Ustrasana and the wall

Ustrasana at the Wall. Photo courtesy of YogaTeacherCentral.com

I had an amazing yoga class at Yoga Tree in San Francisco. One of the highlights was this variation of Ustrasana, which I hadn’t seen before. In this variation, you do Ustrasana with your thighs facing the wall. This variation has great benefits: by pressing your legs against the wall, you bend backwards with your abdominals rather than just throwing your head back. It helps you integrate your ribs with the rest of your front body and is a great way to focus on ab strength in your backbends! And we all could use a little more core.

How to:

  1. Fold your mat in half 3 times and place it next to the wall to get a nice cushion for your knees.
  2. Kneel in front of the wall with your legs pressing into the wall.
  3. Bring your hands to your low back, fingers facing up or down.
  4. Lean backwards, focusing on pressing your thighs and hip points to the wall, keeping length in your lower spine, and tightening your core muscles. The point of this variation is not see how far back you can bend, but to feel the backbend coming from your abdominal muscles.
  5. After a few breaths, return to upright, and try it again!

What do you think about this variation? My lower back felt great in this pose, and I’m very excited to integrate this variation into my regular practice for a while.

  Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,   samantha attard sig
samantha attard happy healthy humanSamantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach, yoga instructor, and makes delicious snacks to help you eat with intention. Learn more here.

Healthy Carbs Cheat Sheet

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Get the guidelines on good vs bad carbs, including a sample day's meal plan!


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Surprise! How to make your leftovers better than the original

LeftoversOminous photo of the leftovers currently in my fridge.

Leftovers get a bad wrap because they can be…well…less than spectacular. Unfortunately, I constantly have a plethora of containers taking up space in my fridge from both home-cooked and restaurant meals. But having leftovers can be downright useful! They make the easiest lunches and dinners on those days when you don’t have time or energy to make a brand new meal.
 
So how to combat the problem of having leftovers languishing in the fridge, uneaten, until way past a time when they’re palatable?
Continue reading…


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Healthy Travel Tips

Lemon Tree from my recent trip to San Francisco
Lemon Tree from my recent trip to San Francisco

When you travel, it can be easy to let a lot of your good habits go out the window. And it’s not your fault – it’s difficult to keep up those habits when you’re in an unfamiliar place, and likely have a busy schedule! A lot of the burnout and snowballing of unhealthy habits can be averted if you maintain some of the healthy habits that refresh and recharge you. It may be more difficult to make healthy choices while you’re away versus when you’re at home, but a little preplanning can help you maintain your core habits make you feel really good, even in an unfamiliar place.
 
The bonus: maintaining these habits will help you feel good while you’re traveling, have you functioning at your peak both mentally and physically, will encourage you to continue to make healthy decisions, and keeps you on track to wellness.
 
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Tip for a better salad dressing

homesalad
 
I am always looking for ways to shorten cooking time, particularly on those mornings I am running a bit late. I often bring raw food for lunch – throwing a bunch of salad mix or kale into my trusty stainless steel container, quickly slice some vegetables into it, and then dousing the entire salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. I snap up the lid and I’m good to go, right?!

Unfortunately, I was missing a crucial step.
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You’re doing better than you think

I find that I am hardest on myself when I believe that it is a skill that should be “under my control”….my health, my job, my relationships. I often don’t appreciate all of the tiny decisions I make throughout the day that are nourishing both physically and emotionally. So in case you ever feel that way too….

realize that we all have our deficits, our soft spots, or the things we technically could improve. But more importantly, acknowledge how far you have come, and how many great decisions you make every day that improves your health and happiness.

You are doing an amazing job taking care of yourself and those around you. You are awesome! Keep up the good work!

Let’s do this – what is something you did today that you are proud of?


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Pro Tip: Turn up the heat

The most direct way to make eating at home take less time: cook it faster. I know, easier said than done, but rather than trying to hasten your cutting skills (a little dangerous and it takes some time), just turn up the heat!

Many people err on the side of cooking things too slow because we’re afraid of burning our meal. But  cooking things at a slower pace can be frustrating, can make your food not taste as good (we’ve all been subjected to limp vegetables at one time or another), and may even make it less healthy (foods cooked slowly in oil, for example, absorb more fat than those that are cooked at a quicker pace).
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Let go of everything you don’t need.

