Latest Posts

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.

IMG_1412

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.

IMG_1418

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!  

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

When Dairy-Free Milk Wreaks Havoc on Your Gut

Many people switch to nut milk in pursuit of healthier options, completely unaware of some companies using ingredients that are highly inflammatory for your intestinal tract and harmful to your gut microbes.

It seems like everyday, more people are ditching cow’s milk and switching to healthier options, like nut milk. With increased demand comes increased supply, so many mainstream food brands are now marketing nut milk of every variety. Many people switch to nut milk in pursuit of healthier options, completely unaware of some companies using ingredients that are highly inflammatory for your intestinal tract and harmful to your gut microbes.This should be a good thing…but it’s not. While you’d might think consumers should be able to waltz into any grocery store and not have to worry about what the hell is in our food, that world just doesn’t exist anymore. The food industry is a massive business and, like many other businesses, it’s more concerned with product sale than people’s health.  The simple truth is not all dairy-free milks are created equal, but there’s something you can do about it.

GET CHOOSY: NOT ALL INGREDIENTS ARE CREATED EQUAL:

The fact that we can’t count on the food industry to provide 100% healthy ingredients in our food literally spins me into Rage Monster mode. I used to blindly assume larger companies put their products through higher standards of testing, packaging, and producing. Guess what, Buttercup? There’s a long list of harmful ingredients that have the green-light go from the FDA. While these ingredients are massively damaging to your body, they make production of food cheaper and easier.  So how do you make sure your dairy free milk isn’t doing a number on your gut microbes? Here are a few steps to follow:

PLAY DETECTIVE: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR NUT MILK

1. Organic vs. nonorganic: it’s a no brainer these days that organic is best. The reason isn’t just so we can avoid crazy chemicals and other horrible things that end up in our food. Organic soil tends to have a significantly higher percent of minerals and nutrients that end up in our food.

2. Water quality: Don’t even get me started on city tap water. It’s so vile, I can practically taste the hundred year old pipes and other gross things you know have just seeped right into the water. Most companies are not making their nut milk in the pristine hills of Wyoming, so unless your brand of nut milk specifies using filtered water, you can assume it’s vile city tap water. Nut milks are predominantly of water, so choose a brand that uses filtered water. If you make your own but milk, definitely avoid tap water.

Oh, and here’s a completely random side tip: use filtered water for your coffee and it will taste magical. A barista told me the secret to a great cuppa joe (under duress, of course. Those barista’s guard their coffee secrets like a dragon sitting on gold).

3. Free of sweeteners and sugar: an appalling amount of dairy free products use massive amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. While most of us might not want to cut sugar out from our diet entirely, we can certainly be savvy about when we consume it and how much we put in our bodies.

AVOIDANCE IS SOMETIMES A GOOD COPING METHOD:

Some of the ingredients in nut milk that will do a number on your gut health. And since we all know now that gut health > everything, it’s crucial to find nut milk free of the following:

1. Soy anything, (including soy milk) unless it’s specifically GMO free. Even if it is, be aware that soy products can increase estrogen in both men and women.

2. Gum: avoid gummy ingredients like that crazy ex you had back in college. I mean, throw that carton back on the shelf and turn tale and RUN. But do it subtly so the people at Whole Foods won’t think you’re a lunatic.

3. Xantham Gum, Locust Bean Gum, or Gellan Gum: these ingredients  are used as thickeners, and they can drastically alter your gut’s health. Not ALL gum is bad for you though, as studies have shown ones like Organic Guar Guam doesn’t seem to harm the body.

4. Carrageenan: this ingredient is sneaky and gets by a lot of health savvy people, because it’s “natural.” It comes from a red algae plant, and it’s is used to thicken nut milks. Here’s the bad news: carrageenan is not only highly indigestible, but it’s a known carcinogen. Carrageenan also wreak havoc on the body by creating ulcerations and inflammation of the intestinal tract. I mean, honestly people, what’s a girl gotta do to get a decent cup o’ nut milk?!

HEALTHY OPTIONS:

Don’t worry, I won’t throw all that cancer/inflammation talk at you and then leave you stranded. There are two options for ensuring your nut milk is healthy AF:

1. Make your own: this is surprisingly easy and homemade nut milk tastes like…well, the milk of the gods. I don’t know. It tastes magical, that’s what I’m getting at. Try my favorite recipe and see for yourself.

2. Choose a reliable brand:

  • Forager Project
  • Silk
  • Califia Farms
  • So Delicious (NOTE: not all of SD’s products are carrageenan-free, but they are actively working on removing this ingredient from all their products. Read labels to be sure. At the time of this post, their desserts still contain carrageenan.)

While it can be frustrating that not all food brands are reliable, it is also empowering to know we have a choice about what we put in our bodies. Stay savvy and be smart about what you purchase. You only have one body, so treat it right.

(Best Ever) Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve had a lot of chicken noodle soup in my day, and I do believe nothing cures the common cold except a big bowl of hot soup. That was before I went vegetarian, of course, but I still make it for the carnivorous people I heart. My husband is about 80% vegetarian, and what meat he does eat is usually more in the style of Asian cuisine, where the meat is an accent–not the main dish. Whenever he gets sick, he always special requests my chicken noodle soup.

I love cooking up a big batch of this soup whenever I make it. It smells soooo good, and it takes me back to so many happy childhood memories. To me, childhood smells like coming in from a snowy day and finding a big pot of chicken noodle soup simmering away on the stove. My mom is pretty awesome, for sure. Except she refused to let my sister and I eat Captain Crunch, which I think is ethically questionable and highly cruel. Aaaaaanyway.

