5 Minute Bedtime Yoga Sequence for Sweeter Sleep

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Those of us who have spent torturous hours tossing and turning in bed, or who wake up in the middle of the night with a head full of thoughts unable to get back to sleep know the power of hitting the hay with a calm and restful mind. Though managing your stress throughout the day and having a really good pre-bedtime routine go a long way towards improving sleep in the longterm, you can commit to just 5 minutes of relaxing stretches to sleep better TONIGHT.

This sequence calms the mind and relaxes the body, priming you for a restful night.  Best of all, you can do it in bed… No mat required!  Spend at least one minute in each posture, though longer is better!

1. Seated Twist: This detoxifying posture helps with digestion (which in turn helps you sleep deeper) and calms the nervous system. Repeat on each side.

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Get That Body Moving.. In just 15 min a day!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

One of the biggest reasons (excuses?) I hear for why people can’t work out regularly is TIME. Finding time to work out can be a challenge if you think of it as working out.  It’s a chore.  A bother.  Something to fit in.

What if instead of working out, you were simply making room for moving your body in a way that feels phenomenal, energizing, amazing?  What if this movement made you look and feel awesome in your body, and it was actually FUN for you to do?  What if it only took a time commitment of 15 minutes a day?  Would you do it then?

I imagine you would.

Who doesn’t want to look and feel amazing, and have fun doing it, right?

Well, this isn’t another fad or scheme.  This is just about you finding what feels good.

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Fitness Trackers: Your New Fave Healthy Accessory

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

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All it takes is a peek at the wrists of your friends, coworkers and passersby on the street to see that fitness trackers are all the rage right now. And for good reason!

These unobtrusive bracelets track your steps, workouts, sleep, mood, food and more, and in the opinion of this holistic nutritionist, they can be an invaluable tool in understanding your body, setting and sticking with wellness goals, and getting (and staying) super healthy and fit.

For the last 4.5 months, my techie husband and I have been testing the UP24 Band ($127), and I have to tell you, it rocks.

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Sweat Outdoors for a Mood-Boosting, Stress-Busting Workout!

by Nkechi Njaka, Msc.

I am not a gym person. I cringe at the very thought of having a membership to sweat indoors. When I have belonged to health clubs, it was more for the hot tub, the sauna and the occasional yoga class (before I discovered studios, and before I was a yogi). But yeah, the gym? Soooo not my thing. Never has been.

As a runner, I’ve always enjoyed my cardio done outdoors. And studies are showing that there is something to that!

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Exercise for a Perfect Period

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

If you’re like most women, you reach a natural slump every month where it is just grueling to stick to your typical workout routine.  You drag yourself to boot camp, feel drained afterwards, and wonder what you’re doing wrong. Or you feel just too tired to stick to your routine, and end up skipping your workouts altogether for a week. This is because your body’s needs in terms of exercise vary pretty dramatically throughout your cycle.  In this installment of our Perfect Period Series we’ll be delving into the best forms of exercise to keep you in alignment with your natural hormonal patterns, which will decrease PMS symptoms, boost weight loss, balance your hormones, and help you feeling amazing and energized all month long.

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Healthy Summer Reads

By Callie McBride

Whether a new book sits on your bedside table each week, or summer is the one time of the year when you’ve even got extra time to read, a great genre of books that both entertains and educates is “health and wellness”. You can find light reads and much more in-depth books alike, that inform you of important health topics and also stir up inspiration for your own personal lifestyle. Soaking in a bubble bath or lounging on the beach are two prime spots to sink into a book and escape the world for a little while.

Here are my top healthy reads for this summer:

1. Vegan Before 6, by Mark Bittman

vb6Mark Bittman offers an interesting and completely doable concept to his readers by taking the pressure off of becoming a full-fledged vegan, and instead eating a diet free of any animal products until 6pm each day. This means that no foods are “forbidden” and no sense of deprivation is felt throughout the plan. Filled with recipes, helpful tips, and a 28-day eating plan that shows why a vegan diet is the way to go most of the time, this easy read could have even the meatiest of eaters have a change of heart.

