Nutritious Blueberry Muffins

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Checkout this YUMMY blueberry muffin recipe I made for my Nutrition Workshop this past weekend. They are flour-less, refined sugar-less, dairy-free & are a perfect post-workout snack!

Flour-less Blueberry Muffins

  • 2 ripe medium-size bananas
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 eggs (or egg replacer if you would like to go vegan)
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • Coconut sugar to sprinkle

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line muffin tin(s). (I was able to make 16 muffins)

Place all of the ingredients except for the blueberries into a food processor & blend for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Using a spoon, gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Pour the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4th the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Sprinkle with Coconut Sugar & cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Yummy & Healthy Dark Chocolate Almond Butter & Lentil Blondies

Even though I thoroughly enjoy eating healthy, I also LOVE a sweet treat! My go-to is basically anything with DARK CHOCOLATE & ALMOND BUTTER in it, so I thought I would research a healthy alternative to a classic BLONDIE recipe. I found one on Pinterest that I tweaked a bit & must say it was quite satisfying!

Check out the healthier BLONDIE recipe below & be prepared to be amazed at how good these sweet treats are 🙂

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DARK CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER BLONDIES: Adapted from the Ambitious Kitchen

  • 1/2 cup Red Lentils
  • 1/2 cup All-Natural Almond Butter (I used Crunchy. Make sure the only ingredient is ALMONDS!)
  • 1/3 cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Oat Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celtic or Himalayan Sea Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips (at least 70% or darker), plus a handful for sprinkling on top

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, combine lentils and 1 cup of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until lentils are soft. Transfer lentils to a food processor, add a few tablespoons of water, then process until lentils are a smooth puree; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9×9 inch baking pan with coconut oil spray.

Whisk oat flour, baking soda & salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl or electric mixer, mix together almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Add in lentil puree and mix until well combined.

Fold in oat mixture then gently fold in 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool & inhale! 😉

Benefits of some of the above ingredients!

  • Lentils: Are packed with protein, fiber, minerals & vitamins which helps lower blood cholesterol, reduces risk of heart disease, increases gut health, & stabilizes blood sugar.
  • Almond Butter: Almonds are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, iron, & healthy fats.
  • Oat Flour: Is a better option than unbleached white flour because it is gluten-free, has protein, fiber, minerals, B Vitamins, iron, vitamin E, & calcium. Oats are known to aid in heart health, lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes by balancing blood sugars & lowering cholesterol.
  • Pure Maple Syrup: Is loaded with the powerful antioxidants, Polyphenols, that helps reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases. Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that releases into the blood stream slower than processed sugars, so the blood sugar is balanced. It also reduces bloat, is high in zinc, iron, calcium, potassium & manganese,
  • Dark Chocolate: Can help lower your blood pressure by improving blood flow, helps reduce risk of stroke, helps control blood sugar, is full of antioxidants, vitamins, & minerals. Dark chocolate is also known to release endorphins in the brain to make you happier

A Greens Juice a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

I started incorporating a Greens Juice into my day several years ago after reading Kimberly Synder’s “Beauty Detox Solution.” And let me tell you, it was one of the best “health-related” decisions I’ve ever made! Raw vegetables & fruits have the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients our bodies need to look, feel, and function at an optimal level. However, it would take pounds of greens & fruit to get the same amount of benefits in just one 16 oz. fresh juice, so that’s why it’s so important to add it into your daily routine!

I choose to drink my Greens Juice as my breakfast in the morning because I have an empty stomach so I can absorb the most nutrients & it’s easier to digest, plus the juice can be utilized as “quick energy” for my morning workouts. Some of my clients or friends ask “Well what about the all the sugar in juices?” I remind them that fruit contains natural sugars that our bodies digest differently than processed sugars, so if you aren’t overindulging in fruits all day long and you are getting enough exercise, you will have nothing to worry about! You can also choose a juice that only has greens or only has one kind of fruit as well.

