One of my resolutions for 2018 is to remove excess sugar from my diet. Sugar is added into so many packaged foods – sauces, dressing, cereals, and 98% of the PB I find in stores. I don’t buy much packaged food, but make sure the PB I buy is only peanuts and salt (no added sugar or palm oil!!) and I have made the switch to unsweetened almond milk for coffee and smoothies. Although I’ve removed a lot of the added sugars from my diet, I still have a major post dinner sweet tooth to keep in check.
I saw these coconut fat balls on Lee From America’s instagram and knew I needed them in my life. Full of fat and protein, but low in sugar, these are the perfect post dinner snack. I would also highly recommend them in the morning with coffee, after a workout, or really whenever hunger strikes.
I closely followed Lee’s recipe, but made a few adjustments, here’s what went into the blender:
1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut butter (if you have not tried this before, you are MISSING out!)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup cashews (I did salted)
1/2 cup almond slices
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 cup almond milk, plus a few extra splashes to keep things moving
One of my favorite parts about living in San Diego is the abundance of National Parks within weekend-ish distance. This year, I took advantage of the couple extra days off of work over Thanksgiving to make the mini trek out to Zion National Park. The drive is about 7 hours from San Diego (no traffic) and a fairly easy drive as you’re mostly on one highway the entire time. We took off early Thursday morning and arrived at the park mid-afternoon. Here’s a breakdown of my favorite hikes from the weekend 🙂
Angel’s Landing: This trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 4 hours in Zion’s trail guide. Round trip, with photos and snacks, it took us about 3 hours but we were definitely pushing the pace a bit on the way up. This hike starts with switchbacks going up and down the side of the mountain called “Walter’s Wiggles” that will give you a solid glute workout. After the switchbacks, it is a fairly easy hike with a slight elevation gain till you get the Angel’s Landing. This is where the trail gets fun.
If you aren’t someone who enjoys heights, you could stop here and still get some great views. I’m not the fondest of heights, but can say the trail forward looks more treacherous than it actually is. There are chains to hold onto along the way and a few spots where you have to scramble over the rock, but for the most part the trail is a steady elevation gain with enough rock to get a solid footing. The views at the top are beautiful and there are lots of flat rocks to sit on, have a snack, and soak up a little sun before heading back down. Overall, Angel’s Landing was the most unique hike because of the challenge of having to wind your way, somewhat precariously, over the cliff.
PRO TIP: get up early and go first thing! I thought it was busy as we were going up, but coming back down there were major lines building up to go across. The ridge has a bunch of pinch points where only on person fits so if the trail gets busy, these points back up real quick.
If you are up for a bit of a longer hike, I would highly recommend Observation Point. The trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 6 hours in Zion’s trail guide. It took us about 3 and a half hours, including snacks and photos at the top. While I think we had a good pace, we were definitely making a point to go slow(ish) and enjoy our journey up and down. I think you could safely budget 4 hours for the hike. Similar to Angel’s Landing, the hike starts with switchbacks going up the side of the mountain.
From here, the trail carries you back through the canyon, then wraps around to Observation Point, which summits at 6,507 ft. Higher than Angel’s Landing, I think this hike gives the fullest view of the park. I found the trail up to Observation Point to be the most diverse and I think the section that goes through the canyon is just so cool and worth the hike in itself.
PRO TIP: Again, go early. This trail was quieter than Angel’s Landing but still starting to fill up as we were making our way back down. Also, bring layers. In the morning and in the shade it is much colder than in the sun. It gets pretty variable depending on if you’re in the canyon or on the ridge. I took on and off my hoodie at least 10 times throughout the hike.
Weeping Rock: This is a super easy, quick walk from the same trailhead as Observation Point. Water that has filtered through the sandstone formations is forced out of the rock here, creating a waterfall of sorts. There are also “hanging gardens” along the side of the rock. Quick and picture worthy stop.
Pa’rus Trail: By the time we arrived to the park the first day and checked in, we didn’t have a whole ton of time to hike so we opted for this trail as we didn’t have to worry about being back before sunset. The whole trail is paved and is more of a walking trail than a hike. The path winds through the valley with mountains on either side of you. You’ll likely see mule deer along the side of the trail who are (at least compared to the white tail deer I’m used to in NY) very unafraid of people. I saw one just a few feet away from me off the trail. Really pretty views along the trail and a nice, easy walk to end your day with.
