Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Smells Our Bodies Make

Last year, while enrolled in yoga teacher training, a fellow classmate shared a story in which the stench of vodka became thick during the course of a Saturday morning class. Indeed, as we begin to sweat things out, our bodies can "take on" certain scents based on what we've consumed, when we've bathed, etc. And during the scope of my teacher training, as we were required to complete a bevy of yoga classes in a short amount of time, I often "doubled up": running from one yoga class to another without much of a shower in between. And so while sharing close quarters with fellow yogis in a heated room, I began to feel extra badly about the pretty ripe smell that would build up alongside my class count. Eventually, I smartened up to the idea that I needed to change clothes in the ten minutes  between classes or even work in a quick shower. But then, one day, upon not doing either of these things, that my sweat was not a big issue and so I began to wonder about our stank. 

"We are what we eat," as the saying goes and I've generally found this to be true. In my experience, what I eat affects how I look (in terms of my complexion), what I say (in terms of my mood) and, seemingly, how I smell. In the Netflix series, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, author Samin Nosrat explains that fats such as butter and oils, while imparting flavor of their own can also act as carriers of flavor... working as the middle men between meat and spices, let's say. In this regard, sweat does not so much carry its own stench but works, rather, as the carrier of broken down foods out from our bodies and onto our skin where it reacts with bacteria to annoy anyone in our close proximity. To this end, certain foods break down and react pretty strongly with the bacteria on our bodies. A few offenders lie below. Enjoy! (Or don't.)

Alcohol: As I progressed through my linty of yoga classes, my consumption of alcohol began to decrease. At some point, running from class to class left little time for drinking and/or less tolerance for dehydration. This, in the end, is likely why my body stopped smelling so much as classes piled on. (For the record, my body stinks once again now that I'm out of teacher training). But just as alcohol can break down and get into your lungs (hence the breathalyzer test), it can also get into your pores which can be "sweat out" later.

Garlic and Onions: Aside from alcohol (which seems to be metabolized through a different process), foods that break down into sulfur compounds like garlic and onions often lead to body odors that are bad. In this regard, while garlic and onions can be smelt on your breath (similar to alcohol) they're also broken down into sulfur based compounds like the foods below. 

Cruciferous Vegetables: In Food is Family, I wrote about my penchant for "beans and greens" as I like to call them. In general, through my research for this post, I've learned that my daily desire for garlic-hummus and broccoli has made me ripe for the ripest smells in my yoga class. Like garlic and onions, green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts also break down into sulfur compounds that can make our sweat smell... badly.

Red Meat: Also sulfur-rich, leaving you to smell like dead eggs.

So there you have it, a few foods that might leave lingering smells if you're sweating. Some foods are healthy, some are not but all probably good to forgo before a workout class. Just as it's annoying to be next to the person who's working too hard in class, it's also likely annoying to be next to the person who shares my diet. ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A few years ago, a picture circulated across  the Internet with the tag line, "rush hour in North Korea." With only a single car stopped dutifully at a stoplight, the picture was meant to be sardonic, but I couldn't help feeling a bit envious (yeah, my priorities are that out of whack). Despite our President's attempts to make nice with the nation, there are many differences between the DMV (a colloquial term for the D.C. metro area) and the DMZ... not the least of all being traffic. But the picture reminded me of how backed up our large intersections can get in D.C., Maryland and Virginia which then effects nearby traffic and other intersections before the city turns into an actual cluster@*%! instead of just being a well-earned symbol of one. The same is true of our bodies (kinda). After getting to know my body a bit better through yoga, I've come to find that there are a few key "intersections" which need constant maintenance lest they back up and restrict the flow of traffic (or blood). And while my ankles and knees at the ones making all the noise in class, I've noticed my hips and shoulders are the larger cross-sections to focus on in a class.

Directing traffic.

Just like the D.C. metro area includes the spaces of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, our hips and shoulders include not only include the corresponding bones themselves but the areas surrounding them as well. In this sense, when holding a hip stretch, one might begin to feel a stretch in the lower back. In terms of shoulder stretches, one will likely work out the neck and/or chest simultaneously. And so, with such a large swath of area covered, it's important to keep tabs on such areas just as one would want to ensure all traffic lights work in a major intersection before moving onto smaller ones. And so I've included a few stretches which work out these keys areas ranging in "difficulty" from easy to hard. Enjoy!

*Note: These stretches are not too difficult. Some may simply allow a deeper stretch than others. I place them in such an order to simply show a range of stretches from mild to moderate to "more moderate". The stretches are intended to be mixed up depending on your needs of the day. 

Easy: Blocks, in general, are used in yoga for those beginning and needing assistance with balance, etc. I still use blocks a lot, especially for the supported poses below. What can change from a beginning to more experienced yogi is the height of the block. In the case above (and below), the block is meant to separate your hips or shoulders from the ground. In this sense, the "higher" you place the block, the deeper the stretch will be.

Shoulder stretch with block.

Hip stretch with block.

Medium: Life should be easy. But in yoga, we learn it's often hard before it becomes so. In this sense, it's nice to have some yoga postures which maintain the balance between ease and difficulty. Below are some middle of the road stretches for the hips and shoulders. 

Thread the needle shoulder stretch.

Supta baddha konasana hip stretch.

