Backfatyoga

What Your Inner Child Can Teach You About Back Fat

Ever catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror or in a photo and you see “it”?

Back fat.

And then you start battling those years of subliminal messaging and airbrushed magazine photos in your head.

Upon seeing the rolls, you may have worked yourself into a frenzy of limiting, non-supportive thoughts, as we are taught to do in our culture.

You are gorgeous. I want you to know that, and I hope that your yoga practice will always support you in creating your world of body positivity.

However, my focus in writing this isn’t really about addressing body image, but rather the physiological and therapeutic aspects of the “back fat” phenomenon.

So here’s my take: your back fat may actually not be back fat.

As we age our rib cage sinks with gravity, nearing closer to the hip bones. And as a result, we lose a lot of length in our lateral or side bodies, creating the appearance of fat when in actuality, it’s folds of skin that don’t know where to go anymore.

In addition, the most mobile part of the spine is located between the bottom ribs and the hips. Because this part of the spine is not hindered by the pelvis or the rib cage it is easy to jam the front ribs forward, collapsing this part of the spine (a.k.a.,your mid section or waistline). This also contributes to the folds of skin on our backs.

So you think you have back fat? You may, and that in and of itself is no big thing. Instead, ask yourself, “How long is my side body? Is my rib cage sitting on my freaking pelvis? And what might that be doing to my posture, my organs, and my respiratory system?”

In other words, we can stop obsessing about how we look and start focusing on freeing up our side body in order to breathe easier and more efficiently, make more space for our organs, and improve our orthopedic longevity!

This isn’t a question of body fat, it’s a question of optimal health!

Sure, a higher percentage of body fat is going to create a larger fold, but before you start looking at your rolls and unnecessarily worrying about your weight, realize that gravity is at play here and that you can hold your ribs for optimal alignment, minimizing the appearance of that supposed “back fat”.

Of course, one could reduce body fat percentage and that will help decrease the size of the folds. However, until you embrace these folds as a postural issue, they will stay around until you start doing one simple posture modification.

I call it: “Get bright like a toddler”.  And it means:

  1. Stand up tall.
  2. Lengthen your sides starting from the top of your hips up to your armpits until your collar bones are square with the base of your neck. Do this without shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears, just lift from within.
  3. Inflate your mid-section and lift your back ribs up away from your hips.
  4. Finally, pull your shoulders back (or in anatomical terms, pull the head of the humerus ie. the ball-like head of the arm bone that goes into the shoulder socket) back.

Most fitness experts try to target “back fat” by prescribing back extension exercises such as “superman” where you lay on your stomach on the floor or on a fit ball and lift everything off the floor or ball, thinking this will “tone” the back. Which it will, but this does not address sinking rib cage syndrome or posture problems.

If you look at the picture of the toddler below, you’ll see that her whole torso is bright with breath and energy, her armpits are elevated, and her shoulders are not pulled “down away from her ears”. If anything the head of her arm bones and collar bones are elevated.

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And here is the rear view on another little tyke. Notice, no skin folds on his back. The head of his arm bones are square with the base of his neck and from hips to armpits, he has nice length in his side body. His midsection is also full and bright.

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I figure if babies and toddlers hold themselves like this so recently out of the womb, they’ve got something to teach us! When I used to take my baby sister to the playground, I observed that the children 3 and under had this bright posture. It’s universal. But by ages 4 and up, their posture started to look more like the grown ups. Hit the playground and see for yourself!

In contrast to the toddlers, the photo of myself below is what I call “dull-like-an-exhausted-adult”.  You can’t see my face, but I’m hamming it up for the camera and exaggerating the undesirable posture in my body for you.

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Notice the head of my arm bones and collar bones drop well below the base of my neck as indicated by the horizontal line and arrows.  My side body (distance between my hips and my armpits) is shortened, and energetically my torso is listing downward with little life or energy in it.

Even without this being a profile shot – you might be able to see that my mid section is collapsed. And not surprisingly, my back skin folds are visible.

It would take just those four little postural changes to even out the folds, open up the breath, protect my back, and make more space for my organs. In this photo you can see the transformation when I do that:

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Here my side body is lengthened from hips to arm pits as indicated by the arrows, my collar bones are square across with the base of my neck (indicated by the horizontal line), the head of my arm bones are back, and my mid section is full, with front ribs down. Energetically the whole torso is lit up. Skin folds? They vanished.

Side benefit! Your rhomboids, the muscles between your shoulder blades and spine (that help hold your shoulder blades flat on your back), get very strong when you do this. They might be fatigued at first and you may feel a bit stiff, however as you hold your posture this way more and more, your rhomboids will get in shape and the road to permanently awesome posture begins.

Especially as we clock more years on this planet, the “dull-like-an-exhausted-adult” is an easy posture to find yourself in, but I submit, if you can find the inner toddler inside you, your (supposed) “back fat” will go buh-bye and your body systems will thank you!

Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments below!

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Are You Creating your New Year or is it Creating Itself?

Have you ever noticed that if you start your morning centered with a clear intention that your entire day flows better and feels more balanced?

This January, I recommitted to my morning centering ritual and it’s been everything.

After all, your mornings set the tone for your days and your days set the tone for your life.

Think about how much better it would be to flow through each day in a way that’s balanced and harmonious rather than falling victim to the old cliche of what “side of the bed you rolled out on.”

And the good news is that this morning ritual doesn’t have to be a burden – it is downright interesting!

It’s quite incredible that something with such a minimal time commitment (it need not be more than 6 minutes, but of course it can be longer if you like) yields a payoff that can literally change your entire life.

Here is how the ritual works:

The Bare Minimum: Meditate for 6-10 minutes
As soon as you wake, do what you’ve got to do in the bathroom, and then immediately sit on your meditation cushion or blanket with your smart phone (still in airplane mode… key maneuver!) or a timer set to 6 minutes.

You can even ask Siri to set a timer and she’ll do it for you!

There are also apps that will sound a meditation bell or a chime when the time is up. One of my favorites is the Enso app. This screenshot shows you how easy it is to drag the timers around.  Enso also stores your progress day-by-day, so you can track how many minutes you’ve meditated over time.

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Getting still for these few moments and watching your breath is a little miracle.

So many of us are plugged into our mobile devices and computers all day but when you meditate you open your mind to the quiet of spirit and you can unleash the floodgates of your insight and potential.

It has only been during my meditation practice that creative ideas flow toward me. It’s almost as if the ideas are saying, “Where have you been all day on that smartphone? We have been waiting to come in, but your door was locked!” (Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for so skillfully articulating this phenomenon for us).

Optional Add-ons to the Bare Minimum
There are three little activities I like to add on to the bare minimum ritual either before or after the meditation. Sometimes I will add on just one, sometimes all three. Do these when you want to boost the direction of your life, if you are on a major mission to achieve a goal, or if you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure in life.

