Mini Yoga Moments

yoga poses for waking up relaxation and abs south by northwest seattle blogger

It’s taken me a long time to come around to yoga. As someone who typically likes high energy workouts that leave you transformed into a sweaty ball of pain, it always seemed too slow, too boring. The Shavasana pose? Basically an excuse to publicly nap and call it exercise.
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When I moved to Seattle, my friend Rachel introduced me to her hot yoga studio and I discovered that yoga was not only relaxing, it was also re-energizing. I loved the feeling of the heat soaking into my skin and the burn from holding a position too long.
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Recently between work, making dinner, walking the dogs, and the rest of life’s minutia, I’ve been pretty bad about regularly attending class. However, I have found myself leaning on a few key poses throughout the day to help me better align my body with my mind.
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First Thing in the Morning
Waking up is hard for me! It’s usually about 30 minutes before you can even attempt to have a conversation with me. I’ve started doing a few minutes of the Cat/Cow poses first thing in the morning and it’s really helped me get my head in the game (of life). Here’s a short explanation of how to do the poses. I always exhale as I move from the cow position (concave back) to the cat position (arched back).
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cat cow

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Stress Relief

I carry a lot of my stress in my body, which is pretty common. My body actually gets stiff with tension. I used to just let the tension build and build, but yoga has helped me learn how to release it through breath and stretching. One of my favorite poses for a mini-moment of stress relief is Viparita Karani, or the Legs Up the Wall Pose. It’s a bit hard to use at work, but I often do it right when I get home for about five minutes. It feels great on the neck, back, and the back of your legs. Here’s a link to a quick explanation of the pose.
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Viparita Karani legs up against the wall yoga pose

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Before Going to Bed

At night, it can be hard to unwind. The blue light from staring at my phone messes with my body’s rhythms or I can’t stop thinking about a project that’s in the works. Child’s Pose helps relax my back and quiets my mind. The pose, illustrated below, is incredibly simple with a couple variations explained here. I’ve also started using the 4-7-8 mindfulness breathing technique, but I’ll save that for another time.
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child's pose yoga

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Tightening Up Those Abs
The season of swimsuits and crop tops is quickly approaching, which has most of us thinking about our abs. While I love soft and curvy look of a feminine body, I also think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to tighten things up a bit. Whatever makes you feel confident, go with it! My go to pose for working my abs is the Forearm Plank. It’s great because it works the full range of your abs in addition to several other muscle groups. Again, you can get the gist of the position from the illustration below, but just in case I’ve linked to a short video.
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forearm plank yoga pose

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Do you have any go-to stretches, moves, or mantras you lean on to keep you going? It’s always helpful to hear what others do to de-stress. My friend Erica just joined a meditation studio which she is loving. If you don’t have any strategies yet, I hope you enjoy incorporating some mini yoga moments into your day as much as I have.
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XOXO,
Jules
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Image sources: 1/2/3/4

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy: 5 Natural Ways to Kick Anxiety to the Curb

anxiety

Telling the truth about ourselves is a hard thing, especially when the truth doesn’t match up with our preferred version of reality. It’s hard to admit to weakness or mistakes. You have this image of what you want your life to be like and then are constantly trying to  reconcile all the messy bits that don’t seem to fit. It’s something I struggle with all the time – every day really.

One of my truths is that I struggle with anxiety. When you first meet me, I usually seem pretty laid back and low maintenance, which I am in a lot of ways. I can get ready in 10 minutes if needed and am usually happy to let others pick the restaurant or movie. I’ve also always gravitated towards high stress jobs that push me to the limit, which may seem odd for someone who gets anxious. Somehow I’ve become very good at showing a certain version of myself, but below the surface or in private, I promise you that I am quite frequently quietly freaking out.

Why share this now? I recently learned that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting about 1 in 5 people at any given time. That’s 100 people in my office or at least three of your close friends. It shocked me because you rarely hear it talked about. We talk about our allergies and injuries, but somehow talking about anxiety or depression is taboo. Or are we not talking about it because we think it’s normal to be stressed out and anxious? Stress is definitely normal, but at what point do we draw the line between normal and intolerable?