Hard: As stated before, medium and easy are really misnomers. What the stretches below will do is give you a slightly deeper stretch than the ones above and might be a bit more significant on the pain scale. But sometimes, that's what our body needs. Again, these postures are not so difficult in doing but difficult in wanting to do them. When shooting my silly videos for the post, I had recently pulled a muscle. Therefore, while I wanted to demonstrate half-pigeon pose, I demonstrated its inverse, figure-four (both are shown below). If you do choose to practice pigeon pose, you will begin to feel a stretch in your lower back... moving into not only the hips themselves but their surrounding suburbs. 

Wide-legged forward fold with bind.

Figure-four pose.

Letting a pro show you half-pigeon pose.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Slowing Down

The school year is gearing up which means it's a good time to think about slowing down. Just as nature provides foods to cool us in the hot, hot, heat, (see Summer Lovin') it's good to bring balance to a busy schedule with some slow movements which can act as a foil to new and hectic schedule. In yoga, it's sometimes suggested to flow through your asanas at an extra-slow pace. Beyond the desire to break the habit of wishing a difficult posture or sequence to be done with, moving very slowly through your poses can indicate where you need to adjust your stance or which part of your body is holding tension. However, I generally like to keep things as simple as possible and so, there is a very basic "sequence" I prefer to run through in the morning which helps to slow me down and bring a greater awareness to the day before I get up and go, go, go. And because your schedule's already busy, I made a video to save you some time. Enjoy!

References to the "third eye" shows up quite a bit if you know where to look ;)

Before we begin, however, I'll spell out a few things that didn't make it into the video based upon the lack of storage in my phone. Child's pose is pretty much the best. I remember doing it when I was young before I knew that yoga or any eastern philosophies existed. And speaking of which, the mentioned pose and its variation play a bit on the Ayurvedic concept of chakras or "centers of energy" in our body. The chakras begin at the pelvic floor and make their way up to the crown of one's head, focusing on different desires and needs at each "pit stop". However, I bring up the concept not because of esoteric theory but rather for the very practical coincidence that our Ajna chakra comes up a lot in yoga postures.

The Ajna chakra (located at one's "third eye" so to speak) is nodal of energy associated with intuition and balance. Physiologically, however, the Ajna chakra is located at the center point between (and a little above) the eyes on the lower forehead where our "third eye" and/or pineal gland exists. So whether it serves as a pivot point between our feminine and masculine energies in the Ayurvedic sense or between the right and left brain in the Western one (perhaps it simply serves as a link between past and present philosophies) the Ajna chakra is associated with balance. And who couldn't use a little balance as the new season begins. So to give our intuitive chakra or our bundle of nerves between our brain hemispheres a little massage in the morning to prepare for the day, do the following...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Summer Lovin'

When I was in camp, there was a massive songbook we were given on Saturday nights which contained the lyrics of songs we might choose to sing. There were more traditional songs and ones more current, which, being the younger camper I was, generally preferred. But, unlike my fellow campers, I was less cultured in the likes of Broadway or even classic movies which led me to believe that the movie Grease was about the actual substance. And, on some level, I suppose it is but it's really a love story which means its songs can border on the scandalous... when you're young. I remember cracking a smile with my bunk mates when Summer Loving was chosen as a song (or was it Summer Nights). To us back then, the song was rife with innuendo but now I realize it's just horribly un-PC. But summer is a time for love and unlike the ubiquitous summer fling, nature takes actual care of us by providing us with foods that help cool us in the warmer months. Below are a few foods that help to balance the rising temperatures at peak season and a few recipes to which they can be applied. Enjoy!

Even though I write about food, I rarely know the specific time frames in which foods are in season. The other day, someone was raving about the corn on the cob at a particular restaurant to which I replied, "'tis the season." In response, they informed me that, "actually corn season isn't for another few weeks." (This post was written several weeks ago, btw). I'm not sure if I hate those particular people or am simply self-conscious that I don't know when foods are in season but I think it's a combination of both. Anyways, when looking at the spectrum of the summer, I'm well aware that at least cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and melons (basically foods heavy in water content) peak sometime between May and August. And while you may have noticed in Mylking It More that I'm not the top recipe developer in the game, I've linked some recipes below which make the most of these summer sensations. 

Raita: Just as winter is a great time for one-pot recipes where you can throw something on the stove and forget about it, summer (in my mind) is a time for dips. Whereas we might curl up for warmth in the winter and man-spread on the porch in the summer, we likewise let our flavors combine in our winter stews and keep things rather separate in the summertime. And to this notion, cucumbers pull double duty as a food you can dip while cooling your body with its high water content. According to Chinese Medicine (and Men's Journal) there are warming foods which boost circulation and cooling foods which help, "clear heat and remove toxins from the body." I happen to like my cucumbers with hummus but on the topic of "double duty," why not make a dip with cucumbers themselves? The raita above will keep you cool as a cucumber...

Salsa: Following the theme of dips, we come to one of my summer favorites... salsa. I'm a huge fan of salsa... probably because I'm a big fan of sauces which is technically what "salsa" means. In the recipe above, the cooling power of tomatoes is contrasted with the fact that they're roasted... taking out a little more water and adding a little more flavor. Of course, you could always make salsa fresca without the heat (link here) or, put those tomatoes to good use in a gazpacho.

Melon-Mango Yogurt: In Mylking It More, I tried to make (n)ice creams that maintained the consistency of something normal people would eat... but to little avail. Before my ice creams went in the freezer, they generally maintained the consistency of yogurt (if I was lucky). And so, while I attempted to make a melon-mango ice cream, I simply settled on melon-mango yogurt in order to save you the extra step of freezing. Like their cousin the cucumber, honeydew melons can cool you on a summer's day while adding a bit of sweetness to your routine. To make the yogurt above, place the following in a blender:

2 cups frozen honeydew
1 1/3 cups frozen mangoes
1 13 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. honey

Blend on high and enjoy.

