BODY: The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice with origins in India stretching back thousands of years. Many practitioners find that it helps them achieve a sense of calmness and tranquility, along with numerous physical benefits. While yoga studios are still common everywhere, given our current situation it is much easier to start getting into a routine using apps or videos online.

If you’re on the fence about starting a new regime, read on for some of the benefits of a regular yoga practice!

1. Yoga can improve your overall health.

If you are new to yoga (5 classes or less) it is best to try out different styles of and flows to see which one works best for you. The speed and intensity of yoga classes will vary; with apps such as Down Dog you can choose the type of class as well as the focus, whether it is on strength or flexibility.

Improved flexibility is one of the immediate benefits of yoga. In the beginning it can feel like your body is tight and clunky, but after a consistent regime you should notice your muscles start to loosen and it becomes easier to move through the practice. Aches and pains may start to disappear as tightness in parts of the body can manifest elsewhere.

During your practice you will contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures; as you do this you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). By encouraging lymph drainage you help your lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of toxic waste. Consider yoga your detox exercise!

Along with detoxing your system, yoga has been shown to lower cortisol levels in practitioners. Many people deal with low-level stress in their day to day lives which is healthy, but consistent stress can cause the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol in response to perceived crisis, which serves to temporarily boosts immune function. A problem will occur if your levels stay elevated even after a crisis and your immune system will end up being compromised. Excessive cortisol has also been linked to depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Through yoga you can help your body and mind relax and create a state of calm, hopefully lowering your stress hormones to more sustainable levels.

The health benefits of yoga are vast; some advanced yogis have been recorded controlling their bodies via their nervous system. Some have been able to create unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and using meditation techniques, they have been able to raise the temperature of their hands. Consider the multiple health benefits available if you learn to calm your body and mind at will.

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2. Yoga increases self-awareness and mind-body connection.

During your yoga classes your body is put through a series of postures and stretches designed to increase strength and flexibility. In the beginning it can be discouraging to not feel your body “responding” as easily as you may have expected, but with more practice you will find you are able to flow through the postures smoother than before.

Lunges and stretches will increase your leg and core strength, as well as engaging every muscle in your body; meanwhile the exercises force you to focus on the moment, and during meditation you will be encouraged to clear your mind, which helps alleviate stress and will improve your mental stability. Even if you are physically capable of completing a yoga practice, the goal is to be able to silence your mind as you focus on moving your body.

Meditation doesn’t need to be cloaked in the New Age sage-chanting vibe. It doesn’t have to be sitting in a cave working through Tibetan chants (though it can be, if that’s what you’re after). Meditation has built up a following in recent years and now through YouTube videos and apps such as Headspace it’s easier than ever to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Meditation can improve the quality of your life by giving you time to slow down and process what is happening. While it can be arduous in the beginning, the more you practice the easier you’ll find you slip into a zen-like state. It’s incredibly important to incorporate this into your yoga practice as it helps you achieve calmness and tranquility.

3. Inhala, Exhala!

Yoga focuses heavily on breathing paired with movement (or lack thereof) which can improve your lung capacity (volume of breath and efficiency of exhalation). Many poses and breaths work in tandem to open your lungs and “create space” in the body, allowing you to decompress and destress.

Devoted yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. In 1998, The Lancet published a study where a yoga breathing technique known as “complete breathing” was taught to a group of people who suffered from lung problems. After one month of practice their average respiratory rate fell from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6; they also found that their exercise capacity increased.

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4. Yoga can improve the quality of your sleep.

Yoga can be done at any time during the day, but if you incorporate a practice before bed you will find your mind and body relax more efficiently, allowing you to achieve a more restful night’s sleep. Doing any light physical activity or stretching before bed is beneficial, and yoga will help you relax; I’ve been guilty of occasionally dozing off during Savasana (aptly referred to as “Corpse Pose”) at the end of my practice.

While excitement and stimulation are great in life, too much will cause excess stress on your nervous system. Yoga will help your body find some relief through poses aimed at giving much needed downtime to your body. Many studies suggest that yoga will help you achieve better sleep, thereby affecting your stress levels and making you more productive in your daily life.

5. Yoga can improve your posture. 

As you move into different poses you will notice you’re encouraged to be aware of the flatness and curvature of your spine. After a few weeks of consistent practice you should notice that your posture improves without much conscious effort on your part.

