it’s cold. but you can still use this weekend to rock life! get out of bed, get off the computer, throw on some wunder unders, and get out to rock life.
“bringing your right leg forward, fold into pigeon.”
words that used to cause me great stress and anxiety, but now might be the most soothing string of syllables in the entire class. Pigeon, a beautiful pose of relaxation, re-centering, and some refreshing hip opening. My safe haven.
What is pigeon pose? First and foremost, it’s a hip opener, and an extremely good one. It works to increase the outward rotation of the femur in your hip socket, and helps to lengthen the psoas, which is a primary hip flexor.
Even if you aren’t as deeply refreshed by taking pigeon as I am, here are some great reasons to start giving pigeon a little bit more love in your daily practice:
1. It stimulates the internal organs, activating the gastrointestinal tract.
2. It opens the shoulders, chest, and lungs, increasing the lung capacity.
3. It lengthens the hip flexor, which is what attaches your femur to your pelvis and lower spine, allowing you to move your knees to your chest and your legs back and forth. Sitting constantly can really damage the flexibility of this muscle group, so if you have a desk job or are a student, make sure to squeeze some pigeons in on your lunch break!
4. It improves posture and alignment.
5. It diminishes lower back pain and stiffness.
6. Since stress and anxiety are often stored in the hips, opening them is thought to release negative feelings and undesirable energy stored in the system.
7. It increases circulation in the urinary, digestive, and reproductive tracts.
8. One of my personal favorites, it helps stretch out the IT band, which may be a little bit sore if you took my previous article about the benefits of running to a new extreme (or if you’ve already started training for SeaWheeze!)
9. Finally, it is an incredibly grounding pose. You’re completely folded over yourself, still and focused in your breath, and grounded to the earth from nearly every point in your body. So wherever your pigeon may take you, try to center yourself in it, find your breath, connect with your mat, and accept within your body all of these beautiful benefits that the pose has to offer you.
*a million thanks to Bonnie, from Village Yoga in Winston, for modeling pigeon pose for us! This shot was taken in her beautiful studio, after a fun and challenging six am class on monday morning.
if you’ve found yourself falling prey to the (freezing cold) Monday blues, here are a few things that I’ve found around the great world wide web to cheer you up, and maybe ad some spark and purpose to the beginning of your week:
– although it may not be the most healthy thing on this blog, this recipe will never fail to make me drool. Hot chocolate in the cold winter? Yes, please.
– in keeping with the chocolate theme (hey, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth this time of year?), these cookies are absolutely rocking my world. Cookie baking has become a key part of my Sunday night routine, so I have some semi-healthy sweets to much on throughout the week.
– this article is incredible inspiring, and spot-on with the lessons that January has been teaching me so far. Be happy… do it now!
– having trouble getting up in the mornings? Read this article to learn why a structured morning routine could really help set a positive course for your day.
– this little collection of facts was really interesting to me. Efficiency is awesome, but not if we’re sacrificing ourselves in the present moment for it.
– and finally, if you’re in the mood for a little bit of reading, check out this article about the amazing things that exercise can do for your brain…
…and then go hit the mat! Because, really, what better way is there to start out your week than a great yoga sesh, even if it’s just this short little ten minute sequence at home! Namaste, all you beautiful souls, and I hope your week is full of goodness and blessing.
1. it helps lower blood pressure – when you run, your arteries expand and contract more than they usually do, which helps to keep your arteries elastic and your blood pressure low. This is important because high blood pressure can lead to severe disabilities, and even a fatal heart attack.
2. it’s secretly awesome for your joints – even though everyone always talks about injured joints from running, running can actually HELP your joints. It increases the oxygen flow and flushes out the toxins, which helps to maintain the cartilage and to strengthen the ligaments around your joints.
3. you’ll live longer, and happier – a study done by Stanford University looked at the patterns of health in 1,000 different people over a period of time. In runners, the disability levels were consistently lower, and the lifespans were consistently longer.
4. running is your drug – a physiological study conducted in 2007 showed that running causes the same type of neuro-chemical adaptations in brain reward centers that addictive drugs do. Except, obviously, running is a far more sustainable and beneficial option!
