My latest article published with Elephant Journal. Enjoy!
My latest article published with Elephant Journal. Enjoy!
Elephant Journal has been a daily read for me for a couple of years now. I’ve always wanted to write for them but let some many of my doubts and “shoulds” get in the way. I finally broke out of my little comfort zone and submitted. Which is kind of ironic since the article is actually about being stuck. Published. Today.
Enjoy, share and do something to get out of your comfort zone today!
I’ve made stuffed peppers in multiple combinations over the years but this batch turned out exceptionally well. It only takes about a half hour of prep and then bakes for another half hour. It’s low fat, low calorie, gluten free, vegetarian and can easily be made vegan without the feta or by using a vegan cheese. Enjoy!
6 large poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown rice
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large white onion
4 cloves garlic
1 package feta cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz package Yves Meatless Ground (or other meat substitute)
Boil 1 cup of brown rice in 2 cups of water until almost done. Cut the tops off the poblanos and place in boiling water for about 6 minutes. Remove and rinse in cold water. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until tender. Add the diced tops of the poblanos and cook for 4 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes with chili, fake meat, cooked rice, italian seasoning and feta. Taste the mixture before adding more salt if you are using feta…it’s pretty salty. Stuff the peppers and place in a large baking dish. Add the other can of tomatoes on top.
It has been a great experience reading and practicing with the 40 Days book again. We are now on day 19 and firmly into the theme of equanimity. So far the most common thing people have shared with the group is that they have trouble finding time to get on the mat. The busier I am the less likely I am to prioritize my asana practice but that is exactly when I need it most. I’m finding that the commitment I’ve made to this group has landed me on the mat many times I would rather not and times I felt like I didn’t have the time. I’ve discovered when I take the time to do it anyway, I become more productive in the time I have off the mat. Things that don’t have true importance are left in the wake and that is exactly where they belong. Most of us intuitively know this is the case yet we find all kinds of excuses to skip prioritizing ourselves. Next time you want to skip yoga, exercise or any other commitment to your health just remember that the more you take care of yourself the more energy you have available to stand for others.
If you’re like most people you’re probably starting to gear up for the holidays! Parties, family dinners, work obligations and eating on the go all seem to come into play much more this time of year. There is one ridiculously simple thing you can do to ward off the pounds this holiday season: mindful eating. This practice doesn’t require counting calories or cutting out any particular kind of food. What it does require is some attention and intention. You can use this technique at any meal but it’s especially helpful in situations where you might overeat.
Steps to Mindful Eating:
Yesterday I began the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution program by my teacher, Baron Baptiste. It always seems like there isn’t a good time to start something like this but that is exactly the thinking that keeps us stagnant! So I just went for it and brought along some students and friends for the ride. The program consists of daily meditation and yoga as well as weekly “excavation” questions. As an example, one of the questions for week one is: “Where in my life am I flirting with disaster?” The excavation questions are just that…serious excavation and perhaps the most difficult part of the program.
There are many reasons I wanted to do the program now but I’ll share why it is really important to me now. In the last year I’ve had 3 surgeries. One on my right shoulder in September 2010 from an old overuse injury related to golf and two major abdominal surgeries in March 2011 and April 2011. Without going into too much detail the surgery in April was at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and there was a serious concern for cancer. Thankfully there was no cancer and I am fully recovered. Of course all of those surgeries as well as the pain I’d been having from a belly full of tumors seriously restricted my physical yoga practice over the last year.
While I was going through all of that, I made several promises to myself. You can imagine what goes through your head when flirting with your mortality up close and personal! All of the promises revolved around taking better care of my body, eating better, paying more attention to my spirituality and recommitting to my meditation and yoga practice…being more present and thankful for everything in my life, everything that brought me to this point whether “good” or “bad.” In other words, exactly what 40 days to a Personal Revolution is all about. Why now exactly? After getting back from Baptiste level 2 training and being accepted into level 3 I realize more than ever that time is ticking. We only have so much time in this life and we don’t know when it’s over. The best time to be about your business is now. When I realized the 40 days would end the day before Thanksgiving it seemed like a sign I could no longer ignore. If you want to change your life, don’t wait. Jumping in is the scariest part. Once you’re in the process the rest will take care of itself.
Two of the most common goals for my yoga therapy clients are weight loss and increased activity. One of the best tools I have found for this purpose is sparkpeople.com. I’ve been using it myself for a few years. It has a wide variety of tools, articles and support you can use in your quest for ultimate wellness. They have a great food tracker where you can enter your daily intake and see calories, nutrients, protein and other useful measurements for the day. You can also track fitness, workouts and miles covered using the fitness page. It even allows you to measure the distance of a given route by mapping points on a google map. They also have support groups based on almost any common interest; whether you love to read, knit, do triathlons, watch desperate housewives, practice yoga or weave baskets there is a group for you! Their sister site sparkrecipes.com has a great variety of all kinds of recipes and you can add them to your meal plan at Spark People. You can also put in ingredients to find out nutritional information on any recipe and then save it to your profile. These kinds of tools are wonderful to help keep you on track and motivated in your personal wellness goals. Check it out and let me know what you think!
