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Give Me All the Upside Downs (Inversions!)

I love inversions. I mean, honestly I’m like a little monkey when it comes to certain asanas. While inversions bring both levity and varity to your flow, they also build upper body strength. This is a major plus, since a great deal of our yoga work is more from the core down.  In addition to being (in my oh so humble opinion) ridiculously fun, inversions have major health benefits.To clarify, an inversion is any asana (pose) where the head is below the heart. Here are just a small handful of the significant health benefits of inversions:

1. Reverses blood flow and improves circulation: this in itself is a huge heart-helper, because the heart spends all day long pumping blood against gravity to get blood to the body’s limbs. By getting yourself upside down, it actually takes strain off the heart.

2. Gives a great boost the the immune system: going upside-down allow lymph to move easily through the lymph nodes, picking up toxins and bacteria and cleaning out the body. The lymph system is an essential part of staying healthy and energetic.

3. Can both relax and invigorate: poses like legs up the wall and standing forward folds are very relaxing. Legs up the wall are great for insomniacs, because it’s such a relaxing pose for both the internal and external body. Handstands and forearm stands really creating energy, without getting the body overly amped up. 

So here are some great inversions to try:

yoga inversions

1. Shoulder stand: I love this relaxing asana, because it comes at the end of the ashtanga practice. That’s usually the moment when I feel all the feels: extreme peace, gratitude for what my body can do and for the investment my teacher has made in my journey, and relief that I made it to the end without dying! Real yoga isn’t “easy,” and it often feels uncomfortable as it stretches us past our physical and emotional comfort zones.

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2. Shoulder stand with eagle legs: this adds in a little bit of a twist, and for people with short attention spans like mine, you can add this variation on your should stand to stay up a little longer.

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3. Sirsasana (Headstand): one of the traditional Ashtanga moves, you can amp your headstand by piking up and down. To pike up, walk your feet in as close as you can to really activate the core. Once you’re up in the air, to pike down and hold, shift your hips back over the head. Lower feet until you can see them, and hold to build core strength.

headstand

4. Tripod Headstand: the key to this pose is the chatarunga your arms. Keep them tucked in, and really activate your core.

headstand

4. Iron cross headstand: a more advanced version of the headstand is to enter from wide legged forward fold. Place hands flat near feet, then pike up to full handstand. This really takes a great deal of control and core strength. Be sure to keep neck engaged and apply the forth bandha (jalandhar bandh/neck lock). Lift the chest and sternum up while lengthening the back of the neck, by pulling the chin toward the back of the neck. Neck, throat and face muscles remain relaxed. This will prevent neck injuries.

Regardless of where you are at with your inversions, as with all things yoga related, practice makes progress. There’s a fine but definite line between pushing your body too hard and challenging yourself to learn and grow in your practice. Listen to your body, and let your practice feed your soul. Much love!  

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One Pot Scrumptious Rice Noodle Soup

One Pot Noodle Soup

I am a soup fanatic. It’s basically an entire life source for me. I just love, love, love soups of all kinds, colors, and varieties. As winter settles in DC, the weather is turning more gray and dreary. It’s the perfect kind of weather for curling up on the sofa under a blanket while sipping on warm soup.

The challenge with vegan and vegetarian soups in finding a mix that’s hearty but soothing. I can only do so many bean variations, if you know what I mean! My mom makes a should-be-famous chicken noodle soup that unquestionably is good for the soul. I have so many happy memories associated with a big bowl of that soup, and while I don’t miss most foods in lou of being a vegetarian, I definitely miss a good old fashioned bowl of my mama’s chicken (noooo!) noodle (gluten! Save us, sweet baby Jesus! Kidding! But seriously) soup. So, after chatting on the phone with my mother, I took the heart of the ingerdients and reworked it several times till I came up with a soup that warms both the heart and the body on chilly days. And my mother said (for serious, she did) the absolute most important ingredient is love. Well, of course it is. So let’s get to it!

One Pot Noodle Soup

There are a fair amount of ingredients but don’t panic! It’s a quick and easy one pot wonder soup. I am so serious. Throw in and GO do your thing, and you’ll have this soup done in no time! Well, other than the time it takes to cook, but my point remains valid!

I like to use Thai rice noodles (I get the ramen style because apparently, I haven’t grown up yet and love twirling the noodles on my fork. Hashtag: noshame my friends, no shame.). You can use other gluten free, but these hold up beautifully when cooked and you can reheat without problems. Other kinds tend to break down and get mushy.

SEASONINGS/BROTH 

8 cups vegetable broth or organic chicken broth (more if you prefer broth-dominant soups)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons Celtic salt (or to taste)

2 tablespoons onion flakes (can substitute 1 tablespoon onion powder)

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional, but a great health benefit and adds vibrant color!)

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder (optional)*

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar or Stevia

Full confession, these are approximates, because I always season by sight and taste. I just recommend tasting as you go, but these standard measurements should work.

SOUP

4 nests Thai rice noodles cut into smaller pieces 

1 cup shredded carrots (from about 2 medium carrots)

Handful of cilantro

4 cups of kale

1 cup squash (optional)

1 cup red cabbage (optional)

1 cup shredded carrots

4 teaspoons gluten free soy sauce

2 tablespoons gluten free miso paste (Please make sure your brand is 100% GF if you have an allergy)

1/4 cup chopped chives

1/4 chopped scallions or green onions

Directions:

Mix all the seasonings with broth, then add the rest of the ingredients. You literally throw that massive ingredient list in a tall stock pot and set to med-high and go do your thing. It takes about a full hour to cook, but I also like to let it simmer for a while after to really soak up the flavors. Other than the occasional stir, this soup cooks itself. I use that time to food prep and clean the kitchen, because I can multi-task like nobody’s business (and a person with severe ADHD!)

I do like to add the carrots and cabbage towards the end so they’re more lightly cooked, but this is a person to person preference.

One Pot Noodle Soup

One Pot Noodle Soup

Review: Best Yoga Mats for Any Practice

The search for the perfect yoga mat is like a quest for the Holy Grail. Or maybe it’s like being a contestant on Bachelor in Paradise, where the options seem limitless, but quality? Maybe not-so-much.

One of the things that makes yoga so appealing is you don’t need much to do it. Get some comfy clothes and a mat and boom! You are ready to rock and roll. Or chill out. Either/or, because yoga lets you choose your own adventure.

Yogis who have a consistent practice get pretty obsessed over their mats, and for good reason. We literally shed blood (sometimes), sweat (always), and tears (it happens) on our mats. And trust,  Goldilocks has nothing on yogis when it comes to how picky we are about our mats. It must be grippy-but not have too much grip, cushy but not squishy, sturdy but not too heavy.

I’ve put together a review of some of my all time favorite yoga mats. They aren’t the cheapest out there, but they are high quality and will withstand even the most intense yoga session. It can be tempting to buy a less expensive mat (and I’ve included a great life hack for those mats!), but the quality of your mat can make or break your experience. A poorly made mat literally feels like a slip and slide experience, and trust me when I say it’s impossible to chill out and get your zen on when you’re worried about landing on your face in the middle of a yoga class. A good mat can last for years without needing to be replaced.

BEST MATS IN THE $75 to $100 PRICE RANGE

LIFORME

GREAT OPTION FOR: yoga practitioners who do hot yoga, Ashtanga, Iyengar, power yoga, or any precision alignment-based yoga practice.

WHO MIGHT NOT LOVE THIS MAT: Yoga practitioners who strictly restorative or Yin yoga.


This is the mat I use both when I teach or take classes. I love Liforme so much, I want to spin in circles while singing about the hills being alive with the sound of music. I’m not the only one who’s a fan, because the majority of my friends who teach or have dedicated practices also swear by this mat.

PROS

ALIGNMENT SYSTEM: Liforme uses the Alignforme system, so all their mats include lines and marking that help you find perfect alignment. They are freaking magical. Since using this mat, I’ve found my own alignment is much more consistent, and it also helps with arm balances and inversions. Another fabulous thing about the alignment system is that it helps to build correct muscle memory. I’ve seen dupes for the Liforme mat on Amazon, but I’m too scared to test them out and have them fall apart on me. To learn how to utilize the mat, check out this video.

QUALITY: this is an expensive mat, but you get what you pay for in this case. It’s incredibly durable, and it holds up well to even the most demanding yoga practice.

GRIP: this mat holds up to even the sweatiest yoga sesh. I get super sweaty whenever I do yoga (I know, so cute, right?), but I never slip or slid on this mat, no matter how intense my practice is or how sweaty—um, glistening—I get.

CUSHION: while I don’t think my Liforme mat is as cushiony as my Lululemon mat, it’s definitely pretty comfy. Too much cushion can throw off your balance, and this mat strikes a happy medium. It’s not as thin as most Jade mats or some of the Manduka mats, but it’s firm enough that I don’t feel like it impairs my balance. While I find it comfortable, I don’t think this would be the ideal mat for restorative or Yin yoga, due to the extreme grip and

SIZE: Liforme mats are longer and wider than other mats, which I consider a significant pro. Sometimes, you just need some goddamn space to move around like a baby monkey, and this mat provides just that. It also makes the mats a great fit for all body shapes and sizes. Few things are more tragic than having your feel extend off your mat in savasana, right?!

OPTIONS: there are a variety of choices, ranging from travel mats, inversions pads (OMG love this!), to colors and styles. The mats are all a solid color, but there are several options on the alignment patterns, like the Zodiac Animal mat, the Happiness or Gratitude themed mats.

ECO FRIENDLY & ETHICAL: The Liforme company is eco friendly and socially just. I LOVE THIS! It actually means a lot to me as a yoga practitioner, because Ahimsa (doing no harm/respecting all living beings) is a major concept in yoga. Knowing a company is operating in an ethical manner makes me feel that much better when I hit my mat. The mats are also PVC free and biodegradable. Can you believe?!

