Thursday, December 27, 2012

Visceral Fat-Hidden Destroyer!

We all associate the big Santa Claus belly with an unhealthy person, correct?  But it may be the fat you CAN’T see that’s causing health issues.  The fat we see just under the skin is subcutaneous fat, but visceral fat, the fat around your belly organs is much more dangerous for your health.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recommend eating more soluble fiber from veggies, fruit and beans, and exercising more.  They found that when you eat 10 grams more in soluble fiber every day, your visceral fat actually declines 3.7% in 5 years.  If you increase your activity, you can decrease this fat 7.4% in five years!  Some ways to get more soluble fiber include apples, peas, and pinto beans.  So hit the produce section of the grocery store today!

If you need more help with your eating, check out our new Weight Management Program at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Avoiding Pesticides-the Dirty Dozen

If you're like me, you try to buy as much organic food as possible.  But that gets so expensive!  How do you "go organic" on a budget?  One way is to shop by the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list.  Each year, the EWG puts out a list of those foods which are most likely to contain pesticides.  They call this list, their "Dirty Dozen".  To go along with it, they also list the "Clean Fifteen", which are least likely to have pesticides.  According to the EWG, the average consumer can reduce their exposure of pesticides up to 90% simply by going organic for the Dozen.
This year's list:
Dirty Dozen
Sweet Bell Peppers
Spinach, Kale & Collard Greens

Clean Fifteen
Sweet Potatoes
Kiwi Fruit
Sweet Peas
Sweet Corn

For the full article, please visit

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

9 Yoga Myths

In my role as a studio owner, I hear all kinds of reasons and excuses that people have for not trying yoga. But most of these are simply not true. The following are some myths surrounding yoga practice:

Myth #1-I'm too stiff to do yoga!
I hear this all the time, and there's no such thing. When I was a kid, I couldn't touch my toes. But with lots of patience & practice, my muscles have opened up a lot. Even so, there are some ways that my body is just not that flexible. And that's ok. We practice to become more flexible, not because we're already flexible!

Myth #2-I'm too old to do yoga.
Absolutely not. Not long ago, there was an article in the Johnson City Press about a lady who's still teaching yoga classes at age 91! She credits her longevity to yoga. Even if you can't do all the poses you once could, anyone can benefit from the breathing, relaxation & meditation techniques you learn from yoga.

Myth #3-It will contradict my religion.
It's true that yoga came from the Hindu religion, and is practiced by many Hindus, Buddhists and others as part of their spiritual life. But it doesn't have to be religious. Yoga, in itself, is not a religion, but simply a practice. It's a way of life that can complement any religious beliefs. It helps you know yourself better, and to find a quiet place in your mind, in order to open to God. I'm a Christian, and I find that the basic tenents of yoga (the Yoga Sutras) follow along closely with many of the teachings of Jesus.

Myth #4-I already exercise. I don't need yoga.
Yoga offers many benefits that you just can't find anywhere else. It's a total mind-body workout, with breathing techniques that benefit even the most skilled athlete. We have several people at the studio who are involved in sports and fitness elsewhere, but yoga provides balance, lengthening of tight muscles, better breathwork, and even mental focus that can only enhance their other workouts.

Myth #5-Yoga is just for women.
Yoga started out only for men! Women were not even allowed to practice the asanas (poses). Here in the West, the stereotype is of a skinny woman, in tight clothing, moving in a suggestive way. That's simply not the soul of yoga. My husband was a US Marine, and he enjoys practicing yoga. It has a balance of yin & yang energies, with plenty of masculine movements. If you're a guy, give yoga a shot. You just might find something you love!

Myth #6-I'm too fat/out of shape to do yoga.
Yoga is for every body. A good instructor will tell you to honor your body and just do what you can. We can all receive the same benefits, and there are lots of modifications that your instructor can show you to make things easier. Also, the other people in class really aren't looking at you. They are busy thinking about their breath and the positioning of their own bodies as they practice. Also, all ages, fitness levels, and body shapes practice at yoga studios, so give it a shot.

Myth #7-Yoga is the same as stretching.
There's a lot of stretching in yoga. But yoga is so much more. It's a complete system that involves strength, breathing, balance, meditation, focus & concentration, and even cardiovascular benefits. As your practice progresses, you'll find more and more ways that yoga is complex and interesting.

Myth #8-Yoga people are too serious.
If the people in your class are too serious for you, it's time to find another class. It's been said that in the West, we take yoga too seriously. It should be enjoyable, and fun. It's ok to smile, and even giggle a little in your practice. Find a teacher, class, or even video that suits your personality and style. And then let go a little, and have fun!

