Almost 12 years ago I discovered my first jars of Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil and Organic Coconut Manna and with that deliciousness they certainly were not my last. Nutiva, one of my favorite superfood companies, recently adopted a statement that embodies their vision and mission. “Nurture Vitality”.
In the spirit of embracing change and helping to create a better world, this got me contemplating how I, as a yoga teacher and earth activist, nurture vitality in my own life and what lessons I can teach others to cultivate their own.
Why Nurture Vitality?
People, animals, and our planet are in crisis. We need leaders and we need to wake up. The longer you maintain vitality and stay able-bodied, the longer you can serve the planet and make a difference, no matter what kind of work you do.
Additionally, wellness and longevity are two things I’ve always valued. I’d like to be able to make myself a smoothie or pour a cup of tea when I’m in my 90’s without depending on someone else. And, while I’m still independent, I’d like to be rocking my A-Game when I’m working, teaching, speaking, or writing!
How I nurture vitality changes from year to year. Currently I do it with three different methods:
1. Yoga and Strength Training
Photo by Taro Smith
I’ve practiced yoga since I was 16. The practice has been transformative, helping me reduce stress and be a nicer person. Yoga has helped me learn about myself in deeper ways and choose things that make me happy and more authentic; moreover, my yoga practice helps me be a better leader.
In the last 5 years, I have added strength training (sometimes called “functional fitness”) to my repertoire since yoga alone is not sufficient to maintain vitality.
Benefits of strength training in a nutshell:
- Keep Strong Bones. Through using and stressing your bones, strength training helps maintain bone density; thus, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Stay at a Healthy Weight. Strength training is critical for increasing lean muscle mass. And when your body has healthy lean mass, it can burn calories more efficiently and maintain a healthy body weight. "If you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you'll increase the percentage of fat in your body," says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a specialist at Mayo Clinic. As you increase your lean muscle mass, your body will burn calories more swiftly. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to stay at a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight can be hard on the body, especially when the body’s lean mass has decreased.
- Increase Balance and Stamina. More importantly, the decline in muscle mass with aging is correlated to decreased balance resulting in higher fall rates leading to fractures. Most of us think that cardio workouts are what burn fat, but without a healthy amount of lean muscle mass, the calories we take in will not get burned. The stronger you get the less you will experience fatigue. Increased lean mass is also associated with increased capacity for independence with age.
- Keep Chronic Issues at Bay. Strength training when done in good alignment can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
The benefits listed above illustrate why strength training is critical and has become one of my favorite activities! Strength training done alongside a yoga practice is a winning combination.
Benefits of Yoga in a Nutshell:
- Improves Balance . Yoga’s many standing poses help strengthen the concentric muscles around the ankle, aiding in better balance as you age.
- Enhances Coordination Skills. Moving gracefully in coordination with the breath does wonders for staying coordinated in body and mind.
- Maintains Flexibility and Joint Health . When practiced in good alignment, yoga stretches the belly of the main muscle groups, giving them greater elasticity and protecting surrounding joints.
- Reduces Stress . A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. Practicing yoga can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
- Increases Mental Sharpness. Yoga is a mindfulness practice and requires concentration. As a result, it brings you into the present moment with greater clarity.
Here is my latest combined strength training and yoga practice ritual each morning - Preferably I like to get outside in nature to do it!
- 10 minutes warm-up with yoga stretches for my quads, side body, and hip flexors.
- 15 minutes of intrinsic core work in a circuit with physio bands.
- 5 minutes of lunges and push-ups circuit.
- 10 minutes (or longer when time allows) of yoga standing poses and freestyle practice on the mat.
Note: Practicing Acro Yoga can also give you similar benefits to straight up strength training!
2. A Daily Green and Purple Smoothie
Photo by Taro Smith
My body and digestive system responds very well to starting the day with liquid food. Each morning I make a green juice, followed 40 minutes later with a green and purple smoothie! It’s a great way to get everything you need in a 12oz cup: Hydration, fiber, green veggies, antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein in one tasty, easy-to-digest meal.
Throw the following into a blender:
- Organic nut milk and water as the base
- Nutiva Organic Hemp Seeds
- Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds
- Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna or a spoonful of avocado
- Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein Fiber
- Sunflower sprouts, organic dandelion greens and/or lettuce
- Plant based protein powder of your choice
- Frozen organic wild blueberries
- Ice if you like it cold
- Optional: Acai smoothie packs unsweetened.
3. Get Enough Sleep!
Just one night of lousy sleep totally changes my ability to do my work. When I sleep well my thoughts are focused, I have energy, and am able to be super productive. With a busy schedule it is easy not to prioritize sleep time, but I try to get at least 8 hours.
Getting a good night’s rest helps you:
- Have more energy
- Be in a better mood
- Improve your sex life
- Look better and less haggard!
- Maintain your weight
- Think clearly and have better memory
- Maintain your immunity
The benefits are endless, and yet we still stay up too late, use electronics way too close to bedtime (which makes us wired and disturbs rest), and forget to create optimal sleeping conditions for ourselves.
This past year, to nurture my vitality, I’ve been committing to hitting the sac before 10pm each night and rising earlier in the morning, and it’s made such a huge difference!
If you struggle falling asleep, do something before bed that signals to your body that it’s time for rest. Try blending some warm almond milk, ¼ banana, and cinnamon in a blender and pouring a glass after dinner. The calcium and magnesium in these ingredients can serve as a muscle relaxant to help get you nice and sleepy.
You can also try “Legs Up the Wall Pose” (or Viparita Karani) by laying down with your legs leaning against a wall. Hold for 3-10 minutes and focus on your breathing.
There are so many ways to nurture our vitality so we can show up at our best and leave this earth better than we found it. How do you #NurtureVitality? Share your ideas through your photos on Instagram with the #NurtureVitality hashtag, and enter yourself in the Nutiva Instagram #NurtureVitality Giveaway Contest! Details here.