2. Crazy Sexy Diet, by Kris Carr

The strong, beautiful, and hilarious Kris Carr brings her spunky energy and full-of-life attitude to her fourth book which walks readers through a 21-day cleanse as well as all the needed information to adopt a plant-based diet. Her writing is smart, witty, and filled with life experiences that add that personal touch necessary for readers to relate to. She covers all of the bases, including skin, hair and nails; body; spiritual energy; mental health; physical strength and energy; and happiness, all of which she promises will improve and skyrocket when switching to veganism. Especially touching is her recounting of her battle with cancer, and how incredibly brave she was to successfully turn to food as her ultimate source of medicine.

3. Yoga Cures, by Tara Stiles

This quick and fun read by Tara Stiles reveals in tiny chapters every single awesome benefit that yoga offers. From joint pain relief to weight loss to less anxiety and better sex, Stiles’ voice is relaxed and to the point in her book, which also demonstrates tons of yogi moves and includes tips and tricks to perfecting one’s flow.

4. Unbearable Lightness, by Portia De Rossi

This intense but beautifully crafted novel by actress and vegan Portia de Rossi delves into the dark world of eating disorders, as well as the touching journey to recovery. de Rossi grew up modeling and acting in Australia and, once thrown onto television in America, lost sight of what was important in surrender to her highly disordered thoughts. Her story is closely detailed and so personal that readers feel as if they experience everything alongside her. A heartwarming ending places this book on my favorites list, as it is a huge reminder of how precious life is.

5. The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone

It’s all in the title: “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet”. Actress and resident vegan Alicia Silverstone approaches veganism in an extremely approachable and easy way in her book, which features tons of recipes that I can personally say are life-changing (I’m referring to the vegan seven-layer dip and the homemade peanut butter cups). Without going too much into detail about nutrition and health benefits, Silverstone’s cookbook serves as a reminder of all the other amazing things that going vegan can do: literally save the planet! Her aim is to cause the most cautious of readers to consider the lifestyle, and her method seems to work. Her online forum is extremely popular, as is her incredible food.

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6. YOU: The Owner’s Manual, by Dr. Mehmet Oz

For a more scientific, biology-lesson type read, pick up this heavy-duty manual by Dr. Oz. It’s got an interactive element to it with mini quizzes at the beginning of each chapter to test you knowledge on health and the body, before delving into the nitty-gritty of the body’s entire makeup. Don’t fear, this isn’t a bore. It’s chock full of information that can help turn your  entire household into a much more health-conscious one. Dr. Oz places all of the focus on YOU in this book, so with each page you will learn more ways to improve your lifestyle and maintain the best health state you possibly can.

Pick up one of these books today for your next day at the beach, and soon enough they’ll be dog-eared and torn from love. If you’ve already gone through them, enter the titles into Amazon and click  “similar to” for more healthy reads that won’t dull your mind this summer. Happy reading!

 

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Cartoon Inspiration Brings Health Motivation

By Callie McBride

I find that some of my favorite motivation to stay healthy and happy comes from the Internet. Whether on Facebook or Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram, the constant progression of technology brings with it endless resources for support for, education toward, interaction with all things health and wellness.

Think about it: there are forums to join when you want to become vegan (thekindlife.com); there are Facebook pages to “like” to receive updates about health and wellness events (wellandgoodnyc.com); and there are plenty of Twitter accounts to follow and browse through feed for the latest trends and tips in holistic living (@NU_Health).

For me, cartoon images are what get the job done. They make me think, laugh, and become inspired to take my health to entirely new levels with unique recipes and challenging workouts. C’mon? How does that hilarious little broccoli man not make you smile?

What’s so fantastic about online resources is that so many people are attracted to them, so you will constantly find new content: foods and recipes, workouts and exercise classes, new information about health benefits, and even people to connect with. Events such as vegan meet-ups, central park running groups, and free cooking classes exist for a reason: they allow like-minded folks like us to experience the joys of healthy living as one big unit full of support and understanding.

