Thursday, December 16, 2010

New website!

Check out the new site! I'll be transitioning over to that from now on (finally decided to make the switch to wordpress), so make sure to check!

A new post is up... Is our food influencing our mood?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Foods fighting cancer

“Autopsy studies from people who died in car accidents have shown that about 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 actually have microscopic cancers in their breasts. About 50% of men in their 50s and 60s have microscopic prostate cancers. And virtually 100% of us, by the time we reach our 70’s will have microscopic cancers growing in our thyroid. Yet without a blood supply, most of these cancers will never become dangerous.”~Dr. William Li, MD
All of us have tumor cells in our bodies. The problem is when they grow blood vessels and develop a blood supply: this is termed “Angiogenesis.”

In this Ted Talk by Dr. William Li, he talks about how our focus on cancer prevention should be on preventing the growth of blood vessels to tumors. Preventing this angiogenesis is one of the most important defenses against cancer, and he argues that this is something we can actually do with our diet.

Focusing on our diet might be the key to preventing the growth of cancers.

He explains: “Mother nature has laced a large number of foods and beverages and herbs with naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis.”

Some of these naturally occurring anti-angiogenic foods include the following:
  • Red wine/red grapes (Reservatrol
  • Strawberries (Ellagic acid
  • Soybeans (Genistein)
Here are some others: 

He ends by making the point that many local and sustainable foods are naturally anti-angiogenic. This is important because, as he says:
“For many people around the world, dietary cancer prevention may be the only practical solution, because not everyone can afford expensive end-stage cancer treatments, but everyone could benefit from a healthy diet based on local, sustainable, anti-angiogenic crops.” 

Saturday, December 11, 2010


"It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. For seven, ten, or even fifteen years of school, you are not required to be curious. Over and over and over again, the curious are punished.
I don’t think it’s a matter of saying a magic word; boom and then suddenly something happens and you’re curious. It’s more about a five- or ten- or fifteen-year process where you start finding your voice, and finally you being to realize that the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing you can do it play it safe.
Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face." 
~ Seth Godin, from his book Tribes (thanks to Dr. Bruce Hopper for the recommendation!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

There is a space

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 
~Victor Frankl

From an excellent post at Zen Habits... check it out!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How do you do it?

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” 
~Henry David Thoreau
I recently met a fellow ashtangi who is also a first year medical student in New York. She asked for advice on keeping up a yoga practice during medical school… and I need help coming up with a good answer.

How does ANYONE keep up a yoga practice through sleep deprivation, stress, exhaustion, emotional highs and lows (be it from graduate school, a demanding job, a break-up, new motherhood, etc)? It’s during these times that we especially need to make time for a daily practice. 

Here are some things that helped me maintain some sort of yoga practice over the past few years... it’s a list I’ll have to keep adding to as I have to figure it out all over again next year as an intern:

  • Get up in the early morning for a home practice. No matter how early! If you have to be at the hospital at 5:30, get up at 3:30... you may be tired at first but it will transform the rest of the day.
  • Make a little cup of coffee before practice. After such sleep deprivation I would honestly not have been able to practice without this.
  • Do a long practice at a studio on your days off. This makes all the difference! A home practice is really hard to maintain and having a weekly "tune-up" with a teacher/ yoga community is key.
  • Find like-minded friends. It may take a while to find them but they are out there! Crank up the heat and practice together at home (especially when the studio is closed). Do “partner yoga” sessions and experiment with new things.
  • Listen to your body and do the practice you need. Some days just sit, some days focus on second series, some days do more backbends or inversions... know what you need.
  • Take staycations. When you do get some precious vacation days, spend some time at home doing yoga, sleeping, eating well. Staycations are the best vacations :)
  • Do weekend workshops when possible. Take advantage of teachers when they come to you (you can learn a lot during one intense weekend).
  • Don't hide your yoga practice from your other worlds. This is what I did for the first couple years of medical school (not sure where this came from – I guess I was afraid of what people would think), but by my 3rd year I stopped hiding it. I realized there are LOTS of people out there who do yoga or want to do yoga... so keep writing, talking, sharing, and build up the yoga community around you! 
That's all I have for now, but I really want to hear what's on your list… how do you do it?

Home practice with Caitlin (medicine intern) and Mariana (soon to be medical student!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is your mind wandering?

I don’t know about yours, but my mind loves to wander. I'm usually jumping between my to-do list, worries, plans, memories... anywhere but where I am.

What do exercise, good conversation, and sex have in common? According to this study recently published in Science, these are the times when our minds wander the least -- the times when we are most in the present moment.

From the opening paragraph of the paper:
Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Indeed, “stimulus-independent thought” or “mind wandering” appears to be the brain’s default mode of operation. Although this ability is a remarkable evolutionary achievement that allows people to learn, reason, and plan, it may have an emotional cost. Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now.” These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Are they right?
I like the way the authors went about answering this question: they used an iphone app to randomly contact people throughout the day and collect information on their daily thoughts, feelings, and actions. They were then able to create "an unusually large database of real-time reports of thoughts, feelings, and actions of a broad range of people as they went about their daily activities." 

They recorded people’s answers in this database Check out that website if interested -- you can sign up to start tracking your own happiness levels (I just did!).

3 interesting findings from the study:
  1. People’s minds wander frequently.
  2. People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not.
  3. What people were thinking was a better predictor of their happiness than was what they were doing
They found that people are happiest when making love, exercising, and in conversation. Our minds tend to wander unpleasantly when we are working, sleeping, and at home on our computers. 

It seems that the ancient traditions were right: our wandering minds lead us to unhappiness. So maybe the key to happiness is figuring out how to control our minds.

That’s really the whole point of yoga: to train and discipline our minds, to keep coming back to the present moment, to practice being here now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting enough omega-3's (without fish)

One of my concerns with being a non-fish eating vegetarian is the question of whether I get enough omega-3 fatty acids (“good fats”): Should I eat fish sometimes? Should I be taking fish-oil supplements? My body might need me to put those lox on my bagel and cream cheese?

We’ve heard why omega-3’s are good for us: they help reduce inflammation, reduce risk of heart disease, reduce risk of dementia… not to mention they may help keep protect your telomeres.