CONS:

WEIGHT: Unless you’re getting the travel versions, these mats are pretty heavy. They weigh 2.5kg, which doesn’t seem like a lot till you’re lugging it around. BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Just consider it part of your workout.

GRIP: ok, this is a pro, but it has a teeny bit of a drawback. The grip is so fantastic, that it can make jump throughs and transitions a tad tricky at times.

COST: the price ranges from $120-$160, so it’s an investment. I will add though, that these mats last for what seems like forever and a day.

ADDITIONAL: hand and feet markings and scrapes definitely show up on the lighter colored mats. I’ve found this to be true of every smooth rubber mat I’ve ever tried in my entire life, so it’s not a make or break for me. Also, because this mat is hardcore moisture wicking, you have to clean it with a damp cloth and gentle soap. Spraying this baby down simply won’t cut it.

JADE MATS

The Jade company has a strong focus on providing ethical, eco-friendly mats. Everything, from the company values to the website, is very…yoga. It’s the crunchiest of granola-crunch. Jade also has a wide array of yoga props and accessories, so it’s a good one stop shop. People who buy Jade mats love them and swear by them, so you know a company is doing something right when it has a devoted following.

GREAT OPTION FOR: environmentally conscious yoga practitioners, Hatha yoga, (non-heated) vinyasa, power yoga.

WHO IT MIGHT NOT BE A GREAT FIT FOR: potentially not as effective for hot yoga or any really sweaty yoga sessions.

PROS:

MATERIAL: Made from natural rubber so it’s environmentally friendly. The mats are excellent quality and will last ages beyond when you start using it.

GRIP: these mats have a pretty strong grip, so you can do your practice without fear of falling on your face. Save that money maker! I personally don’t think these mats hold up as well during an extreme sweaty flow, but I have plenty of friends that swear by Jade mats. Obviously, they are not perfuse, sweaty messes like I am during yoga.

ECO FRIENDLY & ETHICAL: The company is passionate about giving back, and does so by planting a tree for each mat bought, donating money to causes like curing ovarian cancer etc. These mats are also PVC free and non-toxic, which is pretty damn nice, since we lie all over our mats like kittens basking in the sunlight. Skin-to-mat contact happens a lot in yoga, so your mat may as well be non-toxic.

WEIGHT: these mats feel considerably lighter than other brands, so they are much easier to tote around town.

OPTIONS: there’s a fair selection of solid colors, and some great options on travel mats that actually fold up so you can pop it in your bag or carry-on. I’ve never used the travel mats, but they have solid reviews. There’s also a mat designed specifically for beginners, and it’s slightly thicker than the travel mat but thinner than the standard Jade mat. The Elite Mat has an extra dense top layer to hold up better during a hot yoga or Ashtanga sweat sesh.

CONS:

COST: these mats run around $50-$119, so they aren’t the cheapest option.

GRIP: I personally don’t feel like the grip holds up to intense sweat sessions or hot yoga, but I doubt you will ever slip and fall flat on your face. These mats are no slip and slide.

CUSHION: This of course is personal preference, but I don’t consider Jade mats to be the most comfy of all the mats I’ve ever tried. Plus, the mats have a bit of texture, and that personally drives me bonkers.

SIZE: not the best pick for taller yogis or people who need extra room to do some crazy yoga stunts.

QUALITY: I don’t know what it is about the material, but I’ve seen quite a few of these mats start to fall apart or get deep indentations where hands and feet often go. I also know people who have had their Jade mats for like, a million years and they look brand new, so who knows.

MANDUKA:

GREAT FIT FOR: virtually any practice. Manduka has options that serve all styles of yoga. The extra thick mats are particularly great for restorative and Yin styles of yoga.


Maduka mats and accessories are well-known and trusted within the yoga community, and for good reason. The company has a ton of affiliate programs with Instagram users and studios worldwide, and the mats are freaking awesome.

Pros:

GRIP: Manduka mats are known for their great grip, and they are specifically designed to prevent the horrible slipping and sliding that happens during hot yoga.

CUSHION: Comfortable cushioning, and comes in a thicker mat as well

QUALITY: These mats are built to last, and chances are your Manduka mat will outlast you if the Apocalypse ever happens.

VARIETY: Out of all the yoga mat companies, Manduka just might offer the most choices. They have an excellent variety of colors and styles. Manduka offers Pro, Performance, and Foundation series mats, as well as Prolite and travel mats. They also have giant-sized mats that you can throw down in your yoga studio and CLAIM YOUR SPOT. Back off, bitches! Namaste.

ECO FRIENDLY: The eKo mats are environmentally friendly and non-toxic, but definitely have a different feel from the traditional mats.

Cons:

COST: Expensive, running $50s to $100+

WEIGHT: Very heavy, unless you buy the travel mats. Note: the travel light feels like practicing on the bare floor, so be aware of that if you choose to purchase it. Like all travel mats, you’re purchasing something that you can easily pack with you can bring your little yoga space with you wherever you go, while ensuring you have a good grippy mat.

ADDITIONAL: not all the mats are environmentally friendly (at the time of this writing).

GURUS CORK MAT

GREAT FIT FOR: yoga practitioners who want something different than the standard mat. Great for hot yoga or sweaty yoga sessions, in addition to outdoor yoga (because the cork material doesn’t absorb heat).

NOT A GREAT FIT FOR: people who don’t prefer textured mat or feeling like they’re practicing on the remains of a thousand wine bottle corks.


A mat made out of cork material? Talk about weird, right? Every time I’ve practiced on one, all I can think about is wine. I dearly hope these mats are made from the recycled corks of wine bottles, because that would be the perfect marriage of two things I love dearly: wine and yoga. While I personally don’t use a cork mat, I know quite a few people who do and swear by them. And, I guess if you’re in a flash flood, you can use your mat as a raft. IDK. Just throwing out ideas, mm-kay?

PROS:

ECO FRIENDLY: Super environmentally friendly, obvi. Double sided, with rubber on the bottom to prevent your mat from slipping around. Gurus also plants a tree for every mat that is purchased. I mean, how could you not love that?!

COMFORT: while these mats don’t have the same cushion feel of rubber mats, they are actually a lot more comfortable than you would think, considering I expected them to feel like lying down on a bed of disposed cork tops.

GRIP/SWEAT WICKING: allegedly these mats are really grippy, and people who use them frequently really love the natural texture. I hate, loathe, and despise textured mats, but to each their own. Cork naturally wicks away moisture, so it’s a great pick for people who do vigorous yoga practices (aka sweats like a mo fo).

QUALITY: these mats are extremely durable

ADDITIONAL: Another plus about these mats is they don’t seem to collect every damn piece of lint, hair, dust, and other particles from the studio floor like rubber mats do.

CONS:

MATERIAL/TEXTURE: Practicing on cork might feel weird to you. I can’t personally get into it. I’m a texture fiend.

WEIGHT: Like most quality mats, you might wrench your shoulder out of socket carrying it around, because it is no feather.

VARIETY: you get what you see and that’s it. I guess dyed cork is just too much, even for the yoga world.

ADDITIONAL: Because these mats are made of cork, they retain their rolled up shape a bit on the end when you spread them out. Sure, sure, you can smooth them over, BUT it’s kind of a pain. I’ve seen all of my friends practicing with slightly curled up/under front or back portions of their mats. This would drive me and my OCD brain b-a-n-a-n-a-s. However, every one of my friends who owns a cork mat is a diehard devotee, so it might be a great pick for you.


OTHER RELIABLE CORK MAT BRANDS:
  • Mantra
  • Icyfit
  • WODfitters
  • Repose

ALO & LULULEMON

GREAT FIT FOR: general vinyasa, sweaty yoga sessions, restorative and Yin yoga.

NOT A GREAT FIT FOR: yoga practitioners who are concerned about environmentally friendly and non-toxic materials.


I’m lumping these two together brands together, because I kid you not, they are twinning hard. They’re pretty much exact dupes for each other and have the same pros and cons. I use my Lululemon mat for my home practice and stretching sessions, because it’s super comfy. It’s a pain to lug around (but aren’t all mats?), but my mat has held up to a freaking ton of yoga shenanigans.

Pros:

GRIP: Both mats have good grip and are moisture wicking. But they aren’t so grippy that they make transitions and jump throughs difficult.

DURABILITY/CUSHION: I use my Lululemon mat for my home practice, and it it’s a really comfortable mat. It’s thicker than Liforme, so it definitely feels really comfortable when doing prone postures or anything on my back.

ADDITIONAL: Both brands are easy to wipe down with a mat cleaning spray, which is a huge plus. Lululemon offers more variety on colors and travel mats.

CONS:

MATERIAL: Potentially toxic materials, and not PVC free. Not environmentally friendly. Like all smooth rubber mats, markings show up on the lighter/brighter mats.

ADDITIONAL: Some people complain there’s a bit of a “rubbery/chemical” smell, and I think this is true. But I have the smelling abilities of Hannibal Lecture, so take that with a grain of salt.  Lululemon even states that the smell will fade over time, so at least they’re upfront about that.

WEIGHT: Like all high quality mats, these mats can be a bit hefty to lug around.

LIFEHACK FOR INEXPENSIVE MATS:

While it’s definitely worth investing in a good mat, sometimes that’s not always realistic, especially if you’re trying to decide if you want to “get into yoga.”

Instead of buying a more expensive mat, simply invest in a good yoga towel to cover your mat. This will eliminate any slipping you might experience, and help you get deeper and stronger in your asanas. While a towel might impede your transitions, it will help significantly in your overall practice. If your towel is long enough, tuck it under the front and back of your mat to help keep it in place.


Regardless of what mat you chose to use, the most important thing is using it. GET. ON. YOUR. MAT. It’s the daily mantra I shout to myself every day. A little bit of yoga goes a long way in untangling your thoughts, quieting anxiety, and helping to break addictions. Yoga is powerful, and all you have to do is, well…do it.

