Mindful Approach to Nutrition

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In a few of my previous post, I’ve discussed the topic of Nutrition. Over the next several post, I’d like to discuss a mindful, self compassionate approach to nutrition and making better choices.

In the practice of Yoga, one very simple and power practice we use is observation. Sometimes during a Yoga session, students are asked to observe the breath entering the nostrils. A very nice way to start a Yoga class is simple observation of the body, or a Body Scan. This is done by mentally scanning over the body and how every part of the body feels. When this is done, we seek to observe, but not to judge (for example, call “good”, “bad”, “short”, “tall”, etc.).

After practicing Yoga for nearly 20 years, I remain fascinated that the practice of simple observation (without judgement) can be soothing and relaxing.

The practice of Mindfulness is becoming very popular. Mindfulness can start to sound fancy and complicated, but its simply making observation without judgement.

This week, I invite you, as I will myself to make non-judgmental observation of your diet. Throughout this week, maybe make a mental note, or even a real note of what you are eating or will be eating. Over the next week, don’t judge the food at all. Try not to consider any consequences of what you eat. Maybe even 30 seconds before eating, simply observe the meal.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I always have so much gratitude for you taking time to spend with me here on this blog.

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Dealing with the Root of Insomnia

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Insomnia is one of my favorite topics because it is multifaceted. When you experience insomnia, its simply “I can’t sleep”, then the awareness of the affects this will have over the next several hours.

Please see the above illustration of the Chakra system. This pictures shows the location of each one of these energy centers. The Root Chakra, or Muladhara, is located very low in the pelvis, somewhere near the rectum and anus. The Root Chakra is associated with a deep red color. The emotional energy of the Muldhara is usually associated with survival, being on a tribe/family and feeling safe.

In this post, I would like to explore issues that may arise from the Root Chakra, and how this can lead to disrupted sleep.

Diseases at the Root

My list by all means is not exhaustive. Disease that may arise from disrupted energy flow in the root. I include:

  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Lower back pain from lumbar disc degeneration
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency
  • Peripheral Neuropathy

This list will seem eclectic. My understanding of the Chakra center, blood is affected most by the Root Chakra. Interestingly, some of the common causes of insomnia come from blood disorders.

Anemia, B12 Deficiency, and peripheral neuropathy can all come from blood disorders. Anemia most commonly comes from iron deficiency. B12 deficiency is can cause anemia, but may exist without anemia. Peripheral neuropathy (sometimes called Nerve Pain) may arise as a symptom of anemia, B12 deficiency, or other nutritional deficiency.

The end result of these disorders is overactive nerve endings that tend to hurt, ache and burn at night. Many patients describe sensations such as “marching ants” or “lightening shocks”.

It is easier to relate structural disease like Low Back Pain to the Root Chakra. Low back pain frequently is cause be disruptions in the lumbar disc of vertebra that put pressure on a peripheral nerve.

Mind/Body Connection

Long before I studied Yoga, I patients often presented with “1st Chakra Insomnia”. They typically were experiencing big life changes (marriage, divorce, job change, a move). They may also be experiencing financial stress. These stresses would occur around the same time insomnia would occur. The complaint may present as follows:

“I’m so exhausted at night. As soon as I lay down, I drift off to sleep, then bam, a terrible, lightening pain shoots through my legs and wakes me up”

Assessment and Treatment

For “1st Chakra” insomnia, although the main complaint is I can’t sleep, the ultimate reason must be determined. This requires an extensive workup to determine if an anemia exist, and why. Neurological assessment may be required as well.

What’s Next?

I am working on some very exciting things. Please keep checking back.

As always, much gratitude for your time. Please feel free to leave comments or replies.

Intermittent Fasting for Breast Cancer Recurrence Prevention

I’m very excited to start discussing real topics that come up during my practice. Please check back under the Q and A section frequently for more real world topics.

A patient asked me about a topic I was completely unaware. She asked if anyone who has had a personal history of breast cancer should start doing a 16 hour fast.

Until researching this topic, I actually had not heard of fasting in dealing with cancer.

I discovered that there could be some benefits from Intermittent Fasting in terms of Breast Cancer Survivor-ship. There is a potential benefit from fasting while being treated for breast cancer.