Your head is like a bowling ball: big, round and heavy. When it’s balanced over a straight spine it takes much less work for your back and neck muscles to support it. However, once it’s moved slightly forward, you will start to strain muscles and create fatigue. Poor posture can cause back, neck and muscle problems and the worse your posture is, the more your body tries to compensate, creating a ripple effect of stress and possible fractures on other parts of your body. (1)

Getting into yoga doesn’t have to be an expensive or daunting endeavour. I’m currently using the Down Dog app, which is available for free or via a paid yearly subscription if you’d like more control and variety in your classes. The app is incredibly user friendly and can be used by people of all levels of skill.

I like to practice a couple times a week to check-in with my body and see which areas feel like they need more stretching and attention. It can be frustrating to start a new exercise but yoga has multiple health benefits that will help you now and make your body more supple and toned as you age. Good luck and namaste!

Source:
1. Haigh, Chris. “7 Reasons You Should Start Doing Yoga Immediately.” Lifehack, 10 Sept. 2013, http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/7-reasons-you-should-start-doing-yoga-immediately.html.

BODY: The Benefits of Maca

Achieving optimal health using natural remedies has become a go-to for many people. Given the current hyper-focus on keeping the body fit and clean, one superfood to consider adding to your diet is maca. In recent years the use of maca outside of traditional medicine has risen exponentially and can be found around the world in powder form for baking or as a supplement.

The maca plant, Lepidium meyenii, is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng” and is cultivated in the Peruvian Andes, though it grows wild in Peru, Paraguay and Argentina. Traditionally, maca has been used since the days of the Incans to enhance fertility and sex drive, though it can also help energy and stamina. It is classified as a cruciferous vegetable and the main edible part of the plant is the root, which can range in colour from yellow, purple or black. (1)

Despite the earthy taste, which may be bothersome to some, maca is versatile and can be added to smoothies, baked goods and energy bars. The ideal dosage has yet to be determined, however in most studies the dose ranges from 1.5-5 grams per day. It is widely available in stores and online in powder form, 500-mg capsules or as a liquid extract.

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Maca Smoothie (5g) with soy milk, strawberry & banana. Topped with apple & mixed berries.

While much of the research is still in early stages, here are some of the preliminary benefits found in the maca root:

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Good source of Vitamin C, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Vitamin B6. It is also an adaptogenic superfood which not only helps support the body’s ability to deal with stress but it also contains all eight essential amino acids and plenty of phytonutrients.

May Increase Libido & Improve Function of Hormones: Maca has been heavily marketed for its ability to enhance sexual desire, with most studies showing improvement after six weeks of use. Some evidence has shown that maca can increase men’s fertility and improve semen quality (though the test subjects ingested maca regularly for four months). As well, maca may help relieve menopausal symptoms in women by alleviating hot flashes and improving sleep.

Mood Boosting: Maca has been shown to boost mood as it contains flavonoids which can help reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. It has also been traditionally used by Peruvians to improve cognitive performance.

Maca is generally considered safe, however, if you have a history of thyroid problems, you may want to be careful with maca as it contains goitrogens which may interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. (2)

Start out slowly by adding a teaspoon (approx. 5 grams) or less to your coffee, baked goods, or smoothies a few days a week and see if you notice any changes to your health. Maca is a powerful superfood with key nutrients that can help support your body and keep you feeling strong.

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Maca Energy Balls with dates, walnuts, almond flour & coconut!

Sources:
1. Gaia Herbs. “Why We Love Maca: Top Benefits of This Amazing Adaptogenic Herb.” Gaia Herbs, 26 July 2018, http://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/seeds-of-knowledge/why-we-love-maca-top-benefits-of-this-amazing-adaptogenic-herb.
2. Palsdottir, Hrefna M. “9 Benefits of Maca Root (and Potential Side Effects).” Healthline, 30 Oct. 2016, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root.

BODY: How to Treat “Maskne”

This year has turned the concept of “normal” on its head. As we continue to practice social distancing, face masks have become the norm as countries around the world implement regulations to slow the spread of Co-Vid 19. The World Health Organization has officially recommended face coverings to assist in slowing the spread of the virus.