So there you have it. A couple'a recipes that can give you that cooling sensation in the summer while adding some flavor to your meals. Try one, try all or if you need some more inspiration, a few other recipes lie below. :)

101 Cookbooks: Summer Zucchini Recipes: Just like her salsa linked above, Heidi Swanson elevates this summer star by mixing it into a Thai soup or lets it shine with pasta. Either way, she makes use of the summer's bounty and the ingredient itself (as part of the melon family) will do your body good too. 

Cucumber-Cantaloupe Salad: "Keep it in the family," they say. This salad, utilizing both melon and cucumber does just that and like the salsa above, provides the opportunity to use some cilantro as well (my favorite)... see Aromatherapy

Watermelon-Feta Salad: I saw a funny cartoon on Instagram a few days ago which featured trendy foods within the past few years. As watermelon-feta salad was all the rage back in 2013, I suppose the recipe above is a little passe but, featuring the biggest member of the melon family, this salad is sure to cool you in the heat of summer. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mylking It More

As I said in Mylking It, mylks, or simply "milks" if you're not an asshole, are a great way to set the foundation for healthier eating whether mixed in with your coffee, smoothies or... ice cream! During several summers in high school, I craved ice cream on the daily. And for some reason, this summer, I've been craving ice cream the same way I did back in the day. However, I live in a place that's not quite urbane enough to offer hip dairy bars or suburban enough to offer old-timey ones. To some extent, I'm pretty much left with the McDonald's drive-thru. However, as these ice cream cravings are now occurring in an older version of myself, I'm luckily armed with a few recipes for vegan ice creams which can put the mylks made to good use.

Like the pretty homogeneous process for making milks, vegan ice cream has a pretty standard base of frozen bananas, a milk of choice, some salt and coconut oil (I've also used some nut butters) which go into a blender before adding any additional flavors. However, the difficulty with keeping it vegan is that when it comes to said add-ins, options like peanut butter cups go out the window and fruits pretty much take center stage. So the issue in this matter is pairing said fruit with the type of nut that makes the milk that will make it all taste great. After some experimentation, I think I've settled on a few fool-proof combos which lie below. Enjoy!

Cherry-Almond: I started off with almond milk in Milking It to keep things alphabetically appropriate and I start with a cherry-almond combination here because it seems to be the most popular fruit-nut combo out there. My father loves ice cream and he seems to like cherries so we'll call it a vegan ode to my vegetarian father. Cool. To make said ice cream, begin with the base above, using 3 frozen bananas (sliced), 1 cup almond milk, 1 pinch of salt and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Add 3/4 cups of pitted cheeries and about and 2 tsp. almond extract. Blend and freeze for several hours in a Tupperware container or loaf pan lined with parchment paper.

Ready to man-go.

Mango-Coconut: When doing a little research for this post, I noticed that mangoes where on sale. So while it offered some financial ease, it also presented the challenge of a pleasant pairing as the acidity of mango seemed to go with fuck all in the nut department. But, after a stroll down several aisles, I noticed that a (literally) big nut that I never thought of was the coco-nut.

As stated in Mylking It, Amanda Chantal Bacon in her Moon Juice Cookbook presents an array of mylks (as she calls them) that can serve as substitutes for the dairy variety. And while walnut, almond and oat milks are easy enough to make, her lait de cocoa was simply unmentioned because... I'm not sure if frozen coconut strips exist anywhere other than California. Buuuuut, canned coconut milk is a different story. After it appeared that I had purchased the unsweetened variety of coconut milk, I decided to add 2 teaspoons of honey for some sweetness and 3/4 of a Serrano pepper for some spice. Recipe lies below. (Note: You can buy mangoes fresh, peel and chop them and freeze them before blending or simply purchase them frozen).

*1 13 oz. can coconut milk
* 3 cups mangoes (frozen)
*3/4 of a single Serrano pepper (I kept the seeds in the pod)
* 2 tsp. honey
* pinch of salt
To make: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz at a high speed. Decant the mixture into a Tupperware container and freeze overnight. 

Walnut-Date: When it comes to ice cream, texture is a thing. While I'm not super picky about textures in my other foods, I hate a grainy ice cream. Where was I going with this? I don't know. But walnut milk is one of my favorites. More forgiving than almonds on the hardness scale and generally more savory in my opinion, walnuts do carry more flavor than the almond. In this sense, they're limited in what they can be paired with but the sweet date seems to go well with the meaty morsel. So, to make this combination happen, place 1 cup walnut milk (see Mylking It for the recipe itself), 1 cup pitted dates, 2 sliced and frozen bananas, a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup coconut oil in a blender. Blend on high and freeze overnight. Then enjoy.

Pistachio-Pistachio: Save the best for last they say. I have a thing with pistachios. I love them raw, I love them for making milks and I (doubly) love them in ice cream. Back before chocolate ice creams got really creative, what with adding peanut butter cups and/or the kitchen sink, pistachio and peppermint ice creams were my side pieces of the dairy world. So I figured I'd create a double-pistachio ice cream to celebrate the heyday of my youth. To make: prepare the base using...