The other day my younger sister forwarded me a news alert from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, highlighting a recent study of 14,422 people showing that women on vegan diets do have an expected lower intake of omega-3’s, but they also have greater conversion of plant-based precursors to omega-3’s, and thus they have higher than expected blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

That’s reassuring! That means that our bodies will probably make adequate amounts of omega 3’s from a plant-based diet (which includes walnuts, flaxseeds, plant-based oils).

I was especially glad to see a medical peer-reviewed paper addressing the bigger problem of our diminishing fish supply:
“Current dietary recommendations for maintenance of [adequate omega-3 levels]… are to consume one or more portions of oily fish per week; however, the supply of wild fish is dwindling and efforts to conserve the fish supply are needed.”
(If you haven't yet seen the documentary End of the Line, check it out!):

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interview with David Garrigues

David took the time to answer some questions and I’m very happy to share them here with you here… enjoy!
Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, David Garrigues

How did you first learn about yoga?

I was sixteen and working as a bus boy. The dishwasher was really into metaphysics, supernatural phenomenons, UFO's, conspiracy theories, etc, and one day he told me about Yoga. That afternoon he took me to the local park and showed me Surya Namaskara. From that point on I was practicing Sun Salutations.

Tell us about the path your yoga practice has taken. 

In 1991 I placed 4th in the Seattle Marathon after training rigorously for a few months and my body became completely tight and so I went to an Iyengar Yoga class. I got hooked and started going everyday. Eventually, I found two important teachers who lit the fire of Yoga in me and helped me to choose to make Yoga my life path. Then in 1993 I saw a video of Pattabhi Jois teaching his students (Freeman, Chuck and Tim) and saw in the Yoga Journal that he was coming to LA. I went and studied with him for one month. Then in '94 I went to India and was there almost continuously for two years. At the end of that time Guruji certified me. I went back to Seattle and for ten years ran the Ashtanga Yoga School always returning to India nearly one or twice a year to work with Guruji.

On one of my first visits to India I discovered singing and started practicing Bhakti Yoga by way of music. I now consider myself a practitioner of both Bhakti and Hatha Yoga.

For the past few years, I have started to make a more organized and conscious choice to share what I'm learning through social media: dvd's, cd's, and blogging. All of these media outlets are pushing me to go deeper into teaching as a service and to share what I have been given. And that's where I continually see my future leading, continuing to practice, study and share what I'm learning.

Who have been your greatest yoga teachers and why?

Marie Svoboda, who taught me about the process of going into an asana and that what is most important is the process not the end. She also taught me about rhythm. 

Aadil Palkhivala, who still teaches in Seattle. He is a senior Iyengar teacher and taught me to think creatively and therapeutically about the body. And how to endlessly refine an asana. He also taught me how to appreciate when a magical atmosphere arises in a class. 

Ramanad Patel, who teaches workshops worldwide and taught me about combining Bhakti Yoga and asana work in a class. 

Pattabhi Jois, who taught me everything... how to stand on my own and how to be a complete anchor. And how to be yourself. And how much power we each have. Guruji wasn't playing around or putting on an act. 

What motivates you to practice every day? 

How much better I feel when I practice. And how alive I feel. And how I can finally feel my life force really flow. And the mental places that I go when I practice. The concentration that I can achieve. And also the physical benefits. 

Why do you practice Ashtanga yoga? 

Because Ashtanga Yoga is the only type that can adequately allow me to work with my energy the way that feels right to me. I like how physical it is. I also like the concept of Vinyasa and how working with patterns of the breath is the center of the practice.

What is your daily routine like?

I am always busy and doing things. I don't like to feel that I'm wasting my life. I don't consciously keep a schedule but my day is always consistent. If I have to teach Mysore class I wake up at 4AM and practice. Sometimes I can squeeze in some classic Indian scales. I teach at 7AM and when I'm through I go home and eat a whole grain breakfast (sweet brown rice cream, oatmeal, cream of wheat.) Then I either sing again or I begin my writing for the day. At this time I am also double tasking by cooking a macro meal (pressure cooking brown rice, slow cooking vegetables, burdock, Kimpira). But either way I will be singing or writing until I eat at 3PM. This is when I usually take a two hour break. A break usually involves some reading, a cat nap or helping my partner Joy on her film projects. But at around 5PM I start revving up again, answering emails, sometimes Joy and I will film, but most days I'm writing until its time to sleep at around 10pm. I don't need a lot of sleep, never have.

Tell us about your diet.

I practice a wide macrobiotics. Because I'm not sick so for me the macro diet does not need to be narrow. But I also have a Yin disposition and therefore, am inclined towards Yin foods (sugar, alcohol, caffeine) so I have to be very conscious to eat the Yang foods my body needs in order to be balanced. The most hearty Yang foods are short grain brown rice, burdock, turnip, daikon, carrots, and then cooked for hours. One of the things I love about the macro diet is that you do put a lot of energy into making the food but in the end you have an amazingly tasty and healthy dish. Its not like you spend hours in the kitchen making Fettucine Alfredo, where the result is tasty food, but also super high in fat. 

What are 3 pieces of advice you would give serious yoga practitioners about their diet?

I've said it before: The diet is the final frontier for a Yogi. Its a lot easier for people to acclimate to waking up and going to bed earlier, or being more physically tired throughout the day, but eating a proper diet is really challenging. My advice is more on how to transition into a healthier diet.

#1 Be kind to yourself when your transitioning into a healthier diet. This is where most people have trouble. If you start off too extreme… cutting out everything you enjoy and just eating brown rice and turnips, you will probably not hold the diet. It takes a long time to change your diet so transition slowly. In the beginning eat the occasional slice of cheese and slice of cake.

#2: Get onto whole grains. Buy a pressure cooker and a grain meal and learn to use them. The food tastes a whole lot better.

#3: Most importantly, make a very careful study of how the food you eat affects your practice. You really have to study this because you want to have an optimum practice each day. This means you have to feel when your body system and digestion is ready to practice. So when your practicing take note of how you feel and what it was that you ate yesterday. And then if you observe carefully and long enough your practice will teach you what you need to eat.

What advice do you have for people interested in starting a yoga practice? 

I'm biased but I think that Ashtanga is the best practice. And the way to learn Ashtanga is to find a teacher who teaches Mysore. Sign up for the month and follow their instruction. If you can't get access to a teacher then a dvd can do it. Also, make an intention within yourself to honor your body. If you want to start a Yoga practice you need to realize that Yoga is a large path. There's a lot to it. Its a discipline that takes several years to understand and get established in, and in the beginning, you don't have to understand very much of it. You only have to make a start. Start small and simple and see how you feel and see where that takes you. And continue to feel what's happening and value what you feel. Don't do too much too soon. And be careful not to get swept away by your ego trying asanas that your body is not ready for because you can get hurt.

