Category Archives: Holistic Ideas

Transitioning from Summer to Fall

The past two days I have devoted a lot of time to researching how best to eat during the transition from summer to fall. Let’s just say…TMI…I haven’t been regular! Cold, raw, rough foods that were a necessity in the summer lose their appeal when the body is trying to build insulation as the temperature changes. I’ve had cravings for soup and cooked veggies, I’m pulling out my robe and slippers for the chilly mornings, and a hot eucalyptus bath before bed has become increasingly necessary.

Ayurvedic practitioners suggest adding more healthy oils to your diet (olive, avocado, sesame, flax, ghee) to help with the drying out of the body as Vata increases with the change of season. I can feel it when I wash my face and have to use face cream again. A recommendation I may try is to massage the skin with sesame oil before showering, which might be a delicious way of keeping your skin hydrated.

Being of Vata constitution in the season where Vata increases, I’m really trying to incorporate those good fats into my diet – I had a delicious “Bulletproof Coffee” this morning using ghee and a little maple syrup. I’m using more coconut milk and eating more nuts and seeds. Filberts and almonds are great for this time of year. I’ll probably even try adding olive oil to my shakes in the morning. My shakes have gone from citrus-y and raw to savory and milky, and I’m not making them as cold. Here’s my crazy shake today:

Pumpkin Pie Shake

Pumpkin puree
Banana
2 Figs (soaked overnight)
2 Dates
Coconut Milk
Almond Milk
Cinnamon
Cloves
Nutmeg
BAM. Tasted like pie in a glass!

I’m drinking more tea, less ice water. Vegetables that are ripening in the garden right now are exactly what the body needs at this time of the year – tomatoes, red peppers, pumpkins, squashes. Carrots and beets are great too, as are potatoes and yams – root vegetables help keep you grounded. I bought and actually USED a yam – they’re notorious for sitting in the bottom of my fridge till they go bad!

I had already decided to take the month of October off of running to focus on yoga, which felt like the right thing to do – turns out another recommendation is to limit exercise while the insulating layer grows. I will also be having more luxurious baths with Tiber bath salts (mmmm carmello…) and curling up in my fuzzy Winnipeg Jets blanket watching hockey. I love this time of year!

Ahhh-ctive Release!

I am sure that my chronic low back pain can and will be eliminated, and after Wednesday night I’m further convinced. I had my first appointment for Active Release Technique. Dr. Cristoveneau got in really deep with my psoas and low back. After treatment, he summed up my pain to be not so much from bone structure damage, but from little cumulative strains and sprains which created lack of mobility…so we are going to work on removing scar tissues and strengthening so that the correct mobility is regained. So it’s NOT cancer after all!!!

I was prescribed a 30 minute walk after I got home…enlightening. Did a 3k loop after a glass of wine. No pressure for pacing, just a gentle stroll around the block. I realized I hardly ever walk – I sit, and I run. I also realized that when my back was feeling its best during my yoga stint in 2008 I was also walking 45 minutes to and from the studio…

Two days later I am feeling GREAT. I still have a bit of stiffness bending over but it doesn’t feel like my muscles want to seize up. Places he worked on feel a little tender, but that’s nothing a little arnica won’t fix. I was told to keep my regular routine so that next week could be an accurate assessment of what is working, or not working, in my exercise routine. I did a great tempo run last night at goal pace, and kept up my yoga at work. I have noticed the “mini-adjustment” doesn’t need to happen in floor bow for me to find flexibility in the pose.

Only thing I don’t recommend is doing a 2.5km walk in winter boots during your lunch. I’ve got some serious shin splints! That or I REALLY don’t walk enough…!

Back Pain Elimination Challenge: $^@t Gets Real.

I *still* find it hard to get out of bed most mornings, I *still* reel in pain when I sneeze, I *still* have to hold my weight when I bend over to pick anything up (despite lifting with the knees!). Brush my teeth and wash my face in the morning? I’m leaning on the sink. Don’t tell me that I’m “getting older” and that this is just a part of it, that’s unacceptable. There are people much older than me that are completely pain free.