Lower and Upper Emerald Pools: These were the least thrilling hikes for me. Combined I think it is 2 miles to the upper pools with fairly easy, small sections of incline. The pools are pretty and have mini waterfalls similar to Weeping Rock. These trails can get busy as they are more accessible to families or those looking for a shorter hike. If you have the time, worth going. We did these trails after Observation Point and found they were perfect to end the day with.
Kayenta Trail: After the Upper Pools trail, instead of retracing our steps, we took the Kayenta back to the trailhead. Kayenta adds a couple extra miles onto your hike, mostly of paths that wind along the side of the mountain, providing incredible views of the valley and the Virgin River. I feel like I’ve said there are incredible views a lot, but there really are. The whole park is stunning.
Overall PRO TIP: if you are going to Zion anytime in the near future, beware that they are redoing the main road going in and out of the park. Traffic can back up for up to 30-40 minute waits on either end as you often have to wait for cars to clear out from the other direction. We stayed in the center of town and were able to walk to the entrance and avoid this madness. I loved not having to drive the whole weekend 🙂 Check the road status before you go and plan accordingly!
Packing PRO TIP: Bring snacks and water with you as there’s not anywhere in the park to get food aside from the lodge at the beginning. Wear layers and sunscreen. Bring hand sanitizer.
Last PRO TIP: As you take the shuttle through the valley, keep an eye out on the side of the canyon for rock climbers. We were lucky enough to see a group of climbers scaling the mountain as well as a guy ON A TIGHT ROPE between cliff edges.
Also, because hiking makes you HUNGRY, here are a few of the places I recommend:
Zion Canyon Brew Pub: Right by the entrance to the park, we stopped here both days after hiking for a glass of wine/beer and some fries. #hikinghunger
HooDoo’s General Store: Good place to grab any food you forgot to pack for your trip. Great soy lattes and a variety of wraps or sandwiches for a quick bite.
Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon: When going to a bar in the middle of nowhere Utah, I wasn’t exactly expecting excellent Mexican food. Count me wrong on this one because they had amazing burritos, fajitas, and spicy margs.
Apologies I have zero food pictures. We chose to leave our phones at the lodge for all dinners. This was part of a conscious effort to disconnect during the trip.
For the majority of the trip I was pretty phoneless. I brought it with me for the hikes in order to take photos, but left it on airplane mode all day. For meals, the phone was left behind. I really tried to not have it be present, which was SO rejuvenating. The more I take conscious breaks away from my phone, the more I move away from the need to consistently check it, the more I tell myself I don’t need to instantly respond to messages, the more I feel my stress levels decreasing. I recognize in today’s world that our phones are pretty critical, BUT, if you have an opportunity, like a trip to a national park, a day hike, or even just a dinner, turn it on airplane mode. Let the messages wait. Disconnect. Be present.
Still left on my Zion hikes to do: the Narrows. Waiting for warmer weather for that one!
Alex and I are headed off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow and as I started to pack I thought it might be helpful to share with you what my packing essentials are for any National Park or hiking trip we go on.
Comfy Clothes: Comfort is king when you’re on the trails all day. Look for soft, breathable materials that will feel good to move in. I like to bring layers with me as I am 1) always cold and 2) elevation changes can have a major impact on temperatures. For Bryce I am packing these cozy green leggings and tank made in collaboration by Beyond Yoga and Parks Project. Bonus: each product supports conservancy projects in National Parks.
Hiking Boots (not pictured): Depending on where you are hiking and the type of trails you will be on, trail sneakers may be enough but I highly suggest hiking boots if you have them or the budget to get a pair. Hiking boots are more durable than sneakers, provide good grip on trails, will help keep your feet dry, and will prevent injury. I got mine at REI (I think, its been years honestly). Sierra Trading Post tends to have great deals if you’re on a budget!
Backpack: A good backpack is necessary to carry all of the below items and most importantly SNACKS. I got this Fjallraven backpack last year for a trip up to Washington State and love it! It’s not too big but holds everything I need for a day hike. I will caution that the side pockets are on the smaller side and don’t fit large wattle bottles.
