4T7A0171

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!

4T7A0171

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!

4T7A0175

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.

4T7A0159-Edit

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.

4T7A0172

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

 

Amy-Ippoliti-YogaTherapeutics-4_1200

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!

athomepinkgreenamy

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!

IMG_9413

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!

dandeliongreens3

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!

image2

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!

image1

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!

AmyIppolitiSkin

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!

plantbasedlovesalad1

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.

mungbeansinbowl

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

trurootsmungbeans

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!

 

SticktoYourMat

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

10896380_10205863328447593_2208970053668514797_o

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!

photo-371x490

 

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?

image 3

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.

 

 

1601469_10152726725448695_2862377796562422014_n

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.

 

photo 1

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).

photo 2

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.

 

image 10

Eating on the Wild Side

 

We all know that a big part of a yoga lifestyle is to eat well and follow the latest research in nutrition so we can live more vibrantly while respecting the earth.

And when it comes to food and nutrition ideas, we’ve heard it all!

We try to eat more plant based organic. We’ve tried raw, cooked, BPA and Gluten Free. We eat more greens to keep the doctor away. The list goes on.

But this time my world got rocked by Jo Robinson, author of “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health”.

Jo spent ten years researching the nutrient value in the most common and popular produce found in our super markets, even the organic markets. I always knew that wild foods and even weeds were extremely good for you, but it turns out we started breeding the nutrition out of food when we became farmers 10,000 years ago…Ack!

History geeks will love Jo’s research, and foodies – you will get a kick out of revolutionizing your produce selection methods, learning best practices for storing your produce, and the various new creations you can make in your kitchen!

Here is just a little bit of what I learned:

Greens
Dandelion greens, Purple kale, Raddichio, Arugula and Red Leaf lettuces are total phytonutrient superstars compared to standard green lettuce like Romaine or Butter leaf – seems obvious when you think about it, but I’d never given it that much thought.

Eat Your Brussel Sprouts!
Everyone knows that Brussel sprouts are ridiculously healthy but according to Jo, they are superfood ninjas:  “Brussels sprouts kill more human cancer cells than all other crucifers. In a 2009 test-tube study, extracts of the vegetable destroyed 100 percent of human cancer cells of the breast, pancreas, stomach, prostate, and lung.”

How You Prep and Store Your Produce Makes All the Difference
In the pictures below I am doing the produce ritual I learned. Soak the greens for an hour in cold water, rinse well, and then spin the leafy greens.

image 8

image 4

Once spinned well, place the greens into zip lock bags that have been perforated with a needle 10-20 times to allow for gas exchange. The Dandelion greens in the picture actually have red stems, so I’m sure they are even more incredibly healthy. (Dandelions also help feed our dwindling population of honey bees, so never spray them with weed killer!)

image 5

Push all the air out before sealing the bag so it looks vacuum packed and store in your crisper drawer. According to Jo, “If you tear up the lettuce before you store it, you can double its antioxidant value. The living plant responds to the insult as if it were being gnawed by an insect or eaten by an animal: it produces a burst of phytonutrients to fend off the intruders.”

image 7

Purple Carrots, Artichokes and Asparagus
It turns out that purple carrots are higher in anthocyanins than regular carrots. And if you steam them whole and then slice them afterwards they taste sweeter and their ability to fight cancer increases. Who knew?

The information on Artichokes (one of my favorites) shocked me.  Jo throws it down: “Artichokes have a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value than all the other fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. You would have to eat eighteen servings of corn or thirty servings of carrots to get the same benefits.” Needless to say, I’ve been obsessed:

image 10

Asparagus is very high in antioxidants, but I learned that purple asparagus has three times more antioxidants than the green varieties. I always assumed the purple ones did not taste as good. I was totally wrong! Asparagus, like Broccoli is best eaten no more than 2 days after harvest in order to actually get the incredible nutrients inside the plant, so it’s almost impossible to shop for them in standard super markets where the produce typically arrives ten days after harvest. Getting Broccoli, Asparagus, Artichoke and Brussel sprouts at farmer’s markets or growing them on your own is the best bet.

image 9

Here is what my salads look like since reading the book:

image 11

It has been so much fun applying Jo’s wisdom to our kitchen!

I must thank the awesome yogini who told me about the book (I can’t remember who you are, but please come forward so we can all give you a virtual hug!).

Please leave a comment with your experiences of “eating on the wild side”, recipes, or comments on the book!

 

completaego

Ego Bashing and Yoga, Is it Helping?

Yogis want to eradicate the Ego.