Some of the benefits I’ve experienced from having my daily Greens Juice include: clearer, more vibrant skin; more energy; weight loss (I’ve been at the best weight of my life over the past couple of years – I’m 32!); regularity, boost in my immune system (I might get a cold once a year if that!); less aches & pains; boost in my metabolism; stronger, thicker hair; and I just overall FEEL BETTER! Remember when choosing your Greens Juice, it’s best to get a freshly squeezed or pressed, organic brand. Skip anything that can last more than a couple of days, because it’s usually pasteurized, has additives and loses all the positive health benefits that fresh juices have. That being said, here are my FAVORITE Dallas-based Juices that you need to try ASAP 🙂

CENTRAL MARKET: (Kale, Pineapple, Apple, Ginger) www.centralmarket.com

VIM+VIGOR: NO. 9 (Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Cucumber, Lemon, Ginger) www.vimvigorjuice.com

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BOOM JUICE: GREEN MONSTER (Kale, Pineapple, Ginger) wp.boomjuice.com

green-monster1-300x300THE JUICE BAR: SKINNY GREENS (Cucumber, Green Apple, Kale, Spinach, Lemon, Ginger, Cayenne) www.thejuicebardallas.com

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THE GEM: GREEN GLOW (Kale, Cucumber, Lemon, Ginger, Apple) www.insidethegem.com

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Heart Healthy Foods & Supplements

Did you know the leading cause of death for both men & women in the U.S. is Heart Disease? The #1 symptom is high blood pressure which can be directly linked to both dietary and lifestyle choices. When it comes to lifestyle, make sure you are minimizing stress (think yoga & meditation), getting plenty of physical exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and limiting your alcohol consumption. When it comes to diet, make sure you are avoiding foods that are high in sodium (fried foods, some pre-made breads/pastries/muffins, cheese, store-bought salad dressings, chips, crackers, a good majority of restaurant foods & fast food, red meat, frozen dinners, pizza, packaged deli meats, pre-made soups, to name a few), foods high in sugar (soda, sweets, candy, desserts, processed foods), drinks with caffeine (soda, coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated tea), and over-consumption of alcoholic beverages (1 drink per day maximum – red wine is the best option).

So what are some “Heart Healthy” food options? Check out my suggestions below to help lower your blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol, and keep your heart (and body) healthy and strong!green and red healthy food

Heart Healthy Foods:

  • Fish: The healthy amounts of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, in particular EPA & DHA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid & Docosahexaenoic Acid) found in fish are crucial to our heart and brain health! The best sources include: Salmon, Mackerel, Halibut, Fresh Tuna, Anchovy, Herring, Sablefish, as well as Oysters and Mollusks.
  • Additional Omega 3’s: There are plenty of plant-based foods that also contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Instead of EPA & DHA, plant-based foods contain ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) which also aids in cardiovascular health. The best sources include: Ground Flax Seed, Flax Seed Oil, Hemp Nuts and Oil, Canola Oil, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Chia Seeds, Soybeans, Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Spinach, Fresh Basil, and Romaine Lettuce.
  • Healthy Fats: Some additional “Healthy Fats” not mentioned above that increase heart health include: Avocados, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Almonds, Almond Butter, and Olives. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to consuming Healthy Fats, including Omega 3’s – You don’t need to eat a large portion of these foods to get the benefits!
  • Fruits: Fruits contain a plethora of Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients, Phytonutrients, and Antioxidants that help our bodies function. In particular, fruits help wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting the blood vessels and heart. The best sources to keep your bloodstream clean include: Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Papaya, Cherries, and Ripe Bananas.
  • Veggies and Herbs: Vegetables, just like Fruits, contain Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients, Phytonutrients, and Antioxidants that help our bodies function. The best sources for your heart’s health include: Asparagus, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Tomatoes, Broccoli, Leafy Greens, Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, Yams, Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Mint, Parsley, Basil, Ground Cloves, Watercress, Ginger, Tumeric, and Beets.
  • Whole Grains and Legumes: Whole grains and Legumes are known for their rich sources of both protein and fiber. Fiber not only helps keep our digestive system healthy, but it also helps keep the blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure in check. Whole grains and Legumes also contain an abundant amount of essential nutrients including B Vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, and Selenium, which all help with heart functions. The best sources include: Oatmeal, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Lentils, Garbanzo Beans, Navy Beans, Lima Beans, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Sprouted Grain Bread, Oats, Whole Wheat Pasta, Millet, and Barley.
  • Water: Staying hydrated is critical in keeping your body alive and running. When you are even slightly dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to work harder to pump the thicker blood. Minerals in water are also essential in keeping your heart healthy, as they are more easily absorbed in water than in food, especially magnesium. Alkaline water is the best source for the added minerals, but filtered water is a good option too!
  • Tea: Flavonoids and Antioxidants in certain teas are known to help with heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Teas with caffeine should be consumed in small amounts, but those without are great to have everyday.  The best non-caffeinated teas for the heart are: Safflower, Hibiscus, Passionflower, Rooibos, and Ginger.
  • Red Wine: Red wine contains Flavonoids and Antioxidants, in particular the Polyphenol called Resveratrol, that are said to help keep the heart healthy. Resveratrol has been shown to prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce “bad cholesterol” levels, reduce inflammation, and prevent blood clots. However, there’s still a lot of research to do to conclude the heart healthy benefits, but we do know drinking more than one glass a day negates the health benefits, so be mindful of your consumption!

