Christmas Presence

I grew up in a secular home and my childhood Christmases always left me wanting, no matter the volume or quality gifts my family was able to provide us children, the day following Christmas was always accompanied by profound emptiness; a soulful vacancy that all the presents in the world could not fill. My home was also a broken one and Christmas came complete with the magical gift of highlighting the dysfunction within my family something awful. Suffice to say that the Ghost of my Christmas Pasts stalks me to this day and, even though I am entirely conscious and keenly aware of this spectars origins and its unwelcome nature, I find that I am still trying to wrestle my stolen joy from its decades-long talons. 

 

Enter yoga. During a particularly hot practice earlier this week, while in Corpse Pose meditating on burnt out light bulb above me, I had an epiphany. I realized that I could practice Christmas instead of experience Christmas. I realized that I could take my attitude toward my yoga practice into my holiday experience and, as I do in yoga, choose to view my successes or failures as part of the Christmas-practice learning process. Yoga is not a destination, that is, you never really “ arrive” in yoga. The practice reveals that you are capable of poses you thought were outside of your ability, your balance improves, your ability to focus increases and you become stronger. Christmas could be the same. And, while Christmas Day itself might be “A Thing” on the calendar, it does not have to be the destination. That is, mindfully practicing Christmas every day of this season could bring about the same benefits I find on my yoga mat and who couldn’t use more balance, strength and focus? Can someone actually possess too much of these attributes? If so, I have yet to make their acquaintance. 

 

So I start today. If you see me at the studio and I seem a little awkward, it’s because I’ve embarked on a new practice. Perhaps you would like to practice with me? Perhaps you’ve been practicing for awhile and you can show me how its done. No matter where you are in your journey, you are welcome to practice with me anytime, Christmas or otherwise.

Stacy Manning
Hot Feet Fitness Instructor


Save the Turkey! Healthier Vegan Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

 

We all love a plate full of the traditional dishes of Thanksgiving: bright red cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, squash, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. This year try incorporating a couple of vegan dishes that are sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar. They are so tasty that you won’t even tell the difference!

 

Here are two ideas:

 

Maple Syrup-Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

 

Ingredients:

 

1 (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries

1 small orange, zested and juiced

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup water

1 pinch sea salt

1 cinnamon stick

 

 

Directions:

 

1.    Combine cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, maple syrup, water, salt, and cinnamon stick in a pot; heat over medium-high heat until simmering.

2.    Reduce heat to a simmer, place a lid on the pot, and cook, gently stirring every 5 minutes, until sauce is thickened and cranberries have burst, about 20 minutes.

3.    Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

 

 

Butternut Squash with Walnuts

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

 

Ingredients:

 

1 butternut squash- peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into ½-inch slices

 cup water

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup dark rum (optional)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch salt

¼ cup walnuts

 

Directions:

 

1.    Combine butternut squash, water, maple syrup, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a skillet; bring liquid to a boil.

2.    Reduce heat to low, place a lid on the skillet, and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes, until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

3.    Transfer butternut squash to a serving dish, keeping the liquid in the skillet.

4.    Continue simmering liquid in skillet until a thickened sauce forms, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour sauce over butternut squash.

5.    Garnish butternut squash with walnuts right before serving.

Author: Alli Shircliff

Why You Should Consider Yoga During Pregnancy

 

 

As yoga’s popularity increases, its benefits are becoming more and more well known. Many people around the world will attest to the stress relief, core strengthening and flexibility that yoga provides. One group that can especially benefit from yoga is expecting mothers. 

 

Prenatal yoga will ease the burden of childbearing by supporting key muscles, making it easier to sleep and preparing pregnant women for childbirth. In addition to the physical benefits, yoga will increase confidence leading up to labor and calm the minds of expecting mothers. Still wondering if prenatal yoga is the right choice? Read about some of the proven benefits below. 

 

Strengthens Key Muscle Groups

Regular prenatal yoga will strengthen and tone important muscles like the abdominals and pelvic floor. The pelvic floor supports the baby as well as the digestive organs during pregnancy. Carrying a child places an extremely large burden on this important muscle group so strengthening it through yoga is a great idea. 

 

Promotes Good Posture

Carrying a child can place a great strain on the lower back, which changes the mothers’ center of gravity and can lead to bad posture before and after childbirth. There are many yoga poses designed to help alleviate pain and tension in the lower back, which improves posture and makes daily life easier. 

 

When the center of gravity changes, the feet may also be affected with problems like over pronation. This can lead to heel pain, feet and leg cramps that make standing and walking extremely unpleasant. Yoga allows the feet and legs to be elevated and stretched to reduce soreness.

 

Preparing for Childbirth

By doing yoga, you can become more in tune with your body which may increase confidence leading up to and during childbirth. The deep breathing techniques often practiced in yoga are useful during labor to make the body relax. Studies have shown that the confidence boosts associated with yoga lead to smoother deliveries. 

 

Aside from the physical benefits of prenatal yoga, joining a yoga class can provide a support system during pregnancy. Exercising and socializing with other women will help ease tension and anxiety about childbirth. 

 

Quality Sleep

Getting a good night of sleep can be challenging during pregnancy and will only get harder after childbirth. Cramps, heartburn, and stress are all common reasons why falling and staying asleep can be such a pain. Luckily, bedtime yoga has important benefits that will make sleeping easier than ever.

 

Practicing yoga before bed will help establish a bedtime routine which is a great way to wind down at night and tell your body it is time to rest. Additionally, yoga provides relief from some of the pregnancy related aches and pains that may keep women awake. Yoga encourages steady breathing which helps calm the mind and prevent anxiety and stress from getting in the way of rest. 