A select few, but prominent, schools of yoga will tell you that one of the goals of yoga is to extinguish the ego and instead be as modest and unassuming as possible. I beg to differ. I call this view of the ego “ego bashing”.

In spite of all this work trying to quell the ego, modern yogis are often accused of being the most egotistic, self-obsessed, selfie-taking, navel gazers alive. So how’s that ego bashing working out?
Here’s a theory.

If anything, I believe that the pressure on yogis not to have an ego is creating an opposite, reactionary effect. Yogis are so tired of subduing their egos that they’re actually craving the need to celebrate themselves a little with a selfie or two. (Not to mention, yogis are also subject to the same self-absorbed culture of social media as everyone else on the planet, but I digress…)

Ego bashing is not going to solve any problems. Here’s why embracing your ego might even be a good thing:

If you believe that the Divine lives in everything, then the Divine must also be present in the ego!  It’s not a question of whether the ego is bad or good. It’s how you relate to the ego that matters.

Can having an ego be healthy?

Yes, when you use it to honor your assets and offer them to the world around you!  In fact, it would be a shame if your ego were so suppressed that you shied away from sharing your gifts with your community. If you’ve got something to share that will benefit others – please do so!

Conversely, your ego is also healthy when you are aware of when to be humble, when to take the back seat, when to let others have the spotlight, or when to defer if someone else is more capable of doing the job than you.

To me, good yoga is never about suppressing something natural that exists within us. Good yoga instead happens when we participate, seek to understand, and engage with the natural foibles and shortcomings we have as humans.

Keep sharing your gifts with the people around you. Do it with awareness and thoughtfulness. Keep others in mind and never forget that the life force moving through you is the source of your greatness.

Get Your ZEAL Back and Keep it This Time!

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Like many of you, I took full advantage of the quiet solstice time to take a thorough look at my life.

I’ve been investigating how I want to feel in the coming years, what truly matters and how to make the most of the precious time I have on this planet – especially when life has become so busy and techno-centric.

What I’ve come to realize is that nothing I do has as much pizazz or passion if it’s not connected to a higher personal purpose or reason why. There’s got to be a higher reward.

Seems obvious, right?

But that is easier said than done.

How often have you found yourself just plodding along, doing your work, following your routine but with little zeal?

The fresh start of the New Year gives you the opportunity to reconnect to what you want and get your enthusiasm back!

To rediscover your zeal:

  1. Get out of your house and go somewhere fabulous to sit with your grand purpose. Close your eyes and wait for an image, a symbol or even a clear sentence that articulates why you are here and what you’re meant to do.
  2. Write about what you want to feel, do, be and have in your life in the next 1-5 years. Go big!Go forth into everything you do with purpose, passion and ZEAL by always keeping your purpose and what you want in your mind. It can help to have it written out where you meditate each morning so you see it daily.
  3. Let’s not allow the passion to fade until New Year’s resolutions come around again next year!

My promise to you this year is to teach with more gusto and to devote every practice to reconnecting with our personal purpose so we can reach the stars with our dreams and visions.

All the love,
Amy

CDOT-537x384

On the Bright Side of Disaster: Lessons from the Colorado Flood

The rain has finally ceased, the sun is out and there has never been more love and caring energy in Boulder. Being a mecca for spirituality and consciousness Boulderites understand non-attachment and yet trauma and loss does not magically go away because one lives in the “Boulder bubble”. Many lost everything. It will take time to move through the range of emotions our community is experiencing.

It was scary – men and women went out in the storm in shoulder height water to take down fences to help divert water away from homes. Flash floods were raging in the pitch black of night while sirens sounded. Many yogis and neighbors worked around the clock digging trenches and putting up barricades to direct the relentless water out of harms way. Countless streets and roads are destroyed, totally washed out and the asphalt cracked in pieces.

Our house lucked out but others in our neighborhood, even next door to us did not fare so well.  Other than houses directly in the flood path (old seasonal creeks and drainages) it seemed entirely random which properties took in water and which did not.

Our friend who was house sitting for us was a champion because our neighborhood had rapids rushing through it and she evacuated with our cat yet still found a way to keep her watchful eye on the house. Even her dad came over and helped her open the hatch door to our cellar which was miraculously dry.

IMG_1400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live on 6th St in Boulder and yet one block over (exactly parallel to our house) the street was destroyed. That’s me in the picture above surveying the damage.

Many families are displaced.  Towns just adjacent to us like Jamestown and Lyons are all but destroyed. This video sums up how frightening it was in the mountain towns of Boulder:

Long after the rains our streets continue to be filled with the sounds of shovels, pumps, helicopters, saws, and mostly rushing water that never was audible before. There are piles and piles of debris and mounds of now bone dry river silt which gets stirred into the air we breathe the minute a car drives by.

