Mindfulness

Japa Mala Beads: What they mean and how to use them (and how to win one of your own!)

Most yogis and anyone who frequents craft fairs and markets on Vancouver Island will be familiar with malas: those long, beautiful necklaces made out of wooden or gemstone beads with either a stone or tassel hanging near the navel. Aside from looking gorgeous on anyone from Salt Spring hippies to New York fashionistas, malas have a much more significant purpose and meaning for the wearer.

What does “mala” mean?
A mala, which means “garland” in Sanskrit, is pronounced mall-laa with a long A—not to be confused with mālā with a short A, which actually means poop (like the malasana yoga pose, or pooping pose, commonly misinterpreted as garland pose). Malas are strands of beads traditionally used to count the number of times a mantra is recited during meditation. They usually consists of 108 beads made out of ‘Bodhi seeds’, which come from the Rudraksha tree in India. In Hinduism, Rudraksha seeds are said to be the crystallized tears of Shiva, who cried tear of compassion for the welfare of mankind. (more…)

Speak up and be the light

Hi friends,

I know this is primarily a health and wellness blog. But it’s a platform, and as a person with an audience and representation on the internet, I feel I need to use it to share my thoughts about what’s going on in our world right now.

While I was blissfully running the SeaWheeze Half Marathon over the weekend, horrible things were going on in the southern United States. Horrible things are going on everywhere all the time to both humans, animals and the environment, but it seems geographical space and less media attention allows us to distance ourselves from it enough we can go on to live our lives, happily making our avocado toast and going to yoga class and farmers markets and such.

When I returned home from my Vancouver running weekend, I spent some time getting caught up on what was going on. And after watching this disturbing video on Facebook from VICE, I felt I had to get going on contributing something to the conversation. You see, as Chrissy King rightly pointed out on her blog, my “role as a fitness professional goes far beyond exercise and nutrition.” My goal is to aid my clients and audience with overall health and wellness, which includes emotional health and wellness. And as Chrissy points out, “you cannot simultaneously help women (and men) with their fitness and wellness while remaining silent on issues of racism and the events that occurred in Charlottesville this weekend. Unless of course, you are only here to serve white clientele. In that case, I guess you can.” (more…)

The secret to getting up and getting sh*t done each and every morning

I’m sure we’ve all had mornings when we hit the snooze button on our iPhones a million times instead of getting up and out of our warm, cozy beds to face the day.

Maybe you’re just tired and you’d rather grab an extra 10 minutes of sleep instead of getting up to make a nutritious breakfast for yourself, opting for something less nutritious on the go instead. Or maybe the warmth and comfort of your bed is much more appealing to you than going for a chilly morning run. Or maybe you’d rather go back to dreamland than face the hard tasks you need to accomplish that day.

I’ve had those mornings, but thankfully they’ve been few and far between. I make my breakfast and lunch the night before to ensure I’m always fueled, and promise myself to exercise after work if I really don’t feel like getting up an hour earlier that morning.

I always manage to keep that promise. I think I’ve only missed 3-5 workouts this year due to illness.

So what’s the secret to getting up and getting sh*t done each and every morning, no matter how unpleasant it might be? (more…)

It’s time to woman up and stop apologizing

Seeing the world from a new perspective

Seeing the world from a new perspective

Imagine you’re in a meeting at work and your boss compliments you in front of your coworkers on the stellar job you did getting a project together. Do you:

a) Smile and look embarrassed
b) Say, “Well, so-and-so actually presented it, so really he deserves the credit.”
c) Say, “Well, it was really a team effort.”
d) Say, “Thank you.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve done all of the above except D. An not just in work situations.

Receives compliment on attire: “Oh, this dress? I think I got it on sale at Old Navy.”
Receives compliment about hair: “Yeah but it’s so dry — just look at my split ends!”
Receives compliment about writing: “Oh yeah I just do it for fun, hardly anyone reads it.”
An activity is suggested that I don’t want to do: “Sure, yeah, whatever you want to do.”
Someone says something I don’t agree with: Silence

I am the ultimate conflict-avoider. I do it at work and in my day-to-day life. I apologize, I bend, I push aside my opinions to make sure everyone is happy and likes me. I’m agreeable and highly sensitive. Although being a highly sensitive person is an excellent human trait — especially now in our current culture where we need more people to consider the health of our planet and the other organisms that live on it — it can get in the way of being our true, authentic selves sometimes.

Authenticity is scary for a conflict-avoider. It means we need to show up and be real. Be honest. Let our true selves be seen. (more…)

Living In-Sync: How I balance my body and mind on a daily basis to be my best self

Living #InSyncHow I balance my body and mind on a daily basis to be my best selfWhat’s one thing that every parent, student, spouse, caregiver, entrepreneur, and salaried or part-time employee (so pretty much everyone who has to juggle working for a living with multiple responsibilities) is always striving to achieve?

Balance. Or more specifically, work-life balance.

It’s a term that often gets thrown around in lifestyle and career magazines and in the blogosphere, and one that I always have trouble defining. A few years ago, entrepreneur and former Facebook market development director (and Mark Zuckerberg sibling) Randi Zuckerberg famously said (well, tweeted) that in order to be successful in life and business, you can only pick three things to focus on out of the following five important categories: friendship, work, time with family, fitness and health, and sleep.

I have to disagree with Ms. Zuckerberg. I believe you can make time and focus on the first three (friendship, work and time with family) by giving the last two (fitness/health and sleep – I’d also add mental health to that list) your attention every day. It’s something I’ve done for the past five years, and it has allowed me to run multiple races and qualify for the Boston Marathon, become physically and emotionally stronger and more flexible, start and grow a personal training business on the side, advance in my communications and writing career, maintain longtime friendships and make new ones, and foster and grow healthy and happy relationships.