5 Powerful Ways to Manage Anxiety

In the quest for wellness and an abundant life, we often overlook the most important aspect of truly thriving: mental health. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in America. As a society, we’re getting more stressed out and less capable of handling that stress. We’re overstimulated and under-supported. We use flimsy distractions and coping mechanisms to get through the day, and only really deal with our mental wellness when we’re in a truly dire state that we can’t ignore.

People are often reluctant to admit to anyone—including themselves—that they have bouts of acute or chronic anxiety. Even when they do acknowledge it affects them, they usually don’t really know how to deal with whatever they’re struggling with. I completely get that, because despite all the advice out there on managing stress and anxiety, the information often seems a bit glib and sometimes even trite. Breathe through it? Um, ok, thanks. Focus on something else? Yeah, not working for me, bro. Go for a walk? Uhhhh…super enlightening.

The first step to managing anxiety is to be vulnerable and admit you’re struggling with it in the first place. This can be uncomfortable, and it takes both humility and courage. Just remember every single person at some time or another is in the same boat as you. We all struggle at times, and by admitting this, we’re able to connect with others to both find support and give it.

For me personally, I tend towards depression more than anxiety, but I definitely know what it’s like to have my mind switch to freak out mode.  These are my top five ways of dealing with my brain on overdrive. And yeah, for sure meditate, light some incense, take a walk, practice breathing technics…do all the things. Anxiety isn’t a one-size fits all, and neither are coping mechanisms. The important thing is to incorporate daily methods that help manage and reduce our reactions to stressful situations to prevent anxiety from increasing and getting out of control. If you’re in crisis mode, that is absolutely, 100% the time to schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist. The quality of your life depends on your mental health. Your life depends on it. We get annual physical checkups with our physicians, and sometimes we need to get a mental/emotional checkup with a therapist. It can make all the difference in the world.

1. Recognize anxiety is how the body & mind communicate something is off balance.

We tend to think of anxiety as something that’s “bad” because it sure as hell doesn’t feel “good.” Here’s the thing, anxiety is actually a useful tool if we learn to tune into why we’re feeling anxious. Uncomfortable feelings and sensations are how the body and mind communicate with us. If you are religious, please do not view anxiety as a lack of faith or trust in God. Anxiety has nothing to do with spirituality. Whether you are religious or spiritual, throwing versus and inspirational quotes at people or yourself might be putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. Is there power in religious versus and uplifting quotes? For sure. But not if it ignores the deeper need behind the symptoms. We can sometimes offer well-meaning advice or quotes to people who actually need a lifeline. We can sometimes do the same thing for ourselves, and not realize we need to address the root cause of our anxiety. Anxiety tells us something in our lives is off-kilter and needs to be readjusted. We might not be able to change the entire situation, but usually we can find at least several things we can adjust to make life feel a little bit more balanced.

  • Sit with the feeling. Don’t immediately try to push it away, ignore it, or pretend like you’re not feeling a certain kind of way. Ask yourself what is your body and/or mind trying to tell you? There is usually a specific reason (or reasons) for your anxiety.
  • Identify the cause: Is it work? An unstable or toxic relationship with a partner or friend? A deadline or school project? If your anxiety is strictly physically related (lack of sleep, going out too much or not enough, eating poorly, not taking time to consciously come to stillness and rest etc), address those topics separately. If it’s mental, the first step is to identity the potential reasons. Often, it’s a combination of both physical and mental. The two usually go hand in hand.
  • Ask yourself if what tangible changes you can make and what is within your control. Once you’ve identified the cause of your anxiety, make a list of things you can tangibly change (not just shift your mental perspective). Keep the list short so you don’t feel even more overwhelmed. Writing items down is actionable, and taking action greatly helps with anxiety, even if the action is small. Use paper and pen. Research has shown the act of writing on paper (not the computer) is both therapeutic and soothing for the mind. Identify what is within your power to control, and focus on how you can apply your personal strengths to the situation. Example: I’m stressed about work because I feel overwhelmed by this presentation I have to so, and I don’t feel prepared. I’m worried people won’t receive it well. Tangible change: I will organize and review my outline, add research some key points so I can make sure I have some strong material to present. I will run through the presentation two times and then set it aside. I can’t control how people respond or receive my presentation, but I can control how I use my words, tone of voice, and word choices. When you find something you can actually do to improve the situation, it can help lessen the anxiety. Doing can be a pressure valve for pent-up stress. Anxiety can make you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed, so tell yourself over and over again: it is always within our power to make changes (however small or large) in any situation to make it feel less stressful.
  • Identify your strengths, and how you can apply them to the situation. Know your weaknesses, and give yourself grace. Using the example of feeling stressed about a presentation: I’m good at speaking to a group of people and I really know this topic well. I excel at research and organizing ideas. I struggle with needing to please others, so I will give myself grace and allow myself to not make this about my own merit or garnishing any kind of recognition.
  • Be honest about what is not in your power to change: Let go of the things you can’t control. Honey, I repeat, let that shit go. We are not meant to control all things at all times. It’s not always easy to mentally disengage from situations and potential scenarios outside our control, but it’s necessary. When there is something I’m stressing over that I can’t/shouldn’t try to control, I’ll mentally picture myself picking up the situation, setting it out in front of me, and offering it up to a higher power to control. For me, this higher power is God. Whatever it is for you, at some point, we have to let go and know all things work together for good. This is called faith. It’s not a feeling, it’s a belief in something more than ourselves.

Key takeaway—> anxiety isn’t “bad”. It’s a way the body and mind let us know something is off. Identity the cause, pin-point what is within and outside of your control. Find an actionable change, and consciously surrender the areas that are outside of your control. The shit that’s out of your control works itself out. It always does. The universe has a way of looking out for us. You’re still standing right? You’ve made it through every situation in your life so far. You can make it through this stressful time too.

2. Yoga: Just Do It.

I mean, you knew I was going to add this as a way of dealing with anxiety, right? How could I not?! Yoga has been incredibly instrumental is my own mental health and wellness journey. Buuuuut…there’s a huge caveat pertaining to using yoga for stress management: Yoga does not fix everything. What? Gasp! Sacrilege! But it’s true. Yoga is only as effective as we choose to let it be both on and off the mat. Attending class or going through a sequence at home can certainly, abso-fricking-lutely alleviate symptoms of anxiety, but it doesn’t mean your anxiety won’t come back. Furthermore, yoga is only really effective on a long term basis when we cultivate a faithful practice, which is at least three times a week.

The true power of yoga is applying what we learn on the mat to our off-the-mat lives. This mean learning to view uncomfortable feelings as neither good nor negative, and to simply observe them, breathe through them, and let ourselves rest in the eye of the storm. Life can be a tornado whirling around us, but we can use our breath as a focus point to slow down our thoughts. We learn to find stillness and calm during awkward, uncomfortable postures on our mat, so we can find that same sense of equanimity off the mat. Yoga isn’t just about asanas. It’s a way of life.

3. Avoid the comparison trap.

Comparison is truly the thief of joy, and few things will cause more anxiety than falling into the Comparison Trap. There are two types of comparison that usually punch us in the face: 1) comparing yourself to another person, and 2) comparing your present self to the ideal concept of what you think you should be.

Comparing yourself, your life, and your accomplishments to someone else is a major fun-sponge move that we all do at some point or another. We look over at another person and see they have more, do more, seem better off, and they are LIVING THAT LIFE. And you’re not! Oh my god, why aren’t you! Why aren’t you vacationing in Aspen with your meticulously dressed children and adoring, perfect spouse?! Why do you not have a million degrees and speak at conferences across the country? Why is their dog better behaved than yours? WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!!!! We subconsciously or consciously begin asking the “why not me?” question when we compare ourselves to other. The only answer is a big fat lie, but a believable one: that you aren’t enough. You aren’t doing enough. Cue anxieeeeeetyyyyy! And throw in some depression and a giant bottle of wine on the side, because everything sucks.

Comparison throws off our mental equilibrium. It launches a message to our brains that we’re in deprivation mode, and therefore need to hit the overdrive button. The problem is, there aren’t many places to go once we begin comparing and finding ourselves lacking. There’s nothing to immediately fix, there’s usually not much (if anything) that we can (or should) change, but our brain thinks we need to. So we get anxious AF, but have no where to go except run around in mental circles of hell.

Let us cease and desist comparing ourselves to others. It will never, ever, ever lead to a feeling of empowerment. If we compare ourselves to another and manage to feel superior, we’re being giant jerks. If we compare ourselves and feel inferior, we’re robbing ourselves of joy. If you find yourself falling into the Comparison Trap, get the hell out ASAP. Code Red that situation and back right on out.

It’s ok to ask yourself what you felt drawn to when you’re comparing yourself or what you have to another person’s life. Maybe something about what they’ve accomplished or have resonates with you, and you can find value in it. Example: that mom seems to really create special memories with her children and has her act together. (Spoiler alert: no one has their act together, let’s be real). What you can recognize in this is that creating special moments with families really matters to you. And that is something you can change or enhance in your life. But seriously, no one’s life looks like what you see on the outside. Some parts are way better, some parts way worse. Take what you’ve been given with gratitude. We’re all hot messes just trying to do the best we can.

The second type of comparison is actually the one I struggle with the most. I don’t know why, but I don’t really give a flying flip about what other people have or are doing. I think I just live with my head in the clouds, and truly believe the universe has enough for us all. BUT, man, do I struggle with comparing my present self to the ideal concept of what I think I should be/should do. Perfectionism is such an ugly thing. It’s a joy-drain, and it causes major stress. What’s tricky about this type of comparison is it disguises itself as Goals and Aspiration. Goals are great, but not when they make us feel like our present accomplishments are shoddy or insufficient. Take note on whether you’re allowing your goals to diminish what you’ve achieved, and more to the point, if reaching for those goals is not empowering you but instead stressing you out. If you can’t find joy in the journey, honey, get on a different path. And I am preaching to the choir, because this is my lifelong struggle.