Heart Healthy Supplements:

If you do have any current heart issues, it’s always good to just double check with your doctor before adding a supplement into your diet. But all of these have been proven to help strength your heart health: Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin D Supplement (if you aren’t getting enough sunshine), Probiotic, and CoQ10.

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What is Oil Pulling?

Oil Pulling (The art of swishing oil around in your mouth – yes it does sound a little ridiculous) has recently become a trend of sorts, so I thought I would give it a try to see what all of the hype was about. First off, Oil Pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique. Ayurveda is one of the most powerful and sophisticated forms of alternative medicine created thousands of years ago by Eastern Indian sages to help people stay vibrant and healthy. As I’m sure you’ve heard on toothpaste commercials, our mouths are home to billions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other parasites and their toxins. (Including Candida and Streptococcus) It’s our Immune System’s responsibility to fight off these foreign invaders, but if it’s compromised, they can very easily move from the mouth to other parts of the body, reeking havoc along the way. With Oil Pulling, the Oil acts like a cleanser, pulling out the unwanted bacteria and debris. Basically, studies have shown it to be a great, natural alternative to mouthwash and then some!

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The technique is said to cure a variety of illnesses and ailments with some of the benefits including:

  • Whiter/Brighter Teeth
  • Eliminates Tooth Decay, Gum Disease, Gingivitis, Bleeding Gums
  • Strengthens Teeth, Gum, and Jaw
  • Prevents Bad Breath (Halitosis)
  • Increased Energy
  • Clearer Mind
  • Decreased Headaches/Migraines
  • Clearer Sinuses/Allergies
  • Better Sleep
  • Clearer Skin
  • Improved Lymphatic System
  • Improved PMS symptoms

Significant results are said to be noticed after about a month, but for me, I found that within the first week, my teeth were whiter and brighter, and my breath felt fresher throughout the day. I have noticed a bit of “phlegm” in the back of my throat, but I read that was just part of the “detox” process and the body is just “clearing out” the toxins. With time, those detox symptoms are said to pass, so I will wait it out! That being said, I recommend you give Oil Pulling a try and see what happens for you, especially if you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above. Check out the steps necessary to start your Oil Pulling routine below:

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1. First off, make sure you conduct your Oil Pulling in the AM before breakfast as it’s best to do it on an empty stomach. Choose a high quality, organic, cold-pressed Oil (Sunflower, Sesame, or Coconut are the suggested ones). I chose Coconut Oil because I had it at my house, I don’t mind the taste, and it contains Lauric Acid which is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties.

