5 Easeful Ways to Prevent Back Pain

Experts estimate that 8 out 10 people will experience back pain over their lifetime.  Can you see my had raising?   It was, in fact, a chronic lower back pain that brought me to the Bodymind Ballwork™, chiropractics,  Rolfing, acupuncture, Pilates, meditation, etc., etc.,etc.   Quack, you can say that my experience with embodiment self-awareness was sculpted by my back pain.

Addressing low back discomfort or pain is tricky since there may be multiple reasons that can influence it.  The back is a truly complicated, it's made up of ligaments, muscles, fascia, joints, bones, emotions, and energy.   Back problems can be caused by injuries or accidents, by simple movements like bending over to pick something up or twisting too abruptly, and also by bad posture, obesity, stress, and arthritis.   All of these can be influenced by stress, sitting too much, not sleeping well, not moving enough, wearing the "wrong" shoes, or any trauma from your biography (just pick any one).

Awareness is a big step in managing any experience.

Before you try anything to ease your back pain, specially for chronic and/or intense discomfort, I recommend consulting with a physician.   It's better to get the frustrating "there is nothing wrong with your back" diagnosis than to try a modality that isn't right for a serious condition.  Empower yourself with knowledge before you try anything here.    

5 Easeful Ways to Prevent Back Pain and Sciatica

  1. Stretch and move your spine every morning for at least 20 minutes. I recommend  yoga, of course, to activate and decompress your spine, move your spinal fluid, and hydrate your connective tissue.  Any other form of mindful movement would do it, in the Yoga Health Coaching world we call it "Breath Body Practices."    As a bonus, doing this in the morning help release feel-good endorphins, flush toxins, move blocked or negative energy, and keep your body and tissues supple and youthful.

  2. Stay hydrated, water works great -smile - and/or take a collagen supplement powder to keep your tissue, fascia, and inner webbing supple and resilient.  And if we're gonna talk supplements, take magnesium, the miracle mineral, to restore your tissues, reduce stress, sleep deeper, and nourish and repair your nerves.  I love Natural Calm.

  3. Work on both strength and flexibility: Build and maintain a strong and flexible core and hip rotator muscles—especially your gluteus medius.  Also check in with, or get to know, your pelvis.  Incorporate any activity to build healthy tone in your pelvic muscles and deep core muscles.  This area has a huge impact on the alignment of the hips and pain in the lower back.  Lastly, pamper your feet. Roll your feet out with a ball to maintain healthy plantar fascia—this has a huge impact on the health and mobility of your spine.  Shameless plug: The ballwork exercises from Roll+Restore classes are design to teach you this. 

  4. Use your glutes and hamstrings more! When bending down to pick something up, bend your knees and squat down using your booty muscles, hamstrings, and core, and press through your heels. Avoid bending at the hips since this loads the discs of your spine.  BTW this is true in your yoga classes too, ask your teacher if you aren't clear on how to properly do a forward bend.

  5. Go upside down every day: Inversions are great for decompressing the discs of your spine and helping nourish and redistribute your spinal fluids.  Start with building your down dog and work your way up from there - do this with the right help from a capable instructor.

Posted on October 20, 2017 .

Sally, there is never a good time for your wellness evolution!

Procrastination Pic.png

Many times we know we want to spring into action and yet we’re stopped by our own inability to act.  Take for example my student and friend, let’s call her "Sally."  Just the other day, Sally was telling me how she knows she needs to make some changes in her life to evolve into the better woman she knows she can be for herself and for others.

I love you, Sally.  

Sally tells me that she even knows what strategies to put in place to become who she wants to be:  She’s gonna do a detox to give her body the space it needs, she's gonna start her days with yoga because she knows yoga works!, she's gonna start talking more with her live-in boyfriend to smooth out all of their communication kinks, and she's gonna revamp her career (or if necessary look for a new job).  Sally got plans and goals, that much is clear.  But then she tells me she's waiting for her life to settle.  You see, Sally has a lot going on, she got some family situation which may affect her traveling schedule in the near future, she has a new boss at work and you know how that goes, she is experiencing a stomach thing that she hasn’t figured out quite yet, and the boyfriend communication thing, you know, makes things at home a bit tense right now.  

Oh, Sally, my heart is heavy for you, because that's a lot, I've been there and I hear you, you're waiting for the right time.  The time when the yogic detox will go smoothly, because who want to do a half-ass detox? You’re waiting for genuine motivation to do your yoga first thing in the morning, because one needs to show up authentically to the mat, right? You’re waiting for the right words to say to the boyfriend, because presentation is everything when it comes to we-have-to-talk moments, isn’t that what your therapist says?  You’re waiting to get clear on what you want from a career because your Dharma deserves an auspicious space, because isn’t that how Dharma works?

Well, this is what I told Sally. There’s never a good time for your wellness evolution.  “Shift” is always hitting the fan, specially when you’re ready to implement your perfect evolutionary plans.  You either sit in peace while the “shift” drips down your walls, making your life feel like a total hot mess or you begin to thoroughly, imperfectly execute your perfect strategy.  


