My Whole Life Needs a Juice Cleanse

I spent this past weekend away in Bend, OR with some of my girlfriends. Seems like I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful state where nature is abundant and Food, Wine and Beer, are practically a way of life. I love being able to explore new restaurants, meet new chefs, try new wines, get to know beers I’ve never even heard of, all right in my backyard. Is anyone else counting down the days until Feast Portland? Needless to say, I spent the weekend over-indulging (as it is so easy to do in this neck of the woods) so now that I’m back home and back into my normal routine I’m taking a few days to detox… both mind and body.
Bachelorette festivities

Bachelorette festivities

So I came home and started a juice cleanse. I know I know, you are probably tired of hearing about juice cleanses, so I won’t overly go into detail, but after 4 days of beer, and Goldfish crackers, my body was ready for some pure unadulterated raw juicy goodness.  Typically, I’m all about everything in moderation. I exercise and eat healthy so I can drink wine, and eat full fat dairy when I want to, and not really think about it… however the closer I get to 30, the more my body is telling me that I really need to start thinking about it.  I know when I eat blue cheese dressing that I’m going to feel it, and that gluten makes me more sluggish, and that eating a giant burrito at 10PM is probably not the wisest choice… and yet I still make these choices occasionally.  But the more often I make them, the more I’m aware that for a lot of people out there, feeling terrible is normal. So many people don’t even consider what they are putting into their bodies and how it makes them feel, nor do they have the correlation that food could make them feel this way… and it makes me really sad. I can’t really get on a soap box, because I know that my diet and exercise regime isn’t perfect. I know that I could be making healthier choices every day, But I’m also so thankful that I at least have the awareness that when I eat A I feel B, and its a choice that I’m making in this moment, but not one I’m going to make every day.  And I totally give myself permission to indulge once in a while, because we all need to go on brewery tours and eat an obscene amount of junk food from time to time.  But I’m also choosing to listen to my body this week, and make every effort to bring everything back into balance.

trio of juices

trio of juices

 

juice mise en place

juice mise en place

 

brunchy beet juice

brunchy beet juice

I had an amazing time away with my girlfriends… but as an introvert by nature, after 4 days I was ready for a few moments of solitude. We had a lot of great adventures, great meals, great conversations, but the older I get, the more I realize how much I need to honor the introverted part of myself… Thankfully, I don’t need epically long stretches of solitude and silence, but I was definitely  ready to come home, put my feet up and spend some time by myself…. I try not to play the “introvert card” too often, as I know quite a few introverted people who tend to use this as an excuse to cancel plans at the last minute, who can never follow through, and who tend to cling to their introvertedness as a crutch.  They over-commit, get overwhelmed and then out of no-where the introvert card gets played like a get out of jail free card  of “oh I have to cancel, I I’m an introvert, this is just what I need… you understand!”  And there is part of me that gets it, I mean really gets it… but there is still a little part of me that is endlessly frustrated by it…BUT after 4 days away with 6 other ladies, shared rooms, car-pooling, dinners, brewery tours, bachelorette parties and more there was a huge part of me that was telling me that I needed to take a moment to honor introverted tendencies, at least for a day or two.  So here I am, juicing up a storm and spending my evenings soaking up some alone time. And it feels pretty good both mentally and physically.

Here are a few of my favorite juice recipes.

Verdantly Green Juice
2 Cups shredded collard greens
1-2 Handfuls of Spinach
4 Persian cucumbers (or 1 regular sized cucumber)
1 lemon, peeled
1 sm bunch of cilantro
1 inch of ginger root
1/2 of a green apple

Brunchy Beet
1 medium sized beet plus beet greens
5 med/large carrots
1 green apple
1 inch ginger root
Green with Envy
1/2 fennel bulb
4-5 stalks of celery
1/2 bunch of parsley
1 small lemon, peeled
2 cups spinach
2-3 handfuls of kale
1/2 of a green apple
1 inch ginger root

 

Advertisements

A follow up on my juice cleanse: some observations from last week, and a few more tips

obviously the only thing to do when your friends are drinking wine and you are on a juice cleanse is bring your juice to the wine bar and ask for a glass. (I love small town life)

obviously the only thing to do when your friends are drinking wine and you are on a juice cleanse is bring your juice to the wine bar and ask for a glass. (I love small town life)