I can’t take credit for the recipe though: it’s my mom’s and it’s fail-proof. It’s also southern as a belle, and like all great southern recipes, it takes time to cook. The prep time is a breeze, so you can either throw this in a crock pot or set it on the stovetop and let it have a nice, long simmer. Also, my mother believes love is the secret ingredient to all southern dishes…who am I to argue with that? All this time, I thought it was butter. It really is butter, isn’t it? Just ask Paula Dean.

I adjusted my mother’s recipe to make it gluten-free and a bit healthier, but obviously I kept the main ingredient in there;) No wonder my husband loves eating a bowl o’ chicken noodle soup when he’s feeling under the weather!


SERVES: 4 (I double this recipe though and makes a large stockpot full of soup)

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME 3-4 hours simmering on cooktop


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2-3 bags of baby carrots
  • 2 celery ribs cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed chicken—> season and sear for most flavor
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 ounces dried wide egg noodles
  • 2-3 TBS Organic Better Than Bouillon chicken (MSG/GF)
CHICKEN STOCK
  • 1 whole free-range chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), rinsed, giblets discarded
  • 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
  • 2 large white onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 1 turnip, halved
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

METHOD

Lightly sauté your diced carrots, onions, and celery with your garlic. This really opens the vegetables and brings out the flavors in the soup. It makes a world of difference, I swear. You’re goal isn’t to pre-cook the veggies, just enhance the flavor profile, so it only take a couple of moments. Likewise, I like to season and sear my chicken, but this is optional. A nice, slow cook will ensure really delicious, tender meat no matter what.

Pour in the pre-made chicken stock (I use bone broth for mine), and toss in all other ingredients except the noodles. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and let it simmer for about 3-4 hours, or until baby carrots are soft. Trust me, don’t rush the timing. A slow (torturous wait for sure) cook really lets all the flavors marinate and every spoonful will be layered with rich, scrumptious flavors.

TIP: sauté the ingredients and then throw everything in a crockpot (exceeeeeept the noodles) and cook

The noodles: GF noodles turn to horrible, terrible, no good very bad mush if cooked for too long. They’re the delicate, temperamental orchids of the noodle family, that’s for darn certain. They also soak up liquids, so prepare according to the package instructions, and then add them individually to each bowl you serve.

TIP—> The key to gluten free noodles is do not overcook them. Most types of GF noodles cook in about 4 minutes using a gentle, rolling boil. I find the best way to get a true al dente texture is to soak them in very hot water for about 20-25 minutes in the style of many Asian dishes.

Even though this isn’t an insta-ready recipe, it’s actually crazy-easy to make. Best of all, it makes for delicious left-overs, because it only gets better the next day, which is why I usually make a big pot of soup. You  can add whatever veggies your heart desires: my mom sometimes adds potatoes (because what goes better with love than a little starch?), and I always pile on the carrots because that’s my favorite part of the soup. Obviously this isn’t a vegetarian recipe, but I do like getting a bowl of the broth, noodles and veggies. I top the soup with some fresh basil and other herbs like cilantro, because I love sneaking in fresh greens however I can:)

And that’s it! The best ever gluten free chicken noodle soup, made with minimum effort and a lotta love!


 

Nutrient-Dense Delicious Pho Recipe

The only good things about winter are snowboarding, snow, hot chocolate and soup. In no particular order. Everything else is just meh.

Ok, ok, those aren’t the only good things. Some people hate on winter (like the Starks a la Game of Thrones…I’m still weeping over Ned Stark. Oh, and Rob Stark. And Catelyn Stark…basically, all the Starks and the long list of characters which fell prey to the GOT bloodbath), but I actually love all the seasons. I’m a hippie at heart, and each season brings with it some amazing outdoor playtime. D.C. winters are pretty mild (now that I’ve written that, the weather gods are probably going to send a raging snowpocalypse on the DMV area), but my husband Samuel and I get our fill of winter, because we usually go skiing at least two or three times a month to some of the surrounding resorts in-between our trips to Colorado. We love the snow so much, we would build an igloo and camp out if we could.

I’m probably going to be featuring non-stop soup recipes since 1) I live on a steady diet of soup and wine in the winter (the Wine Diet is year round, let’s be real) and 2) my sweet husband was hit by a pretty bad cold this week, so  I made him homemade chicken noodle soup (I’ll feature the recipe later this week or next). I always use the leftover bones of the chicken to make a big batch of bone broth, because the health benefits are cray.  


I made this authentic pho recipe with beef bone broth, which is NOT vegan or vegetarian. If you don’t want to use bone broth, sub homemade vegetable stock instead. I personally make an exception on this, because bone broth is so beneficial for autoimmune diseases.

What are the health benefits of bone broth?

Bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contains healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. The collagen in bone broth heals your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation. Beyond that, here’s what research shows:

1. Immune support.

This is huge for me, because I’ve been able to control my Lupus through natural measures for years. I personally feel a difference when I consume bone broth and take tumeric daily. Why does bone broth boost the immune system? Due to the high concentration of minerals, bone broth is a “superfood.” A Harvard study even showed that people with auto-immune disorders experienced a relief of symptoms when drinking bone broth, and some achieved complete remission. 

2. Protect your joints.

This is a big winner for athletes and people with autoimmune diseases. My husband and I are pretty extreme athletes: we ski, snowboard, do HIIT classes and other intense workout training, run…I mean, these things are great, but they can be inflammatory for the body. Taking glucosamine supplements to help with joint pain has been common knowledge for years, but it turns out that bone broth has glucosamine too. Bone broth is so beneficial, it’s a diet requirement for the LA Lakers.  So why broth and not pills? The broth  includes a host of other benefits that help keep your joints happy, healthy, and pain-free. The chondroitin sulfate in bone broth has been shown to help prevent osteoarthritis.

