Posts Tagged ‘relaxation’

Product Love: Skullcandy Pipe iPod Speaker Dock

photo courtesy of http://www.skullcandy.com

If you are looking for a compact, stylish speaker/charging dock for your iPod, look no further. I got this for my husband for his birthday last year, and we couldn’t be happier with it. Not only does it look good, it sounds amazing.

What I like:

  • Big sound, small footprint (about 8″ long with a 2″ diameter)
  • Charges as it plays
  • Remote control with a range of up to 20 feet
  • Looks neato!
  • Sounds fantastic! You will be amazed at how loud you can crank it up                                                                                                  (and then turn it back down again when your kids complain)

Music Love: The Ting Tings

If you are not already familiar with the indie pop fabulousness that is the Ting Tings, you should be. If you are, congratulations! Now introduce them to your kids so we can derail some of this Beiber and Miley Cyrus nonsense.  Their 2008 album We Started Nothing is upbeat and will have you booty-shakin’ from start to finish. They have a new album due out this year, which should be worth a listen. In the meantime, enjoy this:

Yoga Love: Reverse Warrior

Reverse Warrior brings an intensified stretch to the hip flexor of the back leg as well as deeply opening and stretching the front ribcage. This pose is also sometimes called Peaceful Warrior, with the raised arm representing the warrior lifting his sword heavenward, away from battle,  in a gesture of peace.

From Warrior II, root strongly down through both feet and rotate your front hand so your palm faces up. As you inhale, lengthen the spine and sweep the hand skyward while letting the back hand gently sink down to rest lightly on your back leg. Reach the crown of your head upward, lengthening the neck and lifting the chin slightly — let your gaze follow your raised hand. Make sure that the front knee is still stacked squarely above the ankle and not collapsing inward. Breathe into the front ribcage, letting the intercostals (the muscles between the ribs) expand.  Be aware of your lower back and keep it long to avoid any compression.  Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, exhale and bring your arms back into Warrior II position, then step your back foot forward to meet the front foot. Switch sides and repeat.

What would you like to see more or less of in future Weekend Edition posts? Do you enjoy the current format, or would you like to see something new? I welcome all comments! Have a glorious weekend!


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Product Love: SOS Cleaning Pads

This product is an oldie, but goodie, as they say. Beloved by my mother and grandmother SOS pads have remained virtually unchanged since they first hit the market in 1917. Since it is an older product, a lot of modern home-keepers may be unaware of this kitchen lifesaver, so I thought they deserved a spotlight. They are basically small pads of steel wool infused with a foaming soap and they are scrubbing dynamos. They are perfect for baked-on messes that won’t soak away. I find myself using them frequently as of late, since my less-than-stellar dishwasher often leaves stuff behind on my dishes that won’t come off easily until I dampen an SOS pad and rub lightly. The pads are quite large, and since they are made of steel, are prone to rusting if left wet on the side of the sink. I solve this problem by cutting each pad into halves or even quarters as needed with a pair of kitchen shears. My mom swears by wrapping used pads in foil and tossing it in the freezer to prevent rusting.

Music Love: Florence & the Machine

I’m digging Florence & the Machine lately. The dreamy vocals and catchy melodies are  heavily atmospheric and often have a dark edge to the lyrics, yet somehow leave you feeling strangely buoyed up .  The “Florence” of Florence & the Machine is Florence Welsh, an English songbird with a powerhouse voice. Her video for “Cosmic Love” is beautiful and haunting. If you want something a little more upbeat, give “Dog Days are Over” a listen. Or, for sheer rock-n-roll that will make you get up and dance, try “Kiss with a Fist” — the videos are great too.  Either way, you won’t be disappointed. And by all means, let me know what you think or let me know what music you are loving lately.

Yoga Love: Virabhadrasana I  (Warrior Pose)

photo courtesy of http://www.yogajournal.com

Warrior pose is strongly grounding pose that strengthens your legs, shoulders, arms, and back, challenges your balance, and stretches your  hip flexors. To move into Warrior 1, start out in Tadasana, inhale deeply. As you begin to exhale, place your hands on your hips and  step your left foot back 3-4 feet, turning the toes of your back foot forward at a 45-degree angle. Your front toes should point straight ahead. Make sure that your weight is centered evenly on both feet and the the front leg is bent in a deep lunge, bringing the thigh bone as close to parallel with the floor as you are able.