Before delving too deeply into this topic, I have a few of my own caveats. I typically don’t recommend intermittent fasting in patients who don’t have a PRISTINE diet. If I have patients that are following a nutritionally sound diet, that are not diabetic, and not being treated with medications that lower their blood sugar, I think Intermittent Fasting can be beneficial.

Patients that are Diabetic likely can’t perform intermittent fasting. Several diabetic medications cause the body to release insulin in an uncontrolled manner. If you aren’t eating and take these medications, blood sugars may drop unexpectedly.

If you don’t regularly consume a healthy quantity of fruits and vegetables daily, fasting means you will become further deprived in necessary nutrients.

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I was able to find the article, Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis. This link will take you the article which can be accessed by the public. Breast cancer survivors were asked to keep track of their diets for up to 4 years. The researchers collected data on how long these women fasted overnight. The researchers discovered that women that fasted less than 13 hours per night had an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence.

“…prolonging the length of the nightly fasting interval could be a simple and feasible strategy to reduce breast cancer risk recurrence”

Marinac CR, Nelson SH, Breen CI, et al. Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(8):1049–1055. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0164

This study excluded diabetic patients. Prolonged overnight fasting (ie, not eating late at night) was not associated with weight loss, but there was a drop in inflammatory markers in the blood.

I stumbled across a related article concerning short-term fasting while being treated with chemotherapy. The researchers here examined the role of short-term fasting while receiving chemotherapy. The theory here is that cancer has a higher metabolism than normal tissues, and will take up more of the chemotherapy than regular cells. Human cells tend to go into a quiet state during fasting. The researchers found that short term fast while receiving chemotherapy in certain cancer types (HER2-Negative) had less markers of DNA damage during chemotherapy treatment.

Summary and Recommendations

  • If you are a breast cancer survivor, consultation with a nutritionist can play an important role in your future care
  • If you are a breast cancer survivor, you may want to consider avoiding late night eating.
  • If you are a Breast Cancer Survivor with Diabetes, discuss with your doctor dietary changes that may prevent recurrence.
  • If you are undergoing treatment for Breast Cancer now, discuss with your Oncologist, General Surgeon, and Nutritionist if you should consider short term fasting. Keep in mind, you nutritional status affects healing, and your doctors may not wish for you to to this.

References:

Marinac CR, Nelson SH, Breen CI, et al. Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(8):1049–1055. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0164

de Groot, S., Vreeswijk, M. P., Welters, M. J., Gravesteijn, G., Boei, J. J., Jochems, A., … Kroep, J. R. (2015). The effects of short-term fasting on tolerance to (neo) adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-negative breast cancer patients: a randomized pilot study. BMC Cancer, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-015-1663-5

Yoga For Empty Nesting

Filling Empty Spaces

December 10th and May 2nd will be dates that will forever remain burned in my memory.  December 10th was the date my son was born and then 19 years later on May 2nd he moved out of my house and into his own apartment. Those two dates are huge due to the enormous impact my son made on my life. He bounced into this world with tons of energy and love. He immediately taught me things as a mother such as being compassionate, patient, loving and caring. He also kept me on my toes and reminded me I had someone else to always fight for besides just myself.

May 2nd was emotional as he utilized that assertiveness once again and moved himself into his first apartment with some friends. He had saved up money and had a good job. He remained steadfast to his word that he would remain in college and pursue a career for himself. (Today he is entering his sophomore year.)

Suddenly the house was empty and quiet! What was I do to? The dogs moped around and sighed heavy sighs when no one came by to rub their bellies. My stepchildren had moved out years earlier but my son was still around to fill the space with sounds of laughter. He was in Band for many years so many times my living room was full of other band kids laughing and playing their instruments. There was never a dull moment.

So, I set out on a journey to fill that empty space. Yoga seemed most appropriate for me. I shifted and changed the back bedroom so that I could provide private yoga sessions in my home and have my own space for a yoga practice. I decided during the early morning hours, which usually meant hustling around getting ready for early morning band practice, now was my Yoga time. Me time!

I began by setting my morning routine with a cup of coffee and then a 30 minute yoga practice followed by a 10 minute meditation. Sometimes I would take my mat outside and listen to the birds while I grounded myself in meditation. Other times, I would light my candles, turn on my diffuser and music and find a beautiful yoga flow in my yoga space while the dogs looked on in wonder. Either way Yoga allows me to fill gaps that are missing because Yoga is about expanding, joining, nurturing, and learning. Maybe I am learning more about myself in this moment without my child physically here in my home. Certainly I am learning more about nurturing myself in this very moment.