The more use our masks get, especially in a hot and humid climate, the more it will become a conductor of dirt, oil and debris, all of which can irritate the skin. Maskne, or acne mechanica, arises when the skin is subject to friction or rubbing, causing micro-tears in the skin allowing bacteria to enter. In some cases, contact dermatitis, an uncomfortable itchy rash on the skin, may also develop. Many people are wearing masks even when exercising, further trapping excess oil, dirt, and sweat, leading to breakouts around the chin, jaw, cheeks, and mouth area. Facial pores are under more stress and are more likely to be clogged, especially if we do not adapt our skincare routine.

As mask-wearing becomes the norm across the world, many clothing retailers have shifted gears to mass-produce fabric masks which can be worn and washed easily. Masks made from natural fibres (such as cotton, linen, hemp or silk) are more breathable and will reduce friction on your skin. (1) Wearing masks may become commonplace for the foreseeable future, so it can’t hurt to invest in a higher quality one now to reduce waste and help your skin.

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As we adjust to the new regulations and the implications on our social and professional lives, we can also help our skin assimilate to what will be the new normal. Now more than ever it is crucial to keep our faces as clean as possible; it’s better to avoid heavy creams and serums during the day or when we will be wearing the mask. By using a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser and a toner skin will be clean and not feel weighed-down.

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After cleansing and toning, incorporating an acne-fighting skin booster may also help. Products such as The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% are ideal to incorporate into a skincare regime, as it is a high-strength vitamin and mineral blemish formula. Niacinamide is Vitamin B3, which has been shown to minimize the appearance of pores and brighten skin tone. If you are using a Vitamin C serum be sure to use it at a different time than the Niacinamide (preferably at night).

Incorporating a hyaluronic serum to assist in absorption of your moisturizer is also a good idea – The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is a great product; it contains a mix of HA and vitamins for added hydration. Make sure to apply before your moisturizer. You can follow up with a Hemi-Squalane Serum, as it is an excellent non-comedogenic hydrator which will help reduce loss of skin elasticity. It is lightweight and easily absorbed without being greasy (it can also be used in your hair to reduce frizz).

To discourage pore congestion, now may be the time to introduce acids into your beauty regime. The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% 10 Minute Exfoliating Facial (you may have seen it after it went viral on TikTok) is a great exfoliator. Check the warnings before using, as it uses a high concentration of free acids which may harm sensitive skin and inexperienced users. Using this one per week will help clear away any congestion and build-up that accumulates under your mask.

If you plan on wearing make-up under your mask, try using a setting spray to avoid transference to the mask. I personally love using KIKO Milano’s Make Up Fixer and Prime & Fix. It contains cosmetic alcohol and chamomile extract that evaporates instantly and doesn’t leave behind any residue.

Skipping foundation and substituting for a tinted sunscreen will also help eliminate product build-up. I love SunSense’s 50SPF Daily Face tinted sunscreen as it’s lightweight and doesn’t feel caked on. Using a sunscreen is also a good idea as mask tan-lines may become our new summer reality.

The good news is that with a few minor skincare tweaks, “maskne” will be a thing of the past. It is important that we all do our part to slow the spread of CoVid, and that involves wearing face coverings in all public spaces. While masks do help keep us protected, if they are not disposed of or laundered after use, they can become breeding grounds for germs, dirt and irritations – all of which will negatively impact our health and our skin.

Sources:

  1. Bauer, Shannon. “Maskne Is a Very Real Thing—Here’s How to Beat Face Mask Breakouts.” Shape, 15 June 2020. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/beauty-style/maskne-face-mask-acne-mechanica
  2. Product info pulled from theordinary.deciem.com. All opinions are my own.

MIND: Controlada

You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.

// Elizabeth Gilbert

BODY: Matcha Made in Heaven

Matcha’s popularity over the last few years has remained constant in a health industry that is perpetually on the hunt for the next superfood supplement. Much like the rise of drinks containing the detoxifying properties of chlorophyll, charcoal and turmeric, many cafés now offer matcha teas, lattes and baked goods. Matcha powder is incredibly versatile so you can add it to your diet in the form of tea, smoothies, coffee or cake.

Similar to green tea, matcha is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, however the extra benefits come from the way it is grown. Matcha tea plants are covered 20-30 days before harvest to shield them from direct sunlight; by doing this, the chlorophyll production is increased and boosts the amino acid content which gives the plant a darker green colour and vastly increases its nutrient benefits.

Matcha contains nutrients from the entire tea leaf, rendering a greater level of caffeine and antioxidants than you would typically find in green tea. Some scientific studies have shown that matcha can help protect the liver, promote heart health and assist in weight loss.