  1. Celebrate & Write Down Your Accomplishments
    In a special journal, write down your recent accomplishments, big and small. This can include simple things like cooking healthy food, being kind to others, or having movie night with your cat, to big things like landing a new job or being interviewed by Oprah. We often dwell on our failures, while forgetting to celebrate our wins, which creates this false illusion that our life is not going as we want it to. The process of recognizing and writing our accomplishments down reminds us of the good we are already doing and helps to keep us on an upswing.
  2. Express Gratitude
    Write 5 things you are grateful for in a journal or use another of my favorites apps, the Gratitude! App, to record what and whom you appreciate. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know how effective it is to have a gratitude practice in terms of keeping you positive and plugged into the spirit of abundance. The morning is the perfect time to jot down these thoughts.
  3. Visualization
    Invest 3-5 minutes visualizing the specific goals and dreams you are working to manifest. See yourself enjoying the process of accomplishing each goal. Imagine that your goal has already been realized, and feel the emotions you’ll be feeling at that time. Visualize the specifics – who’s with you, where are you, what are you doing? The nice thing about visualization is that if you’ve only got 6 minutes to dedicate to your morning ritual – but you’re hell bent on achieving these goals – you can combine the visualization piece with your 6 minute meditation. However if you can, it’s ideal to give more time to each.

For an idea of how these add-ons work, this class on YogaGlo touches on these elements.

A word about kids being in the picture….(skip ahead if you don’t have any)
Now, I’m guessing if you are a parent reading this, you might be doubtful that you’d ever be able to get 6 minutes to yourself in the morning when your kids are up at the crack of dawn needing your attention.

We’ve all heard of those uber devoted yogis who awake before their kids at 4am to do their practice. Please do not feel guilty if that is not your jam!

It’s possible to get those 6 minutes or more in each day, even with your kids already out of bed. It involves asking them for help and providing a bit of structure around your family’s morning routine. Many children actually thrive off of having structure, even if they resist you at first.

Let your kids know that you will be meditating each morning so they know the plan (attach a specific time to it if you feel it will help). Tell your babes why this time is important for your health and your sanity, and explain how it will benefit them when you can show up for them with more peace and clarity.

Of course this depends on how old your children are and how independent they might be at this stage in their lives… but you could establish some simple boundaries by asking them to wake up and take care of their own morning ritual while mommy and/or daddy are meditating – as a side note, this also works if you need to sleep in or take a shower!

Post a simple schedule or checklist in a place they can see, so it’s easy for them to remember the things they need to do in the morning.

Their ritual might include going potty, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, brushing their hair, getting their things ready for school or reading a book before breakfast.

You might be interested in getting them involved with the meditation. Meditating is great for kids! Invite them to sit with you and be clear in letting them know that when they feel done, they should walk away quietly and not disturb you.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, especially when kids are involved, but rest assured, no matter how you do it, you’ll be raising more conscious, independent, peaceful, happy human beings!

Take Action Now
Listen, I know you’ve read blogs like this before and it seems all well and good, but then you close your browser and go back to the daily grind.

So here’s how you can take action right now to get these 6 minutes on your radar…

Make yourself a note or add a task to your to-do list right NOW to do the following:

  • Tonight before you go to bed set up the space where you’d like to meditate. It could be right by your bedside, in the corner of your bedroom, or in a separate room all together.
  • Put down something soft to sit on.
  • If possible, place a small table or box low to the ground where you can display items that are sacred to you such as crystals, items you’ve found in nature, candles, flowers, photos of ancestors & loved ones, quotes, etc… Place any objects in this space that remind you of your purpose or the people and places you love. This will touch your soul each morning when you sit. Store your pen and journals here.

When you wake in the morning, this little slice of heaven will be waiting for you.

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Remember, it’s only 6 minutes.

Add the other 3 rituals in if they are fun and interesting for you and seem to be changing your outlook during the day. And do it because you enjoy the ritual, not ever because you “should” be doing more to better yourself. Start small and savor the stillness.

You’ve got this. Happy New Year!

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Amy Ippoliti’s 2015 Holiday Yoga Gift Guide

It can be difficult to discern where yoga fits into the larger scheme of the holiday season.

Is it here to provide relief from the stress of shopping, travel, family visits, and deadlines in school or work?

Is it here to help people relieve their perhaps overly-filled tummies and help them recommit to health and wellness?

Or here to remind people of generosity in a time of intense consumerism?

My belief: all three! Stress management, wellness, and spiritual fulfillment will always keep drawing people back to the mat, and inspire yoga teachers to keep offering their knowledge to their students, even more so during this time of year.

But let’s face it, we live in the 21st century and the current tradition says that we give our loved ones gifts this time of year.

As modern yogis, I say we embrace the times, but I also say that we do it mindfully and use our gift-giving to impart not only our love, but also the gifts mentioned above: stress-management, wellness and health, and greater spiritual interconnection.

So here’s my (totally biased!) holiday gift guide for the giving yogi, or for those of you looking to give something to your favorite yogi or yoga teacher!

  • Adopt an Elephant! A small $50 annual fee protects and fosters one orphaned elephant through the Sheldrick Elephant Trust. A meaningful gift to nourish someone’s animal loving side. Watch the video on their page – you will melt from the cuteness.
  • A Membership to YogaGlo! For those who want to begin a yoga practice or find a way to practice more, a monthly membership of $18 opens up a huge array of classes from myself and other world-class teachers! I love YogaGlo’s creative approach to organizing classes – take a look through their class collections for specific lessons on managing stress, optimizing wellness, and nurturing your soul!
  • An online course for your favorite Yoga Teacher – A great gift for the yoga teachers in your life is an online course from 90 Monkeys! From anatomy to professional development, 90 Monkeys’ library of courses will get any teacher fired up and excited to serve their students in the New Year. 90 Monkeys donates a percentage of all sales to a curated group of non-profit organizations helping to make the world a better place.
  • Gift Card to Boulder Cycle Sport, Boulder’s premier bike shop! Yoga students and teachers can get overwhelmed with yoga gifts. Do something different and help support their other physical activities.  Perfect if you’re local in Boulder but they also have an online store if you’re out of town. For yogis, I particularly love the Roll Recovery, the Swiftwick socks (best winter socks ever!! I reach for them every time), and of course a gift card is always appreciated.
  • Gift Card to prAna – the perfect gift that never goes out of style. prAna’s gift cards be used either online or at many of their convenient retail stores. prAna goes out of their way to use sustainable materials and partner with companies and factories that adhere to strict guidelines for safety and efficacy, so that they are able to make the beautiful and functional products in a way that we can all feel good about.
  • The Movie, Racing Extinction –  this film was recently released by documentary academy award winning filmmaker and local Boulder friend, Louie Psihoyos. It also features our dear friend and ocean hero, Shawn Heinrichs. I loved this movie and it majorly sparked my spirit and desire to fight for our planet!
  • Give them ToeSox! A sweet gift for any person looking to get into or to return to the fitness game and their yoga practice: ToeSox! Start your health from the toes up with their socks or sandals – they’ll go nuts for the awesome colors! Spreading toes and love…
  • A Donation to WildAid. Many of you may know that I wholeheartedly support this organization’s passionate and effective efforts to save the planet. A donation goes a long way, and is a great gift for your eco-minded loved ones.
  • Handmade gifts and experiences – Gifting your own hand made baked goods, DIY sugar scrubs, and IOU cards for various experiences such as theater outings, spa days, outdoor adventures and trips are what life is all about!