Myth #9- Yoga is just too quiet & relaxing.
Yes, many yoga classes and practices are quiet and relaxing, but some are really strong and challenging. For example, Ashtanga Yoga is not relaxing to me at all. It's really tough! Investigate the styles of yoga and find one that works for you. At Mountain Yoga, we mostly practice Flow Yoga, but we have everything from the very relaxing Restorative class up to the Power classes, where we practice really challenging poses.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Year's Resolution Weight Management Program

The time is upon us!  People are thinking beyond the Holidays and into the New Year.  My husband actually told me something he thinks I should resolve to do in 2013.  I thought that was my job?  Oh, well.
But many of us are resolving to eat better this year, to lose weight, or just for health reasons.  It's one of my New Year's Resolutions.  I eat pretty healthfully, but sometimes, I cheat & eat junk.  I'm going to do better!
One way you can get help to "do better" is through a program we're offering at the studio.  It's a Weight Management Program, with Registered Dietitian, Cindy Holmes.  I've spoken to Cindy at-length about healthy eating, and I love what she has so say.  She's all about the REAL FOOD.
If you join the program, you'll get a PERSONALIZED plan, designed specifically for you, based on your lifestyle.  You can jump-start December 15th, or meet with her to begin January 1.  There are 3 levels of our plan, from the basics, all the way up to a lot of extra care and attention from Cindy.  She'll walk with you every step of the way.
Registration is $25, but plans start at just $99 for 3-months.  You can't beat the price.
For more info & to register, go to

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fitting it all in...making time for fitness

My eyes have recently been open to just how hard most women work. I guess I’ve thought it was just me. That my work takes over my life, my house is messier than anyone else’s, and that there are never enough hours in the day to do what I have to do, much less what I want to do. Other women make it seem easy & blissful.

Even without kids, our lives seem so full. There’s always more I could be doing for the studio. The house always needs a touch-up, if not a whole cleaning crew. The animals always need attention, or cleaning up after. There are always groceries, laundry, dishes, and so many things that need my attention. There’s certainly not time for socializing, getting together with family, or practicing the other hobbies I love.

As women, we have high expectations for ourselves. We believe we have to excel at work, keep a beautiful home, raise perfect children, have a healthful dinner on the table each night, and somehow keep our bodies in top shape! It simply cannot be done.

So, for those women who can’t find one spare minute to join a gym or attend a yoga class, I have the following suggestions:

-Move around more at work. Not everyone can teach yoga for a living, but you can move and stretch at your desk, and get up at least once an hour. Is there a place you can stand up for a while to accomplish tasks?

-Incorporate more walking into your day. Can you walk to work (or ride a bike?) or even to the grocery store? Can you invite a co-worker to walk with you during a meeting, instead of sitting? Every now and then, can you walk to a co-worker’s office, instead of just sending that e-mail?

-Make healthy food easier. Health food now comes in convenience packs! Try pre-cut carrots, broccoli, and other veggies as a snack, or a quick start to dinner. Most grocery stores now have an organic section, with lots of to-go items, such as applesauce, packaged nut butters, and other healthful treats. Keep these things at your home, and at your desk, and you’ll be more likely to grab something good for you.

-Examine your priorities. What are you doing that’s simply not important to your life or your goals? Are you reading too many of the humorous e-mails your friends send? Are you really going to make all those things you’re searching for on Pinterest? Does the house have to be perfect, or will “good-enough” do for today?

Some small changes can really make a huge impact on your life and your health. Choose one way to be healthier, and implement that one little change today. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mindfulness & Multi-tasking?

In thinking about how much I “need” to get done today, I came up with a question: Can I multi-task and be mindful at the same time? The answer I came up with is a definite “maybe”.

The idea of mindfulness is that we are engaged in the immediate task. This moment. A classic example is that when we’re handwashing the dishes, we are not worrying about the future or the past, but are fully present, washing dishes. We concentrate on the dish itself, the smell of the soap, the feel of the bubbles, etc.

But our world is a multi-tasking world. And we’ve got so much to do. Can we multi-task, and still be honest mindfulness practitioners?

I say “maybe” because so many things in our world have become automated. At this moment, writing this post, I am multi-tasking. I’m blessed to be able to work from home some of the time, so right now I am:

-washing laundry (automated)

-washing dishes (automated-LOVE my dishwasher!)

-cooking dinner (automated-the crockpot is a modern miracle)

-free-ranging the chickens

-spending time at home, which I love

-spending time with my animals, who are happier when mommy sits with them.

But with all this going on, I can still focus entirely on what I’m writing.

I would say that we can use modern technology to allow us to mindfully multi-task. Use our machines, our technology to do what they were meant to do: to simplify our lives. By selectively using modern conveniences, we are free to focus on the task at hand.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sugar-sweetened drinks bad for your heart.

Men who drink sugary drinks have a 20% higher risk of heart disease and higher levels of blood lipids. This is from IDEA Fitness Journal, May 2012. The writer sites research by Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD of Harvard School of Public Health. If you’re a man who drinks 12-oz sugary drink every day, your heart is at risk!

Even after controlling for other risk factors, these sweet drinks still have an effect. The men in the study had higher triglycerides and CRPs (an inflammation marker) and lower levels of HDL cholesterol. All of which are pointing to heart disease!

I’m heart-broken! I always go for the “real sugar” instead of all the fake stuff. What about my cokes from Mexico? I’m assuming that if it’s this pronounced with men, it applies to women, too.

Oh, well. I’m grateful for honey. Raw, local honey only makes the heart happy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mountain Yoga featured in Johnson City Press

This past Sunday, October 28th, the Johnson City Press had yoga on the front page of their business section! Madison Matthews wrote an article entitled, “Yoga Studio Business on the Rise in Area”. This article was driven by Mountain Yoga’s growth, and the opening of Samadhi, by Ryan Fair & April Borisewitz. Madison wanted to know why yoga is seeing such an up-surge in the Tri-Cities area. Ryan, April & I all talked about how it was just timing. It took time for the idea of yoga to take hold in our region. Also, the idea that yoga studios like to collaborate was a nice way to distinguish the yoga community from other types of businesses.