I thought I’d write a follow up on my juice cleanse experience and keep everyone updated on the progress. Firstly, I took a fair amount of photos, however my phone committed suicide on Sunday (or I dropped it and it died, whatever) so I lost all of my pictures from last week. I did post a quite a few of them to instagram, so if you’d like to see some pictures of things like beet juice, you can find my profile here

The cleanse was pretty amazing actually, and somewhere around day 4, I was I decided to extend the experience for two days and just do a full week. I mean if you are juicing for 5 days you can juice for seven, so why not? I had an excess of produce (though I did have to buy more carrots, cilantro, apples, and 1 pineapple), an excess of energy, and thankfully I was working some shorter shifts, so I had plenty of time to juice.

I woke up on Monday and felt like I could do anything. I just went for an entire week without eating solid food, caffeine, added sugar, meat, dairy, and alcohol. I was 100% plant based, and I didn’t get hungry once!  I was pumped. You know that song from The Sound of Music that the crazy old nun sings? “Climb Every Mountain!”  This was  playing in my head on repeat like my victory chant on Monday morning… (though I just looked up all the lyrics, and not just the first verse that has been on repeat all week, and it doesn’t really so much apply, because its about finding your dreams and chasing rainbows and stuff… Eye of the Tiger might work a little better… but maybe if I just stick with “Climb Every Mountain!!!” over and over again  it accurately portrays how I felt on Monday morning.  Though I just sang it out loud right now for emphasis, and the dog looked at me like I was bat shit crazy.)  Needless to say, You go for a week without eating real food, and you pretty much feel amazing, and its an empowering thing. So sing yourself some sort of victory song.

Here are some other observations from last week. (I’m making these as I remember them, they are in no way in order of importance/ interest)

Firstly:I lost seven pounds, can I get a what what!? I wasn’t doing to cleanse to lose weight as much as I was to hit a restart on my metabolism, but the weight loss was an added bonus.  I could tell by day two that I was less bloated, and people (ok my dad) told me my face looked thinner.  My jeans… well they fit exactly the same (how is that possible? I blame my dryer) and I’m sure a lot of what came off was water weight. I felt like I was going  pee about every 45 minutes, but hello,  it was a 7 day liquid diet.

Secondly:  My fears were confirmed and I’m 95% sure I have an allergy to gluten. People have been telling me years that my eczema might be gluten related, and I’ve only sort of listened to them, because who wants to have a gluten allergy? No one. Croutons are practically one of my food group, and bread and butter is like manna… I suspected that coming off gluten would do some good things for my body (ie goodbye belly bloat) but I was also thinking that an obscene amount of toxins would be seeping out of my pores, so I was mentally prepared to be an eczema covered, pimply version of myself last week.  Surprise! My skin looks great, and by day two, there were no signs of dragon skin. My eczema was 100% gone. It’s bitter sweet. I mean how awesome that I was able to fix the problem… but I’m still not ready to let go of my gluten addiction… Don’t get me wrong, I’m cutting way back, and opting for gluten free on a lot of things (have any of you tried the gluten free pizza at Red Hills Market? It is insanely good… like even the chef tends to eat gluten free pizza rather than regular.)   Anyway, I’m cutting back on my gluten intake, and we’ll see how it goes.

Surprisingly enough my skin didn’t break out either. I’m choosing to believe this was because I was oil pulling and all the toxins were being pulled out of my mouth before they could erupt through my pores. I have nothing to back this up, and I could be full of shit,  but I’m sticking with my theory anyway. That, and the fact that I was drinking a ton of water, which his always good for your skin.

Thirdly: I have no idea why, but my lips have never been so chapped in my entire life, it seems like an odd observation, but my juicing buddy noticed the same thing… it might be a coincidence (and weird since we were very well hydrated) but maybe keep some lip balm on you if you are starting a juice cleanse.

Fourthly: Hello energy. Like crazy amounts of energy. I was already a night owl, but I felt like I could come home after work and actually be productive. I was waking up in the morning and not feeling groggy, I was 100% fine without having coffee! If you know anyone in my family, you will agree that this is a shocking thing. Its not a matter of if we are going for coffee, but when we are going for coffee.  Its practically pumping through our veins… add to that the fact that RHM serves stumptown and one of our work perks is free coffee with every shift… I’m almost never without it.