2. Spoon a Tablespoon into your mouth and swish it around for 5-20 minutes. I suggest you start with a shorter amount of time and work your way up as it’s a little weird at first. (I’m only to the 10 minute mark!) Know that the “swishing” doesn’t have to be done aggressively, just move it around and pull through your teeth every so often. You will also notice that the oil amount will increase in size as you start salivating.

3. Make sure NOT to swallow any of the oil/saliva as it contains all of the bacteria and toxins from your mouth that you are trying to get rid of.

4. When you are ready to spit out the oil/saliva, make sure to do it in the trash can or toilet as the oil can clog your drains.

5. After you’ve spit everything out, swish a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar around in your mouth to get rid of any lingering oil, bacteria, or toxins.

6. Brush and floss your teeth and see how you feel!

The Benefits of B Vitamins

Referred to as the “B Complex,” the eight essential B Vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 – play an important roll in keeping our bodies energized throughout the day. While the B Vitamins often work in tandem, each one has its own specific benefits. It’s important to not become deficient in these important Vitamins, so check out what each of them can do for your body below and how you can incorporate more B Vitamin-rich foods into your daily diet. I also choose to take a B Complex supplement several times a week to keep my body’s supply of this important Vitamin strong. (I take Whole Foods “B Daily Essentials”)

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B1 (Thiamine) Thiamine’s main function is to help metabolize carbohydrates, turning sugars and starches into the energy our bodies need. This vitamin also helps the body create new cells as well as protect the immune system. Good dietary sources include: Legumes (Beans & Lentils), Whole Grain Breads & Cereals, Oatmeal, Rice Bran, Wheat Germ, Nuts, Seeds, Oranges. Thiamine deficiency is common in people who consume a lot of alcohol, coffee, tea, raw seafood, antacids, carbonated beverages, diuretics, tobacco, and barbiturates.

B2 (Riboflavin) Riboflavin is known for supporting the Adrenal System, calming and maintaining a healthy nervous system, as well as aiding in metabolic processes including cell regeneration. Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant, fighting off free radicals to help reduce the signs of aging as well as prevent diseases such as cancer and heart disease. This vitamin is thought to help people suffering from migraines, cataracts, depression, and anemia. Good dietary sources include: Eggs, Enriched fortified Cereals and Grains, Meats, Dark Greens (Spinach, Asparagus, Broccoli, Turnip Greens), Fish, Buckwheat, Almonds, Wild Rice, and Brussels Sprouts.

B3 (Niacin) Niacin is essential for the metabolism of Carbohydrates & Fats. It also helps raise HDL cholesterol, which is the “good” cholesterol. The higher the HDL, the lower the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood, which means a reduced risk of heart disease. Niacin may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Osteoarthritis. Good dietary sources include: Salmon, Tuna, Leafy Vegetables, Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes, Avocados, Nuts, Whole Grains, Legumes, and Mushrooms.

B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Small amounts of B5 are found in almost every food group. In addition to breaking down Fats & Carbs for energy, it’s responsible for the production of sex and stress-related hormones. Pantothenic Acid also promotes healthy skin, reducing redness, aging, and skin spots. Good dietary sources include: Avocado, Legumes, Shitake Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes, Lentils, and Broccoli.

B6 (Pyridoxine) This vitamin helps with brain health by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that allow brain and nerve cells to communicate with one another. Therefore, B6 helps people with depression, ADHD, and memory loss. Other conditions that can be improved by B6 include Arthritis, PMS, Kidney Stones, Lung Cancer, Acne, and Carpal Tunnel. Good dietary sources include: Bananas, Cereal Grains, Legumes, Carrots, Spinach, Peas, Potatoes, Fish, Sunflower Seeds.

