Archive | Health and Wellness

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Five Ways to Beat the Heat

This week, the weather in Chicago feels like someone’s turned on the furnace full-blast! Our summers often come in this way.  We go from cold to hot overnight.  However, temperatures in the mid-90s is unusual for us in early June.  Yesterday evening my car thermometer read an outdoor temperature of 98 degrees!  I wonder if this portends a hot summer? I personally love the heat (I’ll take it over any day in January) but even I have my limits.  Here are five ways to beat the heat.

  1.  Air Conditioning.  Truthfully, I am not a huge fan of air conditioning.  I hate artificial air and feeling like I’m all sealed up.  When it gets super hot there is no way to live except with air conditioning, especially at night.  I may open the windows for awhile during the day to get some fresh air but at night I am all about the air conditioning.  I need to be cool to sleep.  And if I can’t sleep because of the heat, then I am sure to be cranky until the heat spell subsides.
  2. Hydrate.  Everyone always says to hydrate during the heat but it really is your body’s best way to cope with it.  I try to drink a lot of water everyday but if I am in the heat I up the water intake.  And for some variety try ice cold water and add some mint or cucumber, or try one of the many flavors of sparkling water.
  3. More Clothes.  While we all look forward to wearing our tank tops and shorts, sometimes as strange as it sounds,wearing a little more clothing in the heat is more comfortable.  I am not talking about sweaters or jackets, but rather wearing light pants instead of shorts or wearing a shirt with a little sleeve.  Less clothing often makes me sticky and, not to be yucky, gives the sweat nowhere to go.  With a little more clothing you won’t stick to chairs and you will have some protection from your searing hot car seats.  Just wear clothing with lightweight fabric and loose fits.
  4. Cool Your Feet.  We do not have a pool but when it’s really hot I go outside and run freezing cold hose water over my feet.  I remember as a kid my mom used to sit with her feet in our wading pool and now I understand.  Just cooling off your feet cools your whole body.  Try it.
  5. Rest.  There is a reason that songs have been written about the lazy, hazy crazy days of summer or as we refer to really hot days as the dog days of summer.  We are supposed to rest in the heat.  Your body needs rest to cool itself.  So sit by a pool, sit on your porch or lie in a hammock.

Rest and enjoy the heat of the season.  I’m going to soak every bit of it in my bones so I can bring it out in the dark cold days of winter. –June

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You’ll wish that summer could always be here
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer -Nat King Cole

 

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Kale Chips

I’m sure you all know by now that Kale, the green (or purple) leafy vegetable that is part of the cabbage family, is all the rage at the moment, and has been enjoying popularity for a while. What I remember as a garnish at salad bars can readily be found at our favorite grocery or farmers market. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, magnesium, iron, and vitamin K. We eat it in salads, soups, stews, as sides and blend it in smoothies. I personally love kale and eat it often. Recently, a friend who was going to be traveling, gave me a bag  so it wouldn’t go to waste while she was out of town. Add that to a bunch I had just purchased, and you have a lot of kale! Not too long ago, I experimented with kale chips and since I had so much, I decided to try them again. I discovered if you cook them at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, they crisp up better.

Ingredients

1 bundle or bag of kale

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Rinse and dry kale, removing any large stems and tear into bite size pieces.

Place in a mixing bowl, add oil, salt and toss with hands until the oil and salt are well distributed. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 15 minutes.

With a spatula gently mix the kale on the cookie sheet, and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until kale is crispy and light brown. It can burn quickly so keep an eye on it. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

If needed, add a little more salt and enjoy immediately as a snack or a side. I find that they’re best eaten right away, however you can store them in an airtight container for a day or two.

I gave you a basic recipe but if you want to play a bit, you can use different oils such as avocado or coconut oil and try different seasonings. I’ve used seasoned salt, garlic salt, chili powder and cumin, and love the flavor.

Have a great week! ~May

Lettuce raise a little Kale

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Sunday Scaries – How to Combat

Do you suffer from the Sunday Scaries?  If you don’t know what they are, the Sunday Scaries are those feelings you have on Sunday of anxiety and dread at the week ahead.  I have the Sunday Scaries most weeks.  It’s a hard feeling to describe.  It starts as a bit of anxiety because Monday is looming.  There is also a sense of being overwhelmed at not accomplishing everything you wanted over the weekend, including just having some down time. There is a bit of sadness in there too because the weekend is almost over.  The worst is that it ruins half your weekend when they start on Sunday morning.

I have tried to figure out how to cope with the Sunday Scaries for awhile now.  I have not defeated them, but I have found a few things that have helped me.  Obviously, a big life change of finding a job I love would certainly eradicate them, but here are some simple ideas.  I’m also open to more suggestions.

Have a Sunday morning routine.  As much as I crave mornings where I have nothing to do, I have found that my case of the Sunday Scaries is more pronounced if I have no plan for the morning or the day.  On Sunday mornings, I am often up before my husband so I spend some quiet time writing or reading something inspiring.  I enjoy a second cup of coffee.  I read the Sunday newspaper.  After my husband is awake and watches his one hour of Sunday morning news shows, we take the dog for a nice long walk.  On the walk we often figure out what other things we need to accomplish for the day.  The exercise and the fresh air are a great way to tamp down those feelings of anxiety and dread.

Get organized for the week.  The worst feeling on Monday morning is feeling rushed and unprepared.  I now try to get organized for the week on Sunday.  I make sure the house is straightened and the laundry has been folded and put away.  I put things in my work bag that need to be taken to the office.  I started using a service called PrepDish to get my meals ready for the week.  PrepDish is a subscription menu service.  The idea is that you prep and cook for about two hours on a free day and then dinners are all set to go during the week.  And the meals are all healthy.  We have been doing this for the past few weeks and it is amazing to come home after a long day in the office and not have to decide what we are having for dinner, but also have at least 80% of it prepared.  This is turning into one of those things that is seriously helping my Sunday Scaries.

Give yourself a quitting time.  Because we are so busy during the week, it seems that our weekends are full of errands and chores. On Sundays, in particular, I have started giving myself a quitting time for doing work.  Usually that time is in the late afternoon and I will treat myself to a short nap, a show on Netflix or the DVR or a few chapters of my book.  This helps my brain get some relaxation time before the hectic week.  As part of that quitting time, I also try to either do a slow cooker meal on Sunday or something super fast like burgers on the grill.  That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time on meal preparation after my “quitting time.”

Go to bed early.  I try to go to bed at my regular time on Sunday if not earlier.   The Sunday Scaries tend to make my sleep restless on Sunday nights, so following the usual routine helps with my quality of sleep.

I have read some tips that involve planning a fun activity for Sunday night or Monday night, so that there is something at the end of the weekend or beginning of the week to look forward to.  I have not tried this yet.  However, with the summer approaching I think we may try this.  We could go to a movie or invite some friends over for cocktails on our porch.  We could even spend our afternoon enjoying a quiet activity or museum such as a visit to the Chicago Botanical Gardens or a dinner out.  It would be interesting to see if this helps stave off some of those Sunday Scaries.