I’m going to go off on a little tangent here and say that I do not want to have children (bear with me, I’ll bring it back around.) I’ve never really had the desire to grow a human. I reserve the right to change my mind someday, maybe… and its perfectly possible that I will meet a man, and decide that I’m baby crazy and want to have a gaggle of tiny humans (only probably not, because the only way that more than one is coming out of me is if they are twins or whatever). For example if say Ben Jacobsen decided that he wanted me to be the mother of a child to inherit his salt empire… I might consider it… We’d probably have an adorable ginger baby.  (I will stop there. I don’t know Ben that well, and we are having dinner next month, and I don’t want him to think that I’m a total creeper who is blogging about having his babies…  I want him to think that I’m a witty, well adjusted, total not creeper who is blogging about having his babies… sometimes people don’t get my sense of humor OR my sarcasm… All I can say is, they are not my people.) Anyway, I am all for other people having babies, and to all of my friends/relatives who have recently had offspring, and who are planning on reproducing I DO really like your kids/ will like your kids… and I like some other people’s kids… but not most other peoples kids… ok before I dig myself into an even deeper hole, I’m bringing this back around to say that one of the reasons I have such a strong aversion to growing my own tiny human (there is a really long list of aversions, this is just one of many) is the whole giving up caffeine thing. *

I always assumed that it would be nearly impossible for me to do, and that it would be a slow and painful process in which I wanted to die, and was planning on taking everyone else down with me… Turns out, it wasn’t that bad, I only got two headaches, and I was off it for 8 days! (“Climb Every Mountain!!!”)

Fifthly:  I’m not craving sugar anymore.  Mostly I’ve been more of a savory person anyway, but over the holidays I was doing my fare share of indulging in hot chocolate, caramels etc.  The juice cleanse really helped me to quit the sugar, and now my body is craving more greens and whole foods than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still planning on making a trip to Sprinkefingers next week, and eating handfuls of gumdrops (it’s a good fantasy) but the important thing is that I’m no longer craving the sugar (fantasizing and craving are two entirely different things.)

Sixthly:  I noticed a lot about my eating habits, and how a lot of the time I eat when I’m not hungry… I really enjoy eating, I think most of us do, but sometimes I do it out of boredom, and sometimes it is honestly just a reflex. I can’t tell you how many times I went over to my parent’s house an instinctively went to reach for a handful of almonds… not because I was hungry, but because that is what I always do when I’m over there because there is a bowl of them on the kitchen counter. I do this at work all the time too with cookies, salads, spoonful’s of whipped cream… it’s a habit, and hopefully a habit that this juice cleanse was able to break. I’m now much more aware of what I’m putting into my body, and listening for when I’m actually hungry. I’m also being better about guzzling water anytime I feel that snack grabbing reflex kick in.  It’s a little change, but awareness is half the battle.

I did forget a few pieces of advice in my post last week about gearing up for a juice cleanse, so here they are now.

1)   use the buddy system. It is so much easier to stay accountable and on track if you are juicing with a friend. Especially when you work in a restaurant surrounded by delicious things, and some of your co-workers are jerks and keep eating things like bacon jam in front of you.  Yes, your family probably supports you, and in the end you are doing it for your own reasons, but there are always going to be the people out there who are a little bit annoyed at your for not eating, who don’t understand it, and who sometimes say dumb things like “well it’s your choices not to eat!” or who try to get you to fall off the wagon.  Its really helpful to have someone else who is going through the same thing that you are, and who will actually be 100% over the moon for you when you finish strong, and will whole heartedly share in your success. (because “Climb Every Mountain” should be sung as a duet. Duh) A huge shout out to my co-worker Lindsey who did the first five days of juicing with me, who lost 8 pounds, and who did it all while still feeing her husband and children, and also working all five of those days in the restaurant. I’m pretty sure I would have probably faltered/ at least had a handful of chips or something if I had all of those factors involved in my juice cleanse.

2)   As much as you can, try to get rid of “Temptations” from your fridge and pantry beforehand. Sometimes it is unavoidable, and sometimes you still have to cook for your family etc. But I cannot tell you how nice it was to come home and know that I didn’t have bags of chips, or cartons of leftovers begging me to eat them.