Glance down at your front knee and make sure that it is not rolling inward, but that it is staying stacked directly above your ankle. Also check to make sure that in your lunge, the knee is not extending past the ankle joint. If it is, this will put undue pressure on your kneecap and could lead to a knee injury. Correct this by widening your stance. Next, draw your attention to your back foot and press down with the outer edge of your foot.

Next, check your hip alignment. Both hips should be facing squarely forward and even with one another. With hands still on hips, pull the right hip (or left hip, if the left foot is forward) back gently until it aligns with the left. Another good way to tell if your hips are squared is to visualize which way your belly button is pointing. It should be pointing straight ahead rather than diagonally off to one side. If you are having difficulty squaring the hips, try stepping the front foot over to the right an inch or two. (Or to the left when the left foot is forward,)

Finally, inhale deeply as you fully extend your arms and raise them above your head, alongside your ears. Take a moment to make sure your shoulders are not coming up to the ears. If they are, relax the shoulders and draw the shoulder blades downward. Extend strongly through the arms all the way through the fingertips. If you find that raising the arms creates tension in the neck and shoulders, feel free to modify the pose by returning the hands to the hips. Yoga should be a  means of releasing tension in the body, never creating it.

Hold Warrior 1 for 5-6 full breaths. When you are ready to come out of the pose, return the hands to the hips on an exhalation. As you inhale, step the back foot forward to meet the other. Repeat on the opposite side. End your micro-session by adjusting your alignment in Tadasana and taking several deep breaths, ending with a final exhalation through the mouth, like a sigh.

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I did a Weekend Edition post. Embarrassingly long, actually. So long that I realized today that the addition of the Simple Meals series makes “Recipe Love” redundant. Since the Weekend Edition is all about self-indulgence and good times, I’ve opted instead to feature music that I’m particularly digging right now. Hope the change is a good one.

Product Love: Amazon Kindle

photo courtesy of http://www.Amazon.com

I got a Kindle for Christmas and I more than love it. I take it everywhere and hardly let it out of my sight. Some background: I have always been a reader. In the past year, alone I’ve probably read about 15 books. I love books. I love the smell of books, I love bookstores and judging by covers and first-paragraph reading as a means of determining whether to get the book or not. Also, I arrange my books on my living room bookshelves in a particular way. No, not by subject or author, but by color. Books are pretty and tactile. So ‘Why’, you might be asking yourself, ‘would a self-proclaimed book lover eschew the very thing she loves and get a Kindle?’ Well, remember that part about books being tactile? They are also substantial. As in, when we moved this past fall, a substantial portion of boxes was taken up by books. Oh, and substantial has another meaning as well. As in, a medium-sized box of books weighs substantially more than you might expect it to.

In other words: Despite my love for books (or perhaps because of that love) I realized that I couldn’t continue to accumulate them at the rate I had been doing. It was either stop reading books, stop buying books, or start getting rid of books. The first two options are just silly. The last one is nearly blasphemous. The Kindle seemed a good alternative to the other, uh…alternatives. In fact it’s been better than I anticipated. Here are a few reasons why:

  • FREE books: need I say more?
  • One-handed reading: It’s unbelievable how much more convenient this is. And since the Kindle is flat, you can set it down for no-handed reading. Am I blowing your mind yet?
  • Read multiple books at once: I never thought I would do this, but it’s awesome. I can read a serious, often heavy biography like Cleopatra, A Life and if I need a break, just jump over to something lighter like Booky Wook 2. I can carry them both with me along with a bunch of other titles all the time!)
  • Built-in dictionary: nice for those books that are chock full of big words you don’t quite understand.
  • Instant gratification: I only regret that the Harry Potter series has wrapped. Can you imagine uploading the book the instant it comes available? Genius.

Music Love: Neon Trees

There has been a lot of hype about Neon Trees around here lately. A lot of it stems from the fact that they are a local band (from Provo, Utah) that is really hitting their stride right now. A lot of it also stems from the fact that they rock. I’m a little late to the Neon Trees party, but I am really digging them right now. Especially the song “In the Next Room” from their 2010 album Habits (available right now on iTunes for only $7.99!). Cure fans will immediately pick out a subtle nod to “The Lovecats”. Enjoy!