What advice do you have for people with busy schedules who must maintain a home practice? 

1: Have a consistent time that you practice.

2: If you only have the energy to do ten minutes, five minutes, one Sun Salutation, then just do that. Again, you have to be kind to yourself. Because that one sun Salutation will carry you onto the next morning when you may feel like doing the entire Primary.

How has your practice changed over the past 10 years? 

My body has aged. I've slowed down some. I value breathing and simplicity much more. My focus is way deeper, way more subtle, as well as my breath. I still love practicing but for very different reasons. Now, I love the very moment that it's happening rather then what I'm going to get out of it when I'm done. 

How do you see your practice changing over the next 10 years?

I don't know what's in store and I'm happy about that. I only know that I will be doing it and it's bound to get deeper and take me to new places that I've never gone. And I'm excited about that. 

What is your biggest fear?

I tried to just think of one but this is what came out: That for whatever reason people can't relate to my experience. That I haven't gone deep enough. That I haven't applied myself enough. I'll run out of time before I've gotten the chance to really find my wisdom. That I can't face and accept my ugliness and join in healing around that.

Who have been the most influential people influencing your health habits?
  • Pattabhi Jois 
  • Marie Sbavoda 
  • Macrobiotic teachers (AnneMarie Colbin, Herman Aihara, Michel Abehsera)
  • My mom 
  • Jung 
  • Patanjali 

If you could tell a room of thousands of people one piece of life advice, what would it be? 

You have an incredible reserve of life force within you that is meant to be positively channelled to heal yourself and the world. So face whatever demons that block you and use your power to heal and move life forward.

What do you wish you could go back in time and tell your 25-year old self?

Don't be afraid. You have so much power and so much talent just go for it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Traveling yoga

It’s especially important for me to keep up my yoga practice while traveling... the busier and more exhausted I am, the more I need it.

Two solutions I’ve found for doing yoga while traveling far from my yoga home: 1) checking out local yoga studios when possible (not always possible), and 2) carrying with me a yoga DVD (always possible). 

I've recently been carrying David Garrigues’ Ashtanga Yoga DVD. David moved to Philly over a year ago and has had a huge influence over my practice -- breath, bandhas, food, jumpbacks, handstands, backbends, taking rest when I need it. Check it out: 

The DVD has a led primary (perfect to do at home or in a hotel room with the heat cranked up), a second led primary with more detailed instructions on postures and modifications (great for new students), and an added bonus are short video-interviews with some answers to questions I've always wondered about, for example: 
  • Is Ashtanga yoga aimed towards young and healthy people? “Anyone any age can do this practice, but depending on your strength, your age, your commitment, your kinesthetic awareness of your body, your time, how much you work, what kind of things you have going on in your life… you’ll have to modify and adapt and make the practice your own.” 
  • Does the strict traditional Ashtanga yoga practice blunt our creativity and individuality? “We do set sequences and so it’s all laid out and all mapped out. And yet, within that, every person creates their own practice… You learn your own style… you access your potential and creativity.” 
  • How does the Ashtanga yoga practice change over time? "The practice is going to change. There are so many different ways it can change: It can be a wave, it can be a struggle, it can be ascending and soaring, it can be a circle, a spiral, it can plateau, it can feel like its going down and staying down, but then it’ll go back up.” 
Check back in tomorrow for a special interview with David!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Travel. Yoga. Coffee.

Hello from Seattle!!! I'm here attending a great primary care research conference, meeting lots of people and lots of ideas. 

I love this quote and think about it whenever I travel:
"Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it." ~Cesare Pavese
For me, there are two additional essentials that I cling to while traveling: yoga and coffee. Two things that help me quickly meet people and make friends in a strange city.

I love being able to fly to a new place and immediately find an ashtanga mysore community: people that speak my language! Yesterday, I went to a led primary class at the Samarya Center (amazing place and mission), and this morning to Troy Lucero’s mysore class. 

I'm still processing everything I learned with Troy this morning (he knew I only had one day there and nicely gave me a TON of attention!). Some quick notes: 
  • Standing poses: Ground my heels so much so that I lift my toes and ball of foot (I naturally do the opposite and actually lift my heels). In Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle), work on barely touching fingers to the ground (engages legs, core, and bandhas much more). 
  • Navasana: Traditionally, navasana was paired with handstand, but for some reason this has been taken out over the years. They both work on the same thing: the core of the body. Practice going into handstand between each navasana.
  • Handstands: Wow we did a lot of handstand work this morning... handstands on a ramp, handstands on bars, handstands on a block, handstands on one block under one hand, handstands on sandbags. 
  • Acroyoga: Right before Kapotasana, Troy "flew" me in the air (he lay on the ground, his feet on my sacrum)... loosening up my back and quads to prep for the deeper backbends. Amazing. 
  • Tick-tocks: After backbends, he brought me over to the ramp and had me practice handstand to backbend and back to handstand. Really hard... need to find a ramp/hill at home and practice this on my own.
I love how he has toys all over the room like blocks, bars, ramps, straps, and how he encourages freedom to make the practice what you need it to be (the room was full of people doing things that I had never seen before). As he said while helping me with my handstands: "Yoga is really just about waking up." I definitely walked out of there feeling awake (and shaky, haha).

After practice and before heading back to the conference, it was time for some more Seattle coffee, which I just can't get enough of! It's the perfect way to both reminisce with old friends and connect with new ones (especially in the cozy rainy Seattle weather). 
My trip wouldn't be complete without a trip to the first Starbucks EVER!! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What are you learning?!

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~ Plato
Still sore… and thinking how Plato would have liked the Ashtanga yoga practice.

I’m doing the same asana practice that I’ve been doing for years, but there’s something about working with David Keil this week that’s bringing it to a new level. This is why I love having many different yoga teachers: tiny tweaks can change everything.

