One-Way Street

For years I pounded the pavement. As a runner, my feet hit the cement over and over as I competed in cross-country, track, and, as an adult, even a couple marathons.

My coaches always encouraged stretching, both before and after the runs, but for the most part, I was on a one-way street toward shortening and tighenting my muscles. Until I tried yoga, I had no idea what it really meant to enlongate them. Running made me so inflexible that because of my inability to touch my toes or do the splits, I thought I “couldn’t do yoga.” Yoga was for bendy people, like gymnasts.

Thank goodness I figured out my thinking was flawed at age 30 and not a minute later. The benefits of yoga for inflexible people are amazing. Yes, it’s true that having shorter muscles means I often need to use a lot of props and adjust my poses in way others don’t, but almost every single time I practice yoga, I find myself thinking, “This feels so good.” After years of heading “one way” I’m finally teaching my body to move in the opposite direction. Ahh.

Confused about Coffee

The first time I tried to stop drinking coffee I was working as a lawyer. It was a busy time at the firm, so I honestly don’t know what possessed me to quit cold turkey. I began having headaches on top of the long hours. Six months went by. The headaches stopped (the long hours didn’t). Eventually, I caved. I wanted that energy jolt again. Plus, the taste. Mmmm…the taste.

The second time I tried to stop drinking coffee I was trying to get pregnant. This time I weaned myself slowly. I ordered a small instead of a medium. Then a half regular, half decaf. Finally I made the switch to non-caffeine tea.

After I lost the baby (miscarriage), I was drinking coffee within days.

When I made a commitment to Clean Eating, I thought, Third time’s a charm. But now that I’m well on my way down the path of eating wholesome foods, I’ll say this: drastically reducing my intake of sugar and white flour while drastically increasing my fruit and veggies has been pretty smooth sailing. But the coffee…oh, how I miss it when I don’t drink it.

I just can’t seem to kick it (well, it’s more like I’m unwilling to give it an honest try). I keep reading articles about the benefits of coffee (antioxidants, etc), but really, part of me think that’s like those articles that claim dark chocolate is good for you for the same reasons (antioxidants).

Really, shouldn’t we just eat blueberries?

To make a long story longer, I’m still on the fence about coffee (thus have not given it up). I enjoy the aroma and flavor so much. Plus, unlike sugar which makes me feel bleh inside, coffee makes me feel good (but I know, I know…it increases my blood pressure and doesn’t help with my anxiety issues). So I sit in confusion. I tell myself that out of all the vices in the world caffeine isn’t so bad. (Can you tell I’m piling on the excuses here or what?)

I’d love to hear from others who are dedicated to eating clean, healthy foods. What’s your take on your morning cuppa joe (or lack thereof)? Š

Acorn Squash Dip with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds on Wasa

Ingredients

2 cups acorn squash, cooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fat free half and half
½ cup diced onion
2 leaves fresh sage
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
1 package WASA Hearty Rye Crispbread

Directions

Slice open acorn squash and remove seeds. Place sliced side down in an 8 X 8 inch glass dish, cover and microwave on high until tender (approx 10 minutes).
Scoop out meat with a spoon when cooled and set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet. Add onion and whole sage leaves. Sauté until onions are transparent. Remove sage.
Add squash, half and half, maple syrup, and parmesan cheese. Mix well.
Spoon into bowl, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve hot on a platter with crispbread.

TIP: May substitute WASA Oat, Sourdough Rye, Multigrain, or Rye Crispbread. Leftover dip may be stored in refrigerator for to 3 – 4 days.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Value Per Serving

Calories 254
Total Fat 6 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Cholesterol 1 mg
Sodium 257 mg
Total Carbohydrate 52 g
Dietary Fiber 8 g
Protein 6 g
Calcium 57 mg

Mr. Forgetful

Remember Mr. Men and Little Miss?

I was a child of the 70s and loved those characters. I think Mr. Funny was my favorite, but last Sunday I was reminded of Mr. Forgetful.

It was mid-morning, and my husband and I were exiting a crowded parking lot. The pavement was packed, and cars were bumper to bumper as everyone tried to work their way out onto the main road. A couple policemen were directing traffic and one waved us on. Two seconds later a second policeman held up his hand indicating we should stop. Confusion ensued as my husband rolled forward then hit his breaks as he tried to follow the directions. Cars honked. A red truck squealed his tires and raced around us, cutting us off and running over a couple of orange cones.

Guess where we were leaving?

Church.

We had just finished listening to a sermon about treating others kindly.

How quickly we forget (and I’m not just talking about the guy in the red truck…I found myself feeling annoyed with the traffic too!).

At times I’ve noticed Mr. Forgetful making an appearance in yoga class. Here’s what happens: we spend 90 minutes stretching and meditating and bowing and OMing, but as soon as class ends we’re all shoving our blankets into the shelf (each one folded in different ways), tossing our blocks in a disorganized fashioned into a bin, and then racing out the door as we reach in front of others to grab our flip-flops.

I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty of this before. But I guess I’ll be Little Miss Confession today. After one of my yoga teachers suggested people should put their props away more mindfully, I really began to pay attention. Blankets should be folded and stacked the same way to prevent the pile from tumbling. Blocks should be stacked to maximize space. Straps should be hung without tangles.

And it’s really that simple.Š

The Practice of Pause

In the most recent issue of Newsweek magazine, Robert J. Samuelson wrote a column titled The Sad Fate of the Comma.

He says:

I have always liked commas, but I seem to be in a shrinking minority. The comma is in retreat, though it is not yet extinct. In text messages and e-mails, commas appear infrequently, and then often by accident (someone hits the wrong key). Even on the printed page, commas are dwindling. Many standard uses from my childhood (after, for example, an introductory prepositional phrase) have become optional or, worse, have been ditched. If all this involved only grammar, I might let it lie. But the comma’s sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can’t-wait-a-minute nature of modern life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don’t have time for that. No pauses allowed.

My husband came home from work a few hours after I read the article and mentioned that a yoga instructor had visited his office as part of their Wellness Program.

“Did you learn anything?” I asked.

He said he learned that if people took ten minutes out of their day to sit quietly and relax, scientific studies show stress levels reduce drastically. In other words, he learned it’s important to pause.

He had a worksheet from the Mind/Body Medical Institute. Click here for the full set of instructions, but in a nutshell it simply says to sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe (the easy part), as you clear your mind of active thoughts (the hard part).

Summers seems like an especially good time to incorporate the practice of pause because schedules can get so busy. You might be thinking: “That’s precisely the problem. I’m so busy I don’t have time to relax for 10 minutes.” But as the yoga instructor who visited my husband’s office mentions on her website, pausing will calm you down and clear your mind for better decision-making, ultimately giving you much more time.     Š