What I Learned From Yoga
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Today I wanna talk about yoga. Why I got started, how it's changed me and how it can help you too!

These days boutique yoga studios are popping up everywhere. Seriously, in NYC they're just as prevalent as a Starbucks or Chase bank on nearly every corner. But let's take it back 7-10 years ago B.C. (that's Before Classpass) when New Yorkers mostly worked out in gyms!  There weren't that many yoga studios around and certainly not one that offered "free yoga." That's right, Yoga to the People offered free classes to the public. Ok so maybe it wasn't free (it's donation based with suggested amount of $10) but as a broke college student it's no wonder I took classes there. 

I don't remember the exact reasons why I started taking yoga but I know one thing for sure. I wasn't taking it for mental clarity, to gain an inner sense of self, or become closer to “God."

What I do remember is that I didn't look forward to taking it, there were moments that I dreaded being there, and I wanted to use it as a way to help me lose weight/be more "fit." I can vividly remember flowing through the poses and saying to myself, "f%#! Why did I come here?!" 

I know what that sounds like and who I am today is so far from the girl I was in college. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted abs. I wanted to be liked. I did yoga but I was so far from actually practicing it. Around the same time that I got tired of the vicious self-loathe/diet cycle (see one post back for more on that), I just got fed up with exercise that I did NOT enjoy and so I made it a point to try several different types of workouts… including different yoga studios. 

Finding movement you actually enjoy is like trying different types of ice cream.
Just because you don’t like strawberry ice cream doesn’t mean that all ice cream sucks. 
You have to try different flavors. And if you're into taking classes, finding the right instructor can be like dating. You have to see how you feel in the studio, if you vibe with the instructor, what do you give and gain out of the class?

Well, I can't say I have great dating skills but my exceptional Googling skills led me to Laughing Lotus - which remains one of my favorite yoga studios in the city. Turns out it wasn't the studio that was wrong.. but more so my mindset. I reaped the most when I stopped asking for physical results and instead started asking, “What will I learn about myself today?” I could go on and on about the many things I gained since practicing yoga but here it is in a nutshell:

It’s not at all about how long you can hold each pose (that’s a thought we create in our heads) but rather flowing through the thoughts that come up while on the mat. And if you’re anything like me, some negative/harsh $hiz will show up... it’s about breathing and flowing through those moments.
Trust me, housing fear, resentment and anger does no body’s body good. I call that soul sucking energy. Moving through the stuff that shows up while you’re on the mat can help you make space for more loving thoughts.
This can lead to a decrease in stress and levels of anxiety.
Studies show that yoga can heighten certain brain chemicals that combat depression.
It also improves flexibility, reduces back pain and can help lower blood pressure. 
It allows us to re-connect with our mind and body.  Not to mention, it shows us all the amazing things our bodies are capable of doing.
Bet you didn’t think you could be in chair pose for 30 seconds? Think again.

Remember, at the core of yoga there's no pressure to be perfect physically, emotionally or spiritually. Every time you show up on the mat, you are essentially showing up for yourself. Maybe it will be helpful for you too, or maybe it won't - but you won't know until you try. All I know is that I look forward to it as part of my self-care routine and know that I walk out of class a better human than before I entered it. 

I know going to a class can be ultra intimidating. Been there. Done that. Still feel that way when I try something new. But if you are looking to give yoga a try, here’s a few studios that I liked and hope you enjoy too! If you try any of them, I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

xx Laura


Yoga to the People - Grateful for this incredibly giving studio that makes yoga accessible to everyone. Still maintains a suggested $10 donation after all these years.  

Laughing Lotus – For beginners I’d recommend Lotus Flow, lot’s of energetic music and a bit of chanting. Favorite part is listening to the instructors share a personal story which I can then apply to myself.

Strala Yoga – Simply and purely yoga. Great but challenging classes that you can download and do at home, on your own time. Led by the amazing Tara Stiles

Yoga Vida – Welcoming studio. Great intro class that explains each move. No chanting.

