Today I’ve officially launched the new look of my web site, “A Journey Into Health”. While it may not seem like much (and there are still some things to do over in social media land), it marks the convergence of three web sites (and a blog!) into one, which will make things a heck of a lot easier on me! I’ll no longer be posting over on Blogspot, but will be keeping this blog and site up to date with wellness news and info. I’ve migrated my popular travel stories, and there are also some new pages here including my story (so far), some things I regularly eat to stay healthy and vibrant, and new pricing & packaging for my various services. I hope you will be a regular visitor, and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.
I have a love / hate relationship with running. In my 20s I did a few 5Ks for charities, always thinking I was going to die by the end. I struggled with bad knees and bum ankles. In my mid-30s I picked it up again, stronger, more flexible from engaging in other sports and of course, in a more dedicated yoga practice. I was training for a 10K in 2010 or so, when I finally over-trained and tore my Achilles one week prior to the race. I had been up to 6.5 miles at a good clip for a short gal like me. After that, I pushed the pause button on the running for awhile.
Well I’m back into the running thing again, trying to up my mileage each week rather than caring how fast I go. The more I do it, the less I hate it. And having my mind occupied while doing my run is of primary importance–I’m just not the kind of person who can find “meditation” in a quiet run. What’s helping me run smoothly and calmly now may not be conventional, but I thought I would share in case you’re someone who practices yoga and running, like me. Yes folks, I’ve been running to chants.
Here are three of my current favorites:
Season Diet, John Douillard talks a lot about how deep breathing in and out through the nose can reduce the stress that an intense exercise like running can put on the body, and help increase the effectiveness of one’s workouts. I read this book years ago and it made a lasting impression on me, because yeah, who wants to be huffing and puffing out their mouth, feeling like they’re going to die after running? Not me. I wanted calm, relaxed running. And when I was training for that 10K, I remember using his suggestions on breathing and running that 6.5: when I stopped, I just, well…stopped. I wasn’t out of breath at all, and I felt completely relaxed.
What does that have to do with this music? Most runners I know are looking for upbeat music, and even using BPM (beats per minute) to try and pace themselves. That’s great. And it’s not for me. What this music does for me is get me into a state of extreme relaxation. I get lost in not just the sound of my steps and the belt on the treadmill, but also in the soothing instruments and voices. My breath remains deep and full, without as much mental exertion on my part. And because I’m focusing on the repetitive natures of both the physical movement and the chants, my whole body feels completely in sync, completely aligned. I’ve started going faster and further with this music, believe it or not.
If you like this sort of music, consider making it part of your runs. Let me know your thoughts!
Hour-long gentle yoga practice intended to reconnect students with the wisdom of their bodies. Letting go of the mind, the control, learning to surrender to the body helps us heal physically and emotionally / mentally.
So many have influenced me and thus this video: Swami Kripalu, Jurian Hughes and Carolyn Sudha, Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Rudy Peirce, Dana Moore and Bessel Van der Kolk. Thank you, Jai!
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk — I use “Blue Diamond Almond Breeze”
- 1 scoop of Vega Protein Smoothie Mix — I use “Choc-A-Lot”
- 1/2 banana
- 2 Tbsp almond butter
- 1/2 one real vanilla bean
- 1 glassful of ice cubes
- Toss in the Vitamix, blend, and drink (slowly if possible)!
OK, here’s my new favorite afternoon smoothie recipe. I’ve adapted it from the “Coconutty ‘Nana” recipe from the Big Book of Juices.
Cutting board, knife, juicer (I have the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain 700-Watt Juice Extractor), Vitamix (or other awesome) blender.
- 1/2 pineapple
- 2 bananas
- 8 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
- 2 Tbsp coconut milk
- Ice (optional)
- Get the pineapple and bananas into a juice-able state, then toss them in the juicer.
- Pour the fruit juice into the Vitamix, along with ALL the pulp left behind in the juicer (unless you see something obviously not appropriate, of course).
- Add the almond milk and coconut milk to the Vitamix, blend and enjoy!
Tip: You can pour this over ice, or add ice into the Vitamix for a cooler treat.