3. Heal and seal your gut:

According to Jill Grunewald, a holistic nutrition coach and founder of Healthful Elements, a cup a day works miracles for leaky gut syndrome but it’s also good for protecting non-leaky guts. The gelatin in the bone broth helps seal up holes in intestines. This helps cure chronic diarrhea, constipation, and even some food intolerances like Celiac and Crohn’s disease.

4. Look younger:

PRAISE BABY JESUS. I’m down! Bone broth is a rich source of collagen. You can find collagen in all kinds of “plumping” products these days. Drinking it is not only cheaper, but it can make your hair and nails look just as radiant as your skin.

5. Stronger bones:

The phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in the bones seeps out into the broth and gives your body the building blocks for healthy bones.

6. Sleep better, function at a sharper level:

The glycine in bone broth has been shown in several studies to help people sleep better and improve memory.

There are a slew of other benefits, but those are some of my favorite. Anyway, my dear friend from Vietnam taught me this authentic recipe, and she shared the tricks of the trade to really nail it. Did you know pho is actually a breakfast food? True story. It’s so delicious, I could eat it morning, noon, or night.

img_8846

 


SERVES: 6+

PREP TIME: 15 minutes (if using pre-made bone broth)

COOK TIME: 10-15 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 quarts of bone broth or vegetable broth (homemade or bought ready-made)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1/4 cup of fish sauce (leave out if going vegan route)
  • 1 to 2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh “banh pho” or rice noodles (these are gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 6 star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 black cardamom pod (see note below)
  • 1-inch piece yellow rock sugar OR dried coconut sugar

 

OPTIONAL: 1/2 pound raw eye of round or sirloin steak, thinly sliced across the grain. It’s traditional to add to bowl raw, and to pour hot broth over it, which cooks it. I don’t eat meat, so I can’t really testify to how this portion tastes. 

FOR THE TABLE

  • Sprigs of fresh mint and/or Asian/Thai basil
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro
  • Thinly sliced red chilies (such as Thai bird)
  • Lime wedges
  • Hoisin sauce

METHOD:

  1. If you are using dried noodles, add noodles to a bowl then cover with hot water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and opaque. If you are using fresh, add to a colander then rinse with cold water
  2. While noodles soak, move an oven rack to a high position then turn broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place quartered onions and halved ginger onto baking sheet then broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning onions and ginger occasionally so that they become charred or browned on all sides. You can also sauté them, which is faster and does the same thing. TIP: An added bonus: you can throw in a dab of butter and lightly sauté your rice noodles afterwards to give them maximum flavor in the soup. 
  3. Add cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves and the black cardamom pod to a dry frying pan. Place onto low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant. About 5 minutes. Place toasted spices into a cotton muslin bag/herb sachet or cheesecloth then tie with butchers twine to seal.
  4. Pour bone broth into stockpot and bring boil. Add charred onion and ginger as well as the bag or sachet of toasted spices, then bring to a simmer. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, a 1/4 cup of fish sauce and the rock sugar. Continue to simmer broth, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Pour broth over noodles (and beef, if used), top with fresh basil, bean sprouts, etc. and serve.

Note: The secret to great pho is two parts: a delicious stock, and charring the onions/toasting the spices. This really enhances the flavor profile of the soup.


After you’ve made this soup a few times, it’s easy to prep and serve within 15 minutes if you multi-task. Making your own bone broth takes TIME. And I mean several hours worth of it. It’s not difficult to make, however, and you aren’t tied to your stovetop like you’d expect. Most grocery stores and markets sell ready-made bone broth, or you can even buy it on Amazon.com. The online prices range from inexpensive to very pricy, so I’d encourage you to do a little research about whichever brand you select.

If you love soup as much as I do, I definitely recommend this recipe. It’s light, delicious, and it absolutely hits the spot.

img_8849

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese Two Ways

I don’t know about where you live, but the weather is moody AF here in Washington, D.C. What’s up, mama nature?! While I tend to prefer meals that are heavily plant-based, sometime life calls for some good old Southern comfort food.

My mom has a collection of the best southern dishes, and while they taste ah-maaaazing, they certainly aren’t healthy. The good news is just about any recipe can be modified to fit your dietary needs.

I adjusted my mom’s mac & cheese recipe two ways: 1) gluten free noodles using organic milk and cheese, 2) vegan using creamy cashew sauce

Both of them tasted so delicious, I almost forgot we’re in the clutches of winter. Almost. But not quite.

img_8834

{“macroEnabled”:false,”qualityMode”:3,”deviceTilt”:-0.2885278026249747,”customExposureMode”:0,”extendedExposure”:false,”whiteBalanceProgram”:0,”focusMode”:0}

MAC & SMOKED GOUDA CHEESE 

_________________________________________________________________

SERVES: 6

PREP TIME: 10-15 minutes

COOK TIME: 35-40 


INGREDIENTS:

4 cups dried GF macaroni
1 whole egg
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups ORGANIC whole milk
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
1 pound Gouda cheese, grated (not pre-grated cheese)
Seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Salt water and bring to a boil. Add GF noodles and cook per instructions. If you have trouble with soggy noodles, try boiling the water and taking off heat, soaking the noodles till they’re soft. Drain and set aside.
  3. Make the white sauce: melt butter over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick. Put macaroni in large casserole dish, and pour sauce over macaroni. Stir well.
  4. Grate the cheese into the white sauce and stir till it melts in.
  5.  Mix in noodles and stir till their thoroughly coated, then add to a casserole dish.
  6. Put in oven and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until top gets golden brown.