This is what I know to be true, the Universe will meet you right where you’re at, so where do you want the Universe to meet you at?  

If like Sally, you know you need a yogic cleanse to get you started, please join the community Reboot + Reset I'm leading at Abhaya Yoga- DUMBO, get a full description of the reboot and register HERE.   Let your potential emerge this Fall, if you have been waiting for the right cleanse for you, this is it. 

Posted on September 8, 2017 and filed under inspiration, Organization, wellness.

Grieving Gracefully (or letting your body flow with your heartbreak

click on image to listen to this post

click on image to listen to this post

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” — Helen Keller

Sometimes my brain can be quite literal like when I first heard my yoga teacher say “flow with grace,” I immediately slowed down on my mat and carefully considered how to place my arms and legs gracefully - you know, like a dancer.   Years later when I realized she was talking about Grace, you know, like the liberating energy from God, I felt a little dumb, but also grateful I’d taken it so literal before.  Every pose I slowed down to elegantly flow, I was being Grace-full.  I’ve learned that my body understands, feels and assimilates spiritual passages way before my brain does.  

Grace, as I’ve experienced it, is a river that flows towards the ocean of Divine Love. Its waters aren’t transparent and insipid, they contain life’s colors and flavors.  One of which is grief.

If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one through death or a breakup, you know grief. If you’ve experience the loss of a career opportunity, you know grief. Heck, if you’ve experienced Trader Joe’s discontinuing your favorite product, you know grief.  Because, you see, if you’re human you’ve experienced and will continue to experience grief.

A thing I know about the river of Grace, and grief, is that it’s unstoppable. Sure you can intellectualize the situation: “he’s in a better place now,” “it wasn’t meant to be,” or “a better opportunity will come along.” However, grief is part of Grace and you need to let your whole be in it because your body will feel it, understand it and assimilate it before your mind can.

When you’re grieving, you’re gonna have to let the flow take your whole through the process.  

Sometime you get to step into the river slowly, like when a beloved is terminally ill.  You get a chance to adjust to the temperatures of the water and to prepare for the inevitable. Does it hurt? Yes.  Will your mind resist it by creating false hopes? Absolutely.  But eventually the river’s current will carry you.  

Sometimes you get thrown into the river, like suddenly losing a job or worse the sudden death of a beloved.  You get no chance to adjust. The moment you hit the water, it feels like you’re gonna drown. It’s messy. Will your mind resist it just the same? Yep. Will you fear that your body can’t handle it? For sure. But eventually you’ll adjust to the waters, you’ll begin to float and the river’s current will carry you.

This is what I know for sure, mental suffering is directly proportional to the resistance to the flow of Grace.

The only way to mitigate grief’s pain is to step into its current with the least amount of resistance. Sure you can learn techniques to cope with it, but don’t try to snap out of it. Do take care of your spirit, your mind and your body to the best of your abilities, but don’t attempt to cheer yourself up. Do hold on to your life-enhancing daily habits like floaties. But if you need to be in pain, be in pain. If you want to be moody, angry or sad, just be.  Honor the feelings flowing through your body knowing with full confidence that they will lead to the ocean of Divine Love.  

For my fellow caregivers, if you are around someone who is going through the process of grieving, as much as you want to stop their pain, don’t try to get them off the river. You can’t. You won’t.  Be a witness, and if you must throw a lifesaver,  offer your company, a hug, a prayer, a kind ear or warm meal, but let them grieve at their own rate. Know that this is you too flowing with Grace.

Caterpillar Soup or how a messy transition could be the path to a better you

Through yoga, we’re not transforming into something we aspire to, we’re transforming into the very thing that we are innately: our best Self.
— Rod Stryker

Did you know that when a caterpillar begins her transformation into a butterfly, she doesn’t just grow antennas and wings?  No, no, the caterpillar actually fully dissolves in some sort of cocoon-soup and it’s from this DNA-broth that the caterpillar’s cells will re-arrange into a butterfly.  

There is a clear message here, my friend, when things dissolve into a hot mess and it's hard to tell how things will re-arrange themselves, it's because a new, brighter, beginning is around the corner.

How many times have your life look like a hot butterfly soup?

I've had a few of those moments when everything around me had to liquefy to begin the metamorphosis of my better self.   One of those moments was when I moved to New York City.  I had to leave behind my very comfortable "young professional" lifestyle in the ever gorgeous Savannah, GA and listened to my soul call  towards a "soul-full hustler" lifestyle in NYC.  That was a rough lesson in what leisure is and  what disposable income means.  Through the few years of adjustment, when my mind was in agony and doubt, my surroundings and my heart opened in ways that I couldn't have imagined. How did I manage? Yoga helped, meditation helped, new friendships helped,  self-help books helped, it all helped!  

By the time my self-made lifestyle wings had emerged, I was a new man.  A more confident, kinder and more resourceful man emerged from that cocoon.

That's the thing with transformation, if we aren't practicing awareness, we'll miss the gorgeous colors of our new wings.  