Yoga Love: Eka Rajakapotasana

photo courtesy of http://www.athletica.net

I have quite a bit to say about Eka rajakapotasana, so for today, I’m going to leave the details of the pose to Yoga Journal:

Step by Step

Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist; at the same time angle your right shin under your torso and bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. The outside of your right shin will now rest on the floor. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee and descending the front of the thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.

The right knee can angle slightly to the right, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your left leg. It should extend straight out of the hip (and not be angled off to the left), and rotated slightly inwardly, so its midline presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh for a few breaths. Stretch your arms forward.

This is me, breaking in to add an important detail: The placement of the knee, as mentioned above can vary the intensity of the pose, so too can the placement of the front foot. The front foot can be tucked back, closer to the hip or moved forward, closer to the shoulders. The further forward it is, the greater the intensity of the pose.

Then slide your hands back toward the front shin and push your fingertips firmly to the floor. Lift your torso away from the thigh. Lengthen the lower back by pressing your tailbone down and forward; at the same time, and lift your pubis toward the navel. Roll your left hip point toward the right heel, and lengthen the left front groin.

If you can maintain the upright position of your pelvis without the support of your hands on the floor, bring your hands to the top rim of your pelvis. Push heavily down. Against this pressure, lift the lower rim of your rib cage. The back ribs should lift a little faster than the front. Without shortening the back of your neck, drop your head back. To lift your chest, push the top of your sternum (at the manubrium) straight up toward the ceiling.

Stay in this position for a minute. Then, with your hands back on the floor, carefully slide the left knee forward, then exhale and lift up and back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Take a few breaths, drop the knees to all-fours on another exhalation, and repeat with the legs reversed for the same length of time.

This is me again, breaking in one more time to add that a more relaxing variation of the pose, one which I will discuss in greater detail below, can be achieved by lengthening the torso and folding forward over the front leg. Place your forearms on the floor for support, if necessary, or, if you have the flexibility, walk the hand out from your body until you can rest your forehead on the floor or a block as pictured here:

photo courtesy of http://www.athletica.net

The literal translation of the name of this asana is “One-legged king pigeon pose”, which is a mouthful, even in yoga-speak. You may also hear an abbreviated form of the sanskrit name in your yoga class: kapotasana. This pose is a deep hip-opening pose that most yogis have a love/hate relationship with. It can be deeply intense, and yet deeply relaxing at the same time. For the uninitiated, “intense” is a nice yogic way of saying “painful”. However, you shouldn’t let that scare you away. I tell my students that this pose is all about surrender. This asana is really about learning to let go. To truly find serenity in this pose, one needs to let go of tension everywhere else in the body, let go of negative self-talk, and let go of pre-conceived ideas as to our personal limits of flexibility. As you begin to let go of some things, it is vital in kapotasana to also embrace others. Embrace, for example the sensation. The intensity. And, if you insist on calling it that, the pain. Take the opportunity to embrace the breath as well. Kapotasana is, in my opinion, the single best pose for novice yogis to learn to tap into the power of ujjayi breathing and let it aid your relaxation. As you feel the stretch in and around the hip joint, breathe into the hip. Breathe so deeply that you actually feel the hip area expanding with your inhalation, creating space around the hip socket. Notice also, how the intensity seems to ease right at the end of your inhalation. Carry that sense of ease with you throughout your exhalation. Focus on the breath and embrace relaxation. At this point, I would also encourage you to try a hand mudra, sometimes called the Jupiter Mudra which helps you to focus your energy to break through barriers.  Do this by interlacing your fingers and crossing one thumb over the other. Next, extend your index fingers, bringing the tips of them together. If you are still struggling to find peace in this pose, you may find that a simple mantra, repeated in your mind several times, can work wonders. Two of my favorites are “Joy, peace, bliss” and “Peace, harmony, well-being”.

Be well and have a fantastic weekend!

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Product Love: Pomegranates

I know it’s really produce rather than a product, but you had to have seen this one coming. Pomegranates are my favorite winter fruit, a preference I happen to share with both of my sisters. November through February, you will find them in our kitchens without fail. I do cook with them on occasion, but mostly, I just put all the arils in a bowl and eat them decadently with a spoon. Pomegranates are high in vitamins C & B5, as well as potassium, and are a great source of anti-oxidants. If you don’t know the easiest way to open a pomegranate, or are looking for some great recipes, check out the information on the POM website. Pomegranates can last for up to a month on your countertop or up to two months in the refrigerator, so they are a great item to stock up on and have on-hand for the holidays. Just remember when choosing pomegranates, go for weight over color. The heavier the fruit is, the jucier and fresher it will be.