Let me know if you have any good tips to ward off those Sunday Scaries. –June

A Sunday well spent brings a week of content. -Unknown

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Yoga Monday- Reclined Bound Angle Pose

Happy Presidents’ Day! I hope you all are enjoying the final day of your three day weekend, taking some time for a little rest and relaxation. It was definitely a great weekend to enjoy the beautiful weather. As a yoga teacher, I know the value of relaxing the body and quieting the mind, although I have to admit, I don’t always put my words into practice. It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, that often times we put ourselves at the bottom of the list, where sadly we are left.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose, also known as reclined cobblers pose, is a deeply relaxing posture for students of all levels. It is great to do at the end of a yoga practice, or at the end of your day. Often, I’ll spend a little time in this posture in the evening, shortly before going to bed. Here are just a few of the benefits associated with this rejuvenating posture.

Lowers blood pressure

Relaxes muscle tension

Opens tight hips

Decreases anxiety

Relaxes abdominal muscles

Stretches groin and inner thighs

Opens the chest and allows for a deeper breath

This posture simply replenishes energy by creating an openness in the body, relaxing the central nervous system, giving you an overall feeling of wellbeing.

To practice relaxed cobblers pose, begin by sitting on the floor or your mat with legs extended out in front of you.

Pull your knees into your body then gently let your thighs fall open, keeping the bottoms of your feet together.

Lie onto your back with arms alongside your body, palms up. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, gently release tightness in the shoulders and soften the hips.

Once I establish my breath, I like to rest my hands on my ribcage, feeling my breath as it moves into and out of my palms.

You can rest in this posture for five to twenty minutes, and for a little extra support you can slide a pillow or bolster behind your head and upper back, and yoga blocks or a few books beneath your thighs. Before coming out of the pose, bring your knees to your chest and rock from side to side a few times.

Relax and enjoy your day.

~May

Inner peace comes when you relax your body, quiet your mind, and open your heart.

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Signs of Spring

Happy February! Here in the South we are already witnessing the first signs of spring. The days are slowly getting longer, and as it grows lighter a little earlier every morning, I am waking to the cheerful sounds of birds, particularly cardinals outside my bedroom window.

February seems to be that bridge between winter and spring and although the weather can be rather turbulent this time of year, it is generally short lived. February is the shortest winter month after all, and it lets us know that spring is on the horizon, bringing with it stirrings of life and warmer temperatures. I know once February is here, a new season isn’t far behind.

It has been a particularly mild winter here in South Carolina, and although we have experienced a few cold snaps, we have generally enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. Will there be a price to pay for this lovely weather? Absolutely. I have heard from reliable sources that a mild winter is often followed by a hotter than usual summer, plus we can expect a larger population of mosquitos, snakes, and the very large and crunchy palmetto bug. This happens because there hasn’t been a hard enough freeze to kill the eggs of all the afore mentioned creepy crawlers. I will be in Chicago preparing for our move most of the summer, so not being here for a few months won’t be a terrible thing. I don’t like snakes. Right now, however, the sun is shining, there is a warm breeze, and all is right with the world.

Of course the first signs of spring are always obvious in nature. The landscape begins to green up a bit and we start to see buds preparing to open. I have made a point of observing the many trees and shrubs around me on my morning walks, enjoying foliage that is very different from the landscape in the midwest.

The stores in the area are also preparing for the coming season, and while I was at Target, I noticed several aisles overflowing with backyard twinkle lights, grills, beach towels and patio furniture. I know even in the midwest stores are preparing for spring, selling off  heavy jackets, bulky sweaters, and boots at a much reduced price, letting go of one season to welcome in a new, lighter one. Many of my favorite catalogues are waiting in my mailbox filled with pages of new spring styles for myself, as well as my home and garden, and I enjoy daydreaming about warm summer nights. A lot of supermarkets are selling bouquets of spring flowers such as daffodils and tulips, which I always enjoy on my kitchen counter this time of year, letting winter know its time with us is limited.

No matter where we live, spring is a season of renewal. Officially, it is still six weeks away and while we don’t have control over the weather, bringing a little spring into our homes, wearing a little pop of pink or yellow, or taking a brisk walk and enjoying the sun are all great ways to get rid of the winter blahs, welcoming a little spring into our lives.

Have a great week! ~May

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. -Proverb

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Breathing Through the Holidays

Breathing Through the Holidays

For many of us, the holiday season is a time filled with decorating our homes, hanging twinkle lights, baking cookies, cocktail parties, school functions, final exams, work functions, travel, family, gift buying, wrapping presents, and of course gift giving. Whew!! That’s in addition to our already full schedules of work, family, and activities. Needless to say, it’s a lot.

Have you ever noticed when you are rushed or stressed, your breath changes? Well it does, and not for the better. It becomes shorter and more shallow so our normal relaxed breath, which is deep and even, becomes compromised leaving our inhalations longer than our exhalations. This increases stress and makes us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, even panic attacks. We become unbalanced.

There is, however, a solution that will bring some much needed serenity to your central nervous system, and you don’t even need a yoga teacher! The practice of 2-to-1 breathing (exhalation is twice as long as inhalation) is a simple breathing technique that helps regulate the motion of the lungs, quieting the body’s nervous system, bringing a sense of peace and tranquility to our overstressed mind, body, and yes- spirit. This is a technique that can be done anytime, anywhere. To get started, sit comfortably with your head, neck, and trunk of your body aligned. If it helps, close your eyes and begin to tune into the movement of your breath, feeling its soft touch at your nostrils. Be aware of the cool touch of the inhalation, and the warm touch of the exhalation. I teach my students to place one hand on the belly, and one hand on the chest so you can actually feel the breath gently moving into your palm at the abdomen.

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Your inhalation moves to the count of 4, and your exhalation to the count of 4. When you are ready, begin to adjust your breath so you are inhaling to the count of 2, and exhaling to the count of 3. The breath may feel a little odd at first, but don’t give up. By simply giving a little more attention to the exhalation, you will notice a difference in how you feel in a very short period of time. After exhaling to the count of three for a bit, extend the breath just a little bit more to the count of 4.  Sometimes, I practice this breath at my desk, or laying on my back in bed if I am having trouble sleeping. I’ve even done this breathing technique while stuck in traffic!

This is a great practice to do for 3 to 5 minutes everyday, to reduce stress. You can also do it at bedtime to help unwind after a long day. Simply lay on your back with your palms on your upper belly, and feel your breath move into and out of your palms, paying attention to and extending your exhalation. It only takes a few minutes and you will feel calmer and more relaxed.

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I love this girl!! She is always willing to be my model, even when it is freezing cold outside!!

Have a great week! ~May

When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace. ~Author Unknown

 

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By the Light of the Moon

By the Light of the Moon

This month we have experienced the largest, closest, and brightest moon since 1948! Hopefully, there are clear skies where you are, and you can take a few moments to go outside and bask in its lovely glow.  Many cultures honor the moon as a manifestation of the divine feminine energy.  As the solar energy is masculine, warm, active, and outwardly focused, the lunar energy is cool, calm, and focused inward.  Although our lives tend to revolve around the heat and movement associated with the sun, as the moon rises in the evening we are reminded to slow down and listen to our inner voice. This is a time for quiet and introspection.

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Those of you who practice yoga are familiar with the Sun Salutations, but did you know there is also a Moon Salutation? As our days grow shorter, I personally find this practice beneficial toward the end of my day. Although you can practice this at anytime, it’s a lovely sequence to practice outside under the moon, or inside near a window where you can experience the moon’s glow. I like to practice four rounds, one for each season. I suggest you listen to your body, and decide what is best for you and repeat the following sequence as desired. This sequence is just one variation of a moon salutation, demonstrated by Alyssa.