1 and 1/4 cups pistachio milk (recipe here)
2 sliced, frozen bananas
1 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted)
 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
 1/2 tsps. almond extract
 Blend all the ingredients and transfer mixture to a loaf pan. Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top and freeeeeeeeeze, everybody clap your hands....

So there you have it. A couple of ice creams to get you through the summer. No recipe above contains cream or ice. Discuss.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mylking It

Many, many blog posts ago, I wrote a lil diddy which referenced the Blind Melon video in which a girl dressed as a bumble bee finds greater happiness upon discovering an open field with others dressed in a similar manner... perhaps a nod to the fact that we can let our freak flags fly while still finding peace. But, if we're to look at the food industry, the people who fit in but dressed blandly could be a symbol for processed food as it seems to be everywhere and, when compared to the real thing, is a little bland on flavor. The bee, however, might be the fruit or vegetable which goes un-selected in many circumstances but naturally finds happiness in a green field and the sunlight. And to some extent, I've felt a little like the girl in both symbolic circumstances. Socially speaking, I was never one to fit in (not sure why I'm using the past tense here) and, in terms of eating, I always thought it'd be easier to eat in Europe what with its raw meat and small cafes stuffed with pastries. But, at this point I've begun to push open a door (Instagram) where I've caught a glimpse of my "people" who seem to place a significant if not pretentious emphasis on wellness.

I'm pretty much an East Coaster. I like my rain, my privacy and my mid-range sedan (which would probably get laughed off the 405). But as much as I love my space, both actually and geographically, it's sometimes a little difficult to do the hippie-dippie things I like to do. Whereas I'd assume one might trip over a sound bath in L.A., they don't seem as ubiquitous in D.C. However, through Instagram, I seem to have found a flock of women who practice a certain lifestyle I find intriguing. Much like the little bee, I seem to have found my field of similar creatures. Of course, they don't know I'm there but art imitates life, yes? And if we're to go along with this bee analogy, a "queen bee" of the wellness world seems to be Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice whole emphasis on mylks inspired this post.

I wish they all could be California girls... who are into acai bowls and crystals.

As stated before, the East Coast is not necessarily a mecca for new-aged eats. And that's fine. While I love what these women of wellness have to offer, I'll admit that it's a little curious to place colloidal silver in a smoothie or pay $36 for bee pollen. And so, I was hesitant to admit to a friend over lunch that I make my own mylks. In response to a (very) raised eyebrow, I explained that like most things that are spelled differently these days (like kids' names), mylk was simply the very fashionable (if not pretentious) way of referencing milks made with nuts and seeds over animal origins. And, for this East Coaster, mylks are a great way to begin building a base for healthy eating while not falling over into the very hippie (and expensive) lifestyle of the West Coast wellness. Ergo, below are the different types of mylks you can make to add to coffee, smoothies and ice cream (more on that next week) and can help you in the department of protein and nutrient acquisition without all those annoying hormones. In my experience, it's difficult enough to regulate my own hormones without adding new ones from dairy products, etc. So in addition to knowing that all types of mylks "do a body good" I've tried to break down the specific benefits which each mylk delivers. Enjoy!

Almond Milk (enough with the mylk shit): I've begun with almond milk because a. it's alphabetically correct to do so and b. it's one of the more popular milks out there. Like any nut milk, almond milk is pretty easy to create... simply soak 1 cup of almonds in filtered water overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse the almonds and place in a blender along with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Blend and strain through a cheesecloth and voila, you have yourself a batch of almond milk (Note: This process and proportion of ingredients can be used to make any of the milks below, however, the proper recipes are also hyperlinked).

Benefits: Almond milk is a pretty healthy non-dairy alternative. In general, almonds can serve as a significant source of protein (an essential part of a good breakfast) while also carrying properties that can lower cholesterol. They're rich in vitamin E, selenium and calcium which are good for your hormones, thyroid and bones respectively. In general, they're an all around powerhouse, but...

Drawbacks: When it comes to the practicality, almond milk is not the easiest one in the game. Almond butter is pretty ubiquitous but expensive and this may be almonds are quite literally a pretty hard nut to work with. Seemingly denser than a cashew or walnut, almond milk takes a lot of blending and a lot of straining before getting it right. In an ironic sense, because almonds seem to lack any water content, they take a lot of water to grow which has led to environmental concerns. But if this is your favorite hard knock, go for it.

Walnut Milk: I love walnuts. In general, walnuts kind of remind me of myself. They're definitely a bit soft, (hopefully) easier to work with than the almond with its strong backbone and morals and whatnot and they have a bit of a sweet side. But in a real sense, walnuts have been shown to, "promote heart-health", staunch inflammation and even, "lower the risk of Alzheimer's," (according to WebMD). As stated above, they're a little easier to work with, giving in easily to the pull of the blender without putting up a fight. Pretty much France in a "nutshell.". 

Benefits: As stated above, walnuts are good for the health of both the heart and the brain and makes a subtly sweet milk that lends itself well to both coffee and smoothies.

Drawbacks: Personally, I"m not sure if there are any drawbacks for me pertaining to this morsel but, when it comes to making ice cream, you'll likely want the thicker consistency of an almond milk (more on that later). 

Pistachio Milk: Until adulthood, I pretty much eschewed nuts entirely (I think because I really didn't like peanuts and basically "just said no" to anything with a similar name). And this could technically be why I've always like pistachios. With no "nut" in the name and a decidedly more pungent taste than its counterparts, pistachio milk is something I always get excited about making. It's not something that lends itself to coffee (which is the substance I use these milks in the most) but, next week, I'll explain why its one that's near and dear to my heart.

