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?

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~

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

10% Lower Body Fat in 8 Weeks!

The results are in! If you’ve been following my posts you know that for the last 8 weeks I have been on a clean eating plan in order to lower my body fat by at least 5%. That was my goal. I am not overweight, I weight 113lbs which is ideal for my height and build. But the bod pod test in October showed my muscle mass was low and my body fat was up near the excessive fat range!  That was super not OK for someone who works out as hard as I do. So I changed up my diet for the last couple of months and recently went back for my 2nd test in the bod-pod, a device that accurately measures weight, muscle mass, and fat.

I went from 29% body fat down to 18% in 8 weeks!!!! I was soooooooooooo happy to know that all of my effort and hard work had actually made a difference. And guess what? My weight stayed the EXACT same! As you can see from the picture my body looks completely different but I don’t weigh any less or more than I did. We get so incredibly fixated on the #’s on the scale that we don’t even consider what’s really going on in our bodies and how the weight is distributed, which is way more important than the number on the scales

I wanted my body to be composed of more muscle and less fat. In order to do that I had to keep training with weights and eat more food. Yep, I ate more than ever of good quality carbs, protein, and starches 5 times a day.  I cut out smoothies, juices, sugary fruits, sweets, bread, alcohol, and too much fiber so that my body would utilize what I was feeding it, rather than eliminating it. That part really worked!

When setting goals be sure to include this kind of planning so that your results are lasting, not short term weight loss. Restricting calories or doing excessive cardio may temporarily lower your weight but it will not touch the body fat. You can be “skinny fat” and not have adequate muscle mass. Only by eating good quality real food, including lots of lean protein and clean carbs, and by engaging in a variety of weight bearing, cardio, and flexibility exercises can you have a well-rounded and balanced body.

Here is my 8 week photo- from 29% body fat to 18%. Weight 113 pounds

To find out more information please visit me at www.createwholehealth.com

I would love to help you on your own journey of transformation!

before and after body fat loss

Weights or Cardio for Best Results?

A common mistake when working out to lose weight or lower body-fat is overdoing cardio and not adding in enough weight-resistant training. I see people on the treadmill day after day, week after week, trying to change their body composition without ever picking up a weight.  I think women especially are afraid to lift weights in fear of “bulking up” or putting on too much muscle. The truth is it’s very difficult for most women to build a significant amount of muscle or to become too bulky without using drugs.

Strong muscle tissue supports the joints and ligaments and helps to prevent injury. As we age our muscle mass decreases by 4% each year; a good reason to invest early in building stores of muscle. And a strong, sculpted body looks as healthy as it is. Muscles support sagging skin that often accompanies weight-loss and helps to create a toned, taught appearance.

I’m a big believer in combining strength training, cardio, and flexibility for the best results. Cardio exercise is a great way to burn calories and strengthen our heart, but building muscle with weight training benefits you in different ways that contribute to weight loss and fat loss. Muscle continues to burn calories even at rest so all your workouts are more efficient.

I’ve lifted weights since I was 20 years old and it’s definitely my favorite thing to do in the gym.
Lunges

I feel powerful and confident when I lift and I find the results are faster than anything else combined with proper nutrition. I also practice and teach yoga and love the flexibility and length my muscles achieve in yoga. It’s the perfect compliment to weight training.

Cardio is my least favorite thing to do- I only do 2 or 3x’s a week and because I’m building muscle I don’t need as much. I’ve been using the Jacob’s Ladder which is a hellish device that burns about 500 calories in a 30 minute session. It’s the hardest cardio workout I’ve ever done. We have a love/hate relationship!

Jacobs ladder

Recently I’ve started incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into my cardio days to mix things up. Short bursts of intense movement done back to back to keep the heart rate elevated. Hard but effective!

A typical HIIT workout I would do might be:
2 minutes on high incline treadmill
25 jump squats
25 jump splits
2 minutes on elliptical
1 minute rest
Repeat the whole cycle 3 or 4 times

Finding the right work-out with the right meal plan is key to reaching your goals. I’ve changed my work-out while I’m on my 6 week meal plan to heavier weights and more intense cardio sessions, but not necessarily more often. My goal is to build muscle and lower my body-fat. I don’t really care what the scale says because muscle weighs more than fat. I’m more concerned with my muscle mass index climbing.