I've learned to to recognize the signs and results of self evolution, to look with loving eyes those moments when things fall apart, and  to remember that when things fall apart is because they need a new foundation.  I’ve learned to LOVE these butterfly moments and, almost enjoy the effort it takes to unfold my new wings after each transformation. Yes, I'm saying almost because it feels like hell every time.

[ On a side note for those searching souls that want to quit it all and start anew:  Was my drastic lifestyle change useful in my Spiritual Evolution?  YES!  Was it necessary?  NO. There are less dramatic and less painful ways to grow new wings. If your caterpillar is feeling antsy, reach out for help.]  

*this content was inspired by a newsletter I sent in September 2015...a good example of how change is part of everything

Posted on May 30, 2017 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality, Ayurveda, Yoga, wellness, design.

Spring Clean Your Concept of Time or how to dismiss your time scarcity problems

Listen to this post instead - it's quick and more fun...

I don’t have five seconds to spare!

Is this what it’s come down to? I have to ask myself as I read a study suggesting that we, internet dwellers, tend to abandon downloading a file if it’s taking more than five seconds.  Five seconds! Quack, I remember having to walk 15 minutes to my aunt C’s home to consult her Encyclopedia Britannica just to finish my homework.  OK this makes me old, but it also tells me that if these days I don’t have five seconds to spare, there is something wrong with the way I’m living my life.

Why do we feel rushed? Why are we so busy? We got services and technologies to help us expedite almost anything from laundry to cooking.  Our technology is so advanced that we can almost instantly share documents, videos and pictures with anyone around the world.

So here is a truth, it isn’t about having less time, but how we perceive and use time.  

This quote from Albert Einstein illustrates the issue “an hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”

Perception is everything.

We’ve been taught that time is money, a fair equation considering that most of us get paid by the hour.  However in doing so we’ve also brought all our money issues and make them time issues.  How we use it, waste it, save it these are the thoughts that pollute our enjoyment of time.

Life is long if we know how to use it.  

If we’re constantly thinking about the scarcity of time, well, we’ll have a hard time finding time. So here is another truth, time isn’t money, it’s nothing more than the space between events.

This is my proposal for Spring cleaning, let’s invest time in those things that make us feel good.  Let’s dust off all those I-don’t-have-time excuses, we got time. Let’s pack away multitasking, we know that when we do one thing at a time, it gets done way faster and we have way more fun.  And let’s clean up our expectations of what we can get done in a day.

We’re going to look for abundance and we’re going to find her.  

As for the rest of the Spring Cleaning, we have a long life to get to it or as De Gracia wrote in 1965 “Lean back under a tree, put your arms behind your head,  smile and remember that the beginnings and ends of man’s every great enterprise are untidy.”

Kitchari your way into nourishment

Growing up in Panama, often enough my family will serve this soupy-mixture of beans and rice we call "guacho."  So when I was introduced via Ayurveda (Science of Longevity) to Kitchari, its texture was a homecoming to my senses and a blessing to my digestive system.  There are tons of Kitchari version available out there for Kitchari, but I've arrived at a version that works for me not only because it's easy to prepared but it has the consistency and flavors that I like.

Kitchari is basic to the Ayurvedic way of life, it's a balancing dish dating back thousands of years. Like many comfort foods, Kitchari is basically a one-pot dish, you make a big batch and eat several times.  The skillful use of spices and vegetables can produce balancing effects for your body and therein your mind and spirit.  Again, there many variations as there are reasons for each of them, I'm sharing my version.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup white Quinoa (you can substitute for basmati rice)
1 cup mung dal (split yellow) or red lentils (split)- peeled/split is important to save time.
6 cups (approx.) water
1/2 to 1 inch ginger root, chopped or grated (do not use ginger powder)
 Salt (1/4 tsp. or so, you can always add more later) 
2 tsp. ghee (you can substitute with coconut oil or olive oil)
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder

Because this makes a large pot from where I make several meals,  I don't mix vegetables in but as an option I add cooked vegetable later before eating the Kitchari, so that I can vary the flavors accordingly.   
 

Directions:

1- Wash quinoa and mung split beans (or red split lentils) and then soak overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain soak water and rinse thoroughly right before using.  Do not skip this step, it is supper important to prevent gas.

2- In a medium/largish non-stick saucepan warm the ghee. Add the ginger and sauté for one to two minutes. Add the rest of the spices mixing well till the whole kitchen smells gloriously.  Add quinoa and mung beans and sauté for another minute. Then add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.

3- Once the kitchari has come to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until it is tender (approx. 30 minutes).    Remember this is the cooking time for peeled/split mung beans (or red lentils), if you are cooking whole beans do your research!

(Add more water if needed. Typically, kitchari is the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. A thinner consistency is preferable if your digestion is weak. You will notice that kitchari will thicken when it cools and you may need more water than you originally thought.)

You can garnish with fresh cilantro and add salt to taste (optional) if needed.  You can prepare your favorite vegetables and either mix in or top your kitchari with them before serving your meal.

Makes about 4 servings

Posted on March 10, 2017 and filed under Ayurveda, cooking, wellness.