Recipe Love: Share the Love Italian Bread

This recipe is perfect for sharing because it makes 2 large loaves and is quick and simple! It’s the perfect accompaniment for a hearty soup or even a main-course salad. The leftovers also make a great sandwich bread.

Lightly coat a large bowl and a rimmed baking sheet with oil of your choice and set aside.

  • 2 TBSP yeast
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 heaping TBSP sugar
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted

In your mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, sugar, and 2 cups of flour and stir to combine. Add water and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add 2 more cups of flour and mix again to incorporate flour. At this point, change to the dough hook (dough will be sticky). Gradually add remaining 1-2 cups of flour, one half cup at a time, kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Shape dough into a slightly flattened ball and transfer to oiled bowl. Make a small indentation on top and pour on melted butter, drizzling a little over the sides of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about one hour or until dough is doubled in size. (I like to cover it with a clean dish cloth and set near a sunny window.)

Flour a work surface and dump out dough, punching down immediately. Knead dough by hand 2-3 times to incorporate melted butter and absorb some of the flour. Cut dough in half. Roll out each half to a rectangle* that measures roughly 6×13. Starting on long side of rectangle, roll dough up into a loaf. Gently pinch ends of roll together and tuck under. Place both loaves side by side on the oiled baking sheet.

Place in a cold oven for 30 minutes, then turn the oven on to 400 degrees and bake 30 minutes more.

*The original recipe says that you can scatter fresh finely chopped herbs on the dough before rolling up, though I have never tried. It sounds delicious, but the final product would not be as versatile and I’m not sure my kids would go for it.

Yoga Love: Open Your Heart

In the spirit of the season (both Thanksgiving and Christmas), I thought it apropos to focus today’s micro-yoga session on heart-opening poses with an emphasis on restorative poses, specifically. When you open up your heart, you are making room for metta or lovingkindness in your life. Making room for more patience, love, joy, and thanksgiving. Keep this in mind as you go through this simple, yet relaxing series of poses. (You will need a bath towel and a pillow as props for the final pose.)

Cow & Cat Poses: Kneel on all fours taking care to position your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. As you inhale, lengthen your spine by reaching the crown of your head forward and your tail bone back. Envision creating space between each vertebra. What you want to avoid with this pose is “sway back” — in other words, keep the spine straight and strong rather than arching your back. Remember to roll your shoulders back as your gently lift your chin and open your heart. As you exhale, root down through your knees and heels of your hands, draw the chin to the chest, and round the back by arching it up like a Halloween cat. Repeat 5 times.

Fish Pose (Matsyasana) :

photo courtesy of http://www.yogajournal.com

Lying on your back, roll slightly to the right side and slide your left arm underneath your back, with the palm of your hand down. Roll slightly to the left and position your right arm in the same manner. Extend your legs and point your toes toward the floor. Imagine a string is attached to your sternum above your heart, and that it is being gently pulled upward. Arch your back and raise yourself up onto your elbows and forearms. Press down into the floor with your arms and draw the elbows together behind your back. Let your head fall gently back, chin lifted, so that the crown of your head rests lightly on the floor. Inhale and exhale deeply. Close your eyes if you like, or, since this pose is a mild inversion, keep them open and literally see things from a new perspective. Remain here breathing deeply for 5 or more breaths. When you would like to come out of the pose, lift the crown of your head about an inch from the floor and gently slide it back down into a neutral position. Gently release the arms one at a time.

Savasansa Variation: Take a regular sized bath towel and roll it up from the short end. Place the roll on the floor and position yourself so that you are sitting at one end of the roll and it extends lengthwise behind you. Lie back onto the rolled towel, so that it runs the length of your spine, but so your head and neck are resting flat on the floor or are supported comfortably by a pillow. Let your feet fall naturally open and bring your hands to a resting position at your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, letting gravity draw your shoulders earthward on either side of the rolled towel. Let your chest soften and broaden as your heart center opens. Let your breath slowly return to a subconscious breathing and lie in quiet relaxation for about 5 minutes. When you are ready to get up, slowly roll to one side into a fetal position, and then gently press yourself up into a seated position.