Sunscreen: If you’re outside all day, especially on open trails, sunscreen is a MUST. I like Bare Republic’s sunscreen because they are biodegradable and reef friendly, made without chemical additives, synthetic fragrances, or parabens, they protect your skin (UVA/UVB) and the environment.
Water Bottle: This is common sense really but worth noting that the amount of water you bring with you should be in line with how many miles you’re hiking, how hot it is outside, how humid it is, etc. Better to be safe than sorry – always bring more than you think you need. And always bring it in a reusable bottle 😉 I love my Faucet Face bottles that I won in one of the first Instagram yoga challenges I participated in. Made of glass, these bottles feature fun designs on the side and donate a portion of all proceeds to clean drinking water charities.
Journal: I like to bring a journal to jot down the hikes we did, any anecdotes, stories, or things to remember. This helps me to remember the trip more vividly and is always fun to look back on.
Camera: I am SO excited to finally have a DSLR camera to bring with us on this trip. For former trips all photos were taken with my iPhone, which was completely fine, especially when a nicer camera wasn’t in the budget. Alex and I recently sprung for the Nikon 5300, which is a good, entry level DSLR camera for beginner photographers.
Face wash: I wear very little makeup regularly and basically none while hiking (I always wear mascara because I feel like my eyes disappear without it). I like to keep my skin routine as simple and gentle as possible when traveling. Natura Culina is one of my favorite skin care brands; their products are paraben and sulfate free, non-toxic, and cruelty free. They have a chamomile face wash that does a great job cleansing the skin without drying it out. You can get 10% off your order with my code “julia”.
Chapstick: I’ve forgotten these a few times and regretted it so much. Between the sun, being outside all day, and hiking, my lips need some TLC. I love the Hurraw chapstick. They are vegan, cruelty free, and super nourishing.
Compass: This is either the most or least necessary of the list. Most likely you won’t need a compass at all and it’s just a fun add on to bring with you but JUST IN CASE, it never hurts to have one. Phone batteries die, compasses don’t. I think it is kind of fun to think about navigating with one of these too.
That’s it! Did I miss anything you always bring with you on your hiking trips?
These brownies came about as I had some VERY overripe bananas in my fridge that needed a purpose ASAP or they were getting tossed. A quick google search brought me to Gimme Delicious‘s blog. This recipe is almost too good to be true. It is SO simply and quick to make but SO tasty.
The brownies come out super fudge like. If you’re looking for fluffy cake brownie, this isn’t the recipe for you. If however, you want some dense and delicious fudge goodness, I have you covered. I added an extra peanut butter drizzle on top of mine (because there is no such thing as too much PB) but you could also add nuts, chocolate chunks, or any additions of your choice!
Made with only four ingredients, these brownies are not only incredibly simple to make, but also a really healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth. These brownies are vegan, gluten free, paleo and has no added sugar. Basically meaning that they are totally acceptable to eat any time of day. I highly suggest having one with your morning coffee 😉
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking dish or skillet well. I used coconut oil to grease my cast iron pan and has no issues with sticky brownies 🙂
Mash your bananas up well in a large mixing bowl, then mix in the peanut butter. Stir till well-combined.
Add in protein and cocoa powder; stir well.
Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for 15-20 min.
I baked my brownies for 17 min and they turned out just right however I suggest checking them a bit earlier, everyone’s oven is different! They will still be soft and fudgy but the toothpick should come out clean!
These make a great healthy dessert or a delicious morning treat!
I always love seeing your photos, if you make these, tag me!
Monday through Friday I work a typical 9-5 cube job, meaning, like so many people, a lot of my day is spent sitting. While I am lucky enough have a stand up desk which allows me to move up and down throughout the day (this is seriously the best invention) I still spend WAY more time sitting than I’d like to. One complaint I hear all the time from co-workers is how their bodies ache from sitting all day.
Sitting compresses our hip flexors, causes us to hunch our shoulders over our keyboards, and has been linked to a whole bevy of negative health impacts. Coined “the new smoking”, studies show that office workers may be sitting up to 75% of their waking day. Such a sedentary life is linked with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the body, sitting for such extended periods of time can also lead to joint stiffness, low back pain, and tight hips.
So, how to combat this?
