So if you receive my newsletter (shameless plug -you really should sign up -it’s awesome!), you know that I am blissfully happy about the return of Spring. I love feeling of warm sun on my skin, hearing the birds chirping, and seeing the beautiful flowers and new plants popping up everywhere. But the pollen that has invaded North Carolina? Not so nice. There is a fine green powder which has coated every outdoor surface for the past few days, and even though I don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, my throat is scratchy, and my breathing feels bothered when I am outside. I can only imagine how the true allergy sufferers are feeling.
Even though Spring gives us amazing weather and delicious vegetables, we also need to help our bodies protect itself from the not-so-nice parts of Springtime. Some strategies for allergy relief after the jump…
Sometimes you have to go off balance to be in balance.
Revolved Side Angle Pose. It’s a tough one, right? You’re trying to keep your balance, and you’re all twisted around…the temptation is to round your shoulders, crunch in, and protect yourself from falling. It’s understandable that you’d fear falling…your body is not used to being in such a precarious position!
But what if you press your belly to your spine, feel your tailbone lengthen towards your feet, and envision your breath filling up your side body and back? Rather than bringing your off center, these motions help you bring integrity and strength to the pose. Even though it seems further off balance, you actually get stronger and feel more secure in the position. Crazy right?
For me, dining at restaurants serves two purposes: entertainment or utility. I love it when restaurants are for entertainment – it is fun to get dressed up, try new places, or to indulge in foods I would never have the skills or wherewithal to make at home. Dining out becomes a matter of utility, however, when the fridge is completely empty, I don’t have time to cook, or I just want to get out of the house. Especially when I am eating out because I am unable to cook at home, I still want to have a healthy, nourishing meal and stick to my health routine. But these are the nights that I have the hardest time choosing a restaurant or place to eat.
A great tip I learned from my sister is to be prepared for these occasions by designating your default healthy restaurant – a place you can go to whenever you are eating out because that is your only option. Continue reading…
As you may have guessed, I think about food. A LOT. But every few weeks, I have a day where I find myself on my commute home with absolutely NO idea of what I am going to make for dinner. I can hardly remember what I have in my fridge, let alone know what I am in the mood to eat. Depending on how hungry I am, a sense of panic may ensue.
Some days go better than others. Sometimes, after my initial shock, I remember that I have leftovers in the fridge, or a vegetable that I am particularly excited to roast. Other days…I am just not inspired.
On those days, I turn to my 4-step plan for designing dinner. I go through the steps in this way to get the emotions out of the decision-making process, and to prioritize the most important parts of my meal.
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.
Fold your mat in half 3 times and place it next to the wall to get a nice cushion for your knees.
Kneel in front of the wall with your legs pressing into the wall.
Bring your hands to your low back, fingers facing up or down.
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.
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, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.
Ominous 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…
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.
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?!
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?
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). Continue reading…