The article is color, and features a great picture of Ruth Van Sickle teaching class, and headshots of the three interviewed studio owners.

I hope the article brings all the studios in the area into the public’s view. The yoga community in Johnson City has really grown over the past years, and I’m sure it will continue to grow in the coming years!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Junk Food Cheaper?

“But it’s cheaper to eat at McDonald’s” Have you ever heard that? Worse yet, have you ever said that? It’s ok. I’m not surprised. It’s a common misconception. In September 2011, Mark Bittman wrote an article for the New York Times called, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” He went to McDonald’s, and ordered an assortment of foods for a family of four. It totaled $28, or $7 per person. He reasoned that meals at home are so much less expensive. For about $14, a roast chicken and veggies, with a salad and milk would feed four or more people! And there are even cheaper ways to provide a good, wholesome meal.

In August of that same year, Slow Food USA set up a campaign to have members share their $5 meal ideas. Their members submitted over 5,000 meal plans, all for under $5 per person.

Eating slow food, versus fast food, doesn’t just make sense, it also makes “cents”!

For more information, and a link to these cheap & healthy slow food meals, go to

Friday, October 19, 2012

Strength training & mental health

Mental health concerns affect us all. If you don’t have a mental health problem, you at least know someone who does. But what works? What kind of exercise helps? In 2010, the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine included an article entitled, Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training in Adults (O’Connor, Herring, & Caravalho, 4 (5), 377-96.) Following are just a few highlights from that article:

According to the article, 15% of the US population reports frequent anxiety symptoms, lasting 15-30 days a month. That’s a lot of anxiety! It’s normal to experience occasional anxiety, but this type of prolonged anxiety can interrupt sleep, cause mental distress, body pain, poor health and limitations on what a person can accomplish, physically. The authors looked at seven different studies with resistance training, and found that strength training can be a meaningful intervention for those with anxiety.

They also studied depression, with 18 studies, with the conclusion that resistance training is linked to large reductions in depression.

25% of the US population experiences persistent fatigue symptoms. Chronic fatigue is a debilitating illness. But O’Connor & colleagues found that 94% of studies found that exercise is significantly beneficial…even more so than drug or cognitive-behavioral interventions.

This same article also addressed positive results of resistance training on cognition, self-esteem, and sleep. Resistance training may also improve central nervous system functioning, which can affect mental health.

What does this have to do with yoga? An active yoga practice isn’t just stretching and breathing (although those are definitely a big part). In yoga, we use the weight of the body as resistance for our strength training. I was a personal trainer before I became a yoga teacher, and I find that my core strength is even greater now than it was then. Your practice should include a good dose of resistance training, which will help your mind be healthy, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Forage & Feast Recipes

Below are my quick adaptations of the recipes Marc gave out at his Forage & Feast.  You haven't tried any of these until you've tried them with wild ingredients!  If you get a chance, check out Marc's work at his website or his facebook page.
From Marc Williams at

Basic Pesto
2c Fresh herbs
2 large garlic cloves or similar
1/2 c freshly grated hard cheese
1/4 c nuts or seeds
1/2 c oil
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor, blender or mortar pestle
Save nuts and/or seeds till last to preserve texture

Basic Dressing
2/3 c oil
1/3 c acid (vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice)
1/4 c fresh herbs
1 garlic clove or similar
sea salt to taste
Combine ingredients in blender, adding oil last while blender is running to ensure emulsification

Herbal Tea
1 c fresh herbs per gallon (1/2 c dry)
options: (just a few of Marcs are listed here!)
peppermint, applemint, spearmint, lemon balm, rosemary, holy basil, yarrow, dandelion, echinacia, sassafrass, spice bush, ginger, honeysuckle flower, ginseng, honey, licorice, stevia, maple syrup
Bring water to a boil then turn off heat.  Steep ingredients to desired length of time ( at least 15-20 minutes)
Strain and sweeten if desired to taste

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Zumba is fun, sometimes silly, and totally a “girl-thing”. But is it doing anything to help you lose weight? The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2012; 11, 357-58) thinks so. In a recent study funded by the American Council on Exercise, scientists measured the HR and VO2 of Zumba participants. What they found was that they were expending at least 300 calories per workout, which is the accepted guideline for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. The Journal concluded that “regular participation in Zumba should positively affect body composition.”

At Mountain Yoga, we offer a Zumba class on Fridays at 10 am. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and it’s proven to help you lose weight. What are you waiting for? The class is only $5, and it’s not crowded. So, bring your fitness shoes and a friend, and start burning calories!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Niyama: Isvara Pranidhanam (surrender)

The word has so many connotations, both good & bad.  To surrender in a physical battle is frightening.  it puts you at the enemy's will.  So many times in history, warriors killed themselves to avoid torture at the hands of the enemy.
But what if you're surrendering to a friend?  What if you're surrendering to someone you trust?
You might begin by surrendering to someone who knows more than you do about a topic.  Can you surrender enough to learn something?  Or maybe just surrender a little in your yoga pose.  Just give up a little of the 'fight' for the pose, and see what you can soften.  But to truly practice Isvara Pranidhanam is to surrender to One who is greater.  To surrender to God.  Giving up my will, my way, my plans is probably the toughest battle I'll fight.  Every day, I try to surrender my ego to His plan.  Every day I fail.   Guess that's why we call it our PRACTICE.
The picture above is of a beautful new mama and baby in Nicaragua.  This little one is so precious, but so incredibly vulnerable.  But he trusts his mother, and those around him.  Full surrender...
How much can you surrender today?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Niyama: Svadhyaya (spiritual study)

