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Minimize Stress, Maximize Health and Energy this Fall

Next week many of us will be back to school. Everybody is familiar with the “Freshman 15”, however you don’t need to be in your freshman year to succumb to unhealthy habits during your school semester! Poor nutrition, stress, and lack of activity not only work against your health but can also affect your work ethic. Check out these 5 suggestions to minimize your stress levels and maximize your health and energy throughout the semester.

1) Don’t forgo your fitness routine

I understand you have 3 essays to get started on and a mid-term to prepare for but keeping up an exercise routine, whether that’s yoga, weight lifting or running, will help decrease your stress levels. If you get your body moving you will increase your circulation. As the oxygen is delivered throughout your body you will feel as though you are more energetic, not to mention the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone).

2) Prepare your own food to bring on campus

Take control of your nutrition and pack wholesome and filling meals to school with you. Not only are you likely to save money but you will know exactly what you are putting into your body. Take the time the night before, or wake-up earlier than you normally would to prepare your food/snacks/lunch. “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

3) Use a natural sweetener in your daily coffee fix

Stevia is a great all-natural sweetener that you can buy in little packs. Store a few of these in your backpack or purse. Putting process sugar in your daily coffee spikes your blood sugar, which can leave you feeling sluggish, and contribute to empty calories. Also avoid artificial sweeteners which can be toxic to the body.

4) Try breathing techniques to quickly reduce unneeded stress

Why do people feel so great after they have finished a yoga class? A lot of that has to do with focusing on the breath. If you feel stress approaching tune into your breath. Even if it is for a minute, breathing has a tremendous impact on our nervous systems and can help us to relax.

5) Keep your workspace organized and separate

I am extremely guilty of using my bed as my workspace. But experts say if we reserve our sleeping areas strictly for sleeping, we will get a better night’s sleep. Keeping an organized space, intended for working can increase work production.

5 Misconceptions About Yoga

People have preconceived ideas about yoga from what they’ve seen in the media or heard through word of mouth. Yoga unites the mind, body and spirit, and can impact your life in many ways if you allow it. Here are 5 false statements often thought about yoga!

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1) Yoga is only for those who are flexible and have good balance

Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and balance. You don’t need to be flexible or have great balance to start yoga. There’s a starting point for everybody. If you focus on yourself during the class instead of comparing yourself to others, your mind set becomes about your personal improvements and victories.

2) Yoga is not a good workout 

Different varieties of yoga will offer you a different level of exercise. It will also depend on your skill level as well. For example, Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga will offer more of a cardiovascular or strength workout. Whereas a gentler Hatha Yoga class could be less challenging, depending on the sequence of postures. The poses and postures performed in yoga work to improve your balance, breathing, flexibility and strength no matter what kind of class you are taking part in.

3) I can’t practise yoga with my injuries

Talk to your studio or instructor ahead of time, there are many variations of poses that can help you not only practice yoga while you are injured but help heal your injury. Yoga is great for strengthening the smaller muscles responsible for supporting your ligaments and joints.

4) Yoga is religion based

Although yoga is known to have originated from Hinduism, other opinions today suggest yoga predates Hinduism. Yoga can be a spiritual practise for some, but perhaps not for others, where it is strictly physical.

5) Yoga is only a series of poses and breathing techniques

Yoga is frequently generalized as a fitness routine where people get together and practice different postures and breathing techniques. What many people don’t know is that Postures (also known as asanas) and Breathing Techniques (also known as pranayama) are 2 of Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Sanskrit scripture Yoga Sutra. These include Yama (being honest, non-violent, simple, humble and moderate), Niyama (being self-disciplined and dedicated to one’s spirituality), Asana (what most people are familiar with – physical postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawing from the 5 sesnse to tune into ones mind), Dharana (concentration – creating a still, non-distracted mind), Dyhana (meditation), and finally, Samadhi (the goal of yoga, pure consciousness).

Beauty Haul: 3 Natural Products That Your Body Will Love

I confess that I’ve spent a good portion of my life as a goo-hoard. (If you’re not too sure what that means check out this video by Jenna Marbles.) My drawers were filled with too many lotions, creams, lip balms, face products etc. Until one day, I convinced myself that most of my products, if not all, contained ingredients that were toxic to my skin so I decided to toss them out on an impulse. My original goal was to take a natural, holistic approach to my beauty products however it was a lot harder than I thought. But through trial and error I eventually found a few products/treatments that I love.

1) The Dry Brush

The body brush is easily the most underused/unknown tool. This ancient technique has many amazing benefits such as improving skin texture by removing dead skin cells, increasing circulation to the skin (allowing your lymphathic system to detox), stimulating your nervous system, and reducing the appearance of cellulite.

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I bought my brush from the body shop for around $15. The technique is to softly brush your dry skin; it is recommend that you do it first thing in the morning before your shower. Experts suggest that you move slowly, working from your feet, up your legs and towards your heart. Be careful not to go over any cuts, bruises, or sensitive areas. Although dry brushing is not exactly as soft as a pillow, the exfoliating sensation somehow becomes addicting if you incorporate it into your morning routine. For super soft skin, you can follow up with a moisturizer. With persistant use on my sensitive skin, I noticed an increase in skin elasticity, decrease of cellulite and a disapearance of my eczema.

2) Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of my absolute favourite products to use for my hair. I use it as a rinse after shampoo, in place of conditioner. First, you’ll have to dilute the vinegar with water. I use equal parts water to vinegar, but if that is too strong you could try increasing the water. Pour the rinse over your hair and allow it to sink in but make sure you rinse it thoroughly! ACV smooths the hair cuticle and balances the pH level making your hair extremely soft and shiny! ACV is all natural, made from apples, as opposed to products that are filled with many complicated ingredients. I’ve personally used organic ACV and the non-organic king and noticed a few pleasing differences with the organic. For best results, use an ACV rinse no more than twice a week or whenever you want to increase the shine in your hair.

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3) Olive Oil VS Coconut Oil

When I threw out all my body lotions I was convinced that I could moisturize with extra virgin coconut oil all the time with no problem. At first I really enjoyed how well the coconut oil moisturized my skin but after a week I noticed my skin was more dry than anything! Not only that, but the smell of spoiled/rotten coconuts lingered on my clothing and sheets. This was just my personal outcome but I’ve met people who have had the opposite experience.

On the flip side, I absolutely enjoy coconut oil as a hair mask. It’s solid consistency is much easier to spread through my hair and it washes out with much less trouble than extra virgin olive oil. I apply the coconut oil to my ends and try to keep clear of my scalp, only to avoid those hard to wash places. For best results, leave the coconut oil in your hair for a minimum of 30 minutes.

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Previously, I used extra virgin olive oil as a hair mask but I would opt for coconut oil in my hair instead. For my skin however, I love to add EVOO to my body lotion. Or apply it directly to skin after dry brushing and a shower! It’s bonuses include a strong source of vitamin E and A.

Is Fitspiration the new Thinspiration?

Thinspiration provides images of women with “thin” figures. The purpose is to motivate women to become thin; the consequence of this however is often disordered eating, which is why social networks like Instagram have blocked tags such as #thinspo, etc. But could Thinspo’s new counterpart Fitspo be just as dangerous and damaging to women’s health?

There is no doubt fitspo is paved with good intentions. Women with fit bodies, flat stomachs, six-pack abs, well-shaped butts and arms are seen in images often with a catch phrase such as “strong is the new skinny” or “Complaining won’t burn calories”. And I will be the first to admit that I spent countless nights looking at this “fitspiration”, thinking that if I only worked a little harder in the gym I would have the perfect body, but was I really inspired?

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I am a huge advocate for clean eating and exercising. However when it comes to women’s body image, I believe every woman should feel great in her own skin as long as she is healthy. I pass no judgment to my friends, and those I don’t know, who are followers of fitspo and I admire the dedication and passion it takes to build a fit physique. That being said, a person should not feel unhappy about their appearance because they don’t lift weights, practise yoga, or go for runs every week.

A part of me recognized that I wasn’t being inspired, in fact I realized I was only fixated on what I believed to be my flaws and became extremely critical of my body. It was the shame I felt that got me into the gym everyday, and I am confident that others have the same reaction as they go through their long feed of “fitspiration”.

How have we let images that promote low self-esteem be confused with inspiration? Although fitspo is suppose to be conducive to good health, all it has become is a hub for women to compare their bodies. It creates a new standard of what they believe they should look like to be happy, as if magazines, movies and television weren’t enough. Images of anorexic women can undoubtedly be defined as unhealthy; but it’s my opinion that constantly comparing your body to any shape or size negatively affects your self-esteem. The only standard any person should hold for their body is healthy and happy. Women need to properly educate themselves on nutrition and exercise to make decisions based what is best for their personal health and not base their well-being by a series of images we call “fitspiration”.

So, where do I find my fitness inspiration now?

  1. My parents. Between my dad waking up before 5 A.M. to get in his workout (-word on the street is that he is back to the weight of his football playing years) and my mom’s holistic approach to controlling her chronic pain, they both show serious commitment to their health.
  2. Professional bodybuilders. Angelica Kathleen, Bella Falconi, Karina Baymiller, Terica Messmer to name a few. They all show extreme dedication and diligence towards their fitness goals. And I enjoy watching their journeys unfold.
  3. Most importantly, myself. Practising yoga has helped me to remember how strong, capable and beautiful my body is. I remind myself constantly that I go to the gym not only to benefit my health but because I thoroughly enjoy it. I set goals for myself, and I look back at my accomplishments with pride.

Post-workout: Beat the heat

Our bodies are continuously losing water everyday through sweating and other bodily functions. It is even more important during the summer months to probably hydrate ourselves in order to restore the water we are losing naturally; especially if you are engaging in physical activities. The amount fluid needed to keep your body hydrated varies  from person to person. Try an infused water as a great alternative to plain water, vitamin waters or juices. Below I combined lemon, cucumber, strawberries and plums. After letting it sit for a few minutes it is ready to drink.
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Check out this article from MindBodyGreen to learn about the benefits of lemon water.

Good Morning

Fueling up for yoga this morning on the deck. Chocolate & banana protein pancakes and spearmint tea. Pranayama in the fresh oxygen before the hot yoga studio.

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1/2 cup of Wheat Free oats
3 eggs whites
Small teaspoon of stevia powder to taste (Krisda is my favourite)
Small teaspoon of organic cacao powder to taste
Any liquid you like to desired pancake batter consistency (I use coconut milk or h2O)
Topped with unsweetened shredded coconut and bananas

Add any protein powder you like to your pancakes, I’m not taking any supplements right now but adding a scoop of protein to your pancakes would suffice 🙂 you would probably need to add less stevia if your protein powder already comes sweetened