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Begin at the top of your mat with your thumbs at your heart. Inhale raising your arms overhead. Touch your thumbs to your heart and exhale as you fold forward. Palms are on your mat. You can bend your knees if you’re unable to touch the floor.

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Step your left leg back to a lunge and gently place your left knee on your mat with your fingertips on the floor. Feel grounded as you inhale lifting your palms up to prayer over your head. Exhale and release your hands back to your mat.

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Step your right leg back to downward facing dog. Breathe…. Inhale and release both knees to the floor in tabletop pose.

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Exhale to child’s pose.

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Inhale back to tabletop pose, then extend one leg back at a time to upward facing dog with the tops of your feet resting on your mat.

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Exhale and press back to downward facing dog.

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Step your right foot forward between your hands and rest your left knee on the floor. Inhale raising your arms palms together overhead.

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Exhale lowering your arms to the floor and step the left leg forward relaxing into a forward bend.

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Inhale to a standing position bringing your arms overhead, and exhale bringing your thumbs back to you heart.  Close your eyes and be aware of how calm you feel in body, breath, and mind. On your next round, extend your right leg back to lunge.

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Namaste. ~ May

Tell me the story about how the sun loved the moon so much, he died every night to let her breathe.

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Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

This past Sunday, the clocks fell back an hour, so we are now done with daylight savings time for about 5 months.  This means that the sun sets very early and the overall, daylight is short.  Today in Chicago, the sunrise is to occur at 6:30 am and sunset at 4:35 pm, giving us a little over 10 hours of daylight.  By the winter solstice on December 21, sunrise is to occur at 7:15 am and sunset at 4:23 pm, giving us only 9 hours and 7 minutes of daylight.  Add in the cloudiness and dreariness of winter with freezing temperatures and frozen precipitation, and those of us who live here are prime candidates for seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

I have always suffered a bit of the blues in winter, but the winter of 2013-2014 put me over the edge.  That was a horrible winter. It kept snowing and snowing and snowing.  The piled up snow along the sides at the end of the driveway were much taller than me. We had 26 days between December and February where the thermometer reading was below zero.  Going anywhere was a chore and took every ounce of energy.  I wore what felt like 50 pounds of clothing, my eyelashes woud freeze, and I had to leap snow piles on city street corners and slip slide on unshoveled sidewalks to get to the office.  It seemed like spring would never arrive.  I remember being at the grocery store the first Friday in May (yes, May!), and it was snowing outside.  My mood and energy level that winter were abysmal.  Because of that, I did a little research and read up on a condition called seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is related to the change of seasons.  It generally begins and ends around the same time every year.  For most people it begins in the fall, continues through the winter, and ends in the spring.  For a minority they have the opposite and it begins in the spring and continues through the summer.  While people with SAD may exhibit the general signs of depression such as feeling blue and having low energy, there are some specific symptoms of Fall-Winter SAD including irritability, hypersensitivity to rejection, leaden feeling in the arms and legs, oversleeping, craving carbohydrates and weight gain.

The experts think Winter-Fall SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight, which changes our circadian rhythms, can drop serotonin levels, and alter our melatonin levels.  It’s interesting because I have always been sensitive to light.  I remember as a child trying to go to bed at 8:00 pm in the summer and I could not sleep for anything because it was still light out.  I also require a room that is completely dark to sleep, which means no cracks of light through the curtains, no glowing clocks or other light-up devices.  When I travel this often means a towel over a microwave, DVD player or alarm clock in the hotel room.  So given my sensitivity to light, it is not surprising that I have a sensitivity when there is not enough light.

Interestingly, one of the risk factors for developing SAD is living far from the equator.  Other risk factors include being female, age (younger people actually develop it more frequently), a family history, and having clinical depression or bipolar.

I generally notice that my symptoms start in late September or October as the daylight gets shorter, the angle of the sun changes, and it gets colder outside.  Once the time changes back to standard time, I really notice the symptoms because I rarely see the sun.  When I left the office this week a little after 5:00, the moon accompanied me on my walk to the train.  While mild in the fall, I can suffer greatly in January and February.  In February, I often feel as if I am white knuckling it just to get through the day.  However, once March comes and the daylight is noticeably longer and daylight savings time returns, I notice a huge improvement in my mood and overall energy level.

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(My morning train ride in the dark)

Because I have realized this about myself, and talked to a few professionals about it, I try to get ahead of it in September and set up some techniques to help me throughout the winter.  If you think you suffer from Fall-Winter SAD, you should definitely talk to a professional if you are feeling depressed, and whether your symptoms are severe or mild, here are some things that might help:

Light Therapy.  Light therapy involves sitting in front of a special light box so you are exposed to bright light.  The light therapy mimics the outdoor light, so it tricks your brain and causes changes to your brain chemicals to improve mood.  This is usually the first line of treatment for SAD and interestingly one I have not tried yet.  This year, maybe this week even, I am ordering a light therapy box.  You can find them for a reasonable price on Amazon.  This is the one I am looking at:

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Supplements.  There are supplements that you can take to help offset some of the symptoms of SAD.  I started back up with my Vitamin D supplement in September.  Those of us living in northern climates are often deficient in our Vitamin D because we do not get enough sunlight, especially during the winter.  However, even if you live in a more temperate climate or for us northerners wear sunscreen in the summer, you may still have deficient Vitamin D levels.  In order for your body to make Vitamin D, large amounts of bare skin have to be exposed to the sun when it is high in the sky.  So get your levels checked.  Vitamin D is important for strong bones and a healthy immune system.  According to the Cleveland Clinic there are also studies that indicate that Vitamin D can help certain cancers and autoimmune conditions.  Vitamin D can also also help fight depression.  I have found a great Vitamin D through a natural health practitioner that is water soluble, which means it is difficult to take too much because your body gets rid of what it doesn’t need.  This means no gastrointestinal problems from starting a Vitamin D regimen.

Through that same practitioner, I also was introduced to a supplement called Tao in a Bottle by Dragon Herbs.  It is an anti-stress supplement that contains the same chemical found in green tea.  The supplement relaxes you without making you sleepy.  I have found that this a great help with the symptoms of SAD as it makes me less irritable and sad.

I have also read that melatonin supplements may help as well, but I have not tried them.

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Exercise.  Exercise is always a mood elevator that releases endorphins.  Also, if you struggle with weight gain in the winter (which makes you more depressed), exercise can help keep the pounds off.  I always find that moving my body whether through a hard interval training class, yoga, pilates or even a walk, makes my mood better.

Maintain Healthy Eating Habits.  I try and eat a diet of protein, healthy fats and vegetables and avoid most sugar and carbohydrates.  However, SAD makes you crave all of the carbs and sugar.   And eating carbs and sugar makes me feel yucky.  So try and maintain the same healthy eating habits all year-round.  It gets tough with the holidays.  So during that time I become ever more vigilant when it is just a regular day and try and stick closely to my usual diet and avoid treats.  If you are looking for guidance the book The Whole30:  A 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom is great.  I would hold off on doing a Whole 30 until after the holidays because it is hard and involves cooking everything but it is a good way to control the sugar, carb and overall comfort food cravings.