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Amy’s YogaGlo Picks for the Week: Self Love Fest!

Now is one the most important times in the year to keep up with your practice, but also one of the most challenging. There was such a great response to my last playlist of YogaGlo classes on Facebook that we’re moving it over to the blog and I’m releasing new, curated collections to help you all stay strong and motivated!

The holidays are notorious for robbing us of personal time, overextending ourselves, and then getting stressed and resentful. You’ll have so much more capacity and energy to be on your A game and to be there for others if you stay connected to your self. So, let’s practice!!

We’ll start with this week’s collection: a SELF LOVE FEST! That’s right, this week it’s all about learning to cultivate love for yourself on and off the mat. Love for the beautiful body that moves you through life, for the mind that helps you make decisions and learn new things, and the heart that beams your light out into the world!

Game on for a great week of passionate practice:

Self Love Fest – Vinyasa Flow Level 1-2

You are Irresistible – Vinyasa Flow Level 2

Yes, You Matter! – Hatha Level 2

Appreciation Flow – Vinyasa Flow Level 1-2

Yoga for Bliss – Hatha Level 2-3

Enjoy your time on the mat and tell us how your practice goes in the comments section below!

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What Do You Love about Daylight Saving?

I’ll never forget one October on the day of daylight saving that year, I had heard so many complaints about the dark afternoons, the shorter days, and the impending frigid winter, that I decided to pose the following question to my yoga students in class that night:“I know what you hate about it, but what do you love about daylight saving?”

I handed them a pen and paper and asked them to write it down.

Everyone read their paper aloud.

The students shared various lovely things like:

“We get to drink hot cocoa!”
“Snuggle time on the couch with a good book”
“Scarves and boots”
“Fall Clothes”
“Pumpkin pie”

And then from the very back, a student in her 50’s….

“Making Love!!!!”

As you can imagine, the whole class lit up with laughter.

So this month, I hope you’re all contemplating what is good about daylight saving!

What’s to like?

  1. This video, for one:
  2. The days are shorter, yes, but think about the power and potential that lies in the dark. For eg. a baby grows and develops in the dark of the womb, the night restores us for the day, and it’s often in our darkest moments that great dreams are born!
  3. Ski season is near.
  4. You can start partying earlier!
  5. You don’t have to feel guilty about doing your yoga practice indoors when it’s light out, because it probably isn’t this time of year!

Anything good we’re missing? Leave a comment with your favorite things about daylight saving.

Photo Credit: Bergreen Photography

Amy Ippoliti Leaper

Three Ways to Nurture Your Vitality Daily

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


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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
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    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


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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:

  1. Organic nut milk and water as the base
  2. Nutiva Organic Hemp Seeds
  3. Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds
  4. Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna or a spoonful of avocado
  5. Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein Fiber
  6. Sunflower sprouts, organic dandelion greens and/or lettuce
  7. Plant based protein powder of your choice
  8. Frozen organic wild blueberries
  9. Ice if you like it cold
  10. Optional: Acai smoothie packs unsweetened.

3. Get Enough Sleep!


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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.

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How to Use Yoga Philosophy to Go From Victim to Victor

My student reminded me the other day that I once, as she put it, “went off” in teacher training on the concept of taking action, or in sanskrit, “Kriya Shakti”.

Yeah, I tend to go off on things!

Kriya shakti or action, asks the question: Are you practicing? Are you doing something daily to change the circumstances you’re not as happy with in your life? And are you taking action toward the direction you’d like to go?

For example, if you have a tweaked shoulder, are you doing something daily to nurture it?

It could be as simple as rubbing arnica gel or bio freeze cream into the sore spot. It could be taking turmeric supplements for inflammation. Or actually doing the yoga practice or exercises given to you by your teacher or PT consistently instead of letting the piece of paper they gave you get buried in a pile!

When you take action, you no longer a victim of your circumstances and instead are empowered to shift your circumstances toward more favorable outcomes.

Too often we believe that things are “happening to us” that are beyond our control when in fact devoting ourselves to a different outcome is as simple as taking measures to change, every day.

Taking action goes beyond just the physical – we could be taking any number of empowering actions toward our well being such as:

  • Saving money consistently for our education, a down payment on a house, or retirement.
  • Organizing and decluttering our home or office on a regular basis.
  • Cooking meals in advance on Sundays so we are sure to eat well throughout the week.
  • Having a standing appointment with a trainer to do strength training and functional fitness to support our yoga practice.
  • Committing to a regular yoga class each week.

The next time you catch yourself wallowing, write down five things you can do right now and in the days/weeks/months to come that would help deliver the result you’re hoping for!

Leave a comment below and let us know how you’ve gone from victim to victor when you’ve taken action in the past!

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Why Nature is Your Best Friend: My Trip to the Gaia Herbs Farm

Have you been in nature on a piece of land that tugs at that genuine spot inside you, beckoning you again to live according to your deepest truth?

Every barefoot step on the earth, every sunrise, and every drop of dew reminds you to “live your dharma” (sacred purpose).

I’ve been lucky in my life to travel to remote and beautiful places in the world and I’ve seen and been inspired by so many settings.

The Gaia Farm was the latest, and it is definitely up there as one of the most physically and spiritually galvanizing places in nature I’ve been.

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Gaia Herbs offers nearly 200 organic herbal supplements and grows a large portion of these plants on the Gaia Farm in Brevard, North Carolina.

It was not too hard to refuse my old friend, Bill Tipper’s invitation to the farm for a photo shoot, since I love Gaia’s supplements, and I love plants.

As soon as I arrived, I was struck by the orderly and pristine nature of the farm as well as the interesting and diverse crops growing such as ginko trees, gotu kola, Asian pears, echinacea, holy basil, lemon balm, bitter melon, and more…

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After three days basking in the farm’s great energy, I returned to Boulder, fired up about my life and living. Here are my biggest takeaways (and some of the photos), which I hope inspire you too!

Living with Consciousness

Gaia is conscious, caring, and precise about sustainability, down to every detail.Every tractor on the farm is operated by bio-diesel from restaurants in Brevard and Asheville.

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Seedlings on their way from the greenhouse to the fields for planting.

  • Every tractor on the farm is operated by bio-diesel from the restaurants in Brevard and Asheville.
  • All of the canisters used for their smoothie boost powders look like plastic, but are actually made out of 100% plant materials. If the bottles ever find their way to the ocean, they will sink to the bottom and dissolve in the salt water.
  • Gaia fertilizes the soil at the farm with compost made from some of the solution used to extract the herbs in the distillery.
  • They are committed to growing organically and maintaining a true seed-to-shelf production which includes generating their own seed stock each season rather than buying seeds from outside the farm.