Have a beautiful weekend, and remember to keep an open heart!

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Product Love: Method Tub & Tile Cleaner

photo courtesy of http://www.methodhome.com

I know I’ve posted about Method products before in my Weekend Edition, and the truth is, I will probably post about them again! Every Method product I’ve tried, I have loved! The same goes for this bathroom cleaner. Let’s start with the scent: Eucalyptus Mint. It smells fresh and clean –so much so that my husband noticed and commented on it! Like other Method products, it derives much of it’s cleaning power from essential oils and is completely non-toxic, which means your bathroom is not only clean, but free from harsh chemicals and you have no guilt about rinsing this stuff down the drain. Also, it’s easy to use. You literally just spray it on and let it stand for a few minutes and then scrub or rinse it off. I love it because it works magic on ring-around the tub left by three filthy children, old dull fixtures, and soap scum in general. In short, it makes cleaning my bathroom more enjoyable, which is a little bit of magic in its own right.

Recipe Love: Honey Roasted Vegetables with Walnuts

This recipe from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food  is the perfect fall side dish! The flavors of honey, thyme, and walnuts infuse the veggies, transforming simple roasted vegetables into something company-worthy. If you are not a fan of walnuts (as my sweet husband is NOT), it would be just as delicious with pecans or hazelnuts. You can also use dried thyme leaves if you don’t have fresh thyme on hand.  One more note, if you don’t have a full hour to devote to this dish, don’t fret! I roasted mine at 450 on a rimmed baking sheet for about 20-30 minutes, a much more manageable timeframe for a weeknight meal.

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 pound total), peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 to 5 sprigs thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 3-quart baking dish, toss together sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, walnuts, honey, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Top with thyme sprigs, and roast until vegetables are browned at edges and tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Honey-Roasted Vegetables – Martha Stewart Recipes

Yoga Love: Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

photo courtesy of http://www.About.com

You’ve been working hard raking all those leaves! Go ahead, join the kids and lie right down amongst them. Make a leaf angel if you feel so compelled. Now let’s address that aching back. As always, if  you want the full benefit of this pose, I suggest printing off these directions and having someone read them aloud to you as you follow along. Don’t forget to accompany your yoga poses with deep, full Ujjayi Breathing.

Lying flat on your back, draw both knees up and hug them to your chest. Rock slowly back and forth across the full span of your back, letting you elbow stop you on each side. Keeping your arms wrapped around your right knee, extend your left leg to it’s full length.

Place the fingertips of your left hand on the outside of your right knee and extend your right arm out to the side, level with your shoulder and palm to the ground.

Next, use your left hand to draw your right knee across the body to the left as you turn your head to the right. If the knee touches the ground on your left side, that’s great — enjoy the stretch! If not, that’s fine too. However, if you find it difficult to hold the knee in position, you may find it easier to either tuck the toes of your right leg behind your left knee or to simply prop up the right knee with a pillow or folded blanket. Hold for 5-10 breaths, enjoying the stretch all along the length of your spine as well as in the outside of the right hip and thigh.

Slowly release the right knee and return to center, once more hugging the right knee up to your chest. Now switch sides and hug the left knee to your chest and continue with the pose on the opposite side. End by returning gently to center, and hug both knees to your chest once more, rocking slowly back and forth across the full span of your back.

Finally, bring the palms of your hands to your kneecaps, fully extending your arms and continue to rock slowly back and forth across your back. Notice that this time, the pressure is targeted on the lowest part of your back, just above the pelvis, on the area called the sacrum. This area has a very thin layer of muscle tissue that can hold significant amounts of tension, so it may be tender. If it is uncomfortable, try moving to a softer surface.

Finish off your mini-session by extending both legs to their fullest length, stretching through the heels. Let the feet fall naturally apart and bring your arms to your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes, let your breathing return to normal, and relax in stillness for 2-3 minutes in this pose, which is known as Savasana. When you are ready to get up, slowly roll to one side into a fetal position, and then gently press yourself up into a seated position.

Have a beautiful weekend!

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We have officially survived a full week of back-to-school mayhem! It’s Friday afternoon, the baby is napping, the kids are watching cartoons, and the house is actually clean.  I’ve been in full-scale organization mode around the house lately and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s beginning to pay off.  As I’ve gotten back into a routine of getting up early, getting the kids to school, and tackling the housework with renewed energy, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what gets me through these thrice-yearly reorganization binges. (September, January, and May-ish.  Corresponding with back-to-school, post-holiday cleaning, and the ubiquitous spring clean.) In that spirit, today’s weekend edition is devoted to conquering the clutter. 

