Holistic health has been my interest, academic pursuit and lifestyle of choice since my first year of college. After experiencing some tough life lessons (such as ‘no, kraft mac and cheese really isn’t the best food to eat on a daily basis’). I went to California and became one of “those” Yoga studying, Deep Breathing, Juice drinking types. Very fortunately, I was able to study with some fabulous wise and learned teachers in San Francisco; primarily Donna Farhi – my first Yoga teacher, whose exacting and dynamic style that emphasized the inner body and inner inquiry still informs my teaching and practice of asana and movement today. I was also able to take incredible Holistic Health courses at SFSU in my undergrad, including Qi Gong, Meditation techniques, and Wellness in Aging from professors who were professionals in their fields and based their work on solid research and science. These courses, along with the Physical Therapy coursework in my program, helped shape my approach to health and well-being as an integrative, body-based approach. Body, Mind and Spirit being interconnected was a concept that made sense to me but I certainly had a mostly academic understanding of this idea. I practiced A LOT of yoga but didn’t have a very balanced diet or lifestyle. I did learn the Pilates Method from the incredible Madeline Black, who emphasized that Joe Pilates developed his exercise regime to heal his lungs and improve his immune system. My fascia and core were in great shape but my periods were a wreck! Back then, I knew that belly breathing and core strength could keep me healthy and I knew that certain foods worked better than others for me but I was like a collector of information that needed “digesting”. My life was forever changed when I experienced the cooking of Simran Kaur, a chef, meditator and one of the most amazing women I have ever met. She was a foodie before foodies were cool. She took Macrobiotics and made it fun – and easy! Simran showed me how my emotions, hormonal and immune system (among many other benefits) could be strengthened by eating “con gusto”; with pleasure and enjoyment; with less rules, more savoring and definitely more joy. It revolutionized my approach to eating for health. But…. I was still eating waaaaay too much fruit and raw salad and wondering why I was always cold and low energy when I met my husband who cooked for me on our second date. The meal was so sumptuous and yet simple; steamed chicken and steamed vegetables. I felt like Sheena after that meal – for many reasons:) My training in Oriental Medicine only reinforced this idea that the warmer and happier you are on the inside, the stronger your defenses are on the outside. One of the most amazing teachers I have ever had was my Eastern Nutritional Energetics teacher, Dr. Lisa Wilson, who managed to help us learn about how to implement an individualized Holistic diet for healing while keeping a sense of humor and unconditional acceptance towards ourselves and the patients with whom we work. Eating fresh, in season, whole foods in accordance with your individual constitution is ONE key to wellness. Being rigid is not. When I first began to work on my relationship with food, I experienced how much my diet affected EVERYTHING. It was easy to become very detail oriented (“crazy!”). Eventually, life changes, choices, foods, and moods, together with the passing seasons, tidal daily energies, and the needs of the young souls around me necessitated that I get back to basics, get organized and plan! Although there is no “right” way to eat, having a meal plan and good recipe ideas that inspire and appeal to me and my family makes the cooking and eating process a whole lot easier. Less scrambling and More Yoga! I find great food blogs and books and share ideas with other like minded folks around me; which is part of what food is meant to do; bring folks together. Being an “airy” sort of constitution, I do best with warm, protein rich meals. Eating soups and stews seems to keep the bugs away, keeps me grounded, and is a great way to show those around me that I care. I have had many soup mentors along the way. I once learned how to make a wonderful Miso soup from my rocker girl roommate who cooked a giant batch whenever any of us got a cold. Thank you, Leslie for the original probiotic soup! My acupuncturist Lifang Liang, in San Francisco, always said; “cook soup now!… and you won’t need makeup” and after cooking enough soup, my whole hormonal system normalized; much better than blush and mascara, believe me. Dr. Lisa showed me how to make bone broth to stave off flu and weakness and as a way to make other foods more nutrient rich and I share this technique with all my friends and clients. So many people are asking, “Should I get a Flu shot?!” That is individual choice, but either way, I say, “Cook Soup Now!”. And come to Yoga class! I am offering some great new group classes in a wonderful Zilker Zen healing arts studio so please check my schedule out on the Classes page. Stay well, and enjoy.
Today I gave a presentation on Yoga mindfulness relaxation techniques for test taking and general stress reduction to a group of elementary teachers in my home town. I mentioned the research studies that link Yoga practices in the classroom with better focus and more positive attitude in children and called myself a “Yoga Geek”; funny – but true! It was humbling to know that these incredible teachers already implement many wonderful techniques to help the students focus, prepare for tests and feel relaxed in each school day. These teachers don’t necessarily want or need another curriculum idea! However, I was excited to share some very simple, easy to “slip in” Yoga mindfulness tools that can be used during exams, transitions, or even given to students to use anytime needed during a regular day. One of the teachers mentioned that she is already seeing her students regularly using the exercises at their desks ( I had previously taught some of the Yoga tools to Relax the test to her class). This was great to hear! A fabulous and easy technique I showed the teachers today is called the “Chi Ball”. Students gently clap and/or rub their hands together, then separate the hands a few inches, feel the sensation between their hands while breathing easily and fully, and firmly plant both feet on the ground. Kids can make a “ball” with their “energy” between the hands; to stretch, shape and compress the “Energy Ball”. This exercise quickly focuses and calms children and they love it! One of my favorite stories about the “Chi Ball” was from a high school age Yoga student of mine who loved the technique so much she started teaching it to her friends. “It helps them calm down and get centered”, she said. While I realize that teachers have less and less time for any extra curriculum in grade school (or any) classes, and that they are doing an amazing job at preparing the students for the benchmark tests, this kind of Yoga mindfulness tool is short and unobtrusive, and can help kids during the long exam process (or during a regular day). Hearing inspirational stories about Yoga in the classroom keeps me energized as a teacher of all ages. Getting to share some Yoga tools with the best of the best teachers at Zilker elementary in Austin, Texas was such an honor. I am reminded that gratitude is the finest form of mindfulness. Kids are our best teachers.