoto’s Water Experiments

Feel free to add your ideas and questions in the comments here on the blog or on our Facebook group!

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It was around the time I graduated from high school that I found Jack Kerouac, and thus began a fascination with the Beat writers. I quickly developed a fondness for Allen Ginsberg, and was thrilled when I heard he was coming to town to perform in a benefit for a local Tibetan Buddhist center.

The auditorium was packed, and hot, and the scent of patchouli was thick in the air. As my friends and I found our seats, a group of monks in colorful robes took to the stage. At first there was silence. The mostly-college crowd that had been bustling just a moment earlier was completely quiet , and then the monks began to chant.

Many in the crowd joined in the chant. I had no idea what they were saying or what it meant, but it was mesmerizing. In that moment I felt something that was familiar but seemed elusive…stillness.

To back-track a little…I was a college student with anger issues. Not aggressive, scary anger, but the kind of confused frustration that gets stuffed down until it feels like it is eating you alive. As a shy, sensitive person, I had not really found my voice. I feared being seen as disagreeable. I preferred to “go along to get along”. I was very lucky to have a supportive family who loved me, but I was going through a phase of trying to differentiate, and not knowing who I was supposed to be.

So, the stillness…I had seen it before. My Busia (Grandma) had an air of serenity about her. I would sit next to her at her big kitchen table or across from her at church and just watch her face…she always had a slight smile and a certain look that she just might know something the rest of us did not. I remember as a little girl hoping that I would know her secret when I grew up.

The monks chanted, and time stood still. And I paid attention. When Allen Ginsberg took the stage to read “Howl”, I was thinking about the stillness. I knew I needed to find that again.

A few months later I decided to write a long letter to the monks at Jewel Heart, the organization that hosted the benefit. I told them that I wanted the stillness. I wanted to be calm, to let go of anxiety and not allow anger to build up inside of me. I don’t know what I expected in return. Step-by-step instructions, perhaps? But I checked the mail each day. (Obviously I did not have internet access at this time, email could have been much quicker!). I don’t remember how much time passed. Months, perhaps. But then one day I went to check the mail and there was a business size envelope addressed to me.

I opened the envelope to find my original letter, re-folded. On the back of my letter was one word, scribbled in all caps.

BREATHE

I wish I could tell you that I understood, at that moment. I wish I could tell you that I saved the letter. But what really happened…I got mad. I thought it was awfully condescending to reply to my heartfelt plea with one scribbled word. I threw out the letter and that was that.

But it was in the following year that I started practicing yoga, and I was beginning to learn the importance of the breath. “Follow your breath”, my teacher would say, and I fought the impatience, and the resistance, by surrendering, and breathing.

BREATHE

In these 40 years I have been alive, I now see that one of the most valuable things I have learned is, simply, to keep breathing. It has been a lesson that has taken me a long time to integrate, and one I still need to be reminded of daily. (In fact, if you happen to visit me at 11:11 am on any given day, you will hear the alarm on my cell phone, reminding me to stop and take a deep breath). It is a lesson that my husband and I try to teach our children…inhale, exhale, return to center. It is a lesson we employ oh so much these days for ourselves when parenting gets tough.

So I think of those monks…of my Busia…of my kids…of my husband who reminds me when I forget…and I bow to them in deep gratitude. I’m still learning, but I think I get it now.

BREATHE

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Happy Harvest Moon!

I want to share some of our family full moon celebrations with you today. Kids love the moon. How could they not? I have found that acknowledging and celebrating the full moons with my kids is a great way to teach them about the rhythms of nature and the seasons. We have come up with several little traditions that we do on each full moon, and the kids actually look forward to them.

On the day of the full moon, we pour a bit of water into a glass jar and set it out on a table on the porch. We like to think that the moon “charges” the water with good energy overnight. In the morning we dab our fingers in to absorb some moon energy, and water our flowers or indoor plants with the rest.

In the evening we read one of our moon stories. My preschoolers love ” I Took The Moon For A Walk” by Carolyn Curtis. My elementary school-age boys enjoy “The Man in the Moon” by William Joyce (which is part of the Guardians of Childhood series, absolutely mesmerizing and magical stories).

My youngest two have made up their own special full moon yoga, which they like to do right before bed. Standing in tree pose, we use our arms to flow through the shapes of the phases of the moon.

Finally, right before bed we use Howl At the Moon Anointing Oil made by a lovely aromatherapist named Anna Wingfield. The kids use the oil to make a moon circle on their forehead, then make a wish.

I love how the seasonal rhythm lends itself so readily to the magic of childhood. I know I will have plenty of sweet memories of these traditions when my kids are grown, and I hope that they will too.

Are you doing anything special for the Harvest Moon?

In a recent conversation with fellow health coaches, we were discussing the wide and varied definition of what it means to be healthy.  It really does vary from person to person, and definitely from one stage of life to the next.  Our own personal health and wellness needs are constantly evolving, and since there is no magic pill or singular path, it is a good idea to take a close look at how we want to feel on a day-to-day basis.  I refer to this as “everyday healthy”…simple habits, rituals, steps that we take to actualize how it is that we want to feel.