When my yoga teacher said this yesterday while we were in standing forward fold, I almost laughed because it was so appropriate. But it’s probably just as relevant at all other times of the day too.


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Stock up: Spice Blends

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Stocking your pantry for the first time can be painful financially. Particularly if you go to the spice sections, where there are easily 100+ options of different spices and blends, all at $3-4 each.

Don’t stress about making sure you have every since spice you could ever want. My advice is to start small. And the best way to do that, and still have some delicious meals at home, is to invest in a few key spice blends. That way, you get a balanced composition of flavors without having to shell out for each herb separately. Bonus: by seeing what actually goes into each spice blend, you’ll learn more about what flavors do go well together and are found in specific dishes or regional cuisines.
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Nourishing Winter Meal

tryagain
As I sat on a cold bus this afternoon, listening to the pounding rain, I needed hope that my day would end on a positive note. The rain and the cold made this difficult for a while, but as my thoughts turned, as they often do on my bus ride home, to what I would make for dinner….my brain finally landed on the evening game-changer: sweet potato.

There is something about sweet potatoes that nourish my soul. Like a sailor feels relief when he gets a jolt of Vitamin C from a fine piece of citrus, eating sweet potatoes makes my body feel good, my heart feel full, and my mouth very very happy. Is it the Vitamin A? Or is it that I love any food which is a excellent vehicle for honey and mustard? Jury’s out.

In any case, the smile that spread to my face once I realized that I was going to eat sweet potato for dinner tonight, which has lasted through my travels home to the preparation and enjoyment of my dinner, and well beyond is proof that sometimes your body needs what it needs, and that food can nourish us both physically and mentally.

Winter Warmer: Sweet Potato + Lentils for one
 
This recipe is easy and quick. I combined sweet potatoes with little beluga lentils to provide a nourishing winter dish..I'd imagine white beans would be quite good in this recipe as well. Serve over rice or with bread to add a little more heft. A fried egg on top would be amazing as well...
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • ½ cup cooked beluga lentils*
  • 3-4 stalks kale or collard greens
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider or red wine)
  • Olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds
Instructions
  1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Add a few pinches of red pepper flakes and fennel seeds.
  2. When the red pepper flakes start to sizzle, add the sweet potato and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.
  3. Saute the sweet potato, stirring occasionally. Add water if they get too hot or are starting to burn. Taste frequently.
  4. when the sweet potatoes are softened, add the beluga lentils, another ¼ teaspoon of salt, and stir. You're just warming up the lentils and integrating everything together.
  5. Add the kale stalks, and stir together.
  6. Once the kale has wilted, but is still vibrant green, taste and add any more salt if needed, and remove from the heat.
  7. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar (apple cider or red wine vinegar), and stir to combine. Enjoy!

*To cook beluga lentils: rinse 1/3 cup of dried beluga lentils. Add 1 cup of water and heat up over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat to maintain the boil. Lentils are done when they begin to soften – you can add more water during the cooking process if needed. Pro tip – you can cook the lentils while the sweet potatoes are cooking!!

 


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I was an eagle

Garudasana (yogajournal.com)

Since Laura Marling’s album “Once I was an eagle” refuses to leave my head (not a bad thing)…let’s talk eagle pose (garudasana).

How does eagle pose reflect its namesake? It takes some focus to remain standing on one leg while your entire body is tied up in knots. As you twist one leg around the other, your bent standing leg ends up placing you in a little perched seat that can actually feel quite stable despite the fact that everything is off kilter, and to me, your twisted up arms in front of your face feel quite like wings.

To remember in this pose:

-lengthen the spine, keep your hips level and even

-keep the integrity in your stomach and low spine to stabilize you

-lift the arms so your triceps are parallel to the floor. If this is too much pressure on your shoulders, or you feel like you’re jamming your shoulders towards your ears, just give yourself a hug instead.

Eagle is a delicate balance, requiring strength and focus, but there is ease in the pose your body can find comfort in it.

Good counter poses: uttanasana (standing forward bend), trikonasana (triangle pose), or parsva konasana (extended angle pose).

More eagle pose info:

Yoga Journal

Stories about Garuda

 


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