Get Outside.  Even if it is cold, get outside at some point during the day, preferably when there is light.  Unfortunately, I do not always get to do this.  Around the winter solstice, I am going to the office in the dark and coming home in the dark, so I do not get outside during daylight much.  However, as long as the weather is moderate my husband and I still and try and give Gatsby at least a short walk after work.  And on the weekend we take Gatsby on a longer walk during the day when we can see the icy spots.  Even when its cold, the fresh air feels refreshing and clears your sluggish brain.

Take a Vacation.  If you can afford it, take a vacation at some point in the winter.  This tip is often elusive for me.  It’s hard to get away both from a time and money perspective.  However, my husband and I did discuss it last February when I was not doing super great, and we agreed that this year we will look into it if even if for just a long weekend.  Also, May is going to be in South Carolina for about 6 weeks this winter, so I may get away to visit her and also do some May Meets June business.  For me a winter vacation means going someplace warm.  However, if you are a skier I am sure that type of vacation can help with symptoms since you are outside and active.

And when worse comes to worse, remember that Spring always shows up!  Let me know if you have any good techniques for coping with SAD or the winter blues. –June

 

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. -Hal Borland

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Green Beauty

Over the past few years, both May and June have made a conscious effort to find healthier beauty products. So much “natural make-up” is actually loaded with ingredients that we cannot even pronounce, which makes us both a little leery that it is even natural at all. So, we asked ourselves, “How do we find affordable, greener beauty?”

We discovered that there are many options out there, and a lot of these products are on the pricey side (and in some cases, worth it). However, there are others that do fall under the category of being affordable. Now, we get that affordable is a judgment call, but we would say that between $30.00-$40.00 for a quality product that lasts, could fall into that category.  Of course, we realize that some people’s budgets do not allow for that, but if your budget is less, there are other more affordable products out there.

Using products and having a ritual that make you feel beautiful is really the point here.  We want products that make us feel pretty and are great for our skin.

Recently, Target advertised that they were partnering up with Beauty Counter, a company that is committed to making cleaner, safer beauty products.  Beauty Counter has a large online presence and consultants, but carrying the product in Target stores makes it more easily accessible.  Plus, if you buy it at Target and do not like it, returns are easy.

At Beautycounter, we’re committed to a health and safety standard that goes well beyond what’s required by U.S. law: We’ve banned the use of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals through our “Never List”—all while ensuring our products perform and that they’re as indulgent as any other luxe shampoo, lipstick, or oil in the market.

IT’S NOT EASY WORK, BUT IT’S WELL WORTH IT.

This is about progress—not perfection. Because every little bit counts.

Their line includes skin care products along with makeup, plus bath and body care for the entire family. Of course May and June love Target, and decided to check out the new line of skin care products from Beauty Counter. We found cleansing balm, cream cleanser, nourishing day cream, purifying charcoal mask, face oil, rosewater mist, and even a lipstick, all within our affordable price.  The word on these products is out, because there wasn’t a whole lot left when we got there. We are hoping they sell more make up products in the future.

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We also discovered an online store called RMS Beauty, and here is what they have to say about their products.

RMS Beauty products are formulated with raw, food grade and organic ingredients in their natural state, allowing their living, healing attributes to penetrate and rejuvenate the skin. In their purest form, enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants and their healing properties remain fully intact, encouraging amazing potential for anti-aging effects. RMS Beauty has also taken extreme care in the use of minimal heat in the manufacturing process of this product in order to keep all nutrients and healing properties alive. All RMS Beauty products are free of harmful chemicals, synthetic preservatives, synthetic vitamins, and genetically altered ingredients (GMO) etc. RMS Beauty is full of healing nutrients – nutrients that work synergistically with the skin, and are in harmony with nature and our environment. Each ingredient in RMS Beauty is carefully chosen to create a dialogue with the skin. Your touch activates the life force of the product, and nutrients interact with skin to promote hydration, softness, and luminosity.- RMS Beauty

May has been using several of their makeup  products for a few years and loves them. They last a long time and are good quality. You can buy products individually or as sets, depending on your needs.

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Glowing Gift Set

 

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Skin Set

Another fun way to try green beauty products is through a subscription service.  June has tried Beauty Heroes, which is a monthly subscription service, where every month you get one full-size green beauty product and an additional smaller size green beauty product.  These products are luxurious but by subscribing, you get the monthly selection at a much lower cost than if you buy it retail.  It is fun because you get to try products you may not otherwise find.  Also, unlike other beauty subscription services, you do not get a box full of sample sized products.  Here you get one carefully curated product.  This is what Beauty Heroes has to say about their selected products:

Ingredient integrity is everything. Our curated product selections are more than toxin-free; they are good for you, completely effective and naturally luxurious. Every product meets our clearly defined ingredient standard. Our inspired curation process ensures the products we select are formulated with the highest quality, natural, organic, biodynamic and wild-harvested ingredients that have been ethically sourced by companies who care about your health and the health of our planet. We provide comprehensive ingredient intel on each of our selections, so you know what you’re putting on your skin, and the benefits you can expect. Pretty smart, right?

Quality over quantity is the new way to shop. Our slow and mindful approach to beauty discovery paired with our Founder, Jeannie Jarnot’s inspired beauty curation process ensures we’re delivering only the best clean beauty products, so you love more of what you use, and use less of what you don’t.

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Every Beauty Heroes product comes beautifully packaged, contains information regarding the product including the ingredients and a little beauty ritual you can do to pamper yourself.  If you find a product you love through Beauty Heroes, you can purchase it from their online store and as a subscriber you get special offers.

We look forward to discovering more green beauty products in the future. If you have a truly natural product you enjoy, we would love to hear about it (especially lipstick, those are hard to find).

Makeup is a powerful way to effectively reveal something unique about your inner self.- James Kaliardos

Enjoy your weekend.

~May and June

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Finding Stillness. A Yoga Favorite

Now that we know we are going to be moving in the near future, I have been cleaning out the clutter in my home, so that I am not overwhelmed with boxes of useless stuff at the last minute. The main part of my house was pretty easy, but I had been putting off the dreaded crawl space for months, for obvious reasons. I have to crawl in and out of a little hole, I can’t stand up, it’s dark, there are creepy crawlers, and I always hit my head. I couldn’t avoid it any longer though and for the past two weeks, my mom (who is staying with us a few weeks while her house gets finished up) and I have been cleaning it out. I don’t want to confuse you into thinking this is a post about cleaning, as much as I love to clean and organize things. As I was pulling out one of the many boxes, I twisted funny and hurt my back. I wasn’t incapacitated, but I definitely felt it and have had to adjust my fitness routine a bit, so that it can heal. Legs up the wall pose is such a wonderful, relaxing posture and I realized this past week that I don’t practice it enough. I love this pose! It is calming, grounding, and the perfect pose to practice at the end of a particularly stressful day, and it has felt wonderful on my back.  I love to sometimes end a class with legs up the wall, always getting positive feedback from students afterwards.

There are some great benefits to legs up the wall too! It’s wonderful for reducing fluid in the legs and feet, especially if you have been on them all day. This pose relieves tired legs muscles, calms the central nervous system and if you practice deep diaphragmatic breathing while resting in legs up the wall pose, it is wonderful for quieting the mind.

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Like an inversion, it reduces the effects of gravity on the entire body, plus it aides in digestion. As you relax in the pose, allow yourself a few minutes of simply doing nothing, feeling your back and shoulders opening up, allowing the earth to support your weight.  Legs up the wall can also relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause. For a more therapeutic approach, you can place a bolster or folded up blanket underneath your hips.