5. it prevents depression – similarly, running works to boost the levels of serotonin in your brain, working to make you happier. It also releases beta endorphins into the brain, which are neurotransmitters that can reduce pain, boost the immune system, AND cause a greater sense of peace and well-being. They are show to have eighty times as much of a pain-easing effect as morphine does.
6. and makes you even more beautiful – besides helping you to maintain a healthy level of physical fitness, running works to get the blood moving, circulating, pumping, which creates a healthy glow to your skin. Runners glow, that’s a new one, but a good one!
7. it teaches you to breathe – listen up, yogis! Running actually increases your lung capacity, and help with your breathing, if you take the time to get your runner’s breath on-par. Here’s a good article about breath while running that will help you optimize the benefits that it can have for your breath.
8. intense bone health – running increases bone mass, and helps to prevent against age-related bone loss. It also has been proven to actually cause your body to produce bone cells that are healthier.
9. it hearts your heart – little surprise here, but running’s phenomenal for your heart! It not only helps to build a healthy heart muscle, but also actually increases the amount of blood that your heart can pump!
10. and finally, it makes you sharp – that’s right! Among the many mental benefits of running, early studies on humans have actually started to prove that running can help you with learning and storing new information and memories, as well as helping to improve focus and actually maybe even warding off dementia.
Not too bad of a list, in exchange for a few miles sweated out on the trail. Even if you’re not a consistent or “distance” runner, here are ten awesome reasons to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement!
Here’s a peek at the behind-the-scenes of this week’s PN shoot – some more shots of the incredible Whitney Gelin, who is an amazing CrossFit champ and such an inspiration to all of us at the showroom!
Love – the basis for all that we do, the very foundation of our lives on this planet. Continuously, we’re taught to love: to love others, to love the earth, to love our bodies, to love and love and love. But I don’t think that nearly enough focus is given to the idea of loving our selves – not as much the small aspects that make up our lives in the present moment, but instead the very core of our being, the essence of our identity. And yet, I believe that self love is one of the most essential practices that we can ever engage in, more helpful and healthy than any eating pattern, exercise plan, or even yoga practice. I’ve been coming, slowly but surely, to the realization that without a strong sense of self love, all else is absolutely meaningless. So what exactly does that mean? First of all, it means that ultimately, you put yourself first. But wait. That sounds so contrary to everything that we’ve ever been taught. From childhood, we’re taught the importance of sharing and caring, of being a friend, we’ve all had the Golden Rule embroidered into our brains… so where is the line drawn between self love and just plain selfishness? I so often find myself neglecting self love for fear of being selfish, or self-indulgent. And this is a fair thought – I believe that we as human beings are made to be here for each other, to care for each other, to interact with and love each other. But behind all of that community and love, there need to be individuals who first love and know themselves, and then, once they have achieved that point, they can start to love those around them. There is a quote on the inside of my bedroom door that says, “you cannot fill others until you are full,” and this is what I believe is the defining line between selfishness and self love. Self love is filling yourself, loving yourself, knowing and honoring you as a uniquely wonderful individual, and then turning around and giving to those in your sphere out of the excess of love for life that comes from loving who you are. Someone once told me to be sure to give “out of a place of abundance, not a place of emptiness.” Simple, but effective. You can’t give what you don’t have, and love is a key example of that. To truly have the space within yourself to love and give to others, you must first reach the space where you hold that much love for yourself.
So how to reach that level of self love? That is the journey that I’m currently on. But to share insights from my progress, I’ve discovered that before you can start to truly love yourself, you must learn yourself, really and fully know yourself. This is not a one-time venture, because we are so constantly changing, so setting aside time consistently to draw back into touch with who you are is crucial – you cannot truly love what you do not know. Take some time: go walk in the woods, or sit in the corner table of a coffee shop, light some candles, or go on a long train ride. Journal, draw, listen to music, sign up for a yoga class. Whatever it takes to get you to a space where you feel like you can release everything external to you and simply breathe in the essence of who you are.