Much like green tea, matcha is rich in catechins: a specific class of plant compound that acts as a natural antioxidant and is commonly found in tea, cocoa and berries. By consuming a healthy amount of natural antioxidants, you can help your body stabilize free radicals, which are the potentially harmful compounds that can damage your cells and cause disease. By adding matcha powder to hot water and make a tea, you actually release more catechins than steeping green tea leaves in water. The result is a high-power antioxidant rich (and caffeinated) drink!

Matcha has been shown to help protect the liver from damage; our livers are responsible for flushing out toxins, metabolizing drugs and processing nutrients so it’s vital we keep them running smoothly. One study gave diabetic rats matcha for 16 weeks and found that it prevented damaged to the kidneys and liver. Another study was conducted using green tea extract and showed that after 12 weeks the liver enzyme levels were reduced; elevated levels can be a sign of liver damage.

In studies using test tubes and rats, green tea extract (similar to matcha) was found to decrease tumor size and slowed the growth rate of breast cancer cells in rats. Matcha in particular is high in EGCG, a type of catechin that has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties. One test tube study found that the EGCG in matcha helped kill off prostate cancer cells; other test-tube studies show that EGCG is effective against skin, lung and liver cancer. While further testing is necessary to determine the effectiveness in humans, the initial results are promising.

Consuming matcha has been shown to help protect against heart disease and reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) as well as triglycerides. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, using matcha may help heart health and increase protection against heart disease and stroke, one of the leading causes of death for people over the age of 35.

Most weight-loss supplements use green tea extract; it has been shown to help speed up metabolism and increase fat burning. A review of 11 different studies showed that green tea reduced body weight and also helped maintain weight-loss. Given the higher efficiency of matcha in all other areas, it is likely to render the same results. (1)

Some tests have shown that by consuming roughly 4 grams of matcha may help enhance brain function. A 2017 study in Food Research showed that people who drank matcha tea experienced an increase in attention and processing speed an hour later, benefits which strongly outweigh drinking tea or coffee. This increase in attention, alertness and memory is likely due to matcha’s L-Theanine (a polyphenol called EGCG) and the higher concentration of caffeine. The L-Theanine also helps extended wakefulness without an energy crash, while boosting alpha brain wave activity to help decrease stress levels. Splurging on a matcha latte every now and again could be the solution to the afternoon slump. (2)

While the benefits of supplementing your diet with matcha are many, as with any health supplement, moderation is key: liver problems have been reported in individuals who drank 6 or more cups of green tea per day. This equals about two cups of matcha tea, given its higher concentration. Adding 4 grams of matcha to your diet a few times a week until you get used to it is a great start. Matcha is easily found in many health food stores, grocery stores, and online. My local grocery store carries matcha and I have been adding it to smoothies and oatmeal with great results; I’m less likely to crave or need coffee on days I supplement with matcha. As with anything, make sure the supplement is right for you before incorporating it on a regular basis.

Citations:
1. Link, Rachel. “7 Proven Ways Matcha Tea Improves Your Health.” Healthline, 10 Oct. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-matcha-tea.
2. Gainsburg, Marissa. “9 Benefits of Matcha Tea That Will Make You Want To Drink It Every Day.” Womens Heath Mag, 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a27127259/matcha-powder-benefits/.

BODY: The Physician Within

Intermittent fasting has received increased press in recent years as a revolutionary eating schedule with amazing health benefits. While I am typically all over trying new lifestyle techniques, initially I wanted to avoid fasting because it seemed like a gateway habit for a resurgence of unhealthy eating patterns and an over-dependence on rigidity in an eating schedule. Saying that, I have been following a 16-8 eating schedule for almost a year now and admittedly I can see certain health benefits associated with intermittent fasting such as better digestion, more restful sleep, less bloating and admittedly, some weight-loss.

The concept of fasting is neither new nor revolutionary; ancient Greeks believed that medical treatment could be observed from nature and saw that humans, much like other animals, actively avoid eating while sick. During a fasting period you abstain from food or drink (or both) for health, ritualistic, religious or ethical purposes.