Getting into it is pretty easy too!  Simply sit with one side of your body next to the wall, and slide your legs up, scooting your hips a little closer if necessary.

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Now as you can see, Alyssa is demonstrating with her legs up our backyard tree. I love practicing yoga outdoors whenever possible and I always have a mat rolled up in my sunroom. There is something so magical about looking up through the branches of a mighty tree, to the brilliant blue sky above.

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Try it sometime! To help stretch my back, I turned this pose into a relaxing twist. Simply tuck your knees into you chest, and relax over to one side, and then the other.

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Namaste,

~May

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.

B.K.S. Iyengar

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Cozy Bed

There’s No Place Like Home (and Your Own Bed)

This past weekend, I was visiting out-of-town family.  It is always nice to go away whether it is to visit people or just to go on a little getaway, but I always have a little problem.  I cannot sleep.  This is not a new problem for me.  I was always the kid on family vacations or slumber parties that would be wide awake half the night just staring at the ceiling, listening to everyone else sleep.  And if someone was snoring in the room (and I have a family of very loud snorers) there was no sleeping for me, instead I would just be full of pure frustration. Now when I travel, I know at least the first night I will be restless and have fitful sleep.  I do not have trouble sleeping at home so it is only a problem in other locations.  While away this weekend, the two things I missed from home the most were Gatsby and my bed.  I laid awake thinking of my nice big king size bed and my comfy sheets and the ambient nighttime noises I am so used to that I do not even really hear them.  Because of my problem, I have come up with a few things that help me sleep while I am away and maybe they can help you too.

  1.  Bring your own pillow.  If you are traveling by car, bring your own pillow.  If you are flying, it is hard to travel with your own pillow because of space restrictions (plus you feel a little silly carrying your pillow through the airport).  There is a comfort to having your head cradled in your own broken-in pillow, that is your personal preferred height and firmness.
  2. Use a sound app.  I don’t use a sound app at home but when away I find white noise helps reduce external noises.  When I stay in a hotel, I find that there is always a lot of noise at night with people’s doors closing, the elevator and people talking in the hallway.  I have found that the app Deep Calm has some good white noise including the sound of rain.  There is nothing like drifting off to a good strong rainstorm to give you a good night’s sleep.
  3. Carve out some quiet time.  I find it hard to go to sleep if I have a lot of activity right before bed.  Apparently, I am like a two-year old who needs to wind down before sleep.  So if you can try and carve out some quiet time and go read a book a little bit before sleep, but stay away from the screens because they make it harder for you to sleep.
  4. Get some exercise.  The vacations where I sleep the best are when I get some exercise during the day.  We used to have a lake house in Wisconsin and we would be outside all day, enjoying the sun and the water, going for walks and paddle boating.  Those nights would always be the best night’s sleep because I was exhausted.  We had an expression while we were up there that we had been “laked.”  Similar to when you are home, getting exercise during the day makes for a better night’s sleep.
  5. Watch what you eat and drink.  When you are on vacation, it is easy to get out of your normal eating patterns and to imbibe a little too much in a favorite alcoholic beverage.  Also, afternoon coffee sounds like a good idea on vacation, until you are awake at 2:00 am and remember that you never drink caffeine after noon because otherwise you are awake all night.  If you can try and stick close to what you normally eat and drink, with maybe only one indulgence, you will sleep better.  Not eating well disrupts sleep because of an upset stomach or just that “too full” feeling.
  6. Stick to your usual bedtime and wake time.  No one wants to hear this but it is easier to sleep if you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day.  When I am on vacation or out of town, I often end up going to bed much later and getting up later, which throws off my sleep pattern.  Try and stick as close to your regular times as possible and it will be easier to sleep at night.
  7. In a pinch help yourself.  I do not like to take medications or sleeping pills, but in a pinch I will take a Tylenol PM when I travel.  It is not my first choice but when I am exhausted and can’t sleep it takes the edge off just enough that I can get some shut-eye.

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(Anthro bed)

And finally when you do get home, take a shower, put on your pajamas and go to bed early.  Enjoy the bliss of your own bed.  Do you have any tricks for sleeping when away from home? –June

 

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Some August Favorites

Can you believe we are already moving into the middle of August? Where has the summer gone? Kids are going back to school over the next few weeks, the community pools will be closing soon, and before you know it, we will be back to the more structured life that often comes with fall. However, it is not here yet and while we still have summer with us, May and June would love to share some things we are loving in August.

What May is Loving

Every May, my husband Bob and I wipe off the dust that has settled on our bikes over the long winter, fill our tires with air, and hit the trails in our area. We both are early risers, and love to get out every weekend and enjoy the quiet of the morning. Fortunately for us, we can always find a Starbucks close by where we can partake in our morning beverage of choice, before continuing on our way.

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After a busy week, it is a great time for us to connect and enjoy each other’s company, plus we are getting a great workout too! We have both noticed the subtle changes in the season, especially in the last week or two. The sun is rising a little later, the mornings are a little quieter, and the once active baseball fields have been abandoned until spring. That is ok though, for now it is still summer and I will drink in every moment. My senses come alive as I breathe in the freshly mowed grass, hear the sounds of children playing, feel the warm wind on my face, and see the bright sun against the bluest sky. So far, our journey this year has taken us over three hundred miles, and we look forward to biking well into the fall.

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What June is Loving

June is loving the hydrangeas blooming right now. Depending on your variety, they may have actually bloomed a month or so ago but some are just now starting to bloom.  A lot of my hydrangea bushes bloomed in July but they still have their blooms and have now turned a little lovely light green color.  Next year, I am going to replace a couple of my plants that have not bloomed in a couple of years with a variety similar to this Vanilla Strawberry plant that starts white changes to light pink and then to a strawberry red.  Hydrangea

And my mom has a lovely bush that just bloomed so she brought me this beautiful bouquet today that I am enjoying in my kitchen.

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Hydrangeas are also my favorite because they were the centerpiece to the flowers for my wedding which was also in August.  So I am loving my husband this month and celebrating 9 years of marriage on the 18th.  We have been through some challenges that we never planned or expected on that day, but our relationship has grown so much in that time and I love him even more today.  We still have a lot of fun together and enjoy each other’s company. Although that may be tested when we spend our anniversary in the car for 10 hours on a road trip, but we will be happy to see our family when we get there.

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What We Both Love

Something that we are both loving right now is our summer sandals. Are you surprised? We both love shoes (especially June!) and want our toes to enjoy their freedom before they must be tucked away in cozy socks and boots. May came across these fun little red flats a few years ago, at Nordstrom Rack and although they aren’t great for long walks, they are perfect with a cute sundress or denim shorts.

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June found these fun mint green Minnetonka sandals, which are adding a nice little subtle color to summer outfits.  And they are a wedge so she gets a little extra desperately needed height too.

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Our local farmers market is a wonderful place for fresh produce, especially this time of year. The tomatoes and corn on the cob are at their peak as well as summer fruits, and the fall harvest is just around the corner.

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When we think of August, we are always reminded of the intense heat that goes along with the month, and this August has been sizzling. We have officially entered the dog days of summer, so, who better to talk about the summer heat then Sawyer and Gatsby! Now, you would think that Sawyer would love cooling off and paddling his heart out in the backyard pool, but he doesn’t like the water. We’ve done everything possible to entice him, but he doesn’t like getting wet. He would rather lay by the pool on his towel, looking pretty as he worships the sun.