The original recipe makes about 2 servings, but I expect that with adding all that pulp, this is more like 6-8.
Day 1: Wednesday July 30, 2014
Day 2: Thursday July 31, 2014
Days 3 & 4: Friday August 1 & Saturday August 2, 2014
Making the deal
I wish with my whole heart that I could make a deal with some higher power that’s controlling the Universe. I’d like to stand before him/her/it, along with any woman who desperately wants children and has been trying everything to conceive, kind of how one might stand before a judge. I want to voluntarily sign over any child-bearing ability I have to someone who really desires it. Then she can have a lovely child and be an awesome mother, and I would never have to worry about birth control again.
The mommy gene
I don’t have what I call the “mommy gene”. I’ve never wanted kids. I’ve had countless people in my life tell me I’d change my mind (especially when I got married). But I’m practically 40 and it just hasn’t happened. And I honestly don’t feel I’m missing out on anything. With most babies or kids, I don’t even know what to do, so I usually avoid them. I’m not good at cooing and cuddling and I can’t talk to them. There have been a few “old soul” kids I seem to do OK with, but they’re few and far between. I like my life. I like the freedom. I completely respect those who have chosen to be parents. Wow, that’s hard. There’s no way you can’t screw up your kids somehow. Call me a coward, but I just don’t want that responsibility. I’m still working through piles of my own shit!
Don’t fix what’s not broken
I’d been on birth control pills since I was 16. I never had any trouble remembering to take them, and they worked great. I think I gained a few pounds but nothing terrible. I had much lighter periods: about 4 days, maybe a little cramping at the beginning. Then in 2013 I got even more holistic, and when my acupuncturist suggested the idea that I get off the hormones, I thought about it more seriously.
In truth, I went to my OB-GYN wanting to get Essure. But I trusted her when she talked me into the Paraguard IUD, which was my second choice. It’s copper, and has no hormones. Once I had it, I could look forward to menopause and never even have to have it taken out because it’d be good until my eggs weren’t.
Maybe it’s too many years of working in hi-tech, but I always refer to a day in May 2013 as the day my IUD was “installed.” I was a bit nervous and I won’t say it wasn’t uncomfortable, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to childbirth! Right after it was installed, what I primarily noticed was discomfort and cramping in my left lower abdomen. I heard a lot of gurgling, kind of like one might have before explosive diarrhea. When the doctor came back in I told her this; she said she’d not heard of that before, but didn’t think it was a big deal. Off I went, never having to think about birth control again. Ha!
Rough adjustment periods
The first few weeks after having the IUD installed, I had terrible cramps. At one point, I was awake in the middle of the night lying on my bedroom floor in agony, wondering whether I should go to the emergency room. I didn’t, and thankfully that subsided. My first couple periods were rough. At least 7-8 days, with one unbelievably heavy day following the seeming “ending” of the thing. I remember being at a new job, on the phone with the doctor, worrying about how much I was bleeding because they said if it was “excessive” there might be a problem. What was “excessive”? Changing tampons every hour or so. OK, so I was lucky. I only had to change every two, and boy did I get really bad cramps anytime it was close to being time for a change! Not to mention those same intense cramps every time I was hungry, or had to use the toilet.
A New “Normal”
Over one year later, things had stabilized. I still got my period regularly, for at least 8 days each time. And as soon as the period stopped, I knew I still had the heavy day to look forward to, but now at least I traveled prepared and didn’t freak out about it. There were at least 2 days of terribly heavy cramps in there. I don’t usually take any OTC meds, but a few times yeah, I took an Advil but it didn’t do much. My last period with the IUD, July 2014, lasted from the 15th to the 19th (the heavy day), and then on July 24-25 I was having terrible cramps but no bleeding. That’s about a week and a half a month being miserable.
The amount of tampons and panty liners I went through was incredible. Holy cow. I also had weird spotting in between, especially after urinating, that required me to wear panty liners all the time because I was never sure what might happen. So much money and waste on tampons, not to mention always having to be near a restroom!