TIPS: Try different cheeses, or mix several cheeses. For non-vegetarians, bacon pairs gloriously with smoked gouda (what the heck, bacon pairs beautifully with LIFE…how I miss you bacon) and pepper-jack cheese. Want your mac to have an extra kick? Add jalapeno peppers. More texture? Top with breadcrumbs for a bit of a crunch. Play around with the ingredients.


VEGAN MAC & CHEESE:

I know, I know. It seems like an contradiction of terms to include vegan and cheese in the same sentence. I always like to be quite clear that under no conditions do certain vegan substitutes “taste just like the real thing.” What a good vegan recipe will do for you though, is give you a really satisfying substitute so you won’t even miss the alternative. This one fits the bill for me.


SERVES: 4-6

PREP TIME: 10 minutes

COOK TIME: 10-15 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 ounces dried GF macaroni (or about 2⅔ cups)
  • 1 cup peeled/diced yellow potatoes (or russets)
  • ¼ cup peeled/diced carrots
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup water (preferably use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 pinch paprika

METHOD:
  1. Cook macaroni according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  2. Bring several cups of water to boil in a small pot. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, and onion in the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft enough to blend. Cooking time will vary slightly, based on how small you have chopped your veggies.
  3. When veggies are soft, use a slotted spoon to remove them from cooking water, and place them in your blender. Add ¾ cup of that cooking water to your blender, along with your remaining ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour sauce over your cooked macaroni noodles in a casserole dish mixture, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until crumbs are turning golden brown.

TIP: I personally found using GF noodles AND zero cheese was just a little too much…ah, faux mac & cheese tasting for my liking. I used GF in my recipe, and found I liked it better.

img_8835
 Want to know how to make a killer white sauce? Check out Gordan Ramsay, my all time favorite oh-so-bad-tempered chef, whip up a quick sauce:

 

Ditch the Sugar, Lose the Weight

 

Pour some sugar on me…


But not on my food. No way, no ma’am, no thank you. I not-so-secretly adore sugary things. Actually, I love salty foods. Fatty foods. Fried foods. If it is dyed an obnoxious color, I’ll probably like that too. (Those chewy Swedish fish make my day. Some part of my brain knows it’s not a real food, that fish are neither chewy nor bright red nor sweet, but I become 100% committed to devouring the entire box the second they’re in my hands.) I use so much salt on my food, it looks like a literal snow blizzard has descended upon my plate. But out of all my vices, I think my sweet tooth is the worst. Scratch that, it’s not a sweet tooth, but teeth. Like, a mouth full of ’em. I’m pretty sure my body is out to get me.

When science is finally confessing sugar is silently killing us and likens it to a hyper addictive drug, what’s a girl to do? Find ways to cut sugar out for good, that’s what. But hoooooooow!!!! Aside from the obvious answer (just DON’T do it), I’m sharing my own bullet-proof tips that help my own health endeavors.

Note: I’d like to add I’m personally against the idea of never eating anything with sugar. Life is about balance, and if you eat the occasional Cadbury egg (ahem, guilty), no big deal. Just make sure you stick with a clean diet for the long run.

Most people don’t mind admitting sugar is bad for us. But the real truth is that it’s deadly—and it’s also addictive.

1. Your brain processes sugar  (and junk food) the same way as cocaine, heroin and morphine. And yes…it wants more. A lot more.

Ok, let’s be frank: if it’s a matter of sugar vs. cocaine, obviously sugar is the much, much lesser of two evils. Science is finally admitting sugar and processed foods have a devastating impact on the body. Hard drugs will wreck the body quickly, but sugar is a slow and silent killer to all our major organs. UGH. Whyyyyyy? I love it so. I mean, Captain Crunch Berries is to die for. But there’s a reason my body has been tricked into adoring sugary things: when we eat sugar, our brains release a flood dopamine. Our bodies interpret this as the feeling of “pleasure,” or being high, and our brains reprogram to want more. And more. And more. And guess what, kids, sugar is in everything. This is why highly processed, sugar-laden foods often cause people lose control over their consumption and find themselves in a cycle of eating more and more sugary/processed foods. Oh, and want some more bad news? Our tolerance builds just like with any other drug.

Imaging studies have shown sugar/processed foods lights up the same parts of the brain lights as drugs.

How crazy is that?! Functional MRI (fMRI) scanners show the same brain regions are activated in response to cues and cravings for both junk foods and drugs.

Read More: How Sugar Hijacks Your Brain and Makes You Addicted

2. Sugar Creates Powerful Cravings

Oh my god. I don’t know about you, but I have zero will-power against cravings.  Did you know the vast majority of our cravings are self-induced—or I should say, shelf induced? The processed, refined foods we eat aren’t natural and don’t provide nutrients. They fill us up with calories, but leave the body hunting for real food.

Our body works really hard to make sure we’re never too hot, too cold, too hungry, too full, but always just right.The body has an awesome system to achieve homeostasis–or perpetual “just right” Goldie Locks syndrome. We go out on a summer day, the body starts sweating to help us cool off. We don’t drink enough water and the body signals the thirst mechanism.