B7 (Biotin) You might have tried Biotin to improve your skin, hair, and nail health. But Biotin also helps keep blood glucose levels in check (which is extremely important for those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes), as well as help with the development of a fetus in the mother’s womb. Good dietary sources include: Cauliflower, Green Peas, Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Bananas, Strawberries, Raspberries, Watermelon, Grapefruit, Oats, Brown Rice, Egg Yolks, Meat Livers, and Salmon.

B9 (Folate or Folic Acid) B9 is essential for human growth and development, so it’s important for pregnant women and those thinking about becoming pregnant to have plenty of Folic Acid. Folic Acid may also help in preventing colon, lung, and cervix cancer, memory loss, heart disease, and stroke. Good dietary sources include: Asparagus, Mushrooms, Bananas, Melons, Lemons, Beets, Dark Leafy Greens, and Beans/Legumes.

B12 (Cobalamin) B12 is one of the most talked about B Vitamins, as it’s easy to become deficient if you are a strict Vegetarian or Vegan. Why So? Because it is the only B Vitamin that cannot be produced by either plants or animals, it’s only produced by fungi and bacteria. Animals, unlike plants, are able to store the B12 bacteria in their bodies, which is then transferred to humans who consume the animal meat/products. B12 helps with Neurological function, the building of red blood cells, and DNA synthesis. Good dietary sources include: Salmon, Sardines, Mushrooms, Tuna, Cod, Lamb, Scallops, Beef, and Dairy.

TOP 10 Favorite Nutrition & Yoga Books

I am lucky to say, I LOVE READING! Growing up, my family thought I was weird when I would get excited for the Book Fair to come to school. But even today, I am always reading at least one “educational” book a week with a “mindless” read thrown in there too. I think it’s important to continually learn and educate yourself as much as you can, not only when it comes to your career, but also your health!

So check out some of my favorite NUTRITIONAL & YOGA reads below!

(They are in no particular order)

Remember…KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

The-Beauty-Detox-SolutionThe Beauty Detox Solution By Kimberly Snyder

This is an excellent, easy to understand book that details the importance of eating plant-based foods for optimum health and beauty. She also gives a lot of great information on supplements. Her dietary beliefs can be a little on the extreme side, so don’t feel overwhelmed! I’ve been able to slowly integrate a lot of her suggestions over the course of several years and have never felt or looked better because of it!

514OGtUqvGL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Happy Yoga By Steve Ross

Well I am a little impartial to the author, considering he is my boss! But seriously, this book has a wealth of information told in the classic Steve Ross humorous way! He discusses a lot of serious issues we all face as humans, and uses his vast knowledge of ancient yogic teachings to help us through these roadblocks that are usually keeping us from our happiest selves. If you are looking for an inspiring read to keep you moving forward with your practice or to motivate you to start, I highly recommend this book!

The-China-Study-smallThe China Study By T. Colin Campbell

The China Study was the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease, in particular heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. This book forever changed how I viewed Protein, in particular dairy and animal meat. It’s an intense read with a lot of information, but it breaks down the nutritional confusion that so many of us experience about how we should eat! If you or someone you love suffers from cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or an auto-immune disease, this is a must read!

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The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice By T.K.V. Desikachar

This was one of the first “yoga” books I ever read. Not only did it outline the physical aspects of the practice, but it went into more depth about the spiritual teachings including the Yoga Sutras, 8 Limbs of Yoga, the Niyamas & Yamas, as well as Pranayama. It’s a great read for those of you more interested in the fundamentals and ancient teachings of the Yoga Practice.

saltSalt, Sugar, Fat By Michael Moss

Sometimes I find a book that is so moving, so informative and so educational that I have to read it more than once. Salt, Sugar, Fat was definitely one of those books. In fact, I am re-reading it right now! Michael Moss goes inside the processed food industry, breaking down how companies like Kraft, Coke, Nestle, and General Mills, get us hooked on their products. There is definitely some disturbing information, especially when it comes to the U.S. Government’s involvement in the Processed food industry that everyone should know about. If you want to know the background story on Cheez-whiz, Lunchables, McDonald’s Hamburgers or Breakfast Cereals, you need to read this now. But let me warn you, you will probably become a lot healthier, lose weight, and live longer after you realize what goes into making processed food!