3)   Hazelnut milk saved my bacon.  I think one of the reasons my juice cleanse was so successful, and why I didn’t have any hunger pangs, and didn’t feel like death for the first few days (minus that caffeine headache on day one… I didn’t wean off early enough) was that my last “juice” of the day was actually home made hazelnut milk. I think protein is vital, and having a relatively thick and delicious treat like beverage every night was pretty amazing. Hazelnut milk is super easy to make (it just takes a little time.)

 

* I know that not wanting to give up caffeine is not a valid reason to not want to be pregnant. I also know that a lot of women drink caffeine throughout their entire pregnancy, and their babies are normal, and caffeine isn’t as bad as some other things. Considering my family, my offspring would probably be addicted to coffee at birth anyway, I think its genetic anyway, so I’d probably be fine slurping cold brew by the gallon…   I also know that I’ve been watching a whole lot of Mad Men, and seeing all the pregnant ladies who are drinking gimlets and smoking cigarettes, and I’m starting to wonder how there isn’t an entire generation of completely f*ed up people.

September is for meditating, booty shaking, and fighting the fall funk.

The time has come, the walrus said…. Not that I’m comparing myself to a walrus or anything. September is here, and with it comes a lot of things. Mostly a little bit of restlessness. I’ve come to expect this every year, and sometimes even crave it along with the cooler days, the occasional rain, the change of leaves and the start of harvest. I’ve said it before (probably in a blog post from around this time, oh every year since I’ve been blogging) but I think we are programed from a young age to expect change every year. September brings the start of school, a new season, and from the time we are little September brings around change. So its sometimes a harsh reality when we reach adulthood, and realize that jobs don’t change every year, nor do living situations (well I mean they can….) and part of growing up is often settling into that stability, and yes sometimes stagnant routine.

I feel it this time of year especially, because this is when things start to slow down a little bit with work, my two best friends start to travel extensively for their jobs, and as the days become cozier I tend to become a little more introverted.  Well this year, I’m getting a jump on the stagnant feeling, I’m combatting the lonely, and trying to fill my days with manageable change.

Let me just clarify, I’m not bored. I wish I had enough time to be bored… but every waking moment is pretty much jam packed of things to do… but I can tell already that I’m heading for my fall rut, and might actually be prematurely there due to my broken toe/ the collapse of my summer project and goal of running a half marathon.  I became a bit of a slug the last six weeks, and though I’ve still been practicing yoga, I haven’t been motivated to do much else as far as moving my person.

So I’m re-focusing my energies this month, and am being proactive about doing things that are good for me mentally as well as physically, and I’m making small adjustments to my day-to-day routine to make sure that I am living a life that feels fulfilled and meaningful. My friend Amanda over at The Savoury Soul is encouraging people to build their best life. I wrote a guest post for her  blog this week, and am trying to refocus my energy and remind myself that I need to be my own champion, figure out what I need, and take little steps on a daily basis to make my life a little bit happier and healthier.  Amanda has really inspired me lately, and here are  a few of the things I’m going to do/ focus on this month to try and build my best life.

1)   I’m going to be awesome at my job. Not that I’m not already trying to be a successful and productive employee, but  I know there are days when I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and sometimes defeated. I’m going to approach each day with a positive attitude , I’m going to learn from each experience, and everyday I’m going to try to be better and more efficient. I’m going to be filled with gratitude that I have a wonderful job, understanding bosses, and co-workers who are (mostly) supportive. I’m going to be thankful that I have a happy and healthy work environment, and I’m going to focus on the positive, and let go of the negative.

2)   I’m actually going to start meditating again. Whenever life feels out of balance, I think this is a good place to start. Even if it is just a few moments a day, I’m going to make a conscious effort to take a little time to turn inward.

3)   Kick my butt into high gear. I’ve been off my feet for too long, and out of my exercise routine, and I’m feeling a little doughy. I recently purchased a package at Barre 3, and plan on finding new and fun ways to move my person. (barre 3 can get a little spendy, but there is a great deal for new students, also they recently had a deal on living social…its right up my alley with a cross between ballet, yoga and pilaties. Yes please. Also I know its probably not true, but after one class I swear my cellulite is less noticeable… for reals)  I’ve already gotten my hula hoop out of the garage (mom, bring it back!) and in another week or two I’m going to get back into running. Baby steps.