If your body is desperate for certain nutrients, it lets you know by kicking in the cravings. But those cravings for soda, chips, chocolate etc? Not so normal. They have zero nutritional value, so your body doesn’t recognize them as useful or fuel. People often get those cravings despite having just finished a fulfilling, nutritious meal. This is because cravings are not about satisfying your body’s need for energy, instead it is your brain calling for “reward.”

SO HOW DO WE KICK SUGAR TO THE CURB?

1. Snack on a few medjool dates:

I’m not kidding when I say the instant I eat one or two of these food gems, my energy level is up and my cravings are gone. Why? Dates are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber and amino acids, and contain minerals like copper, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium phosphorous, and iron, as well as B vitamins (especially B6), vitamin K, and vitamin A. While they aren’t “low calorie”, they are a mega-high wattage form of healthy fuel for the body. They also help curb symptoms of depression. We need to shift our thinking away from “low calorie/low fat” to “high fuel quality/high nutrients.” And dates definitely fall into that category.

As with all fruit, don’t go cray-cray and consume massive amounts of this little gem. Dates contain healthy sugar, but you don’t want to go overboard. Studies show you can safely eat up to three or four large dates a day without raising blood sugar levels.

Read more: Surprising Benefits of Dates

2. Drink a green smoothie every day:

This is pretty much my answer to life, marriage, love, liberty, politics (Trump definitely needs to drink a green smoothie), health, fitness…I mean EVERYTHING. It’s like NOS fuel for your mind and body, and if you’re charged up with good nutrients, you’ll be less tempted to go after those sugary foods. Make sure your body is getting its nutrients, so you won’t misinterpret your cravings as a need for junk food.

3. Get enough sleep:

I am so jealous of people that can pass out like a narcoleptic. Sleeping is an under-rating skill set, and if you have the ability to trot off to sleep like Winkin-Blinkin-and Nod, you should put it on your resume. I myself am a total insomniac. And a night owl. I literally love love love staying up into the wee hours of the morning, and get a burst of manic creativity from 1200-4am. It’s like I’m a crazed NYC artist living in the 60’s, but instead of doing anything artsy or productive, I end up pining like a million things on my Pinterest board. By proxy, I feel very, very productive from all the things I’ve pinned of other people’s projects. I’m convinced my booty is more toned from all the exercises I’ve pinned and plan on doing.

Anyway, my horrible, no good, very bad sleep cycle can lead to me reaching for something not-so-healthy to eat.When I’m tired, I’m a lot more tempted to grab something easy that gives me an insta-faux energy boost. For my own health’s sake, I force myself to go to bed before midnight and wake up around 6am everyday. And by force, I mean, literally under duress. IT’S SO PAINFUL. To wake up, it takes about 20 alarms and my husband gently but persistently resurrecting me from the dead. Samuel  wakes up at 5am everyday without even flinching, and he only uses ONE alarm (IT’S NOT A COMPETITION, GOSH DARNIT, SAMUEL), because he’s so naturally productive he doesn’t even need a Pinterest board. In the interest of full disclosure, I only get out of bed because he goes out and gets me a coffee err’y day. I know. So precious. Isn’t he sweet? Least you think he’s the better spouse entirely, you should know I (mooooost of the time) do eventually wake up and make him a green smoothie and cold pressed juice after drinking said coffee, so I likewise give myself Good Spousemanship points.

4.  Be open to explore the emotional issues around your sugar addiction.

Many times our craving for sugar is because we’re covering an emotional need that isn’t being met. I personally can be an emotional eater. Food is comforting, and within balance, that can be a good thing. In a strange way, our diet often mirrors the chaos or lack of self-love in our own lives. I’m not sure why this is, I just know that it often is the case. So if you find yourself in a cycle of turning to junk food, maybe ask yourself where you can give a little more love and grace to yourself and those around you. Be kind to yourself, and your diet will likewise follow suit. It’s a weird life hack.

5. Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar.

Study after study shows artificial sweeteners are apparently the devil in disguise. I mean, maybe not literally, but then again…

So here’s the cliff notes version of about a billion studies: if you use artificial sweeteners, you save yourself some calories, but your body freaks out at the empty non-calories and desperately seeks to make up for them. People who use artificial sweeteners average an extra 200-500 calories a day from aimless snacking and grazing, because these sweeteners seem to mess up the body’s ability to feel satiated and full. Also, Splenda wipes out the good bacteria in your intestines, which, don’t even get me started about. But you can read my thoughts of the need for probiotics here and here. Also, your body isn’t fooled into thinking you just gave it a treat if you eat something with artificial sweetener. Your hormones will make you hunt down carbs until it gets what it truly thinks it’s missing: sugar.

If you are like me and need about a thousand teaspoons of sugar in your tea and coffee, try natural sweeteners or stevia.

 

6. Drink water. Soooooo much water:

We’re a bunch of dehydrated people walking around in some shriveled up husks, let me tell you. Instead of drinking water though, we often reach for a snack. Why? Because dehydration actually does kick in real craving mechanisms of the body. Your homeostasis doesn’t appreciate running on meager portion of water, and signal the thirst mechanism to switch on. Most people interpret this feeling as being hungry or tired. So, before you take a nap (OH EM GEE, naps are my favorite. My fat cat and I try to schedule one in every day), or go for a candy bar, try drinking a large glass of water and waiting about 15 minutes for your body to soak up the benefits.

 

 

 

 

Review: Best Yoga Books (for yoga addicts like you)

I collect two things in life: books and music. And according to my bank account, I apparently go a little overboard with my obsession for both. I am unrepentant.