A few things David K has brought to my attention this week:
  • Keeping my mouth closed throughout entire practice (I thought I had been doing this but now realize I haven’t)
  • Focusing on hamstrings in the standing foundation poses (my tight hamstrings have led to some recent back pain)
  • Using my fingertips in nakrasana (This pose is so hard for me! See below)
  • Doing handstands immediately after backbends (and starting to think about going from handstand to backbend and back up to standing) 
Any other Y2 people reading this: please share what you're learning! One downside to this mysore-style practice is that I can’t hear everything the teacher tells other people!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A glimpse

David Keil is in Philadelphia for the week and I am LOVING practicing with him (check out his yoga anatomy blog!). His adjustments are like no other, and I am feeling wonderfully sore.

I read this quote on naturally nina's blog this morning, and it perfectly described what I felt during practice today:
“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things, and still be calm in your heart.” ~Unknown
There can be so much chaos when I'm getting into a pose, but once I get there, and if I stay there, and especially if a teacher keeps me there, that noise can quickly quiet. Yoga gives a glimpse of the possibility of calm amidst chaos, something we all could use more of off of our yoga mats...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend highlights

Weekend highlights: Friday evening girls wine & cheese night, running the "loop" (half-marathon 2 weeks from today!), Sunday morning mysore practice, cleaning out my in-box, de-cluttering my desk, La Colombe coffee, getting ready for my upcoming trip to Seattle/Portland (excited!).

I also found a new book to add to my reading list: The End of Overeating, by Dr. David Kessler:

"Back 50 years ago, the tobacco industry knew that smoking was harmful. If you look at how we were successful with tobacco, we changed how people viewed the product. We changed it so people now look at a cigarette and say, 'Boy, that’s a deadly, addictive, disgusting product.'
What we need to do, is to change how we fundamentally look at food, and ask ourselves, ‘Is that food nutritious? Is that going to provide the kind of nutrition I want?’ You have to be able to fundamentally change how you look at the food. One way to do that is to realize the extent to which you are being manipulated.
If you value being healthful, if you value eating nutritiously, if you say 'that is the kind of food that I want, that is not the food that I want"… then you can be free. Then, in essence, and only then, have you really re-programmed your brain.'"
~Dr. David Kessler (from this video)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

5 ways to practice yoga and SAVE money

This is my older sister, Kim, who brought me to my first Ashtanga yoga class.  

My older sister, Kim, first introduced me to Ashtanga yoga and the Mysore practice. She’s also my personal finance expert (check out her book, Generation Earn, that just came out!).
Even my baby niece likes it!

My financial situation can be simplified as follows: I’m a student, I have a lot of debt, and I place high value on a consistent yoga practice and healthy food (both expensive!).

One of my biggest criticisms of the yoga industry is the high cost, which prohibits many people from actually practicing yoga. I am convinced there is another way... a way to make it possible for everyone to practice yoga, regardless of how much money one earns.

With the help of my sister’s wisdom, we’ve come up with 5 ways to practice yoga and actually SAVE money. I know there are more so please comment with your ideas!
  1. Practice at home. Invite your yogi friends over to practice and create your own yoga community. Turn up the heat and adjust each other when you need it. Estimated savings: $50-150/month.
  2. Say no to new yoga clothes. Wear your old shorts and tank tops to practice (I always think practice feels better in old clothes anyway). You can practice in anything... you don’t need fancy yoga outfits (no one is looking at you and no one cares!). You can always ask for hand-me-downs (or check out low-cost stores like H&M or Forever 21). Estimated savings: $25-50/month.
  3. Give the gift of yoga. Holiday time is coming up, and instead of spending lots of money on store-bought presents, come up with some creative (and more meaningful) yoga-inspired gifts. Some ideas: Teach a free yoga class to friends or family members that have been wanting to try yoga. Make inspirational yoga-related collages using your old magazines. Frame your drawings or photographs of people. Make your own eye-pillows (Caitlin’s brilliant idea!). Estimated savings: $100-300/year.
  4. Socialize with your yogi friends at home. Instead of going out for expensive brunch/meals/drinks after practice, invite yogi friends over for good old potluck. If everyone contributes a little something (wine/veggie treats), a feast is born! Estimated savings: $50/month.
  5. Make time for your yoga practice. Yoga helps with concentration, anxiety, stress, pain, and more... helping you spend your money and time more wisely and in line with your values. Estimated savings: Priceless!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall food indulgences

Apple sauce 
Peel and cube apples. Throw in pot, add a little water to cover the bottom. Add a little honey/ agave. Cook on medium heat, stir occasionally (for about 30 minutes or until apples soften). Add cinnamon and nutmeg (as much as you like).

Carrot cake muffins (vegan and sugar free)
Preheat to 350 F. Mix: 1.5 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 1.5 cups applesauce, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 carrot shredded, raisins (walnuts would be a good too!).
Bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Mulled wine 
Heat 1.5 cups water, add bottle of red wine, add 3 cinnamon sticks and 4 cloves, add thinly sliced small orange and lemon, add a couple drops of vanilla, simmer for 3 minutes and serve! 


Now off to Sunday morning practice!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Better than coffee

Just got back from teaching a yoga class to kids at a local high school… SUCH a rush! I seriously think that might be better than coffee!

Some thoughts from the class:

Pick a student demonstrator. There are always rowdy kids and asking them to be quiet doesn’t usually work. Picking one of them and assigning them to be at the front of the room as a “demonstrator” can be a good strategy.

… but don’t play favorites. Make sure to ask each student’s name and give each person equal attention.

Make it challenging. Teenagers get bored easily and challenge keeps them interested. Play with handstands, jumpbacks, and backbends (they come naturally to many of them). When they groan and complain gently remind them it’s good practice for everything else that we struggling with in our lives.

… but don’t make it too challenging. Making it too hard will be discouraging. Pick appropriate poses that are challenging but also fun and realistic.

Be serious. Try not to let people watch from the side of the room (it’s distracting), don’t play music (also distracting), don’t allow chit-chatting. I was too lenient at first and had to learn my lesson.

