In Vinyasa yoga, Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, is a sequence of yoga poses that is meant to energize, invigorate and rejuvenate the body. This sequence is a great way to start the day or to start your yoga practice. Each movement is done on either an inhale or exhale and a focus on the breath while moving through the sequence is the most important part of the salutation. The breath and movement combination will get the blood flowing and leave you feeling strong but relaxed. If you don’t have the time for a full yoga class or are just beginning the path of yoga, this sequence will take less than 10 minutes and is the perfect way to drop in to your mind-body connection by intentionally breathing and moving the body. Here is a breakdown of the poses and a video for you to see how it looks when all of the poses are linked together. We recommend doing the sun salutation 5-7 times in a slow and intentional manner to really absorb the benefits.
Surya Namaskar A
Start in Tadasana – mountain pose – with feet together, belly pulled in, shoulder blades resting down the back and palms together at the heart.
Breathe in & lift the arms up and swan dive the hands down into a forward fold on your breath out.
Inhale – bring your hands to your shins or above the knees for a flat back. Lengthen through the crown of your head and bring shoulder blades in towards each other.
Exhale – plant your palms in front of you and step back to a high plank position. Pull the belly in and engage the core strongly. Push your palms as much as you can into the earth to stay strong and straight.
Breathe in and bring your knees down to a modified plank position. Walk your hands out a little bit in front of you and slowly lower all the way to the ground while you breathe out, hugging your elbows into your body on the exhale. This is a modified chatturanga dandasana.
On your breath in, lift the chest using the back and core muscles while pushing the tops of your toes into the earth for cobra pose.
Exhale, – bring your forehead back to the ground.
Inhale – tuck your toes and bring your hips up and back for downward facing dog. Palms are rooted into the earth, heels are pulling towards the ground and neck is fully relaxed. Exhale and stay in the pose. Allow yourself to move around in this pose to really feel where the tension is. You can bend your knees and straighten them, shift your hips from side to side, or come up on your tip toes and then back down. Remember to stay with breath in this pose.
On your next inhale, look forward and bend your knees.
On the exhale, step your feet to meet your hands and stay in your forward fold.
Summer is finally here! & the heat won’t let us forget it. Long and hot days make getting anything done that much more laborious and some days it’s unthinkable that you would want to use the oven or stand over your stove for an hour. Enter easy and quick zucchini soup! Zucchinis are hydrating, have lots of vitamin A and magnesium, and also give omega-3 fatty acids. They’re all over the farmers’ markets right now so it’s time to make them the star of any dish. This soup also has mint, scallion, and lemon, which makes it incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. With ingredients this simple, it’s a no-brainer to get this soup on your weekly summer dinner plan. You’ll thank yourself the next time you come back hungry to a hot house and want to eat ASAP. Enjoy!
1 large zucchini, grated or finely chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup loosely packed mint
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil
If you have a high-speed blender: Combine all ingredients plus 3 cups cold water until smooth.
If you have a regular blender: Bring a pot of water to boil. Carefully measure out 3 cups and add to blender. Add lid and let mixture sit about 15 minutes so hot water cooks vegetables. When cooked, vent blender to release any steam, cover blender, and blend until very smooth, adding cold water if necessary to reach desired consistency. Chill for 1 hour.
