Tag Archives: yoga

Exercise is NOT a dirty word(Just ask my Portland to Coast team!)

I love my work. I get to spend time with thousands of women every year in my role as a health care provider and as a result, I meet some amazing individuals. My office is in ‘the Pearl’ in NW Portland, which is an area similar to Soho in NYC:  shops, restaurants, bookstores(Powells Books is the largest bookstore in the U.S.and is a mere 3 blocks from my office), businesses and high density living quarters.  It is a vibrant neighborhood filled with pedestrians, cyclists, dogs on leashes, people hustling back and forth: for work, to shop, or to meet a friend over coffee or happy hour.

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

I hear many stories everyday and some common threads that emerge are all too often frustration with weight(too much, especially that dreaded ‘muffin top’), stress and feeling tired/overwhelmed. In my role as a provider, I try to elicit details of a person’s diet, stress management techniques and exercise routine. Most importantly, I have learned NOT to make assumptions: many people still don’t know how to eat ‘cleanly’ or how to incorporate exercise into daily living. Not surprisingly, women who eat well and exercise regularly tend to look and feel better/younger and handle life’s stressors with more grace.

So often I hear “I don’t have time to exercise” “I get bored” “I have bad knees” ” I just hate how I look: I can’t imagine putting on a bathing suit/workout clothes”. But then again, these are often the same women who are at their wit’s end with weight and fatigue issues.

The solution is obvious: Exercise! but the path back can be difficult for many.  But I love this kind of challenge: helping people find what works for them to get them back to feeling good, balanced, energized, alive…So many people hear the word ‘exercise’ and they want to run, but not outside, but to the couch. It can be a bit daunting for someone who has never been very active or for others who have adopted a sedentary lifestyle.

But it doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Start small. Set some goals. Let me give you some REALISTIC suggestions:

~Get a fitness app for your smart phone: there are some great ones out there. One that I use all the time is ‘endomondo’: this is a sports tracker with a GPS that makes fitness fun, helping you to measure your progress over time: I used it to train for Portland to Coast and it helped me to walk my fastest mile ever! Some others are ‘adidas-mi coach’, ‘couch to 5 k'(one of my co-workers is using that one: helping her to walk/jog and get moving!), ‘nike-fit’ …the choice is endless. Pick something that works for your lifestyle: they really make exercise fun!

~Find a group or a friend and start working towards a goal together. Last year I formed our PTC team and some of the women had NEVER participated in any kind of formal exercise or events. Guess what? they loved it and came back this year stronger and fitter than ever.

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

~Try something new or revisit something you loved as a child. Take a dance class, try stand up paddling, yoga, pilates, barre work, sea kayaking: there are no limits to the opportunities out there.

Trust me: exercise is the one thing that if you do it with any sort of regularity and dedication, it will give back to you in many ways: You will feel stronger, calmer, more flexible, confident, fit, leaner, and happy. And your memory will improve, as well as your cardiovascular health and hormonal balance.

So what’s stopping you? As always, we would love to hear what you are doing as part of your personal balance plan.

Happy trails…..

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Oh and P.S.: last year was our first year as a walking team and we came in at around the top 40% , which we felt pretty good about. THIS year we finished in the top 28% overall…not bad for a bunch of women walking and having a fantastic time while doing it!

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Filed under Essentials, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Christmas 2012 in Balance: The Essential Gift List

Xmas ME

Christmas is one of those GOOD stress times I like to think of as  the  spice of life!

The holiday rush is upon us and I like everyone else I know find myself in a constant rush to fit in the shopping, the parties, and the round of Christmas craft fairs, concerts, and happy hours with friends. Actually I’m having far too much fun this season, but on top of work and chores, aging parents, aging dogs (who have lately forgotten they’re house trained), aging knees, and an empty nest (which is about to fill back up to overflowing just as we were getting used to it)….well it takes it’s toll. But far from complaining, oh no, ho, ho, I am simply stating a fact: Christmas time can be a stressful time!! Mostly GOOD stress, one hopes, but stress none-the-less.

So my challenge this season is to stay cool in the midst of all the holiday chatter and cheer, to keep Jingle Bell Rock from getting stuck inside my head, and to find gifts for my favorite people that  rather than cluttering their closets may help to unclutter their lives. In mulling this over, I keep arriving back at one of  Menopausibilities’ essential truths: It’s about BALANCE.  That’s it.  That’s all that stands between me and overeating, overworking, overspending, and overdoing the Yuletide. So with mantra in mind I hereby resolve that the only gifts I will give a moments consideration to this Christmas are those that speak to me of balance. Gifts meant to calm, soothe, enlighten, and rebalance the health, hormones, and lives of those I love best in all the world. Mature woman holding gift, portrait

Thus follows my very own Speak to Me of Balance Christmas Gift List for 2012. Hopefully my growing hodgepodge of favorites will speak to YOU of balance or help spark your own ideas:

MASSAGE: A gift certificate for a one hour massage, or even a 15 minute chair massage 2x a week studies tell us, can calm the sympathetic nervous system and lower stress levels significantly.