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However, we are happy to report that last week, when it was so, so hot, Sawyer allowed us to bring him in the water, but not to swim. Bob carried him around the pool while Sawyer rested his head on Bob’s shoulder, eyes closed, enjoying the ride. He is quite the dog.

Unfortunately for poor Gatsby he does not have a pool because otherwise he would be out there all the time. He loves to swim.  When we had a lake house he would spend the whole time in the water fetching tennis balls, which was fine until we happened to be there in November.  He didn’t realize that the water could be so cold.  So during the dog days of summer, Gatsby goes and lays out in the grass or the driveway and cooks himself soaking up the rays.  And then if it is not cool enough in the house he begs for the air conditioning to be turned up, and who can resist that face.

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Hope you are finding some things to love this month!  Have a great weekend. –May and June

 There shall be eternal summer in a grateful heart. – Celia Thaxter

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Discovering your Strength in Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)

I’ve been doing a little yoga challenge lately during my Sun Salutations. As I slowly flow through each posture in my morning practice, I find myself pausing at Plank Pose. At first I held it for ten cleansing breaths, then ten became twenty, and most recently I have worked myself up to a full minute. I don’t know why I suddenly feel so drawn to Plank, but over the years I have learned not to question myself when it comes to my yoga. I do it because it is what my mind and body need right now, period. There is so much strength in Plank and whenever I practice it, I am always reminded of a solid plank of wood- strong, steady, and dependable. Since this seems to be my posture of choice at the moment, I thought I would share this foundation pose with you as well.

Plank pose is a great posture for beginners. It develops strength in the arms, chest, back, and abdomen. It also prepares the body for some of the more difficult postures as a student’s practice deepens. With that said, it can also be a very challenging posture for many, and I often discover students holding their breath and lifting their hips as the posture becomes more difficult. Here is an easy way to experience the posture, easing into it as you build strength.

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Begin on your hands and knees, keeping your wrists below your shoulders, your middle fingers pointing forward and your fingers spread wide. Gently draw your belly in and up. Extend your right leg long behind you, with the balls of your toes on the ground, and stretching your heal back. Make that leg strong. As you extend the left leg back, keep the pelvis stable and firm the belly. Gently pull the thighs together to create more core strength. Breathe, breathe, breathe…..

Try to hold the posture for four breaths to start, then gently place your knees back on your mat. I suggest repeating those steps a few more times, then bring your hips back to your heels, and rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.

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As a variation, you can place your elbows on your mat, keeping them beneath the shoulders.

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As you feel more comfortable with the posture, begin to challenge yourself just a little bit, without force. When you reach that point where you want to give up, I invite you to stay true to your breath- and be aware of the strength you carry within, then release.

** Contraindications:  Chronic issues with the shoulder, wrist, or arm.

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

Namaste.

~May

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Green Smoothie Mornings

Have you noticed lately that green smoothies seem to be taking the world by storm? You can select from a wide range of yummy choices at Jamba Juice, or even your local supermarket, sipping on your greens as you shop. I personally prefer making my smoothies at home, where I have a little bit more control over what’s going into them, making them perfect for my taste buds every time. I’m really enjoying morning smoothies right now because we have such an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in season.

I love smoothies because you can drink in a ton of your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, it’s easy, versatile, super delicious, and you are really packing a punch when it comes to nutrition. You are also getting a good dose of fiber, which as we age becomes oh so important.

I don’t have one recipe to share with you because my smoothies are a little different every time I make them, according to what is in my fridge. However, I can give you a list of some ingredients so you can make your own perfect smoothie. We make ours in a Ninja, which is also great for frozen margaritas by the way, but you can use a regular blender as well.

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Liquid: I usually use almond milk, but you can use coconut water, coconut milk, water, or even green tea. Try to stay away from fruit juices because they have a lot of added sugar.

Greens: I love to add kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, avocado, basil which is in season right now, and mint. Some other add ins are broccoli, parsley, and collard greens.

Fruits and Veggies: Oranges, apples carrots, pumpkin, fresh ginger, pineapple, peaches, really whatever is in season. I also like to freeze really ripe bananas, and add them to thicken the smoothie and make it super cold. You can also use frozen fruit or even ice.

Protein Powder: I found a great plant based protein powder from Whole Foods, called Vega protein and greens. You have a choice of flavors and it has 20 grams of protein. There are lots of options for protein powder, so do your research and see which one works best for you.

As add ins, I put in a teaspoon of chia seeds, as well as a teaspoon of flax meal.

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Just blend, pour, and you are ready to start your morning!

In life, much like smoothies, you get out what you put in it. Bolthouse Farms

Have a great week. ~May

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Finding Peace in an Angry World

Last week, as I was driving home from my Thursday evening yoga class, I received a text from my son that read, “Did you see what happened in France?” At that particular time, I did not yet know that  France was hit with yet another terrorist attack, so many souls lost. The Zen I was feeling at that moment flew right out my car window, only to be replaced with a knot of anxiety in my stomach that felt like a bowling ball, something I feel much too often these days. Of course when I came home I put on the news- and we all know the rest.

In addition to the unrest we are experiencing on this planet we call home, we are also experiencing a simmering hatred in our own country, practically outside our front door. As the mother of a police officer, unless you are walking in my shoes, you cannot begin to understand the heaviness I carry in my heart every morning when I know he is on duty- or the immediate relief I feel when I know at the end of the day that he is ok. You see, my son’s life matters. This post is by no means going to be politically charged, and although I have very strong opinions on these topics, they belong to me. However, I do want to talk about how we as humans can find a way to live a peaceful life in a world that is anything but. I have had conversations with people who are so afraid by recent events, they find themselves avoiding crowded venues, preferring to stay in the safety of their own homes. Honestly, I feel that way sometimes too, and yet I know that life continues to march forward and we must too, even if it is painful, even in the face of adversity.

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Lately, I’ve been working hard at practicing the principles I teach my yoga students, and a large part of that involves living in the present moment. That can be very difficult when we are constantly worrying about what may happen in our world at any given time. The truth is, in the end, we only have ourselves and it is up to us to do everything we can to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I personally started cutting back on the amount of news I watch. I am way too affected by the images and stories behind them and although I don’t think it is healthy to keep my head buried in the sand, limiting the amount of news I watch or read has definitely reduced my level of anxiety. Plus, my husband is a bit of a news junkie, and if there’s something important, he always fills me in. A little time everyday on my yoga mat, even if it’s just to sit and count my breath for a few minutes can make a world of difference in how I feel, and it is almost immediate. Immersing myself in whatever I am doing, no matter how mundane, is so important to keeping my mind engaged, so it’s more difficult for my mind to wander. That is challenging for me because when I’m doing something pretty mindless, my worrisome thoughts tend to take up space in my head and I lose my connection with my body.

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Yesterday, I was washing the dinner dishes, and forced myself to pay attention to what I was doing, being mindful of the soap bubbles, the texture of the sponge, the warmth of the water. I was aware of my surroundings and was actually given a gift. Outside my kitchen window was a beautiful hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a summer bloom. I would have missed that had I not been fully engaged in what I was doing. The tagline for our blog reads living in the beauty of the present moment, and we have to remember that even when the rest of the world is having a difficult time seeing that, we as humans, as beautiful souls always have a choice. How do you find peace?