*Recipe from https://greatist.com/eat/recipes/chilled-zucchini-soup
The first time I experienced Yoga Nidra, I was hooked. It was the most relaxing, deep, and profound meditation that I had ever experienced. After the initially daze of coming out of such a calm state, I had such a sense of grounding and rejuvenation that lasted well into the next day. Now onto the specifics … Yoga Nidra is an ancient meditation technique that gets you into a deep conscious state of rest. Technically, the meditation is supposed to put you into a theta brain wave where you are in between a waking and sleeping state. This state is supposed to allow you to access your subconscious level where you can achieve both physical and emotional healing. In practice, Yoga Nidra is quite simple: You lay on your mat with blankets and bolsters to become as comfortable as possible. The yoga practitioner will then guide you to a very relaxed space – your eyes are closed and you are breathing calmly. Once the room has settled in, the practitioner leads you on a journey with your awareness. You’ll become aware of their voice, your body, the space, all while allowing yourself to completely relax into your mat. You use the practitioner’s voice to stay tethered to the experience while the rest of your body and mind drift off. Yes, you may fall asleep. That actually happens pretty often for people just starting out. Eventually, you’ll find a very deep state where you can hear the voice but your consciousness feels like it is somewhere else – almost like you’re dreaming. This is a must-try experience that has really profound benefits! It can help your sleep patterns, help with anxiety and depression, help to relax tension in the body, and it’s also incredibly soothing. If you’re interested, you can find a class at Just Be Yoga in Walnut Creek on Thursday Nights. A google search for Yoga Nidra in the East Bay Area will also point you to other studios that offer this class. I highly recommend giving this a try as it is the most relaxed state that I have felt out of a variety of meditation techniques and practices. If you want a little more information on what you’re getting into, here is a fairly typical flow to a Yoga Nidra class/meditation from Lindsay Kellner of MindBodyGreen:
Set your intention.
Feel your connect to yourself and others.
Physical body: Sense and perceive your physical body and arrive in the present moment by doing a body scan.
Energetic body: Count breaths, elongate breaths, and experience the sensation that arises from the breath work. This raises awareness of where energy is stuck and where it’s flowing.
Emotional body: Invite the polarity of opposite feelings and sensations into your practice, like warm and cool, left and right, safety and fear. Often we experience emotions on this polarity: For example, someone living in fear desires safety. Yoga nidra teaches us that we don’t need the positive end of the polarity to be comfortable, safe, fearless, joyous, and vulnerable.
Body of intellect: Notice thoughts, beliefs, and images that arise in the guided exploration of opposites. They offer insight into your long-held belief systems and answer why we are the way we are.
Body of joy: Recalling memories that are pure joy and at ease helps reset a mental baseline and can alleviate anxiety levels while offering an ever-present sense of calm.
Body of ego-I: Through guided mantra and meditation, become aware of the witness inside us all and check (and recheck, and recheck) your ego.
Natural state: Recognize the power of the mind to facilitate emotions from an inner and outer state. This helps bring awareness of our inner witness, the consciousness inside each one of us that’s remained the same since we can remember. In this state, we recall the intention and desire set at the beginning of practice and integrate them with our re-patterned consciousness before coming out of the meditation
In QiGong and Chinese Medicine, practitioners believe that each one of our organs are not only associated with a physical element and an emotional feeling but also a specific sound. These sounds are made through breath work and are thought to be able to balance any energy stagnation or blockage. The Spring season is connected to the liver and our livers help to support blood flow and quality of eyesight. Thus, this breath work will help to nourish the liver but has secondary effects on the circulatory system and vision. These healing sounds also have effects on the emotions and the sound for the liver can help turn anger (associated with the liver) into feelings of personal power. The sound of the liver is “Shooooo” – made by puckering your lips and using the middle-high range of your voice. You begin by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth while making the sound then inhale again and repeat. This creates a very rhythmic, intentional breath that instantly balances, calms and rejuvenates. We have a short YouTube video below on how to perform the healing sound with the correct sitting posture and arm movements to get the most benefit for the liver. We’ll be transitioning out of Spring soon into the high energy Yang of Summer so now is the time to take a moment to prepare through breathing and healing sounds.