Get up and MOVE throughout your day. Take walks during your breaks, walk over to someone’s cube instead of sending them an email, look into if your company will support a sit/stand desk, or stand when appropriate during calls or meetings.
Try my top yoga poses to counter cube life! These focus on getting mobility into the joints, opening up the hips, and creating movement and strength in the spine. I’ve also included a few poses to counter the keyboard hunch by opening up across the chest.
Forward Fold – Forward fold stretches the backside of the legs, the hamstrings down to the calves. This pose also helps to keep the spine strong and flexible. Remember to keep as much bend in the knees as you need, you want your focus to be on creating length through the spine.
Spinal Twists – Twisting poses help to maintain mobility and range of motion in the spine. If the natural motions of the spine are not used, the joints start to harden. Spinal twists can be taken reclined (laying on the ground), seated, or in an energizing pose such as chair or crescent lunge. For all twists, first create a long spine with each breath in, then find a deeper twist with each exhale.
Crescent Lunge – This pose is amazing for stretching the hip flexors. You can also add a gentle backbend to open up across the front of the body. Be careful to keep the front knee stacked over the front ankle and not to let it track any further towards your toes.
Three-legged dog – From downward facing down, lift your right heel high to the sky and then stack the right hip on top of the left. Continue to press down into your right palm to keep the chest square to the earth, and begin to draw circles in either direction with your knee. Repeat on the opposite site. This brings mobility into the hip joint.
Warrior 2 – This powerful pose will open up the chest, stretch the hips and inner thighs, and can help to relieve low back pain. Keep the heart lifted, extend long from fingertip to fingertip, and press down through both pinky toes.
Lizard Pose – Lizard pose is great for stretching out the hamstrings, groin, and hip flexors. This pose also opens up the hips and creates length in the spine. Let your hips be heavy towards the earth, keep the spine extended long, and let the head fall easily towards the mat – releasing any tension in the neck.
Yogi’s Squat – Malasana, or Yogi Squat, helps to open the hips and groin, stretches the ankles, and is keeps the hip joint healthy. This is one of my favorite preparatory poses for deeper hip openers. If your hips are feeling tight, place a block beneath your sit bones for more support.
Camel Pose – Camel pose aids in opening up across the chest; focus on the lift through the sternum in this pose, as if a string was gently tugging your heart upwards. This pose is also a deep stretch for the hip flexors, extending them long after a day of sitting in flexion.
Pigeon Pose – Pigeon pose can help ease low back pain, open the hip joint, and release stress or anxiety. This pose is advance and an intense stretch for the hip; you can always take this pose lying down: start with knees bent and both feet on the earth, then cross the left ankle over the right thigh and begin to draw the right knee towards your chest. Repeat on the opposite site.
Habits are a tricky thing. If you follow me on Instagram you know one of my intentions for the month of May was to shed old patterns and expand my horizons. Part of that is breaking myself out of habits that have turned into ruts. A habit can start as a commitment to ourselves to set a positive pattern in our life, but over time, when the habit becomes routine, it can also stunt our ability to grow and learn.
For example, imagine you never go to the gym so you decide that four mornings out of the week you will get up an hour earlier to make it to the gym to work out. Great! You’re getting exercise, you feel great, and you’re getting stronger. This is a great habit to set! But what if six months later you’re still doing the same routine at the gym each day? Are you still challenging yourself in the same way that you were when you first went to the gym? Of course not.
Habits can be a wonderful tool to help us set positive, new patterns in our lives. They can also be a great way to automate things that we should be doing daily but don’t necessarily need to dedicate new thought to (brushing our teeth, taking vitamins, etc.). So before I tell you why you should break your habits, let me tell you why you should form habits to begin with:
Set yourself up for success: Good habits can help you build the life that you want and move towards your long-term goals. Habits build the foundation towards realizing a larger goal. Each bigger goal (running a half marathon) can be accomplished through setting habits to achieve smaller goals along the way (start jogging 3x a week).
Healthy habits, healthy life: Getting in more movement or eating healthier isn’t always easy. Habits such as meal prepping, walking on work breaks, or getting to a yoga class each week help to create a healthier life.
Streamline your life and your mind: Habits for every day activities helps eliminate excess time. If you have the same morning routine for skincare and don’t need to decide what to do each morning, you remove the decision time and free it up for fresh thought. In this way, habits can also lower stress levels because the routine reduces what you need to actively think about and act on.