Once you’ve begun to learn yourself, I’ve found that the next step towards self love is to move towards a place of honesty. And that honesty is reflected in several different forms: honesty with yourself, about who you are, what you like and don’t like, what you want, what you need, but also honesty with others, being up front with those around you about who you are and what you want. Both of these sound easy, but present a truly difficult practice. I became very conscious of this struggle tonight in yoga class – my practice was consistently punctuated by nagging twinges of stress as I remembered all of the social obligations that lay ahead of me after the class. It took me the full hour and a half to come to a place of honesty within myself to acknowledge the fact that what I really wanted, more than anything, was to come home, drink some dandelion tea in bed, and write. Not talk to anyone, or see anyone, or owe anything to anyone but myself. It had been a day that had left me with very little to give, but it was truly a challenge to come to a point where I could acknowledge and accept those feelings. The next step in the process of honesty was then to relay those feelings, and their importance, to others, and not apologize, but instead to own my needs. To contact those I was supposed to see, and simply explain that I needed a night to myself, and would see them another day. No apologies, no excuses, just honesty.
Finally, I think that a crucial aspect of self love is to be constantly striving to enjoy life. An old teacher of mine from high school had a sticker on her door that said “don’t postpone joy,” and that’s a phrase that I’ve been reflecting a lot on lately. Another way of saying it comes from the source of most of my nuggets of life wisdom, Albus Dumbledore, when he advises Harry that “it does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.” There is so much importance in setting goals, working towards achievements, looking with excitement towards the future, but it is crucial to remain present in the moment, to live and love each second as it passes by, to embrace full joy and enjoyment every single day. “Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.” I’m in the middle of a fantastic book called The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, and she made this point in her chapter about finances, called it “spending out.” She brought up the idea of hoarding away time, money, or objects to save them for another time. I think that we’re all guilty of this in one way or another, and a key element to self love is to stop hoarding, and to allow yourself to indulge in joy, because you deserve it. Buy a bar of dark chocolate, and drink some red wine with it, because you’re fantastic. Take that trip to Central America that you’ve been talking about for years, because you’ll always remember it. Don’t postpone joy. Live life, do it now, because there’s never a guarantee on tomorrow. Love yourself enough to allow for joy in ever day, in every moment.
Moving forward with this new year, I think that more self love, more honesty, and more enjoying the moment, are all such beautiful things to strive for. Set your goals based on a deep love for yourself. Sit down now, and carve out time throughout the year to truly get to know yourself – it’s never too late. Get in touch with what it is that you really want to be doing, and make a plan to do it. Don’t postpone joy. Honor your being enough to truly be honest, with yourself and with others, about who you are and what you want. Make changes. Live differently. Seek joy to the fullest, because that’s exactly what you deserve. Commit to loving yourself, because you are incredible, and owe it to the world to share that light that only you possess.
Sometimes, this month can be a little bit drab and dreary… here are a few things that are helping me stay inspired through the January cold!
Cauliflower tends to be one of the unsung heros of the winter vegetables, often overlooked in favor of the more popular vegetables in the Brassica species, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale. A good mix of these cruciferous vegetables is an important staple in the human diet, especially in the winter time, where this plant family is famed for thriving and providing a good variety of season-specific nutrients; however, due to a wide variety of preparation options, as well as an extremely impressive nutrient profile, cauliflower stands out as a true necessity in cold weather cooking. One of the most often quoted health benefits of cauliflower is its surprisingly high vitamin C content, with a cup of cauliflower fulfilling 86% of the daily recommendation for human consumption of this water-soluble vitamin. Most people know that vitamin C is used to help reduce the frequency and severity of winter’s most frequent visitor, the common cold, but other health benefits include this vitamin’s essential role in the production of collagen, which functions to build up the body’s tissue and bones, and it can also serve to combat fatigue and listlessness in the body. Additionally, this vitamin helps to improve iron absorption from food sources (a good iron intake is crucial for peak energy and mental performance), so try to be conscious of pairing your vitamin C with lentils, beans, or some spinach! Cauliflower also provides a good source of vitamin K (1 cup of cauliflower meeting 20% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin), which plays a big part in the formation of bones, and is also a direct regulator of our inflammatory responses. The list goes on and on: vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, molybdenum, manganese, iron, etc etc etc – but in addition to the impressive array of vitamins found within this surprisingly packed vegetable, there is also a all-in-one detox package present. Cauliflower is an incredible food for the detoxification of the body for several reasons: first, it contains a large amount of fiber, which is used to support the body’s natural cleansing process, but secondly, and this part is the real digestive gem, cauliflower contains , which makes sulforaphane,a molecule that breaks down toxins and fats, and helps to protect the stomach lining while also preventing bacterial overgrowth in the stomach. As if this remarkable molecule wasn’t enough, cauliflower does even more to support detoxification, as it is armed with exactly the right properties to provide antioxidant support through the first phase of detoxifying, and the nutrients needed to boost the second phase. So eating large amounts of raw cauliflower on a pretty regular basis is like giving your body a constant, and complete, detox package, which will in turn lead to a far healthier and more balanced digestive system and overall positive health functioning.