Summer is on our heels! That means lots of sunshine, parties, and reasons to come together around tasty but not always the healthiest of foods. Of all comfort and party foods, I probably crave pizza the most. Warm, cheesy, flavorful with dozens of options for toppings…what’s not to love? That being said, I’m always on the hunt for a way to fulfill the craving (it happens much too often) without having to deal with the digestive discomfort that comes with the indulgence. Luckily, people have been experimenting with all kinds of alternatives to the traditional bready pizza crust and the one we’re sharing today has us intrigued! With the most simple ingredient list I’ve probably ever seen, this Socca pizza recipe is a no-brainer. Chickpeas have a lot of nutrients in their own right – protein, fiber, blood sugar regulation – so using chickpea flour bumps up the nutrition in your pizza pie right away. With a nutritious crust, picking out toppings and being creative with the rest of this gluten-free, grain-free, vegan recipe should be really fun! Find the link to instructions below:
We should all be able to name at a least a few fermented foods: pickles, beer, yogurt. However, most people don’t think of fermented foods as must-haves in the diet. Recently, fermented foods have been getting a lot of attention as they pack a big nutritional punch. First of all, what are fermented foods, technically? Fermented foods have gone through a process called lactofermentation where natural bacteria feeds on the sugar in foods and creates lactic acid. This not only preserves the food but also increases its bioavailability (how well your body can digest and absorb nutrients), enzymes, probiotics, and B vitamins. Ancient cultures have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years (think sauerkraut in Europe, Kimchi in Asia, and Kombucha in Russia). There are a number of benefits from consuming fermented foods and Wellness Mama made a great list that we’re sharing below. We’re also sharing a recipe for a tasty Kimchi. Although the wellness world has caught on to fermented foods and you can buy them already made, it’s always more affordable and fun to DIY! Enjoy!
Probiotics– Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of bacteria in your body. Probiotics have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity!
Absorb Food Better– Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Pair this with your healthy real food diet, and you will absorb many more nutrients from the foods you eat. You won’t need as many supplements and vitamins, and you’ll be benefiting more from the live nutrients in your foods.
Budget Friendly– Incorporating healthy foods into your diet can get expensive, but not so with fermented foods. You can make your own whey at home for a couple of dollars, and using that and sea salt, fermenting many foods becomes inexpensive. Drinks like Water Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home also and cost only pennies per serving. Adding these things to your diet can also cut down on the number of supplements you need, helping the budget further.
Preserves Food Easily– Homemade salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge- Fermented homemade salsa lasts months! The same goes for sauerkraut, pickles, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.
Spring weather can have us a little confused. We’re ready to shed the heavy foods and lighten up for the coming warmth but there are still rainy and cold days that make us want to get cozy. This is where a cleansing green Spring soup makes it’s entrance. This soup is very seasonal with ingredients that can be found at your local farmer’s market and in honor of Earth Day, seasonal dishes are the way to go! The fennel in this recipe can be a strong flavor for some but it has so many benefits. Fennel boasts vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and lots of phytonutrients. It is used extensively in the ancient medicine of India (Ayurveda) for its good effects on regulating the digestive system. It has a fresh and slightly sweet taste – some compare it to having an essence of black licorice. Combined into this soup with lots of green and cruciferous veggies, it rounds out the flavor profile. This soup is the perfect way to move on from the heavier meals of Winter and welcome Spring feeling light, bright, and ready to blossom.
Every time I set out on a hike, I am always amazed at how instantly refreshing, balancing, and restorative it is. I’ve gone on hundreds of hikes and each time is just as rejuvenating as the last. Getting outside is absolutely crucial for me to calibrate the way I’m feeling. It creates a sincere connection to my body and to the collective body – our planet. It is a feast for all of our senses – feeling the sunshine, seeing beautiful landscapes, hearing the wind, smelling the plants after a fresh rain. The benefits of time spent outdoors, solo or with loved ones, are numerous and accessible. The simplest hike or walk can do wonders. This year, Earth Day is April 22 and falls on a Saturday! There’s no better way to celebrate than by spending time outside and being reminded of how important it is to not only connect with our planet but to also act on behalf of it. Recently, I hiked a big loop to Cataract Falls on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin. With all of the rain we’ve been having the waterfalls were rushing and gorgeous! The trees and ferns were so lush and everything felt fresh. The drive to this hike alone boasts incredible views of the California coast. Below, I am sharing a link with two options for the hike: either a 7-mile moderately strenuous loop or a more simple out-and-back hike directly to the falls.