4. Limit social media and news.

Limit social media: Ditching social media was one of the absolute best things I ever did for my mental health.  Oh, and also for my productivity, but who cares about that. When I got rid of my personal accounts, I thought I might miss it or be seized by horrendous FOMO, but the opposite was true. It became so much easier to focus and bring stillness to my mind. It was like eliminating horrible white noise that I didn’t know was stressing me out on a small scale. The communication I have now with friends is more authentic and intentional.

Very little interaction on social media has any real value. We log on, and we’re hit by a barrage of ads, personal opinions, agendas, air-brushed pictures and staged lives. It’s enough to send the brain into mega overstimulation mode. Not to mention, very little content on social media is actually empowering or uplifting. Where the mind goes, energy goes. What we feed becomes stronger. I don’t really need to read people’s well-intended Facebook rants. I don’t necessarily gain anything by seeing their 1,000,000 million pictures of their babies (sorry not sorry, I enjoy my friends’ kiddos, but in moderation. Real talk, ya’ll). It doesn’t make or break my day to see their selfies or vacation pictures. The point I’m making is social media rarely adds much value to your life. It’s not all bad, and I’m not trying to say social media is a giant trash dump (buuuut…maybe it mostly is? I dunno. Jury is still out on this one, kids). I’m simply saying it’s ok to evaluate whether or not it enhances your life and to what degree you want to invest your time and energy into social media.

I personally keep the bare minimum social media accounts, and they pertain strictly to yoga and this blog. I follow accounts that I actually find value in or want to support, and it’s made my life a million percent less stressful.

Have a specific purpose when you log on to social media: respond to direct messages, post a picture, look up ideas about x, y & z, but whatever you do, don’t get sucked into the vortex of social media. That is one dark, negative hole and I doubt you’ll feel awesome once you finally resurface.   Obviously, this excludes all and any accounts related to animals being adorable, funny, or meme-worthy. And if it’s an account of baby animals being precious little love-nuggets, I will lose my mind and like all the pictures. Then I’ll send them to my friends who post a million pictures of their kids, just so they know I think that baby animal is cuter than their child. JUST KIDDING. I send them to my husband, to let him know I want him to buy me more pets. Give me all the animal accounts, and I will give you several hours of my life without blinking an eye. It’s impossible to feel anxiety while looking at memes of baby animals. That tip is completely free and subjective to your love of fur-babies.

Avoid the news like your life depends on it: A really big factor of anxiety for me and many other people is the news/current events.

I don’t have to tell you why, do I? We know news is divisive, negative, and pretty dark these days. The news today is like realty TV. It’s designed to spark a trigger response, inflame and excite, divide and conquer. The news is anything but objective, and it’s impossible to read any article without getting worked up, depressed, or anxious.

Being aware of important current events isn’t the same thing as drowning beneath them. I approach the news much like I do social media: I avoid it, unless I have a specific purpose in mind. If I need to research a topic, I’ll read up on it and decide if it’s within my power to act on it. If the news doesn’t serve you and empower you, steer clear. Reading about how horrible people are, how the world is going to spontaneously combust from global warming, and how everyone hates everyone else is only going to make you crazy-pants anxious.

5. Know that this too shall pass. 

Anxiety sucks big time, and it can be difficult to anticipate when it will hit us and what circumstance will cause us to have a mental melt-down. But that’s the most important thing to remember when feeling anxiety: circumstances are not permanent, and they do not last forever.

I heard a quote a while back that always stuck with me: most of the things we worry about never even happen. We worry in advance about things that almost never happen. Sometimes—rarely—they do. And during those few times when our fears are confirmed, it’s important to know this too shall pass. You’ve made it through hard times before, and you can make it through this circumstance, too. Even if you don’t feel like you can, you can and you will.

Have faith that even in the darkest times, someone or something greater than yourself is looking out for you. The universe has a beautiful way of working all things out for good. When I look back on times in my life where it felt like the world was ending, I see now that it was actually the doorway to something far greater, better and more beautiful than I could have imagined. Whatever you are going through, it is never the end. It’s a paragraph that leads to a new chapter.


7 Ways to (Actually) Improve Your Yoga Practice

Yoga is one of those crazy beautiful experiences where you can receive whatever you need. Some people attend yoga classes to chill out, others go to work out. Many people gravitate to yoga because it truly is a healing experience, both emotionally and physically.

This is how yoga works. It gives back however much you invest. It teaches and transforms us however much we are willing to allow.

Regardless of what draws you to yoga, you’ll get the most out of your practice if you fine-tune it. Over the years, I’ve discovered some factors that really help me as a yoga practitioner, so I’m passing them onto you. Because sharing is caring. And I fricking care.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY:

Let’s just get this one out of the way early, because it’s obvious. Consistency is the key to everything in life, but it can be one of the more challenging things to obtain. Yoga brings out everyone’s inner tortoise or hare. You know what I’m talking about: the story of the race between the super slow tortoise and the zippity fast hare. The hare starts the race off with a blast and quickly gets ahead, but soon gets sidetracked because #ADHD #CheckingSocialMedia #NetflixBinge. The tortoise, on the other hand, keeps plodding along at a slow and steady pace. And what do you know, kids! HE WINS THE DAMN RACE. I personally hated this story growing up, because I am definitely a hare. Actually, I like to think of myself more as a cheetah, because cheetahs are sleek and fast, and make adorable chirping noises that some might argue are creepy.

The point is, it’s easy to get obsessed with yoga and then over-do it or burn out. Commit to at least three days a week, and when you show up to class, be fully present. If you’re faithful to your yoga practice, you’ll see the best results and experience transformation from the inside-out.

MOVE WITH INTENTION:

Most yoga practitioners either power through asanas, or they lackadaisically move in and out of poses. If you plow through a sequence using sheer adrenaline and force of will, chance are you might be missing out on deeply connecting to your breath and finding stillness within your mind. On the flip side, if you tend to not fully engage in a posture, you limit your body’s ability to deeply inhale and exhale. It’s also difficult to get energized when we don’t fully extend our arms and activate our limbs. We all lean towards one of these two styles at any given time, but to make the most of your practice, explore a steady pace as you link breath, body, and movement. Move in and out of postures with intention and purpose. By mentally and physically engaging throughout your practice, you’ll discover how empowering and rejuvenating yoga truly can be. Quality matters when it comes to yoga. Forget about perfection, but instead strive for progress each time you’re on your mat.

TAKE RESTING POSTURES WHENEVER THE HECK YOU WANT:

But for real though. Just do it. I know for many fire-Pitta-super driven yogis the idea of skipping a chaturanga seems like anathema to your very soul, but it’s more than ok to come into child’s pose whenever the heck you feel like it. Take it from me, a fellow fire-Pitta-super driven yogi. Resting postures aren’t a cop-out, and it’s not lazy to take a resting pose. Yoga is about being present and honoring your body. There is never a wrong time to take a resting posture to reconnect with your breath and calm the mind. The breath is the practice. We use asanas as a vehicle to find moving mediation of the body and mind. Knowing when to explore stillness and rest is a key part of making the most of your yoga practice. You’ll see even the most advanced practitioners do this, because our bodies and energy levels and change from day to day. Resting postures also prevent muscle fatigue, and tired muscles can lead to yoga injuries. Honor your body and yourself by resting, refocusing, and re-centering with a resting posture whenever you need to in your practice.

INCORPORATE SELF-STUDY INTO YOUR LIFE:

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your yoga practice is to dive into self-study. This is actually an essential concept in yoga, and for good reason. When you take a bit of time to learn and practice on your own, you truly flourish within your practice because you can move at your own pace.

So where do you start? Learn and practice asanas and the proper alignment through books, Youtube, or a yoga channel. Your practice will thrive like crazy if you invest some time throughout the week to study a particular yoga topic or asana. Learn a little about the philosophy or concepts of yoga through books and podcasts. Resources abound, and you can find great information on any yoga topic your heart desires. The internet and social media are often giant vortexes of horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad energy drains, but they can also be an amazing go to’s for learning more about yoga. One of my favorite resources for books is the good old library (it’s so freaking FREE! I love it!), and a site called Scribd, which is like Netflix for books.

Make sure the teacher is someone who has a well-established practice in the style you study.

  1. Ashtanga: Kino MaCGregor (Omstars, Youtube, published several books) and Laruga Glaser (Alo Moves, Youtube)
  2. Prana/Vinyasa: Shiva Rea, Simon Park
  3. Vinyasa: Seane Corn (Youtube, instructional videos via her website), Briohny Smith (Alo Moves, Youtube)
  4. Inversions, arm balances, vinyasa: Patrick Beach (Alo Moves)
  5. Forrest Yoga (a beautiful vinyasa style): founder Ana Forrest (Alo Moves, Youtube)
  6. For additional teachers/styles, click here

CREATE A YOGA RITUAL:

Setting up a pattern before you start your yoga sesh will help instantly shift your mind away from the craziness of life. A yoga ritual sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to shift gears, and more to the point, it’s a simple but effective form of self-care. Creating a consistent ritual helps you become fully present, and it also creates a feeling of sacredness surrounding your practice. You can make this ritual whatever you want, so long as it has meaning to you.