4)   I’m doing a 3 day juice cleanse next week. This I’m actually really excited about. It will probably be hard, and I will probably get grouchy somewhere around, oh the first 2 hours, but I think it will be a healthy way to detox my body, and jump start some healthy habits.  (I’m giving up caffeine and gluten tomorrow, and probably dairy the day after that to ease my body into it… so lets be realistic, I will be grouchy tomorrow… but I’ll try to compensate) I’m going to be doing this with 6 other women, so hopefully we can all support each other (and not kill each other) and it will actually be a fun bonding experience. We are going with Portland Juice Press… I’ve heard good things, and they are willing to deliver all the way to Dundee. I’ll let you know how it goes.

5)   I’m going to be better about corresponding with friends, through the mail. I love getting snail mail, and it takes literally two minutes and like forty something cents (I actually don’t know how much postage is these days, I always buy forever stamps…) and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that someone is going to open up their mail box and have a surprise note. God knows I’ve been collecting fun greeting cards and stationary since I was 12, and have moved all of it with me about a zillion times… might as well lighten the load, work on my penmanship, and start writing some letters.

6)   I renewed my passport today. I always thought I was the kind of girl who kept her passport at the ready in case an exciting adventure called me away at a moment’s notice. So when I pulled out my passport earlier this summer, I was pretty disappointed to find out it expired in February. Good thing I haven’t needed to flee the country.  Realistically I haven’t left in the country in oh, 6 years, but I like to think that my next foreign adventure is right around the corner (Pfeff I am 100% seriously looking into tickets for Paris…I’m just putting that out there)

7)   I’m going to watch less tv. It’s a noble goal. I have a lot of books I want to read, and though I do enjoy being able to mindlessly unwind when I get home from a late night at the restaurant, I’m pretty sure my life will be a little bit more balanced with a little less CSI NY. I’ve started to find myself wondering what sort of forensic evidence I’m leaving in my wake at every single place I visit… if I crime ever happens at the yoga studio, I’m totally going to be a suspect. Especially since I took toby to class this week, and he was probably shedding, and even though I swept I’m sure there is some lingering pet hair, and that will definitely link anything back to me even if I’m not involved in a crime in any way. I’m just saying… THIS IS WHY I’M CUTTING BACK ON TV.

8)   I’m taking a yoga sabbatical. After working 60+ hours a week, I needed to step back a little bit, and recharge. I’m still going to be teaching one class a week, but being responsible for teaching two classes on my “day off” was beginning to be more of a burden than a joy. I adore my students, but needed to respect my own limits, and give myself a change to re-coup.  I think as a result I will come back in a few months as a better teacher.

What steps can you take this month to make your life a little bit better? How are you fighting the Fall Funk?

Jumping on the Coconut Oil Bandwagon:

About a week ago I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon. My roommate used to have coconut oil in the house all the time for cooking purposes, but for the past several years I have been all about the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and I use it in pretty much everything so I never gave much thought to other vegetable and nut oils. It was olive oil, or nothing. But it seems like everyone I know is posting things on pinterest about the benefits of coconut oil, or 101 uses for the stuff, and some of it actually sounds pretty interesting.

One of the great things about having more free time, is being able to follow up on whims and projects… I hopped in my car and headed to Trader Joes for a few random groceries, and of course some in-expensive coconut oil.

And here I am, a week later, kind of obsessed with the stuff… I’m using it in cooking, on my face, even for the dog. Here are a few of my top uses for coconut oil.