I am without question a book fanatic/literarazzi/reader-of-all-the-things. I don’t know about you, but any location that houses books in a happy place: libraries, used bookstores, Barnes and Noble, that random pop up store down the street, etc etc etc. I’m not kidding when I say I read at least a book or two a week. I will happily turn down social engagements to snuggle up with a my fat cat and a book. HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH—called my sofaaaaaaaa.

Anyway, now that we all know the real reason I’m sometimes a terrible friend (those books aren’t gonna read themselves, people), I wanted to share with you several that I’ve found really beneficial to my yoga practice. Inspirational and philosophical books are pretty easy to come across, but books with a technical focus are often difficult to find. I’ve curated several gems along the way, and they’ve made a huge difference in my practice. While it might seem counter intuitive to read how to do an asana, weirdly, it absolutely locks the “how to” in place during your practice.

THE MOVES:

2100 Asanas by Daniel Lacerada

This massive reference book is a yoga dream come true. Pros: It’s the most complete collection of yoga asanas, and literally shows you every variation of each pose. The gorgeous, minimal photography only makes the book that much better.

The book is organized into eight major types of poses-standing, seated, core, quadruped, backbends, inversions, prone, and supine-and further broken down by families of poses that progress from easiest to more challenging. Every pose is accompanied by the name of the pose in English and Sanskrit, a description of the modification, the Drishti point (eye gaze), the chakras affected and its benefits.

Cons: this book won’t teach you how to get in and out of poses, but the simple solution is to look up the asana of your choice on youtube. I use this as my reference book, or my “yoga thesaurus.”

The Yoga Bible: by Christina Brown

Pros: this book is an excellent reference for all yoga styles. Hear something confusing in class, like “pranayama” and think WTF? Well, now you can look it up.

Cons: it’s a little bit of everything, so don’t expect to dive deep or get thorough explanations of anything.

 

The Power of Ashtanga by Kino MacGregor

This book by my own teacher Kino MacGregor is without a doubt one of the best books on learning yoga that I’ve come across. The wealth of advice, clear explanations, and practical tips from Kino is almost like sitting down and chatting with her about the process of learning ashtanga.

Pros: this book contains a detailed, organized explanations for each pose in the primary series, accompanied by a picture to show you the asana. It was easy to translate the written explanation to my physical practice. Best of all, Kino makes her accompanying YouTube instructional videos readily accessible (and free), so it’s a built in supplement to the book and visa versa. Kino also explains the yoga philosophy in such an amazing, accessible manner.

Cons: Kino is one of the most advanced Ashtangis in the world. She makes it look easy, and she lets you know up front that it’s not. Moves that appear simple can be deceptively challenging. The book also only explores the Ashtanga practice, so you’ll learn the primary sequence. This is the core foundation for almost all styles of yoga though, so I still HIGHLY recommend it.

Power of Yoga II by Kino MacGregor

Same points as above, only this book focuses on the secondary series. It’s good for intermediate to advanced yoga practitioners of the vinyassa, power, and Ashtanga practice.  The book contains a range of inversions and backbends, so it’s a great book for those power yogis and inversion lovers out there. Definitely check out accompanying asana instructions of Kino’s YouTube channel.

 

The Complete Guide to Yoga Inversions by Jennifer DeCurtins

Pros: Her tips are spot on and beneficial, especially for people who learn best by seeing something in print verses hearing it from an instructor. I also like that there’s an option for spiral bound book. As with all complicated yoga moves, I suggest taking a work shop, private lessons, or stalking YouTube. Kino has the best videos I’ve ever come across, although I also like SarahBeth’s yoga channel and Celest Pereira’s channel to learn specific asanas.

Cons: Sorry, the only way to nail inversions is to do strength drills. Reading this book or any other just won’t get you there. However, you can be as strong as an ox, but if you don’t know how to align your body, you’ll be stuck on the ground.

Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses by Dharma Mittra

Pros: Dharma Mittra is one of the most amazing living gurus of all time. His life, philosophy, and beautiful approach to compassion is nothing short of inspiring. I’ve attended several of his workshops in DC, and he swept everyone away with his incredible spirit. Having said that, this book is an amazing resource for Hatha yoga. Setting up a camera in his New York City studio, Dharma Mittra photographed himself in 908 yoga postures, sometimes snapping the picture by holding the trigger between his teeth. As such, the pictures aren’t the most amazing quality but elegant nonetheless.

Cons: it does feel a little bit vintage. Also, Dharma Mittra is wearing the traditional yogi-loincloth, which some people find awkward to see 608 times in 608 poses.

How to Use Yoga: A Step by Step Guide to the Iyengar Method by Mera Mehta

(Also see B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: the Path to Holistic Health below)

Pros: A practical yoga course, with step-by-step photographic guidance, written by one of the leading exponents of the Iyengar method of yoga. The book also includes a section on postures helpful for common problems, such as headaches, stiffness, pain in the shoulders and backache.

Cons: It’s difficult to conceptualize the unique flow of Iyengar through a book alone, so hunt down some teachers on YouTube, or get a DVD.

B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: the Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Iyengar

Pros: B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health covers the complete teachings of BKS Iyengar for mind, body, and health, and is suitable for every level of yoga ability, age, and physical condition. It’s fully illustrated throughout with unique 360-degree views of classic Iyengar asanas, and includes a 20-week course introducing beginners to the most widely practiced form of yoga in the world, specially developed sequences to help alleviate more than 80 common ailments, and all classic asanas illustrated and supervised by B.K.S. Iyengar himself. You can also readily find examples on youtube, which makes it even easier to learn.