My pre-yoga ritual is the following: 1) I read something inspirational (but short) so I have something to think over as I head over to yoga to teach or do class. 2) I set up my mat and always clean my feet and hands. This cleanliness is part of the 8 Limbs of yoga, but it also helps me feel like I’m preparing myself and my body for something sacred and special. Plus, we grab our feet a hella lot in yoga, and sorry-not-sorry, but I’m an extreme gerbaphobe. Usually, I’ll incorporate essential oils or candles when I’m doing a home practice and set up a cushy, luxe little spot for meditation. 3) I do some stretches, and often offer up gratitude with each part of my body that I stretch. I’ll say something like, “Thank you for how strong my legs are, and how I can walk, jump, and play because of how healthy they are. Thank you for my health. Thank you for this strength.” Then I move on to the next stretch and offer up more gratitude. 4) I don’t eat anything for several hours before yoga. This is also part of traditional yoga practice, but it also makes good physiological sense. Digesting food takes a great deal of energy, and frankly, doing yoga poses on a full stomach feels like absolute punishment. I mean, hell to the no! Technically, you’re not supposed to drink anything before yoga, but I mean, I need to stay hydrated so my skin doesn’t shrivel up into a wrinkly shroud. 5) I meditate before I practice to calm my monkey brain down. My thoughts go at warp speed, and it helps prepare both my body and mind when I shut that shit down. I also use a little time pre-yoga and during savasana to pray and connect to the Divine. My mat has become a sacred, special place for me, in part because these simple rituals shift my focus and make it a special, sacred space.

Some people like to create ritualistic themes around the moon, using crystals and burning sage. Others write down a gratitude list and mentally go through them as they quietly sit and breathe before class. One of my friends creates a little altar in front of her mat, and sets up flowers and important figurines and objects. There’s no wrong way to create a ritual. Just let it be something that works for you.

FIND LESSONS ON THE MAT THAT YOU CAN LIVE OUT OFF THE MAT:

Yoga can truly be a transformative experience. This happens when we stay present in our practice and quiet our thoughts. Without fail, some amazing bit of wisdom will fall into your head/lap/lotus filled life. It might be when you’re dying a little bit in warrior II, and you tap into a place of inner strength and determination and breathe through the discomfort. This same strength that we find on the mat is ours to claim off the mat. When we breathe through uncomfortable postures and find an equanimous state, we learn we can find a place of calm regardless of circumstances or how we feel. When we choose to surrender our ego and recognize our efforts in our practice are enough, we can do the same in “real life” as well. As we learn to control our thoughts while practicing, we find we can rewrite negative, inner narratives we feed ourselves throughout a day.

RELEASE EXPECTATIONS:

It’s easy to come to practice with a ton of expectations ranging from how the class will make you feel, to how your body will (or should) perform.You might be expecting a certain teacher and get a sub. You might even be anticipating a certain type of flow, and end up with something that throws you off in the worst ways possible. Let all expectations go. Refrain from placing demands on yourself or your practice. Instead, come to class with an open heart and an open mind, and you’ll be blown away by how amazing you’ll feel. Detachment is not apathy. It’s simply holding out situations and feelings with open hands. If those things stay, great. If they leave, also great.

 

 

 

How to Prevent Common Yoga Injuries

Yoga is magical. After you finish a class, you basically float out on a tide of goodwill and feel like you’re riding on the back of a unicorn while sweet baby angels sing into your ear. But beyond the undeniably euphoric effects of yoga, it can be a truly healing experience, both mentally and physically. This aspect of yoga draws many people initially to their mat, so when injuries occur, it can legit feel like a gianty-giant let down. Is it not enough that we endure demanding jobs, horrific traffic, depressing articles in the news (I cannot handle anything related to current events right now), and global warming?! Must we also experience injuries during our cherished outlet known as yoga?! Good news, fellow yogi: injuries are preventable, and I’m about to tell you how.  Get that good mojo and keep it!

The topic of yoga injuries is near and dear to my heart, because I’ve gone through a slew of them while doing some intense Ashtanga/Mysore training. I’ve cracked my sternum, busted some ribs, did weird things to my knee, had a severe hamstring attachment injury, dislocated a few random discs in my back (turns out, that is a mucho grande excruciating experience), AND I definitely mangled my rotator cuff a little to a lot. I mean, just a few injuries, ya know? So, when I talk about yoga injuries, I’m never preaching at anyone, because I know injuries happen to anyone. You can be new to yoga, or have an advanced practice. Injuries happen if you don’t watch out for your body.

“But wait!” I hear you shout into the void of confusion, “Isn’t yoga therapeutic and healing?” I’m so glad you asked. Yes. But it’s a physical activity, and anytime the body is involved, injuries can occur. So let’s chat about it, shall we? We shall. Get some tea or kambucha, or to heck with it—get some wine. Let’s dive in and first discuss why injuries happen, followed by the most common.

Why Do Bad Injuries Happen to Good Yogis

1. Frequency: There are two groups of people particularly susceptible to injuries, those who practice a hella lot, and the ones who practice infrequently.

  • Yogis who practice a ton are at higher risk for injuries due to repetition. Wear and tear can occur when you’re consistently hitting up a higher energy/intensity flow, especially if it’s a style like Ashtanga where you are doing the same thing all the time.
  • On the flip side, those who attend yoga infrequently (once a week or less) are at risk because their bodies never get to adapt and adjust to yoga poses. It’s like introducing the body to yoga every time. Moral of the story: find a balance, and yes you do need to mix up your yoga classes. Sorry, fellow overachiever. This is yoga, not the Olympics.

2. Hands On Assists: Another common way injuries occur is through hands on assists. I’ve been injured quite a lot this way. Hands on assists are the best. When I teach, I’m constantly providing support to my students, because it’s a way of saying, “I see the effort you’re putting in, and I’ve got your back.” It’s also a great way to help students explore more depth or better alignment in their postures, which can help prevent injuries. BUT. And this is a huge but…teachers don’t know how the assist actually feels. We hope to never injure anyone, but it can happen if a student doesn’t speak up and let a teacher know before class about chronic or acute injuries. More importantly, the body changes every day. You might be able to bust out the splits like a BAMF one day, and then the next feel really stiff in ardha hanumanasana (half-splits). Being present means being aware of how you feel. Take what the body gives you with gratitude.

3. Improper alignment: OMG exclamation point!!!!! Correct alignment is essential to prevent injuries and really experience the full benefits of yoga. A good teacher will provide alignment cues throughout class, but self-study is a huge part of yoga. It is one million, trillion percent worth it to take a bit of time to learn correct alignment outside of your yoga class. Look up asanas, watch Youtube videos, or find a yoga channel where you can learn how to take your time and set up the pose. Start with alignment for Sun A, B, trikonasana (triangle) and utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle), and samasthiti (mountain pose). Nail those, and you’ll unIock a ton of other postures, because the alignment cues apply across the board. I cannot recommend this enough. I repeat: watch some goddamn videos and learn proper alignment. Talk to your teacher after class, and have them explain an asana. Practice intuitively and get in touch with how poses feel. Move in and out of postures with intention, and set up the pose from the ground up. Alignment matters, not because we’re trying to have a perfect practice, but because we want to have an injury free practice. What’s more, proper alignment allows breath to move more freely through the body, and the breath is the practice. Without it, we’re just doing acrobatic stunts.

MOST COMMON INJURIES (AND HOW TO AVOID THEM) 

1. Upper and Lower Back: back pain can be a pretty common complaint among yoga practitioners. We do a lot of weird things with our spin. Sometimes that achy feeling is from the muscles, but more often related to the actual spine itself. First of all, most of us have terrible posture from sitting hunched over computers all day, and we rarely move and loosen up our spine outside of a yoga class.

The number one cause of back pain is rounding the spine forward. It puts unnatural strain on your vertebrates, and it’s no bueno. Get in the habit of creating a long, flat back when you fold and when you come up to stand in mountain pose.

Another factor that causes back pain is the opposite of rounding, when we arch the back up in asanas such as upward facing dog or camel pose. While this movement is incredibly beneficial for the spine and shoulders, if done incorrectly, we can compress the SI (sacroiliac) joint, which connects the sacrum and bones of the pelvis. Backbends, whether more subtle like cobra or upward facing dog, or more pronounced like camel or wheel, can dump weight into the lower back. Obviously, this can be pretty painful, because the discs can pinch and grind together.

—>How to avoid back injuries: When bending back, first lift up through the torso, then lean back. Even as you’re leaning back, keep lifting up through your heart to prevent your weight from dumping into the lower spine. In upward facing dog or cobra, engage the core and thighs to protect the lower back.

Wrists: here’s a little known fact to many new-to-yoga peeps: weight never goes onto the wrists. NEVER. Ok, a little bit does, but most of your weight should go into your palms and pads of your fingertips. Pouring your weight or supporting your body directly onto your wrists causes compression, and eventually you’ll injure yourself.

—> How to avoid wrist injuries: in a pose where you’re supporting yourself with hands on the mat (be it cat/cow, downward facing down, crow, handstand, etc) spread the fingers. Suction cup the palms down and press into the mat with palm/fingers. You’ll find better stabilization and stay injury free. You can also warm up the wrists before class starts. And always remember to modify if you need to by bringing your knee(s) to the mat in asanas like chaturanga, plank, and side plank.

Hamstrings: injuring the hammies can be pretty common in yoga, because 99.8999% of all yogis want to achieve the deepest forward folds they possibly can. We too often equate depth with a good practice, when the marker of a solid practice is connecting with breath while exploring shapes that work best for your body.

It doesn’t take much to injure the area where the hamstrings attach to the sitting bones. Chances are, at some point after a yoga class you’ve felt some soreness right below your buttocks. This isn’t muscle soreness from working out, but actually tension and strain from pulling on the the top of the hamstring. Once this area is injured, it can take what feels like a millennium to recover. And by millennium, I mean it can take at least 4 months or more to fully heal.

—>How to avoid hamstring injuries: Stretch before class, and ease the body into your stretches. A few minutes of hamstring stretches can do wonders. EASE THE EFF INTO FOLDS and never, ever, eeeeever push yourself to go super deep in a forward fold. Bend your knees if you need to, and if you don’t need to, then engage the quads. This will help lengthen and protect the hamstrings.

