Category Archives: yoga

New Yoga Endeavors

I went to a 90-minute “Power Yoga Flow” session at a new yoga studio downtown this morning – PYP Studio in State College.

Afterwards, I rewarded myself with this.

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But more on that after my Yoga recap:

It was insanely hard – maybe harder than a running my half-marathon in April. I hadn’t been expecting such a high intensity class, so I found myself utterly unable to put my best effort into most poses. Such things, at least for me, require mental prep time.

For at least the first hour, all I could think was, “these people are insane,” and “I’m never coming back here again.”

I had never been to a yoga class set up like this one. It started out with everyone in child’s pose, and the instructor, a tiny British lady with a fierce voice, gave kind of an opening “sermon.” Or a dramatic monologue maybe? She spoke about how we constantly reach outside of ourselves, searching, wanting, trying for more, when all we need is right here in the present. She challenged us to stop seeking approval from other people and to appreciate the perfect, innocent human being buried inside of us amidst the daily craziness. Throughout the session’s resting poses, she always came back to this theme, reiterating her points, and dramatizing them in the context of our movements.

During savasana at the end, which I enjoyed so much in my complete exhaustion, she played “Let it Be” by the Beatles. Tacky, yes. But still somehow in line with everything else she was doing.

Dave, of course, said all of this sounded terrible when I told him about it at brunch. And yes, it was definitely different and intense. But during the last 30 minutes of the class, as the exhaustion had broken me down enough, I discovered new, refreshing thoughts within myself. One of them was that it makes complete sense to me that in a “church-like” format, in which we challenge the mind to center itself and connect with its core, we would challenge the body at the same time to go to its limits.

So then, after yoga, I picked up Dave and we went to Pine Grove Mills, which is about 5 minutes from our house, to try the new breakfast place that opened there on Monday, Naked Egg Cafe. A co-worked told me about it yesterday, and I was so excited when I looked at their menu and discovered they have salmon Eggs Benedict!

In light of my new plan to stop drinking coffee, I ordered a pot of Irish Breakfast tea. By the time our food arrived, I had finished the entire pot, about five cups or so, because we waited for about 45 minutes!!! Sure, they recently opened and the place was packed, but waiting that long for breakfast is not acceptable in my opinion. When we got the food, we couldn’t believe the small portions. I paid $12.99 for the salmon benedict and there wasn’t really as much smoked salmon under the egg as I would have expected. Plus, why wouldn’t they serve some sort of potatoes on the side? Pretty disappointing. It tasted good, but not great. On the plus side, the food is all local. That’s why I wanted to like the place so much. We’re thinking we’ll give them one more chance and come earlier in the morning when it’s not as crowded and order something else. But it’s still a bummer because no other place in town that I know of makes salmon benedicts or even has a breakfast menu with smoked salmon on it.

Enough complaining. After brunch, we went to the Farmer’s Market to stock up on some organic produce. I bought eggplants, onions, tomatoes, and parsley. We also each bought a pastry from an Amish woman, plus I had a macaroon and Dave a gluten-free brownie. Splurge alert.

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Filed under eating out, gluten-free, seafood, yoga

Beyond the Half Marathon

Now that my half marathon is only one day away (eeek), I’ve started thinking about how I want to change up my diet and exercise routine post-race. This coincided with an enlightening conversation I had with my homeopath and some subsequent research I did, so I’m thinking a lot of that will drive my direction starting Sunday.

The reason I initially went to a homeopath was that I went off birth control in August, not because we’re trying to have a baby, but because I grew uncomfortable with artificially regulating my hormones. I wanted to work with her to find natural remedies that can help me return to a more natural state of being, and also wanted to address the symptoms that returned a few months after stopping the birth control pills: acne, menstrual cramps – all the good stuff BC takes care of so nicely.

She gave me remedies that support the endocrine system (hypothalmus, thyroid, liver, ovaries) in order to regulate my hormones naturally. So far, I’ve seen good results, and am excited for more progress in the future.