Yoga Works – Offers a variety of teaching styles and modifications for different levels.

 

 

A New Approach to Wellness

Happy Thursday loves! It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and made time to write. A rainy day here in New York and it seems like the perfect thing to do. Something that I’ve wanted to talk about is the concept of being healthy. If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you’ll notice that I used to share a lot of posts about smoothies, chia puddings, and talked a lot about “eating clean.” For those that don't know, eating clean means eating foods that are raw, or minimally processed.

When I first started, my goal was to help people eat healthier. This included recipes and tips on how to add more fruits and vegetables into their lifestyle. In practicing what I preached, I started to eat more fresh foods, avoided “the processed stuff”–you know, cookies, ice cream, pizza. What I didn’t realize was that I was subconsciously brewing restrictive eating habits. I would scoff if someone was ordering takeout or would bask in horror (under my breath) if someone next to me ate something packaged.

At the time I thought that being healthy and eating processed foods just couldn’t co-exist. I mean, all you have to do is take a look at Instagram and you will see a ton of wellness bloggers sharing pics of bananas, açai bowls, chia puddings and juice cleanses. I just wanted to feed my body the best, purest foods, and I thought I was truly doing myself a solid favor by drinking smoothies for breakfast and dinner. Hey, I was on a busy schedule and it's supposed to be a quick fix to fit in fruits and veggies right? Well, what happened at my yearly check up was what changed my perspective of wellness.

Wake Up Call//
The hemoglobin A1C is a blood test that diagnoses diabetes. There is no family history of diabetes in my family, but my results came back at 5.7%, it was on the low end but still indicated pre-diabetes (anywhere from 5.7% to 6.4% is pre-DM) I never shared this with anyone because I was absolutely mortified, embarrassed and scared. I worked out. I didn’t drink soda.  I didn’t eat candy. I ate well. I did everything right. I thought, how could this happen to me?

That’s when I realized that too much of anything—even healthy foods—is not healthy.  Because I was also vegetarian, I went heavy on the carbs (yes there is a wrong way to be a vegan/vegetarian..more on that later) I had packed my smoothies with fruits, and convinced myself this was "healthy." I wasn't eating balanced meals, it was low in protein and fats. I was tired, stressed and pre-occupied with food 24/7. It was inevitable that my blood sugar would go up. 

What I did//
From then on, I cut down on the smoothies. I stopped the liquid diet. I focused on incorporating ALL FOODS into my lifestyle, one that was more balanced and without restrictions. I started cooking my vegetables and pairing it with proteins (fish, tofu, lentils, seeds, nuts) and complex carbs (potatoes, whole grains) so that my meals were finally balanced. I felt more satisfied and more energetic. Among other things, I was less stressed, my skin cleared up, my stomach problems were less severe. It really was a whole lifestyle shift. 

Then, I allowed myself to have the “forbidden foods” you know, the cookies, the chips, the cake.  I definitely had days where I ate the whole bag of chips (FYI I’m not talking the 99cent size. I’m talking I used to be able to eat a $4 bag in a sitting!) or would drink water even though all I really wanted was some chocolate. But slowly, I trained myself so that I could enjoy these foods without the subsequent binge. BTW, this new relationship with food didn’t happen overnight. It really took time to build a positive relationship with food.

When people ask me now, “How do you not eat the whole bag/box? I have no self control!” I tell them that it starts with realizing that everything you eat is a CHOICE. It’s also a combination of many things. Such as, asking yourself, are you eating because you are physically hungry? Are you eating for emotional reasons? Are you eating because you're bored?

By asking myself these questions, I developed a mind-body connection. I learned to eat for physical hunger. And I also learned to eat for pleasure—AKA not eating based on physical hunger pangs but would honor my cravings for chips/ice cream/cookies. Throughout the process I also noticed that the more I told myself that I couldn’t have something, the more I had to have it. The shift in my mindset occurred when I stopped telling myself "I can't [eat that]" and replaced it with "I can [eat that]." Like I said, everything we eat is a choice. The only voice telling you that you can't or you shouldn't is you.