FLOAT: this is the act of suspending oneself voluntarily in a tank filled with warm water and Epsom salts for about 90 minutes in a darkened room! Hmmm… the idea being to block all sensory input so that sans the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of stress hormones while the neurotransmitters of happiness rise and the mind comes out to play. Fans of FLOAT say the 90 minutes go by fast when you’re in a state of “otherworldly relaxing.” (www.floathq.com for Portlanders – floatation.com for everyone else!)

Man examining his physique in the mirror

Dave and the after-effects of a “hot” yoga session: more strength and stamina, less spare tire!

YOGA: the essentials of stretching and deep breathing release tension, lower stress hormones, and among other things boost lung function.  More oxygen translates to relaxed muscles with fewer aches and pains, better mood and memory. The Bikram version performed in 100+degrees is a form of ‘hot’ yoga that has its’ followers, my own husband among them!

Gift certificate to Aveda Hair Salons  among the very few I have found that use natural plant-based hair dyes and products. Its about time….we need to give ourselves a break from the toxins in most chemical hair dyes that turn into bad estrogens and throw hormones out of whack.

Grayce Root Revive – this is a real lifesaver between colorings: a fragrance-free, naturally pigmented hair powder that can be brushed in as a temporary touch up for gray grow out. And I can tell you, it does the trick. Not only that, by reducing my visits to the hair stylist I’m reducing my exposure to the bad chemicals in hair dyes. www.graycerootrevive.com

Arbonne’s Instant Lift Gel (my secret weapon for looking the best I can for my age) and any of the RE9 line of anti-aging, plant-based, toxin-free, cosmetic and skin care products from this visionary Swiss company. www.arbonne.com to find a consultant in your town.

A year’s membership to the Sierra Club is available right now for 15 bucks at www.sierraclub.org. Check out their awesome range of outings: day hikes, peak scrambles, bicycling, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, conservation-walks, or forays into the remaining natural areas of our major cities. What better way to stop living in your head and start living in your body!!

A moment of balance , halfway up Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coastal Range

Kyle in a moment of balance, halfway up Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coastal Range

By the way, walking may be the single best and easiest exercise you can do to get healthy, or even healthier in 2013. In a recent Wake Forest Medical Center study, women who walked one to two miles 3 times a week shrank abdominal fat cells by a whopping 18 percent in four months. By the way, researchers did not find the same effects  in those who dieted but did not walk.

Woman  jogging

Walking or belly fat? Its a no-brainer.

Walking gear: warm hat with ear flaps and a must-have brim (for those of us who wear glasses), waterproof pants and anorak so there is no excuse not to exercise in the great outdoors no matter the weather. A growing disconnect with the natural environment has been linked in a host of studies to obesity and related “diseases of indoor living”.

Pedometer – taking 5000 steps or fewer daily is considered sedentary. Track your steps wearing a pedometer and work your way up to 10,000 steps, which is considered active.

Dance classes – Speaking of making it to 10,000 steps a day, I wonder how many you can accumulate in a dance class? My daughter Jess just told me that she and her boyfriend recently signed up for lessons after realizing how out of step they were on the dance floor at a friends wedding  …from the waltz to the rumba they are now learning to move in synchrony. Just like hormones in balance!  www.arthurmurray.com

Soul balancing:  Beading, needlepoint, glass making, painting or cooking classes. Whatever speaks to you of creativity! This I know for sure: you can’t worry or distract yourself with internal chatter while stringing beads one at a time. And what better gifts than those made by hand for the particular person in mind.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the balancing presence of all presents: Red wine, Green tea and Dark chocolate – all in moderation but loaded with adaptogenic herbs, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties that keep hormones in balance and our immune systems humming along.

An example of a delicious rich organic dark chocolate

A square or two of organic dark chocolate speaks to me of balance! Not to mention that it raises serotonin, the pleasure hormone!

So did I get everything? What about tickets to the theater, an upcoming concert, or art exhibit for a friend who needs the gift of time. If money is no object a week away at a spa where nothing but fresh, organic, hormone-free foods go into your body, and nothing but peace and quiet into your mind. And on that thought I shall wind down my own thoughts ….still on a roll but not in a rush.

African American couple leaving concert hall

The gift of time to enjoy the best life has to offer, especially at Christmas!

Next post I’ll share our Menopausibilities best picks for books to help balance body, mind and spirit just in time for Christmas. In the meantime please LIKE us or comment on the blog to share any great ideas you come up with for gifting balance to the people you love best in all the world.

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What does the new year mean to you?