Paracelsus, a renowned healer, wrote over 500 years ago that, “fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within.” Fasting is now recognized worldwide as a conduit for detoxification which allows and aids the removal of toxins in the body (thought to be responsible for illness and other conditions). By tapping into this innate power, we allow the body to heal itself. (1)

Fasting as a spiritual process is practiced by followers of: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Jainism and Hinduism. While the fasting length and intensity varies, the common belief among the religions is that it is beneficial for cleansing and purification.

Although widely practiced by different religions and for health purposes, fasts have also been used to express social and political views. Gandhi famously fasted in prison to atone for the violence of his followers against the British rule in India. Fasting has been used worldwide to protest everything from war, social injustices and civil rights violations. (2)

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify what food you can eat and instead focuses on when you can eat them; for this reason it is less of a diet and more of an eating pattern. The most popular IF schedule is a 16-hour fast with a daily eating window of eight hours, such as 1-9PM. Others practice the 5-2 method: fasting for 24 hours (or consuming 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week) but eating normally the other five days.

A common mistake in the beginning of starting an IF program is the tendency to indulge in more calories than normal during your eating window. As long as you eat within your window and eat normally, you should notice positive changes. It’s also quite easy to eat less calories than before, so your body will kick up its natural fat-burning; short-term fasting has been shown to help your metabolism increase by 3-14%. In the beginning of my 16-8 schedule I followed a 7PM-11AM fasting period; by doing this I noticed that when I got up in the morning I actually wasn’t physically hungry and I had been eating right away solely out of habit. The fasting window let me get in touch with my hunger cues and only eat when my body was expressing its need for food. After one or two weeks of sticking to my schedule I noticed that aside from some hunger pains before I went to slept, it was a fairly painless process.

While you’re in the fasting period, your body is undergoing a myriad of processes in order to make the most of this time. The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is raised as much as 5x during this window which will have benefits for fat loss and muscle gain. Insulin levels also drop dramatically which makes stored body fat more accessible to burn away. Even your genes are affected and some studies show that they will undergo changes to help protect against disease and foster cellular repair. Studies are still being done on the full range of benefits, but it has been shown to help inflammation, heart health and increase protection against cancerous cells.

I would definitely recommend trying intermittent fasting if you are looking for something new to help you break through a plateau. Personally I use the BodyFast app to manage my fasting windows and I find it’s a great help. It took me a month or two to get into an easy rhythm and manage my nutrient intake within the fasting window and to stop having mild binges when I broke my fast. I definitely think that IF can be dangerous and a trigger for those who are suffering/recovering from an eating disorder so it is worth discussing IF with a doctor before beginning a program.

As always, just like with any major diet or lifestyle change, the IF schedule needs to be used in moderation; fasting times are made to be extended/shortened; give your body days off to go out for a late dinner or have an early breakfast. Play around with the concept of fasting and see what works best for your body on your own schedule.

Citations:
1. Hicks, C. “Why fasting is now back in fashion.” Telegraph, 13 Apr. 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/11524808/The-history-of-fasting.html
2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Fasting.” Britannica, 20 Jul. 1998. https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting
3. Gunnars, Kris. “Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.” Healthline Media, 25 Jul. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide.

BODY: Ameliorate

It is inevitable that every time a New Year rolls around we get sucked into the marketing vortex of “New Year, New Me” and all the health supplements, workout clothes and gym memberships that are sold as the complete package of health.

I guess, “New Year, Same Lazy Piece of Shit” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Saying that, while it is noble to implement health goals at the start of each year, more often than not we set ourselves up for disaster. More than half of people who set New Year’s goals backslide within the first month, sometimes giving up on themselves altogether. While roadblocks occur in the pursuit of any dream, I think it is crucial to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Personally, I think setting highly specific goals, while initially effective, can become the bane of your existence, especially for weight loss. Focusing steadfastly on a “goal weight” will make you more likely to cut calories (or entire food groups) and resort to over-exercising and under-eating. Less emphasis should be placed on the number and more on the quality of your health and the way your body feels. Aches, pains, inflammation and rashes are all signs that your body is off-balance and through a healthy diet and exercise you can often alleviate or even eliminate these symptoms.

As I get older and more in tune with my body, I start to realize how sensitive my system is and the importance of good nutrition. While in my early party days I was able to indulge in all manner of vices (i.e. booze, party candy, and post-party Cora’s trips) without feeling too much damage the next day. Now… A few drinks and the next morning I can feel my body running at a sluggish pace. As such, I’m looking to significantly cut down, and by all means eliminate, my alcoholic intake over the next few years. As my Brit preaches ad nauseam, “Every extra drink robs you of happiness the next day.” I’ll cheers to that.