I’ve tried several new recipes lately that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks! All are great for fall, low-calorie, tasty and extremely satisfying. The first is Baked Polenta with Spinach and Cheese, based on a similar recipe I found with swiss chard as the main ingredient. It’s an easy one dish meal that can be prepared ahead of time and then placed in the oven when you get home from work. It serves 6 and has just 280 calories per serving. It reheats well or is good cold as a leftover, a fact to which my sister will attest! Good additions or substitutions to this casserole would be a seasoned meat substitute, swiss chard, salsa, tomatoes and/or asparagus. If you use Spark People to track nutrition, calories and fitness goals, you can add the recipe to your meal planner by clicking here.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound spinach
3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated low-fat mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 2-quart glass baking dish. Heat oil in heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic and crushed red pepper, then spinach; cover and cook until spinach is tender, stirring occasionally.
Uncover; stir until any excess liquid in skillet evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.
At the same time bring 3 1/2 cups water and salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually stir polenta into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk ricotta and eggs in bowl; whisk in 1 cup hot polenta. Stir ricotta mixture into polenta in saucepan. Spread half of polenta mixture in baking dish. Spread half of spinach mixture over. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Repeat layering with remaining polenta, spinach, and cheese.
Bake until puffed and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.
Getting enough quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for health and wellness. Yet Americans are chronically sleep deprived and getting less sleep as the years go by. In 2009 the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a U.S. nonprofit group reported that 20 percent of the 1,000 people polled got 6 hours of sleep or less. This is compared to 13 percent in 2001. Only 28 percent reported getting 8 hours or more (the recommended minimum) which is down from 38 percent in 2011. About 16 percent reported sleep being distrubed by financial concerns. Chronic sleep deprivation causes cognitive impairment, poor quality of life, injuries and illness. Lack of sleep is associated with increased risk for stroke, heart attack, obesity and other illnesses.
There are many reason for lack and quality of sleep. One of the most prevalent is stress. If worry and anxiety are getting in the way of your sleep, I have 5 tips that may help:
1. Brain Dump: If you find yourself overwhelmed with to do lists, worry and a run away thought train before bed, writing may help. Try the “brain dump” exercise. Use old-fashioned pen and paper; there have been studies about how your brain acts differently when writing longhand vs computer (longhand tends to activate the RAS of the brain which is a processing filter). Simply write whatever comes to mind for 10-15 minutes. Write down worries, thoughts, to do lists, even writing “I have no idea what to write about. This is stupid.” etc. will eventually trigger a spill out of thoughts on to paper. When you’re finished, shred it. Burning is preferred but not the best idea if you’re beginning to get sleepy from the cathartic nature of the exercise. Whatever you do, don’t wad it up where it can be read later. That can produce more stress in itself which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
2. Herbs: There are several herbs that are safe for use on a short-term basis if you’re having trouble sleeping during a time of increased stress. Try melatonin, valerian root or brahmi. The latter two can be taken in tea form which can be a relaxing ritual before bed. There are also combinations of herbs premixed into tea bags sold under names that typically have “sleep” in the title. My personal favorite is Bigelow Sweet Dreams.
3. Pampering: Give yourself a warm oil hand and foot massage after a nice hot bath about 90 minutes before bed. The drop in body temperature that occurs after a hot bath promotes sleep. Massage promotes relaxation. In Ayurveda it’s recommended to use an oil that is compatible with your dosha. Sesame is pretty neutral but if you want a dosha specific oil you can search for more information.
4. Your Bed is Only for Sleep (and sex): One of the most well-known sleep tips is keeping all distractions out of the bedroom. When the bed is used only for sleep, going to the bedroom promotes an automatic relaxation response that facilitates better sleep. Get out of the habit of watching tv and working in bed. This is doubly important since the blue light waves produced by computers, tv and cell phones simulate daylight. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
5. Yoga: People who do yoga on a regular basis report sleeping better. There are also some specific relaxation poses you can do before bed to promote sleep. One of the easiest is legs up the wall pose (viparita karani). This pose can even be done in bed! Simply bring the buttocks close to the wall or the headboard and stretch the feet up towards the sky. Support the low back with a pillow or bolster. A small pillow can also be placed between the shoulder blades if desired. Breathe into the belly to promote even more relaxation.