… but don’t be too serious. Joke around, laugh, have fun. This should be something they want to come back and to do again!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5 things I'm loving about practice right now

  • Pushing through. It’s really hard to get through the whole practice, but sticking with it even when I don’t feel like it helps with the thousands of other unpleasant things in life I may not feel like doing. The morning practice toughens me up for the rest of my day.
  • Not pushing through. Sometimes what I really need is to take a step back, slow down, and not do the full practice. And I really appreciate having teachers who allow for the freedom to get what I need out of practice, even if it’s different every day.
  • Running before practice. Some people in the Ashtanga tradition may frown upon this, but that will not stop me! When I do a short run before practice (or run to practice), I find that my mind is quieter, I build more heat, I move more mindfully, and I don’t feel as rushed. I think it even helps open up my hips and lower back (though I’ve heard people say it does the opposite for them).
  • Trying karandavasana. I don’t think I will ever be able to do the full version of this pose, but I still try to practice it every day. It’s a daily practice of imperfectionism.
  • New savasana practice: My med school friend Brian started practicing with us a few weeks ago, and he told me that when he lies down for savasana (final resting pose), he thinks about everything on his mind all at once... and then lets it all go. I've been trying it out and it actually leads to some milliseconds of mental silence! It’s sort of when you clench all the muscles in your body at once and let them go, you find that everything relaxes more easily.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our net of Indra

Loved watching this Richard Freeman video about the "net of Indra" that we are all trapped in...
Video here

"As you dig into any one thing, you start to find out that it's made of everything else."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Redesigning cafeterias

I was so excited to see this article in the New York Times today: how to redesign school lunchrooms to promote healthier eating. It's not about taking away the junk foods. Rather, it's about how simply redesigning cafeterias leads to healthier food choices. 

For example:
  • Make healthy foods (like broccoli) the first thing you see
  • Give food attractive names: Instead of “corn" call it “creamy corn”!
  • Provide choices: Offer students a choice of carrots OR celery (not only carrots)
  • Keep ice cream and desserts in closed containers so they're not easily visible
  • Encourage tray use: This increases veggie and decreases ice cream consumption
  • Decrease the size of bowls
  • Move chocolate milk behind regular milk 
  • Put apples and oranges in fruit bowl rather than a stainless steel pan (this makes it more appealing)
  • Verbally offer students a salad (and more will say yes)
  • Move the salad bar in front of the checkout (instead of off against a wall)
  • Have student pay cash for desserts (instead of using lunch tickets to buy them)
  • Make a “healthy express” check-out line for students not buying desserts or chips 
This is pretty much what my school lunches used to look like... yikes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Digging deeper

When things get tough, it sometimes seems like the easiest thing to do is give up and move on to something else. I’ve found myself doing this in my yoga practice (as well as in other areas of my life). When in a difficult pose (or situation), I will quickly move out of it and on to the next one.

That’s why this passage from Freeman’s book, The Mirror of Yoga, really resonated with me:

There is a wonderful story about a man digging a well. He would begin digging down and after five or six feet of digging, which is very hard work, he would find no water, and so he would climb out of the little hole he had made, move twenty feet over, and dig another hole for his well. But after digging about six feet down, he would give up again, move twenty feet in another direction and start digging again. This went on, and on, and on, and he never found water.
So it is with the restless ego pursuing yoga, seeking ornaments for an improved self-image and new ways of feeling better, but avoiding the true facts of life. When the school or practice becomes difficult – which is precisely the entry point into reality – it is at this crisis point that you really have to drop your pretenses and keep digging deeper into the experience. However, all too often it is right at this juncture that we tend to give up the practice. We move on to a “better” teaching or a “more interesting” school, rather than sticking with it and investigating the inner work that is the purpose of the school and the teachings in the first place.

The daily practice of yoga forces us to work on our struggles every single day. It reminds us that change is slow and incremental, but it eventually happens. Things we thought were impossible become possible. Patterns in our bodies and minds can be broken and rebuilt.

So today in practice (thanks to Karen) I tried staying in my dreaded poses just a little bit longer. I don’t want to be constantly moving to easy and shallow holes, never finding water... I want to be digging deep wells.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How much have you laughed today?

I spent a wonderful weekend at home with my family and baby niece:

She is the cutest little button and I could not believe how much she laughs! This is something our adult-selves could do better

In book club a couple weeks ago, we talked about this New Yorker article about laughter yoga and the "Laughing Guru." Here are some cool little factoids that we learned: 
  • Laughter reduces levels of stress hormones. This study looked at blood markers for stress in healthy males before and after watching a 60-minute humor video. When compared with controls, subjects who watched the humor video had lower cortisol, epinephrine, and growth hormone levels.
  • Laughter modulates the immune system. This study looked at blood markers related to immune function before and after a 1-hour humor video. They found subjects to have increased natural killer cell activity and immunoglobulin levels (IgG and IgM).

The best part of that book club meeting might have been our 1-minute laughing exercise where we made ourselves laugh for 60 seconds (we actually timed it). Seriously, try it next time you’re bored! The initial forced fake laughter turns to real contagious laughter... and hey, it might even lower your stress levels and boost your immune function!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A yogini's advice: "Be inspired."

I am so happy to share this interview with Karen Harmelin Tropea, one of the most important yoga teachers in my life.

During my second year of medical school, Karen started up a morning Mysore program in Philadelphia. Almost every day before heading to class or the hospital, I would go there to practice yoga. It has been incredible to watch this community grow over the years and I can’t imagine my life in Philadelphia without it... it has been a constant and supportive space during so many of my ups and downs of medical school.

Karen is an amazing woman, yoga teacher, and role model. She has taught me tons about yoga, she has given me a lot of life advice, she has challenged me when I’ve needed challenging, and she has calmed me when I’ve needed calming. I decided to ask Karen some questions I’ve been curious about and I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

Karen is also beautifully pregnant with her second child… so stay tuned for more from her about yoga and pregnancy!


Why do you practice Ashtanga yoga? 

I practice Ashtanga yoga because it is the most grounding practice for me. I am a physical person, I have always needed to be very active and have never done well in life (all aspects) without physical exercise. So Ashtanga was a good practice for this outlet at first. I connected to its very challenging physical practice, but soon discovered that the method was a gateway to the deepest center of who I am… my courage, my fears. It helped me meditate and it allowed me to be diligent and grounded. All forms of yoga can help individuals find out about themselves and go deeper within. Ashtanga just happens to do this for me.

How has your practice changed over the past 10 years and how do you see it changing over the next 10 years?

My practice has changed in so many ways. I think a regular yoga practice will naturally evolve anyway, but my physical practice has gone through ups and downs, strides and setbacks. Pranayama has gotten stronger and more focused and I am sure it will (along with bandhas) continue this path in the next 10 years. A steady growth and deep awareness have progressed within my pranayama and bandhas. These aspects of practice become solid with understanding and diligence.