But two days ago, during our third appointment, we discussed polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I was prompted to ask her about it because a friend of mine just found out she has it. In summary, this condition is caused by hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. Symptoms include acne, weight issues, and infertility. Due to an overproduction of testosterone in females, exacerbated by too much insulin production as a result of a poor diet (too many sugars and carbs), estrogen levels become disproportionate, which prevents ovulation, causes acne, and leads to insulin resistance (and thus weight gain).

Doctors, without being too concerned with the root cause of such symptoms, often prescribe birth control pills to increase estrogen levels. The acne and irregular periods disappear, so seemingly, all is well. But this means that the ovaries artificially shut down, which throws off hormonal regulation even more and exacerbates the whole situation. Not to mention that high estrogen levels can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Since I’ve struggled with some of these symptoms and was on estrogen-heavy birth control pills for years, I asked my homeopath if she thought I maybe had polycystic ovarian syndrome. The name, by the way, derives from the fact that your ovaries build dockets that are supposed to release eggs, but accumulate in cyst like bumps if that doesn’t happen (due to a lack of estrogen/too much testosterone). She said the thought has crossed her mind, but that my case, if anything, would not be very advanced, and that there is no way to know until I try getting pregnant. Meanwhile, she said, we are already working with remedies that would address the root cause: hormonal imbalance.

All this led me to research polycystic ovarian syndrome more, which got me to think hard about the amount of carbs I consume.

My friend, who just found out she has PCOS, said she now has to go on the Paleo diet and avoid grains, sugars, and processed foods at all times. When we consume too many carbs early in life, our body produces tons and tons of insulin to break down the glucose. Due to the liver’s high exposure to insulin, as we grow older, we develop an insulin resistance, which leads to weight gain (nothing is preventing the glucose from turning into fat) and suffer from worsening hormonal imbalances. At this point, whenever we eat carbs, the body wants to turn them into fat. The solution: cut out carbs, get leaner, improve your hormonal regulations, and prevent life-threatening conditions such as diabetes (also cause by insulin resistance).

So, although I’m not sure if I have PCOS or might develop it down the line, I am concerned because I clearly have natural hormonal imbalances. If overconsumption of carbs in my early life (hello, I’m from Germany – the land of delicious bread and Spaetzle) is the reason for those and I now am developing more and more of an insulin resistance, I want to make sure I do something about it.

As a runner, I know that I need carbs, and I also have no interest in becoming a crabby debbie-downer that eats nothing but smoked salmon and tuna straight from the can. But I maybe should consider limiting my grain-intake to oats and quinoa, and focusing on eating carbs early in the day. This way, I would make eggs, veggies, fruits, healthy oils, and fish the core pillars of my diet. I also have to become even more conscious of avoiding soy because my over-exposure to it during my birth control years may have put me at higher risk for breast cancer (estrogen receptors in the breast can cause tumor growth if over-stimulated). This means my diet could then be labeled as mostly dairy free, pescetarian, gluten-free, and soy-free.

For someone who used to eat anything and everything (ok, maybe aside from rabbit meat), this is quite a list of limitations. But my health has become much more important to me in the past five years and I want to set myself up for a long, active life.

So here are a few ideas for breakfasts that fit the bill:

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Avocado slices and a mushroom omelette (stirred with almond milk, fried in coconut oil).

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Oats with nutritional yeast, a fried egg, and avocado.

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Coconut yogurt.

Coconut oil, by the way, is extremely good for the endocrine system, so adding 1-2 tablespoons a day to your diet is a great idea. I put it in my morning smoothie, fry eggs and everything else in it, and eat it raw (letting it melt under my tongue) when I’m feeling particularly ambitious. Not to mention applying it to my face as lotion and my scalp as a moisturizer.

In terms of my training-regimen after tomorrow, I want to increase my speed, so I’ll be doing interval training during the week, and maintain a 6-mile distance on weekends. I may sign up for a 10 k this summer to push myself. I also want to add different types of yoga, weight training, and potentially try out some fitness classes around State College.

I will leave you with a plug for the free Lululemon “Om Finder” App. I’m obsessed with Lululemon’s branding strategy and their creative ways to get people to do yoga.

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Filed under low carb, running, yoga

Yoga in the Woolen Mill

We usually have Wednesday lunch break yoga at the Woolrich conference center, but they had a blood drive there today, so we moved it to the woolen mill, to the space where our blankets used to be made.