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Happy New Years Eve = Not So Happy Morning

Looking forward to the rest of 2016, I’m taking note of how I feel more self-aware of my body than in previous years. As such, my goals for this year are to give my body the nutrients and self-care it needs, while also setting and reaching the new goals I want to put into place. One huge drawback to working in Canada during the winter is that I find it is typically too cold to run outside, however I’ve substituted my long running route in Spain for a membership to IAM Yoga and Wynn Fitness, both of which are located quite close to my office. Having a pre- or post-office workout gives a bit of a jump start to each day.

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Exercise Gives You Endorphins = Endorphins Make You Happy

I’ve swapped my carb-heavy Spanish breakfast of olive-oil on thick whole wheat bread for a super-charged “Green Smoothie” (complete with spinach, flax, mango, banana, dates and a splash of chlorophyll) to start my day. My lunch is now more than half pure vegetables, as is my dinner. As a perpetual vegetarian and sometimes vegan, I have the tendency to lean towards carbo-loading every meal. By planning my meals at least a day in advance (and including some fresh fruit for snacks) I eliminate the risk of becoming hangry or splurging on something sweet.

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Lean, Mean… Green?

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Cold Pressery in Mississauga, ON. Easily One Of The Best Places For Vegan Food!

In the next few months I will have to adjust yet again to living in a new country (!!!!) and being 100% accountable for my budget and lifestyle choices. I think getting accustomed to a regime where I incorporate healthy eating, consistent workouts and a full-time job will make the transition a bit easier. I hope to run my first half-marathon by the end of the year, and what better place to accomplish that feat than Europe?

Good luck & good workout.

AS

 

SOL: Shall We Dance?

I started taking dance classes when I was 8 years old. I was a precocious child from an early age, so instead of pirouettes and pas de bourrées I hit the floor and started out with hip-hop, then later branched out to street-style dancing, belly dancing and even break-dancing. Throughout my adolescence it remained an after-school hobby that boosted confidence and kept me in touch with my body.

Unfortunately, throughout my early 20’s my integrity fell by the wayside and I became more focused on shallow endeavors rather than actually improving myself as a person. As a result until this October it had been roughly five years since I had attempted choreography or entered a studio.

As part of my resolution to enjoy my life outside of work, when I returned from France I purchased a Groupon for 16 dance classes at O.I.P Dance Centre in Toronto for a steal of $18. The studio is located at 190 Richmond St E, a happy 1KM walk from my office. The first class I went to was taught by the owner himself and it was amazing. I figured I’d aim low and take a beginner class so as to spare my ego and I am so glad that I did. While the teacher was incredibly skilled at pacing the moves, I still found myself hauling ass across the floor and scrambling to remember what came next. The teacher was yelling “Muscle memory! Dance FULL OUT!” and I was on the verge of dislocating my shoulder as I attempted to nail each move. I was not even close to being the best in the class, but I had a lot of fun.

The thing I love about dance is that I find more so than any other activity I do (running, intervals, weights, yoga) it pulls me very much out of the typical fog I operate under and plunks me into the NOW. Akin to monk-level meditation, for one hour my mind was filled with nothing except counts of eight and the occasional muttered curse as I learned the choreography. The teacher insisted that the class was not meant as a workout, it was strictly a dance class, but I still left with a sheen of sweat on my skin and a smile on my face.

I recommend O.I.P dance studio and the pursuit of anything that makes you smile – but dance is a great place to start.

Health benefits from dance include:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological wellbeing
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

Health Benefits info from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/

BODY: The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

glutenfree

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since someone came up to me about a year ago at the grocery store where I was working and asked me, “What aisle is your gluten-free popcorn in?”

It’s time to shed a bit of light on the “gluten-free” diet fad. Before the last few years, the only people who were following a strict gluten-free diet fell into two categories; those suffering from Celiac disease, and those with a wheat allergy.

Celiac disease is a digestive ailment which causes the small intestine to halt the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten is ingested; as a result people who suffer from this infliction cannot properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Not only is gluten found in foods but it is often added to medicine, vitamins, supplements and beauty products. Approximately 1 in 133 people suffers from celiac disease – not exactly enough to justify the 450 million dollar gluten-free market that exists in North America today.