 

Make sure to consult a physician before practicing yoga if you are expecting and avoid hot yoga classes as well as poses that place a burden on the abdominals. Soon, you will be experiencing the wonderful benefits yoga can provide.

Stephanie James
Freelance Content Writer 

Make Your Habits Stick!

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the saying goes. Often times, this is used to justify the belief that some people can be too old to change, that once a person has made a particular action or thought process a habit, they are doomed to repeat this for life. 

And while it is human nature to stick to our habits, we don’t necessarily have to be the victim of unhealthy ones we build.

When it comes to our habits and the brain, our biology can tell us a lot about why we tend to autonomously perform an action. Every time we think in a certain way, perform a task, or feel a particular emotion, we continue to strengthen the neural pathways in our brain in carving these processes as habits. This is called Neuroplasticity.

When we think about something differently, learn a new task, or choose a different emotion, our brain creates a new pathway. Using this pathway enough eventually replaces the old one. It just takes time to carve that new mental pathway in order to do so.

Of course, this is an ultra-condensed and simplified version of what actually goes on in the mind when we move through our habits. In real-time, we move through our habitual actions in the blink of an eye, often times not realizing what we’ve done until far after it’s finished. When it comes to ending old habits and creating new ones: 

-Awareness is key: Become aware of events leading to a particular negative thought or
emotion. Understand its root.

-Avoid Avoiding: Allow the experience to penetrate itself. Fully.

-Experience, Without Acting: It is possible to experience pain/pleasure without being driven to act upon it

-Recognize that the moment is temporary and that this too, shall pass

When it comes to teaching an old dog new tricks, it turns out you can! You are never too old to change, but it does get harder to change the older you get. Anyone who is willing to do the work is able to change if they want to.

Diane Ratana
Hot Feet Fitness Barre, Meditation, and Yoga Instructor

Sing your heart out: Do we sing because we are happy or are we happy because we sing?

Yoga aims to connect us with ourselves, with each other, with the universe. Yoga means union. Singing or chanting is a means of coming together. It is done at birthdays, celebrations, and to share common emotions. At times it can be used in a religious context, but beyond that it brings people together with a common intention. Whether that intention is to celebrate God or celebrate life, health, overcoming obstacles, or love, singing is a means of connecting to each other and to ourselves. 

Something I have noticed in my 12 years of teaching yoga is that singing is a powerful tool. It can bring up feelings of vulnerability disguised as anger or resistance. But let me reassure you, that singing in the shower or on your yoga mat does not need to be Grammy worthy to have a powerful impact. The voice is as unique as each individual, no one sound is exactly the same. It is freeing to face fears and be completely comfortable with who you are, what you look like, what you sound like. So embrace your uniqueness, your beauty and the healing power of your sound.


Kristen O'Connor
Hot Feet Fitness Yoga & Meditation Instructor 

 

The Wonderful World of Indoor Plants

 

“All I want is to plant some trees, save the bees and protect the seas”

Why plants…..

 

Uh they are amazing! No really though - they have so many benefits! They make your space look cozy and beautiful, they are air purifiers, they have feelings, they absorb noise and stress, concentration and production is improved, the list goes on.  Sooooo many people are afraid to get plants because the curse of the ‘brown thumb’ so I decided to make it super easy. Trying to research what kind of plant does well in a west facing window can be tiresome and super overwhelming. Here are my favorite indoor plants and where I keep them in my house and how much I actually remember to water them……

Boston ferns…..literally one in each room. They look cool - low maintenance and every room of my house gets a different amount of sunlight. The Pacific North West is literally the greatest place ever - you can pull off the side of any road and find a fern. This plant is one of the greatest air purifiers in the green family - it’s specialty is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is all over your house - glues, plywood, insulation, and everyday use home items (that’s an entire other blog!).  These little guys like indirect sunlight - so a corner of a room that isn’t in the window. Ferns like humidity so you can even leave it in your bathroom! Make sure the soil is moist and not to drown it, not only will it make a mess but it will stress the roots out.

Yesssssss - my next favorite is the snake plant! This plant comes from West Africa and has some really cool nicknames - ‘the mother-in-laws tongue,’ and ‘ the vipers bowstring hemp.’ This plant I keep in my bedroom, my office, and my sons room. This plant is extra special for a few reasons - it can survive a drought so you don’t have to remember to water it very often AND it has a very rare way of exchanging gases. The pores on the plant only open at night to prevent water from evaporating in the sun. Basically the plant will give you an extra boost of oxygen at night! NASA did a study on it and it can remove 4 out of the 5 main toxins in a home and you can give a cutting to a friend and they can grow their own!

Lastly, the reed palm. I have four in my kitchen, two in my living room and one in my bathroom. Another great air purifier! This plant’s filters out all the chemicals that can be found in furniture, cleaners, and almost every other household item. These green friends like a little bit of sunlight and a more drainable soil. I use soil with rocks in it…or if you don’t want to buy any of that make your own. I have a bunch of little rocks in my outdoor garden that I collect and mix it in my potting soil. These are a little more high maintenance because you have to remove dead leaves so that it encourages the rest of the plant to grow! They are slow growing but they take up corner spaces nicely and the leaves are beautiful!

 

Of course these aren’t the only indoor plants - there are so many!!!! My house is like a living jungle - sometime when I move plants around they start to look sad so I move them around to see where they are most happy. Just make sure you keep them out of drafty areas/heaters and make sure to tell them how pretty they are! Plants are living beings, they absorb stress; enjoy Mozart and help you breathe better!

Lauren Bragg, Hot Feet Fitness Live Healthy Program Coach, Yoga & Barre Instructor