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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.

Why You Should Reconnect With Nature Today

Nature is all around us. The air, the earth, the sea and the creatures that depend on it all. There are so many beautiful reasons for us to connect with nature. Nature is so complete in it’s function. Nature, naturally fulfills us; fresh air to breath, water to drink, warmth of the sun, cool breeze from the wind. If the great outdoors is so excellent, why do we find ourselves so disconnected from it on a regular basis?

Our lives are so bombarded by unnatural chaos and technology that we forget to literally stop and smell the roses. As I was driving down the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia, surrounded by towering mountains which were covered top to bottom in majestic evergreen trees, I stopped to take in the fresh air and immediately felt the difference between this and the toxin-filled, suburban air at home. Being stuck indoors all day cannot be good for your health. Taking the time to enjoy the outdoors is extremely beneficial for yourself and the planet.

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Nature can help de-stress you

In our everyday busy lives, it is completely normal to feel stress, however too much of stress can lead to so many everyday illnesses. Taking a little time out of your day to focus on nature can help that unsettled part of your brain find rest. Taking time to breath in fresh oxygen can help lower anxiety and help refresh yourself and help you regain energy.

Finding love for nature will help you protect it

It is no secret that the urbanization of our planet is only slowly killing it. Spending a little extra time in nature can help you regain an appreciation for it’s function and beauty. This can lead to you making “greener”, more sustainable choices in your everyday life, whether that’s composting, using an energy efficient vehicle, using local produce or recycling.

So, how can we begin to reacquaint ourselves with nature?

Try going for a hike or walk in your local park.

Get an indoor plant for your house.

Practise your yoga or other exercises outside.

Grab a blanket, lie down and watch the clouds go by, or at night look at the stars.

Arrange for you and your friends to meet outside instead of a shopping mall.

Eat as natural and environmentally responsible as you can.

Enjoy all seasons;

Be in awe, humble yourself, connect.

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“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” The Tables Turned William Wordsworth

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.

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.

Review: Polar Heart Rate Monitor

Investing in a heart rate monitor is one of the best things that happened to my fitness routine. Originally, it was the count of calories burned that appealed to me. Becoming aware of my heart rate helped me develop a new realization of my body and my cardiovascular health.

Mine is the Polar FT4. It’s functions are basic; it records my heart rate through a waist band (seen below). I can look at my wrist at any point during my workout to see what my heart rate is at and how many calories I’ve burned. Each time I workout with my Polar FT4 it records my workout and I can look back at previous workouts as well. I can also set a “heart rate zone” and at the end of my workout see how much time I spent in that specific zone. At first, the waist band was uncomfortable to wear but after the first few workouts it wasn’t a problem.

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Why has my Polar HRM improved my workouts?

Whether you are looking to burn fat or improve your cardio, knowing your heart rate while working out is extremely important. Personally, I like to do interval training at the gym so being able to look at my heart rate at any point is vital. Discovering the heart rate zones specific to your body can help you achieve any fitness goal you have in mind. Try this link to learn about the heart rate zones specific to your body and needs.

Cardio Equipment Vs. Polar HRM

Today’s cardio equipment will calculate how many calories you burn however, this number is frequently false. There are many factors such as height, weight, and heart rate that will affect the amount of calories you burn. My polar watch uses all those factors to give me an accurate number of calories I burn. For example, the elliptical told me I burned 78 calories in 9 minutes, whereas my polar watch gives me the correct number, which was 60 calories.

Polar HRM for Strength Training

Aside from cardio, my HRM also tells me my heart rate during any strength training exercises. Before my polar watch it was always a mystery to know how many calories I burned, or what my heart rate was during strength training exercises. By knowing your heart rate during strength training you can establish interval workouts and learn how your body responds to certain stress.

The Only Negative

Learning about your body’s heart rate and calorie expenditure is a great advantage to achieving any fitness goals you have in mind. However, it’s easy to become obsessed with the amount of calories you burn. Use the watch with healthy goals in mind. Remember that calories are energy and obsessing over the calories in and out of your body can not only lead to stress but unhealthy habits.

Check out the Polar website!