Benefits: If you make a lot of smoothies, pistachio milk is a good way to add complex flavor... especially if you like smoothies that include cacao nibs and and bananas. But pistachios themselves are a dependable source of antioxidants and are good at meal time since they help to promote a sense of satiety. They're also relatively small so they don't take to to long to soak up water.

Drawbacks: As pistachios carry a unique flavor of their own, they're sometimes tough to pair with other elements. 

Oat Milk: A few weeks ago, I read about oat milk and was curious to see if I could make it on my own. Indeed, one can make oat milk quite easily. As a quick alternative to nut milk, oat milk can be made by blending 1 cup oats, 4 cups water, a pinch of salt and a pitted date without waiting for anything to soak. If you have a tree-nut allergy, this is obviously a good, vegan route to go but there are also obviously a few differences in nutrition and texture that oats provide. 

Benefits: Oats are obviously pretty good for you. Like pistachios, oats carry antioxidants, fiber and can help to lower blood sugar levels (which can be doubly boosted by adding cinnamon into the mix). There's also the benefit of immediacy in which the milk can be produced without the need to soak them overnight. However...

Drawbacks: Oat milk oddly produced a stringy texture. While I often think of oats in the context of porridge, I thought such a milk would possess a certain thickness akin to those made with nuts. While the texture's a little weird, however, this element is made up for in the pleasant taste which can be applied to everything from coffee to some forms of ice cream. 

So there you have it... a few ways to make you own milks/mylks which can literally set a base for other healthy recipes used throughout the wellness world. While the textures are a little curious, note that your homemade milks are devoid of chemicals which otherwise make commercial products more shelf stable or simply give it the texture of regular milk. The more I read, the more I see that such chemicals can really play a role in our health issues. So while the creation of such milks might seem reserved for a high-class, hippie subculture, eating healthy and homemade is in everyone's interest.  Make one batch and you'll feel like you're in California...

California, here we come.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Currently, I'm working on a post about clean eating and how it can clean out things very internal (like your gut) to things very external (like the environment). So, suffice it to say, clean eating (as I've found it) can really clean out your olfactory glands... allowing you to consume smells more intensely or ones you may have overlooked previously. And whereas before I considered more expensive forms of aromatherapy (see: Aromatherapy Associates) I find that today, having a few simple smells around the house can brighten my mood/ease my stresses or simply make my experience in the kitchen more interesting.

Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment: My engagement with scents as anxiety reducers really began when I read that lavender could play a roll in easing one's mind. How hard could it be to find lavender-scented shit? But the truth is, as ubiquitous as lavender is across bath and body products, most of them are laced with other chemicals that might undo any good the lavender presents. Enter Tata Harper products. While expensive, Tata Harper products feature non-toxic ingredients, grown on her farm in the state of Vermont. While I don't buy her skin-care products (or many skin care products for that matter), I did buy her lavender-scented aromatic stress treatment to ease my sense of the daily jitters. Does it work? No. Do I maintain that one day it will work. Yes.

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castille Liquid Soap: While I can't afford anything of Tata Harper's that requires more than a small dab on each wrist, Dr. Bronner's Lavender Scented Soap is another deal. While a little more expensive than Ivory which always makes me shake my head as I bring it to the checkout line, it does smell pretty good at a price that lets me clean my entire body. Does it work as a scented de-stressing agent? Yes. Do I  mean it? Yeah, prolly.

Herbs: I'm a pretty visual person. In a very embarrassing sense, this is probably why I became a fiend for cooking. While books never really held my attention, I could breeze through recipes, look at the pretty pictures and actually do something with the information. And once those videos came out showing how to make a meal in a time lapsed-sequence, it was all over. And the Food Video Channel for the New York Times runs a few good videos that are less frenetic than those of the Tasty variety and maintain healthier ingredients. Again, when it comes to anxiety, eating healthier presents the middle-way of something both effective and (often) easy. And so, in one video, a cook offers that chopping and using herbs in cooking offers a good bit of aromatherapy in the comfort of ones kitchen. While the Peruvian chicken or whatever she goes on to make looks tasty, I've offered some additional recipes which make good use of herbs as well.

Green Goddess Dressing: I made green goddess dressing a few summers ago (gleaning a recipe from the New York Times - surprise) and now it seems to be everywhere. Being relatively easy to make, the dressing features parsley as a staple flavor, an herb which carries a variety of benefits. While there is no evidence that parsley affects the stress levels of one's body, it can have a myriad of other effects within our system. According to physicians featured in Reader's Digest, parsley carries a fuckload of vitamins, including A, B, E and K which can help with our eyes, skin, inflammation levels and bones respectively. Basically, it can make you feel like the goddess you are. 

Dilly Dilly: I love dill... way more than I like those Budweiser commercials. And unlike some other herbs (see below) dill lends itself to dishes that stretch across several seasons. And, unlike parsley, dill (or dill weed) has been shown to have positive benefits on our mental health. According to Dr. Josh Axe, dill weed has been demonstrated some antidepressant qualities what with its polyphenols and tannins and whatnot. And in terms of packing in the herbs, dill features well in an herb salad but for me, a little Greek restaurant down the road features dill potatoes and they're my favorite. Get a (similar) recipe here. If you're super ambitions or just want to use up the dill in your fridge, you can pair it with a tzatziki sauce. Double dilly.