I have changed my mattress. I adjusted my chair at work so that it’s at the perfect angle – 130 degrees so the weight doesn’t bear down on the si joint all day. I don’t cross my legs, and I don’t lift heavy things. I do yoga everyday focusing on core and back strength, and I run four times a week. I drink 4 litres of water a day religiously. I’ve long since shed my unhealthy raver/party lifestyle, and I eat fresh food at home…80% of the time. I ‘ve had massage, chiro, acupuncture, physio, and more strength and stretch routines than you can shake a stick at.

So what the hell is wrong with me? What is this CHRONIC INFLAMMATION all about? An educated hunch and a few google searches later it’s apparent that I haven’t given enough weight to the types of “healthy” food that can create inflammation. I know inherently you are what you eat, but I don’t live it as much as I let people think. My favorite google find recommends things to avoid: flour, dairy, trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, red meat, and additives.  Eliminate all of these to the best of my ability and we’ll see what happens.

When I was 14 a Naturopath told me I had an “intolerance” to dairy and to eggs mixed with fruit within 4 hours of each other. An intolerance (as opposed to an allergy) means that your body sees the food as a toxin, so you aren’t getting any nutritional value from the “food”.  At age 14, my mother had us go vegan…My chronic phelgmy cough – for which I was on three medications – magically disappeared within a month…At age 16 I had a piece of cheese pizza and veganism was all over. Moving forward, there were no distinguishable problems with eating dairy.  Youth has a way of making you feel invincible – so “I’ll keep doing whatever I damn well please, thank you very much”. This is all fine until the toxins accumulate in your system to a level that makes your immune system kick into higher gear, causing mild inflammation. That festers for a few years, and eventually can lead to things like arthritis…

Over the past 12 years neither doctor  nor therapist has suggested food could be contributing to my low back issues. I had forgotten (*cough*have been in denial*cough*) about my dairy intolerance since that slice of pizza. I am now on day 4 of my two week elimination challenge. Let’s just say it’s looking good – I’ve sneezed several times without cringing in pain, and yoga poses that usually give me grief are getting suspiciously easier. And I can put my pants on without sitting on the bed.

I have a beautiful, delicious, brick of brie cheese waiting for me for Valentine’s Day….and some advil.

Goals 2013

Another year, another list of goals! Here we go!

  1. I complete the Manitoba Marathon (in under four hours).
  2. I complete the Army Run Half Marathon in 1:40.
  3. I do a morning Sadhana at 5am everyday.
  4. I master 3 different kundalini sets.
  5. I learn how to shoot a gun.
  6. I home-brew hard cider from scratch with apples from our trees.
  7. I find 4 new “keeper” recipes a month and write them in the family recipe book.
  8. I plant an herb garden in pots on the back deck for cooking with.
  9. I sell kale and snap peas at the Vars Farmer’s Market.
  10. I call one relative every week – and not just the obvious ones!
  11. BONUS: I donate $20 every month to something that I feel called to.

Now let’s recap from last year…

I complete three 40-day Sadhanas (early morning meditations);
Check! Make that three 40 day Sadhanas IN A ROW, and then some!

I have three No-Pants Days every month;
Didn’t track em, but I think I did. I know I felt much better about “me-time” after I quit my part-time position, and had my evenings and weekends back.

I take a half hour lunch away from my desk at work everyday;
Also didn’t track…probably 50/50 on that still, although I did go to the mall more often to get away on lunch.

I add (at least) 10k to my monthly run tally every month;
I consider this accomplished, since I ran the half marathon and then a 10k, and then continued to run throughout the Christmas season as well! I rested when I saw fit to, and have definitely created a habit that I’ll be keeping.

I complete the Army Run Half-Marathon September 23rd;
Check!

I buy a treadmill by November 30th;
Ok this one I didn’t get to…but in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t. The reason for wanting a treadmill was to avoid the icy roads, and to not have to run in the dark. Well, I’ve beat down both of those ridiculous “fears”! I love my night-time runs – it’s not really as dark outside as it looks from the inside. Also, the streets really aren’t very icy most of the time. Even if they are I have some pretty awesome winter running shoes – much cheaper than a treadmill.