Here are a few resources to peruse on your lunch break or lazy weekend:

Facebook:

Facebook.com/nuhealthandwellness

https://www.facebook.com/FullyRawKristina

https://www.facebook.com/TaraStilesLiving

Twitter:

@nu_health

@MindBodyGreen

@HealthyLiving (Huffington Post)

Tumblr/Blogs:

tully-lou.tumblr.com (an Australian yoga clothing brand’s cute inspiration page)

The Chalkboard Mag (Pressed Juicery’s online vision board of health and wellness)

John Douillard’s LifeSpa (an awesomely nerdy and incredibly informative resource for ayurvedic health)

Okay, I think I’ve made my point. The real business here is the adorable and pleasant cartoon inspiration I found throughout the week that made me laugh and consider my relationship with food. Enjoy, and this weekend, spend some time finding your own motivation! Comment and share yourfavorite sources of inspiration.

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{All images via fitnessporn}

Keep Your Weight Even When On A Vacation

By: Cole Millen

Our guest author is Cole Millen, an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.” He is also the author of Cole’s Mill.

Vacation is a time to have fun and to let loose. It can be a great idea to let go of the stress and chaos of everyday life. But, a vacation is certainly not a reason to toss your healthy eating habits out the window. While irresistible culinary escapades can very much be a part of your trip, it might certainly help to use caution and restraint while eating out. You might have worked endlessly to get rid of the excess weight before your much-anticipated vacation, so it’s understandable that you do not want to reverse all your hard work on your holiday.

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4 Yoga Poses To Open Your Heart Chakra

By: Stephanie Heino

tumblr_lybb94SsUM1qga1lio1_1280A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on how to balance your chakras through meditation. However, that is not the only way to open up your chakras and to live a balanced happy life; chakra yoga poses are also very effective in doing this. By opening the heart chakra you will instantly increase your self-respect, and you will open yourself up to love and gain a more positive outlook on life. All we ever want is to love and be loved, that is our ultimate goal in life. That very human desire creates an immediate and deep connection with the heart chakra. Not only is it located at center of your physical heart, it also marks the transition from the lower three chakras (which are associated with relationships to the society around you, your loved ones and yourself) to the higher chakras that relate to enlightenment and to connection with the Divine. The heart chakra is the bridge between the earthly and the eternal. To open our heart chakra we have to know what throws it off balance. Keeping it in balance requires a deep and ongoing commitment, not just a one time thing. It can be difficult not to let your heart harden when a loved one passes away, when a partner or friend hurts you, when you solely depend on others for your happiness and someone lets you down, or when you unleash negativity on yourself on a regular basis. But that only leads to isolation and even more pain for yourself. By seeking freedom in the heart chakra, you remain open to finding true connection with those around you and with yourself.

The color green represents the heart chakra. Green represents harmony, creativity, abundance, health and is also representative of nature, offering new energy and revitalizing your body. The best heart chakra yoga poses are those that open the chest area while breathing deeply, as well as poses that draw energy into the heart. Let me show you how to practice 4 asanas to assist you in opening your heart chakra and start love yourself and others in a way that feels freeing and secure:

Camel-Pose-257x300Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Kneel on the floor with your legs hip width apart. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor. Place your hands on the back of your hips. Inhale and slowly lift your heart up and allow your hips to move forward. Draw your shoulders back as you breathe into the posture then together once you are in the asana. If you are more advanced or flexible, you can lower your hands to your ankles or your Achilles tendon. Hold for 3-5 breaths then take a moment in child’s pose.

Benefits: This heart-opening pose stretches the muscles of your chest.

ShinxPoseSphinx Pose. Lie on your stomach, with your forearms flat on the mat, elbows under the shoulders and legs together. Press forearms down into the mat and inhale as you lift your head and chest off of the mat, keeping the neck in line with the spine. Bring big toes together and zip all the way up your legs engaging the gluts. Keeping your elbows close to your side using your arms to press the mat away, keeping your shoulders out of your ears. Hold here for 6-10 breaths then, again, relax in your child’s pose.

Benefits: This gentle backbend opens your chest, helping you to feel the receptiveness associated with the heart chakra.

