It’s been referred to as an exercise ball, aerobics ball, Swiss ball, etc., but it’s all the same thing. I call it a yoga ball because I actually practice some asanas on it for extra core-strengthening and to build my stabilizing muscles for surfing!
I’d always used a yoga ball as a part of my strengthening routine: sit ups, push ups, twists, etc. In fact, check this out! The plank to knee-crunch is great for surfers!
In addition to practicing basic exercises with my yoga ball, I also use my yoga ball as my office chair. There are pros and cons to using a yoga ball as your office chair, however; so, you be the judge.
I kid you not, though, my core muscles have never been more toned and strong since I began using my yoga ball as part of my home office. (Check this out to learn about getting the right ball for you.)
Just by sitting on the ball and moving around to keep your balance works your muscles. You can also set a flat square cushion on the ball for even more comfort. Again, check out the pros and cons to see if this is right for you. If you suffer from lower back pain already, using it as an office chair may not be the best option, but using it to work out likely will be!
I tend to sit for long periods of time teaching online phone and video classes to ESL (English as a Second Language, also known as English as a Learned Language) students in Korea. I have the luxury of working from home, so I can get up during classes and stretch for a minute, so I’m not sitting the whole time. Whether it be a yoga ball or a chair, sitting for long periods will trap energy in parts of your body, so get up and move around.
As I’m sitting, I also habitually lift my feet and simply balance there as I’m teaching (speaking, typing, etc.). I can even sit balanced in Sukhasana now.
For fun, I started trying some asanas (yoga poses) on the ball (not as I’m teaching). Turns out, some are possible–as long as you’re careful, full Navasana (boat pose) left a substantial bruise on my bum.
What I’m trying to say is, working your core isn’t as hard as we’re made to think. Simply balancing on a yoga ball, on your bum, with your feet off the floor an inch or so, with your spine elongated, and chest lifted, is a fantastic little core workout.
You should be able to find a yoga ball at your local outlet (Winner’s if your live in Canada; Ross if you live in America) for a decent price.
During my Level 1 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training I was introduced, with some depth, to Ayurveda. Of course, there will always be more to learn about India’s traditional system of health and healing, but where was I to begin? As a woman, who has menstrual cycles and therefore a unique vulnerability to the elements of the world, I saw Dr. Svoboda’s book ‘Ayurveda for Women’ as a welcoming–and perhaps a necessary–companion to my knowledge and awareness of Ayurveda, and thereby to my health and wellbeing.
This book is concise, honest (even funny at times) and very relatable for today’s Western woman. Dr. Svoboda is the first Westerner to ever graduate from a college of Ayurveda and be licensed to practice in India and is the leading advocate of Ayurveda in the USA.
The book is written in three parts (aside from the introduction), childhood, womanhood and the wise woman–that is, birth, life and death. It provides a series of questions to help you decipher your dosha*–or doshas, if you have more than one, like me. (*The word dosha means ‘fault,’ ‘mistake,’ ‘imperfection.’ There are three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha.)
Here are a few things I learned valuable from this book:
– Always sit down when you eat. Make time to eat consciously. Try not to talk too much while eating. Don’t watch tv/a movie/etc. while eating. Enjoy every bite. Chew slowwwly. (I’m the slowest eater you’ll meet, but these are always a very good reminder! And now I don’t have to feel so bad when I’m still eating 30 minutes after everyone else has finished.)
– Don’t just taste the food, feel it, smell, see it, and even hear it! When you cook your own food, you are engaging all of your senses. Feel the food before you put it in the pot, pan, dish, etc. Better yet, eat with your hands as much as possible (Indians eat with their hands because feeling your food is also part of the digestive process). Listen to it sizzle. Appreciate the colours (the more the colours the better! Indian food is rich in colours). By engaging all your senses you are adding to and aiding in the digestive process.
– Add turmeric to more dishes/recipes.
– Take note of the side effects of what you eat and don’t eat that again (this I’ve always done, but I’m hyper aware of it now). Side effects such as bloating, acne, headaches, etc. are some to consider.
– Eat when you are hungry (This I’ve always done, but am happy to know I’m not doing it wrong!)
– Be careful with what you eat and physically do before and during menstruation. Don’t physically exert yourself before or during; get lots of sleep before and during; and, eat light meals and less coffee/caffeine a few days before and during. Your menstrual cycle–the regularity or irregularity of it, the premenstrual symptoms, and the length of it–is a huge indicator of your physical health and the toxins stored up in your body. A short menstrual cycle is the key. (Since reading this book, and therefore since being more conscious of my menstrual cycle, my menstruation period has decreased from 5 days to 3 days!)