Svadhyaya is one of my favorites.  It's simply spiritual study.  It's reading scriptures, or anything that inspires you.
I love to read.  Since the great tv extraction of 2011, I read all the time.  I have several books going at any given time.  One that's just for fun (I have a strange love of shoot-'em-ups), one that's work or business-related, and something spiritual. 
I know I've mentioned some of these books before, but here are some I recommend from my library:
-The Bible.  One excellent, easy-to-read translation is the ESV, or English Standard Version.  Start with the New Testament, but when you want to get deeper, try the Old.  I especially love the Samuels.  They're like ancient shoot-'em-ups.
-The Thich Nhat Hanh Collection, which includes Peace Is Every Step, Teachings on Love, The Stone Boy and Other Stories
-The Language of Letting Go & More Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie.  Melody is a recovered addict, and writes specifically for AA members, but the lessons apply to all of us.
-My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.  Jill, a brain scientist, suffered a stroke, and it's all about her journey.  Excellent for anyone, but especially family members of stroke-survivors.
-The Mindful Way through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn.  This book will change your inner dialogue, and how you approach mental health.
-Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison.  A great daily study, to help you understand yoga philosophy and your own yoga practice better.
-A Path With Heart, by Jack Kornfield.  As a monk who now lives in the "real world", Jack has some great insights into living outside an ashram while practicing meditation.
-Yoga:  The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann.  This is a great place to begin to design an at-home practice.
-Job's Body:  A handbook for body work, by Deane Juhan.  This one's for you anatomy geeks out there.  If you are a massage therapist, a yoga teacher, or a body-worker of any sort, this is a great book.  It changed my understanding of connective tissues, and even of brain function.  Not light reading, but worth slogging through.
So, today, try to make a few minutes for your own inspiring study.  And if you run out of books, let me know...I've got a few more like these sitting around...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Niyama: Tapasya (austerity)

As I write this blog post, the thought pops into my head:  "who are you to write about austerity?"  Some days, I think I live a simple life.  We have no children, no tv, no debt.  I feel very content most of the time, especially concerning material things.  I have few wants.  But is my life simple?
Today, I would have to say "no".  Today's to-do list won't fit on the dayplanner page, so I'm having to look at what MUST be done today, and what can wait.  I have spent the day (again) making phone calls to the landlord, the gas company, two different computer guys, and returning phone calls for people who are interested in trying yoga.  I've taught 2 yoga classes, gone to two meetings, cleaned some at the studio, and it's not even 2 pm.  I can't say that's simple.
But that's life these days.  Any of us who don't practice our yoga in a cave somewhere have to deal with the different directions our lives pull us.  We have obligations, responsibilities, and to-do lists.
I think this Niyama is at least partially about how we deal with it all.  Simplicity in life, in knowing our values.  Simplicity in what we know to be True, Right, and worthy of our time and efforts.
When we love something, and devote much of our time to it, I believe that is simplicity.  The things I value most in life are:  God, my husband, my family, Mountain Yoga, my practice, and our numerous pets.  This week, I have made time for each of these.  Not as much as I would like.  But when I look back through my week, I have spent the majority of my time on what I value. 
I believe there's just a little simplicity in that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yoga for Singers & Performers

A couple weeks ago, Dr. Sun-Joo Oh (“Sunny”) asked me to do a yoga class for her singing students at ETSU, specifically designed for their needs. I was thrilled to work with this group, and interested to learn about their special concerns. I had never considered the specific needs in yoga for those who sing, play instruments, or perform in other ways, so it gave me a chance to research & learn a new topic. I found so much information! If there’s enough interest, I would love to do a 3-hour workshop at the studio on this one.

I began by printing out anatomy sheets for each of the students, and discussing just some of the muscles I intended to highlight. I was so excited that the class was clearly engaged in the process. Next, we did a short class, using all the muscles we covered, plus a few more. It was a light-hearted, fun time. Thank you, Sunny, for the invitation, and thank you, students for the warm reception.

A few highlights:

-singers should remember to keep their cervical (neck) spine in line with the rest of their spine, not only while singing, but also while driving, or carrying the heavy books around campus.

-relaxing the muscles in the front of the neck can have a long-term impact on the vocal cords

-yogic 3-part breath (inhale chest, then ribs, then belly…then reverse for the exhale) will help strengthen and stretch the intercostal muscles, which lie between the ribs.

-pranayama, or yogic breath practice is very helpful, and is easily practiced on-the-go

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Root to Stem

In one of my recent magazines, I read an article about “root to stem” eating. Making sure every usable part of the plant is consumed. At our house, it’s all consumed, but not necessarily by humans. First, Scott & I eat what we want, then the dog gets whatever she would like that is safe for her. She loves meat, of course, but will try just about anything. She even eats carrots. The chickens are next. They love tomatoes, especially, and corn on the cob is a real treat for them. Finally, whatever is not consumed as food eventually makes it to the compost pile.

This reduces the amount of waste in the garbage can, but also clears our conscience, and cares for our animals.

If you don’t have animals, you can try the “root to stem” movement for yourself. Did you know that you can eat the greens from carrots? They are nutritious and tasty. Try them on your salad. End pieces, and parts of veggies that aren’t so pretty can be chopped fine for salads, or juiced. After juicing, the pulp can even be used for muffins and other breads!