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Such a practical place to practice yoga. Don’t you do yoga on tractors? Easing into baby natarajasana and trying not to giggle!

Be in Nature – The Ultimate Healer

Because of the photo shoot there were a number of opportunities to get close and personal with nature on the farm. Talk about grounded! If you ever get the chance:

  • Lay face down in warm, freshly tilled soil at sunset!
  • Take savasana on some dewy grass at dawn.
  • Walk barefoot in the grass, mud and soil. You can do a pedicure later, it’s worth it!
  • Dance and skip wildly through the trees at dusk, preferably with a friend.
  • Sprint barefoot at top speed through newly tilled soil in the morning mist.
  • Take notice of what CEO and founder, Ric Scalzo calls “meetings and awakenings” such as the adorable bumble bee pictured below who we found camped out under an Echinacea bloom.

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This was my favorite bumble bee on the farm! He was sound asleep at dawn cuddled up under the echinacea petals and sparkling with dew. And this is a twin headed flower! I made Bill take a macro shot so I would always remember him. :)

Break Bread with Great Company, Farm to Table Style

There is something so old-fashioned and wonderful about taking the time to prepare, serve, and relish an exquisite meal with friends. Especially when those friends are uplifting, visionary people capable of meaningful conversation who care about the planet!

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Sauteed stinging nettles! So good for skin and for allergies.

It’s rare these days to invest our time in sitting around the table just simply talking to one another. On one of the evenings we had the chance to do this with the Gaia team and it was such a treat.

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Chimichurri made from parsley and gotu kola (good for skin, collagen production, and the brain!).

The meal was crafted and prepared by Ric Scalzo, along with Gaia’s staff writer, Stepfanie Romine.

Made up of produce and medicinal herbs grown on the farm, the menu was designed to emphasize the transition between summer and fall.

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My new favorite word: Biomimicry

Gaia’s team shared that this very cool word which serves as a guide for everything they do at the farm and how they conduct their lives and business.

From the Biomimicry Institute’s website (there is an institute!), biomimicry is defined as,

“An approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.”

Some examples biomimicry:

  • The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan is modeled after a Kingfisher’s beak because of the velocity and speed at which they are able to dive-bomb to catch their prey!
  • Pomelo fruit can hit the ground from heights over 30 feet without getting damaged, thanks to a hierarchically organized peel structure. This inspired the recent development of an aluminum composite material being considered for use in safety applications.
  • Schooling fish save energy by swimming in vortices created by their neighbors. Researchers are using similar principles to find optimal positions for wind turbines.
  • Bird Protection Glass – Ornilux’s window glass prevents bird collisions by mimicking the UV reflective qualities of spiders’ webs.


In Summary: Get into Nature!

Everyone knows that we all get inspired, healed, and rejuvenated by being closer to nature. However we can get caught up in staying indoors so easily, so here is your official reminder!

  • Make sure you’re scheduling plenty of time in the woods, at the beach, in the ocean, the mountains, the snow, and on the grass.
  • Find ways to increase nature around your home. Do you have a back yard, balcony, or patio that needs some attention and plantings? Could you adopt a potted plant or terrarium? Could you plan for creating veggie garden to grow your own food? Can you commit to regular gardening and if not, hire a gardener to help maintain your garden?
  • Get outside at least twice a day to breathe the fresh air, feel the sun on your skin, and see the birds and insects.

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Do you have a place that inspires you? Tell me about it in the comments below!

 

 

 


 

 

 

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4 Ways to Use a Fit Ball in Your Yoga Practice

I love using a fit ball on the sticky mat. Mix up your yoga practice by bringing in a fun toy and experience even more benefits!

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1. Handstand on the Ball

Begin by laying your tummy down on the ball. Walk your hands forward until just your toes are on the ball. Plant your hands strongly on the floor about shoulder width apart and with straight arms, engage your abdominals, push your chest forward toward the ball, and lift your hips straight up and back over your shoulders. Go to your tippy toes on the ball to help move the hips over your shoulders.  Stay here for 3 full, deep breaths and release by stretching your legs back out. This pose engages your core, turns you upside down, opens your heart, and invigorates your whole body!

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2. Boat Pose And Ball

Sit down, hold the ball in your hands, lean back and extend your legs straight out and spread your toes. Try to keep your lower back engaged so that you’re rolling toward the front, rather than the back of your sitting bones. Lengthen your legs so your quads stay toned but not stressed. The weight of the ball increases the load on your abdominals, making this excellent for the core. Breathe here for 3 full, deep breaths and then rest. Repeat 3-5 times to tone the core and build your breath capacity.

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3. Backbend and the Ball

Start by sitting on the ball and gradually lean back, letting the ball support your back while keeping your feet grounded. When you feel the ball is in a supportive spot for your back, lift your arms overhead to deepen the stretch and get some traction in your spine. Breathe here for 3-10 full, deep breaths. To release, bend your knees and sit up. This pose is a perfect chest opener for counteracting the many hours we spend hunched over at the computer.

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4. Legs up the Ball Pose

Hold the ball as you lay down on your back. Bend your knees and rest your calves on the top of the ball. Make certain the ball is close in to your butt. Reach your arms out at your sides at a 45 degree angle with the palms face up. Close your eyes and rest here for 5-15 minutes, breathing mindfully. This is a wonderful restorative pose when you need to get grounded, rejuvenate after a stressful day, or help to soothe the nervous system.

We would love to hear what some of your favorite fit ball exercises are! Please share below and let’s all get the ball rollin’!

Photo Credit: Taro Smith

 

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You’re Not You When You’re in Pain

Have you ever met a couple where one of the partners is warm and likeable and the other is totally unapproachable?

The very first time I met my hosts for our retreat in Europe, a husband wife team, I was totally in love with the wife, and, well, the husband – not so much. She was bright, kind, and generous. He was withdrawn, unfriendly, even sour. I couldn’t understand what she saw in him.

Annually I led retreats at their center, and each year, it was the same. She was a dream to work with, and he, unpleasant and unsociable.

Then one year, I was told that he’d be the one picking me up from the train station when I arrived. I dreaded that car ride.

To my surprise, the man who picked me up was the same guy, but with a whole new personality. He was cheerful, funny, and energetic! This same man I had avoided in past years had transformed into a totally new character.

When I got to the retreat center, I couldn’t wait to ask his wife – “What happened to your husband – he’s like a different man!”

As if it was old news, she replied – “Oh, his doctor gave him some sort of oxygen injection in his back, and now he’s no longer in pain!

I have no idea what kind of treatment he had that was so miraculous, but what struck me as more fascinating is how his chronic pain had totally clouded his otherwise sunny self for so many years.

This Snickers commercial with Aretha Franklin is exactly what I’m talking about!

