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Friday, July 29, 2011

Got Nuts?

Did you know that certain nuts are much better for you than others? I always knew that almonds, for example, were better for you than peanuts, but had no idea where the other nuts were in the spectrum. Pretty interesting, don't you think? Have a nutty weekend :).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Move of the Day: Iron Bird Dog


Iron Bird Dog targets: butt, hamstrings, obliques, back, and shoulders.

1. Start an all fours on the floor or mat (knees under hips and hands under shoulders) with a dumbbell squeezed in the crease of your right knee. The dumbbell can be anywhere from 2-8 lbs.

2. Keeping the right knee bent so that the dumbbell is secure, lift the right leg until thigh is parallel to the floor and extend the left arm in front of you at shoulder level (bird dog position). Make it easier: do move without weight and/or keep hands on the floor.

3. Bring the right knee in towards chest as you bend the left elbow in to meet it. Return to bird position.

4. Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets.

Note: if your standing knee begins to bother you, you can use a folded up towel as padding.

Let me know what you think about this exercise. Did you like it? Did you feel it in the right spots? XO

Photo: Shape Magazine

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Wednesday!


My lovelies, why don't you spice up your Wednesday with a little Pilates? XO

P.S. Try this Lunch Break Mini-Workout.
P.P.S. Here are two ab blasting exercises:  Perfect Ab-Blaster, Double Leg Stretch
P.P.P.S. How to Tone Your Booty

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Value of Meditation


I consider myself a bit of a closet hippie: yes, I enjoy pedicures, getting my hair done, and wining and dining... but I did go to UC Berkeley, and I have been known to hug a tree here and there, and I have a secret desire to grow some dreadlocks. Okay, maybe not the dreadlocks part, but you see what I mean.

So, in the midst of my busy schedule of running a small business, teaching, and trying to be healthy and active, I have started to realize that I really need some quiet time for my mind. A few months ago my friend Ashley and I went to Saraha Buddhist Center in the Mission to see if we could quiet our minds and find that peace and calm people talk about in association with meditation.

We attended a Tuesday evening group meditation led by a Buddhist meditation pro. Everyone was so nice and friendly that the minute we arrived I felt a feeling of calm come over me. Meditation is difficult. I find it very hard to make my mind stop racing. The harder I try the more my mind seems to want to think about errands that need running, chores, emails to write, phone calls to answer, and a million other to-dos. If I'm not thinking of my millions of commitments, it seems to just say to me, "Don't think! Don't think!". That in itself isn't exactly quiet and calm.


About 30 minutes into the meditation I did somehow manage to find a few minutes of complete calm. The person leading the group talked a lot about breath and how focusing on your breathing helps to clear your mind. Breath is something I can definitely relate to as breathing is such a fundamental aspect of Pilates. As I always tell my clients: it's a part of the exercise itself!

After the 1.5 hour meditation session, I did feel much more centered and relaxed. It was that feeling you get right after a really good nap: refreshed and happy :). Curious about ways to meditate on my own, I looked up some tips on meditation. Here is what I found:


  • Stretch first. You will be able to sit (or lie) still for longer if your muscles are relaxed. It also helps to bring attention to the body and thus "inward."
  • Meditate with purpose. Think of meditation as an active process. Focusing your attention on a single point is hard work so be prepared to be purposefully engaged!
  • Be patient with yourself. Frustration can easily creep up when our minds don't cooperate, but be kind and patient to yourself and try to let those frustrations go.
  • Listen to an instructional audio. There are some great meditation tracks on iTunes.
  • Use a candle. Instead of closing your eyes, which can be a challenge for beginners, light a candle and look at the flame instead. (I tried this and it really works!)
  • Get a meditation buddy. Just like a workout buddy, having a meditation partner can help to keep you motivated.

Am I now a pro at meditation? Nope. But I do find that even just taking 5 minutes a day to sit quietly and just BE, I do feel calmer, clearer-minded, and less frazzled by unimportant things (like San Francisco traffic). 

My lovelies, have you ever tried meditating? What has your experience been like? Have a peaceful day!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gojee.com


My friend Jessica recently told me about this wonderful website: Gojee.com, which scours the internet for you and churns up only the most delectable recipes. Use the "I Crave" button when you have a craving for a particular food but don't know exactly what to make, or the "I Have" button when you have a bunch of random ingredients in your fridge but no recipe. It's also very helpful for those with food allergies or intolerances: Just use the "I Dislike" button and Gojee.com will only show you recipes without that ingredient! Brilliant.

Just look at how tasty this Quinoa Zucchini Salad looks (pictured above).

Or these scrumptious Peppermint Patties:


YUM.

Thank you, Jess, for passing this on :).

Photos: Not Without Salt, Ceramic Canvas

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Magic of Raw Honey


This delicious natural treat supplies energy at around 65 calories per tablespoon and provides excellent fuel for the body. It's a great option as an energy booster right before a workout or during that mid-afternoon slump. Furthermore, results from recent research suggest the sugar from raw honey is metabolized at a slower rate than processed sugars, avoiding a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

Some of the nutrients found in raw honey include:
  • Niacin (lowers cholesterol levels)
  • Riboflavin (regulates growth and reproduction)
  • Potassium (reduces muscle cramps)
  • Zinc (promotes healthy skin, assists in weight loss)
  • Antioxidants (helps to eliminate cancer-causing free radicals)
Isn't nature amazing? Why raw? When honey is pasteurized, it means that the honey has been heated to 161 °F. This heating process destroys many of the nutritious properties of honey, leaving it as a simple sugar. 

My favorite raw honey is made by Y.S. Organic Bee Farms. It's the perfect consistency and just has the best flavor. You can find it at your local Whole Foods Market.

So, instead of reaching for a chemical-filled energy drink, grab a spoon full of honey and sweeten up your day :). How about you, my lovelies? Do you love honey as much as I do?

*Note: Pregnant women should not consume unpasteurized products. 

Have a sweet weekend! XO

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do or Don't: Pigtails


My darlings, would you wear pigtails? When taking a Pilates or Yoga class, you are often on your back so a ponytail sometimes gets in the way. I've been thinking of ways of getting my hair up without it being on the back of my head (and thus in the way). A super high bun just looks a bit like a pineapple (at least on me) and tends to fall out halfway through the class. So maybe pigtails are the answer... What are your thoughts? Should pigtails just be left for kiddies?

Photo: US Weekly

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quinoa Tabbouleh


Quinoa (pronounced "kin-wah") is a grain-like seed that can be used in the place of rice and other grains. Known for its impressive resumé, quinoa should be eaten by all in liberal amounts (in my opinion:). This is one of my very favorite quinoa recipes from the Clean Program with a few modifications: I used cilantro instead of parsley and 1/8 cup of olive oil instead of half a cup). It's vegan, gluten-free, high in protein, and oh-so-tasty!


Ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup scallions cut thinly on the diagonal
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon raw agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 cup olive oil



Preparation:

1. To cook quinoa: measure 1 cup raw quinoa and add to a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Once quinoa is totally cooled, mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
3. Enjoy! XO

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pilates Tunes


I always play music when I teach Pilates. For most clients, their hour of Pilates is the one hour of the day they get completely for themselves: to look after themselves and leave behind the day's stresses. So, I put a lot of thought into the kind of music I play because I think it plays a central role in setting the mood. I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for Brazil, where most of my family lives, so my most recent playlist has a bit of a Brazilian theme. I also threw in some French tunes and classic American songs for good measure. Here's my latest playlist:

1. Summer Samba (So Nice) -- Astrud Gilberto
2. It's Complicated -- Hans Zimmer & Heitor Pereira
3. Esperança de Mar Azul -- Nancy Vieira
4. Que reste-t'il de nos amour -- Charles Trenet
5. Samba de mon coeur qui bat -- Coralie Clement
6. Love Makes the World Go Round -- Deon Jackson
7. Brazil -- Django Reinhardt
8. Je cherche un homme -- Eartha Kitt
9. C'est si bon -- Eartha Kitt
10. I Only Have Eyes for You -- The Flamingos
11. Remember Me -- Heitor Pereira
12. Assedic -- Les Escrocs
13. L'amereuse -- Carla Bruni
14. La vie en rose -- Louis Armstrong
15. Sweet Lorraine -- Stéphane Grappelli
16. I've Got a Crush On You -- Steve Tyrrel
17. Um Canto de Afoxe Para O Bloco -- Caetano Veloso
18. Águas de Março -- Antonio Carlos Jobim
19. Mais Que Nada -- Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
20. She Told Me, She Told Me -- Marcos Valle

Enjoy :)

Photo: Zedge.net

Monday, July 18, 2011

Avoiding Post-Workout Breakouts



Breaking a good sweat during a workout always feels great but how do you avoid breakouts as a result of all that sweating? Here are some tips to help you avoid post-workout breakouts:

1. Don't wear makeup while working out. This is especially true for face makeup (like foundation). When the body sweats the pores on the skin open up. So, if there's makeup on your skin your pores can become easily clogged, resulting in breakouts.

2. Shower or wash your face immediately after working out so bacteria doesn't get a chance to work its way into your pores.

3. Avoid touching your face. You don't want the germs that were all over the treadmill to get on your face, do you?

4. Wear clothes made from breathable materials that allow for moisture-wicking so the sweat doesn't just sit on your skin.

5. Make sure your workout clothes are clean. Enough said.

6. Try conditioning before you wash your body. If you're like me, you like to leave your conditioner in as long as possible in the shower then rinse it off last thing. But if you think about it, when you rinse off the conditioner it all runs down your back. If you are having problems with breakouts on your back, consider switching up your routine.

7. Wear an oil-free sunscreen. If you run or walk outside, make sure your sunscreen is oil free. Don't skip the sunscreen, though, because overexposure to the sun stimulates the production of oil in the oil glands of your skin! I like this Kiehl's one.

8. Drinks lots of water! I know, I know... I sound like a broken record but I just had to sneak this one in here :).

9. Exfoliate 2-3 times per week. This will insure you don't have any dead skin laying around clogging up your pores. I like to use this Neutrogena scrub along with my Clarisonic face brush. For my body I use this Peter Thomas Roth scrub (which smells amazing and banishes any and all blemishes).


10. Try using a toner after you wash your face. My friend Ashley recently introduced me to this Clinique toner. It makes your face feel tingly and fresh and oh-so-clean.

What are your tips for keeping your skin clear?

Photos: Cosmoskinrx.com, Clarisonic.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Perfect Ab Blaster


If you feel like your abs need a bit of a workout try this simple exercise:

Single Leg Stretch

1. Sit in the center of your mat (or towel) with your knees bent. Take hold of your right leg with your left hand on the knee and your right hand on the ankle. (This will keep your leg in proper alignment with your hip.)

2. Roll your back down to the mat, bringing your bent leg with you.

3. Extend your opposite leg out in front of you and hold it above (not touching) the mat at an angle that allows your back to remain flat on the mat (especially your lower back).

4. With your elbows wide and your chin lifted to your chest (imagine you are holding a lemon under your chin), inhale and watch as your navel sinks seep into your spine.

5. Imagine you are anchored to the floor below by your torso.

6. Exhale and switch legs, bringing the left hand to the ankle and the right hand to the left knee. Stretch your extended leg long out of your hip and in line with the center of your body.

7. Repeat 10 times on each side for a total of 20 repetitions.

8. Note on breathing and timing: "inhale (switch), inhale (switch), exhale (switch), exhale (switch)". The exercise should be fairly fast-paced.

Target Muscles: Abs, Obliques

Have a healthy and happy weekend! XO

Photo: Fitness Magazine

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raw Maca Powder


I recently bought this Raw Maca Powder on a shopping trip to Whole Foods after hearing great things about its benefits. Maca is an Incan root that is rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, and has been used as a strength and stamina enhancer for over 500 years. Raw Maca Powder has a malty flavor and easily blends into smoothies, oatmeal, and homemade energy bars. 

Being ridiculously dependent on coffee, I started to research other natural forms of energy that would replace my morning coffee while I complete the Clean Program, and hopefully forever (ha - one can dream). I have been adding a teaspoon to my morning smoothie every morning and I feel much, much more energized. I love how Maca doesn't provide that cracked out feeling high energy buzz followed  by a "crash and burn" feeling later. The energy is a more sustained, feel-good kind of mood that continues throughout the day. 

Maca has also been attributed to these awesome health benefits:

Regulates and Supports the Endocrine System (metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, and mood)
Reduces Chronic Fatigue (feeling lazy and tired)
Supports the immune system
Stimulates Fertility in Both Men & Women
Enhances Libido
Treats Menopausal Symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats, etc)

Pretty impressive, don't you think? Definitely makes you want to stay away from those energy drinks that are high in sugar and full of chemicals. 

Do you have any coffee-replacers you swear by? 

P.S. Click here for my smoothie recipe.
P.P.S. Here's another good energy booster

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Crunch Mix


Here is a simple and healthy snack idea to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons organic dry roasted soy nuts
2 tablespoons organic unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 square (14g) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy. If you need a little more sweetness, try drizzling some organic raw agave nectar on top.

Do you have any healthy yet delicious go-to snacks to satisfy your cravings?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga

My clients often ask me what the difference is between Pilates and Yoga so I decided I would give a shot at hashing out the main differences. Of course, there are many different styles of both Pilates and Yoga but this is just a basic overview.


1. What is Pilates?
Pilates is a an exercise system that was developed by Joseph Pilates over 80 years ago. It is based on principles of control, balance, flexibility, body awareness, concentration, centering, and breathing. Pilates movements are initiated from the core (abs, pelvic floor, back) but work the entire body. Pilates exercise machines such as the "Reformer" can add a weight training element to the workout, with very precise and fluid movements, making it safer than most weight training.


2. What is Yoga?
While some people think of Yoga simply as a physical exercise, it is actually a complete, holistic system for overall health and well-being. The word Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where Yoga originated. The union is thought to be of mind, body, and spirit. The goal of Yoga is to keep the body supple through movement and stretching. The physical postures performed in Yoga, although they condition the body, are really aimed at conditioning the mind.

3. Which to choose?
Generally speaking, if you're looking for a limbering, rejuvenating workout that will provide a lift to your brain as well as your body (but not necessarily with an emphasis on the body) - and you're not too concerned with building muscle - then Yoga may be the exercise for you. If you're interested in a more dynamic system of muscle conditioning, rehabilitation of injuries, and alignment of the body, or if you just want to try something new and different, Pilates may be the answer.

In fact, I personally believe the best solution is to incorporate a wide range of exercises in your workout regimen to keep things interesting and keep your body challenged.




Photos: Nayrus LoveTwisted Silence

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bright Green Soup

I am currently on day 15 of the Clean Program and feeling great. It definitely has not been easy especially given the Fourth of July was smack in the middle of week two. I have stuck to it, though, with the help of some wonderful recipes from the Clean book as well as a little creativity on my part. Here's a soup I whipped up last night with some vegetables I had in my fridge. It was surprisingly delicious and is sure to become one of my go-to recipes.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups arugula
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
cayenne pepper to taste
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sprouts for garnish

Preparation:
Add all ingredients to a blender except the olive oil and sprouts and blend on high for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Blend another 30 seconds and serve. Add sprouts for garnish.

This soup makes for a delicious and filling meal packed with vitamins and antioxidants (especially because of the ArugulaAvocado, Cilantro, and Carrots). It basically is all good for you, so eat up!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dogs Make Life Better

I had always heard that dogs improve the quality of your life and that there have been numerous studies showing that people with pets live longer than those who don't... But I never quite grasped just how true this really is. Last September my boyfriend, Mike, and I decided after much deliberation to get a puppy. We agreed on a Puggle, a breed I had been in love with ever since discovering it a few years back.




When I went to go pick up our new puppy she was teeny tiny and so scared. I felt an overwhelming sense of love as well as "oh my God, what did I get myself into??" We took forever to decide on a name but finally decided she looked like a Zoey.




Those first few months are now a blur but what I remember most was feeling completely overwhelmed with the responsibility and then completely overwhelmed with love. She could barely be left alone, continuously tried to get into everything, chewed anything and everything, and tried to eat all objects in our apartment. She would lick and chew the floor, the walls, the couch, the fridge, our furniture... even my Tory Burch shoes (gasp!).




She was so darn cute and snuggly, though, that I could never be mad for long. Any annoyance was gone in a flash with one of her cute little head tilts. Slowly but surely, Zoey began to learn the rules. She learned not to chew on things that weren't her toys, that at bedtime she had to be quiet, where to go potty and so on...




She graduated from Puppy Kindergarten in December where she learned to sit, "get down," "watch" and "come". Now at just 1 year she can be left alone in our apartment with free reign of the place (except the bedroom... she seems to have a penchant for stealing my underwear from the hamper).




Looking back on this past year I now see how much better our lives are because of Zoey. We're outside more, walk more places, we laugh a bit more, and I, working from my home studio, always have a little companion by my side. She has truly become a member of our little family and we love her to pieces. Yes, getting a puppy is a lot of work and takes a lot of dedication if you want a well behaved dog. But the returns are endless and the benefits to your physical, mental, and emotional health are priceless.




Do you have any puppy stories you'd like to share? I would love to hear them :).


Have a wonderful weekend, my lovelies and if you have a dog, give him or her an extra smooch for me!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kombucha





I tried this magical elixir a couple of years ago for the first time and was hooked from day one. 


This fermented beverage contains:

Active Enzymes
Viable Probiotics
Amino Acids
Antioxidants
Polyphenols

Some of the amazing benefits include:

Increased Energy Levels
Decreased Appetite
Improved Digestion
Healthy Skin and Hair
Strengthened Immune System 

Around 60 calories a bottle, Synergy Kombucha is a great coffee-replacer, a mid-day pick me up, or a pre-workout ritual. How about you, dear readers, do you enjoy Kombucha as much as I do? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Be Yourself...

My darlings, here's a little inspiration to brighten up your Wednesday afternoon :). 



Quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson

How Healthy is Your Peanut Butter?

It may come as a surprise to you that your good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich may not be all that healthy. Just look at the following example:




Pretty surprising, isn't it? Makes you really think about what goes into your everyday foods. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quit Picking on the Poor Avocado



This poor guy gets a bad rap for having a higher fat content than most fruits, but it doesn't mean we should just let him rot. 


Just look at the avocado's glittering resume:


Vitamin C (necessary for normal growth and development)
Vitamin K (without it our blood would not clot)
Folate (promotes healthy cell and tissue development)
Potassium (responsible for the proper function of cells, tissues, and organs)
Thiamine (converts carbs to glucose in order to fuel the brain and nervous system)
Monounsaturated Fats (which have been shown to help reduce bad cholesterol - LDL)


Pretty impressive, don't you think? Because avocados are higher in fat and calories just be sure to control your portions. Avocados are great in salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups,  and also smoothies (they add a delicious creaminess, kind of like a milkshake). There are also some amazing desert recipes out there starring the lovely avocado. 


How do you like to use Avocados? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Outdoor Activities Around the Bay



My lovelies, what are you doing over this long weekend? If you don't have plans yet, here are some fun outdoor options around the Bay Area for you to consider.

The Dish


Commonly known as “The Dish”, this trail loops around a giant radio telescope. The Dish, 150 feet in diameter, scans the sky for activity from other galaxies. Pretty cool, right? Besides the satellite dish being an awesome sight to be seen, the views from this 4 mile trail are stunning, as is the abundant wildlife all around you. Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen – the sun always seems a bit hotter on The Dish! Also note that dogs are not allowed.

Directions from San Francisco: Take Interstate 280 South to the Page Mill Road exit. Turn left (North) onto Page Mill Road toward Palo Alto. Turn left at Junipero Serra Boulevard and then right onto Stanford Avenue, where you can park.

The Fire Trail


This trail in the Berkeley Hills makes you feel like you’re miles and miles away from civilization. The 7-mile loop is pretty hilly so bring water and wear very comfortable shoes. If you don't want to do the entire 7-mile loop, hike until you see a big wooden bench (it should take you about an hour), where you can sit and take in the awesome view. It’s a very peaceful setting, yet you will also definitely break a sweat. 


Directions from San Francisco: Take 80 East, exit at CA-13/Ashby Ave, turn left onto College Ave, right at Dwight Way, left at Prospect St, right at Bancroft, left onto Canyon Rd, then right on Centennial. Drive up past the Strawberry Canyon Pool until you see a gravel/dirt parking area to park. The entrance to the trail is on the left side.

The Yuba River



The Yuba River has hundreds of great spots where you can hike, swim, lay on a rock, and enjoy being in nature. My favorite spot to go to is at the old 49 Bridge in Grass Valley. You can find information about different spots to visit here.


Make sure you bring lots of water, a snack, towels, and sunscreen as it gets really hot up there and there aren’t any stores to buy food or water for miles. After a sun-soaked day at the river, make a stop at the quaint downtown of Nevada City for a refreshing ice cream at Treats and check out the cool stores for interesting presents and trinkets. 

Directions from San Francisco: It depends on which spot you choose to go to but take 80 East to 49 North then check the link above for specific locations. Enjoy! 

Have a wonderful weekend! 
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