What can you do today to waste less food? With so many in our world going hungry, it’s important that we all be good stewards of our blessings.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to Normal?

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve written anything for the blog. The new studio space next door has been a huge challenge, but now it’s open and functioning! But I realized I have not had much of a brain for the last month. I’m amazed at how much work it takes to open a second studio space. It’s almost as much as starting a new business! There are lease negotiations, scheduling with the teachers, calling utilities, choosing & installing flooring, painting, decorating, buying everything from a new computer to toilet paper…and it all has to be done NOW! I’m not complaining. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do. And I think it will be amazing for the Johnson City Yoga community. But my brain is tired.

I must say that if it weren’t for my yoga, I don’t know how I would have gotten it all done. My greatest tool of the last few weeks has been the breath. When I feel overwhelmed, if I can just remember to breathe really deeply, I feel so much better.

The other survival tool has been my incredible family. My husband, my parents, and my in-laws have all worked on the space. Several of our students have commented that they can feel the love there. But it just reminds me: yoga is more than just asana. It’s love, and community, and breath and meditation, and so many things.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Niyama: Santosha (contentment)

Our next Niyama is called Santosha. The basic idea here is to find contentment in your circumstances. I love this. It’s so very Biblical. The apostle Paul said, “I’ve learned, whatever state I’m in, to be content”. It’s also very relevant. Take a look at your life. Are you content?

I have to admit that I’m not always content. I’m much more so now than in the past. I look at my wonderful husband, my sweet animals, and my amazing job, and a great sense of peace takes over. But then life happens, and I’m thrown headlong into wanting something to change. I want a bigger house, more money, more free time, more time with my friends & family, more, more, more…

Thankfully, through prayer & practice, I’m usually able to come back to contentment.

Santosha reminds me that this is enough. That now is enough. That I am enough.

Today, look at the areas of your life which seem to nag at you. Look at the “if only”s with a critical eye, then look at the present moment and find whatever happiness is waiting for you there.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Niyama: Saucha (purity)

What comes to mind when you think about purity? To me, it’s the color white. Like snow. Or crystal-clear, like pure, clean water. Or even the commercial about IVORY soap, being 99.9% pure.

This niyama speaks to every part of our being. Clean body, clean mind, clean spirit, clean motivations, clean environment….the list can go on. This one can be so challenging. If we work really hard to clean our homes and bodies, we often neglect our minds & spirits.

But it’s an on-going practice. We can keep our homes and other environments clean by taking a few minutes each day to straighten something or to clean a little while. We can help the greater environment by using green cleaning products and re-usable towels.

We can clean our bodies by using all-natural body products, by exercising to sweat out impurifications, and by eating a healthful, clean diet.

We can keep our minds clean by observing Brahmacharya, controlling what comes into the mind.

We can examine our motivations behind our thoughts and actions, to purify our hearts.

Today, make it a goal to be just a little cleaner, inside & out. Look for your purity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic Yoga?

It seems like every few years, there’s a rumor about putting competitive yoga in the Olympics. Will it ever happen? I have no idea. Predicting human behavior is pointless. But if they asked me (which they won’t) I would be glad to share my opinion.

Remember, this is simply my opinion. Just one interpretation of the ancient writings, and how they might apply today.

I believe yoga has no place in competition. When we approach the mat, we come with humility, and a sense of love and community that is in direct conflict with competition. When I first started teaching yoga, I realized just how competitive my husband was, as he asked me each time, “who won?” It took me a while, but I think I may have convinced him that we ALL won. Don’t get me wrong. I love competitive sports, and believe they have a place in society. But that’s not yoga.

We’ve been examining the Yamas & Niyamas here on the blog lately, so let’s look at how a few of those might apply to Olympic Yoga.

One Yama that comes to mind is Ahimsa, or non-violence. But the Olympics aren’t violent….are they? Remember the ice-skating incident years ago? That was pretty violent. And what about self-harm? Ask any world-class athlete, and they will tell you they put their bodies through rigorous training every single day. They push beyond what their bodies can take, and then push some more.
Another Yama is Aparigraha, or non-greed. No matter how pure your original intent, some greed is inherent in competition. There can only be one winner, so for me to win, someone else has to lose.

There’s also the Niyama of Santosha, or contentment. It’s difficult to be content if you can’t be number one. It’s always, “I’ll do better next time”. I’m not saying that you can’t be content if you didn’t win. Many of our athletes are amazing people, who are grateful for their chance to be in the Games. But it’s difficult. The ego wants to take over.

Finally, the Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana. This Niyama is about devotion to the highest good of all. What are you devoted to in competition? Winning! And that’s just fine. In its place. But not in yoga.

So, if the Olympic Committee comes knocking on my door, looking for opinions, my answer is no. But what would you tell them?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Yama: Aparigraha

Boots for Nicaraguan children
 Our final Yama is Aparigraha, non-greed. To be greedy means to want (or take) more than is rightfully yours. I had an awakening to Aparigraha a few years ago. In college, I used credit cards, and racked up a ton of debt. I didn’t really understand at the time what I was doing, or how it would affect my future. I just bought what I wanted, when I wanted it. This greedy behavior put me in a terrible situation. This debt kept me awake at night with constant worry and fear. I finally did change my habits, but it was by sheer force of will that I didn’t keep spending. I got the debt down to a much more manageable level. But then I went through the Financial Peace Course offered by Dave Ramsey, and the change actually made it to my heart. Around that same time, I also took a mission trip to Nicaragua, and saw what people REALLY need.  The picture above is of rainboots that we delivered to a school.  Most of the kids there were barefoot, and in the rainy season, these boots were such a blessing.