Since a large part of my work as a yoga teacher centers around helping people get out of pain through alignment and yoga therapeutics, of course I wished I had known sooner that he’d been in pain so I could have gotten him on the yoga mat to help!

When you consider this story, it’s astonishing how pain can make us unknowingly unpleasant and, worse yet, inflict our bad mood on our loved ones and co-workers on a daily basis.

Often times we get so used to the pain, that we don’t even know we’re in it. The first time I ever experienced pain in yoga was in my late 20’s. I was lowering into chatturanga lopsided.

Seeing this, my teacher bellowed from above, “Amy, do you have a problem with your wrist?”, Amazed that he noticed my suffering when I didn’t even know I had a problem, I stammered, “Yes.”

Every since that moment, I gave my vinyasa practice a rest for a time and dove deep into the world of alignment until I knew how to:

  1. Identify my pain and take it seriously
  2. Align my body anatomically in all yoga poses to prevent injury
  3. Help others do the same
  4. Go 3 inches deeper in every pose

It’s my mission to make yoga’s primary focus be on how we MOVE not just on how we POSE. What good are impressive looking poses if they do not support your body’s longevity as you age?

And this is why I decided to devote a full day intensive to the topic of yoga and therapeutics at Yoga Journal LIVE in San Diego!

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Creating a Home Yoga Practice and Sacred Space

 

Should you practice yoga together in a group or on your own?

Practicing yoga in a group class brings people together in community, it helps motivate and inspire you to have a consistent practice. That said, yoga can be a very personal experience when you need it to be, and developing a practice at home solo can be a great way to take your practice to new and different places.

At some point, every student of yoga will want to develop their own home practice which can be a very creative and enjoyable experience and one where you develop your own distinct relationship to the art form of yoga.

The only down side of a home practice is that you do not have a teacher present to see you practice and help you with adjustments and verbal cues, especially if you’re just getting started. A teacher can help you improve your form, which can help you go deeper or gain therapeutic relief in poses.

But let’s face it, sometimes our busy lives simply don’t allow us to make it to class. Not to mention, when it’s just you, it can be challenging to stay motivated to get on your mat. We’ll use any excuse not to practice!

For this reason, I highly recommend www.yogaglo.com, an online service that brings world-class teachers into your home, hotel room, or wherever your busy life may take you.

YogaGlo has classes as short as 5 minutes or as long as 120. (Becoming a member of yogaglo.com is free for the first 15 days, and then costs only $18 a month – the price of a single class at most studios. I teach on the site too, so I hope to see you there!)

If you’ve been wondering about practicing yoga at home, either on your own or guided by an online class and were not sure how to start, the first thing to do is to establish a space in your home where you can roll out a sticky yoga mat.

You can have a lot of fun creating a sacred sanctuary of your own.

CREATING YOUR SPACE

Here are some ideas to get you started and help you make your home studio most practical and appealing:

  • Find or create a clean, uncluttered space with plenty of natural light, preferably with plenty of wall space so you can do inversions!
  • A wooden floor is ideal.
  • A low table to place sacred objects such as crystals, photographs of loved ones or teachers, candles, fresh flowers, or objects from nature (anything that holds value and meaning for you).
  • A simple container to house yoga props such as blocks, blankets, mats and straps.
  • A music system for ambient music (can be a simple speaker you connect to your smart phone). If it helps, create a playlist that motivates you to stretch and breathe
  • A bookshelf to hold books about yoga, nutrition, spirituality
  • A low laying chair to curl up on with a book

Disclaimer! Never wait for your yoga space to be perfect before practicing yoga. Even if your sanctuary is not exactly how you would like it to be, it’s better to practice than to wait for the perfect set up or décor. Getting on the mat is far more valuable, even if the surroundings aren’t quite there yet!

Have you created a home yoga practice space in your home? Do you have a home yoga practice? Share your ideas and insights in the comments below!

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My Daily Springtime Smoothie

If you’ve ever taken a weekend workshop with me, you’ve seen me plunk down in front of the classroom with a dark purple, mysterious smoothie in hand. As you can imagine the first thing I get asked is, “What on earth is in that??”

I’m here to spread the smoothie love and let you in on the ingredients I use, particularly in the spring time when seasonal greens start coming back.

One of my favorite things to put in smoothies this time of year is dandelion greens. Not only are they are full of nutritional benefits, but they are so huge and beautiful in spring, they are irresistible. I especially love getting them from my local farmers market.

Eating dandelion greens also indirectly supports honey bees because to eat them means that people will have to stop using weed killer on their dandelion flowers, which poisons the bees!

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Some of the many nutritional benefits of dandelion greens:

  • They are detoxifying, cleansing, and purifying
  • High in antioxidants and phytonutrients
  • They contain lutein and zeaxanthin – two nutrients important for healthy eyesight. A daily serving of these daily lowers your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, according to the American Optometric Association.
  • They contain considerable amounts of vitamins A and K, both of which positively affect your blood – assisting with the formation of blood clots and supporting new blood cell growth. Vitamin A also contributes to healthy eye function and boosts your immune system, while vitamin K helps keep your bones healthy.
  • Incorporating dandelion greens into your diet will also give you an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as a solid dose of calcium and protein, which will positively affect your bones.
  • Dandelion greens also contain many anti-inflammatory properties and much more!

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Now let’s put those nutritional benefits to work along with the other super food ingredients!

Here’s the Recipe:

2-3 Handfuls of Dandelion Greens
8-12 oz Almond Milk (to desired thickness)
1 Tbsp Goji Berries
½ Cup (or more) Frozen Wild Blueberries
1 Serving of Vega One protein powder – (Any flavor will do – they all are yummy!)
1 tsp Vitamin C (Healthforce Nutritionals)
2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Nutiva Coconut Manna or Coconut oil
½ Unsweetened Sambazon Acai Smoothie packet
Optional – 1/2 Frozen Banana if you prefer a sweeter taste

Throw it all in and blend!

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I hope you enjoy my daily smoothie as much as I do. I would love to hear which nutritionally packed ingredients you like to toss into your smoothies!

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My Secrets for Glowing Skin

At age 45, I am flattered when people write me or comment about my skin. And I get asked frequently about what I do to take care of my skin and make it glow. So, I’m finally putting it all down in writing for you!

Is it vain to care about how your skin looks? Sure it is. But healthy skin also comes from a healthy lifestyle on the inside and a desire for self care as well. Therefore I think there is absolutely no shame in caring about your skin or how it looks.

Getting glowing skin is a combination of external and internal health habits.

Taking care of my skin, or at least “the idea” of it, actually started at a young age, when my mother attempted to impart the virtues of self-skin care to me and my sister. Of course, as with many things our mothers try to teach us, I didn’t really “get it” until I was about 30, when it dawned on me that I was getting older.

AmyIppolitiSkin2So I scheduled my first facial at a Jurlique concept store and spa in New York City.