Cat-Stretch-Pose-Marjariasana-22Bidalasana (Cat Pose). Start on your hands and knees. Position your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Have your fingers fully spread with the middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Make your back horizontal and flat. Gaze at the floor. This is your “neutral” positioning. Take a deep inhale here and on the exhale begin to tilt the pelvis in. Do this by gently pulling the abdominal muscles backward toward the spine, tucking the tailbone under, gently contracting the gluts. Press downward with your hands so you stay lifted away from the shoulders, and press the middle of your back toward the ceiling, rounding your spine upward. Curl your head inward. Gaze at the floor between your knees. On the inhale offer up your heart center while tilting your tailbone up towards the ceiling and lifting your gaze. Take this flow as much as you like!

Benefits: This arching pose helps to soften and release tense muscles in the neck and back that keep you from letting your heart open.

fish_pose_123rfMatsyasana (Fish Pose). Begin on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. If you are experienced in the pose, you can bring your legs into Lotus Pose. Either way, inhale, lift your hips slightly and place your hands, palms down, under your hips. Lower your pelvis onto your hands. Inhale and press into your elbows and forearms to lift your upper back and gently place the crown of your head on the floor. Be careful not to let your head take too much weight. Remain in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing and hugging your knees into your chest.

Benefits: This deep backbend opens the intercostals muscles between the ribs, creating more physical space in your heart center.

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Naturally Beat Those Winter Blues!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Whether or not you actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it is pretty tough to not get bummed when it’s freezing and grey outside for days on end.  Our social lives take a major hit, and we are much more likely to crave getting all bundled up and cozy at home than a night on the town.  It’s harder to motivate ourselves to get to the gym, and those cravings for comfort food just don’t let up. But fear not!  With just a few daily steps, you can naturally beat the winter blues, improve your mood and energy, and keep your system on track.

  • Catch some daylight!  Especially when the days are shorter and darker, it is that much more important to get exposure to daylight.  Ideally, this would be direct light outside, but, when it’s frigid and miserable outside, getting some daylight through a window does the trick too!  Leave your blinds open at night, so the morning light can wake you up and help regulate your production of melatonin, and thereby, your sleep cycle!  Keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle is vital to staving off wintertime depression. If your bedroom doesn’t get much natural light, then stand dreamily in front of your brightest window for a couple of minutes right when you wake up!  It’s a nice little morning ritual with wonderful health benefits.
  • Exercise!  I know it’s hard to get to the gym when it’s 0 degrees outside, but it’ll pay off in terms of your motivation and energy, which will help you tons in the long run.  If it’s super gross out, just work out at home!  Don’t let the weather be an excuse to skimp on exercise!  Find a dvd that you love, and sweat it out in the warmth and comfort of your living room.  Exercise is one of the best natural antidepressants out there!
  • Take some fish oil.  Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA, are amazing for balancing mood and staving off depression.  Even if you eat fish regularly, supplement with 2-3 grams of high EPA fish oil every day.  My favorite is NOW Super EPA.. I take it every day!
  • Take vitamin D.  In the dark of winter, especially in the northern parts of this fair country, it is impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight.  The result is that we’re all running around completely deficient in this important nutrient!  Low levels of vitamin D can cause depression, lowered immunity, anxiety, higher stress levels, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.  It is absolutely crucial to supplement with a high quality vitamin D during the winter months, and for many of us, year round!  Opt for at least 3000-4000 IU of sublingual vitamin D daily.  My favorite is Biotics Bio-D-Mulsion Forte.. Just two drops under your tongue in the morning and you’re good to go!
  • Load up on plant nutrients.  Plant foods are nature’s amazing natural mood-boosters, and it is super easy to eat your way to a fantastic mood even in the greyest of winters.  Whole grains like amaranth and quinoa are great for raising serotonin, which is your brain’s natural feel-good neurotransmitter.  Olive oil and other healthy fats like avocados and nuts are also wonderful natural antidepressants.  Green leafies like spinach and collards are loaded with folate, which along with other B vitamins, is vital for regulating mood.
  • Treat yourself!  Plan a fun winter getaway weekend, a spa day, a fun party, or even some nights at the theater, a concert, or the opera!  Having some exciting things to look forward to is a great way to boost your mood and break up the monotony of a long winter.

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