The physical practice changes as one ages, gets injured, has babies etc. I definitely had a much more physically oriented practice when I was 27. Over the past few years having had a back injury and now two pregnancies, I have backed off the physical part and have focused more on the continuity of breath and connection to myself that comes with a more matured practice. I have learned that there is a lot more to a dedicated practice than just being able to get into postures or complete a series. It is most important to practice. Through backing off I found that breath and bandhas make the practice more efficient and actually allow a student to achieve more, physically. I have become more patient.

Over the next 10 years? I have no idea. I think women experience a resurgence of energy and physical ability in their 40’s. I have seen it in many of my students. I am excited by the changes my body will undergo in the next 10 years! Other limbs (of the eight) are a constant work in progress. 

How do you balance your yoga practice with all of the demands from the rest of your life? 

How does anyone balance a practice with life? I just have to make the time. If I have a busy day I practice for just a small amount of time, and try to dedicate another day in the week to a longer more focused practice. My husband and I both practice, so we trade off days or time in the shala.

I can honestly say that I took for granted the days when I attended a regular morning Mysore and was able to stay for 1.5-2 hours 6 days per week. I am sure there will be a time in my life when that happens again. Right now I would rather spend time with our son. Kids are little for such a small amount of time. I try to use the other limbs in raising and birthing my kids. It has been an amazing way to see how Ashtanga yoga has shaped my life.

Who have been your greatest yoga teachers and why?

I have had only a few teachers in my life. I have taken many classes and tried many practices, but only a few people who I consider to have been teachers for me. Richard Freeman was my first real teacher. I learned to practice daily from him. I learned a vast foundation while I was in Boulder, but I think I was too young to really get what I was experiencing there. Eric Powell was and still is a teacher for me. He impacted my physical practice and made my physical understanding of the practice real. He continues to do this for me. David Keil has taught me so much about being a teacher. David Garrigues has helped me to learn that there are times to push yourself and there are times to respect your body as well as what is happening in your life. Great yoga teachers will guide a student and give them a clear understanding of what they are learning. A great teacher also allows the student to make mistakes and helps them to learn from those mistakes through experience.

Tell us about your diet.

I eat a lot of greens. I LOVE kale and swiss chard and spinach. I pretty much like all vegetables. I prefer macrobiotic meals and vegan slow cooked food over quick foods (like snack bars) and junk. I eat junk once in a while, but it never sits well in me. I never eat fast food. I am a grazer. I eat raw nuts and dried fruit for snacks. When I am super active I can eat a lot. I love the farmers market and I buy most of my family’s food there. Eat local!

I also like to cook. My husband and I make sure to eat as a family at home most nights. We typically eat very little meat. If we do eat it, it is local, grass fed beef or fish. We do not eat poultry and will never eat veal or pork. I was vegetarian and vegan for over 14 years and experimented with a raw diet and macrobiotics. I started eating fish in my late 20's and after becoming pregnant with my first child, began to eat meat once in a while. I truly believe all bodies go through change every few years. It is super important to listen to what your body is telling you. What may work for you one year may not work for you another. Lifestyle changes, activity levels, etc all impact your daily needs. But in general, the body requires a variety foods at different stages of life. I have found that eating a variety of foods based around whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and fruit, and healthy fats has been most beneficial for me in my 30's and while having babies. I am sure my 40's will require much of the same with some added new twist!

Who has been the most influential person on your health habits?

My parents. They have given me the tools to be healthy and I have also picked up on their bad habits and have tried to steer clear of them. I have influenced my own health habits. I read a lot about current issues and I have experimented on myself. I know what works for me. Yoga is a huge part of being able to stay in touch with your body. Ashtanga Yoga can help you recognize what is “off” on a daily basis. There isn’t one right formula for health.

What is your biggest fear?

I fear what all parents fear. It is unspeakable. I can honestly say that throughout my life I have not had too many real fears… Nothing at least that would preclude me from doing or trying things. I wouldn’t say I was fearless, but I have never really experienced a deep fear until I had a child. If I ever had an anxiety or nervousness I was always able to move through it and process it. I guess I got lucky because somehow I managed to transcend this emotion. If you asked my parents I am sure they would have a lot to say on this about me. I just realized I have one more fear... having a child who doesn’t experience fear ;)

If you could tell a room of 10,000 young women one piece of life advice, what would it be?

Be inspired. Life is so unbelievably short. Seize opportunity. Sometimes the best and most important things in life happen because you were just having fun.

What do you wish you could go back in time and tell your 25-year old self? 

I would say, “See last answer” but I know I did that at 25. I would tell my 25-year old self to ask: “What do YOU want out of life? Sit and think about it, don’t rush into anything just because you think it’s a good idea or it’s what you should do. Its ok to take the time to figure out what will make you happy. Approach every major life decision this way. I tend to leap and deal with things later. I would tell myself to skip instead… at least once in a while ;) 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yoga is freedom.

While googling "Ashtanga yoga in Seattle" (I head there next month for a conference and cannot wait to check out the mysore scene), I came across this wonderful quote by Richard Freeman (thanks to Troy Lucero's website):

Yoga is freedom. It’s freedom from the fear of not knowing who you are. It’s freedom from having to present a face that isn’t your true face. It’s freedom from pretending to believe in something that you really don’t know to be true. It’s the return to the present moment, to the natural mind, to the state of complete happiness.”   
~Richard Freeman

If hungry for more, check out his new book!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Revolution Foods

“Let’s look at the school lunch program…We are essentially feeding them fast food and teaching them how to eat it quickly… lunch should be educational. Right now the school lunch program is a disposal scheme for surplus agricultural commodities. When they have too much meat, when they have too much cheese, they send it to the schools, and they dispose it through our kids’ digestive systems. Let’s look at it in a different way. This should be about improving the health of our children.”
~ Michael Pollan (in an interview with Bill Moyers, November 28, 2008)

Check out this short video about a company called Revolution Foods, serving a new kind of school lunch:

The founders, Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey, came up with the idea while in business school at Berkeley, motivated "by the idea of creating a healthier generation.”

Their company now serves almost 60,000 meals to mostly low-income students in 350 schools across the country!

The criteria for the food they serve:
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No trans fats 
  • Antibiotic and hormone free meat and dairy 
  • Local and organic foods preferred 
  • No fried foods 

The challenge: healthy food is more expensive. These meals are $3-4/meal, while the government currently only reimburses schools up to $2.75 per meal. This is certainly worth the investment though, especially considering how much money this will save in medical bills down the road. 