Fava Bean Dip: The only herb I like more than dill is probably cilantro. Having been blessed with genetics that doesn't make it taste like soap, I tend to put cilantro in a lot... in the summer... when it can pair with a lot of foods. Whether it be a salsa with ripe tomatoes or the fava bean dip above, cilantro goes well with something cool when it's hot. 

Herb Oil: Or, you could just make an herb oil which, obviously, I wanted to share in video format ;)

So there you have it, a few scents that can help you "smell the roses" of life. In my experience, whether they truly work or deliver a placebo effect... they at least allow me to engage more of my senses throughout the day. Perhaps I will become a less visual person after all. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up (Your Eating)

When I was a teacher, a parent once professed that she could determine her daughter's mindstate by the cleanliness of her room... when her daughter was stressed, her room was a mess and when she was calm, her room was pretty neat. In response, I noted my own room was also marker of my mindstate and it was an effing mess. And while I chose to keep that last part to myself, the scenario aligns with my favorite quote which states, "as within, so without." What we usually choose to manifest within is often displayed in our outer lives (try as we might to conceal them). And, as I've found recently, cleaner eating pretty much leads to a cleaner lifestyle... not so much in the moral sense but in the "classic" cleanliness of less trash, cleaner dishes and, of course, a cleaner bill of health both mentally and physically. Below are a few specifics which I've been pleasantly surprised to find pop up in my life through the simple act of "eating natty." Enjoy!

Clean eating is a little tough. Convenience is king today and why not? People live busy lives with the majority of couples earning dual incomes, raising kids and generally crushing it... there's little time left over to plan, prep and prepare a meal before even getting around to eating it. But, as I've found, taking such time when available (either prepping on the weekends or cooking at night) has actually allowed me to structure my days more efficiently, utilizing the time I have to either fully focus on work or fully focus on the act of cooking. One may say that the slow cooker has allowed me to slow down my life. But it's a little more complicated than an A + B equation. 

In yoga, we learned there's a "why" behind most things. There's a "why" behind the way postures are sequenced and there's a different "why" which brings people to their mats for class. For me, the "why" behind healthier eating is anxiety reduction. It wasn't my original reason for the practice (I just wanted to rid my chin of acne), but once I found it worked, it ironically became the only addiction stronger than sugar.  

In Candid-dida, I talked about strictly healthy eating... no vinegars, no wines and no real flavor unless you really roast things, sautée them pair them with a unique sauce, etc. To be sure, clean eating really demands you cook at home so that you're able to make what you like instead of ordering a salad with lemon. Gross. So as I've begun to cook at home a few things have happened which have "cleaned up" my life and they (finally) appear below.

Your Kitchen Becomes Cleaner: Just as it's relatively ironic that healthier eating is the only thing more addictive than sugar, cooking at home (I've found) has actually made my kitchen increasingly clean. Running around throughout the day, grabbing food where I could left my kitchen relatively unvisited and thus, uncared for. Through home cooking, I've naturally spent more time at home and thus, care more if my floor needs mopping, dishes need washing etc. And this focus on the home has not only organized my domicile but my schedule as well.

You're Able to Organize Your Time Better: Years ago, my uncle told me that as he one day sat in traffic with his boss, he simply turned to him and asked with child-like enthusiasm what it was like to posses the amount of wealth he did. In response, his boss turned to him and simply claimed... "I'd imagine it's similar to being anyone else. You pretty much worry about your kids and that's about it." As I'm sure there's a few discrepancies between being a billionaire and being one of the 99% or 99.9% of us or whatever, the statement goes to show that no matter who we are, what our income is or how technology has changed over time, a few core things never change... and the foods we need to consume is one of them. 

Just like we have similar needs, we generally need similar foods... a fact which has remained steady since we were early humans. And when we don't get the food we need, trouble can occur both within and without. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, we ate a pretty healthy diet (as evidenced by our ancestors' DNA) with an emphasis on nuts, plants and some meats. As anthropological evidence shows, we lived in a relatively equitable society both and terms of gender and socio-economic status and we maintained about a twenty-hour work week. (Of course, instead of existential crises we had to fear a lion mauling... life was never perfect). But with the introduction of sugar (or things that break down into sugar, like wheat), our lives began to change. 

As shown in the video above, sugar creates highs and lows in our glucose levels, causing everything from anxiety to sudden re-surges in hunger. And while I find that these factors can mess with my own time, causing me to suffer from a lack of focus and/or cause me to make another run to the store, I've found such highs and lows can be reflected in society. 

When people underwent the Agricultural Revolution, a shift in diet went from nuts, plants and some meat to wheat... a substance which can break down to sugar quite easily in the body. And while this brought about a change in the bodies of those who experienced the Revolution (not all did, there are still a few, very healthy, hunter gatherers) it also brought about a change in society. Once we became more settled, we began to experience significant benefits in technology but also began to witness an emergence in social and economic differences with leaders and those led. As within, so without. As sugars began to create highs and lows in our glucose levels, we began to see highs and lows socially. It's an odd thesis but it's also a blog... so eat it, or don't. Anyways, if we're to subscribe to this thesis, then it can be said that this dynamic between sugar and social distinction is currently in hyperdrive. Today, about 74% of foods created or processed possess sugar. Coincidentally, we've seen social stratification on a scale like never before... a world we billionaires exist as well as deep poverty. So what does this mean in terms of our time?