~May

“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear. ” – Confucius

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5 Ways to Improve Your Mood

Yesterday I woke up in a bad mood, or as I like to say, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”  There was no particular reason for it.  It was just one of those days and every little annoyance of life was even more annoying, whether it was the person that walked into me on a busy city sidewalk because they were texting instead of paying attention, the long line at Starbucks for some morning coffee, or that co-worker that just didn’t “get it” when I tried to explain what I needed her to accomplish that day.  There are always going to be some days like this and rather than have the whole day ruined (although sometimes that is inevitable), I have found a few things that can help turn my mood around.

1.  Exercise.  Exercising is probably my number one way to boost my mood.  If you Google “exercise” and “mood” over 47 million hits come up, so if Dr. Google says it then it must be true.  Seriously, exercise releases endorphins in your body which are chemicals that reduce pain, enhance your mood and help you sleep better.  Studies have found that not only do you get a short term benefit from exercise, but if you suffer from depression or anxiety, exercise can help with those conditions over the long term.  I find that a good sweaty gym class or a yoga class give me the most benefit when I am struggling with my mood.  But if my schedule doesn’t allow that, then even a simple walk can alleviate my mood and I feel so much better when I return.

2.  Write It Out.  I recently started a habit called “Morning Pages” which is discussed in a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  This habit has come about because I have been participating in a couple of online courses for writing and creativity.  The best way to explain Morning Pages is that you sit down first thing in the morning, before doing anything else (I always have to make my coffee first otherwise I’m a little too blurry for this) and you write in a notebook for three pages straight whatever comes to your mind.  No stopping and no thinking, just longhand writing.  As Julia Cameron explains, “Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind.  Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, too weird to be included.”  The idea is to get rid of all of the “junk” in your head so you can be more creative and productive the rest of the day. “We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth…. Make this a rule: always remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”

Some mornings I feel that I have nothing to write about (and there are mornings I really do not), but I try to write something.  I sometimes start with my to do list just to get started and I am always amazed with what I eventually write about.  Yes, my pages are often whiny and messy.  However, no one else is supposed to read them and depending on who and what you are writing, you may just want to shred them when you are done.  In fact, you are not really supposed to go back and read them.  These are not the things you journal about because you want to remember them.  This is the annoying things that circulate in your brain.  It is interesting because I find that I often write about the same complaints day after day after day.  This tells me that I need to change the situation I am complaining about or if I cannot, then change my attitude about it.  However, in any event I find that on the days I skip Morning Pages, my mood is bleaker, and lighter on the days that I have the time to do them.

3.  Breathe and Meditate.  This is a hard one for me to remember to do.  Try and notice your breath the next time you are stressed on anxious.  You will find that it is shallow and short.  It is wonderful if you can block everything out for 15 or 20 minutes and just meditate, focusing on your breath.  However, it is hard and if your mind is churning a million miles an hour it is difficult to turn it off.  And depending on where you are, such as your desk at work, you know that you are not going to get that time without the phone ringing, an email coming in or someone otherwise interrupting you.  When I am at my desk and notice I am feeling stressed, I just close my eyes for a moment and take five or six deep breaths, focusing only on the act of breathing in and out.  This very short exercise immediately make me feel less anxious and able to focus easier on the task at hand.

4.  Hang Out With a Friend.  I was fortunate yesterday because May was coming to the city to meet up with me in the afternoon.  I knew that this would help my mood.  When I am in a bad mood, often I do not want to socialize with anyone.  But being with a person whose company you enjoy is a great mood alleviator.  We combined our time together with a very long walk in the city and we may have enjoyed a libation on top of a rooftop bar (having a drink can help your mood too but not the healthiest of choices), but more important to my mood was the company.  It is wonderful to spend time with someone who you can vent to, discuss unimportant topics and laugh with.

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5.  Go Back To Bed.  And when all else fails, just go back to bed.  There is that old saying that “things always look better in the morning.”  Sometimes this is true and all you really need to improve your mood, is a good night’s sleep.  So go to bed early and wake up the next morning.  Hopefully, things will look better and you will feel better.

Do you have any favorite ways to improve your mood? –June

We are as happy as we make up our minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln

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Enjoying a different view in our Downward Dog

Hi everyone!!  We haven’t had a yoga Monday for a while, so I thought today we’d learn more about a posture that’s part of every school of yoga, and one that’s familiar to most people, whether you’re a yogi or not. Today’s posture is Downward Facing Dog ( Ado Mukha Svanasana). I absolutely love this posture and practice it almost daily. It’s a standing posture that builds strength and it’s also a mild inversion, plus it stretches the entire body- all in one pose! There are also some fun variations you can do with this posture, one of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post.  I so wanted to show you a picture of Sawyer, our doodle demonstrating his downward dog pose, but it was too difficult, and he wasn’t going to do it on demand- believe me when I tell you I tried. I did find this cute stunt doodle to stand in for him though.

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A Doodle Downward Dog

                    I like to begin this posture in a basic table top pose.

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Nicole in Table Top

Turn your toes and as you exhale, begin to lift your hips up and back, while reaching your chest backward toward your knees.

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Slowly straighten your legs. As you breathe, continue to press your chest backward, toward your feet, until your arms are even with your ears. Begin to press your heels downward, and don’t forget to breathe. Try to stay in the posture for a minimum of six breaths, before releasing the knees back to table top.

Downward Facing Dog strengthens the upper back and arms, while fully extending the spine. It improves upper back posture and opens the chest. Because the internal organs are inverted, they are given the opportunity to become repositioned, which can improve digestion. The quadriceps are strengthened while the hamstrings are stretched.  If you have tight hamstrings or sciatica, this posture can be done with bent knees, while maintaining all the wonderful benefits.

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Mentally, Downward Dog allows us to see our world from a different angle, giving us a different point of view which is sometimes helpful when we are struggling with an issue. It boosts self confidence, reduces anxiety and depression and you ALWAYS feel wonderful in body and mind after experiencing this posture, even if it’s just for a few breaths.

The girls and I thought it would be fun to do a Downward Dog pyramid of sorts. It took a little practice and there was a lot of laughter……but we made it!!

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Have a wonderful week!~ May

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Yes, I am an Introvert

I have often thought about doing a post on being an introvert, after all it’s part of who I am, but I wasn’t quite sure how to find the words to express what I wanted to say. Recently, my daughter Nicole tagged me on Facebook when she came across these words that define me so well, and so it inspired me to write. Yes, I am an Introvert.

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I looked up the word introvert and found this:

A term introduced by the psychologist Carl Jung to describe a person whose motives and actions are directed inward. Introverts tend to be preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings and minimize their contact with other people. 

As a child, I was always happy entertaining myself. I can remember playing doctor to all my dolls, or playing school by being a teacher to my imaginary students. I also loved to read. At the time we had two large cottonwood trees in our yard, and I would lay a blanket under one and spend hours reading Nancy Drew. Sometimes I would play with my Barbie’s, or watch the clouds. I still loved being with my friends and spent quite a bit of time with them, but I was always someone who needed time alone as well.IMG_3841

As a young adult, I sometimes wondered if something was wrong with me because I never really enjoyed large gatherings, or being in a crowd for that matter. The constant noise of being around so many people could get overwhelming after a while, and I would always be so happy once I made it back to the sanctuary that is my own home, where my energy would once again be restored. I’m still that way and sometimes have to force myself out of my comfort zone but not because I’m anti-social, I’m simply wired in a way that’s different from a large portion of the population. I’m an introvert.