I put together a list of my own “everyday healthy” habits, and although it probably seems ridiculously simple, I think that is why, for me at least, it is effective.  I invite you to think about your own “everyday healthy” and how it looks for you.  Please share in the comments!  Here is mine:

1) Drink plenty of water.  In college, I was a hardcore coffee drinker.  Most days were started with a large cup before a morning class, several more cups of black coffee or coffeehouse lattes throughout the day, then a few more cups after work around midnight.  When I think back on that now, it is no wonder that I was always getting sick!  A doctor suggested I take a closer look at my nutrition and I thought, “I’m a vegetarian, I’m healthy!” (But I was a junk food vegetarian).  Then he suggested that I drink more water.  That was one suggestion I was open to taking, so I started having a glass of water between cups of coffee.  I noticed that, the more water I was drinking, the less coffee I wanted, AND I was not getting the caffeine withdrawal headaches that I was used to on days that my coffee consumption was less.  Fast forward to several years later when I had my first child and was breastfeeding, and no longer drinking coffee…I would fill up a gallon size container with water in the morning and easily finish it by early evening.  By then I was carrying around water instead of coffee cups, and had learned the importance of staying properly hydrated.  In the last few years I have started to add lemon to my water first thing in the morning (a habit acquired thanks to Hannah Marcotti), and this has a great detoxification effect.  I think that drinking more water is a simple thing that everyone can do to make a significant improvement in their health as it will aid digestion, clear the skin, and help eliminate toxins.

2) Move!  Movement/physical activity does not need to take place in a gym.  I think oftentimes we get stuck in the mindset that if we are not working out at the gym, taking a studio class or doing laps around the track there is no other way to exercise.  Movement practice can take place anywhere.  Walking (or running, if you like to do that) is free.  Hula hooping is another great core exercise that is also fun.  Yoga does not need to take place in a class (although that has fabulous benefits!) as it is something to be lived. Running around the yard with the kids or the dog counts too! I believe that, for many people, strict conditions around exercise are restrictive and discouraging.  Move in a way that feels good for YOU, and it does not need to be the same thing every day.  In fact, it can be beneficial if we change it up depending on how we are feeling, the season, and for women, the point we are at in our cycle.

3)Eat breakfast.  Preferably within one hour of waking, as this helps to stabilize blood sugar, which in turn helps to balance hormones and reduce stress.  It does not need to be an elaborate breakfast, but of course if you are feeling that, go for it!  It can be as simple as a handful of nuts and a smoothie.  If you have time to make yourself a beautiful breakfast that you love and eat it slowly, savor and enjoy, as this is so great for your digestion and overall mood!

4) Try to make at least one person smile (and not by telling them to smile!)  I like to try to look for the beauty in moments.  Some days may be crappy and stressful, but there is always something I can find that reminds me that my joy is available to me.  In turn, I try my best to spread that around.  I admit that there are some days when I do not always get there, but it is an aspiration.  Kind of like a secret mission, I like to think that I have the power to increase happiness in the world.  In fact, I think we all do!

 

SO…now it’s your turn.  Everyday healthy…go!

 

 

There are some mornings when I just want a warm and cozy breakfast. Most days things are a bit hectic for us in the morning so my usually AM go-to is a piece of fruit or a smoothie and some nuts…just enough to stabilize my blood sugar and keep me feeling full until lunch. On more relaxed days I love scrambled eggs and greens. But today I was in the mood for warm, creamy and sweet, so I mixed together a few of my favorite foods and flavors for this delicious quinoa bowl. Quinoa is so adaptable that it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes with great results. Let me know if you give this one a try!

September Morning Quinoa
(With 1/2 cup quinoa, this served 2)

Approx. 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 banana, mashed
2 TBSP almond butter
1 apple, chopped
1 tsp raw local honey
Cinnamon, to taste
Walnuts or almonds for topping

Mix all ingredients into cooked quinoa while it is still warm for extra creaminess. Enjoy!

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20130828-113334.jpgI am celebrating the last 30 days of my 3rd decade of life with a new project, 40 Small Things. Basically, I am calling out the things that bring me joy. This is a practice many of us already have, whether we call it a practice or not. After all, what would be the use of Instagram if we couldn’t take a picture of our favorite glass of wine? ;). For the next 30 days I will be building a list, in photos and words, of at least 40 small pleasures I find in my everyday life. This is a way for me to mindfully celebrate all of the many things I have to be grateful for, as well as count down to the big 4-0! I invite you to join me in looking for the little things in your own life that make your day a bit brighter. If you would like to play along on Instagram, I’ll be using the hash tag #40smallthings.

 

As you take in the beauty of tonight’s full moon, imagine her bright light surrounding you and pouring into your soul. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale slowly, picture that light streaming out through your fingertips, brightening every dark corner, illuminating what you may not have previously noticed…glimmers of hope, pockets of beauty. Where will you shine your light today?

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Celebrating new beginnings with a list of late summer joys…

…Joy is:
Possibility. The wind changing. Bright red ripened tomatoes on the vine. The first sunflower blooms gazing up to the sun. Garden Buddha. The scent of mint leaves and lemon balm. Tiny birds perched on tricycle handlebars. Inquisitive groundhogs. Warm earth.

Now, your turn. Where do you find joy?

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