First and foremost, I purchased coconut oil so I could begin oil pulling. It is rooted in Ayurvedic tradition (something that fascinates me) and I had been wanting to try it for a long time. Essentially you swish vegetable oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, and it starts to stimulate the mucus membranes, and is a great way to detoxify the body.  I suffer from chronic tonsillitis, and every time I get sick, it manifests in my tonsils, so really anything that would help pull toxins from the body and give my tonsils a break sounded like something worth a try. Even if detoxification wasn’t in the mix, pulling is thought to help whiten teeth, improve gum health and help with bad breath. (who doesn’t want all of those things?) I’m an avid coffee drinker, and lately I’ve also been drinking a lot of green tea (supposedly as staining to your teeth as coffee) so whitening seems like an added bonus.  Supposedly, pulling also helps with migraines, skin ailments, joint pain, fatigue, and so and so forth.  The thing that makes the most sense to me, is that our mouths are filled with bacteria, and the mouth is the gateway to a lot of other systems in the body (plaque in the mouth is the same plaque that causes heart issues etc.) Starting to detoxify the body, even if it is just the mouth seems like it would naturally have a lot of health benefits… right? So I decided to try it, and I’m kind of obsessed.    You can use any type of vegetable oil, but when I tried using olive oil, I found it was too spicy, and was hard to keep the oil in my mouth for an extended period of time. ( I think sesame oil is also recommended, but also kind of gross). I like using coconut oil because the flavor is really mild. At first 15-20 minutes seemed like a REALLY long time, but being an infamous multi-tasker, I just decided to “pull” while I was in the shower and getting ready for the day, and the 15-20 minutes go by a lot faster than you think.  You don’t need very much oil (a very small spoonful, the coconut oil will melt in your mouth) and you do not want to swallow the oil as it will be loaded with bacteria.  After the time is up, spit the oil in the toilet or, as I do, into a  plastic cup.  (I suppose you could spit in the sink, but I used to work at an olive oil tasting room, and I’ve seen what excess olive oil can do a septic system… I’m inclined to think that coconut oil wouldn’t be that different… I plan on pouring my cup of coconut oil  out in some back corner of the yard…)   I’ve been pulling  for a week, and I’m still going strong. My mouth feels healthier, and I’ve noticed my tongue looks a lot cleaner… my skin is also looking great, but that could be the fact that I’m also putting coconut oil on my face.  Really, I want someone else that I know to try this, and then we can compare notes…

As a moisturizer:  I will admit, I was skeptical to start putting oil on my face. My entire life I’ve had combination skin, so I’ve been walking that fine line between excessively oily, excessively dry, or that weird shiny but flaky look that plagues us combination skin types.  Haven’t people been telling us our whole lives that its all the excess oil that is trapping the skin cells on our face and causing clogged pores? Well, after doing a little research, it made a lot of sense to me that trying to remove excess oil from your face with cleansers actually makes your body produce more oil, since your skin is trying to compensate. This leaves skin not only parched, but then saturated with extra oil… great… good to know I’ve just been exacerbating the problem for years.  I’m not a science minded lady, but it does makes sense to me that like dissolves like, so why we expect that washing our face with water would help get rid of oil is a mystery. But perhaps adding oil to oil… now we are getting somewhere… Putting “clean” oil on your face helps dissolve the “bad” oil and can help remove any build up in your pores… So not only have I started using coconut oil as a moisturizer, but I’ve also adopted the OCM (Oil Cleaning Method) and have started using oil to wash my face.

At first I was a little terrified… but when I saw how great my skin looked after the first “wash” I was sold… granted it has only been a week, and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time during this experiment, but for the time being, I’m sold. My skin has a healthy glow (and not the oily kind), and my pores appear way smaller… all I have to say to that is Halleluiah! I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my pores… ask me one thing I could change about my body, and I don’t even think about the cellulite or the shape of my thighs…(I mean I do a little, but when it comes to my body, I always figure if I REALLY wanted to make a change, I would work a little harder, exercise a little more… overall I’m happy with my shape…)  if I could change one thing about my body I would have smaller less visible pores… who knew that all it would take would be adding some oil to my skin? Currently I’m actually using a blend of caster oil and olive oil to “wash” my face, and am then finishing up by putting coconut oil around my eyes and on any dry areas. This post is getting a little long, so I won’t go into full detail, but I found the instructions on the Full Moxie, and she has some great explanations, and links to other blogs to get you started.  My only suggestion would be that, you should in fact use a hot wash-cloth over your face afterward to help open up the pores and remove the excess oil, otherwise it can be a little challenging/ a little messy to try and wash off in the sink. The only downside of this whole method is that I’m having to wash my hand towels more frequently (so maybe it’s actually a good thing).