I’m starting to figure where that line is for me and what I need to do on a daily or weekly basis to make sure I’m on the right side of that line as much as possible. Here are a few of my strategies:
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1. Get your workout on
For me, cardio is one of the best ways to stabilize my moods and release tension. It can be hard to prioritize making it to the gym or hitting a trail, but I always try to remind myself of how relaxed and happy I feel once those endorphins start to kick in. Even a 15 minute walk around the block is enough to make a difference.
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2. Love that lavender
As my husband can attest, I’m a big fan of essential oils. I know this isn’t news to anyone, but lavender oil has an incredible calming effect on the body. It’s been used for centuries as a treatment for anxiety and depression and when taken orally has been shown to be as effective as certain prescription medications (1). I prefer to drink it in tea or to simply dab some oil on my wrists to take in its therapeutic effects.
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3. Sip on green tea (even in summer)
I know it’s hot, so tea is probably the last thing you want to hear about, but hear me out. L-Theanine, an amino acid present in green tea, has been shown to measurably boost moods and decrease stress (2). Personally, I like iced green tea with fresh mint leaves. It’ll make you feel good on a hot day in more ways than one.
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4. It’s all about the B’s
I take a daily Vitamin B-complex and for me it makes a significant difference in my energy levels and mood. Deficiencies in Vitamin B have been linked to depression, fatigue, and anxiety. While I take a supplement, I also try to eat foods that are rich in B vitamins as well. Dark leafy greens are one of my go-to sources; they’re easy to throw into a morning smoothie to get your day off to a good start.
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5. Make time for “me-time,” preferably in the sunshine 
It’s easy for life to become an endless whirlwind of events and responsibilities. Take the dogs out, go to work, hit the gym, meet friends for happy hour, make dinner, tidy up the house – it never stops and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s important to make time for yourself. It’s important to give yourself permission to do something just for your pure enjoyment and relaxation. Maybe it’s reading on a blanket in the park, or walking down to the coffee shop down the street for that one special drink you love. For me, I make sure that my relaxation time is out in the sun, which has been shown to be mood boosting.
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Bonus: Strike a power pose. If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on the power of striking a strong pose, you should watch it here. Adopting a strong pose in a moment of weakness can help increase testosterone and decerase cortisol levels, making you literally feel stronger and more in control. Plus, it’s fun. Before a tough meeting or phone call, I like to find a place where I can ham it up a bit with a couple “You Got This” poses.
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sunshineonbluemtn

The quadruple threat: exercise, me-time, sunshine, and a power pose. Victory is mine!

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How do you relax and manage your anxiety and stress? I know a lot of people who practice yoga for this reason, which I personally like better in the winter.
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XOXO,
Jules

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P.S. Please note that I am not a doctor in any way. This is simply advice shared based on personal experiences. 

Amazeballs!

Amaze Balls chocolate energy bites

I am a snacker. I would rather eat six small meals a day than three square ones. As such, I’m always on the hunt for portable and healthy snacks, preferably without too much sugar. I am not fun on a sugar crash, just ask Mil or my husband! One of my favorite bloggers, The Fitnessista, has introduced me to several of my go-to recipes. One of my all time favorites are her Amazeballs, which over the years I have tweaked to my own personal tastes. (Read: I added more chocolate.)

Here is my recipe for a delicious, easy, and healthy snack on the go. Little balls of energy that are, well, pretty amazing!

Chocolate Amazeballs
(inspired by The Fitnessista)

6 Tbl chocolate (or vanilla) protein powder
6 Tbl almond butter
8 Tbl unsweetened shredded coconut
1 Rounded tsp cocoa powder
2 Tbl honey (add more to taste)
1/2 Tsp vanilla extract
1 Ounce unsweetened chocolate
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

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Directions:

amazeballs ingredients almond butter cinnamon cocoa

Gather up your goodies. This recipe is super quick and easy if you have all of your ingredients ready to go. On a side note, please ignore my dirty kitchen window. I will get around to cleaning it one of these days.

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Amazeballs chocolate energy bites

Combine the first three ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add everything else in except the chocolate and pulse again. The mixer should start clumping together. Adjust your wet and dry ingredients if needed until you reach the texture shown above. Then add in the ounce of chocolate, breaking it up a couple of times before throwing it into the food processor. Pulse a few more times until the chocolate is chopped up and well distributed. Taste the “dough” and add any additional sweetener if needed.

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Amazeballs gluten free chocolate snack

Once you are satisfied, use your hands to roll the mixture into amazing balls of deliciousness. I like mine to be big enough to really satisfy me, so my balls are about the size of a standard meatball. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. They won’t last long!

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These would be great to keep at work or to toss into your lunch. I’ve only made the chocolate flavor, as I never get sick out it, but it’d be fun to try a few different variations. PB&J maybe?

XOXO,
Jules

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