What’s worse was that on numerous occasions I could feel the thing inside me. Kind of like I had a tampon in, but didn’t. And it was always at that left side of my abdomen, where I felt it from day 1. Because I could feel it, I kept thinking the IUD was misplaced, or moving around in a way it shouldn’t be. I went to to a med clinic the first time I had the spotting because that seemed odd, yet they assured me all was fine and it looked good. That led to not wanting to be intimate with anyone because, well, something could be wrong with my IUD and I could end up pregnant. Of course that defeats the entire purpose of the thing, which is to “set it and forget it.”
And although my stress levels had decreased dramatically with a career change and a move over the past year, trying to physically relax enough at night to fall and stay asleep had been near impossible, especially around my period. For several months before I got the IUD removed, I was sleeping less than 3 hours a night for about 4 consecutive days. Exhaustion isn’t fun folks!
So, there was no “medical” reason why I decided to have my IUD removed. Every doctor who looked at it and heard my stories described my experiences as “normal”. However, the sense that my body just didn’t like the thing continued to grow over time. Sure, I might be healthier because I was off hormones, but my quality of life had gone down, I was damaging the environment with all my feminine product usage, and I had a copper “T”, a totally foreign object, stuck inside me.
I write this post after terminating my relationship with my IUD. Although I’d read several blog posts about women just pulling them out on their own with no issue, I thought it would be better to have a professional around in case there was any issue. I was a bit nervous about the removal, but I used my mad meditation skills (and some loving support) to get through it, and it wasn’t bad. What happened? Two severe cramps on that left side of my abdomen as it was taken out. I’m told I might have spotting, that I might not have a normal period for a few months after re-starting the pill on Sunday. But, I hope that in a few months time, those good old hormones will have me thinking about my period so much less than my IUD ever did!
Note: I feel there’s really no good answer when it comes to birth control. But, I share this story to encourage women to weigh all the pros and cons, and above all, to listen to their bodies when it comes to these things! Even if nothing “appears” wrong, your body knows what’s right for you. TRUST IT.
If I haven’t recorded your favorite pose or languaging for it, let me know!
Let’s be real.
Those of us who have goals around health and wellness aren’t perfect. (That’s OK, by the way!) From time to time, we’ll make decisions that are contrary to the promises we make to ourselves. Some examples of goals we might have include:
- Limiting sugar | caffeine | alcohol | chocolate intake
- Exercising | moving more
- Going to bed or getting up earlier
- Reducing time spent watching TV | playing on Facebook
You get the idea.
So what happens to the day or the week when, for example, you have more than the amount of <whatever> you said you’d have; you fail to exercise, to get to bed / wake earlier, or to limit your technology usage? I’m sure some of you can relate to the feeling of, “oh f**k it, since I did / didn’t do X I might as well (either do more X or do Y too)…”. It’s almost like there’s a rebel that comes up inside us, pointing out that we haven’t been perfect so “why not just toss the whole stupid idea out the window!” It can be very tempting, especially when that part says, “you can just start over tomorrow / next week”.
That voice prevents us from starting over in the present moment. In other words, right NOW.
Here are 5 strategies to help you get back on track, in the moment. Have others? Let me know!
- Discover the teaching and use it to create a new strategy: Write down why you did / didn’t do what you wanted, how it felt at the time and/or how it feels now. Coming from the perspective that you did exactly what you needed to do at the time, explore what you could learn from the experience. What might you do differently if that situation arises again? For example: “I ate the brownie because really I was dehydrated and needed more water. The next time I have a brownie craving, I’ll have a glass of water first.”
- Stop making specific promises altogether: Instead, bring more mindfulness to your daily activities, pay closer attention to how you feel, and honor the higher goal of “progress”–getting a little healthier each day. Let go of “measuring” every detail and allow yourself to be more intuitive about what is good for you and what isn’t. In other words, focus on the big picture rather than the details.
- Put it in perspective: Someone passed along to me a great quote from Jillian Michaels, which was along the lines of “so you messed up and didn’t stick to the plan — so what? You didn’t ruin anything. If you have one flat tire do you then slash the other three?” One or two or even five of anything doesn’t mean the rest of your day or week is done for.
- Move to a different environment: Just eat an entire bag of chips after sitting at your desk for hours? Go for a walk outside. Sometimes change happens from the inside out. Other times, it can happen from the outside in. Maybe next time you think about having chips, you’ll realize you just need a break, and take the walk instead!