Cons: if you’re an vinyassa or power yogini like myself, the slow and precise style of Iyengar yoga will drive you bonkers. BUT it’s probably exactly what you need to prevent energy and build a better meditative practice. It’s a beautiful balance to the fire of power yoga, and frankly, way more therapeutic for your body.

THE INSPIRING MEMOIRS:

Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen is an enjoyable read that’s part philosophy, memoir, and yoga advice. Rachel writes with an approachable, enjoyable voice.

Perfectly Imperfect by Baron Baptiste and his original book Journey into Power are two staples of the power yoga movement. I mean, the cover is cheesy AF, but the content is good stuff. I just feel like if I open Journey into Power, and 80’s rock ballade is gonna leap out and grab me.

Sacred Fire: My Journey into the Ashtanga Practice by Kino MacGregor is not stop inspo for the truly dedicated yogini who is not just “doing yoga,” but training and diving in deep.

Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom by B.K.S. Iyengar gives you a chance to learn from one of the greatest gurus of yoga even though he’s passed on. It’s a great resource.

THE PHILOSOPHICAL CLASSICS 

Not familiar with some of the classics, but want to dig in deeper? Here are a few that are staples of the practice:

  • The Heart of Yoga by Desikachar
  • Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with translation and commentary by Swami Satchitananda
  • Bhagavad Gita; the original Sanskrit text with English translation by Christopher Isherwood (2002) Side Note: I’m in the category of yoga practitioners who just really aren’t really into this book. It’s a classic, and usually a required read for every teaching course. It’s worth trying if you like philosophy, but it just wasn’t a book that resonated with me personally. The spiritual take aways certainly do, but I like my yoga without a side of too many confusing gods.
  • Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
  • Yoga Mala: the Original Teachings of Ashtanga by Patabi Jois

Books—lovely, wonderful books! Although I think the intellectual and philosophical side of yoga is an essential part of the practice, when it comes to all areas in life, the way we learn is by doing. Inimitable guru Pattabi Jois is remembered for saying, “Practice, and all is coming.”

The best teacher is experience, and nothing teaches us peace, fortitude, compassion and grace quite like yoga.

Any other yoga books you enjoy? Feel free to let me know! Much love!

Surprising Health Benefits of Probiotics (and how to take them)

Happy New Year! Praise baby Jesus, 2016 is over.

…Damn, 2016. You were vicious! Don’t even get me started on all the celebrities we lost, because we lost our humanity for a hot minute and I think that’s a bigger deal. It was like a poop cloud of negativity hung over the entire year in the form of politics, social media, and the news (ok, and celebrity deaths). Most of the time, I felt like I was a very reluctant extra in a HORRIBLE episode of North & South. On a personal level, it was actually a good year for me and my husband. DESPITE the presidential debates, we can’t complain (#DodgedThe2016Bullet), but man, our hearts have been breaking for so many dear friends and even strangers who are hurting from last year.

Here’s all I have to say about the Wretchedness Which Was 2016: whatever  personal opinions and views we value, let’s make sure we value people as well. I hope 2017 is marked by our kindness and desire to unite with one another instead of attack view points that our different from our own. I hope our resolution this year is to live an authentic life with compassion and love, never compromising core beliefs, but living out what we believe with grace.

So, now that we got that little bit out of the way, let’s talk about one of my personal obsessions: PROBIOTICS. Yaaaaaas, boo. Just what you need for you’re new year. Right? Actually, you do. For real. Scout’s honor.

I’m sure you’ve already heard about the glorious benefits of probiotics (there are literally dozens and dozens), but I want to hit on several points that many people aren’t aware of quite yet. Knowing how to take them and what to look for is just as important as knowing why you should add probiotics to your daily routine, so we’ll chat about that, too.

SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS (or: Probiotics ARE LITERALLY MAGIC)

INCREASED ENERGY

• We are a really, really tired society of people. I mean, SO. TIRED. Diet has a huge role in the quality of our sleep cycles and our energy levels, and so do probiotics.

80% of your body’s energy goes to digesting food, which is why you feel sleepy after a huge meal. Meat is incredibly tough for the body to digest, because we lack the necessary enzyme that carnivorous animals have to break down that meat. The diet we tend to gravitated towards as Americans isn’t a whole foods diet, and the combination of excess meat, GMO “foods”, refined sugars etc., have really messed with out digestive track. Probiotics aid in digestion, and in turn, give you a mega energy boost. If you’re suffering from chronic fatigue, try switching up your diet to a more plant based diet with a side of probiotics. I personally noticed a huuuuuge (yuge? too soon? For me it is) difference.

PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS

One of the biggest tragedies of our SAD (Standard American Diet) is that it wrecks our bodies in almost every way—and our outward weight reflects that inward turmoil of our bodies. There are numerous issues that contribute to weight gain/loss, but I know far too many people who constantly have to diet and live in a cycle of deprivation because they can’t lose the weight. Food cravings are usually a huge sabotage to our weight loss/maintenance programs. A balanced gut absorbs nutrients better, which in turn helps regulate appetite as well as burn stubborn belly fat.

COMBATS DEPRESSION

The gut has a huge part in mood regulation and serotonin production and loss. Scientists even consider the gut to be the “second brain.” This is incredibly long and in depth, and I’ve nerded out on a ton of articles and medical journals relating to this topic, because it’s SO fascinating. Essentially, serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter found in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets, and the central nervous system. Many antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs alter serotonin levels, which stabilizes the patient’s mood. A healthy gut does much the same thing, only naturally. I want to be clear: antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds exist for a reason–a life saving reason, in fact. Never, ever, abruptly quit, and ween your meds ONLY with the guidance of a doctor. I’m not saying that to in a token kind of way; I’m saying that because those are powerful medications that give many, many people the extra strength they need to health and thrive. I personally prefer holistic treatments, but I fully support anything that enhances our mental well-being. Thank God for modern medicine and good counselors.