Sip Your Way Into Digestive Comfort with CCF Tea

“CCF” stands for cumin, coriander, and fennel; three spices commonly used in ayurvedic remedies and cooking for their medicinal benefits. They combine in CCF tea as a perfectly balanced threesome that’s appropriate for all body types (which we call tridoshic in ayurveda; good for vata, pitta, or kapha).

Despite its simplicity, CCF tea is well-revered in ayurveda.  In Ayurveda your digestive fire defines how well is your body is operating and this tea is known to troubleshoot any issue with that fire.  Each of the three spices in CCF tea re-balance the digestive fire whether it’s too high, too low, or, well, in a funk.  These are the qualities of the three spices:

Cumin: When it comes to digestion, cumin is a wonder spice. It digests toxins, helps to absorb nutrients, and increases the digestive fire and metabolism.

Coriander: Coriander cools any kind of excess heat in the body including burning sensations and anger. It also cools and strengthens the urinary tract and cleanses the body’s subtle channels.

Fennel: This licorice-like seed is one of the best spices for re-balancing the digestive fire and metabolism. It’s great for relieving acidity, bloating, abdominal pains, and gas. Fennel is calming but at the same time promotes mental alertness.

Anytime I feel a little off in my digestion, I prepared this tea and sip it through the day.  This how to prepare it.

  • In a jar mix equal amounts each of cumin, coriander, and fennel whole seeds. Do not try to substitute with the powder version- gross.  I just keep one jar with CCF seeds at home and one at the office. You can crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle to release their volatile oils or just toss them in whole.
  • Bring one cups of water to a boil and then add one tea spoon of the mixture.  Let it steep for at least 8 minutes.  (you can make a bigger batch,  pour it into a thermos, seeds and all and sip the tea throughout the day, straining as you go - this is how I was recommended to do it anyway, but I prefer one cup at a time)

Next time you need a quick natural way for digestion troubles, try this fire starter/fire quencher and let me know how it goes.  Enjoy!

 

Posted on February 24, 2017 and filed under Ayurveda, cooking, wellness.

A Veggie Keeper worth Keeping

So you've decided to start planning your meals and prepping your food ahead of time. Yay!  You're pump, you head to your local market and, of course, get tons of veggies, you're in it to win it!  

Then after a few days your enthusiasm gets beaten down by spoiled berries and  wilted spinach leaves.  Part of engineering the lifestyle that you deserve, is planning for those moments that may set you back.  In the scenario above, as part of prepping your food, doing a little research on how to keep vegetables fresh, specially the green leafy ones,  longer may be the key to keep you on track to a healthy eating path.

In terms of making  your fresh vegetables last longer and help your pocket, Progressive International's Prepworks Fresh Fruit & Veggie Keeper is hands down the best thing I've added to my prep routine in the last decade.  I attest that this container not only extend the life of produce, but because unlike the crowded produce drawer or opaque containers, these clear vessels display your produce in a way that makes it even more enticing! And yes, these are BPA-free.  It is especially useful for highly perishable produce, including dark leafy greens, lettuces, and fresh herbs, berries, and grapes. I’ve also used them for sprouts.  Did I mention that it also serves as a colander and it comes with a divider?  It is like kitchen sorcery, I tell you.  

No excuses go and get your greens!

 

 

Vegetable Wedges with Creamy Cashew "Mayo"

This is one my easiest go-to recipes when I want a nutritive, healthy and rich-tasting meal.  I don't think I have to tell you how much your body will love you for eating veggies and the sauce I am calling "mayo" is made with cashew nuts which list among its benefits obtaining a healthy heart, healthy hair, healthy nervous system and it even prevents cancer.  The most important part is that the mixture of  sweet flavors of  beets & carrots with the zesty of the "mayo" makes this dish incredibly satisfying.

These are the ingredients

  • 5 medium carrots, each cut into thick wedges

  • 2 large beets, cut into similar sized wedges with the tops discarded

  • 2 hands full of raw cashews (or 3 heaping tablespoons cashew butter if you don't have a food processor)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (or 1 tablespoons dried)

  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper

This is what you do

  1. Steam the carrot and beet wedges in a steaming basket until tender (roughly 15-20 minutes depending on size and water temperature).  Keep an eye on the evaporating water.

  2. Drain and place in a bowl to cool.

  3. In a food processor begin to create the "mayo" sauce by adding the cashews with a little bit of olive oil and pulse your processor till you begin to cream the cashews.  Add more cashews and olive oil till you create a mayonnaise consistency.

  4. Then mix together these creamy mixture withe the water and red peeper and half the mint. Season with salt and black pepper.

  5. Pour over the carrot and beet wedges and add additional fresh mint to garnish, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

Serves four (or two hungry yogis).  Enjoy

Posted on January 23, 2017 and filed under Ayurveda, cooking, cleaning, wellness.

Basic Broccoli & Arugula Soup

I see every dinner as an opportunity to give my body a break, a daily "detox" if you may.  After all, the human body is designed to eat it's biggest meal in the middle of the day so having a light dinner is a nice thing to do for the body's operating system (if you don't think that breaking this biological rule affects your body, you are either in denial or you are a mutant - I am cool with either scenario).