I complete 12 book reviews;
Fail. Probably read about 6 books, maybe one review…

I mail cards on time all year;
I think I did pretty good!

I call my mother once a week;
Does once every two weeks mean I get 50% on this one?

I home-brew hard cider from scratch with apples from our trees.
Well, the trees had apple scab, so we couldn’t use them. We have to spray them just as they start budding this year! Fingers crossed!

Sadhana Claims Another Soul

Painting By Leonid Afremov

40 days to change a habit
90 days to confirm the habit
120 days the new habit is who you are
1000 days you have mastered the new habit

I accidentally started a 120-day Sadhana practice. For 94 days now, I have made time for at least one 30 minute meditation at some point in the day (morning has been ideal). I have allowed different mantras and meditations to grace me with their presence, knowing that one day I will dedicate a full 120 days to one mantra when the time is right. Beginning with So Purkh, then Sa Ta Na Ma, then gratefully the Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana Hari Nam Sat Nam. I am now pursuing 40 days of the Aquarian Sadhana, which incidentally coincides with the completion of the shift into Aquarius on December 21st, and culminates on December 30th.

I am adjusting to, and finding new comfort in, my new morning routine. Some days I spring awake 10 minutes before my 4:55am alarm, some days I still have to shove myself away from my cozy comforter complete with husband/personal heater. Once I didn’t even get out of bed…hung over and grouchy, I just sat up and forced my way through it. Although lacking in the usual heart-dive, the lesson was confirmation that my morning Sadhana is officially more important to me than “those beers you knew you didn’t need” the night prior. It has gradually become easier to rise without judgement, wrap myself in my housecoat, and greet the kitties while I brush my teeth. However, I haven’t made it as far as the recommended cold shower aprés sitting. That just seems like cruel and unusual punishment at that time in the morning, at this time of the year.

There have been times of great emotional cleansing. Times when visions of a lighthouse swept me away in an overnight storm that concluded with the sun rising over calm waters. Ideas for paintings have emerged, and I will cherish the inner canvases that I have mentally painted. In especially challenging moments I’ve had a visions of Yogi Bhajan staring me down with his soul-piercing eyes and insisting in his gentle wise voice to “keep up” through the knot in my heart.  There have also been “boring” days, when nothing happens; until, without warning, during some tiny moment later in the day my heart expands with a secret humbling joy.

At day 94 I believe that the habit of meditation has been confirmed within me. I now can’t imagine a day without the early hour of my morning dedicated to connecting with my Awareness, with God, with the cosmos as it may be. I am grateful for the people and tools that have brought me to this point, for Kundalini Yoga, for the inner determination to see this commitment through, and for the divine inspiration that keeps me motivated.

Sat Nam!

Morning Brew

I have replaced my rise and shine coffee in order to get the most out of my breakfast and vitamins. I started by drinking green teas, then decided I wanted to actually drop all the caffeine, and moved onto herbal teas. Slightly unsatisfied with my herbal tea selection, and looking for something I don’t get tired of, I tried hot lemon water with honey (that’s supposed to be good for you right?). Hmm…how about adding some freshly grated ginger? Then fresh orange juice too. Cinnamon? Sure! There’s an old apple in the fridge, let’s try that! My concoction had evolved into an elaborate fresh steeped brew, and now I’m addicted!

I have mentioned just one benefit of each of the ingredients below, but there are many many more! In a tea strainer place the following:

  • Juice of half a lemon (gently detoxifying)
  • Juice of half an orange (vitamin C)
  • 1/4 apple, peeled and sliced into small chunks (phloridzin to protect from Osteoporosis)
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger (anti-inflammatory)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken to fit your tea strainer (lowers LDL Cholesterol)
  • honey to taste (antibacterial, antifungal)

Fill your teapot with hot water by pouring over top of everything. Let it steep for about 5 minutes, give it a quick stir, and pour into your favorite mug! Eat the apples when you’re done – pop em in your shake, or toss em over oatmeal or cereal.