IMPROVED IMMUNE SYSTEM

60-80% of the immune system is located in the gut. Blame your cold on that pizza you ate last night, because apparently, the gut is a bigger deal than we realized. Have you ever noticed a correlation with eating horrific foods/drinking too much over a weekend, only to wind up sick on Monday? I think if we’re all being reeeeeally honest, we know we often abuse our digestive system. When I sit down to eat, I don’t naturally think, “How will this impact my gut health?” I mean, if we’re being perfectly real here, I rarely think that. THe good news is we can protect our health just by following a plant based diet and taking a probiotic.

BUT HOW DO I TAKE THEM? 

So yay, we’ve decided to take probiotics: now what? Cue deer in headlight look. Choosing the right probiotic is a little overwhelming, let’s be honest.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PROBIOTIC:

1. Numerous strains of bacteria:

Research shows it’s not the total number of bacteria in a product that is most important; it’s the number of different strains of bacteria it includes.

The best probiotic supplements will include at least these three most important strains:

  • L. acidophilus—This is the most important strain of the Lactobacillus species and, it readily colonizes on the walls of the small intestine. It supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods.
  • B. longum—Like L. acidophilus, B. Longum is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall. It is particularly active as a scavenger of toxins.
  • B. bifidum—This strain, found in both the small and large intestine, is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products. This is especially important as you grow older and your natural ability to digest dairy declines. B. bifidum also is important for its ability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.

Secondarily:

  • L. rhamnosus—Known as the premier “travel probiotic,” this strain can help prevent occasional traveler’s diarrhea.
  • L. fermentum—This Lactobacillus strain helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion and promote a healthy level of gut bacteria.

2. Delivery system:

The best probiotic supplements will use delivery systems that ensure a significantly high percentage of bacteria will reach your intestines alive. Probiotic bacteria are living organisms, their health can be affected by their environment. It’s tremendously important to select a probiotic based on the manufacturers packaging and delivery system, because it won’t matter which product you select if its delivery system doesn’t work.

The “delivery system,” refers to how the probiotic is created and how that form enables the bacteria both to remain alive and healthy while on store shelves so it can reach the areas in your gut where they’ll be most effective. A probiotic supplement full of dead bacteria—or bacteria that only die once they reach stomach acid—is a waste of money.

Currently, one of the best ways to take probiotics is via a controlled-release tablet (or caplet). “Beadlet” technology is still viable, and capsule formulation has come a long way since the days when those pills were instantly obliterated by stomach acid.

Make sure you store your probiotic supplement in a place where it’ll be protected from light, heat, and moisture.

Side note about yogurt: unfortunately, yogurt is a pretty ineffective way of getting probiotics. In reality, you get such a small amount of probiotics per serving. If you are a yogurt loving fiend, make sure you get ORGANIC yogurt. Most people have trouble digesting diary, and unless you’re getting organic yogurt, there’s a chance your yogurt comes with a side of antibiotics, hormones, and all the other horrific things found in meat and dairy products these days. 

 

 

 

 

Use This, Not That: Deodorant Swaps

The many of the ingredients that go into our every day, run-of-the-mill products are a little bit terrifying.  Worst of all, when it comes finding out just how unhealthy a product really is, the burden of proof falls on the consumer. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately, if we want to stay healthy, we can’t completely trust the FDA or consumer reports.

There’s a huge chance you’re using a hazardous product right now.

Aluminum is directly linked to Alzheimers and a slew of other health problems, but guess what we put directly into our lymph nodes every day? Yup. Aluminum, brought to you by way of your trusty deodorant. I don’t know about you, but this makes me mad AF. All I want in life is to smell fresh as a goddamn daisy, without risking putting my husband through a Notebook type of scenario. My memory is pretty sketchy as it is, so I need all the help I can get.

Since it’s approximately a million degrees outside right now (depending on the sun’s sinister positioning in the sky) now is the time for uber deodorant use. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. I’ve done a lot of research of products out there, and I thought I’d share some of my findings. To be frank, I’ve not come across any reliable homemade products, and I’ve found them to be messy and such a time consuming task that I have no interest in exploring that route any further. If you have any tried and true natural DIY deodorant options that work (and don’t make me feel like my kitchen has exploded in a kindergarten arts and crafts project), definitely let me know!

Here are my top favorite deodorants which contain No Aluminum. No Parabens. No Propylene Glycol. No Harsh Chemicals.

Native Deodorant is my favorite. The company uses natural, non-toxic ingredients and lasts all day. It’s paraben free and has no ingredients that will It’s affordable and comes in a variety of pleasant smells.

Lavanilla Deodorant smells bright and clean, and I never had any issues with oder when using it. It’s non-toxic, natural, and paragon free.

Schmidt’s Deodorant does have the annoying feature of coming in a jar. However, super effective and comes with a little spatula. It’s 100% vegan and natural AF, so that’s a huge plus. It’s a little bit of a switch over from using a stick of deodorant, but the people who adapt swear by it. They also have a stick version, which I haven’t tried yet, but I’d be willing to give it a go.

These are the deodorants I’ve tried personally, and for the record, they hold up pretty well to my hot yoga/Crossfit/HIIT fitness routine. I’ve noticed a significant difference in my own health after cutting out deodorants containing aluminum, so give it a try and see what you think. Switching out your deodorant is an easy way you can look out for your body.