"Listen up", I told myself. "The food isn’t going anywhere. If I have a few chips and put the bag back into the cupboard, the chips will still be there tomorrow. I could eat the whole bag, but will I really feel satisfied? Are there vitamins in there that will nourish me? How will I feel after I eat it? Bloated? Sluggish? Puffy?" These were the questions I started to ask myself. By answering them, I became more in tune with my body and giving it what it needs so that I feel my best. 

Basically, the less emphasis I placed on eating, the more I was able to free my mind from the obsession over food. No labels. No judgements. Food became just food. It was there to nourish me.

Finding Balance//
Anyway, good news is that my lab numbers are back to normal (phew!) Now don’t get me wrong, I love a yummy post-workout smoothie but just not for every meal and certainly not everyday. Because at the end of the day, anything in excess just isn’t healthy (yes, including fruits!) In fact, any type of restrictive eating/diet.. is just not sustainable and not realistic. Seriously, how many diets have you tried and how many have failed? They are like empty promises! 

The truth is that all foods are everywhere! We may not all crave chips like me lol, but there are definitely joyous occasions when there is cake or bagels at the office. So instead of fearing these foods, we ought to learn how to eat all foods again. Society, the media, and our beloved Instagram feeds have morphed our perception of what healthy means. It's not juice bowls or fresh fruit for every single meal, and it's not a no carbs, no fats, no gluten kind of deal. Enjoying cake or eating a bagel once in a while can and is healthy. Remember, restrictive eating only brings about the vicious cycle of dieting >> binging>> guilt. So moral of the story here? Moderation and enjoying your food sans the guilt goes a long way.

I know my wellness philosophy has shifted but I promise to still share simple, nourishing recipes –just with a more practical approach, one that fosters a healthy relationship with food and tuning in to what our body needs. 

xx
Laura

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Pure Genius & Giveaway

How many times have you wanted something sweet, but wished it could be healthy?

To some, the words “healthy” and “sweet” can’t co-exist.

But that’s where people are wrong. Because they can!

If you know anything about me, you’d know that to me, a healthy lifestyle includes not only greens, but also means satisfying your cravings. Self-deprivation is never the answer. Restricting only makes you crave things more, and once you start labeling foods as “bad” or “good” – well that’s essentially setting yourself up for disaster. Why? Because the moment you crave these foods that you’ve already deemed bad, you already feel guilty. And the moment you eat them? Well, you might feel like you’ve failed.

That’s why I make it a point to honor my body by choosing to incorporate sweets into my lifestyle. Sometimes I’ll eat the real thing in moderation (AKA the full fat-made of flour-contains sugar-type of dessert) but I also love healthier alternatives of the real thing.

Here’s my newest discovery that I want to share with you: Healthier brownies by Pure Genius

Yes, I said it.
Healthier. Brownies.

Created by a former health journalist and certified health coach, Nancy Kalish, there’s a secret to em. Whole beans! And before you start judging… know that I am a tough food critique. I was skeptical at first, but trust me when I say that there isn’t the slightest flavor of bean in these brownies.

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In fact the chocolate brownie (my favorite) is shockingly rich and chewy – as in I would continue to buy this at the store! The blondie was flavorful, packed with chunks of chocolate chips but a bit heartier/not as sweet.

And wait, the best part:
Since the brownies are made of black beans and the blondie with chickpeas, they each contain protein, fiber and are made with REAL ingredients you can read and recognize.
And PS. see below, they were Chloe-approved and guess what? Chloe and I are sharing! 

I’ve teamed up with Pure Genius for a free GIVEAWAY box with 2 brownie bars & 2 blondie bars!

To enter you must do all of the following:
1.  Like Pure Genius on Facebook
2. Like Dowhatiulove on Facebook
3. Leave a comment below!
Winner will be announced Sunday September 18th via Instagram @dowhatiulove

 PS. These were Chloe-approved ;)

PS. These were Chloe-approved ;)