After the facial, I was high for three hours! (Some of you might remember the yoga class I taught right afterwards…)

Something about the nourishment, aromatherapy, and pampering made me feel like I was on a cloud.  It left such an impression that I was ready to do whatever my aesthetician told me to do to get this feeling on a daily basis. I bought the cleanser, the serums, the mists, the moisturizers, the masks, the eye creams – and I haven’t looked back since!

Ever since that pivotal moment, skin care has been a major part of my day and a lovely ritual. Long gone are the days of just washing my face with soap, putting on a basic face cream, and walking out the door.

For 15 years I’ve followed a complete ritual, which can seem (and is!) expensive and time consuming, but it’s been an investment in myself that has paid off. When you live in a dry climate with 300 days of sunshine a year like I do, the environment can take a toll on your skin. Despite having lived in Colorado for 10 years, I’ve been able to protect my skin and keep the glow with a 5-step daily process.

My Daily Skin Care Ritual:
For this 5-step ritual, I use all Jurlique products which are 99.9% organic, natural, and chemical free. Jurlique is an Australian company that makes an all natural, organic line of skin care products with biodynamically grown ingredients free from synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.

This line may or may not work for your particular skin, and if it doesn’t, I encourage you to find an organic, chemical free line like Dr. Hauschka, Weleda, or Pangea Organics. As long as it resonates with your skin (no rashes, no breakouts or burning!).

  1. Cleanse with a cream or foaming cleanser (not soap!).
  2. Apply a cream exfoliator and rinse. Do this daily if specified for daily use, if not alternate days. Do this step only in the evenings.
  3. Apply a toner mist (blot into skin with fingers).
  4. Apply serum and eye cream.
  5. Apply moisturizer with sunscreen for daytime (reapply mid day especially if you are in intense sun/altitude); apply night cream before bed.

Tip: your skin benefits most when it has direct contact with your products, so be sure to cleanse first!

In addition to the daily regimen…

  • Exfoliate with a Clarisonic 3x per week in place of step 2. If you don’t have a Clarisonic, just use the exfoliating cream.
  • Once a week, use a detoxifying, hydrating mask. Weekends are a good time to fit this in.
  • Get a monthly facial if possible (let the professionals do a deep cleanse, massage, and treat your skin; a good aesthetician can also help you find the right products for your skin).
  • Considerations for a dry climate – use a facial steamer 1-3x per week and especially before your weekly mask (I like the Panasonic EH-SA31). Run a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep.
  • Remember, whatever you’re doing to your face, you should also be doing to your neck!
  • For lip care, I find that most chapsticks and lip balms actually dry out my lips. The one natural product I’ve found that works to moisturize and protect is Alba Unpetroleum Jelly in a tube or their chapsticks, which are fantastic.

AmyIppolitiAssistAlright. Now you know what I do for my skin externally, but skin care is two fold – what you put in your body also makes a huge difference!  Below are some ways I tackle the health of my skin from the inside out.

Internal:

  • Drink tons of water – use a hydration calculator online to find out how much you need.
  • Green juice daily – suggested juicer Omega VRT 350.
  • Omega 3’s critical – I like using a vegan fish oil equivalent by Premier Labs, called DHA.  As I age, this supplement has made all the difference (not just for my skin, but for my hair, nails, and my memory)! When I am not taking it, my skin looks dry and less glowing. I take a high dose, but as always, check with your health care provider as to what amount is right for you.
  • Welcome good fats into your diet such as coconut, coconut oil, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil, sprouted nuts and seeds, etc.
  • A high fiber diet is key too – chia seeds, greens, and fiber supplements help keep the gut clean and moving, which is great for the skin.
  • Many people also find that dairy products negatively affect their skin, likely due to the difficulty in digesting dairy. I’ve been dairy free most of my life.

There you have it! What do you do to keep that beautiful glow? Comment below and let’s continue to share and spread the skin care love!

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Plant Based Love Salad

We know that leaning toward or switching completely to a plant based diet is the single most important way to help the environment. The production of beef and other animal protein consumes huge amounts of water, fossil fuels, topsoil, and destroys our forests, while polluting our water and air.

And don’t even get me started about the worst perils of meat production…Meat production causes more greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry!

So if you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for high protein plant based foods! The good news is, these foods are out there in abundance.

I was thrilled to find a product called Sprouted Mung Beans, by TruRoots, and even more happy to discover that each serving has 10 grams of protein.

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This past Valentine’s Day I made brunch for a friend, and I had a vision of combining the mung beans with quinoa to pack in even more protein awesomeness.

After a trip to the market it was clear what was in season and I shopped accordingly to add some magic to the overall vision of protein combining.

The result is the Plant Based Love Salad! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Ingredients:
1 Bunch Baby Asparagus
1/4 Jicama
1 Purple carrot
1 Celery Stalk
4 Radicchio Leaves
Arugula
½ Red Onion
1 Cup TruRoots Sprouted Mung Beans
½ Cup Quinoa (preferably TruRoots Sprouted)
Real Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Nutiva Refined Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil or Nutiva Sunflower and Red Palm Oil (don’t worry, it is harmless to orangutans!)
Tessa Mae’s Lemon Garlic Dressing
Lemon (optional)

To prep the baby asparagus, find the “natural breaking point” on each asparagus spear’s end, separating the tender flesh toward the tip from the woody end, wash, and prepare a shallow baking pan.

Place the clean asparagus in pan and coat with Nutiva Refined Coconut Oil or Nutiva Sunflower and Red Palm Oil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, stirring 2-3 times in the process. At 15 minutes in, salt the asparagus generously.

While that is cooking, dice and combine the following vegetables in a large mixing bowl:

1 Purple Carrot
¼ Jicama
1 Celery Stalk
1/2  Red Onion (sautéed first in oil until translucent)
4 Radicchio Leaves, julienned

And…

Cook the quinoa according to package directions
Cook the mung beans according to package directions and strain

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Once the asparagus is done, chop the roasted spears into 1/3 inch lengths and mix into the other veggies.

Toss the cooked quinoa and strained mung beans into the bowl and add a splash of olive oil and salt to taste.

plantbasedlovesalad2Combine the veggies with the quinoa and mung bean mixture and do a final salting to taste along with a tablespoon of lemon garlic dressing. You can also squeeze fresh lemon on to taste.

Serve on top of a clean fresh bed of Arugula and enjoy!

Makes 4 – 5 servings.

I would love to hear how yours turns out and if you made any yummy variations!

 

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How to Get On Your Yoga Mat and Stick to It

I’m writing this because I need to hear it.

With energy to give and technology to help me do things faster, I tend to say yes to everyone and everything until I’m up to me ears in deadlines and emails.

Because I like to keep my word if I’ve made promises, and I don’t function well when the house is a mess, sadly I’ll choose the email inbox or loading the dishwasher over my practice when things really pile up.

I know I am not alone. Most of us have the pressure to put food on the table, pay bills, and if you’re a parent, saving to put your kids through college. So if the choice comes down to working or mat time, work will often win.