In an effort to be healthier I have decided to heed my nutritionist’s advice. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t totally weaned myself off coffee, but I’ve made an incredible dent in the weekday addiction. I still have the odd cup of coffee, but it’s on my terms now, not the coffee’s! My weekday morning routine has completely changed for the better. I have created space for at least 45 minutes to meditate, then I spend the time it takes for the water to boil to concoct my brew. I have MORE energy now, even though I’m up earlier. I guess there are a few contributing factors like more exercise and less alcohol too…

How to Cure the Common Cold: An Experiment

I have spent the last few months committed to a significant increase in healthy habits; such as 4 litres of water a day, no coffee except on the odd weekend, and far, far, (far!) less alcohol. Unfortunately my recent bout of Halloween candy, beer binging, and coffee avec Bailey’s has curtailed my efforts. Add to that a 10km race and a disrupted watering schedule, this flower has wilted in the sub-zero temperatures of late.

The cliches about getting better when you’re sick are many, but how many of us admit to actually abiding by those innocent suggestions? Do we really think we are better off ignoring the obvious in favour of immediate gratification? (Duh, YES, I’m a better person with coffee!) Well, Tuesday I fell ill, and since I was already on a pretty good track before Halloween, I decided to test several of the typical adages:

Cut Out Caffeine and Alcohol

I did it, and I didn’t hate the world. In recent illness I have been known to continue drinking coffee. WHY on EARTH would I stop that when it’s the only thing that makes me feel normal? And don’t even get me started on my evening glass of wine, that’s the last thing that’s getting the boot after a long day of being sick. I can just drink this cold away, alcohol kills the cold bugs, amirite?

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Fresh ginger, orange, and lemon in hot water. David’s Tea: Alpine Punch. Soup. Fruit smoothies. And of course, water – through a straw to avoid the inevitable choking through the stuffy nose and scratchy throat. Chug water like it’s going out of style. Without the diuretic of caffeine, hopefully the majority of that water is useful!

Get Plenty of Rest

My ultimate dream came true, albeit with far more mucus than I envisaged – I was a housecat for a day. I slept in sunbeams, ate small meals, and curled up in interesting beds. I had a hot bath, did some deep breathing, and avoided daytime pseudo ephedrine cop-outs. I didn’t even turn on the TV or read a book as it would have been too much stimulation for my exhausted brain.

Sanitize Often

I treated myself to fresh pair of pyjamas and a clean sweatshirt three days in a row. I now realize I have under-appreciated the ability of fresh pjs to make you happy. I am going to buy more pyjamas.

Stay Positive

I “fight” my sickness from the get go, a battle immediately begins to rage. Luckily, this time, my recent meditation spree has me noticing when I’m not in tune with my inner joy. This illness raised a massive red flag to correct an extremely sour (and completely unnecessary) disposition. Why should a sore throat steal my happiness? I might not be able to go for a run, but I can enjoy the warmth of my lemon-ginger-honey tea on said throat. With some coaxing and reminding, that anxiety and frustration that ignited with the first echo of my sore throat was worn down, and I was able to have a “Benilyn Day” without the drugs.

This feels like Day 13, but I’m only on Day 4. My symptoms progressed unusually quickly. My faucet of a nose has already abated, and if I could inhale deeply without coughing, I’d have the energy to go for a run tonight. Getting sick is never convenient, but I now refuse to cut corners getting back to health. This has been too easy!

One more thing…Kleenex with Lotion and Aloe. That is all.

Goals 2012

Something I used to do was write 10 of my most important goals down each day, and I definitely noticed results. Point in case, the house we bought: My goals stated that “I barbecue steak on the deck of my country home on August 31, 2011“. Possession date of our home just outside Ottawa was August 29, 2011. Well I’ll be.

At the beginning of this year, a fellow Lemon alumni shared on twitter that he was setting 50 goals for 2012. What an inspiration! So I did the same – it’s definitely not easy, since I limited myself to achieving these goals before the end of the year. I have not been writing my goals down daily but I feel like, as with the ebb and flow that is life, the tide is coming back in for that soon. I thought I would share ten of those goals, as there are definitely some that I need to remind myself of – and a few that I wish to be held accountable for!