– Consider getting monthly oil massages by a professional to help detox your body and relieve tension and stress pent up in the muscles.
– Take Triphala regularly (and continue to take probiotic capsules!).
– Lastly, refer back to the book regularly when in question about something, anything regarding food and your menstrual cycle.
~ Namaste ~
How, on earth? Vegetarian and gluten-free gravy? You heard me correctly. I’ve been using this recipe for the past few years and it has been a fan favorite. Here’s the recipe:
3 tbs of butter (you could use your choice of oil for a vegan recipe!)
2 tbs of finely chopped onions
2 minced garlic cloves
3-4 tbs of oat flour (if you don’t care about the gluten, whole wheat flour will do!)
1 tbs of soy sauce
1 1/4 cup of vegetable broth
1 pinch of salt (optional)
Saute the onions and garlic until golden in a saucepan (or pot will work too) with butter (or oil). Once golden, add vegetable water and soy sauce, stir, then directly stir in the flour bit by bit with a whisk to avoid clumping. If you like your gravy thin then put less oat flour, if you like it thick then the full measurement will do. You may need to add more water, soy sauce, etc. until you get the consistency and taste that you prefer. Some black pepper added to it is delicious, too! Enjoy.
In a recent post I discussed the benefits of oil pulling with coconut oil. Here I will discuss the benefits I’ve experienced from pulling and the benefits from adding coconut oil to my diet.
So, I wake up in the morning, swish my mouth quickly with water then begin pulling about one tablespoon of coconut oil (I really like Nutiva coconut oil) as I dry bush. It hasn’t noticeably whitened my teeth–but I believe that is because I like my morning Early Grey and a post-surf coffee everyday. However, it has shown some significant positive effects in other ways.
Benefits I’ve Experienced from Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil:
1. It has completely diminished all my tooth pain. I had some exposed nerves from receding gums, which bothered me from time to time, but that has completely gone away. I also had some undetermined pain in one of my molars, which I thought perhaps was a previously-filled cavity that had lost a piece of filling, but since pulling it hasn’t bothered me since. (Note: when I say bothered, I mean I couldn’t chew on that side of my mouth and was extremely sensitive to temperature).
2. My teeth are silky smooth. I don’t have any plaque build up–which is great when I’m too lazy for a thorough brushing.
3. My lips never need moisturizing as the oil does it for me!
4. My skin is better. When I first started pulling, I had a few breakouts then they all just went away. Now I only have the very occasional menstrual breakout–if even. The pulling brought out all the bad stuff and got rid of it.
5. All mouth sores, such as canker sores or bit lips, heal very quickly with pulling and offer relief from the pain until healed. As the pulling did with my skin, at first I had three breakouts of canker sores in my mouth for about three days, then they went away and I haven’t had any since–again the pulling brought out the bad stuff and killed it.
Benefits I’ve Experienced from Adding Coconut Oil to my Daily Diet!
Coconut oil has been coined a superfood for a plethora of reasons. I stumbled upon this article: “Coconut Oil Coffee, Blended not stirred…the secret!” Now, I bet you’re thinking, “Ew, oil in my coffee?” My husband still turns his nose up when he sees me add it to my coffee. In fact, people have been putting natural butter in their coffee as well–the Wellness Mama adds both!
Before I begin: I don’t blend mine as I’m afraid of putting hot beverages in my blender, so I put mine in a tumbler then shake it fairly well, making it equally nice and frothy. Or, you can poor from one cup to another cup, back and forth repeatedly 4-5 times.
1. After a cup of coconut oil coffee, I definitely notice an increase in energy and a significant improvement in my mood! This is very important for me, because as an English as a Second Language phone tutor who teaches back-to-back classes for five to six hours, with approximately 15-20 students/classes as my full-time job with often no breaks for a snack or lunch, I need something to keep me upbeat and cheerful on the phone with my students.
2. As for the no break for a snack or lunch bit, another positive effect is that it suppresses appetite.
3. It tastes yummy! But if you’re not a fan of flavoured coffee, it may take some getting used to!
For more/different ways to add coconut oil to your diet check out these tips from the Wellness Mama!
For a list of the why coconut oil is being coined a superfood check out these links:
For a list of other uses of coconut oil:
This is actually a super simple recipe–if you don’t mind roasting your own pumpkin, that is. I opted for a graham cracker crust so I could have a gluten-free crust. It makes for a much richer pie!