So how do I do it? How do I balance everything while finding the time and energy to work out, eat healthy and set aside time for passion projects and self-care every day?  (more…)

The neurology of behaviour change: How personal trainers can use brain science to help clients achieve their health and fitness goals

The neurology of behaviour changeWhen someone tells you to do something you don’t particularly want to do, what’s your immediate response?

Do you think about it for a moment before making up an excuse not to do it or just immediately say no? Do you act defiant until you realize it’s not a criticism and perhaps a good idea after all? Or are you open to the possibility of the action and agree after briefly thinking it through?

I have to try really hard not to act defiant when someone tells me to do something I only mildly despise, so I can’t imagine how some of my personal training clients feel when I give them an exercise plan. “On Monday, do this strength workout for 45 minutes”. Ugggh, they must think, especially if they’ve been told they need to lose weight by their doctor and exercising is something they have to do. They may want to have a strong and fit body, but aren’t looking forward to the work it’s going to take to make that happen. It also doesn’t help that the human brain values immediate rewards more highly than future rewards, so an hour spent on the couch watching Netflix will easily trump an hour spent squatting and sweating any day of the week.

If that wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s also something else going on in the brain that works against your best interests when someone tries to help you with their well-meaning fitness and health advice. (more…)

Gabrielle Bernstein’s 7 steps to happiness

“When we fulfill our function, which is to truly love ourselves and share love with others, then true happiness sets in.” On Monday, my best friend Janine and I attended a talk/book signing by Gabrielle Bernstein, a New York Times best-selling author, life coach, yogi and self-proclaimed Spirit Junkie. Yes, she’s slightly Tony Robbins-esque and dips her toes in the pseudo-profound at times, but I resonate with her general message of leading by example, going after what you want, understanding your values, and being compassionate, forgiving and empathetic. 

I picked up a copy of her book after reading and reviewing the book BODYPeace as part of a FitFluential campaign. Heather Waxman, one of the authors of the book, referenced Gabrielle (aka Gabby) a few times and I could tell much of the structure of the book was inspired by her work. I was going through a rough time earlier this year, and felt like I needed something. Something to help guide me through the situation I was in, something to help me better understand myself. I was doing online clinical therapy through a work program but it wasn’t giving me the help I needed, so I picked up a copy Gabby’s book May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. I worked through the 40 days, mediating for short periods in the morning and evening and using her positive affirmations throughout the day. It truly did help keep my anxiety in check and my mood lifted, even when things got worse later on in the year. (more…)

Why you should handwrite (not type) your goals, dreams and aspirations

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believeWhen was the last time you wrote something down by hand?

Perhaps it was on Monday when you wrote out your to-do list in your work notebook. Or maybe it was Wednesday when you wrote on a Post-It note to remind yourself to pick up eggs. Or perhaps in was on Friday when you wrote a few pleasantries in a birthday card that you were planning to give your friend on the weekend.

Or maybe you just typed your to-do list in your lap top at work, set a reminder on your phone to get eggs and wished your friend a Happy Birthday on their Facebook wall.

Although my handwriting is barely legible and I misspell almost every word I write, I love writing things down. Pen to paper is my jam. I’m a visual learner, so there’s something about physically writing things out that helps me to remember it better than if I typed it out on a computer screen. (more…)

8 tips to help you have a healthy holiday season

8 tips for having a healthy holiday seasonWith less than a week until American Thanksgiving/Black Friday and Christmas not far behind that, you’re no doubt starting to experience that familiar holiday feeling: Stress.

Standing in line at Wal-Mart to get that Lego Star Wars kit for your 10-year-old; spending hours on hold with UPS trying to track down that package you ordered from Amazon early (because you were trying to beat the rush) that’s been shipped to the wrong address; hitting up grocery store after grocery store trying to find baking supplies for those thoughtful homemade gifts you’re planning to make (apparently everyone had the same gift idea); and trying to find the time to whip up a different appetizer to bring to each of the seven holiday parties you’re invited to over the next several weeks… it’s exhausting.

And let’s not forget about the guilt you’ll feel after mindlessly inhaling all the delicious holiday baking available at said seven Christmas parties (and the leftovers coworkers bring into the office after the weekend) and not being able to get to the gym because you have baking to do, decorations to put up, and Christmas parades to attend. (more…)

{thinking out loud Thursday} Why I’m not baking holiday treats this year

'_Darkness cannot drive out darkness_ only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate_ only love can do that.'_Sorry, family and friends. This year I won’t be baking holiday treats to give as gifts like I normally do.

I won’t be spending $100 at the health food store to buy raw cacao and cocoa butter to make this delicious homemade chocolate. Nor will I drop cash on pretty packaging and organic ingredients for tasty vegan cookies.

It’s not because I don’t think you deserve the best, because you do. You deserve the best gluten-free/GMO-free/Paleo/vegan homemade treats I could possibly create. But not this year.

No, it’s not because I don’t believe in holiday treats, because I do. I love treats — I love eating treats and I love making treats to give to others. It’s my one of my most favourite holiday traditions.

But not this year.

Recent world events have left me feeling sadness, desperation and disgust at the state of humanity right now; feelings I’m sure a lot of you share. But at the same time, I feel grateful, hopeful and optimistic about our future. While evil exists, so to does love and light. And the best way to fight darkness is with light. (more…)

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