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Meditations From the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga By Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison

My mother-in-law gave me this book one Christmas, and I’m so lucky she did! This book can be read all at once or daily over the course of a year to give you reflections or reminders on how to incorporate your yoga and mindfulness practice into your every day life. If I am having a scattered or stressful day, I like to open the book up to no particular page and just read the daily reflection. It always reminds me that I’m not alone in the world, and everyone has stressful or difficult situations they have to overcome. The reflections really help put into perspective what’s truly important, and reminds readers to be grateful each and every day!

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The Detox Solution By Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald

Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald started the Santa Monica Wellness Center, and is at the forefront of Holistic and Alternative Medicine. I loved this informative book because it really broke down how toxic our bodies are because of the Environmental toxins we are exposed to each and every day, and how we can best limit our exposure through small changes. She also explains how food, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients can help with the detoxification process. There’s a lot of scientific information in this book, but if it is too technical for you, she’s always available for appointments!

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Yoga And The Quest For the True Self Stephen Cope

During my career transition from Publicist to Yoga/Fitness Instructor, I encountered A LOT of stress, anxiety, fear, and doubt. I found this book during my transition and it helped me tremendously! The author, Stephen Cope, is a yoga instructor and psychotherapist at the famed Kripalu Institute in Massachusetts. His book gives insights on how the ancient yogic practices can be applied directly to every day life situations to provide relief, inner peace and joy without having to be a monk in India meditating all day. The examples he gave made me feel like he was talking directly to me! So I suggest you read this book, especially if you are going through a tough internal struggle.

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Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal By Eric Schlosser

This book explores the deep, dark secrets of some of America’s most popular fast food chains. Just like, Salt, Sugar, Fat, there’s some disturbing, but incredibly insightful material that will make you think twice about going through the McDonald’s or Taco Bell drive-thru. There’s also a section that delves into the Meat-packing plants that supply all of the beef, pork, and chicken to fast food chains. The health risks, Environmental impact, and inhumane treatment of animals discussed will really open your eyes to what’s going on behind closed doors and reconsider what you are eating.

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The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body By Cameron Diaz

I enjoyed Cameron Diaz’s book because it encompassed all areas of your life in order to find optimal health! She focused not only on Nutrition and Fitness, but also on the Mind/Body connection. She delves into her own struggles with poor eating habits and bad skin, and discusses how she was able to change her lifestyle for the better. With the help of some highly-educated contributors, Cameron was able to supply a wealth of information in an easy-to-understand way with a little bit of humor thrown in too!

Mindfulness Meditation

I recently completed a 6-week course in Mindfulness Meditation at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA. As a yoga instructor, I know how important it is to be mindful, present and have a daily meditation practice, but as a human, I know how incredibly hard it is to stay present enough to be mindful or meditate! That being said, I wanted to share a bit of what I learned to hopefully inspire you to give Mindfulness and Meditation a place in your daily routine.

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

First off, Mindfulness may be thought of as a state of consciousness, one characterized by attention to present experience with a stance of open curiosity, and it can be brought to any aspect of our lives. In fact, you can easily practice it instantaneously by just being aware of your present-moment experience anytime throughout the day. But as we all know our minds are busy, and they usually are in one place while our bodies are in another. The good news is our brains have a great capacity to change in both structure and function with experience, and Mindfulness practice is just like exercise for the brain. And as we all know, the more we practice something, the better we get at it!

HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

When incorporating Mindfulness, you aren’t trying to change who you are, but just be more connected to your body, thoughts, and feelings and how they impact your daily life. In the process, you might realize there are habits or tendencies that invoke stress or suffering and find ways to acknowledge and hopefully change hurtful behaviors. Unfortunately, modern society encourages us to be mindless – busying ourselves with multi-tasking, speed, and efficiency. But when you are aware of the present moment in a kind and curious way, accepting it exactly as it is, then you have the direct experience of Mindfulness.