Get stuff done: Creating habits and routines makes it easier to check things off our to do list. A more scheduled day means less time for procrastination; each task has a specific time when it is completed each week (i.e. Saturdays are for cleaning and Sunday mornings are for grocery shopping). Blocking out time for tasks ensures they get done and is one less thing to worry about.
Habits are a tool for creating order in a busy life and an amazing way to help establish a healthy lifestyle. However, their strengths are also their weaknesses. By creating routine and removing the active thought around the action, habits can quickly stunt our growth as individuals. Automating action so we don’t have to think about it is great for efficiency, but horrible for being in the present moment. To be present is to be fully aware of each action, thought, and breath. In habits, we are able to move through action without thinking.
Habits establish routine, which can set us up in positive patterns, but once the routine is mastered, can stunt our ability to continue to challenge ourselves. By breaking out of the habit (always jogging for 30 min at the gym) and creating new patterns (trying yoga, spin, and boxing classes throughout the week), we not only challenge ourselves in new ways physically and mentally, but are forced to be more present because there isn’t a set pattern for our brain and our body to follow.
I think habits are best used as a way to start a new, positive design in our lives. But they need to be re-evaluated regularly to make sure that the habit is still serving us. When the habit starts to feel too comfortable or too easy, it is time to shake things up a bit – to either adjust the habit to create more of a challenge, or set a new habit to build upon the established one. For example, if your positive pattern is getting to a yoga class each week, once that becomes an established habit, switch it UP. Try getting to two or three classes. Try different styles of yoga. Try going with a friend. Try yoga outside. You get the idea 😉
Here are two ways I am breaking habits:
One of my positive patterns is the commitment to my yoga practice, getting to yoga classes or spending time on my mat each week. But I began to realize that my body was getting comfortable in this and that I wasn’t challenging myself in the same way anymore. This month I am working in more cardio, circuits, and trying new yoga classes.
I eat a plant based diet and love to meal prep to help prepare me for the week. I have a pretty good line up of all my favorite, easy recipes that help me to eat well throughout the week. While meal prepping in one habit I want to keep, I am building on this habit by also choosing one new recipe a week to try, normally on Sunday nights when I have the most time. This both helps to keep the foods I’m eating more interesting but also expands my cooking skills and my arsenal of recipes
What are some habits you have that are positive patterns in your life? What are some ways you could expand upon these habits to keep challenging yourself?
I have a notoriously sensitive digestive system, reactive to certain foods and even more sensitive in times of stress. over the past year I have learned a lot about what foods do and don’t (dairy, gluten, heavily processed foods) work well for my system.
I’ve also learned to supplement my diet to keep my gut healthy and happy. here are a few of my go tos:
1. kimchi: a fermented cabbage, kimchi is a Korean dish made from lacto-fermentation. Kimchi is packed with enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin C, and contains probiotics. I typically eat it right of of the jar but it’s also great in a buddha bowl 🤤
2. kombucha: a fermented tea, made from a “scoby” or the mother bacteria and yeast, kombucha has active bacteria, or probiotics that absorb nutrients and support your immune system. healthade is my go to kombucha and their lemon ginger is my ride or die ☠️💛 they are brewed in super small 2.5 gal batches, only in glass jars 🌍, and are FULL of probiotics and healthy acids!
3. lemon ginger tea: I find this super soothing when my stomach is upset or to help with digestion. Lemon ginger tea is full of antioxidants, has immune boosting effects, and can even boost your metabolism! I like mine w a little raw honey 🍋 🍯
4. yoga and/or meditation: while not a food, yoga and meditation help to keep my stress levels low(er) which is key to keeping my stomach happy. even just 5-10 of meditation or breath work makes a huge difference 🧘🏼♀️
have you struggled with digestion? what tips and tricks have worked for you to get a happy belly?
After a few weekends of eating more indulgent foods than I normally do, I am trying to make a real effort to cut added sugar where I can. When sugar creeps into my diet I feel more sluggish, have trouble sleeping, breakout more, and overall don’t feel my best.