     In food/cooking: I’ve only tried using coconut oil in a few culinary endeavors, but after reading about the health benefits, I’m excited to start using it more. Its supposed to be great for the Thyroid, good for boosting the metabolism, good for the immune system, good for your skin, good for reducing stress, good for your bones, etc. etc.  I’ve been adding a spoonful to my green smoothies in the morning, and it definitely enhances the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I actually don’t mind the taste of green smoothies… but every now and then, they are just a little too green (I blame the raw kale) but the coconut oil adds a subtle flavor boost.  I also added a bit of coconut oil to my quinoa the other day (I usually make a large batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week, and then re-heat and enhance as necessary for a quick meal.) I usually re-heat the quinoa in a pan on the stove, so I tossed a little coconut oil in, and it was delicious.  I’ve also been using coconut oil to make popcorn… (its especially good if you are wanting a little bit of sweetness).

     For the Dog: Toby, like me, has rather sensitive skin… I used to put olive oil in his food to help with his skin and fur…  But, being a bit of an olive oil snob, it was getting a little pricey to be adding good olive oil to his food (he’s like my kid… but I don’t think he really appreciates the nuances of the flavor of the koroneki olive oil… and I’m on a tight budget) but over the past few days I have been mixing a little coconut oil in with his meals.   I’ve also been using coconut oil to soothe this dry nose, and have been putting a small amount into his nose rope. Those of you with bulldogs know that they are prone to yeast infections in their face rolls, and cleaning out his wrinkles is a daily grooming ritual. Coconut oil is supposed to have antimicrobial properties, and said to be good for treating yeast infections… (though I might just let the dog try that one out)  The coconut oil hasn’t completely alleviated his yeast problems, but it has definitely slowed down the growth rate, and over all his snout seems healthier and happier.

     On my hair: I’ve been growing out my hair for what seems like forever, and I’ve been doing occasional hot oil treatments to help stimulate my scalp and hair growth.  Yesterday I used coconut oil on my scalp and hair as a moisturizing treatment. Today my hair feels great, but I will say it looked a little greasy yesterday even after I washed it.  As a disclaimer, I have never been the kind of girl who can pull off shampooing every other day. I know it is supposed to be better for your hair, and I’m sure that if I actually toughed it out and got through the initial week of greasiness, I would really love the results… but I’m just not that girl. Its fine when I’m camping… but back here in the real world, I like to wash my hair…  I remember being a little girl sitting at the dinner table and my mom looking at me and suggesting that maybe I should wash my hair twice the next time I showered… she wasn’t trying to be mean, I know it was coming from a place of “I don’t want my kid to be the greasy un-bathed child on the playground” but I think it has lead to a life-long insecurity about having greasy hair.  (sorry mom, I don’t hold it against you) Not to mention the fact that pretty much every morning when I wake up, I look like the cross between Tarzan and a rat terrier. I shower every day… and I wash my hair everyday… call it my fatal flaw.  I’ve always been jealous of the women who could go for days without washing their hair (I have always had these types of women for roommates… and I’m full of envy). I’m getting a little off-topic I know… but what I’m getting at, is that the coconut oil left my hair looking a little greasier than I would have liked… but, I still think using it as a hair treatment is a great idea, but maybe I’ll just do it on the weekends.

Ok, this post is getting long, and I don’t want to bore you with my new found love of coconut oil. Just a quick list of a few of the other things I’ve been using it for

-to protect and moisturize my tattoo

-as a lip balm

-on my eczema patches (with mixed results)

-on my cuticles

Hello Hamstrings: a basic intro to Supta Padangusthasana

I have really tight hamstrings… me and every other person in America (or so it seems). As a yoga teacher one of the things I hear about the most is tight hamstrings… which is why one of my favorite poses to do in class is Supta Padangusthasana ( or reclining big toe pose). If you have ever taken a class from me there is a very good chance this pose was visited… I do not preach in my classes (at least I don’t think I do) but I know I have told pretty much every one of my students that life would be better if we practiced this particular stretch in our daily lives.

Of course I have been saying this for years… and thus far I have never managed to get into a routine of doing this stretch at home… but I do teach it at least twice a week (if not more). But here I am, virtually unemployed, with a plethora of free time, and a lot of motivation, so I’m pledging to do this stretch every day for one week, and see if it actually makes a difference in my life. Who is with me? I’ll do a follow up post after a week of consistent stretching, and I’d love to have your comments & personal feedback (feel free to comment here or on the facebook page).