A fun exercise we did in class was “Mindfully” eat a raisin! If you think about it, how often do you actually slow down and taste each and every bite of food every time you eat? I know for me it was hardly ever! But when I actually felt the raisin, observed its texture, noticed my mouth salivating when it touched my lips, felt the burst of flavor as I bit into it and chewed, it was quite a new and interesting experience! When we take time to practice being fully present in a mundane, usually mindless task, we often notice new things such as reoccurring thoughts, feelings, and sensations. And sometimes they aren’t always positive ones!

So I encourage you to try being as present and mindful as you can while completing a task such as driving, walking, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, chatting with a friend, or eating. See how you feel, what sensations arise? Do you feel nervous? Bored? Stressed? Anxious? Whatever is going on, just observe, be curious, let go of judgment and be kind and accepting of your experience. Over time, practicing this type of Mindfulness will allow you to become more aware of the obstacles that keep you from changing your behavior (if it’s inhibiting). You’re better able to recognize when a trigger or tendency to behave in a hurtful or non-healthy way happens and choose alternatives to create change.

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STARTING A MEDITATION PRACTICE

In addition to practicing Mindfulness throughout your day, I highly encourage a Meditation practice as well. I’ve been using several great apps that I’ve downloaded directly on my phone that have various guided meditations that can be used anytime, anywhere. (See below!) When I have 5 or 10 minutes in between clients, I just close my eyes in my car and get in my daily Meditation. Afterwards, I feel relaxed, calm, clear-minded and energized. Meditation can be especially helpful if you are feeling stressed, panicked, overwhelmed, depressed, angry, or fearful. When those feelings are occurring, we have usually lost touch with the present moment. But when we actually slow down, distance ourselves from the thoughts or stories we’ve created in our mind, we usually realize this particular moment is not as bad as we seem to think it is.

With Meditation, there can often be a sense of being overwhelmed or unsure of how to do it. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Some days you feel very relaxed and it’s easy to clear your mind. Other days, not so much. But that’s part of the practice…taking the good with the bad and not judging or getting frustrated with yourself. I like to focus on my breath as an anchor and tool to bring me back to the present when thoughts start to arise. Some people like to use a color, mantra (word or phrase), or background noise. But just remember, you are trying to build a new skill, a new brain pattern, and resistance helps build and develop strength. The wandering, restless, fantasizing, thinking mind is the resistance, and the more you train yourself to return your attention to the present moment/breath, the “stronger” and more skilled you will become. So be patient and kind with yourself as it’s more about the journey versus the destination when it comes to meditating.

MEDITATION RESOURCES

Here are some of my FAVORITE Meditation Programs:

Here are some of my FAVORITE Meditation Apps:

  • Headspace
  • Stop, Breathe & Think
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Simply Being

ONE DAY YOGA RETREAT IN LOS ANGELES

Are you looking to have a day to RE-CHARGE, RE-ENERGIZE, and RE-BOOT your MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT? Then join us for a day of  YOGA, MEDITATION, NUTRITION, GOAL SETTING, & HIKING right here in LA! Checkout details below! Feel free to email me with any questions: info@kaleighwalker.com

Spots are going FAST, so reserve your spot today at: http://www.cucciosomatology.com/#!retreats/chkl

WHEN: Saturday, August 2nd: 10am – 3pm

WHERE: Beautiful Private Home in Brentwood

WHAT:  Join us for Yoga, Nutrition Lecture/Vegetarian Lunch, Mindfulness Meditation Speaker, Goody Bags, Meeting New Friends & More!