Here is a half-way progress shot- 3 weeks into my 6 week workout and meal plan. Feeling very strong and excited about seeing results!!

6 week ,eal plan

Are You Eating Enough??

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight or get lean is to cut back too much on caloric intake. We skip meals or replace food with smoothies or juice thinking we are burning up additional stores of fat by restricting calories. But actually the opposite is true. Our bodies go into “red alert” and begin to store more fat in preparation for fewer calories. That is our metabolism slowing down and who needs that?

Maybe it feels healthy to have a green juice for lunch when in reality that is not nearly enough calories, protein, or fiber to get you through the day. Eventually your body will crave more nutrients and this may lead to an unhealthy binge. Instead, choose REAL food in moderation that will fuel your body to move.

The point is: We need to eat more, not less, in order to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Eating smaller, more frequent meals balanced with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats throughout the day will keep our metabolism up and our bodies fueled properly. Skip the no-carb or no-fat diets. Cutting out any particular food group in order to lose weight makes about as much sense as filling your gas tank with oil and expecting your car to run. We need it ALL to function properly.

Choose lean proteins, complex carbs, and lots of fresh vegetables- here is a typical lunch for me:

balanced meal

Cut out the processed and packaged foods, white sugar, white flour, and alcohol and you will find you have more energy, clarity, and focus. Unlike a diet, you won’t feel hungry or deprived when you are eating more often. It might be take more effort than skipping meals or buying a latte for lunch, but in the end it is what produces lasting results.

Preparation is the magic key with clean-eating. I prep most of my food for the week on Sunday evening

meal prepping

By the way, here is a 2 week photo update of my progress on a 6 week clean-eating meal plan. I took this just 2 weeks after changing my eating habits and already noticed a change in my body:

2 weeks progress

Want to learn more about creating healthy habits in your own life? Visit me at CreateWholeHealth

6 Weeks to Sleek Abs

I am 1 week in to a 6 week meal plan given to me by my favorite trainer- my boyfriend: the gym owner, the workout guru, the scientist, the muscle-whisperer. I wanted to amp up my workouts and training and needed to know where to start so I got tested in a bod-pod which accurately measures body mass/ fat/muscle ratio. The results showed my body fat percentage was much higher than I expected. My muscle mass ratio needs to come up and my body fat will balance out with that. Because I’m a capricorn and love to have a goal, my goal is to lower my body fat by 5%.

What’s funny is I already had started the new eating plan before I knew all that. It proves once again that we know instinctively what our bodies need and crave. Bottom line was I wasn’t eating enough.I was snick-snacking all day long on lovely little sweet treats that I whipped up and wrote about. I was eating tons of great vegetables that were filling me up but not satisfying my body’s needs.  I definitely wasn’t getting enough protein; the building block of muscles, tissue, and cell growth.

5470_492991497434797_2037558559_n

As hard as I like to train at the gym I wondered why I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. This sounds like an infomercial for some pills or something but the real answer is in how we choose to fuel our bodies. So here’s what I’ve started doing to change my eating patterns:

– I eat 5-6 smalls meals a day keeping my metabolism fired up

– I include lean protein, complex carbs, and veggies in most of those meals

grilled chicken spinach salad

– I stopped eating empty calories (for now) in the form of sugar, flour, or cheese

– I also cut way back on fruits to decrease my sugar intake

– I am balancing my protein intake with my workouts so I eat more protein on the days I’m training

– I get my carbs/protein from real food sources, not shakes or powder

Week one was a lot of work. Lots of shopping, cooking, prepping, and storing meals to grab and go. Now that I have a pattern down this week will be a bit easier. Surprisingly, I am eating often but I still always have an appetite. My body is digesting the food easily and converting it to fuel. I have lots of energy and strength and my sleep is so much better for some reason.

I am learning ways to be creative with chicken and fish but usually just grill or steam them. Clean food is best when not messed with too much. Sweet potatoes are my sweet comfort sprinkled with cinnamon sans the coconut manna. My old standby breakfast of  oatmeal is without honey and nuts (for now) and truth is I don’t even miss it anymore. Eggs are also a staple in my day.

I’m excited to see how else my body and mind continue to adjust to this new pattern.

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