Another thing that really helps is to focus less on depth and more on finding a long, flat back and slowly working to bring chest to thigh, chin to shin. This helps the hamstrings open up and elongate (but it still will take time and consistency to find depth).

Always move into in asana slowly and with intention, particularly any pose that involves folding forward. Remember, the body changes every day. You might be able to find a crazy deep fold today, and tomorrow maybe feel a little tighter.  And that is 1000% ok. It’s part of the process of bringing awareness to the body and taking what it gives us with gratitude.

4. Rotator cuff:  Downward dog and bind can often be a big culprit of rotator cuff injuries.

—>How to avoid injuries: Be mindful of sagging through the shoulders during downward facing dog. Some people are really flexible through the shoulder joints, and it can feel natural and even good to sink through the shoulders as they bring their chest towards the ground. Over time and repetition, this can cause unnatural wear and tear through the rotator cuff and the muscles beneath the scapula. To fix this, dome up the back slightly, firming up through the shoulder girdles. Shift your gaze towards thighs or belly as you rotate your biceps away from your face to find external rotation through the shoulder joint, which will help alleviate strain.

Binds can be a bit more complicated, and there’s a ton of anatomy to explain. To keep it short and sweet, the glenohumeral connects the scapula and humerus bone, and it’s a ball and socket joint. This simply mean it has more rotation abilities. I could write an entire dissertation about how to use this joint in yoga, but I will refrain, because #wordcount. And also it’s a tad complicated. When coming into a bind, move the shoulder forward, wrap your arm in the bind, then plug your shoulder down into the socket. Avoid overstraining/over-stretching the capacity of your shoulder joint. Use a towel or strap when you need to—there is no shame in your game when you use props.

5. Knees: oh bless our knees. We put them through so much. Knee injuries happen in yoga usually for two reasons: poor form and/or tight hips and IT band.

How to avoid knee injuries: in any asana that requires a bent knee (like janu sirsasana, marichyasana, any variation of lotus pose), make sure to close the knee joint by thoroughly bending the knee and bringing calf against thigh. Flex your foot any time you’re moving in or out of an asana that requires a bent knee, and keep it flexed.

In warrior I and II, keep the knee stacked over ankle and in line with the middle toes. Most people have a tendencies to collapse weight inward towards the big toe, which puts unnatural strain on the knee joint.

Finally, work on opening the hips and finding flexibility through the IT band. Malasana (yogi squat) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon pose) can work wonders on the hips and IT band, but the key is you need to hold these postures for a longer time to really open up the body. Hold for at least 10 breaths, and work up from there. Ideally, if you can hang out in these postures for about three to five minutes, and you’ll see amazing results. That might sound like a long time, but if you throw on some chill music and focus on your breath, it becomes a really sweet time of meditation and intentional rest.

The last tip is an essential one: take a resting posture when you’re feeling fatigued or lose pace with your breath. Muscle fatigue can lead to sloppy alignment which—you guessed it—can cause injuries. Child’s pose is not a copout. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with the breath and find stillness in the mind, which is the most advanced and difficult form of yoga. Use resting poses to reset, and then get back into your flow.

yoga childs pose

***

The body is incredibly designed. It allows us to do amazing things, takes us on fabulous adventures, shelters and protects our vital organs, and it’s the home to our sacred soul. We often place intense demands on our bodies, and we aren’t usually truly aware or connected with how our bodies are feeling until we get injured or sick.

As you move through your yoga practice, begin truly bringing awareness to how your body feels and moves. Flow with intention, and slow down transitions in and out of poses. Not only will you have a safer practice, but a more meditative and fulfilling one as well. Yoga is healing and restorative, especially when we shift our focus away from finding the most intense version of a posture and instead explore alignment that works best for our individual bodies.

 

 

Gluten-Free Strawberry Pancakes with Vegan Whipped Cream

MORNINGS ARE THE WORST.

And if you don’t agree with me, I do not even understand what kind of super-powered human being you are. Does your heart pump pure caffeine into your veins? Are you the product of a crazy scientific experience? I DON’T GET IT. Mornings are the literal worst. I pretty much feel punched in the face the second my eyes slowly, very begrudgingly peel open. My first thought is usually, NOOOOO! Or just like a moan of agony.

My husband is one of those (disgustingly) disciplined people who wake up everyday at 5:30am, and therefore by proxy, my fat cat and I are forced to wake up at the same time. UGH. WHY, GOD. Even though my body might be awake, my mind doesn’t operate until at bare minimum around noon. Brunch is basically God’s gift to all the people who stoutly reject mornings. Let all those early bird’s catch all the worms they want; I choose pancakes and mimosas. I love hosting brunch parties, because it’s such a perfect way to connect with friends. It’s impossible to be cranky and eat pancakes. I mean, honestly, it just is.

Pancakes are sooooo easy to make, and they’re always an easy crowd-pleaser. What I love about this recipe is that it’s gluten-free AND vegan. I mean, whaaaaat? Can such a thing exist? Yes, fellow Brunchers. It can and it does. GLORY HALLELUJAH. Great things come in little pancake packages.

So let’s get to it, because it’s the freaking weekend, and you need to get you some pancakes. And maybe a pitcher or mimosas…I won’t judge.


PREP: 10 min
COOK: 15-20 minutes
YIELD: 12 pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix.
  • 2 large egg (or equivalent egg replacer)
  • 3/4 cup cashew milk.
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled or grapeseed oil
  • coconut oil, for greasing
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • FOR SUPER STRAWBERRY STACKS: 1 extra cup of thoroughly mashed strawberries, added to the pancake mix

VEGAN WHIPPED CREAM:

  1. Refrigerate can of coconut milk, 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Place metal mixing bowl and beaters in the refrigerator or freezer 1 hour before making whipped cream.
  3. Open can of coconut milk, taking care not to shake it. Scoop coconut cream solids into cold mixing bowl. Reserve remaining liquid for another use.
  4. Beat coconut cream using electric mixer with chilled beaters on medium speed; turn to high speed. Beat until stiff peaks form, 7 to 8 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla extract to coconut cream; beat 1 minute more. Taste and add more sugar if desired.

THE METHOD:

  1. Heat a large electric griddle or nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add a few drops of vegetable oil and a pat of butter.
  2. Ladle a full 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Place a small handful of sliced strawberries on top of the pancakes.
  3. Cook until the bubbles begin to burst on the surface, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook until the second side is a nice golden brown, about 2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter; put the finished pancakes on a sheet tray and keep warm in the oven as you finish.
  4. Arrange the pancakes on individual plates and serve with the syrup.

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Anti-Aging, Fat Blasting Blueberry Smoothie

All these low-carb/no-carb diets are giving fruit a bad rap, but the truth is carbs aren’t evil. It just depends on the kinds of carbs you’re consuming. The brilliant thing about berries is they have a lower sugar content than other fruit, so you can eat them without experiencing a potentially drastic sugar spike. Blueberries reign supreme as a not only a power food, but also a beautifying food.

When you eat beautifying foods, the ingredients work from the inside out, creating total body change. You can slather the most expensive lotions and potions and magical ingredients on your skin, but the saying “skin deep” exists for a reason. These ingredients literally mask the results of poor health and/or an unhealthy diet, but it’s impossible for those expensive ingredients to really penetrate the deeper layers of skin. All the creams in the world don’t do anything for your total body wellness.

Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. 

If that’s not enough to convince you to try out this delicious smoothie, there are actually a ton of other fantastic reasons.

Benefits of blueberries

  • Low in calories, but HIGH in nutrients
  • Major source of antioxidants to combat aging
  • Blueberries reduce DNA damage, which protects against not only wrinkles but also cancer
  • Boost the Brain function and memory
  • Support Digestion
  • Promote Heart Health
  • Aid Weight Loss

Plus a TON of other benefits. Can you believe all this goodness is crammed into one tiny berry?!

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Blueberries as a Beautifying Food

Blueberries contain high levels of both vitamin A and C are necessary for the health of collagen, your skin’s support structure. Eating foods rich in these nutrients may help slow the development of wrinkles, sagging and dark circles. The berries also contain water, which keeps skin hydrated and young looking.

They are a also good source of vitamin K, fibre, manganese and other antioxidants (notably anthocyanins), which all aid in keeping the skin looking GORGEOUS.

Smoothie Time

Smoothies are a no brainer for the busy person on the go. It takes like, 0.0005 seconds to make an incredibly nutritious, energy packed breakfast.This recipe is fantastically delish and chocked full of nutrients that will make your skin glow brighter than high wattage LED Christmas lights. I’m talking G-L-O-W, baby, glow. This particular recipe contains blueberries + raw spinach=mega beauty food for your skin.


PREP: 5 minutes

TIME: less than 5 minutes

SERVES: 16 oz smoothie


Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups of blueberries
  • 2 cups of water or nut milk of your choice
  • Stevia to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Add liquid to your blender, then throw in all the other ingredients. I cram as much greens in as possible, but if you’re new to green-smoothies, error on the side of less greens until your tastebuds shift to a more alkaline diet.

Press the blend button and let the blender do all the work! BOOM! DONE!

That’s it, literally. How easy was that? SO EASY, I KNOW! If you want to make a larger batch, you can store smoothies for about two days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them. Just be aware that liquids expand as they freeze, so you won’t end up with broken containers and a big ol’ mess. Don’t ask me how I know this, but you can assume I learned the hard way.

You can add or subtract any ingredients, but I’d definitely encourage you to steer clear of dairy products. They taste delicious, but are high calories and mucus forming. Dairy also does a number on your skin and your intestines, so do your body a favor and use a nut milk. I actually just use water, but that might not be for you.

After a couple weeks of drinking this smoothie, you’ll notice a crazy difference in not only your skin, but also your energy levels. Now, that’s a total win in my book!