I was ashamed at my greedy behavior, and began to look at things differently. It took some time and effort, but I began to release my constant need for more. I started shopping at thrift stores and yard sales and only purchasing what I truly needed and wanted. Only the things which are important. What I found is that I still have so much more than I need. By letting go of my greediness, my grasping, I was greeted with abundance. Things I need seem to flow my way much more easily than ever before. I am humbled by how God provides.

This idea applies to yoga practice, also. When you approach your mat, let go of what you WANT your body to do. See if you can be grateful for what you have, where you are. Release your constant need for more, and see where your practice takes you.

To read the other Yamas, check out Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, and Brahmacharya.

For the best financial advice, check out

Friday, August 3, 2012

Johnson City's First HOT YOGA!

Last night, 28 students packed into Mountain Yoga studio for Johnson City's first HOT YOGA class.  This Flow 1 & 2 class was definately not for wimps!  We practiced several flows, some great balance poses, and even an inversion...all with the heat up over 90 degrees.  Everyone was sweating...a lot.  But there were still plenty of smiles.  We are proud to embrace Hot Yoga, and look forward to offering more hot classes in the future.  Thanks, everyone!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yama: Brahmacharya

Today’s Yama is Brahmacharya, or control of the senses. I believe this one is HUGE in today’s world. From the youngest ages, our senses are bombarded with input, both good and bad. On a basic level, we control some of this input for children & ourselves with parental control on devices. We chose to block certain channels on the tv, certain e-mails, and things like that. But do we have enough control?

What junk is coming into your mind? Have you ever been watching a tv show, and thinking “this is really bad”, but you’re still sitting there, mindlessly watching. It could be that the show doesn’t align with your values, but it could also just be poorly done. And yet, we sit there, just staring at the screen. Or, a commercial comes on that’s just not what you want to see. This is the time of non-stop political ads, and the candidates are hoping their message will get through to you. Is it?

I know I’ve talked about this before, but my husband & I removed the television set from our home over a year ago. He still watches his sports, by going to watch with a friend or relative. But we don’t have it at home. We love the peace it has brought to our surroundings. We now have ultimate control over what we watch and listen to. We could use netflicks, or some other service on the laptop, but we don’t even do that. It’s a conscious choice when we watch, and what we watch.

Who are you 'following' on twitter, facebook & other social media.  Does what they say align with who you are & who you want to be?  What about at work?  Do you listen to the gossip and negativity, or do you exercise your right to walk away?

Brahmacharya can help provide mental clarity, and a more balanced mind, body & spirit. I’d like to challenge you today to try going one evening without the tv, or other devices. Just notice. Be aware of how controlling the senses changes things for you.

For more on the Yamas, see Ahimsa, Satya, and Asteya

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What in the world is HOT YOGA?

I had a friend ask the other day, “so, is that sexy yoga, or something?” I immediately had images of the sweat that drips from my nose, and replied “No way!” But I guess it’s all in your perspective.

Hot Yoga is simply yoga with the heater turned up. We’ll keep the studio between 85-95 degrees. Many of you have heard of Hot Yoga, as it seems to be really popular all over the country. We get several calls every month, asking if anyone in the area offers Hot Yoga classes, and until now, we’ve had to say no.

Beginning August 2, 2012, Mountain Yoga will offer 2 Hot classes a week, and we hope to add more, as we see a demand. And, to introduce the Tri-Cities community to Hot Yoga, we’ll offer these classes FREE for the first two weeks!

Hot Yoga classes offer:
       -a cardiovascular workout
       -a deeper stretch
       -fat burn
       -capillary dilation, to increase oxygen in the system
       -increased metabolism
       -increased immunity
        And so much more!
For more on Hot Yoga, check out the video at, or

Classes at Mountain Yoga in Johnson City, TN:
          Thursday 7:15 pm Flow 1 & 2
           Saturday 8 am Flow 1

Special note from the teacher: mat towels are recommended, and a hand towel is a must! Mat towels are available for purchase at the studio.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yama: Asteya (non-stealing)

Our next Yama is Asteya, or non-stealing. We discussed in earlier posts Ahimsa & Satya.

I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t rob jewelry stores. (of course, if you do, please seek help!) And most of us wouldn’t even think about shoplifting. But what about other ways of stealing? What about the pens and paper you brought home from the office, even by accident? What about eating that last cookie, when you know your spouse would really enjoy it? What about at a trade show, when you already got whatever swag they’re handing out, but you go right back for more? Are there little ways in which you are truly stealing?

Let’s look a little deeper. Are you stealing from others in any other way? Have you used underhanded ways to get promoted? Do you spend company time to surf the internet, make personal phone calls, or just goof off?

What about stealing from yourself? In your yoga practice, don’t push beyond where you’ve earned. Build a foundation of correct alignment and daily practice before moving deeper in a pose. In your daily life, give yourself a few minutes of meditation, or at least peace & quiet. Don’t rob yourself of the things that are so very important.