This basic broccoli soup is a bit more sassy by staring it with a sofrito and adding the always peppery arugula. 

This is what you need (for two servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced (or shallot if you can't do garlic like me)

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 head broccoli, cut into small florets (about 2/3 Lb)

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup arugula 

1/2 lemon

This is what you do

1- Heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat.

2- Add the garlic and onion and sauté for just a minute or two or till you smell and hear the happy sounds of the sofrito

3- Add the broccoli and cook for four minutes or until bright green.

4- Add the water, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Cook for eight minutes or until the broccoli is just tender.

5 Pour the soup into a blender and puree with the arugula until quite smooth.  Be very careful when blending, you don’t want the steam to blow the lid off and make sure you have the lid on!

I like serving soup with a little lemon juice.  Enjoy.

Freedom Scones (back with a vengeance)

** I originally published this recipe Six Years Ago!  I can't believe it has been that long.  I love the freedom scones then and I love them now.   With all the turmoil going around, I feel its a good time to bring them back to my holiday baking repertoire.

I called these decadent biscuit-like treasures, freedom scones, because all the ingredients break the prison of lethargy that other sweets tend to build around my day.  I find that a cup of hot herbal tea is the perfect companion to them (yes, I always have more than one, if you try them you will know why).

I adapted this recipe from Jenny Nelson' Clean Eat, but quite frankly the scones are so good, it makes me feel a bit dirty eating them, and preparing them is a fun mess, totally worth it.  These guys are vegetarian, vegan and delicious.

These are the ingredients that you need

3/4 cup coconut oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the baking sheet...don't try to substitute this with other natural oil,  coconut is the one that make this work, also measured the oil in liquid form (~77 F)

1/4 cup water

1 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup of dates, pitted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour +1 tablespoon gluten free flour (for dusting)

Pinch sea salt

2 oz organic dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (you could skip this, I guess, but WHY?)

1/2 cup raw, organic walnuts, coarsely chopped (I have used other nuts, but the bitter taste of walnuts make them my favorite)

This is what you do

Preheat oven to 350 F (you can place the jar with coconut oil near the oven and that helps melt the oil)

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mash the dates until you have a thick paste and set aside.  Add melted coconut oil to date paste with vanilla and water.  Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Dough should hold together. It may stay a bit runny, when this happens, I place the dough in the refrigerator for five minutes to make it easier to handle.

Form the dough into a round and place on a lightly floured (leftover dash of gluten free flour from above) surface and cut in half. Roll each half into another round. Cut one of the rounds in half and then cut each half into thirds and repeat with the second round so you have 12 wedges - it is OK if wedges are messy, it will taste just as good.
Lightly grease a baking or cookie sheet with the coconut oil and place the wedges in the oven for 14-16 minutes (rotating the pan after 8 minutes).    Let them cool as the chocolate will be too hot to enjoy - trust me on this one.

Namaste

Using Lifestyle Engineering to Buy Healthier Food

Most people think that building better choices, creating healthy habits or changing your actions is all about willpower or motivation. But from all my years of helping folks organize their spaces and their bodies, AND all my years of studying yoga, human mind and anatomy, I believe that the number one driver of behavior change (or at least the easiest to access) is our physical world.

Our environment has an incredible ability to shape our actions and choices. Nowhere is this more true than with food. What we eat on a daily basis is often a result of what we see.  If you are anything like me, you will buy or eat whatever is closer to you, whether it’s wholesome food or not.  So to eat healthy food a good reverse-engineering is to surround yourself or hang out with healthy food.

When I go to my local grocery store (which I must say it’s a gigantic emporium of Portuguese & South American food), I walk around the outer periphery of the market.  This is true to every supermarket around the world I have ever been, the outer periphery is where the healthy food usually lives: fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, lean meats.  Basically all items that are usually not processed and healthier for you.  So shopping on the outer periphery is what I am “choosing” to eat, because it is what I see.    

Architecture determines where things go, since electric outlets for massive refrigeration are usually on a wall and so are the building´s drains.  That means that the middle aisles are where all of the caned,  boxed and adulterated stuff is placed -they, more likely don´t need refrigeration.  If you don’t want to eat or you want to cut back in processed-food consumption, don’t go down those middle aisles and you won’t buy those foods. If you don’t buy those foods, they won’t end up around for you to eat. Try this the next time you go to the store and do your best to not make exceptions.  When I do this not only I spend way less money in my groceries, but I find myself cooking and eating healthier = feeling great in my body and mind.

Sure, there will be the occasional time that you’ll need to go down an aisle to pick up your oils, spices or honey but that will be rare and not often. It could be weeks before I go into those middle aisles ( but when I do I always pick more than what I intended to buy, which confirms that knowing of something isn’t as effective as doing something- smile )

Posted on November 23, 2016 and filed under cooking, buy, design, inspiration, wellness.

Get Siri to work! or Save Time in Setting Timers/Alarms

I don’t know about you, but once I open my iPhone to perform the simplest of tasks, I fall into a virtual world from where there is no escape.  A world where time stops and I can’t tell you how much time has elapsed from when I entered my passcode and when find myself looking at a picture of my favorite florist in Madrid on Instagram WHEN all I wanted to do was check on the weather. If you think that your phone or tablet is eating away your precious time, we are turning that around today.

Helping my client set up her “virtual home companion,” ALEXA; I was reading all the uses in the kitchen that such device could assist with (i.e., setting timers so you don’t burn your food)- which lead me to realize that my own iPhone has a “mobile assistant:” the legendary, Siri.  Well, Siri may have been resting on her laurels all these years, but no longer, no Ma’m.  I put her to work almost a year ago, and she is tireless and her help is invaluable to me these days.  One of the best uses I would like to share as a Lifestyle Engineer is how to use Siri to set alarms and timers which we know allow you to become more efficient and effective in your daily life. Siri ties right into the iOS Clock app on your iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad 4, iPad mini, and iPod touch 5 -and your desktop too, now that I think about it- which means if you want to go to bed at 10 pm or be woken up at 6 am, have a timer set for 10 minutes so the cookies don't burn, or find out what the hour is in Paris before you call, Siri can keep you alerted and on time. 

[If you don’t have an Apple product, you could use the same technology with your equivalent mobile assistant]

Here is the basic instructions:

How to set a timer with Siri

Whether you're waiting for your veggies to bake, meditating or your next set of circuit training to begin, Siri can make sure you always alerted at exactly the right time.

  1. Press and hold down the Home button to activate Siri.

  2. Tell Siri to set the timer, and for how long. For example: "Set a timer for 10 minutes".

  3. The Timer widget will remain visible on your screen until the timer goes off, or you leave Siri. Tap the timer widget to launch the Clock app and access the manual controls.

Note: Siri can only run one timer at a time. If you try to set another, Siri will ask you if you want to keep the current one or change to the new one. (Amazon’s ALEXA doesn’t have this issue, you hear that, Siri?)

How to set an alarm with Siri

Siri can set alarms quickly and easily.

  1. Press and hold down the Home button to activate Siri.

  2. Tell Siri to set an alarm, along with the time. For example: "Set an alarm for 8pm", "Set an alarm for 5 minutes from now", "wake me up at 9am".

Siri will display the alarm widget on the screen. If you change your mind about the alarm, you can simply toggle it to "off". You can also tap the widget to be taken to the Clock app.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, go forth and YouTube away the infinite ways you can be assisted by your "mobile assistant."  Get pampered by technology, I encourage you!

Sweet Potato Wedges, the new fountain of youth?

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene (their bright orange color is a dead giveaway). Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, a nutrient that helps to continually generate new, healthy skin cells as per the National Library of Medicine.   I enjoy them in many forms, but there is something about cold weather and a hot ovens that makes this recipe one of my favorite.

Ingredients: 4 small sweet potatoes peeled and cut into wedges, 5 springs of fresh oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbsp lemon juice 

  1. Heat oven to 450 F.  On a Baking sheet combine sweet potatoes, oregano, salt and half oil.
  2. Roast for 40 minutes.  FLIPPING at 20 min (or they'll burn).
  3. Roast pumpkin seeds in a large frying pan on your stove top, add lemon juice and reminding oil.  Medium Heat. Stir well till aromas tell you it's time.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes wedges to your pan and toss well.

Enjoy!

Twofer: Roasted Beets and Sautéed Beet Greens

With autumn upon us, I can't think of a more grounding meal than beets.  These earth-tasting beauties grow way into the cooler months so they'll be available all winter and, let’s face it, their red color is a welcome break from all the orange and yellow foods I tend to eat around this time of the year.   

Buying a bunch of beets in the market isn't only trés chic, but it also offers you the opportunity to get a twofer!  Beets and their greens offer not only two great dishes for the table, but two sets of nutritional attributes as well.   Beets, easily enjoyed roasted, boiled or shaved,  are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium and manganese (great pooping aids- yes, I said pooping).  Then in the greens, vitamins A and K, especially, offer a plethora of benefits for the whole body, from your brain to your blood to your eyes. In the kitchen, beet greens can be enjoyed sautéed, as a salad or in your green smoothie.

Use every part of your fresh beets and get two delicious side dishes.

Here is a favorite of mine: Roasted Beets and Sautéed Beet Greens:


Ingredients:

  • One bunch of  beets with greens
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped onions
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and/or ghee

 

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash beets thoroughly, leaving skins on. (It’s easier to peel the beets once they’ve been roasted.) Remove the greens and rinse, removing any large stems and set aside.
  3. Place beets in a small baking dish or roasting pan, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cover and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, mixing them half way or as needed.  Check for tenderness. Serve with balsamic vinegar or butter and salt and pepper.
  4. For the greens: heat remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for three minute. Till you hear the onion whisper to you, you know.  Tear the beet greens into 2 to 3 inch pieces, and add to skillet, stirring until wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

The Miracle of Committing to a Specific Action

In our noisy world we are constantly bombarded by infinite ways to be distracted.  We're are asked to stay connected all the time and to make room for introspection. We're asked to be fit and to carve time to restore and relax.  We are asked to be mindful and to multitask.  And that is just my inbox today. No wonder it's very easy to live in a constant state of confusion.  