Our work hours have increased with each revolution be it Agricultural or Industrial. No longer is it about securing what we need and stopping a day's work. Some of us like to work and some of us don't but the term "work" implies something that we have to do. And in general, not everyone has to work but we all have to eat. And the focus that eating naturally allows us, I've found, to complete any work in a quicker fashion due to the presence of a steady and healthy mindset over one that's more scattered through sugar. Cooking naturally also allows us to focus time on something essential, not looking to Facebook as a distraction or running to the store when we're hungry again. It connects us with something primal. And if you need evidence... look at how those on the "top" of the food chain eat. Ironically, a world that has produced billionaires sees those who can eat the Paleo and gluten-free diet. Blah, blah, blah.

Your Hair and Skin (and Mouth) Become Cleaner: And, back to my original intent, eating well does clear up your hair and skin. For me, while my adolescent acne has generally disappeared, the little dots that do appear are fewer and further between and I'm a bit more satisfied with my overall complexion and my hair is softer and a little less wire-y (like my brain). According to the Huffington Post, "[d]igested sugar permanently attaches to collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea." And, of course, this doesn't necessarily refer to the sugars in natural fruits which break down at a slower rate but to the sugars of the more REfiiined varrr-i-e-tayyyy like the ones found in chips, soda, etc. And, as stated in the article above, a lack of sugar can also do wonders for our oral health... a topic to be covered in a subsequent post.

Sugar, sugar

So there you have it... a few ways in which cleaning up our diets can clean up our lives. It's a difficulty process but one I've found to be worth it. As JFK once stated, "we choose... to do things not because they are easy but because they are hard."

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Sounds Our Bodies Make

Our bodies make various sounds. We can speak, squeak, cough, sneeze or breathe but, voluntarily or involuntarily... we're usually making some kind of noise. And as I've aged, I've noticed that several sounds have become a bit more prevalent, much to my dismay. And so I set out to find what such sounds meant and if I could do anything to avoid them occurring in the middle of a yoga class or at work. A few findings lie below...

Popping/Cracking Joints: I was never one to crack my joints when I was little. In general, I found the pleasantness of sound to pain ratio completely "unworth" it. But currently, my joints seem to be snap, crackle, popping all over the place... even in my third class of yoga when I should be more limber. So I decided to see what the deal was and, turns out, I'm getting old... and/or it might have something to do with the fact I'm in my third yoga class.

Just like the topic below, the snapping and cracking of joints has much to do with gas. In yoga (and in sport), our synovial fluid or "joint lubrication" is put to use. When the joint is stretched, the gases present in such fluid (mainly nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide) are released and create bubbles that are then popped... leading to the pop of our snap, crackle and popping of joints. In addition to the release of synovial fluid from our cartilage, our tendons also move more when we exercise which can also lead to additional sounds, according to the Library of Congress (of all places). So, essentially, I found that age may not have been the key factor in the snap, crackle and pop of my joints but the simple fact that I was doing so much yoga and movement. And there are a few movements or postures which make your joints pop more than others if you're the type that likes the sound (see below). All this being said... I'm still old.

Downward Facing Dog

Scorpion Plank.

Horse Pose.

According to the article above, as one ages, the cartilage in one's joints can break down, leaving the surfaces increasingly rough and leading to a bump in synovial fluid which means more gas. And speaking of more gas...

Flatulence: Back when I was big on my cleanse (see Candid-dida) I suffered from quite a bit of flatulence. It's not a problem I'm specifically unfamiliar with. Having the ethnicity I do as well as a high level of anxiety (which I think is related to my ethnicity)... I've struggled with this issue for awhile. But when I began to eat more naturally, it was a whole different ballgame. And so I set out to find which foods (besides beans) can cause the condition.

And....... besides beans, pretty much everything I was eating on my cleanse caused flatulence. As stated in Food is Family, those members of the Brassicaceae Family are my favorite and many of them, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage can all cause some bodily sounds. But... there are a few (natural) foods which can prevent this occurrence as well.

In general, ginger and other spices as well as honey can keep our bodies a bit more quiet. Fennel works as well. And so, I've included a few recipes which should work wonders should you find yourself with this condition. Enjoy!

Detox Tea: When I started reading Into the Gloss, I was really intrigued by their tea recipes. I love tea just as my mother loved teas and, more specifically, love herbal teas as my mother did. In this sense, tisanes, or ingredients steeped in hot water that are not from the camellia sinensis plant particularly, are my favorite. And when it comes to reducing gas, ingredients such as ginger, spices and an abundance other items that help out show up in the recipe above. And if you don't have gas, it will simply give you a morning detox... so, we're pretty much all getting the same benefit. (Recipe in link here and above).

Fennel and Blueberry Salad: In addition to honey and spices, fennel works as well in terms of gas reduction (which can also come in the forms of bloating and burping... to forms decidedly more lady like than my own issue). And in a brief Instagram search this weekend, I came across a seemingly summer recipe for fennel and blueberry salad. While I couldn't remember the account from which it was posted, the one above seems like a good substitute.

So there you have it. A couple'a sounds our bodies make and ways to make more or less of them. The Choice is Yours.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Alternative Exercises

Note: This post was first written back in December and editing proved too much of a boon so...

There seems to be an alternative to everything these days... and that's a fact. But lately, I've been experimenting with "alternative exercises" to my standard yoga routine. In Connecticut, where I exist devoid of yoga memberships, I find it hard cough up mucho money during (and after) the holiday season to purchase a pack of yoga classes which I could otherwise get on the cheap back home. Of course, there are deals on Groupon but who has time for forethought in December... or ever? Ergo, this Christmas I've attempted to search for "alternative exercises" which my fiance claims, "keeps my puppy (a.k.a. anxious) energy at bay." Additionally, they also keep my pocketbook from becoming devoid of any cash. A few alternatives lie below.