In what ways are you stealing? How can you begin to change that this week?
(By the way, the picture above is one I took of the Roan Highlands-not far from Johnson City-it's a great place find a few minutes of peace & stillness)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anxiety & Depression & Yoga

We had an awesome class today with Brooke Sullivan, RYT-500, from Asheville.  She is a ParaYoga instructor, and offered a workshop about Yoga for Anxiety & Depression.  I LOVED Brooke's class, and thought I'd share just a few of my notes with you, just in case you missed it.
Anxiety & Depression both have so many causes.  Nervous system imbalances, imbalances in the digestive system, respiratory ailments, and past trauma are just a few of the root causes that Brooke mentioned.
But one of the ways to combat both anxiety & depression is through a yoga practice.  Yoga can show us how to listen to "what's up with me".  It can help us identify specific causes of the way we feel, so that we can acknowledge and heal.  Also, by forming our bodies into the asanas, or poses, we can release & re-open portions of our bodies that have been shut down.  This allows the stories, or emotions to come to the surface, so we can effectively cope. 
A big key is the breath.  By breathing all the way down into the belly, we can free up stuck energy, and really notice how our bodies & minds feel.  A large portion of our workshop today focused on lying still while focusing intently on the breath.
If you'd like to experience more of Brooke's teachings, check out her website: to see where and when she's teaching next.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spot-reducing Ab Flab!

Personal trainers have known for years that specific muscle exercises won’t “spot-reduce”, or eliminate fat in specific areas. But recently, the department of kinesiology and health education at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, set out to prove it. This 6-week study measured the body weight, body composition (percent fat) and abdominal circumference of each participant. When the study was over, the researchers found “Six weeks of abdominal training alone was not sufficient to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat and other measures of body composition.” So, the participants had not eliminated any fat, with just the ab exercises. But they did find a significant increase in abdominal strength. So keep up those ab exercises! They may not help you lose weight, but they will get your core stronger. One of my favorite ab strengthening yoga poses is “boat”, or navasana, since it engages the entire core.

The old adage holds true, if you want to lose weight around your middle, you have to lose it everywhere. So eat right, drink plenty of water & get in that daily exercise…maybe a HOT Yoga class?

Source: Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2011; 25 (9), 2559-64

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yama: Satya (truthfulness)

In part 2 of our series on the Yamas & Niyamas (check out part 1 here), we focus on Satya, or truthfulness. Again, on the face of it, Satya seems simple: don’t lie. And that’s a great place to start. Years ago, I realized that only bad things came when I lied, and in response, I made a conscious choice to stop any and all lies. While I’m not perfect with it, not lying has become a part of who I am today, and it has definitely changed my life for the better. If you find that lying has become a problem for you, I encourage you to actively work to change that habit.

But Satya carries more than simply not lying. It involves being honest with others, and honest with ourselves. When we’re truly honest with others, there’s no half-truths, there’s no hiding. I don’t suggest you go around hurting others with unkind (although possibly true) words. But to be honest with others involves doing what we say we’ll do. Honoring our words, by following-up with actions. I struggle with this. Not because I mean to, but I’m simply forgetful. My practice now, has become to get organized, so I can more easily follow-up with correct actions.

What about being honest with yourself? This is often hard. In your yoga practice, are you honest with where your body wants to be? Or do you allow your ego to push you into believing a lie? Are you honest with how you’re feeling emotionally? Often, I come to the mat, ready to work hard, only to realize that emotionally, I just can’t take that. Finally, are you honest with yourself about who you are and what you want out of life? Do you speak what is true about you? Or do you allow fear, social constraints, and other outside worries hold you back?

What is true? How can you live in a way that speaks in truth this week?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yama: Ahimsa

We’ll begin a series of blog posts about the Yamas and the Niyamas. These are the core principles of yoga philosophy, as outlined in Patanjali’s sutras. The Yamas are restraints, or things to not do, and the Niyamas are the observances, or things to do. I find that these work very nicely with my belief in Christ, and are simply good things to remember, to make our lives better. Patanjali leaves them open to interpretation, so I will share with you a few of my thoughts on each.

Our first Yama is Ahimsa, or non-violence. Automatically, we feel a little defensive, “well, I’m not violent!” the ego says quickly. But I believe there’s more to it than that. Let’s examine non-violence toward others. Now, obviously, we’re not going to go around and beat up our fellow human. But there are other ways that we harm each other. Do we judge each other harshly? Do we hold anger? Do we gossip? Hmm…

What about non-violence towards the earth & other living creatures. Let’s make it a part of our daily lives to do what we can to treat our earth kindly. It’s become so much easier to recycle, buy green products, shop locally, and reduce our waste. Let’s also consider how we treat animals. While you and I may be kind to each animal we encounter, how are other people treating them? When you purchase meat, how was the animal raised? How were its last moments? Was it treated with respect & honor? There are plenty of resources now to find out the conditions of the farms. One farm I recommend is The Cows are Out Dairy. You can find Amy on facebook for more information. She delivers at Mountain Yoga on Mondays, and has humanely-raised beef, pork, and eggs.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, is non-violence toward yourself. This is a huge can of worms! Let’s begin with physically. In your yoga practice, do you treat your body with the respect it deserves, or do you violently seek a deeper pose? Do you continually nourish your body with healthful, life-giving foods, or do you practice violence at the drive-through? Practice Ahimsa daily by honoring your body’s needs.

Now, the emotional & spiritual level. Do you judge your every thought, every action, every move with harsh criticism? This is one of the toughest things to overcome. Practice compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself as you would a good friend. Encourage yourself. You are beautifully & wonderfully made! Do you nurture your soul with quiet time, time in study, and time in prayer?

