Yoga: Religion or Exercise?

It’s a touchy subject isn’t it? Maybe it’s because I live in the South, but the question “Is yoga a religion?” does come up and I want to share my view on how I handle it. Since yoga has become more mainstream and has found it’s way into gyms, schools, and even churches, there is a lot of room for different opinions on the spiritual aspect of yoga and how it fits into western religious beliefs.

There are purists on both sides who would argue strongly that without the spiritual aspect, yoga is simply stretching. There are also christians who believe that yoga is going against their own beliefs and they are skeptical of trying it for this reason.

I say this: Let Yoga be whatever it is YOU are seeking, not what someone tells you it must be. Let it be there for you in any way you need. And let others enjoy it how they need to without judgement.

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

If it’s the strong physical practice you desire then so be it. That’s OK. There is no better way to move your body than through the asanas and breath work of yoga. I am so happy more people are trying it and feeling the physical benefits.

If you seek spiritual guidance and direction from Yoga then great- Go deep, study, and absorb everything you can from this ancient practice. Read, learn, and embrace it.  Find a teacher who is knowledgeable about this side of yoga and practice with them.

half moon

But please don’t tell either side who is right and who is wrong. I know students who cannot stand incense, chanting, or meditation. I don’t judge that because I know they need something else from Yoga and who am I to stop them?

I also know teachers who get irritated and defensive if gyms or fitness centers teach yoga without using sanskrit or bringing the spiritual side into the practice. In the big picture, who cares? Let people enjoy what they can from a beautiful and complex form of exercise and practice how you want.

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

I recently had the opportunity with some friends to teach yoga at a very large Baptist church group fitness symposium. It was amazing to witness all of the congregation in prayer pose and moving in unison. There was no barrier or judgement to what anyone believed or who they worshipped- we were just all there together breathing and moving and being present. They were connected to themselves and we were connected to each other for that brief period of time.

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Isn’t that what Yoga is all about; Connection?

Advertisements

The Lost Art of The Dinner Party

Do people still have proper dinner parties? I’m worried about that. I’m worried that because of convenience and time, restaurants have taken over and people have forgotten the art of throwing fabulous dinner parties.  The kind where friends linger and lounge on couches and armchairs with drinks in hand, waiting for the home-cooked meal to be served, but in no hurry to eat and run. I LOVE the whole concept of dinner parties and have wanted to host them since I was a little girl. I would scour my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook looking at the delicious recipes and party themes for any occasion.

Retro cookbook

My childhood treasure that started my love of the kitchen

Luckily I love to cook so having a dinner party is not a source of anxiety for me but I know it can be to some. It doesn’t have to be though; it can be so simple that anyone can host a successful dinner party and have fun doing it. I had a birthday dinner party last weekend and here are some ways I kept mine simple but still fabulous….

Choose an easy main dish that you have made before: I chose to make lasagna. It’s easily prepared ahead of time with minimal effort and it always looks and tastes like a ton of work went into it. I made one large pan with meat and a smaller pan for a couple of guests who are vegetarian. Same ingredients, same prep time. To make it special I added red wine and fresh basil to the sauce!

tomato sauce

Have a great assortment of simple appetizers: My favorite thing is to buy a variety of crackers and chips and then make homemade hummus. I made garlic and chipotle pepper- same batch, just used different spices. Easy to make ahead too.

homemade hummus

I also bought a small amount of interesting cheeses from TJ’s. Yes, I bought cheese with chocolate in it, it was my birthday! I always splurge $ on cheese because the sizes are so small and quality makes a difference in taste.

chocolate cheddar cheese

Create a simple fresh salad: Greens, rasberries, slivered almonds, goat cheese. Done. Choose a light, versatile dressing and toss just before serving. Everyone loooooved the salad, I think the fresh berries and goat cheese was the tipping point.

Have an impressive dessert; I chose to buy a decadent chocolate ganeche cake from the bakery at whole foods. It’s easier to buy a fancy dessert than to try to make one but if you have a speciality like a pie or cobbler with seasonal items then go for that. I served caramel frozen yogurt with the cake and that was what made it really special.

recipe-image-legacy-id--1043451_11

BYOB; if you’re comfortable with it, ask guests to bring their own liquor. People like too many different things for you to try and stock the bar. Plus you never know how much people drink so it’s hard to know how much to buy. My friends all brought wine, beer, and champagne and everyone enjoyed just what they wanted.

Create ambience: scented candles, a fire in the fireplace, good music, plenty of seating, fresh flowers. Make sure pets are bathed, well-behaved, and introduced properly. All of these little details can really seal the deal on a successful dinner party.

appetizers cheese and crackers

Mix it up: Invite a wide variety of your friends, or just invite 2, there is no magic #. It’s ok to mix and match people from different parts of your life. If you only have “work” friends, guess what the conversation will be about?

ENJOY: Don’t forget it’s your party to enjoy! Eat, Drink, and Be Merry- the dishes can wait……

Don’t Stop Believin’ (or Eating)

We set goals. We meet goals. We mess up. We start over. We get inspired. We get lost.

It’s all good. It’s OK. Trust the Process.