I’m not expecting any profound epiphanies, but I do know that since I have been running more this year, my hamstrings are even tighter than normal, and though this is certainly not the only good hamstring stretch (and maybe not even the absolute best one) it is by far my favorite.

There are a ton of other great benefits about this pose as well. It’s great for lower back pain, it stretches the calves and inner thighs, helps strengthen the core, it can help with sciatica, it can even help you reduce stress.  Denise Benitez says in an article for the Yoga Journal that “You may never become a model for the loose hamstring calendar, but the benefits of Supta Padangusthasana will enrich your life in many ways. Your pelvis will enjoy more of its full movement through space (great for Latin dancing!), all your yoga poses will benefit, and your spirit will be soothed by the gentle release of the often overworked muscles on the back side of your body.”

Do I really need to keep listing reasons why almost everyone would benefit from a daily dose of this pose?  Hamstrings can be tricky, and stretching them takes time (I’ve heard 20-30 minutes a day of un-loaded stretching) And we might not all have that kind of time to devote to opening these key muscles, but even two minutes a day is better than none.

This stretch is usually done with a  yoga strap, but if you are trying it at home a belt or long sleeved tee-shirt should do the trick.

photo(102)

Bulldog is optional. =)  but he does add a little complexity to the pose when he starts nibbling on your ears/ face.

Start by lying on your back (supine) with knees bent. Place the strap (or whatever prop you are using) over the ball of the right foot and begin to extend the right leg up towards the sky. (keeping a slight bend in the knee is a-ok. First and foremost, listen to your body).  Starting out I’d recommend keeping the left knee bent with the foot on the floor, but if you are feeling a little more open, and don’t have any lower back considerations, you might want to extend the left leg out onto the floor, keeping a strong flex to both feet.

Trying to pull evenly through both sides of the strap, invite your shoulders to relax. (you might even anchor your elbows on the floor so you encourage the arms to relax). I like to engage my core while in this pose, by simply drawing my belly button in and up… offering support to the lower back.

You might gently let the right leg rock back and forth in this pose, getting a little bit of movement in the hip joint (because motion is lotion).

After spending at least 1 minute with the leg up towards the sky, transfer both sides of the strap/prop into the right hand. Invite you left hand to help anchor your left hip to the ground. (if you left knee is still bent, you can slightly let the knee open towards the left to act as a counter balance, which will help keep the hip rooted down). Very slowly, perhaps to the count of 10, invite your right leg open to the right side. Keeping the flex in the foot, you might even encourage the toes to inch a little bit in the direction of your right shoulder.  This is usually about the time I have to remind myself about what my core is doing, (keep zipping up!). Holding here for several breaths (or several minutes, you know your body best), then slowly begin to engage the secondary muscles in your right leg. Trying to use the strength of the leg rather than the pull on the strap to slowly (SLOWLY! Work through the resistance, you’ll gain more benefits if you help strengthen while you stretch! It’s not just about momentum!) lift your leg back up towards the sky. Hold here for a few more breaths before slowly releasing the strap, and lowering your leg.

Take a moment, and notice if you feel a difference between your right and left leg (right leg might feel just a little bit longer! Progress!).  As you are ready, bend both knees, and get ready to stretch out the left leg!

Helpful hints:

Try to stretch for the same amount of time on each side. How you track is up to you, you might just be able to “feel” when you are even. But you might count the breaths spent in each part of the pose, listen to a set amount of songs, or maybe even set a timer.

I love stretching in the morning, but you might try this stretch at the end of the day, and see if you notice a difference in flexibility from morning to evening. We tend to be a little more warmed up at the end of the day because we have been up and moving around a bit and your hamstrings might be a little less resistant.

You might also experiment with trying this stretch at the beginning/ end of a yoga practice, and see if you notice a difference. This stretch is a great way to warm up for a variety of standing poses, but it’s also a great way to end a practice after your muscles are already warm and have been working a little bit.

* I should probably put a disclaimer in here that yes, I am an RYT, but stretching/ exercising at home can have risks. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! For further and more detailed instructions, you might visit the Yoga Journal website