  1. I complete three 40-day Sadhanas (early morning meditations);
  2. I have three No-Pants Days every month;
  3. I take a half hour lunch away from my desk at work everyday;
  4. I add (at least) 10k to my monthly run tally every month;
  5. I complete the Army Run Half-Marathon September 23rd;
  6. I buy a treadmill by November 30th;
  7. I complete 12 book reviews;
  8. I mail cards on time all year;
  9. I call my mother once a week;
  10. I home-brew hard cider from scratch with apples from our trees.

I think these 10 represent the goals I really want to share and be held accountable for. Feel free to share yours – once it’s written down the Universe conspires and the journey begins! Thanks for reading mine!

Believing I Can Choose How I Feel

As I was doing the usual pile of annoying dishes the other day, I noticed that I was heading into an old familiar (although less common lately) space of frustration with everything. The water’s not hot enough coming out of the tap. The TV is too loud. There isn’t enough soft butter in the dish. I started blaming the discontent on my hormones….on the food I’ve been eating….on the weather, whatever I could to put the responsibility on something other than my own brain. I can usually talk myself out of a funk like this but sometimes it’s a challenge to make a negative funk like this into a positive.

Something was different this time though. The way I noticed it was accompanied by a roll of my eyes and a sense of exhaustion from letting it get to me. Why should I be “putting up with” these feelings, and why was I losing control over how I felt? No. It’s not the white flour or too much cheese that’s dragging me down. It’s not the annoying voices on that cartoon I can’t stand, or that the TV is so loud that it’s making me grit my teeth (and I know deep down it’s not really that loud at all). Or the bass beat from the apartment upstairs. It’s my reaction to it. If what yoga has taught me is true – that I deserve to be happy, that joy is my natural state – then choosing to react negatively to stimulus is what’s dragging me down. I won’t allow what I’ve conditioned in my brain as a “negative stimulus” to affect my happiness. I needed to change my inherent belief about reacting altogether, and when I trusted that, my “non-reaction” came from a deeper place. This time I didn’t make a negative into a postive – I made the negative into neutral, which in turn allowed me to access joy in life again.

I don’t think this is going to come so naturally all the time, since it’s taken almost 5 years of yoga and (albeit intermittent) meditation to come to a place where I truly believe I have the ability to choose. This was one moment of freedom. I felt grounded, solid, undisturbed, and tapped into the joy that I deserve to feel all the time, even if the crazy lady next door is yelling again. It was liberating really being in charge of my reaction! The old conditioning will probably come back but my new belief will hopefully help me to adjust my attitude quicker each time.

We only have so many days on this planet…and I choose to enjoy every single one. Now ask me this again when my moon cycle comes around and I may tell you where to go, but for now I like the conclusion I’ve come to.

Conscious Gratitude

Since I’ve started meditating, I’m also making it a habit to spend a few minutes at the end of my meditation thinking about what I’m grateful for, or counting my blessings, as they say. At first it was just during my solace that I would count my blessings and really feel appreciative. In being conciously grateful, my heart was filled with peace, bliss, and in some cases relief! And since I meditate before I go to bed, I always seem to get a good night sleep after, which was initially why I kept it up. 😉

I am starting to understand what it means to “cultivate” gratitude. When you cultivate the land you plant seeds, you nuture them with water and sunlight, and you check on them each day to see how they’ve grown. What I didn’t expect from nuturing my gratitude was how deep the roots go.  The roots of being thankful have woven themselves throughout my day, and sprout in places I don’t expect. Being thankful for missing the downpour by mere seconds, or for the opportunity to fill the coffeepot before the city shuts the water off in our block. Luck…?

Luck is a touchy subject, but if you believe in it, why not try feeling truly grateful for the good luck in your life? Try spending 5 minutes counting your blessings, and feeling something for them too. Even if they’re broad like “I have a bed to sleep in”. Use positive language, like “I have a loved one” instead of “I’m not alone”. 

I have found that in counting my blessings in a safe, calm place, I have started to find the results – peace, bliss, and relief – in “real life” later. I am consciously grateful for that. 🙂

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