Finding something positive to fill that void was most important to me. What will you do for yourself in time of need?

Similarities between Yoga and Counseling

As I continue on my path of researching Yoga both personally and professionally, I have realized how closely related the two fields are. There are so many similarities in fact that we really should be combining both worlds at the same time.  When we are emotionally well, not only do we connect with others better, but we also become more creative, motivated, focused and attentive to our bodies.

Many people come to yoga or counseling initially because of some health issue whether it be physical, spiritual or mental. Most individuals are looking for outside help because he/she has exhausted each of his/her own coping strategies.

Clients learn in Yoga as well as in Counseling, that there is a fine line in finding balance between “letting go” and “gaining control”. In both forms of treatment, we look to let go of what no longer serves us, and in turn strive to gain control of a healthier lifestyle. For example, letting go of negative thought patterns in counseling, so as to gain healthier more positive thought patterns.

According to Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT, and Yoga Therapist, “with yoga we want to relax the mind and body so that tension can be released and healing can begin.”  By letting go or relaxing certain muscle groups in Yoga we can begin to gain control in a different muscle group such as our breath or reducing our thoughts. For example, in Tree Pose we want to ground down through our feet while at the same time lifting through the crown of our head. Therefore, two different actions simultaneously acting together to create one goal.

Yoga and Counseling could complement each other beautifully if practiced together. Many clients find while in counseling that they aren’t even connected to their physical body because they are so wrapped up in what is going on in their head. Same thing can happen in Yoga and then injuries could occur because we are not practicing awareness. Being aware of where our body is currently placed is just as important as understanding where our thoughts are driving our moods and behaviors. Deep Breathing relaxes the physical body by lowering blood pressure and heart rate, which then in turn continues to relax the mind. 

So, take a moment and stop what you are doing and just take notice of where your body is currently. Is it sitting in a chair, or standing in line? What do you feel? What do you notice? Without judgement, just try and slow down the breath, by breathing in through your nose to the count of three, and out through your mouth to the count of four. Do this 3-5 times until you can begin to notice a warmer more relaxed state in the body and mind. Continue to this until you feel better and more relaxed. Then you can move on with your task and focus.  This moment of relaxation might even change your mind!

Namaste

Yoga as a Coping Skill

Yoga in Sanskrit means “union” of the mind, body and spirit.  So it makes sense that I myself being a licensed mental health counselor, also practice yoga. With my yoga practice I feel I am joining my mind, body and soul to becoming a whole and complete being. I feel there is so much more to healing than talk therapy although it is useful. The body stores energy whether positive or negative and stress, a form of energy, can be held in the body causing pain and illnesses.

I was probably first introduced to yoga as a small child as I watched my mother stretching down in the floor in front of the TV in the evenings after supper. As a child I was full of energy and probably was difficult to keep still. My mother could tell you stories about me dancing in the pews at church. Dance became my first love. I found I could escape any negative thought or feelings through dance and release excess energy. I also felt whole and complete when I danced, as if nothing could tear me down. It became a source of resilience for me.

Then once I became older and a dance injury kept me out of dance, I began to try other things. I found yoga again after my divorce. On Tuesday nights I would take my very young son to spend time with his dad while I would attend a very crowded yoga class. I immediately reconnected my mind with my body and spirit again. If you have ever been through a divorce you understand how emotionally draining it can be and how overwhelmed with feelings you can become. Yoga gave me a peace of mind through not only the poses, called Asanas, but also through the breath, or Pranayama.

Three years ago I decided to become a certified yoga Instructor with the intentions of combining it with my private practice therapy. Today in my private practice, I teach my clients how to breathe and reclaim their Yoga which we are all born with, but must find.  How do you relax?

Mindful Grocery Store Shopping

After being diagnosed with any medical condition, or being told to lose weight, many patients feel overwhelmed. The first question  is what do I eat?

In my previous post, I invite readers to consider a mindful approach with eating.  In this post, I invite you to now approach your trips to the grocery store in the same way, with non-judgmental observation.