It doesn't have to be that way.

Instagram @eduardolifegram

Instagram @eduardolifegram

As I savor my green smoothie this morning, I'm thinking of the power of committing yourself to a single actionable goal.  You see, a few years ago I was having a hard time eating breakfast consistently and now for over a year, I have eaten a nutritious breakfast every single day.  As I type I can feel the nourishing Prana (life force) of my green smoothie hitting my veins and I'm reminded of an important life lesson that is often ignored:  if you commit to an action rather than thinking about a desire, you actually get to experience your intention.

The mistake we all make.

As soon as I began my yoga journey, I learned about setting intentions.  Simplified, your intentions are the energetic starting points for your goals.  If you come to my yoga class, as I learned it from my yoga teachers, I'll ask you at the beginning to center yourself and then set an intention.  The intention usually reveals itself naturally and in a simple form: "I will breath fully," "I will be strong," or "I will feel peace."  Whether in a yoga class or not, intentions are the seeds for our desired outcomes.

For example from my intention to "feeling nourished," I arrived to my goal of "eating breakfast."   I really wanted to honor my intention so I would think about "feeling nourished" every day.  Thinking about my intention did bring me to eat breakfast, sometimes.  I figured my spirit would guide my consciousness and it would unveil how breakfast would happen.  This resulted in zero progress and lots of self-disappointment.  Finally, I changed my strategy, I committed to plan my breakfasts for a week ahead of time.  I made the commitment by braking down my goal into small actions.  I studied options that would work for me.  I started focusing on the daily tasks that would make me eat breakfast till things aligned with my intention.

My mistake was that I assumed that because I wanted to eat breakfast to honor my intention, I would end up getting a desirable result.  That wanting to do something was enough.

How often do you do this in your own life?

We often think about our intentions without committing to goals . And if we have goals, we think about them without breaking them into specific actions.  The bottom line is that without an action we won't experience our intention.  We want to "be of service" without committing our time and talents to helping others.  We want to "feel strong" without considering what part of our body we want to focus on and what exercises we'll be doing.  We wish to be "more creative," but we never work or finish a particular project.   In other words, we don't commit to a specific goal: a goal with tasks and a time frame.

Specific Actions Lead to Direction

All those intentions we set for ourselves will point us to important, but broad questions "what should I do with my life?" or "will I learn what love is?" or "how is God guiding me right now?"  Very important questions in our spiritual quest but non of these questions will clarify our next step.

When you commit to action driven goals, these are easy to break into tasks and then the steps are clearer to follow. You want to eat a nutritive breakfast tomorrow morning?  Next step:  what will constitute a nutritive breakfast?  So you found out what you want to eat? Next step:  do you have the ingredients at home or do you need to stop at the market?  OK, you got the ingredients? Next Step: how long will take you to prepare breakfast? At what time do you need to wake up? etc., etc.

Your intentions are important as a way to honor your deeper self, but if you only concentrate in your vague desires vs. specific goals, you'll end up confused and frustrated.  

Once you begin to commit to specific actions that work towards your goals, these will inform you of your next step and then the next, etc.  

So often, we avoid formulating a specific goal out of fear that we aren't sure if this goal will align with our intentions. We somehow forget that we can always change our mind later on.

This is perhaps the miracle about committing to a specific goal: if you concentrate in the actions to achieve your goals and not the goal itself, then you’ll begin to thrive and achieve something greater than you ever imagined.

Commit to something and begin it now.

Once you fully decide to start, to paraphrase Pablo Coelho, the universe will find ways to help you finish.

Roasted Vegetables - Celebration of Earth

I have been cooking variations on this basic recipe for over twenty years.  And after all these years, I still get excited just thinking about it, which tells me it's a keeper.  I call it Celebration of Earth but you can call it Roasted Root Vegetables if you want, I guess.

I find it to be a perfect recipe for Autumn transition months like September and October when your body asks to be grounded.  This is so easy and delicious though that I keep using seasonal root vegetables all the way through Winter and Spring. Your gastrointestinal track will be very grateful with you too!

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.  Serves 10

4 small turnips, peeled, halves, sliced

4 medium parsnips, peeled, sliced

2 lbs of Brussels sprouts, brown ends cut off

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered, sliced

2 medium red beets, peeled, quartered, sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil + 1/2 Table spoon of lemon juice + salt to taste

1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1- In a large bowl, combine vegetables, oils, salt and lemon juice.

2- Spread evenly onto two backing sheets (I cover min with parchment paper)

3- Roast till brown.  It takes about 45 to 50 minutes *stirring every 15 minutes or you'll end up with burn vegetables*

4- Let it cool and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.  I suppose you can transfer to a bowl for a nice presentation, but I bring the trays directly onto the table (oven to table style!)