My husband, Bob, is a classic extrovert and when we were first married, there were several discussions because he labeled me as “anti-social” when comparing me to his personality. I wasn’t though. I love being around people and can be quite the social butterfly, depending on the company. However, I love a more intimate setting, talking one on one or in a small group about interesting topics. I absolutely hate small talk with a bunch of people I don’t know. That’s one great thing about being married to an extrovert. He is very good at small talk, which makes it easy for me, because I would rather be the one listening and observing. I’ve often thought if I should ever write a novel, I would have so many interesting characters just from all my observations.

I am much more creative when I’m alone with my thoughts. I think that’s why I love walking so much. I have my pup Sawyer as my companion, but without all the chatter. It’s a time where I can truly let my thoughts go for a bit. Most people don’t realize that there’s so much more to me than what they see. Only those closest to me are allowed inside. Introverts are generally very private.

I do have to say that being married to an extrovert has it’s positive qualities because Bob has many times brought me out of myself to try something new, and I’ve had a lot of fun. Something I might not have done on my own.

A few years ago, The Huffington Post posted a very interesting article called 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert. I identified with every single one. I immediately copied it and casually placed it on Bob’s desk. After reading it, he really had a better understanding of who I am, and I feel he has more respect for my feelings now. He gets me. I had to chuckle during parts of this article because I thought I was the only one who could relate, but there is a certain comfort in knowing that we introverts are not alone. Here are a few that stood out for me.

  • You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.” This is so me. I swear I have an on/off switch. I can only give so much of my energy away, and when it’s gone, it’s gone and I need to be alone to replenish myself.
  • Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.”  So true!!  As a yoga teacher, I’ve been in front of large groups of people on a regular basis and I don’t even think twice about it. Having to chat afterwards takes a lot of effort.
  • You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.” Um, hello….That’s one of the first things I check out before going.
  •  “You screen all your calls – even from friends.” (Ha!) Guilty! To         all my friends, I apologize. Sometimes I just don’t feel like talking.
  • When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench, not in the middle.” I had to laugh at this one because every time Bob and I go to the movies, it’s an issue. Bob wants to sit smack dab in the middle because he apparently feels that he will miss out on something important if he’s anywhere else. I, however, don’t want people on all sides of me and like the aisle, so I can easily get away when I’m ready to go. In case you’re wondering, he usually wins.
  • You notice details that others don’t.” I am a very, very visual and observant person and notice everything. Instead of talking, I’m taking in my surroundings.

Interestingly, both my boys are introverts as well, especially my youngest son who is a writer and extremely creative. People have often labeled him as shy and somewhat anti-social which I understand, and yet when he is in certain social situations, he is very interesting and funny. My daughter Nicole is also an introvert. I feel that one of the many reasons why we enjoy each other’s company is because we don’t always have to be switched “on”. Introverts are comfortable with the silent moments, and often retreat into their own world for a bit.

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So now you all know a little bit more about me. If you’re not sure you’re an introvert, take the test. You may just learn a little bit more about yourself. ~May

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The Magic of Walking

Whenever I’m asked about hobbies and things I love to do, walking is always at the top of my list. I have enjoyed walking for as long as I can remember, and whenever I’m on vacation, you’ll  always find me being a walking tourist rather than taking the tour bus, every single time. I’m also a daily power walker. There is something about waking up and walking with the sun in the morning that sets the tone for my day, especially this time of year through the summer. The birds are singing, the breeze is cool, there are beautiful blooms to see, and there is something so peaceful about being out in nature first thing in the morning.

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Did you know that a thirty minute walk everyday also has a host of health benefits? A brisk walk can prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It improves your mood, reduces stress, slows the aging process, and reduces the risk for osteoporosis. Plus, there’s no better way to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

I walk year round and in all kinds of weather. I’ve often thought that I would have made a great mailman, in fact there were some winter days where I think the mailman and I were the only ones outside. I rarely walk alone though. I’ve always had a furry walking companion by my side. For twelve years it was my doodle Molly. Every morning she would get up and wait by her leash until it was time to go.

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Molly

My doodle Sawyer is the same way. As soon as he sees my athletic shoes coming out of the closet, his whole body starts to wiggle in anticipation. A good walk is as important to the health of our pets as it is to us humans. At eight years old, Sawyer has maintained a healthy weight, is definitely calmer, and sleeps so much better after he’s had his daily exercise.

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Sawyer’s ready to go!

The physical benefits of walking are great, however the mental advantages I receive from walking are so beneficial to my mental/emotional health. I am someone who is always battling  mind chatter. Unfortunately, this constant playing of thoughts can mess with my sleep, causing a whole host of issues including increased stress and loss of concentration and creativity. There have been days that, because of severe weather or illness, I haven’t been able to get out, and I definitely notice the difference. For some reason, I’m always able to solve problems when I’m out walking as well as get my creative juices flowing. I’m a very visual person and enjoy checking out my neighbors curb appeal (and get ideas), and I always, always, always, feel better in mind, body and spirit after a walk. We also live near a bike path that is partially wooded and often see deer on the path, the occasional snapping turtle, and even a few coyotes. (Yikes!)

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Now that we have longer days and warmer temps, I’m out twice a day. The morning walk gets my body and brain ready for the day, and the evening walk calms everything down for sleep, and yes Sawyer joins me for both. In fact, it’s about time for our evening stroll. I hope this has inspired you to get out for a daily walk. Your body and mind will thank you.

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~May

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Fight Like a Girl

A few weeks back, my mom told me about a women’s self defense class that she and my niece were going to attend at a local high school. The class was three hours on a Sunday afternoon for girls thirteen and older. With Nicole going off to college in the fall, and Alyssa next year, I thought a class like this would probably be a good idea, so we all went.

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FIRE is a Maga-based self-defense system created by women and taught to women. The course is called Fight Like a Girl, and we attended the first class in a series of three. The goal of the course is to empower women of all ages by giving them the ability to defend themselves in a variety of assault situations, including those with multiple attackers or attackers with weapons.

I had taken self-defense in the past, but nothing was quite like what we all experienced in this particular class. After learning and practicing some simple yet very effective techniques, we were all put to the test and underwent several lifelike attacks, fighting back using the defense techniques we all learned. There were several men of all different ages and sizes that worked with us. They had pads for their protection, and we were all expected to fight as if our lives depended on it. I actually woke up the next day to sore wrists from being grabbed so many times. As intimidating as this class was, I left feeling that I could actually have a fighting chance, if I were to be attacked.

Here is a scary statistic. 1 in 4 college students will be the victim of some type of sexual assault on campus. 1 in 4!! I don’t know about you, but I want my girls to have the tools to fight back in any type of attack. Now of course, the best defense in any situation like this is to be aware, listen to your gut, and not put yourself in a position where you could be vulnerable. I remember when I was in college, a group of us girls had a pact that we never walk alone from the library or anywhere else after dark.

All the women attending this class were there for one purpose, to survive and escape an attack. The girls and I will definitely be attending the second class this summer.

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A Typical Class

Shannon Bruess is the FIRE creator and chief instructor. This is a safe and effective class that trains women to defend themselves. In the near future, Shannon hopes to have the Fight Like a Girl defense class in local high schools, for senior girls.

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These girls are ready!

For more information regarding classes call:

(847) 458-0938

Or visit the website

www.focusma.com

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