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I have found over the years when advising patients on dietary habits, I can hand out printouts on eating more greens, reducing intake of sugary foods, or stopping soda.  This can be helpful, but once the patient is at the store, juggling a family and watching a budget, this advise can become difficult to follow.

In the last few years, I’ve been taking a “boots on the ground” approach.  Although a patient’s visit with me may be an important episode in their healing journey, the real healing process happens outside of the office.  

If like most of us, you shop for groceries on the weekends.  I invite you to observe your trip to the grocery store. Do you have a certain aisle you go to first?  Do you take a with a list? Do you look for sales?

Finally, at the conclusion of your trip, make observations of what is in your cart  This may be difficult, but please try not to judge what’s in your cart. Simply observe if there is a dominant food type, or if there are any foods you don’t have in your cart.

While doing this, it is so important to not judge your cart, or yourself.  If you find yourself doing this, simply take a breath and let the judgement thought go.

Finding Peace within through Yoga

I’ve talked before on other blogs about my quest for finding peace in this busy society that we all currently experience. Every event and every person appears to be rushed and I want to slow things down for myself. I find that I can find that moment of peace through yoga and meditation.

My physical body is riddled with dance injuries from when I was younger. I hurt many joints starting from my waist down including a hip, both knees and one foot. But, I kept dancing because I loved the way it made me feel. The movement from dance gave me an outlet from my worries and it also helped make me feel whole as a person and gave me purpose. I learned quickly that movement allowed me to find strength within me that I never knew I had.

As I have mentioned before in other blogs, yoga outside in nature for me is like bliss. It takes me outside of my head and reminds me that I am alive and well. It reminds me that I can rely on my body, even if there is pain. It also reminds me that there is much more to this life than just work and the normal hustle and bustle of a busy life.

While taking a moment for yourself today, find a comfortable seated position that is right for you. Maybe it is outside or in a quiet room. Place a small cushion or folded blanket under your hips to stabilize them and lift through the crown of your head to elongate your spine. Now, begin to breathe slowly while at the same time relaxing your jaw and releasing your shoulders.

Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on the earth. Connect with Mother Earth for a moment and allow her to connect with you. Imagine that you can send her negative energy from your feet. Next, imagine that Mother Earth can recycle that negative energy into positive and send it back up your spine from your feet to your head. Imagine a surge of happy and peaceful energy flowing freely throughout your body. Continuing to breathe softly and slowly for the next several minutes.

Begin each day with this practice or a similar practice that promotes peace. It only takes a few minutes. Setting your intention during this moment may help relax you as well. Try this for 30 days and see if you don’t notice a difference for yourself in this busy world.

Namaste

Views from a Yoga Mat

Changing your perspective

As I look up from my mat and open my eyes, the bright blue sky of the early morning envelopes my view. With the birds singing and the locust croaking, my hearing is completely engulfed as well. This moment takes me back to a more simple time as I slowly draw in a deep breath through my nose and exhale slowly through my mouth. I have begun taking my yoga practice outside on purpose.  That purpose, total relaxation.

My mind’s eye craves moments of silence, just like my body craves rest and stillness.  We all live in a fast paced, busy society, but I also work in job that requires my full attention and awareness; mental health counseling. If I don’t learn to take care of myself first, I am no good to anyone else that walks into my office. This moment of stillness and silence leads me to my mat where I feel most calm and secure. I recognize when I have not been spending enough time on my mat by the way my body aches and my mind races.

Throughout the years, I have learned to spend more time on my mat each day not as a way to be selfish, in fact, quite the opposite. It is a way for me to remain healthy and mindful. Many times I have utilized my yoga practice as a way to gain a different perspective on an issue I am having. I have even found it useful to practice some yoga during stressful times or times when I am angry to assist myself in releasing those negative emotions and changing my view on my situation. I may not be able to change what is going on around me, but I can change the way I think and feel about the situation through my yoga practice.

My yoga practice includes starting with a mindful breathing exercise to calm my nervous system and then slowly transitioning to larger and deeper yoga postures, or Asanas. Then I close with a restful pose to once again slow down my breathing and nervous system. Maybe that pose is Legs up the Wall, or Childs Pose.  Take a moment for yourself! You deserve it!

DIY Home Yoga Studio

This post contains Affiliate Links. I may receive a small payment if you chose to have a look.