Enter the hamster wheel effect, a downward spiral of work dominating your life, your practice going to pot, getting out of yoga shape, and in the end not producing at the level we could be!

We all know that a yoga practice makes us more productive, easier to be around, grounded in our decisions, and guided from a place of deep authenticity. In 2014, the word “haters” was written into the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song – hating has become a phenomenon!  Ahhh, but yoga when practiced regularly (and practiced intelligently), helps us live in our hearts so we can be quite simply, a “liker”. Kindness these days is on the endangered species list and needs our protection!

Despite knowing exactly what a yoga practice will do for me and the people I love, I’ve sometimes chosen what seems so all important in the moment over even the shortest practice.

Yeah, I’ve been addicted to crisis and busyness, and it’s time to shift. Sure, my preference would be to practice for at least 90 minutes or the luxury of even more, but a yoga practice need not be a long, drawn out time sucker – even 10 minutes yields big results. And it’s certainly better than no practice at all.

Here are the steps I’m using this month to stick to my sticky mat!

1. See your yoga mat? Choose a strategic spot to store it that is nearby an open floor space so it can easily be unrolled swiftly and put down on the open space.

2. When you get dressed in the morning, put on either yoga clothes or something as close to stretchy/comfy as possible so you can’t use your outfit as an excuse not to bend!

3. It does not matter what time of day it is. Stop everything you’re doing and roll out the mat. Set a timer for 10 minutes. If you have an iphone you can even tell Siri, “Set a timer for 10 minutes” and she’ll do it. This is literally #stopanddrop yoga except you don’t need to take a selfie – you’re going to do a whole practice!

4. Get on your mat and play for those 10 minutes. Either do your own solo practice, or use the search feature on YogaGlo to cue up a ten minute class (they have hundreds of them but I’ve curated a list of my favorites below)*. When the timer is up notice if you’re in the mood to do a little more and if so, stay a while.

5. When you’re done, give yourself a high five for doing a great practice instead of beating yourself up for not doing a longer session. (Positive reinforcement is key!).  Roll up your mat, and put it back in the strategic spot for tomorrow. When you return to your day, take a moment to notice how the practice has shifted you in your body, your mind, and your spirit.

6. Lastly, make a list of things you can say no to each week and consider politely declining some opportunities to allow yourself more time for you.

In our 30 Day Yoga Challenge on Facebook this month, we’re practicing a minimum of 10 minutes of yoga a day the whole month of January. Please join us if you’re moved!  My hunch is that those 10 minutes will become 12, 15, 20, 30 and eventually 45 minutes or more.

Please leave a comment below to let us know how you stick to your sticky mat!

* Here are some of my favorite ten minute online practices on YogaGlo:

Maintain Your Yoga Shape, Amy Ippoliti
Morning Oil for Tin Men & Women, Amy Ippoliti
Bliss Blast, Amy Ippoliti
Wake Up Rock Star, Taylor Harkness
When You Only Have Ten Minutes, Marla Apt
Short and Sweet, Kathryn Budig
Reboot Your Brain, Marc Holzman
Ten Postures, Ten Minutes, Jason Crandell
Reboot, Mary Taylor

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Follow me on Instagram for photos and conversation about yoga and inspiring change in the world. Hang with me on Facebook and chit chat on Twitter.

Cleansing Autumn Green Juice

As most of you know, I love juicing. I juice every single morning because it keeps me energized and feels like good preventive medicine. I’ve written before about why juicing is so important, and it’s worth mentioning again!

I read once that 98% of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are trapped inside the fiber capsules of the plant. Our teeth barely access those nutrients when we eat our fruits and vegetables.

By contrast, when you juice, the fiber capsule is accessed, giving you a much larger mega hit of nutrition!

It would take me hours to chew through all of the produce I plunge through the juicer each morning. Nobody has time for that!

I use the Breville Elite 800 juicer (centrifugal and easier to use) when I’m short on time, and the Norwalk (slow masticating) when veggies and time are more ample.

The Norwalk is an industrial juicer and is not for everyone. My recommendation would be to get a smaller slow masticating juicer, or if you’re concerned about time, the Breville Elite 800.

Note: Research has shown that centrifugal juicers can be less nutritious than a cold pressed or slow masticating juicer and you must consume the juice immediately after it’s made. If you want the most nutritious juice, and if you want to store the juice for a few days, go with a slow masticating/pressing juicer.

Williams-Sonoma has both types of juicers here.

In the fall I love to take advantage of the local apples and pears that are abundant this time of year. I am also fan of adding a ton of greens because of the alkalizing effect and the lower sugar content. This recipe, combining fall greens and local fruit is refreshing and tart. Plus it’s great for your liver!

Ingredients*:

2 small cucumbers or 1 large cucumber

6 handfuls of baby spinach or a head of chard or both(which might still be growing in the garden!)

1 stock of celery

1 head of romaine lettuce (optional)

1 apple or pear

1 small lemon or 1⁄2 of a large lemon

*Use seasonal, local and organic whenever possible!

Directions:

1. Put the celery in first and plunge.

2. Put the cucumber in without plunging and fill the space around it with the baby spinach or chard, then plunge. This way the greens get juiced rather than spun out through the juice.

3. Juice the romaine, apple or pear.

4. Juice lemon last to help clean the juicer.

Voila!

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New to juicing? Here are a few useful tips:

• Always drink the juice within minutes of making if you use a centrifugal juicer. The juice begins to lose nutritional value quickly. If you make your juice with a slow masticating juicer and want to store it up to 72 hours, fill a jar up all the way to the top so that the lid touches the juice when you close it – sealing it in with as little oxygen above the juice as possible.

• Sip your juice with a straw if you’re worried about your teeth turning green – I recommend using these glass straws from Coco Jack.

• When you use a lemon, put it in last – it works as an astringent to pre-clean the juicer!

CliffLake

Digital Detox: Yogis Need to Unplug Too

You don’t need a supercomputer to recognize that huge chunks of our time are occupied by the stuff we do on our electronic devices. However, until I spent six internet and cellular free days in the mountains of northern New Mexico last week, I had not grasped precisely how much time I spend online.

On a daily basis I’m answering hundreds of e-mails, posting updates and photos on social media, blogging (like right now), and texting with at least 10 different people. It’s no joke.

To fit it all in, I’m lucky if I create an hour a day to pause, be in the moment, do something outside, read a book, or sit to eat with family and friends.

Sometimes I want to throw away my phone, close my social media and email accounts, and turn back the clock to the 70’s and 80’s before these technologies existed and go camp in the woods, or hang out on the beach (without worrying about getting sand in my iPad). Can you relate?

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As much as I fantasize about throwing in the tech towel, I practice yoga, and as the name yoga (meaning union) suggests, we like to connect. Even if it’s through a screen. And this longing to connect is what keeps me on my iPhone and laptop.

Some on the retreat were surprised that I would be addicted to devices and technology. People often make the assumption that because I do yoga, that I’m immune.