 

Eat Your Way to Youthful Skin

We live in a society that’s pretty obsessed with beauty—outer beauty that is. The makeup industry is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and the average medicine cabinet is overflowing with lotions and potions and concoctions promising to make up more beautiful. More youthful. More desirable. Beauty is a business, and booming one at that. Somewhere along the way though, health and beauty became two very separate entities. The ingredients in these “anti-aging” and “beautifying” products often cause way more harm than good.

Recently, I went to my dermatologist for the good old Let There Be No Skin Cancer checkup (all good in the hood; all those years of drenching myself in SPF and assiduously hiding under an umbrella at the beach like a stowaway vampire have finally paid off). I had just run out of the nighttime essential oils I use, so I asked about moisturizers and an anti-aging cream. She gave me two products and sent me on my merry way. Both creams cost around $200 (JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL) and what’s worse, when I looked at the list of ingredients, they were decidedly bad for my body. In fact, one warned me not use if I were pregnant as the ingredients might cause cell mutation or disruption to the fetus. UM, WFT. Why would I want to put that on my FACE? Obviously, I returned the products, but it made me realize what great lengths we as a society go through to achieve and maintain youthful skin, when the actual solution is….simple. Natural. And, yup, plant based.

We can slather on the most expensive creams and serums in the world, but if we have a rotten diet, we’re aging our skin faster than we can preserve it. The good news is the reverse is also true. A thoughtful, intelligent diet can also combat the effects of aging. And you know what? It’s hella cheaper, too.

The literally beautiful thing about investing in healthy foods for our bodies is that not only does a whole foods, plant based diet transforms us from the inside-out. It also provide much needed fuel to feel our best and keeps us more hormonally balanced. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look our best, but I personally believe it’s more important to feel and be our best Self that we can be.

What ages your skin?

Free radicals are the major cause of aging. They’re found in the environment, in processed foods, in just about everything—and they damage cells. This leads to, among other things, premature wrinkles. Other factors contributing to wrinkled, spotted skin include normal aging, exposure to the sun (photoaging) and pollution, and loss of subcutaneous support (fatty tissue between your skin and muscle).

Don’t get depressed yet. The good news is that the ingredients in plant-based foods can both protect and reverse the effects of aging. I know this to be true. Over the years, my skin has aged backwards. I don’t naturally have the best skin ever, but I’ve witness a radical change since I changed my diet and lifestyle. My skin looks younger and healthier now than when I graduated from college. I’m not kidding. I should also add I don’t use any expensive products or wear makeup other than blush and tinted moisturizer and a natural tinted lipgloss. I used to never be able to leave my house without layers of foundation on, but now I can keep my beauty and skin routine simple and natural. Again, some people are blessed with naturally gorgeous everything, and I am most definitely not in that category. I credit plants with keeping my body vibrant from the inside-out.

Spinach

Raw spinach is so crazy good for you, that you should just think of it as an all-around power beautifying food. It’s loaded with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A. This beauty vitamin helps retain proper moisture, eliminate wrinkles, and removes dead cells so your skin glows.

This power food has a long list of other essential vitamins and minerals, but one of the most surprising things about spinach is that per calorie, spinach has more protein than ground beef. 100 calories of ground beef has 10 grams of protein while 100 calories of fresh baby spinach has 12 grams. 

Spinach also has concentrated health-promoting phytonutrients which provide mega powerful antioxidant protection against free-radicals. In other words, spinach for the win. Popeye the sailor was on to something smart, folks!

Avocados

Let’s get one things straight: avocados are delicious AF. I could eat guacamole by the bucketful…wait, I have. When I’m cooking, I make it rain avocados and basically put them on anything and everything. They’re pretty much the bacon of the vegan world. Need to make a sandwich taste better? Add avocados. Wimpy salad? Throw in some avocados. Suffering from dry, lackluster skin? A.V.O.C.A.D.O.S.

Avocados are not only God’s gift to any menu, but they have powerful anti-aging effects on the skin and joints. The high monounsaturated fat content instantly rejuvenates and moisturizes skin from the inside-out, which prevents premature wrinkling. They’re also rich in beauty vitamins K, A, C, and E. But wait! There’s more! Avocados contain a ton of minerals and antioxidant enzymes. The amino acid glutamine helps protect your skin from environmental damage, and is a key contributor to preventing aging. So now you can go to Chipotle and order that side o’ gauc and call it your shot of anti-aging treatment. Forget the botox. Eat guac.

Oh, and if you’re freaking out about the fat content, don’t. Yes, they’re high in fat, but it’s healthy fat. In fact, it’s the exact kind of fat that your brain uses for fuel and your cells require for rejuvenation.

Red Bell Peppers

This is one of my favorite snacks. I sprinkle a small blizzard of salt on them (bad, I know) and eat raw red peppers by the dozen (good). This beauty food is low in calories but insanely high in vitamin C. Why is this vitamin so essential? Well, obviously, it helps get you through the dreaded cold and flu season with nary a scratchy throat, but vitamin C is also your best friend when it comes to maintain gorgeous skin.

Vitamin C helps repair and regenerate collagen, which is a protein that provides firmness to your skin. As we age, we lose collagen, and our skin begins sagging and becoming wrinkly and dry. Another benefit of red bell peppers is that they contain silicon, which is a mineral that gives you supple, youthful skin by strengthening the collagen and elastin of your skin.

Tip—> Eat your red peppers raw or barely cooked, because heat denatures the enzymes and strips veggies and fruit of their healthy benefits. 

Blueberries:

Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.

If that’s not enough to convince you to try out this delicious smoothie, there are actually a ton of other fantastic reasons. Some other benefits:

  • Low in calories, but HIGH in nutrients
  • Major source of antioxidants to combat aging
  • Blueberries reduce DNA damage, which protects against not only wrinkles but also cancer
  • Boost the Brain function and memory
  • Support Digestion
  • Promote Heart Health
  • Aid Weight Loss

A great way to get your blueberries and spinach in is by trying out my anti-aging fat-blasting blueberry smoothie recipe.

Final Thoughts

Eating your way to beautiful skin not only delivers amazing results, but those anti-aging benefits help the entire body. One of the biggest signs of aging is not only seen in our skin, but also in our lack of vitality and robustness. Combat all signs of aging from the inside-out by adding more beautifying foods to your diet.

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How to Do: Side Crow

Arm balances just makes me soooo happy, I can hardly stand it. I mean, honestly, every time a yoga instructor calls out an option for an arm balance or an inversion, I’m literally like, YAAAAAS GAWD. Unless I’ve eaten all the things right before class and feel as though I’m made of bricks. Then I’m like, WHHHHYYY, make the lambs stop screaming!!! Yoga is cruel to the gluttonous, just so you know. But when a girl’s gotta eat, she’s gotta eat. Even if it’s right before class.

Here’s the thing I like to tell my own clients regarding the oh-so-tricky art of arm balances and inversions: it should be fun. Sure, it’s difficult—really difficult. After all, you’re both balancing and holding yourself up on a tiny portion of your body. But this isn’t the time to go Type A or let your perfectionism kick in. This is the exact moment to practice patience and give yourself grace.

Before you even start, lay your ego at the door. Hey, I know you just skimmed that sentence! Back up Buttercup! I know it, because those are the exact types of phrases that often go one ear and out my other ear. Yeah, yeah. “No ego, ok whatever…now show me the five steps to do those Instagram worthy poses!” That was definitely my mentality when I first started yoga. If you’re not at this point now, awesome. You might find yourself there one day. If you don’t, bless your lucky little ego-less stars.

Removing our ego from our practice is difficult, but necessary. Ego and joy cannot easily reside together, any more than perfectionism and peace can co-exist. So before you even hurtle yourself into any challenging asanas, take a moment and remember what it was like to play. To be a child. To chase the thrill of crossing those monkey beams simply for the pleasure of being a badass mamba-jamba. So I would like to invite you to set perfectionism aside and just play. Let go of perfectionism and grab on to joy.

Now that I got that little bit out of the way, let’s dive into the steps. First of all, I do highly recommend checking out a Youtube video to watch side crow in action. I’ve found for myself and my clients, it’s helpful to see, read, and do. The combination really helps everything gel together.

STEP ONE

Dip into chair pose as you lengthen your spine. Pull your belly in and twist over to the side and hook your arms as if in prayer. Crouch down on your toes and plant hands on the floor. As you do this, remember to keep a long spine! LOOOOONG SPINE! The natural instinct is to round the back and let the belly hang out, but this is not the time to go Hunchback of Notre Dame. A long spine will help you hook your armpit over your leg so you can firmly press your arms against your thigh.

Plant hands firmly in front of you, about shoulders width apart. I think it helps to form an “L” with the thumbs and pointer fingers, because it gives me guidelines.

Prepare arms: bend like you’re going into chaturanga (a 90 degree angle). This helps stack your bones appropriately so you can balance your weight on basically just an elbow in the full expression of the pose.

Tip—> This triangle base is how you set up for headstand, handstand, crow, and many other arm balances and inversion

Key Points:

  • Lengthen your spine before you rotate, exhale as you twist over. Think side prayer pose
  • Create triangle base with hands and gaze.
  • Arms should be set in chaturanga form, tucked in against your body
  • Gaze should be slightly in front of hands. Think of a triangle; your drishti (gaze) is the top of the triangle. Again, this helps form a solid base for you.

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Step Two

Enjoy the glooooooorious view of my tush. J/K. Here, you can see I’m going into chaturanga arms, pressing my base arm/arm pit firmly against my leg. If you do not want to do a one arm version like I’m doing in this pick, simply shift hips over and press BOTH arms/elbows against the leg.