I first practiced Yoga in my apartment while in Medical School. While studying at a Starbucks within a Barnes and Nobles, I picked up a book about Yoga and bought it.

18 years later, Yoga is now part of my vocabulary and has been one of the most important self care tools I use.

I frequently advise patients on doing poses at home, or even starting Yoga at home. You can start with no equipment at all. Just the floor can work, but having a few simple pieces of equipment can set you up for a fulfilling, healing self care regimen at home.

I encourage beginning Yoga Students to consider starting at a studio with a well trained instructor. This may not be available for many reasons (time constraints, money, location), so equipping yourself at home is a great alternative.

Additionally, your Yoga practice is an individual experience. It is a journey of self discovery, with the ultimate goal of bringing you back to yourself. There are luxuries of being in a Yoga Studio, but being able to access your practice on a regular basis is the most important.

Yoga Supplies for a Home Practice

If you don’t own any of these, and your planning to start practicing at home, the initial investment will pay off for years to come. The above picture are examples from my home practice.

Yoga Blocks

Yoga block have multiple uses during a practice. The term I’ve heard frequently during a class is the blocks can be used to “bring the floor closer” to you hands. They are best used during a pose such as Forward Bending, but help with lunges. There are several types of blocks available, but I recommend foam that are softer and more versatile. You can use Yoga blocks at work for a foot support, or an impromptu lumbar support.

Yoga Blankets

Yoga Blankets have nearly limitless uses in your home practice. They can be a mat alone (although they don’t provide the sticky surface your after). folding 1-2 Yoga Blankets make a great cushion for seated postures. The blankets can be placed under the knees for cushion. They are excellent after for outdoor activities, especially as beach blankets or cover ups in the cold.

Yoga Mats

This is where it gets fun when your shopping. Other than you cute tights, you can go wild with you mat. Some recommendations I have, if your home space is carpeted, you may enjoy a thinner mat. Consider a thicker mat on hard floors. Try to get a sticky mat for extra support. I like colors and patterns. The mat has a special place in your practice. You’ll likely take it with you to classes if you choose to attend one. You’ll find the more you practice Yoga that every time you unroll your mat, a deep sense of calm and centering will enter you. Buy a mat in a color you may have dreamed of decorating your home with.

Yoga Bolster

The Yoga Bolster is optional. 4 Yoga blankets equal one bolster, so consider starting with blankets if you don’t want to spend the money. I purchased round bolsters, but I think the rectangular shapes would be nice. The Yoga Bolster Make a great seat for meditation, knee support during Savasana (or Corpse Pose). The bolster can be used for support in various Yoga poses as well. If you are limited on storage room, consider using Yoga Blankets which can double for other uses.

Blue Tooth Speaker or Headphones

An overlooked aid in a home yoga practice is your sound system. I usually use a Bluetooth speaker since I don’t like to have anything in my ears during my practice. Likely, you’ll either have music, or a class your taking on your phone or tablet. Of course, if your using your television, you won’t need this.

Optional Equipment

I also recommend Yoga Straps, which can assist with any forward bend or leg extension. These aren’t recommended, but they really aid in your home practice.

Most of all, if you’ve committed to starting Yoga, have fun shopping! I had so much fun searching for my equipment. I now have my own little oasis at home.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Essential Oils-Eucalyptus

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Happy Saturday All!!

I have been creating my own essential oil blends for awhile. One of the road blocks to buying essential oils is what to buy and why.

One of my favorites is Eucalyptus Essential Oil. It’s a great investment, very versatile, and blends well with many oils. Here’s a new favorite of mine:

  • Eucalyptus oil (high quality oil)
  • Lemon Essential Oil
  • Carrier oil (preferably a light oil such as grapeseed oil)
  • 10 ml Roller bottle

I add 4 drops of Eucalyptus oil, 1 drop of lemon oil with the remainder being the carrier oil. This makes a nice chest rub to use at night.

Things combination makes a great spray as well. I like to used distilled water with the same amount of essential oil.

Eucalyptus is a favorite first aid for colds. I am probably partial to this now as I’m fighting a bit of a cold. I like to put a few drops on tissue and inhale throughout the day to fight congestion.

Eucalyptus is an excellent starter oil if your thinking of trying Essential Oils on your own.