    

Posted on August 29, 2016 and filed under Ayurveda, cooking, inspiration.

All Natural Fascial Cleanser

This DIY all-skin-type facial cleanser recipe is an extra gentle cleanser that will whisk away everyday impurities without stripping your skin of essential moisture.  The essential oils in it also work to sooth and soften your complexion.   Healthy looking skin at a fraction of the cost your typical department store formulas.

Through my years in the chemical industry, I worked with various surfactants (soaps) so based on what I know and my experience I recommend liquid castile soap.  To make sure it is right for your skin sensitivity, use unscented/baby formula.  Castile soap is known for its gentle cleansing and emollient qualities.  Most commercially available soaps, cosmetic and otherwise, are made with sulfates with the addition of alcohols or acids, which make them really efficient at eliminating dirt, but also at stripping away organic compounds, including the mantle on your face, which, if you’re like me, you intend to keep. 

To complement the cleansing properties of castile soap,  aromatherapist recommend combining therapeutic grade essential oils with your cleanser.  For its soothing and cleansing properties I use lavender essential oil and rosemary essential oil.  If you have specific needs, you can consult with experts to target your condition.

I normally use about 8 ounces of soap in each recipe. This gives a nice full bottle of facial cleanser that will last several months.  With each 8 ounce bottle, I add between 35-40 drops of essential oil. This is a less than 1% dilution.

In a 10 oz amber glass dropper bottle add

*As with any soap, you’ll want to avoid getting it in your eyes. Liquid castile soap can sting and burn if it does get in the eyes.

Younger Looking Skin: the best Natural Tips to detox your skin

Our skin is a reflection of our inner physical and mental state.  What I've learned from all my years of yoga practice and my work in the chemical industry is that skin care requires way more than expensive potions and lotions.  In other words, your skin tells the story of your alignment with nature and this alignment is the key to radiant skin.  

According to a Banya Botanical's article by Prema Patel, MD, "a key principle for good skin health is to flush out toxins and impurities that enter your body, either through your skin or your diet." Every time you expose yourself to toxic substances and a toxic environment you are accumulating toxins in your skin.  According to Dr. Patel if you have a lot of accumulated ama (Ayurveda's way of describing toxic build-up), your skin will reflect this and you should consider ways to cleanse your body, mind and spirit.  Off course the best way to keep your skin radiant is to avoid these toxins, but lots of these toxins are unavoidable unless you are living...well, these days I don't know where that would be.   Here are some practical tips for addressing the toxic build-up and stagnation that can lead to unhealthy skin:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.  Ask any Dermatologist or Ayurveda practitioner they will agree.  Not only does water drinking help wash out impurities, but also keeps the cells vibrant and optimally functioning.  
  • Eat plenty of fresh green vegetables (i.e., leafy greens!).  According the Global Healing Center, leafy greens support a healthy liver, which plays a crucial role in your digestive system.  The liver function helps clean the blood in your body so that toxins don't come out through the skin.   Also green vegetables have a high level of antioxidant value and according the Best Health Magazine, antioxidants counter the effect of aging!
  • Make sure you are pooping.  Healthy skin is always dependent on a healthy digestive track.  Having regular bowel movement is not something that is usually associated with your skin, but it should be.  To have great skin you need to have proper elimination, if toxins are not going out via your long intestine, your skin will show it . A cup of hot water on an empty stomach first thing every morning is a great way to get the bowels moving.  

If you have a lot of accumulated toxic build-up, be patient with above tips, build these habits overtime and consider a gentle cleansing program.  Let me know if you are interested in joining a cleanse or learning more about it.

Panama Blend (traveling green smoothie)

One of my favorite things about green smoothies is that they are the easiest way to diversity your intake of nutrients for breakfast.  This is even more relevant when traveling, when your body's wisdom craves the surrounding flora.  If there is a blender available, I don't waste the opportunity to visit the local markets (and yards) and feast on the regional chlorophyll. 

I was recently traveling through my homeland of Panama, where the local cuisine isn't rich in greens so I took it as challenge to find ingredients for what turned out to be a fabulous green smoothie.  So hoping that it will inspire you in your next "green" travelings, here is the recipe:

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 4 cups of spinach (not a lot of local greens available in the market, but watercress and spinach grow easily in most tropical regions)
  • 1 banana (tons of fruits available, but I opted to keep it simple)
  • a handful of local spearmint + wild cilantro (these I found in my mom's backyard...wild herbs taste so WILD, you can taste the Prana or life force on these local beauties)
  • 1/2 an avocado (this is a gingo luxury! but I deserve it)
  • 1/2 tsp of minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric (no local turmeric roots available but I was craving some astringent flavors, local stores carry tons of spices so if fresh ingredients aren't available, improvise)
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt (local sea salt made this a fun ingredient to add)
  • 1 Tbs of local eucalyptus honey (yummm!!!)
  • 1/2 cup of water 
  1.  Add all ingredients to a blender.  Blend!  I don't like cold smoothies but you can add either a frozen banana or ice instead of water.  Enjoy.