- Create appointments with yourself (and set reminders): Schedule the time you’ll spend online, the time you’ll exercise, or even the time you’d like to go to bed. When your timer goes off, stop, and do what your reminder tells you! Have trouble stopping and taking a lunch break? Put it on your calendar with a note to yourself. Here’s one of mine: “Lunch: GET UP & TAKE A BREAK!” Maybe at 9 pm, you set a reminder on your phone that says, “Charge me, shut me off and go read your book in bed!” If it’s scheduled, honor your commitment as you would attending a doctor’s appointment, or going to a beloved friend’s wedding.
Note: This is a guest post from Aliza Unterberg. Some of you know I worked in a corporate environment for over 15 years, and that I love to travel! Although I haven’t personally visited this place (yet), please consider it (or something like it) if you are in a position to influence your corporation’s sponsored health activities. Remember, your employees’ health and happiness affects everything they do!
You know that feeling when you come home after a full day of work then instead of doing all of your errands you just want to crash? You are in a constant need of a massage and fatigue just takes over you? Is there too much stress in your life? How do you get rid of these issues?
The short answer is to relax your body, but what does that entail? Many people suggest exercise in the morning in order to get the juices flowing to energize you. But if you’re anything like me, you would rather hit the snooze button and sleep for that extra half an hour before starting your day. Starting to move your body seems scary because committing to a routine of exercises seems daunting. Luckily for you there is a way that you can improve yourself while not having an overbearing workout.
Chances are that you are not the only one at work who feels this way. There must be at least a few colleagues at your place of work who know EXACTLY what you are going through. What you and your colleagues need is a corporate yoga retreat. Not only will it jump start you on becoming healthier but it is a bonding experience that you can share with people like you. In addition, it is much easier to start working out when you have a support group. Whether it is one or 20 people joining you, the fact that others are challenged just like you will motivate you and in turn you will motivate them as well.
A yoga retreat will take you away from work for a few days so you will have the time to really let loose and learn to take care of those issues that link to stress both physically and mentally. At the retreat you will learn key elements in how to control your body and mind, at least as a starter set.
How can yoga help me? I’m glad you asked. By practicing yoga you are creating an environment for your body where you improve your circulation and balance, strengthen and stretch the spine and legs amongst other parts of our body, learning to breathe correctly, and more.
Good circulation is a key ingredient to feeling better. By sitting at a desk all day your blood isn’t getting proper circulation. Similar to sitting on a 12-hour plane ride without moving, your body will become sore and uncomfortable. Yoga offers positions that by doing them even as a beginner will improve circulation to problem areas. Good circulation and balance can ease those back and leg aches from sitting at your desk. Similarly, strengthening the spine and legs are for those hunched in front of their computer screens for hours at a time. Many people don’t realize that by the lack of posture you are seriously damaging your neck and back. Yoga will work on posture and by strengthening these areas you wont feel the need to get that massage after every day of work.
Now I know what you are probably thinking, “I know how to breathe, yoga can’t help me there.” Right?! You are right and you are wrong. True you are a living being and are only like that because of breathing. However, by controlling your breathing you can sufficiently lessen stress and tension as well as improving bodily movements.
When it comes to practicing yoga, similar to other exercises you can start small. Doing a few poses each morning will have an affect on you sooner than you think. From there you grow and strengthen yourself and you’ll find that the more you do physically the better you will feel mentally.
This seems like a lot to take in and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Yoga is an extraordinary practice with endless benefits. That is why a retreat is a perfect place to start (or to you yogis out there to continue). This experience will immerse you into the beautiful culture of the Zen and give you the proper jumpstart you need to do it on your own at home.
One such place to do this is the Samahita Retreat on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. There you can relax, meditate, and even explore the rest of the island. Koh Samui is a tropical paradise that you must see at least once in your lifetime, so why not for a reason such as your health? Whoever said not to mix business with pleasure, obviously never did yoga.
Aliza Unterberg is a design student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. One
of her biggest passions and guilty pleasures is to travel the world and learn more about it.