1. Cleaning: I love cleaning but recognize that others don't. If this is the case, fear not, there are many other forms alternative exercises (a.k.a. yard work). But in the winter, deep cleaning the home is a good way to attain a workout while remaining indoors. Plus, you're likely already getting the house ready for company and/or cleaning up their shit, sooooo...

Although winter is a great time for a good clean, it wasn't until last summer that I gave my abode a real scrub from top to bottom. Having gone without any formal workouts that day, I was still exhausted and famished by the end of my activities (which seemed to include 15 - thousand loads of laundry). And so, scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming and running up and down the stairs to do laundry can all serve as activities which simply keep our bodies (and cardiovascular systems) moving. Always a good thing. Do a few activities at a time, come back, do a few more. Don't feel pressure to clean straight through... no one likes a try hard.

2. Shopping: As stated above, sometimes it's just good to get the blood (and body) moving. Sitting all day (to use an extreme example) has been shown to, 'negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,' according to a report released by the American Heart Association. While it's often difficult to find scholarly sources on some subjects, the dangers of #sedentarylife seem to be ubiquitous. Thus, according to The Washington Post, "sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation," that sacred process which delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout our sacred bodies. Sitting, by contrast, can pool blood in our legs while our glutes remain unused and grow soft, damaging our stability (also according to the WaPo). In general, this is a long-winded way of saying that walking through the mall can be better than binge-watching the latest show. And since you've likely completed your holiday shopping, it can be an excuse to make those returns you need.

3. Check Yo' Posture: While it's something of a micro-movement, checking in with your posture is something your can do no matter where you are or what you're doing. When we maintain poor posture (whether sitting or standing), our muscles can strain and thereby compress the blood vessels meant to provide them with oxygen.  Proper posture can sometimes open said gateways and allow everything to go with the flow, so to speak. It's a small movement but, when done consistently, can add up to big results. In order to specifically check in with your posture...

Good posture for good photos says Blake Lively.

Check in Consistently: In order to improve one's posture, one must first remember to do so. For me, this means consistently remembering to check my posture on the daily... multiple times each day. In order to quickly check in with your posture on the regular, there are essentially two things I like to do.

Ensure your chin is parallel with the floor. Yes, it's straight from the Royal Family's playbook as I've read that Kate Middleton and her contemporaries must employ said posture when they're out and about... and why not? While good posture can help us live our best lives (stand tall, right?), it also helps us look better in pictures (think selfies).

Relax Your Shoulders Down Your Back: While the exercise above is easy enough (it's quick, painless and breaks up the monotony of the day), really relaxing our shoulders can be difficult. To an extent, throwing anything out into the universe where we no longer control it... whether it be a truthful statement, an action we can't take back or a pivotal choice... can be scary. In a similar sense, allowing for gravity to take over our bodies to the extent we don't have full control of them can be equally as awkward and often engenders a feeling of letting go (at least in my experience). However, as hard as it can be to emotionally let loose our shoulders from our ears, the physical act of relaxing them is equally as easy. Simply take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and allow your shoulders to roll down your back on the exhale. As your shoulders roll down, you'll likely notice your spine straightening up, allowing less strain on your muscles and for oxygen to move more easily throughout your body.

4. Warm Foods: I know it sounds odd but hear me out. It's a scientific fact that when matter heats up, molecules move around more freely. And exercise, through heating our bodies and making our hearts work harder often pumps more blood around our system... delivering oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to our cells. And so, in some cases, if you can't workout... eat. In general, consuming warm drinks such as tea and even soup can help improve our blood's circulation or even help our joints (in the case of bone broth). A few teas and soups I like to make in the dead of winter include...

Chai Tea: Combining warm water with black tea and cinnamon (among other things), chai tea is great for our bodies. While, as stated above, warm water can aid the process of circulation, cinnamon is a well-know anti-inflammatory. And while UC San Diego Health noted that 20 minutes of exercise on the daily can have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, a cup of chai can be a bit more comforting in the winter months. Amirite?

Soups: I love soups. And while resistance training and other forms of exercise have been shown to strengthen the muscles around your joints bone broth or the base of most easy soups have been shown to aid the joints as well. According to Dr. Josh Axe, "[a]s bone broth simmers, collagen from the animal parts [bones] leaches into the broth and becomes readily absorbable to help restore cartilage." According to the same source, age can essentially wear down our cartilage and both exercise and bone broth can help (albeit in different fashions). The delicious recipe can be found here.

4. YouTube Yoga: Despite all the options above, if you must get a workout at home, YouTube Yoga is a thing and while gym memberships can reach triple digits if you in the city, such videos (while not ideal) do provide a decent workout for a big, fat zero-percent of the price. And, while I'm at home, I often like to indulge in yoga of the more mild variety meaning both Yin and Nidra Yoga. I've included a few links above and below but know that my next post focuses almost exclusively on the rankings of such videos.

So there you have it... everything from the more strenuous labor of cleaning to the more simple act of checking in with your posture. In the end, whether we are engaging in intense exercise or simple movements, any action we take which allows blood and oxygen to flow well through our bodies is always beneficial. One need not make a trip to the gym (or buy an membership) to do so.