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Apparently, this was once a buzzing part of the mill, before most of our product manufacturing was moved overseas.

I wonder what the mill workers in the 19th century would have thought if they could have seen us in a glimpse of the future. Beside our teacher’s portable iPod player, there was nothing futuristic about the scene. Just a group of women stretching on their mats, practicing a century-old Buddhist ritual. But that’s exactly what they would have found very absurd, I assume.

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Vegan “Cheesy” Penne and Impromptu Cooking Party

Crazy happenings in the kitchen tonight. We have plans every night for the next four days, so it occurred to me that I should probably pre-cook our dinners.

I did a quick 15-minute Yoga video when I came home from work and then went crazy: one hour of cooking madness. I made three dinners plus our lunches. And listened to Turkish music the entire time, which made for quite the party.

I made two dishes I’d made before:

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Quinoa with Kale, hummus sauce, and scrambled eggs.

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Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with apples, cranberries, and toasted almonds.

But tonight’s dinner and Thursday’s lunch was a first-time recipe. Vegan “cheesy” penne.

I found it here and modified it quite a bit.

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Instead of macaroni, I used penne.

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I left the “cheese” sauce the same except for omitting some of the spices because I didn’t have them around. Everything went straight into the blender – water, almond milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, lemon juice, tahini, and spices.

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And finally, I took the liberty of adding onions, mushrooms, and spinach to add some more texture and brighten up the presentation.

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I added the penne, poured the cheese on top, and let it simmer in the pan for a few minutes while stirring constantly.

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Paired it with a German Franziskaner Weissbier and dinner was done.

The “cheese” was very creamy and much more cheese-like than I expected. I’m a fan.

Dave has been cleaning up the kitchen for about half an hour now. I tried to clean up as I went, but I was multitasking so much already that it was hard to do.

I’ve imposed an early bed time because these kitchen adventures left no time for my six-mile run. I’ll now have to get up eeeearly, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing because I’m usually still half asleep when I head out the door.

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Filed under dairy-free, drinks with dinner, German, recipes, running, vegan, yoga

Treadmill Triumph + Vegan Orzo Pasta

So, apparently it’s January again here in Central PA. When we went to the UUs this morning, I realized quickly that after yesterday’s blizzard-like snowfall, all the sidewalks were covered in snow and the roads were icy. My 11 mile run that was on the calendar was in danger.

The thought of doing a run of that length on the treadmill seemed insane, especially since I haven’t been training on the treadmill at all. I texted my best friend, an avid runner and constant cheerleader for my fitness goals, to see what she thought.

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Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of encouragement like that. I decided to give the treadmill a shot.

But now that running outside was out, I figured I might as well procrastinate, make dinner, and get some chores done around the house.

I made orzo pasta with chickpeas, broccoli, and toasted pine nuts. Find the recipe here.

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Trying the “mis en place” approach.

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Orzo. Should have cooked it with olive oil. There is always next time.

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Chickpeas and broccoli coated in olive oil and seasoned with curry powder, pepper, and garlic salt. Ready for 30 minutes in the oven.

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Toasting pine nuts. These added an awesome flavor.

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Voila. Dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow. Really delicious.

On to the run. I helped myself mentally digest it by splitting it up. 6 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles. During the interruptions, I drank water and stretched a little bit.

The treadmill was actually not half bad. I think it was easier on my knees than the pavement. But don’t get me wrong, my legs still hurt like hell 🙂

It was both motivating and agonizing to be able to watch the mileage climb. I would say miles 1-5 were pretty awesome. Mile 6 was hard because I had to go to the bathroom.

Miles 6-9 were okay, but my legs started locking up. I tried the trick of putting my sweatshirt over the mile counter, but that didn’t help at all. It just made me more antsy to know how far I was.

Mile 10 was okay. Mile 11 was awesome. At that point, I knew I was going to make it, which felt so good. I even bumped up my speed and finished in a sprint. When I was done, I screamed YES like an idiot at our apartment complex gym. Noone was there, but still.