Key points:

  • Keep chaturanga arms firmly pressed in towards the body. This is your base, and if your arms splay out, you’ll lose your foundation.
  • Do NOT let all the weight hit your wrists. That’s a great way to get injured. Grip from the finger pads. You actually almost push off from the tips of the fingers, which helps distribute weight.
  • Do keep steady breathing throughout this asana. Yoga is breathing. Everything else is a stunt.

Step Three

Inhale as you lift off toes and shift your weight onto your arm. The inhale helps, I swear by all the best yoga mats in the ENTIRE WORLD. Remember to continue breathing in this pose.

Key points:

  • Keep core, arms, and legs engaged to help maintain balance
  • Set your drishti (gaze) to ensure better balance. The body gets overwhelmed if our gaze is moving all over the place
  • Continue to press from the fingertips to take pressure off the wrists
  • I cannot say this enough: Yoga is about breath; everything else is acrobatics.

     


 

Final Thoughts

The crazy, wonderful, horrible thing about arm balances is that some days you will feel like a rocket man blasting off to the moon, and other days like an elephant firmly and determinedly planted on the ground. Emotional weight and exhaustion is a real thing in yoga.

If your body feels heavy, honor your Self by focusing more perhaps on nourishing stretches and gentler asanas. Muscle fatigue and overtraining is also something that will haunt your practice, especially if you’re the type who’s just a little bit addicted to working out. Take what the body gives you, and receive it with gratitude.

Strength drills that help with this arm balance:

  • High plank
  • Forearm plank
  • Crow/crane
  • Revolved side angle pose
  • Meditation: strengthen the mind, and the body can achieve amazing things

Sunscreen Swaps: the Best Picks for Children

Currently, my husband and I are spending the week in Vegas. I’m not into the casino scene, but we are having such an amazing time together. I’m convinced that you can have the time of there life wherever they are, if you’re with your Person. We got to put this to the test when our flight in was bumped, and we chilled at the airport all day…and had a ball. I’ve always been a big believer that you can make extraordinary memories from the most ordinary of days, and so far, life has proven that to be true.

Meanwhile, Vegas is literally hotter than crawling into an oven, and now all those crimes on CSI make so much more sense. People are probably going crazy from the heat! Surprisingly, we adapted to the weather pretty quickly (read: we stay inside/poolside), and I’ve been pile on a bottle of sunscreen per day to protect my oh so fair skin from this desert sun. That’s an exaggeration…but just barely.

If you’ve read my post/rant about sunscreens for adults, you know I find the whole shebang about toxic ingredients in our sunscreen incredibly infuriating. The fact that well-meaning parents are unknowingly slathering carcinogenic ingredients on their children makes me want to go postal-pants for them. You would think we would be able to rely on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oh, I don’t know, KEEP US SAFE, but au contraire, mon ami. The vast majority of sunscreens are anything but safe for your skin. They contain both toxic and carcinogenic ingredients that are harmful to both children and adults.

According to the EWG, the Food and Drug Administration does not set any criteria or additional requirements for sunscreen and body care products marketed to children. In fact, the EWG has not identified any systematic differences between the types of products marketed to children and the general population.

Children Are Not Mini Adults

So why is this such a big deal? Skin is skin, whether on an adult or child, right? Nope. Children are not mini adults, and they are more susceptible to environmental threats. What is toxic for you as an adult is even more potent for the neonatal and pediatric populace. This is due to several factors:

  1. Due to their size, babies and kiddos have what we call “a lower dosing weight.” We all have that teeny tiny friend who cannot handle more than two glasses of wine (I’m more of a by the bottle kind of girl myself).
  2. Children metabolize ingredients differently than adults (and yes, ingredients are absorbed into the body through skin.) This is why you don’t give a child the same amount of Tylenol when he’s sick as you would give yourself.
  3. Children have a different surface area to volume ratio than adults. The body’s surface area is a measurement of the skin that covers your body, and although children are smaller than adults, the ratio of surface area to mass is much larger for babies and children than for adults. I know this sounds like a boring math class, but basically this surface area to volume ratio means our little ones have a dramatically higher absorption rate and reaction than adults.
  4. Children are in a dynamic state of growth and development, meaning their little bodies are continuously developing. Many toxins actively interfere with healthy neurological and physiological maturation.

So now that we got that depressing bit out of information out the way, here is the good news: There are numerous healthy options you can use to protect your child from exposure to both sun and toxins.

Because children are particularly susceptible to certain toxic chemicals during developmental years, the EWG scrutinized children’s sunscreens even more closely in 2017.

Worst Sunscreens for Kids

The EWG specifically named the following brands for earning the worst scores, though other popular brands also received low scores. I’d encourage you to check out their full list, but here are the “winners” for the lowest scores.

  • Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
  • CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  • Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
  • Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55 (8)

Best Sunscreens for Kids and Babies

Here is the list of kid friendly sunscreens that you can use to protect your little ones:

Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30+
BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30

Summertime is such a fun season for children, and many of my favorite memories revolved around family vacations and beach trips during those long summer months. Although sunscreen should be a product we use all year, it’s even more important during the months when children are running around playing in shorts and tees and swimsuits. Make sure you stock up on a safe, nontoxic sunscreen, and don’t forget to apply it on yourself and your little one about 30 minutes before going out into the sunlight. Play in the shade whenever possible, and reapply frequently during pool time or sports. Most importantly, remember that summer flies by, so make memories and have fun in the sun.

Use This Not That: Sunscreen Swaps

Summer is officially here, and according to my Siri, it’s going to be a million degrees with a UV ray index of off the charts. This is what happens when you don’t recycle, people! Mama Earth gets angry at us all and then gets hotter than Hades!

All that aside, I’m a delicate little flower when it comes to the sun. My skin is so white, I glow in the dark like a ghost. I really do; true story. I could effortlessly play a Walker on The Walking Dead, especially if I didn’t get any coffee when I woke up. 

I’ve never been into tanning (read: the sun and I are genetically incompatible). It takes a lot to keep this Walker skin ridiculously young-ish and protected from the sun’s death rays, so I used to pile on the sunscreen. Then I found out most sunscreens might cause as much damage as sun exposureI can’t even. 

The reason sunscreens are harmful is because most are laden with toxic chemicals. These chemicals get directly applied and then absorbed into your body’s largest organ: your skin. Disturbingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved at least nine popular sunscreen ingredients that are known to be endocrine disruptors. (Your endocrine system does enjoy being disrupted, by the way. Just thought I’d throw that out there.)

In addition to this, many sunscreens are linked to various cancers, which is just ridiculous, because we’re all wearing sunscreen to prevent cancer in the first place. UGH! I hate life! But I digress.

When it comes to chemical sunscreen is also very environmentally unfriendly, so for the sake of our bodies and Mama Nature, it just makes good sense to switch to a better product. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, there are quite a few excellent options.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SUNSCREEN:

  1. Zinc oxide + titanium deoxide: I KNOW! I’m beginning to have flashbacks of my chemistry classes (which I was uh-mazing at, thank you very much. #HumbleBragThatOnlyNerdsAppreciate). These two ingredients are crucial to a good sunscreen. 

–> Zinc oxide offers superior broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, so it’s a win-win. Titanium deoxide adds additional coverage from harmful rays, so this is a powerhouse combination. They sit on the skin, so they repel water and rays better.

  1.  EWG Rating: A good sunscreen will have an EWG (Environmental Working Group) rating of a 1-2
  2. Antioxidents: many quality sunscreens will add a natural antioxident, which is like gold for your skin. It’s not necessary, but it’s a major bonus.

(see below for my list of the good, the bad, and the ugly)

THE BAD INGREDIENTS:

We know sunscreens contain so many potentially hazardous chemicals, the ingredient list reads like a recipe for the ooze that teenaged mutant ninja turtles’ came from (that was for fellow geeks everywhere. Gotta stick together, peeps). But what exactly are these ingredients we need to avoid?

  1. Oxybenzone, the Big Baddie: this horrible chemical is a known endocrine disruptor linked to reduced sperm count in men and endometriosis in women. Extra scary fact: A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found 96 percent of the U.S. population has oxybenzone in their bodies.10 Aside from oxybenzone — which is found in 70 percent of sunscreens — here are some of the other commonly used chemicals that can enter your bloodstream and can cause toxic side effects:
  2. Cinoxate
  3. Dioxybenzone
  4. Octisalate
  5. Octocrylene
  6. Octyl methooxycinnamate (OMC)
  7. Octinoxate
  8. Homosalate
  9. Para-aminobenzoic (PABA)
  10. Phenulbenzimidazole

BEST AND WORST SUNSCREENS FOR ADULTS

You can find a comprehensive list detailing good and bad sunscreen on EWG, but here is their highly reliable best of lists: http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/

The Best Sunscreens of 2017, Beach & Sport

  • All Good Unscented Sunstick, SPF 30
  • All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • aromatica Calendula Non-Nano UV Protection, SPF 30
  • ATTITUDE Family Sensitive Skin Care Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
  • Bare Belly Organics Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Drunk Elephant Umbra, Sheer Defense, SPF 30
  • Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF, 30
  • Jersey Shore Cosmetics Anti-Aging Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • Just Skin Food Natural & Organic Sunscreen, SPF30
  • Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen Sunscreen, Original SPF 32
  • Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Poofy Organics The Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Body, SPF 50
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face, SPF 50
  • ThinkSport Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  • Waxhead Sun Defense Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Zebs Organics Sunscreen, SPF 20 (4)

The Best Sunscreens of 2017, Moisturizers

  • Andalou Naturals, All-in-One Beauty Balm, Sheer Tint, SPF 30
  • Badger Damascus Rose Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
  • Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • CyberDERM Every Morning Sun Whip, SPF 25
  • Goddess Garden Organics Face the Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer, SPF 30
  • Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose-Solar Healing Facial Cream, SPF 30
  • Suntegrity Skincare 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, SPF 30 (5)

Most Toxic Sunscreens to Avoid

Now that you have this list, you can bask in the sun without worry! Happy first official day of summer and International Yoga Day!