On the bright side of disaster, human beings always seem to show up at their best with compassion, love and generosity to help others. We were out of town during the worst of the storms and were touched by the support we received not only from friends all over the world, but our friends at home who wrote us in Indonesia offering to check on our home despite being in the middle of their own mess and the danger of getting around town.

Everyone you talk to knows at least one person who is housing a flood refugee or two whether human or animal. Our 90 Monkeys team has been showering in our guest bathroom since their water is still contaminated up the canyon. Almost all the conversations I’ve heard in passing have been what I call “Flood talk” – ie. people checking in, comparing stories, offering to help, or giving advice on what to do about mold or debris.  Relief is desperately needed for those who are still homeless, who have no clean water to drink, and lost their possessions and homes.

In true Hanuman spirit, the Hanuman Festival has organized a huge benefit event for November 16th that I will be teaching at along with local Boulder teachers Richard Freeman and Gina Caputo. Also joining us will be Janet Stone and musicians DJ Drez and MC Yogi. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the Colorado Flood Relief Fund.  I feel grateful to the Hanuman Festival, these teachers and musicians – as well as Yoga Journal, Give Back Yoga Foundation and prAna for lending their support to this event! Hanuman Festival is also donating $20 from every Gratitude Pass for the 2014 festival sold until Oct 31st.

Visit www.HanumanFestival.com for more information.

Our community was so disappointed about the cancellation of the annual Estes Park Yoga Journal LIVE conference due to the roads to Estes Park being destroyed. Our community truly looks forward to that gathering and in some ways needed the yoga love more than ever. Though the flood was clearly out of our direct control, we still feel so sorry that so much destruction in our state created this problem for YJ LIVE.  :( We hope the Hanuman Festival benefit on the 16th will make up for it in some small way while raising much needed funds for our state.

If you can not be at the benefit, consider making a donation to the Colorado Relief Fund.

 

TurmericCitrusJuice3

Tumeric Citrus Juice: Dr. Taro’s Spring Wellness Boost

Taro came back from photographing sailfish and bait balls in Mexico with a bit of a Spring cold. If anyone does the juicing in the family, it’s me, but I was filming for YogaGlo. So off he went to the store and low and behold, he concocted quite the elixir to soothe his bug! It’s sweet, delicious and kicks inflammatory butt!

The Recipe

4 inches of fresh crisp organic turmeric root
1 inch of organic ginger
1 organic Mikan (satsuma tangerine)
2 organic ruby grapefruits
1 organic granny smith apple
1 small organic lemon (optional)

Plunge all the ingredients through a juicer being mindful to keep the turmeric in the middle rather than last to go through. This will ensure you get every last drop of the healthy goodness and less stain on your juicer parts.

Turmeric is known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. While it is spicy and bitter, with a little sweetness from the grapefruit, tangerine and apple makes the turmeric flavor come alive! Be well, enjoy and let us know what you think of the juice in the comment section below!

TurmericCitrusJuiceTurmericCitrusJuice2

Exotic Citrus Green Juice by Amy Ippoliti

Exotic Citrus Green Juice

With winter’s citrus season booming, our organic produce delivery has been bursting with two of my favorites exotic citrus varieties: pomelos and meyer lemons.

Pomelos, in case you have never heard of them, are pretty much my favorite fruit. They are similar to a grapefruit with a much thicker skin. What they lack in thin skins, they make up for in taste and texture. Pomelos are slightly sweeter and less bitter than their grapefruit friends. The texture is actually delicious. Pomelos come apart nice and dry, but are loaded with juice once you bite in.

To peel the pomelo, use a knife to score a line along the equator of the fruit. Dig your fingers into each side and peel the whole half off each side – usually you can do this in one piece each side. Then cut the fruit in quarters so it will fit in your juicer.  To read about the benefits of juicing and tips on what kind of juicer to get, read this article.

Meyer lemons are like regular lemons except they have a thinner more orange-yellow color, and their flavor is like a lemon perfume, which lends a signature taste to any food you prepare with this fruit.

Of course I had to try some juicing combinations in the kitchen with this kind of citrus on hand.  Here was the winner:

Exotic Citrus Green Juice

1 Small Meyer lemon

1 Pomelo, peeled

1 Anjou pear

2 Small cucumbers or one large

1 Head of Romaine lettuce

1 Large handful of baby spinach (optional)

Make sure all produce is organically grown. Wash carefully and push through your juicer.  The lemon can go in un-peeled. To make sure you maximize the juice in the spinach, put the cucumbers into the shute, then pack the spinach in around the cucumber before plunging.  Enjoy this refreshing, good for you libation!