In the spirit of springtime and because carrot cake is by far my favorite cake, I made these carrot cake energy bites. These bites are vegan, gluten free, and have no added sugar. Plus they are super simple to make and require no baking! Win win. I worked off of Happy Healthy Mama’s recipe and made a few tweaks.
¾ cup raw walnuts
¼ cup raw pecans
5-6 pitted dates
½ cup raisins (golden are my preference if you can find them!)
1.5 – 2 cups carrots
1 cup rolled oats (GF)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ tsp cinnamon (heaping)
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
+ unsweetened shredded coconut to top
Blend walnuts, pecans, raisins and dates together.
Add in carrots and blend.
Stir spices, oats, and flour together. Add to mixture and blend until combined.
Roll into balls. Top with shredded coconut.
Freeze for 5-10 minutes to harden slightly, then store in fridge.
Eat + enjoy!
These bites are not only tasty but also loaded with nutrients: Carrots are high in beta-carotene, Vitamin A, C, K and B8. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants. They have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, improve brain health, and boost moods. Pecans contain potassium, calcium and magnesium. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, reduces the risk of heart disease, and is anti-inflammatory. Like cinnamon, ginger is anti-inflammatory and also helps with digestion. Dates are a great source of fiber and contain calcium, iron, and magnesium.
As I do not have a food processor, I used my Ninja blender and did the nuts and dates separately at first before combining all together. Depending on the strength of your blender / food processor, blending in batches may work best.
As written, the recipe has no added sugar and is definitely more on the savory side. For more of a “cake like” taste, add sweetener of your choice (honey, raw sugar, maple syrup, etc.).
I had all intentions of writing this ASAP after a mini trip to Joshua Tree a few weekends ago. But then life happens, things get pushed to the back burner, and here we are. As I just started a new job, I am pretty limited on vacation days, so Alex and I took advantage of the long weekend for President’s Day to take a quick trip up to Joshua Tree. From San Diego it’s about a three-hour drive, so very do able for a weekend. I was teaching a class Saturday, so we left early Sunday, came back Monday and the drive still wasn’t bad.
There is a small town that has been built up around the park, but for the most part the park is in the middle of nowhere. The park itself has no wifi (love it) which makes it the perfect place to disconnect, go off the grid for a bit, and just enough the scenery around you. For any trip Alex and I make that is nature oriented, I love to leave my phone behind as much as possible or leave it on airplane mode. Between being out in nature and away from all other distractions, it makes the trip extra relaxing.
Joshua Tree is popular among both hikers and climbers. Although we aren’t climbers and did not do any climbing while there, it is always fun to see people scaling up the rocks. The first day we explored around the park, walked the Willow Hole and Split Rock trails, and scrambled over rocks. We may have done another trail but my memory is failing me here. Wanting to get back to our Air Bnb before sunset, we called it a day after that. The house we stayed at was so impeccably put together; the owners had clearly put significant effort both in renovating the home, but also adding personal touches like essential oils in the bathroom, chocolates for each guest, lots of cozy blankets, etc. It was the perfect zen spot.
At the Air Bnb, I rolled out my mat for some easy flows, snapped a few pictures at sunset, and then popped my feet up with a glass of wine and a bowl of vegan chili 🙂 After the sky got nice and dark, we went outside to stargaze. Being far away from any city lights makes an incredible difference. The entire sky was lit up with a million shining specks. If you are into star gazing, I highly recommend the “Sky Guide” app. You hold the phone up to the sky and it will tell you which constellations you are looking at – so cool!
We woke up well before the sun Monday as we wanted to catch sunrise at the Cholla Cactus gardens. It took us a bit longer than expected to weave our way through the entire park, but we caught sunrise as we drove and made it to the gardens as soft beams of light were just beginning to come through.
After that, we went back to Skull Rock. There were way too many people there the day before and I prefer to be out in nature with as few humans as possible 😉 We had all intentions of hiking Ryan Mountain, but I had greatly underestimated how cold it was going to be and the wind was STRONG, so we opted for one of the easy loops. This ended up being a very good call as shortly after we finished, dark clouds rolled in and it hailed. Yup, hail in a desert. Given the weather, we opted for brunch instead of anymore hiking and then made our way back to San Diego.