From Rock Springs Parking, start following the Cataract Trail. Eventually you will pass the Laurel Dell picnic tables and continue to stay on the single track of Cataract Trail. The Cataract trail intersects with High Marsh Trail just as it starts to descend to Alpine Dam Lake. Stay on Cataract trail. You will descend down lots of steps and start to walk alongside the falls. Continue as far down as you’d like. To return, you’ll have to make a steep journey back up the hills/steps the way you came to the Rock Springs parking area. (This out-and-back is 3-4 miles)
When you think of algae, you usually imagine a slimy, off-putting, plant-like organism. Most people wouldn’t think twice about the cyanobacteria and all of the potential health benefits that it has but the wellness world has caught wind of this salt and fresh water superfood and is consuming it in a variety of ways. The most popular is blue-green algae, which has a number of different types – chlorella, spirulina, and AFA. These algaes have tons of minerals, carotenoids, vitamins, anti-oxidants and nutrients like iron, zinc, and selenium. One of the most important components of blue-green algae is the amount of chlorophyll that they contain. Chlorophyll is the substance in plants that turns them green, which means that these plants are excellent photosynthesizers. Photosynthesis is crucial for plants to be able to convert sugars into energy and chlorphyll in our systems aid as a very powerful anti-oxidant. Research has come to show that these algaes have a long list of benefits: anti-inflammatory, heart health, extracting heavy metals and toxins, gut health, and skin health. There are different forms of the algae you can consume from a fine powder, to tablets, to a tincture. My go-to choice is Spirulina Pacifics by Nutrex. I buy it in a finely powdered form that is easy to add into smoothies, on top of salads, in desserts, or in teas. Spirulina is usually consumed by the teaspoon but the taste of spirulina is strong so if adding it into the diet is difficult, this brand also sells in tablet form for easy consumption. Supplementing isn’t for everyone but I find that adding spirulina into my food ensures a boost in energy, digestion, and overall well being. Here’s a really fun latte recipe that uses Spirulina:
Chinese Medicine considers Spring to be associated with the liver – the soul center of the body. The liver is our largest internal organ and provides essential support to our body’s life sustaining systems. In fact, the liver has more than 100 known functions! One of these functions, detoxifying our blood, is extremely important and is compromised when the liver is overloaded with toxins, unhealthy food or excessive drinking. We don’t often think about the amount of work that our livers do for us or the load that it handles every single day. The spring season provides a great opportunity to check in and cleanse what isn’t needed before jumping into higher energy and extroverted yang time. Below, we have tips on a spring diet that will ease the load on your liver and allow you to spring forward feeling lighter and healthier.
It’s all about LIVEr Foods!
Aim for whole & unprocessed foods.–> Think fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains/gluten free grains, seeds, nuts, and beans (ideally, these are all organic). These types of foods have nutrients that are bioavailable – meaning that our bodies can easily break them down and extract the beneficial compounds for energy and nutrition to our cells. Easy rule of thumb: if a food has come from the earth instead of a factory, it’s living and it’s nutrients are live too.
Greens!–> The color associated with spring is green. Plants are blossoming and life is coming back to the natural world. Incorporating green foods into the diet is essential! Greens are plentiful this time of year and they refresh, cleanse, and build the body. Chlorophyll is the active ingredient giving these plants their vibrant green color and it oxygenates our bodies while bringing in B vitamins, protein, and calcium. Examples of great greens would be: alfalfa, wheatgrass, kale, chard, spinach, avocados, etc.
Fermented Foods! –> Kim Chi, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickled vegetables…. fermented foods are incredibly tonifying and have tons of probiotics. Try to include these into your diet whenever you can!
Fluids!–> Drink lots of water. In the morning, warm water with lemon is incredibly rejuvenating and alkalizing. It is important to drink water at room temperature so that our internal organs and their temperature aren’t shocked. A pinch of salt in your water will help with hydration and allow your cells’ membranes to take in water more effectively. Drinking lots of fluids will allow your body to continuously circulate nutrients in and move toxins out. It really is the most simple route to liver/kidney health and overall wellness.
Cleansing & Fasting–> Taking a few days to allow your digestion a break from heavy foods and lots of work is most fitting during spring. You can replace a meal or two, or maybe even a full day, with fresh vegetable juices. This is something that can be experimented with – some people enjoy a few days of juice cleansing while others get a benefit just from substituting a meal. Be careful not to drink a juice made with veggies that contain lots of sugars…this will spike your blood glucose. If you’re interested in a more structured detox, ask us about our Standard Process Cleanse. which is all about eating whole foods in conjunction with a body cleansing and detoxifying supplement. The refreshing energy felt from this cleanse is very real!
*Source: Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M. Haas, M.D.