Note: ideally, try to consume cauliflower raw when you can, or at least very lightly steamed, as a lot of the vitamin C content, as well as the glucosinolates, are lost in cooking.
Now that we’ve completely dissected why cauliflower is such a little-known nutritional powerhouse, it would probably be helpful to figure out exactly how to eat this thing, because even though it does have a nice, crisp, fresh taste to it, I don’t think there are many people out there who would enjoy eating a bowl of raw cauliflower once or twice a day. So, here are some ideas on how to get your fill of this deliciously helpful vegetable:
– Baked: Personally, my absolute favorite way to consume cauliflower is lightly baked, along with chopped sweet potatoes and a handful of chickpeas, all covered in a drizzle of olive oil and some red pepper flakes. You bake them until slightly crispy, and then serve the mixture over a base of sauteed kale and mushrooms. Simple, delicious, and ridiculously nutritious, this tends to be my winter go-to for a quick and easy meal.
– Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes: A funky, healthy take on the traditional American mashed potato, the taste and consistency is surprisingly really, really similar, but the health benefits of this version are obviously significantly more impressive. To make, you simply cauliflower with a few white potatoes for about eight minutes, and then toss into a food processor with some garlic, sea salt, olive oil, and almond milk. When it’s finished processing, top with a dab of olive oil, a shake of sea salt, and some thyme.
– Cauliflower rice: Another traditional carb source turned health bomb, you can use cauliflower to make a scarily realistic rice substitute, which, in my opinion, tastes and feels much better than the original. Cauliflower is obviously far lighter and less course than rice, and so diving into a bowl of cauliflower rice is a much more pleasant prospect than to one of cooked white rice. You can use cauliflower rice in any rice recipe you know, but I tend to make it somewhat of an Asian dish, and my favorite recipe I’ve found so far has been for a cauliflower rice curry. To make this, you simply process the cauliflower lightly in a food processor, then sauté it with a little bit of coconut oil, stirring in some grated ginger, chili flakes, curry powder, sauteed mushrooms, and a few bamboo shoots.
– Roasted Moroccan Cauliflower: Because everything ever made Moroccan-style is just absolutely ridiculously delicious. Toss cauliflower in a mix of cumin, olive oil, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander seeds, grated ginger, lemon juice, and ground pepper, then roast them. Add some carrots in there too, if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Top this with raisins and almonds, and maybe even a dash of cinnamon.
– Raw, raw, raw: As much as we would love to always love raw foods, because of the maximum nutrient content, it’s not always the easiest, especially with vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. But even in the winter, I do have an undeniable love for Raw Spice Bowls, which are simply bowls full of raw mixed vegetables topped with various spices. My current go-to is shredded red cabbage, spiralized carrots, cauliflower, kale, sesame seeds, chili flakes, cilantro, and sriracha, and topped with walnuts, a dash of sea salt, and a tiny bit more cilantro (never enough..). Pictured below.
– Quinoa Cauliflower Patties: Some link love here, but this recipe from Sprouted Kitchen is too perfect to pass up. Quinoa and cauliflower in one meal? With lemon and parsley, served on top of greens? Yes, please and thank you.