The truth is that most everyone now grapples with their relationship to technology, and yogis are no exception.

That said, I do believe yogis, with their understanding of mindfulness and being present are ripe to lead the charge to explore ways in which to create boundaries with devices and schedule purposeful times of “unplugging” to simply be. But to do this this, we must start with ourselves.

The biggest realization I gained from six days off is that in the absence of transmitting electronic devices and social media I was truly free (as my younger self was) to do whatever my heart desired. Time opened up and I became obligated only to myself and to the people that mattered most.

There was space to relish nature, read books by a crackling fire, break bread with the artists and visionaries at the retreat, spend 5 hours hiking through the woods with no trail, and to rock climb for the first time in years. I enjoyed the better part of one day creating land art (see videos below!) practiced yoga, pampered and sauna’ed, sang, and played music!


Note: We agreed to use smartphones and cameras for the sole purpose of photography and creating imagery. Videos by Norman Johnson.

The whole idea of “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) is actually an illusion of sorts. Life goes on. It was OK not to “need” to know every detail of the feeds I regularly scroll through. Not having to be 100% on every minute of the day in order to stay on top of things was a massive relief to my spirit.

I’m still getting used to typing on my laptop again. And sure, I’ve got an overwhelming amount of work and emails to catch up on, but it was worth it.

Perhaps you’re saying, “Duh, why is this such a revelation?” but honestly, the most time I’ve given myself off the grid in the last few years has been a day, not six.

My new goal is to extend the time even longer on my next “unplugging”.

Based on what I learned during those seven days, here are some ways we can start creating a healthy relationship with technology:

  1. Realize that you’re not missing out.
    Not seeing every single post in your Instagram or Facebook feed is OK. If there is someone you really need to catch up with, pick up the phone. You can also check their individual page instead of scrolling through an entire feed so you are selectively choosing vs. being subjected to the blast of everyone and their mother’s updates. Just this choice alone will limit your time on social media and open up more time in your day.
  2. Unplug for at least an hour a day and unplug for one whole day per week.
    Give yourself the gift of being free to do what you enjoy most such as reading a book, cooking and eating a meal at the table with no distractions, taking a bath, hiking or walking outside. Tell your colleagues and friends that this is your time off and to not expect responses during that time.
  3. Build in at least 1-3 solid vacations (stay-cations count!) a year and purposely hit the off button on all technology!
    This can be a great time to recharge, reboot and prevent burnout. A “Digital Detox” helps you get back in tune with your own rhythms and nature’s rhythms vs. keeping up with the pace of the digital world. It’s such a joy to dictate how you spend your time rather than spending so much time responding to other people’s demands of you.
  4. Be in the moment and do one thing at a time.
    We’ve all too often been in a conversation with someone or in a meeting and one of us gets a text message or e-mail popping up on the phone. Don’t be that person who picks up the phone in the middle of the conversation to see who texted! Put the phone in airplane mode and out of sight and give your fullest attention to the moment.Here’s a trick I learned from Shannon, who recently joined our team at 90 Monkeys: When you’re out to eat with family and/or friends, put all of the phones in the middle of the table face down. The phones have to stay there for the entire meal (no exceptions!). Whoever touches their phone first buys everyone’s dinner. Not only is it a fun game, but it also lets you enjoy a meal together without any outside distractions.

These methods for digital detox will make you happier, more productive, and help you to gain more perspective on your life. The best proof of this is to try it yourself. Once you’ve done a full “unplugging”, chances are you’ll be longing to press the off button more often.

Have you done a digital detox? If so, please share your experience and methods for a healthy relationship to tech in the comments below.

Fire
We enjoyed this fire every day in an outdoor living room!

RockclimbingAmyIppoliti
Here I am bouldering up to a lava cave with my new friend Imran, founder of EmbarcChicago.org. Photo by Norman Johnson.

 

 

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Vegan Cream of Delicata Squash Soup

On a brisk October day, I was doing some errands around Boulder and saw that the Farmer’s Market was having its final Wednesday of the season. On a whim, I bought a couple of delicata squash’s along with heaps of kale, broccoli, and other veggies.

I have never tried making a puree of delicata squash for soup, but my experiment proved to be one of the tastiest (and simple!) soups I have ever made.

To make this soup you will need a food processor or high-powered blender (such as a Blendtec or Vitamix)*. This recipe uses a new product from Nutiva called Organic Refined Coconut Oil. I love this oil because it has all the nutritional and cooking benefits of coconut oil, without the coconut taste making it much more versatile.

Delicata Squash

Now on to the recipe…

Ingredients:
2 medium sized delicata squash
Approx. 2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk (depending on desired consistency)
Sea salt to taste
1 Tbsp Nutiva refined coconut oil

Instructions:
1. Rinse and scrub the delicate squash.
2. Cut off the ends of the squash and slice the squash into quarters.
3. Place the quarters in a steamer. Steam until tender.
4. Scoop and remove seeds out of the quarters.
5. Combine all of the ingredients in the food processor or blender.
6. Blend until smooth and all the skin of the squash has been well blended.
7. Garnish with sautéed broccoli or kale if desired.

*If you only have a regular blender, make sure to skin the squash first.

 

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Autumn Carrot Peanut Butter Smoothie

Are you one of those people who digs dipping carrot sticks into peanut butter?

If so, you’ll enjoy this refreshing new smoothie I came up with after a visit to the farmers’ market where I found beautiful, succulent carrots, begging to be eaten.

The recipe uses Wild Jungle Peanuts from the Amazon so you don’t have to worry about rancid peanut butter (which is usually the case with standard, even organic peanuts).

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In a Vitamix, Blendtec or other hi-powered blender mix the following:

8oz almond milk
1 scoop Vega vanilla protein powder
1 small raw carrot
1/4 cup Wild Jungle Peanuts
1 tsp Nutiva Coconut Manna
Cinnamon and sea salt to taste
3 Ice cubes

Roughly 28 grams of protein. Pour into glass and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Amy Whale Shark 3

Video: Thrilling Instead of Killing: Swimming with Whale Sharks & Manta Rays

On one of my trips to experience marine animals with marine conservationists, Taro Smith, Ph.D and Shawn Heinrichs, we found a place where former shark fishermen are now “thrilling instead of killing” by taking people like me out into the ocean to swim and interact with whale sharks and manta rays.

It was an honor to support the eco-tourism efforts in Mexico and to witness how these fishermen are so protective of the whale sharks and manta rays!

Although there were many boats and people in the water (which may seem bothersome to the animals), the alternative (being fished for their fins) could mean much bigger problems for these creatures.

Amy Whale Shark

My experience swimming near them is that they were aware enough to avoid collision with me, but they certainly were not threatened by my presence in any way. The animals were so focused on filtering for fish eggs, I might as well have been a floating log!

This video, shot by Taro Smith, Ph.D, showcases the beauty of these animals and how you can help protect sharks and manta rays, as well as our oceans.