1. 2 cups of gluten-free graham cracker crumbs (I like Schar Honeygrams™ Gluten Free, I buy them from Safeway, so they should be found at most grocery stores in the baking aisle. I didn’t see crumbs though, so you’ll have to process the crackers into crumbs.)
2. 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
3. 1/3 cup brown sugar (organic cane sugar is good too!)
1.As you let the butter cool, you can process the graham crackers in a food processor or, I just use, a coffee grinder. It may stick to the sides in a paste, but just scrape it off and fluff it up in the bowl with the rest of the crumbs, you’ll see it’s still dry, it just compacted together as it’s so finely ground. OR, you can crush and pound them with your hands while still in the packets.
2. Combine the butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs together, mixing with a fork until a crumbly.
3. Pour onto (approx.) nine-inch pie plate. Use the bottom of a cup or glass, or large spoon, to press the mix over the bottom and up the sides of the plate.
4. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. (Don’t go over time!!)
1. One half of a roasted pie pumpkin. You could use canned pumpkin (15 oz), but make sure it has one ingredient: pumpkin. Nothing is more rewarding, however, than roasting your own pumpkin! It’s so fresh, healthy and delicious.
2. 3/4 cup of brown sugar (organic cane sugar is good too!)
3. 2 1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice (OR 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 ground cloves, 1/4 nutmeg)
4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6. two eggs, beaten
7. 1 cup half and half (or 2% milk), soured with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. (no evaporated milk needed!)
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Peel the skin off your roasted pumpkin and plop half of it in a blender.
3. Before blending, add cream, eggs and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
4. Pour mixed ingredients into mixing bowl, and add sugar, salt and spices. Stir with rubber spatula.
5. Pour final mixture over pie crust slowly (you don’t want it to overflow!), you can also use a big ladle for more control.
6. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350, and back for another 40-50 minutes until knife or fork comes out clean (if it isn’t quite clean, that’s okay!).
7. Let chill in the open air for an hour or so before serving. Or, I like to refrigerate overnight. Serve with some vanilla ice cream! I like Haagen-Dazs’s Vanilla Bean because they use the simplest ingredients.
Happy Thanksgiving! ~Namaste
It has been just over one year since I fractured my patella (kneecap). One year and roughly four months ago, actually. My kneecap is completely heeled and has been for a year, but my leg was still showing signs of atrophy and would sometimes buckle randomly. So, I thought, it’s time, time for me to really get moving again.
I used to run, a lot. I began running in high school, continued to run in university, and even ran during my time living abroad in Korea. I practiced yoga and ran. I am starting to see, however, how much I took it for granted– how easy it was to slap on a pair of running shoes and trot my way out the door. Over the past year, since my injury, the thought of having to trot lightly across the street made me wince in pain.
Everyday, I surf in the morning and practice yoga at least five times a week in the afternoon. I also bicycle, but only to run errands (as I work from home). These activities have made me the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, but they aren’t exactly the leg strengthening exercises I need. So, I began doing thigh strengthening exercises with an exercise ball in addition to jogging!
I started jogging again about two weeks ago. The first time I went, I began as though both knees–or leg muscles, rather–were perfectly capable of going for a run. Nope, was I ever wrong. It didn’t take long for the pain to hit. I had started too hard, too fast. I ended up walking most of the five kilometers I’d set out to jog. I thought to myself, “Either, this is not going to be easy or it’s going to be impossible to ‘run’ again.”
Luckily, I took the “it’s not going to be easy” route. Upon my second jog a day or two later, I ran double the length I did the first time. I decided to skip a day or two between jogs to allow my muscles and knee to recover and heal, and hopefully become stronger and ready for the second attempt–and, clearly, it worked!
Upon my third jog, a day or two later, I ran three fourths of the (approximate) five kilometers. I really surprised myself! On the fourth attempt, I ran the whole thing with a rest and stretch midway. The route is uphill halfway and downhill halfway. Going downhill with my sore knee was not something I’d think I’d be capable of this early on, so I’m very, very impressed with the improvement and recovery!!
Lesson learned: Rest is the KEY to getting better at any physical activity. If you are tired from a long day of surfing, hiking, swimming, bicycling, yoga, etc. maybe it’s a good idea to take the day off tomorrow. I promise it’s the best thing you can do for your body.
Lesson #2 learned: Never give up after an injury, your body is very resilient, it just takes time. ~Namaste~
In case you missed it, here is the first installment of my Surf-Yoga Series. I have reformatted it to a slideshow so it’s easier to use! Namaste~ (click photo)