Amy Ippoliti Boardworks Surf

Teaming Up With Boardworks for Some Stand Up Paddle Boarding Fun

You may not know this about me, but growing up as a girl during summers in Vermont, I was an avid canoeing enthusiast. Through the guidance of my canoeing mentor, Elizabeth Smith (one of my first true teachers in life), I learned to paddle a canoe in a perfectly straight line in storm force winds, land the the boat – stopping on a dime with no movement, reverse a swamped canoe and get it back to shore with no paddle, and how to solo a canoe down white water rapids.

After leading groups on wilderness lake trips, portaging canoes for miles, building a shelter out of an overturned canoe to sleep in, and countless other sailing & mountaineering skills acquired along the way, I achieved the highest rank in canoeing in my final year at the camp. It was a huge moment for me to have worked toward something so rigorous and succeed. In fact, it was that accomplishment that helped me get myself through intense yoga teacher certifications later in life.

It had been a long time since I had paddled, but three years ago I was introduced to Stand Up Paddling and instantly fell in love.

In August of 2012 I teamed up with Boardworks, a leading Surfboard/ Stand Up Paddle Board company to help define the relationship Yoga has with Stand Up Paddle boarding.

These are two of the fastest growing activities in the world, and have become a way of life for the those who practice or paddle. One child’s pose floating on the water was all I needed to know that yoga on the board, while it would never replace what I do on the mat, is certainly heaven!

The combined benefits of the cardiovascular exercises, core stability and yoga on the water provide for an all body workout as well as access to nature in a watery environment.

Yoga on stand-up paddle boards, also known as Yoga SUP is an interesting niche, and there are a rapidly growing number of Yoga SUP classes being offered around the world in lakes, open water, waterways, reservoirs and more.

Boardworks believes there is a bigger connection between these sports, and that it is more of a mindset of the demographic that they share; health, wellness, nature, fresh air, and play.

I am very excited to partner with Boardworks to help connect two of my favorite passions…this is another way to expand on yoga and while taking my yoga practice outside.  We are seeing more and more Yoga SUP happening at yoga events around the world!

According to Boardworks National Sales Manager Ryan Guay, “We’ve seen organic growth of the Yoga SUP lifestyle and it’s a natural extension of our brand. We have specific models that work perfectly for yoga applications and believe our products to be ideal for this purpose. Amy hosts retreats in beautiful places around the world. I am excited to get involved with these events and help expose people to SUP.”

To learn more about Stand Up Paddle Boarding and get a board of your own, visit Boardwork’s Website.

Join me and a bunch of great yogis in Costa Rica to practice therapeutic yoga and get in the water on SUP boards every day! Visit the retreat page.

Holiday Raw Food Salad Platter (Warning: Kale Food Porn!)

Holiday Raw Food Salad Platter (Warning: Kale Food Porn!)

This raw massaged kale and pomegranate salad platter on butter leaf lettuce cups has been a huge hit at my holiday parties.  The vibrant green mixed with the bright red of the pomegranate seeds make this totally festive.

For those friends who shutter when thinking of eating raw kale, the shredded texture of the kale chiffonade, the creamy avocado and the sweetness of the pomegranate make this salad much more palatable!

I get very artistic arranging all the ingredients and always enjoy putting it together, so if you have children in the house, be sure to ask them to help out – they’ll have a blast.

Ingredients (Makes 3 large servings)

Salad:

1 bunch red butter leaf lettuce

1 bunch curly kale

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

½ large avocado or 1 small avocado

A handful of chopped raw almonds

Dressing:

3 tablespoons Olive oil

Juice from a lemon

Himalayan sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl and set aside. On a serving dish, place 3 large butter lettuce leaves in a circular formation face up.  Then place 3 smaller leaves inside the large ones.  These will be “lettuce cups”.

Remove stems from the kale and chiffonade the leaves. (Google how to chiffonade and watch a how-to video – it’s worth it!)

Place chiffonaded (is that a word?) kale in a medium sized bowl and pour dressing on top.  Wash your hands well and massage dressing into kale until the leaves are tender. The dressing will “cook” the kale much like ceviche.

Spoon the kale mixture into each of the butter lettuce “cups”.  Spoon pomegranate seeds and almonds on top of the kale mixture (or you could also mix them into the kale after massaging and then spoon into the cups).
Drizzle the whole platter with balsamic vinegar (optional).

You should be able to lift each large leaf cup (with its contents) right off the platter to serve on a someone’s lucky plate.  Enjoy!