How about also bringing this idea to hospital cafeterias?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For all the coffee lovers...

You are not alone… this survey shows that doctors and nurses “depend on coffee to get through the workday” much more than other professionals (I think I could’ve predicted that one!).
Sure we might be addicted, but the recent good news is that we also might be helping our inflammation and cholesterol levels.

This study followed healthy subjects for 3 months:
  • The first month: subjects had 0 cups of coffee/day
  • The second month: subjects had 4 cups of coffee/day
  • The third month: subjects had 8 cups of coffee/day 

I like the design of this study because individual subjects serve as their own controls, helping control for confounders (like diet, exercise, or smoking which may be associated with coffee consumption), and making it easier to see the effects of coffee alone.

They compared markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, cholesterol, glucose, and insulin resistance. They found increased coffee consumption to be associated with:
  • A decrease in markers of inflammation IL-18 and 8-isoprostane (no change in C-reactive protein or IL-6)
  • An increase in adiponectin, a hormone involved in regulating metabolism and glucose levels (no change in fasting glucose or insulin)
  • An increase in HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol) 

Their conclusion: “Coffee consumption appears to have beneficial effects on subclinical inflammation and HDL cholesterol.”

I’d love to see a similar study design looking at these markers after a month of a daily yoga practice!
And how much do you love these mugs?! I want one!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Let's stop apologizing, ladies.

In the yoga studio, in the hospital, in the lab, in relationships…. I always seem to be apologizing for something!

I see my girlfriends doing it too. Why are we apologizing so much?! I loved reading this paper that just came out (thank you for sending, Lizzie!) that provides some evidence and explanation for this “sorry” gender imbalance.

Here is what they found:
  • Women apologize more often than men, but importantly, women report committing more offenses than men
  • Men rate offenses as less severe (and less often deserving of an apology)
  • Once men and women identified a behavior as offensive, they were equally likely to apologize (it’s just that men see fewer things as offensive) 

The bottom line: 
Women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior

I want to work on cutting down on my “Sorry’s.” 

Here’s how:
  1. Count my apologies. How many times do I actually apologize in a day? Yesterday I counted 4 before 10am… that seems like too much (especially since none of them really deserved an apology).
  2. Categorize my apologies. This will help me understand what I’m actually apologizing for all day long. Every time I say “sorry,” label it in one of these categories (as described in the article) 
    • Relational (e.g., insulting someone) 
    • Failed obligation (e.g., failing to complete chores) 
    • Inconvenience (e.g., calling a wrong number) 
    • Physical or material (e.g., bumping into someone, damaging someone’s belongings)
  3. Raise my sorry threshold. Pause before saying “sorry” – does this warrant an apology? Try to adopt more of a male mentality about this.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Learning to be silent

“Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.” 
~Pythagoras, Greek philosopher and mathematician (~ 500 B.C.)

Yesterday was the first day of a weekly meditation session at the medical school. We met in the student lounge and were led through a pre-recorded 10-minute mindfulness meditation.

This worked well because 1) it was not much time out of people’s busy days (about 20 minutes), and 2) not much organization was necessary (all we needed was a recorded meditation on a computer with speaker).

Sitting quietly in a room with people is something we rarely get to experience these days. We walk with our ipods, we turn on the tv at home, our phones are constantly attached to us awaiting the next text or phone call.

One of the things I love most about practicing mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is the silent sharing of space with people. Usually, we actively avoid this space, as we constantly try to fill silences with chatter or background noise. But there’s a lot we can learn and share in silence, too.

Check out this short video of the beautiful silence in an Ashtanga mysore class (from Richard Freeman's 2009 Teacher Intensive):

Pythagoras reminds us of the importance of this silent space. We need it to listen, to absorb, to think, to create. Schools and hospitals are perfect places to provide this… and I can’t wait for the day when the hospital I work/teach at has a morning mysore program! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

How's your health equation?

“Our nation's food choices have produced a population with widespread chronic illness and health care costs spiraling out of control. You cannot escape from the biological law of cause and effect -- food choices are the most significant cause of disease and premature death. We cannot win the war on these diseases by putting more money into medical interventions or drugs. We must unleash the disease-fighting artillery in our own kitchens.” ~Dr. Joel Fuhrman
That quote is from this article in The Huffington Post by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (a Penn Med grad, btw!). 

He brings up the importance of the ratio of micronutrients to macronutrients in our diet. 
  • Micronutrients: Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals which contain no calories but are important for DNA repair, free radical deactivation, immune function, and more.
  • Macronutrients: Calories. They provide us with energy in the form of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
The higher the ratio of micronutrients to macronutrients, the higher the nutrient density of the food. Eating high nutrient density food prevents over-consumption. Conversely, eating low nutrient-density food leads to over-consumption as our body craves more nutrients. 

He provides a health equation, and argues that the nutrient density of your food predicts your future health: 

The Health Equation:  
Health = Nutrients / Calories

Here are two obvious ways we can improve our health equation:
  1. Eat more high-nutrient foods (high-nutrient, low calorie): i.e. leafy greens, colorful veggies, fruits, beans, nuts.
  2. Eat less low-nutrient density food (low-nutrient, high calorie): i.e. refined sugars, processed packaged foods.
And while food is extremely important, it's certainly not the only factor in our health equation... so I’m wondering how we can fit things like exercise, sleep, and stress-level into it? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Medical miseducation

If there was ever a time when doctors need to be as handy with a peeling knife as they are with a scalpel, this may be it. The draft version of the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, which will be formally released in December, identifies obesity as the nation’s greatest public-health threat. It also notes the relationship of fast food (and physical inactivity) to unhealthy weight gain and emphasizes the importance of plant-based foods in the diet….
For many doctors, an uneasy relationship with nutrition starts as early as medical school. Long hours and ready access to fast food, often on the hospital grounds, tends to undermine students’ best dietary intentions,” said Dr. Robert F. Kushner, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he directs the Center for Lifestyle Medicine. “Even the ones who come in excited about eating well and exercise find that good habits are harder and harder to maintain as time goes on,” Dr. Kushner said.
~From this great article in the New York Times, Doctor's Orders: Eat Well to Be Well
I could not agree more. It is incredibly difficult to develop and maintain healthy eating habits in medical school and residency (long hours in the hospital, sleep deprivation, high stress levels, free unhealthy food all around us, and lack of healthy choices in the cafeteria). 