I cannot stress enough how much putting my phone away for this trip made it feel so rejuvenating and like a much longer getaway than just an overnight trip. Whether it’s on vacation, for a day over the weekend, or past a certain hour each night, I am trying to more consciously spend time disconnected from technology and connected to the present moment and those around me.
i didn’t set any intentions for February and I honestly felt the difference. Setting intention makes me feel more focused, more aware of what I want to bring into my life, what I want to make time for, what I want to work on personally, etc.
so with that, here are my March intentions:
1. let go: releasing control over what I cannot control is hard, even harder is to fuller release it from my mind, to stop letting it go round and round in my head. I am working on letting be what will be.
2. be present: this seems to be a reoccurring intention for me and one that I need to remind myself to make a priority. Whenever I put everything else aside to be truly in the moment, it is so rewarding. This month I want to make time to meditate + carve out phone free time.
3. dream big: …and then dream bigger. I find myself getting way tied up in the logistics of making something happen instead of putting that aside for the time being to simply imagine what COULD be possible.
4. channel you energy: there are only so many hours in a day and so much energy to give, my intention here is to be intentional about where I am investing my energy.
5. keep my orchid a l i v e. This beauty you see behind my notebook is my third. If you’ve seen How to Lose a Guy in 10 days, orchids are akin to the love fern for Alex + I. So far I’ve managed to kill two of ours. Fingers crossed this third one is a fighter because my green thumb is seriously lacking.
Last weekend I took a Yin Yoga Teacher Training. I have so much to write about this this training and my experience with it, but wanted to dive in on some Yin Yoga 101 first. So much of this was new knowledge to me and has provided new depth to my yoga practice, that I wanted to share it with you!
Yin is the counterpart to a “Yang” yoga practice. Yang yoga is your more common hatha or vinyasa style, characterized by movement, change, and heat, focused on uncovering or bringing things to light. Yang is male, active, and positive in nature. Yin is slow, unmoving, cool, and focused on the hidden aspects. Yin is female, passive, and negative in nature. They are the balance to each other’s halves, in opposition to each other. Yin and Yang are in a constant, shifting relationship with each other.
Within the body, there are more Yin and more Yang organs and functions. Yin, the feminine, is associated with the inner body (organs), below the waist, the fluids of the body, and such organs as the liver, spleen and kidney. Yang, the masculine, is associated with the outer body (skin), above the waist, the qi, and such organs as the gall bladder, stomach, and bladder. Yin yoga poses stimulate pairs of Yin and Yang organs through opening of the energy meridians, allowing chi to flow.
Closely linked with Chinese medicine, Yin yoga works with the Meridian Theory. Meridians are tunnels throughout the physical body through which the body’s subtle energy, or chi, travels. There are 14 main meridians, 12 of which correspond to the Yin and Yang organs in the body. Half of these meridians end in the feet (Yin) and half in the hands (Yang). Yin postures focus on restoring healthy chi to these pathways. Chi nourishes the body, providing balance to the body and the mind. Chi can become blocked or stagnant when it is not able to flow through the tunnels in a smooth pattern. Chi can also be deficit when there is a lack of energy. Healthy chi brings strength, mobility, and balance to the body. Yin yoga, breath work, and acupuncture are all ways to help restore chi in the body.
In her book, Insight Yoga, Sarah Powers details three tenets of yin yoga:
Come into the shape of the posture to an appropriate edge. You want to move slowly and carefully into the posture, with intention and purpose, and search for the point where there is enough intensity to the pose, without being overwhelming. Remember that you are looking to encourage chi flow.
Soften into the posture. Allow gravity to work its magic. While holding the postures you want to release any tension in your muscles, this allows the chi to move into the joints instead of the muscles.
Hold the postures for long enough to fully nourish the meridians. 5 minutes is an average for a yin class, however this can be adjusted depending on the posture and the student. Holding a pose for this amount of time can feel uncomfortable at times – that is all part of it. Note that uncomfort is different that pain; if you feel pain in a pose, back off or exit the posture. Uncomfort is the level where it is just enough to challenge you a bit, in body and mind. Yin teaches us a willingness to experience this, to sit with it, and to observe our thoughts around it.
A yin yoga class is typically made up of a series of long hold, passive postures, taken on the mat, and held for an extended period of time. One distinction to make is the difference between a yin and a restorative class. While a restorative class is focused on relaxation, a yin class invites you to find the edge, to get a little uncomfortable.