WHO: Yoga Instructors Danielle Cuccio & Kaleigh Walker

COST: $97 (Early Bird Price by July 1st)

Yoga Retreat 8.2.14

Focus Magazine Interview with Unplug Meditation

I’ve had a tough time starting a meditation practice, but as soon as UNPLUG MEDITATION opened, I became hooked! I was lucky enough to sit down with the owner, Suze Yalof Schwartz, and speak with her about the studio. Check out my FOCUS MAGAZINE interview below video interview: http://focusmag.us/video/suze-yalof-schwartz/

Unplug Meditation

Suze Yalof SchwartzSuze Yalof Schwartz has taken the mystery, (and the mysticism), out of meditation. She believes that everyone needs a quiet space to unwind for a few minutes, before they rejoin their hectic schedules.

by Kaleigh Walker

You were referred to as “The Fairy Godmother of Makeovers” by the New York Times, and worked for some of the trendiest fashion magazines on newsstands today. How did you get from fashion to owning your own meditation studio? I was doing makeovers for Glamour for about 14 years and I loved my job. My husband wanted to move to California, so he dared me, and I said yes. I was going back and forth to New York doing fashion and I was stressed! My mother-in-law suggested that I meditate. I went to try to find a place to meditate and I could not find one that wasn’t a huge commitment, that fit my schedule, or that was “chic” in a way. So I thought “I need to do this! I need to build this!” I started taking all of these classes, and the more classes I took, the more I realized there was a real need for Unplug Meditation.

How did you come up with the aesthetic of Unplug? I started looking at pictures on Pinterest and through that, I really came up with a game plan and strategy. I went to IKEA and a lot of the stuff that you are seeing is from there. For instance, the front desk is actually a kitchen cabinet but we created the front panel to make it look more like a desk. I was also inspired by James Turrell, an artist who deals with light, so the room has a purple hue that automatically just makes you feel relaxed.

unplug_meditatio_mug

What is a typical class like? It’s always a different experience depending on which class type you take and that’s the beauty of meditation. I’m really fortunate that I have instructors that are holding the bar at a high level. But we’re not bringing Buddhists into the room, we’re not bringing Sanskrit into the room. We’re trying to make it accessible, relatable, and affordable for as many people as possible.

What is something you can share with those people that are skeptical about trying out meditation? Meditation has taught me how to press the pause button internally. A lot of people are living in the future and it stresses them out, or they are living in the past and they get a little bit depressed. But when you are in the present moment, you are in the zone. And getting in the zone is when you are at your best. The truth is, the present is all we have. So meditation has taught me to make the most of right now. And the more you meditate, the more you realize just how limitless you are.

You were so successful in your fashion career, but you didn’t have a lot of experience opening up your own business, right? I had zero experience opening up my own business, all I had was an idea. But someone said to me, the way to learn about business is to just learn as you go along. And opening up your own business is like going to business school and you will learn so much. The more I just went for it and did it, the more I realized it’s really not that hard.

What were some of the difficulties you faced when opening Unplug Meditation? When I filed my LLC, it was “Unplug Meditation,” but the company that filed it for me wrote “Unplug Mediation.” I waited six months to find out that I had to re-file the whole thing. So what I’ve learned, the hard way, is to pay attention to all of the details. Listen to your gut and take the time to stop and focus on what you are doing, because when you glaze over everything, a lot of mistakes can happen.

What are some inspirational words you would give someone who is interested in opening up their own business? Ask yourself, would you rather say “Oh well” or “What if?” Because for me “Oh well” is much better than “What if.” I’m living it, I’m breathing it, I’m doing it. I came up with an idea and I’m executing it. There will be zero regrets. The trick is to not be overwhelmed by everything you have to do, but to say to yourself “I get to do it.” Do not be afraid, put fear away and just go forward.

unplug_meditation_book

unplug meditation

12401 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90025 T: (310) 826-8899 unplugmeditation.com

 

About the Author: Kaleigh Walker is a certified Yoga Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Nutrition Coach. She teaches regular yoga classes at Maha Yoga and Corepower Yoga and is available for private instruction.

kaleighwalker.com 

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