Like my friend said, my playlist was what carried me through. I guess that’s the case with any run though.

I may have to wake up early tomorrow to do yoga. Icing and stretching tonight might not cut it. But I feel so accomplished, and happy to know the treadmill is an option for training runs.

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Easy Weeknight Pasta Dinner

When I plan meals for the week, I try to think about what’s easy, nutritious, and can be eaten for lunch the next day as well. I also try to consider innovation because repeating the same five meals over and over gets old. But on busy days, relying on what I know and can make quickly is definitely the best stress-reducer.

Tonight, I opted for an easy shrimp & pasta dish – a staple in our household and a good choice during the last few weeks of half-marathon training (exactly one month until race day!).

It took about 15 minutes to prepare.

First, I cooked some penne in olive oil and salt. I would have preferred to use whole grain penne, but white was what I had.

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Next, I sautéed shrimp in some olive oil and garlic.

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Then, I added chopped, filleted tomatoes.

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I had to switch the shrimp over to a new sauce pan because I charred the bottom of the first one. Oops. I get so distracted by my German soap while cooking.

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I also added a little bit of chopped red onion, and a handful of spinach and kale each. I seasoned it all with lemon juice, lemon pepper, and garlic salt.

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That’s it. I had a small portion because I didn’t want to overdo the carbs at night, but my leftovers will make a perfect lunch before my night-run tomorrow.

Speaking of running, I am icing my legs as we speak. Yoga at lunch today helped me recover too, but I want to avoid any preventable soreness.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying this chocolate almond milk for desert.

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My number one goal for tonight: a solid 8-hours of sleep. Why do we as a society prioritize everything else over sleep? It’s so incredibly good for us. I am trying to be more conscious of what little tasks I squeeze into my nights that keep me from getting to bed at a reasonable time. Sure, they all seem more exciting than hitting the hay, but then I pay with a lack of focus and energy the next day and often many days after that. A simple realization, but still so difficult to act on.

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Filed under dairy-free, leftovers, running, seafood, yoga

More Takeout

I had such a busy weekend to begin with, so the being robbed of one hour last night didn’t help. I felt like I was running against the clock the entire day.

This morning, we had the smoked salmon bagels and omelette combo again. Once we had fueled up on food and caffeine, we did some serious spring cleaning. I took apart the entire kitchen, deep cleaning the tops and insides of the stove top, the fridge, the counter tops, and the floor. Dave was busy with the bathrooms, dusting of all surfaces, and vacuuming. We also did multiple loads of laundry.

This helped me digest breakfast, so around 2 p.m., I was ready for my run. I decided to give myself a break from long-runs this week after doing 10 miles last weekend. Instead, I ran four miles at a faster pace. It was so nice but also unfamiliar to run in 60-degree spring weather. Definitely something my lungs will have to get used to. Overall, I’m not too satisfied with how the run went. I have to do a better job at hydrating the night before and my shins were really sore, so more stretching and icing is in order. My resolution now is to do yoga every morning before work this week and going for two runs this week after work. The time change will help with that because it’s going to be light out past 7 p.m. now.

Truthfully, I’m looking forward to the half marathon being over so I can focus on running shorter distances faster. I always hated running fast, but I think I’m getting to a point were I am up for the challenge.

After my run, we skyped with my high-school friend and her fiance in Germany and hit two grocery stores.

I picked up more takeout from the Wegman’s hot bar – this time completely vegan – yay for progress.

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Brussel sprouts, carrots, Chinese vegetables (Dave ended up eating them because they didn’t go well with the other flavors), roasted squash (so insanely good. It melted in my mouth like chocolate), Indian potato and cauliflower curry mix, and Thai vegetarian meatballs in red curry.

Then three of my friends came over to watch Soul Kitchen, a German film by my favorite Turkish director Fatih Akin. We watched it with English subtitles on Netflix and I learned a new word: grub, as in “Pub & Grub.” I love when that happens.

We snacked on vegetable chips, peanut butter cups, and black berries. I also had two glasses of wine.

Now quickly to bed before the time change screws me for the entire work week.

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Filed under dairy-free, drinks with dinner, eating out, gluten-free, running, vegan, yoga