Progress takes time and can be very frustrating. It often seems so easy to give up. Sometimes just when we are ready to give up, a new ray of light shines down and we see something we hadn’t seen before. Or someone calls, or we read something inspiring, or synchronicity steps in some other way.

Whether your goals are centered around physical fitness, your career, personal life, or financial- you will hit walls. You will get so sick of doing what you think is the “right” thing over and over and not seeing the results that you want fast enough.

If you are starting a new way of eating or working-out this probably sounds very familiar. When things get tough we want to return to our old patterns that feel comfortable or to that “tried and true” diet that allowed you to lose 20 lbs five years ago. It doesn’t matter that you gained it all back, you liked the diet because it seemed to work. Fast.

But there’s another choice now; Trust the Process.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in to those thoughts that tell you it’s foolish to keep going. It might take weeks for you to see any differences, or it might takes months. In fact, if you’re doing it correctly by eating enough calories of real, whole foods then the results will most likely take much longer than you expect. Trust the Process.

Your friends and co-workers may be limiting their food intake and showing excitement over changes on the scale but what happens when their diet is done? How does someone re-learn to eat without sabotaging themselves?

Answer: Don’t stop eating. Don’t stop believing that you are an incredible machine that needs clean fuel. You are a work of art that deserves the Best, not the quickest. Don’t fall for the marketing this time of year for the many products that claim miracles. Just eat. And believe. And Trust the Process.

Here is my 3 month progress selfie after starting my clean eating meal plan. Although it’s no longer a plan, it’s a way of life.  After lowering my body-fat by 10% I am now starting to fill out and see some much anticipated muscle growth. Weight is still the same but my clothes are fitting much differently.

clean eating month 3

For more information check out www.createwholehealth.com

~Much Love~

Clean Turkey Chili

It’s cold. Everywhere. The holidays are over and normal activity has returned. Here is a super simple recipe to make for a winter’s night meal that will not get you off track of your clean-eating meal plan. Start it early and let it cook while you go to the gym!

Clean Turkey Chili

Brown 1 lb Extra Lean ground turkey and 1/2 white onion in skillet.

In a slow cooker combine:

1 can no salt kidney beans

1 can no salt crushed tomatoes

1 can no salt tomato sauce

Add browned meat/onion mixture

Stir in:

2 Tbs Chili powder

1 Tbs Cumin

1 Tbs Garlic Granules

Dash red pepper flakes, black pepper

Cook on high 3 hours. To cook longer (for more gym time) set to low.

Serve topped with plain greek yogurt if desired, or spoon over brown rice or quinoa for more complex carbs.

5 Healthy Things I Did Last Year

Last year I explored and discovered a lot of new things. As I was building my practice and yoga teaching, I experimented with many different ways of eating and moving to see what felt best to me and what I most wanted to share with people. I realize that everyone is different, and what works for one, may not work for another. As I tried different things I found the ones that worked for me and I found amazing things that can help others too. Some of these I keep in my life, others I recommend to those in need. Here are some things you can try:

1. I varied my work-outs. I tried new things like High Intensity Interval Training, running, bootcamps, restorative yoga. All kinds of things I thought I would never do. It’s good to switch things up so your body doesn’t get accustomed to the same thing.

Jacobs ladder

2. I added more meat into my diet. I started the year basically a vegetarian, eating meat only occasionally. I was eating mostly plants and a lot of fiber but I wasn’t feeling lean or fitting into my clothes like I wanted. I began eating more meat on a daily basis and upping my protein intake. My energy levels went through the roof and I reduced my body fat by 10%

I paid homage to my midwestern roots with a squirt of ketchup on top

I paid homage to my midwestern roots with a squirt of ketchup on top

3. I got more sleep. I stopped falling asleep on the couch and instead I took myself to bed early. Sometimes so early I felt ridiculous if anyone found out I was in my pajamas at 7:30pm. But my body responded amazingly and I began waking naturally with the sun and not needing caffeine. I enjoyed my nightly ritual of reading and meditating in bed, falling naturally into a restful 8 hour sleep. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I do pinterest in bed and it totally relaxes me. It’s my digital vision board–  Don’t hate. sleep well

4. I gave up mindless snacking. Just because I cook and bake healthy things with healthy ingredients doesn’t give me a green light to nosh all day. I stopped keeping sweets around my house because I found myself grazing all day and not being hungry enough for real food. This changed the way I fed my body and in turn changed the way my body feels and looks. I have more muscle mass, more energy, and less fat.  Now I enjoy sweets as an occasional treat, not a daily staple.

oatmeal cookies

5. I surrendered to what is. This is a big one and didn’t really happen til the end of the year. I am an ambitious capricorn who loves to push and pursue my goals. I found myself getting very frustrated when things didn’t move as quickly as I’d like them to, or when things just didn’t go the way I thought they should. I finally resolved to let go of control and let things unfold. I became very grateful for what I have, not what I want. I became engrossed in the present circumstances and gave them my full attention. I LET GO when things felt wrong. It feels so much better than holding on.

love stones

What are you going to try this year to get healthier? For more info please visit me at www.CreateWholeHealth.com