When doctors don’t eat healthily themselves (and are given little to no education in what this means), then how can they be expected to counsel patients effectively?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bill Clinton's new diet

Last night, Bill Clinton talked with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his new plant-based (basically vegan) diet:

"I went on essentially a plant-based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit, I drink a protein supplemement every morning. No dairy. I drink amond milk mixed in with fruit and protein powder, so I get my protein in when I start the day out. It changed my whole metabolism, and I lost 24 pounds. I got back to basically what I weighed in high school."
After having heart surgery and having his stents re-clog because of his high cholesterol levels, he started doing his own research (including work done by Dr. Cladwell Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Dean Ornish at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, and Dr. Colin Campbell author of The China Study). 

Clinton learned that 82% of people who go on a plant-based diet (no dairy or meat of any kind) can heal themselves and clear up their arterial blockage.
“We now have 25 years of evidence, and so I thought, well, since I need to lose a little weight for Chelsea’s wedding, I’ll become part of this experiment. I’ll see if I can be one of those who can have a self-clearing mechanism. We’ll see.” 
This is huge to have someone like Bill Clinton being an advocate for a plant-based diet! (I'm wondering if he’s tried yoga yet?!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting entatic

Here’s a new word for you:

Entasy: An introverted and reflexive flow of consciousness.
In everyday experiences consciousness adverts towards the world. It is extrovertive and projects outward toward sensory objects. Entasy, in contrast, denotes an introverted and reflexive flow of consciousness. The yogin’s awareness turns back upon itself and reflects upon its own nature. Entasy is also a useful term because it contrasts with the feelings of excitement associated with being ‘in ecstasy.’ 
(excerpt on entasy from an essay on Samkhya philosophy during Richard Freeman’s Teacher Intensive
Entasy is the opposite of ectasy, which literally means “standing outside oneself.”

In the science world, when an atom or group of atoms is an entatic state, it means that it is in a geometric or electronic condition adapted for function.

If we apply this to humans, an entatic state would mean a state in which the mind is shaped and prepared for function.

The practice of yoga and meditation helps cultivate this entatic state by helping us identify our mental chatter, negative automatic thought patterns, illusions, distractions, and more. We then gain more control over our thoughts and become better prepared for general life functioning.

(And now I'm off for some entasy in my first ever Iyengar class in Philly!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday yoga and the science of love

I can’t think of a better way to start a Sunday than with mysore practice with yogi friends followed by a group coffee date at La Colombe… perfect!

I love seeing our little yoga family growing here: new students, new friends, and new babies! Two of our beautiful ladies are now pregnant, and it’s such a treat to get to practice with them every morning (and have one of them be our amazing teacher)!

This is one reason we chose our latest book club book to be The Scientification of Love, by Michel Odent.

It’s about the science behind love (i.e. falling love, life partnership, pregnancy, giving birth, raising a child). The author, Michel Odent, is a French obstetrician whose research focuses on the primal period (the time of life between birth and 1 year of age), and he correlates events during this time period with health and behaviors later in life.

It’s a fascinating book. Here are some highlights:
  1. In some animals, pain during birth correlates with love for the newborn. Research in animals has shown that when painkillers/anesthesia are given during birth, some mothers will actually reject their newborns (they do not seem to recognize it as their own). For example, ewes given epidurals will not take care of their lambs!
  2. Oxytocin is the “hormone of love.” You may have heard about this hormone because it’s released during breastfeeding (builds the mother-child bond). In addition, both men and women release it during sexual activity/orgasm. Well, we also release it when we share a meal with someone! (One question that came up: do our oxytocin levels rise when we practice yoga together  each morning?)
  3. Love-sickness is a real thing. Anyone who has ever been in love knows this feeling: the physical illness you get when you lose or are separated from your loved one (knot in the stomach, loss of appetite, etc). This is an actual chemical withdrawal of neurotransmitters (i.e. phenylethylamine - PEA), and you are craving them. 
  4. Falling in love has chemical similarities to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). You know the feeling: you meet someone, you get crushy, you fall in love, and you develop OCD tendencies with this person (similarly with a new baby). When people fall in love they actually have lower levels of serotonin in the brain, just like people with clinically diagnosed OCD. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting it back

In the movie Surfwise, Dr. Pascowitz defines health as:
“Not meaning the absence of illness but a superior state of well being. Above and beyond simply being but being everything a human being can be so that the brain can be everything that it can be.”
I think we all kind of know what Pascowitz is talking about. We all have times when we feel far from this "superior state of well being." We know when we’ve lost some of our zest and vitality for life.

Lately, my excitement for residency has been taken over by stress, fears, and uncertainty over the future.  I’ve been seeking ways to regain that “superior state of well being.” Here is my working list of things to do to help get it back: 
  • Call an old friend. Old friends remind of us of who we are, what we want, why we’re doing what we’re doing, and what we might be missing. Call someone you haven't talked to in a while, call someone who "gets" you. 
  • Meet a new friend. Meet up with someone you admire and want to learn from. Get inspired.
  • Eat carefully. Food affects our mood and vice versa. When we're feeling down, the foods we often crave can end up making us feel worse. When feeling fragile, I try to stick to the basics: fruits, veggies, and grains.
  • Learn something new. A new food, a new skill, a new fact.
  • Create something. Try out a new recipe, make a collage, write a journal entry.
  • Go for a run. Sweat it out. Get some endorphins circulating. 
  • Do yoga. Get up early, make some coffee, and go practice. Hold upward facing dog for longer than usual and do lots of backbends. Remember how Iyengar said, “If you keep your armpits open, you won’t get depressed.” 
  • Recognize your destructive thought patterns. Negative automatic thoughts spiral into more negative thoughts and doubts. Try not to get stuck in these thought patterns! First step is recognizing them.
  • Do not wallow. Don’t keep sitting there thinking – get up and go do something! 
  • Indulge in ‘me’ time. For me this means lighting a candle, taking a bath, and reading some Rumi.
  • De-clutter your space. Clean up your clutter. I finally bought hangers and hung up all the clothes that were lying around my room... easy and instant gratification.
  • Smile and laugh. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Fake it till you make it
  • Keep a small journal with you wherever you go. The little pocket moleskine ones are perfect. Write down ideas, questions, quotes you like, lists of things you want to do.
  • Go outside. Disconnect from your phone and computer.

What else do you do? Please share!