Yin has SO many benefits, both to our bodies and our mind. One key benefit of Yin yoga is improved joint health. Through habitual, repeated actions or postures, the connective tissue in our joints gets bound together, creating adhesions. Yin helps to break up these adhesions, releasing the fascia. The mild stress placed on the joints during a yin pose also helps to improve joint mobility. Joint health overall is improved as the connective tissues around the joint are able to gently stretch, squeeze, compress, etc. in the postures. Because we typically engage our muscles during daily actions, we are not able to get into the deeper layers. Yin yoga also offers us a change to slow down. The pace of a Yin class is slow, thoughtful, and with pause. As you hold the postures for extended periods of time, there is the space to practice patience, to be observers of our own bodies and mind – notice what thoughts arise, where does your mind go? When the pose becomes uncomfortable, when you find that edge, can you be non-reactive to those feelings? Can you find kindness towards your body? Yin is a quiet practice that gives us the space to turn inwards, to calm our minds, and to find stillness.
did you find this helpful?
any yin yogis out there? how has the practice influenced you?
It’s been a bit since I wrote one of these and I always find it fun to read what other people are eating, what workouts they’re doing, what they’re reading, etc. When I re-read that it mostly just sounds like I’m a nosy person.
In case you’re nosy too, here’s what I’ve been crushing on lately:
Breakfast smoothies: I get it, mornings are busy and it’s much easier to run out the door than it is to make breakfast. Study after study shows the benefits of eating breakfast, whether you’re trying to focus better at work or lose weight.
Personally, when I’m hungry I tend towards hanger. And even if I manage to keep that under control, having a full belly makes me 100x more productive, whether I’m at work or running errands on the weekend. That said, my mornings are busy and making a full breakfast spread isn’t in the cards. Lately I’ve been hooked on protein smoothies. I keep it real simple:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop Xology protein
1 tbs. flax seed
Handful frozen banana, strawberries, etc. (whatever is in the freezer)
The smoothies are sweet from the fruit (quieting my morning sugar cravings), the flax provides a good dose of fiber to keep everything moving along, and the Xology gives me a protein boost to start the day – keeping me full till lunch.
I love Xology’s vegan protein because it is soy, sugar, gluten, and dairy FREE but is still unbelievably creamy. The smoothies turn out almost in a melted ice cream texture – none of that chalky texture that protein powders (especially vegan ones tbh) tend to have. I’m a vanilla girl through and through so I’ve stuck with their vanilla chai but they also have an Arabica Mocha that sounds like it’d be delicious with a scoop of PB blended in too. Just a suggestion 😉
Use my code: “Julia30” for 30% off your order! They’ve got a whole line of whey proteins as well if you aren’t dairy free.
Air Wander: I love traveling and have prioritized it as something I want to save for / spend on with my extra cash. If you’re like me and want to see as many new places in the world as possible, Air Wander is for you. Basically when you’re booking a flight somewhere, it helps you book stopovers in other cities on the way there or way back. It’ll auto populate with suggested cities and show you if you’re saving money (score!) or how much more your ticket will be with the stopover. Stopovers can be for multiple days, giving you enough time to quickly explore a new city.
Full disclosure, I haven’t actually booked a trip through them, just endlessly perused their website and planned approximately 10 different trips around the world I want to take. This isn’t sponsored. I just think the site is cool and fun if you’re into maximizing your trip, seeing more of the world, and saving some money!
Spring collections: It never stops being summer in San Diego but I like to keep with the seasonal vibes and Alo Yoga’s spring collection has me feeling all Easter-y and spring flower bloom feels. Especially crushing on this open back laced top from Alo yoga. I’m also very into the expanded sweatpants offerings. Because if you can never have too many yoga pants, you can REALLY never have too many sweatpants. AMIRIGHT?
This brush is LIFE CHANGING. I promise this is not an exaggeration. My mom told me about it and I lol’d a bit thinking, there is no way it’s that different than my regular brush. Is it ever! I have a mass of wild curly hair and this brush runs through it like BUTTER. If you’ve got curly hair or are tangle prone – this is a must.
Easy at home bath remedies, everything from insomnia, to detox, to sunburn.