When a person who suffers celiac disease ingests gluten, the intestine essentially shuts down and refuses to absorb nutrients from food. As a result, malnourishment, anemia and osteoporosis are often possible with sufferers of this disease. There are also those who suffer from wheat allergy, which causes an anti-body response and sparks rashes, hives and sometimes anaphylaxis.

The current trend is sparking a sub-group of people who avoid gluten and can be categorized as people suffering from “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” Unfortunately I feel the rise in declaring yourself gluten-free has been sparked from a lot of hype from celebrities and not a lot of fact – enter my Popcorn Princess anecdote.

cyrus

While I will not discredit those who are sensitive to gluten, most nutritionists will agree that even those who find themselves uncomfortable after eating certain wheat products can typically ingest one serving of gluten per day and feel fine. Most foods do not contain gluten: any food made from a grain (i.e. all forms of corn and rice), most dairy products as well as beans and legumes.

The only places you will find gluten lurking is in wheat products; cakes, cereals, pasta, couscous, bread, barley, malt, rye and beer. Any processed food may contain a wheat by-product or have come in contact with one while being manufactured. The simplest way to avoid any digestion upsets is to follow an unprocessed vegetarian diet… Although I may be biased.

Is gluten actually crap? In moderation, no. While many find themselves losing weight when adopting a gluten free diet it is most likely because they have cut out a heavy-carb food group (bread and pasta, for example) and have failed to substitute it with a healthy, gluten-free alternative. In this case, you may be losing weight, but you are ultimately depriving your body of the carbohydrates it needs to function. By the same token, any postive changes you see in regards to your health after cutting out gluten-laden products may be due to eliminating crappy foods that just so happen to contain gluten, i.e. anything heavily processed and laden with chemicals, fat, excess carbohydrates and not much else.

Over-eating anything will cause symptoms – instead of cutting out your baguette sandwich immediately, instead try reducing your gluten intake and see how you feel. If nothing else, do your research. Paying extra for gluten-free foods that are naturally gluten-free is ridiculous! Above all, my favourite health mantra is this – everything in moderation.

Namaste,

AS

 

For more information please visit:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/

http://healthydebate.ca/2014/07/topic/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity

BODY: The Benefits of Chlorophyll

It’s time to talk about my favourite nutrition supplement du jour.

Since completing my über hippie soul-searching Euro-trip I’ve begun to focus on an all-natural lifestyle approach. As a result, I have started supplementing my diet with liquid chlorophyll.

Before I discovered the numerous health benefits it bestows upon humans, my only knowledge of chlorophyll was my rudimentary Grade 12 Bio class – chlorophyll is food for plants. As it turns out, we can reap numerous health benefits from ingesting chlorophyll on a daily basis!

The construction of chlorophyll is almost identical to the molecule hemoglobin, which our bodies need to build and transport red blood cells; as a result it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. The only difference between hemoglobin and chlorophyll boils down to the centre atom; within hemoglobin the centre atom is iron while in liquid chlorophyll the center atom is magnesium. Magnesium is excellent for the body as it helps deliver oxygen to cells, tissues, bones, nerves and muscles. Not only that – nearly the entire body (cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands) requires magnesium for metabolic function!

Due to its structure chlorophyll is an excellent antioxidant aid. With high levels of Vitamin A, C and E chlorophyll has been shown to lower inflammation within the body while removing excess toxins and waste. Its ability to bind to heavy metals such as mercury gives it a strong healing power.

Digestive problems? Adding a tablespoon of chlorophyll to water, juice or a smoothie two times per day can help promote a healthy digestive tract. As a result, it also helps combat bad breath stemming from an unhealthy bloodstream or colon.

Personally I prefer liquid chlorophyll because I am guaranteed 150mg per serving and it’s easy to add to smoothies on a busy day. However, there are loads of foods you can add to your daily diet to start improving your health such as: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.*

Since incorporating more greens into my diet I’ve noticed my energy levels improving in the morning – an impressive feat considering I have substituted a green smoothie instead of coffee!

If you aren’t ready to commit to liquid chlorophyll (it costs $26 for 1L of liquid, which lasts about a month) then start adding fresh or steamed greens to your meals!

When in doubt, GO GREEN.

Namaste,

AS

*Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/untapping-the-secrets-of-chlorophyll/#Mi70ACi8W8GuDpKc.99