Product Love: Label Maker

Brother PT-80

Brother PT-80

I am in love with my label maker!  It’s so satisfying to tackle a disorganized mess armed with this little gadget.  Recently I decided on a whim to reorganize the toys.  All of them.  I didn’t realize at the time what I was getting myself into, but I don’t know if I could have gotten out of it without my trusty label maker.  All the toys are sorted into bins and labeled accordingly.  I find that once I access and categorize the things I’m trying to organize, everything runs smoothly from there on out.  I type up the labels, enjoying the soft hum as perfectly-printed labels issue from the machine.  Slap them on the shelves or containers and all that’s left is the sorting.  So far, my label-love has been limited to items stored in boxes and bins, but I admit I’ve been tempted to go so far as labeling shelves in the pantry and linen closet.  So far, I’ve managed to restrain myself, although I did recently label a cell-phone charger left behind by a guest.  (I told myself it was so I would remember who it belonged to, but I noticed that when he picked it up recently, he left the label intact.)

Recipe Love: Afternoon Pick-Me-Up


Okay, while technically not a recipe, it’s my go-to for the afternoon or mid-project blahs.  All the great Dr. Pepper taste, none of the calories!  What’s not to love? 

My Recipe: fill one tall glass with 5-6 ice cubes, pour in Diet Dr. Pepper.  Wait for foam to subside.  Sit down, put up your feet and enjoy.  *Best enjoyed in 15-30 minutes while watching whatever guilty pleasure TV show you can find.

What gets you through a difficult day or a challenging project?

Yoga Love: Be Victorious

Ujjayi Breath, or “the victory breath” is the basis for any serious yoga practice.  This breathing technique is also sometimes referred to as “ocean breathing” because of the characteristic sound it makes. This sound is an integral part of the breath and sounds like the ebb and flow of the tide. Although it may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first to be breathing so loudly, in time, you will grow accustomed to and feel relaxed by the sound. As a beginning practicing with more advanced yogis, the rhythmic sound of their breathing can be a reminder to you to maintain your own ujjayi breathing.

Ujjayi breathing cultivates body awareness, attentiveness, and relaxation.  It also increases lung capacity, boosts endurance, and calms the nervous system. 

Begin with a simple breath awareness exercise.  Sitting comfortably, lengthen the spine and roll the shoulders back and down.  Stretch the crown of your head skyward, then close the eyes and be attentive of your natural breath.  How deep or shallow is your breathing? Are both lungs filling evenly? Are using your full lung capacity?  How quick or slow is your breathing? Continue breathing normally for several minutes taking care not to manipulate the breath in any way.  For now, only concentrate on observation of your natural breath. You will find that it varies from day-to-day. As you begin practicing the ujjayi breath, keep in mind that it is done completely through the nose.

The characteristic oceanic sound of ujjayi breathing is created by slightly constricting the base of the throat in order to regulate airflow, and by directing the airflow to the back of the throat. Place your fingertips on the throat, just above the sternal notch (the central dip in your collarbone).  Gasp as though surprised and feel the throat tense.  This is the same tension we will use to constrict the throat for ujjayi breathing, but to a lesser degree. Try gasping several times, to get a feel for the intrinsic muscles you will be using. Release the hand from the throat. The ujjayi inhalation is like a slow, steady gasp in…much like breathing through a straw. Inhale slowly, constricting the throat gently, directing airflow to the back of the throat, and regulating the inhalation so that your intake of air is slow and steady. Some people find it helpful to raise the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to visualize the air flowing directly into the throat at the spot where your fingertips were resting.  Once you begin to get a feeling for the inhalation, move on to the exhalation.

Many people are more readily able to master the ujjayi breath employing this simple technique: Open the mouth and breathe out as though you are fogging a mirror or warming your cold hands.  This “haaaaaa” exhalation is exactly like the ujjayi exhalation only with mouth open.  Try  beginning with open-mouth “haaaaaa” breathing and transition to a closed mouth midway through the breath.  The resulting closed-mouth breath is identical to the ujjayi exhalation.  Try this transitional technique a few times until you get the feel for it and then, holding the throat in the same way, inhale. 

You will soon find a rhythm and flow to your breath and the sound should mimic the ocean. Now begin to refine the breath.  First, smooth out any roughness in the breathing.  Ujjayi breathing is characteristically slow, steady, and smooth.  Next, inhale from bottom to top, filling the lowest part of the lungs first, next the ribcage, and finally the chest.  Your collarbone should lift slightly near the end of each inhalation.  Visualize the lungs filling like balloons, ribcage expanding outward in all directions.  Exhale from top to bottom, engaging the abdominal muscles slightly at the end of each exhalation in order to fully expel any remaining air from the lungs. 

Watch out for your shoulders tensing and rising toward the ears as you inhale. Your body should remain relaxed and at ease. Dizziness and light-headedness are common to ujjayi beginners because you are taking unusually large, deep breaths as you inhale and not taking your time and maintaining control during the exhalation.  If you feel light-headed, focus on slowing down your exhalation.  A good rule of thumb is that your in and out breaths should be of the same duration. 

Practicing ujjayi breathing for as little as 5 minutes can have a remarkable calming effect and can be used for stress relief, general relaxation, pain management, and panic attacks.  Have a fantastic weekend, and remember to breathe! 



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Product Love: Method Multi-Surface Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

Method Cleaner

My favorite scent right now is Pink Grapefruit. It is a great cleaner and I use it daily for my countertops and kitchen table.  It’s all natural, so I don’t worry about harsh chemicals or residue that may be harmful to my kids.  The scent comes from essential oils, which makes it great at cutting grease on cookware or on the stovetop. It’s also available in Cucumber and French Lavender.  No matter which scent you choose, it makes your kitchen smell fantastic.  Bonus: keep an eye out at your local Target for smaller-size holiday fragrances as well.  In the past I’ve picked up Spiced Pear, Holly Berry, and Peppermint Vanilla.

Recipe Love: Apple Popovers


With a crisp fall bite in the evening air, this is the perfect quick weekend treat.  It’s best made with a crisp, slightly tart apple.  (Our favorites are Gala, Granny Smith, and Crispin).

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease 6 compartments of a muffin tin.
Sift together:

1/2 cup + 1 TBSP flour
2 TBSP powdered sugar

Make a well in the center and add:

1 egg
1/4 cup milk

stir with a wire whisk until smooth, then add:

1/4 cup more milk

Stir until smooth. Measure out 1 TBSP olive oil and divide among 6 muffin compartments. Place the muffin tin in the oven to heat the oil. Meanwhile, peel, core, and thinly slice 2 small apples . Remove muffin tin from oven and divide batter between each compartment. Place the sliced apples on top and sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until golden and risen. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm. I defy you to have any leftovers. In fact, we generally make a double batch.

Yoga Love: Legs Up the Wall Pose

photo courtesy of yogajournal.com

photo courtesy of yogajournal.com

Also known as Viparita Karani, this pose literally has you on your back with your legs up a wall.  It’s a deeply relaxing and restorative pose, great for headache, anxiety, insomnia and general stress-relief.  You will need enough space on the floor to lie down parallel to the wall and the same space on the wall itself.  You may want to fold up a blanket to offer some cushion if you are practicing on a hard floor.

Sit parallel to the wall, right hip quite close to the base of the wall and legs extended straight in front of you.  With one fluid movement, swing your legs up the wall and your back and body onto the floor.  Your bottom need not be flat against the wall, and if you find extending the legs straight up the wall uncomfortable, you can bend the knees slightly or insert additional padding under your hips and lower back.  Relax the body, draw length into the spine release your arms to your sides.

If you would like, experiment with one of the following variations until you find the version of this pose that is right for you.

  1. Wide Angle Variation: Slide the legs outward on the wall into a wide ‘V’ shape.
  2. Bound Angle Variation: From the original position, bring the soles of the feet together, bend the knees, and bring the heels down towards your body.  The legs will open like butterfly wings, and the outer edges of your knees will be facing the wall.
  3. Happy Baby Variation: From the bound angle position, keep the knees stationary and arc your feet upward and outward, the outer edges of the feet coming to rest against the wall above the knees.

Close your eyes and rest in the pose or any of the variations for 5-15 minutes.  To come out of the pose, return your legs to the original position and slowly roll to your left.  Remain lying on your side for a few moments and slowly raise yourself to a seated position.

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