I am going to share something about myself: I LOVE magazines. You might even say that I am just a little bit addicted to those wonderful, shiny, colorful, insightful and often inspiring publications that arrive at my house each month. When one shows up in my mailbox, I can hardly wait to pore over the contents, often from cover to cover, during one of my early morning workouts(remember, I am one of those nuts who go to the gym 5 mornings a week and yes, I can read on the stairstepper)or in the evening as I settle down to relax.

I am constantly amazed at some of the information that I have gleaned over the years from these little gems. Currently I subscribe to More, O, Whole Living, Portland Monthly, In Style, Life Extension and let’s not forget the weekly New York Times Magazine. In addition I work in a medical office and have access to a plethora of others(lucky me: I don’t have to sneak my reading in on the checkout line). In general I am usually reading at least a few a week.
I imagine a lot of you are also afflicted with this affinity for magazines(I know most of my friends are: we often swap piles of them when we see one another, the ultimate in recycling!). One thing we can count on every January is the attention given to resolutions, restarts, new habits, breaking old ones, weight loss programs, cleansing ideas, decluttering, etc. Here are a few examples of the ones I noticed just this past week as well as my thoughts about them:
“Dr. Oz’s 28 day plan to renew your body, mind, and soul”. O Magazine: wow, all 3 in 28 days????

“2012 is YOUR year”: In Style Magazine. I knew this was going to be my year!

“This is the year to : Feel Grateful, Get Your Finances in Order, Lose Weight, Discover What You’re Truly Meant to Do”: Parade Magazine. I was exhausted just reading the taglines!

“Start the new year bright: clean eating action plan: 21 Days,+50 Recipes: A whole new you!:Whole Living. It sounds great, but I know me: I could never follow such a stringent plan

“The Secret of Willpower: how to flex it and why you have more of it than you think”: Whole Living. Hmm, now that actually grabbed my attention

I think you get the point by now. According to the media and our society in general, January is THE month to change our ways, to redo our diets, lose those stubborn pounds we have been carrying around for too long, cut down on drinking/smoking/fill in the blank, become a more patient person, learn a new language: the list is endless. And no wonder so many of us who have great intentions to stick to our new year’s resolutions just can’t quite make it more than a few weeks before we revert back to baseline, often feeling as though we have failed.
Perhaps we should reframe the way we think about what the new year means to us. I like the word ‘aspiration’ better than resolution. The definition for ‘aspiration’, according to Merriam-Webster, is: “strong desire to achieve something high or great; the act of breathing and especially of breathing in”. I like the image of listing my aspirations better than writing down my resolutions. Creating a list of aspirations has a more hopeful tone and positive spin that makes me want to look at my current strengths and weaknesses and take inventory. I love the idea of creating a list that moves me forward in my journey towards balanced living.
And the second aspect of aspiration: the breathing in, is a particularly lovely way of embracing new ways of living. Breathing is essential for living. The practice of yoga emphasizes paying attention to the breath, which links the body and the mind. One of my aspirations this year is to practice yoga more frequently. I have never walked away from a yoga class where I didn’t feel more at peace and relaxed, yet I often don’t make time for this practice. In a recent edition of Real Simple magazine( ah ha! they DO come in handy!), there was a terrific article on “Mood-Boosting Workouts”. The following exercise types were reviewed: Yoga to feel more content, Pilates to sleep better, cycling to increase your energy, lifting weights to achieve clarity and Tai Chi to reduce stress.

Yoga by the ocean: wonderful balance

I was particularly taken by yoga’s ability to boost one’s mood and reduce overall anxiety. The practice of yoga causes an increase in GABA ,which is one of the neurotransmitters that helps to reduce anxiety(GABA is actually is also available as an amino acid supplement over the counter for those who need additional help in this area). In addition, the slow rhythmic breathing used during yoga helps to increase oxygen flow, which in turn promotes optimal functioning of the brain and other essential organs. After 3 months of regular yoga practice, subjects in a study actually had observable changes in their parasympathetic nervous system: this is the one that kicks on when you are asleep and helps your body to restore. Several studies were cited in this article: go to http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/5-mood-boosting-workouts-00100000065518/index.html for the complete article.
Our hope with this blog is that you will create your own unique list of aspirations and begin to move forward with us on the path to balanced living. There are many aspects on this path towards life balance. Exercise is one that we hope you aspire to as you embrace the new year. A recent article in NY Times quoted Jack LaLanne’s wife(he died this year at the age of 96 !):”Jack trained every day of his life as if he were going to the Olympics…..Jack wanted to to show people that just because you’re getting old, you just don’t quit exercising.” He was an inspiration to many: “I can’t die. It would ruin my image”. I love that attitude. Everyday, he just showed up. And it showed.

So as you contemplate your aspirations for 2012, consider the things you want to embrace in your life, the things you want to breathe in this year.  The opportunities really are endless and we are excited about all of our hopes for the new year. Wishing you and all you hold dear a happy, fulfilling and amazing new year.

Early morning along the ocean

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance