Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hurt Hip from a yoga stretch

One of my students said he hurt his hip from a yoga stretch. Why?

Yes, you can stretch in a wrong way that's not conducive for progressing your body.

First he's tall and has not had a long history of regular stretching. He was reaching for his hip stretch, the piriformis figure 4 stretch and his legs are too long for his arms to reach. So he strained his shoulder and was tugging at his legs aggressively. He also has a history of back pain. Often tight hips and thighs are related to tight back. Having multiple parts that are tight make opening a stretch more difficult. FORM IS EVERYTHING. If you don't know how to put yourself in the right form, you're not going to get the right stretch. Believe me, I've hurt myself before in stretches so I can sympathize!

STRETCHING TIP #1: Never cause pain. Stretches should feel like you're pushing your limits but the "ache" should be TOLERABLE not painful. Be gentle---don't jerk or tug at any body part. Especially be mindful of listening to your body messages. If your knee or other joints hurt, perhaps you need to loosen something else before you do that particular stretch.

STRETCHING TIP #2: If you don't know how to do the stretch, especially in a group class, ask the teacher to come help you. You might need modifications. Also tell the teacher if you have a history of some kind of injury or chronic pain so that the teacher can give you the right modification.

STRETCHING TIP #3: Modifications are not wimpy---it's meeting your body where it is at. Always have a towel -- like a hand towel -- available for wiping down your sweat, providing a head rest, or for using it like a yoga belt. You can use the towel like a yoga belt to help you reach when your arms can't reach.

MOST IMPORTANT TIP! Breathe, imagine a balloon of air helping you loosen the area that feels stubborn---don't push on stubborn but use the breath to help you relax. INTERRUPT this pain cycle with breathing: Fear of pain causes you to forget to breathe. Not breathing causes pain. Stretch with curiosity, not fear.

NUTRITIONAL TIP / FUEL TO SUPPORT HEALTHY MUSCLES: Like most of us, you might not be eating enough greens and foods that give you enough magnesium to support healthy limber muscles. Magnesium is an essential mineral needed, and deficiency shows symptoms like tight muscles or headaches. Also, you're probably also deficient in potassium, which Dole Foods did a great job of advertising for bananas but coconut water is much more powerful to help you fuel healthy muscles (including your heart!). While fresh coconuts are always better, I buy my coconut water by the case so I don't run out! If you're not sure you'll like the taste, the ones flavored with pineapple or mango are tasty! Drink a couple servings with a meal every day to ward off tight muscles and muscle cramps. While I try my best to eat foods high in magnesium and potassium, it's easier for me to go with supplements and coconut water so I know I have a decent baseline each day. I don't want muscle cramps to limit my activities or ruin my sleep!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quick meal for busy people

Being busy means we need to be more creative about what can be a quick easy AND healthy meal! Here is my standby, especially in summer when it might be too hot to cook!
Chopped salad w smoked herring
* chopped frisee and butter lettuce
* chopped mint and olive oil and fresh pepper for flavor
* 3 tbl of precooked red wine sauteed mushroom from my fridge
* half a persian cucumber sliced and chopped thin to match the chopped leafy veggies
* two or more fillets of smoked herring
I bought the frisee and butter lettuce at the farmers market for $1 each, and they are yielding 3 separate meals. The can of smoked herring was $2.29. So this salad for a meal costs less than $5!
Smoked herring provides healthy Omega 3 to support your healthy heart, brain, and joints. It's less environmental impact and less exposure to heavy metal than salmon. Don't get me wrong, I love my wild salmon, but if I'm going to eat fish multiple times a week, I choose small fish-- easier to detox on my body and easier on my budget.

PS If you want to get your Omega 3 nutrients regularly like I do (I don't eat fish every day!), I take this high-potency small-fish based supplement (try to avoid cod liver oil or salmon oil--the big fish have had more exposure to ocean pollutants of heavy metal). And if you hate pills, here's the liquid children's version that is just great for adults too and you can put it in a smoothie! If you're vegetarian, I love chia seeds in my smoothies--just know that the dosage and absorption is not as powerful as fish oils.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Staying healthy on vacation

Do you know someone who tend to get sick or feel tired from vacation? Staying healthy on vacation is not the easiest thing. Getting back from a short beach vacation that also had some beautiful waterfalls (see photo), I'm so happy I used my optimal health strategies to help me stay healthy!

First, the plane ride can be stressful with the altitude changes, crammed seating, and the nerves of flying. And if you have time zone changes, that's more stress on trying to manage your sleep! (If you need help with sleep strategies, do a search on my blog for sleep). In addition to my normal optimal health nutrition, I brought my bottle of astaxanthin, one of the newer and super-powerful antioxidants. Have you thought about how much closer you are to the sun when you're flying? That's a greater amount of radiation exposure which can cause cellular damage known as free radical damage (and I feel it as tiredness and lower energy). Astaxanthin really helps me stay closer to optimal energy as I get through flights and time zones, with NO JET LAG! It also has great anti-aging properties and encourages healthy blood flow. Well, my feet tend to swell uncomfortably on flights and I had hardly any swelling on this trip, as I've been regularly taking my astaxanthin almost every day for the past 8 months. I'm pleased to report my skin recovered faster from my mosquito bites than my old self and my traveling companion who had not been taking astaxanthin regularly. Read more about the reasons to take this super antioxidant here.

I was careful to bring a wide-brimmed sun-shading hat and put on my special sunscreen lotion. As Environmental Working Group has done some studies on safe sunscreen products, I prefer a zinc-based sunscreen, rather than the more conventional drugstore versions that have oxobenzone and other petrol products. I like Green Babie's Zinc sunscreen but you can choose any of the zinc-based sunscreens I found in the link. I think anything that's good for babies will be made with a higher safety standard and more gentle on my skin.

Even though I put on my sunscreen, I might have missed the window to leave the beach before noon when the sun is super strong, so I had a slightly pink and itch sunburn spot to my collarbone area. To combat sunburns or simply dry skin, I love my ultimate aloe gel! Not just any aloe gel, this one has emu oil which is usually expensive, squalene, and super-concentrated aloe. Immediate itch relief and the pinkness in my sunburn went away in just one day! (My results are unique to me and my body's responsiveness, but there is plenty of evidence in the science tabs of the links I've included.)

I also brought aloe powder and probiotics to keep away any grumpyness of traveler's tummy and a stronger immune system. No tummy problems at all on this trip! Success!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Never be bored with chicken!

Mary's Free-Range Chicken (never frozen!) is served at many of my favorite foodie restaurants, including French bistro Chic in Mid-City LA. It's extra juicy and my home-cooked chicken wow'd my brother who is a foodie from San Francisco (you know they are tough critics in SF!). You can get it vacuum-packed in a family pak (to save money!) from Whole Foods.  When the chicken is free-range and local, it is just a great tasty base for whatever you decide to do to cook with it.

Here are some flavor profiles that I've found that keep me never bored with chicken---you can bake/roast, steam, or cook in your pan for different texture or cooking-time preferences:
* ginger and lemongrass
* garlic and rosemary
* onions and citrus (lemon or orange)
* shallots and oregano (or any green herbs like thyme or basil or ALL of them in combo!)
* ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, and shitake mushroom

As usual, I'll pair up my chicken with some seasonal veggies and greens. What are your favorite flavors for chicken?