What other ways can we practice Ahimsa this week?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cool as a...

Cool Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber, sliced
1/2 an onion, sliced
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar.
Mix together.  Cover & let sit in the fridge for a couple hours.
Light, cool, refreshment!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Forage & Feasting!

As expected, Forage & Feast was awesome!  Seventeen people gathered at Linda Bolt's Hatterdale Farm to hear Marc Williams talk about plants.  We wandered in fields & woods, learning about different types of plants that are safe to eat & use as medicine.  Then, we brought our harvest inside & made it into a delicious meal!  This was my 4th walk in the woods with Marc, and each time, I learn so much.  His knowledge about the plants is amazing.  Learning about edible plants has recently become an "obsession" for me, and these walks just make me want to learn more.
We've had so many positive comments about Forage & Feast.  Most of our group wants to do it again.  Hopefully we can have Marc back soon.
In the meantime, I promised to post the recipes from the feast.
Happy Foraging!

Wild Hummus
3 cans of beans
1/4 c. tahini
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 1/2 c. chickweed
1 T cumin
1/3 c. olive oil
salt & garlic to taste

Yogurt Fennel Dressing
1 c. yogurt
1/4 c. fennel
1/4 c. honey
1/2 t salt

Honey Mustard Dressing
1 c. mustard
1/2 c. mustard leaves
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. oil

Quinoa Tabouleh
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 c. mint
1/4 c. wild carrot
1 tomato
2 t salt

Bliss Bites
1 c. pumpkin seeds
1 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. raisins
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. tahini
1 T spice bush fruit
roll in coconut or rose petals

Monday, April 16, 2012

10 Ways to Go Green this Spring


1-Plant a Garden-even if you just have a sunny windowsill, you can have a garden. I
recently learned that lettuces do well in pots, so get out there & get your hands dirty! The Washington County Extension office in Jonesborough offers a ton of resources & they have knowledgeable staff to answer your questions.

2-Raise Chickens-Yes! Johnson City recently decided to allow hens within the city limits, so now's the time to try your hand at bird-raising. I recommend talking with an experienced chicken-owner, but there are lots of books out there at our local libraries.

3-Start a compost pile-Even if you don't garden, a compost pile is a great way to "go green". So much of our landfill waste is kitchen waste, yard waste (like grass clippings) and compostable paper. Reduce your footprint on this earth by turning this back into soil, right in your own back yard! Again, the Extension office & the Library have great resources about composting!

4-Buy a travel mug.  According to Renee Loux, in her book "Easy Green Living", Americans threw away 14.4 billion paper coffee cups in 2005.  This is a significant source of waste!

5-Learn to cook at home.  This decreases your carbon footprint, because you aren't using a vehicle to get to the restaraunt, it saves money for other good things, and you can buy organic, and you KNOW what's in your food!

6-Shop at local farmers' markets.  We are fortunate in this area to have several great markets.  Johnson City, and Jonesborough markets have been going strong for years.  One just opened at ETSU, and there's a new one beginning in Blountville.  There are also wonderful treasures to be found at roadside stands.

7-Buy directly from the farmer, when you can.  It's important to know where our food comes from.  The Cows are Out Dairy delivers here at the studio on Mondays.  She brings raw milk and grass-fed beef.  To learn more, visit them on facebook.

8-Re-use-look for little things that mght have another use.  You never know until you change your thinking.  I recently saved a mixed-nut container from the trash, and it's now used for nuts & washers in the basement!  Our grandparents knew the value of "Waste not, Want not!"

9-Buy from the bulk bins.  Even if you just need a small amount, less packaging means less waste.

10-Learn to preserve foods.  This is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  Freezing food is the easiest method, but pickling, canning, freezing & even cellaring are great fun.  My favorite resource is the Ball Blue Book of Canning & Preserving, which you can usually find cheaply this time of year.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learning from animals-the "Guardians of Being"

Every year, about this time, I get a serious case of Spring Fever.  Who wants to be inside when it's warm & sunshine-y and things are blooming?  Even though I've spent today, knocking items off the to-do list, my heart just really wants to sit outside and breathe in the warm air.  I want to roll out my mat and practice yoga in the grass.
What's kind of fun is that our dog seems to have Spring Fever, too!  (Yep-that's her in the picture...with mud on her nose from burying a bone)  Saturday morning, when we were trying to sleep in, she was WIDE AWAKE.  She bounded into the bedroom, walked over to the bed and licked my nose!  That got me up, to let her out at 6:30 am.  But then she barked, so I let her back in.  But then she bothered me, so I put her back out.  Then she barked.  This went on for hours.  She was so excited, and it must've just been Spring in the air.
A few months ago, one of my sweet yoga students, Sharon, gave me a book by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonald, entitled, Guardians of Being:  Spiritual teachings from our dogs and cats.  That book makes me smile each time I look at it, so I wanted to share an excerpt with you:
"It's wonderful to watch an animal, because an animal has no opinion of itself.  It is.  That's why the dog is so joyful and why the cat purrs.  When you pet a dog or listen to a cat purring, thinking may subside for a moment and a space of stillness arises within you, a doorway into Being.  The vital function that pets fulfill in this world hasn't been fully recognized.  They keep millions of people sane."
If you have an animal that's driving you crazy with Spring Fever, don't get angry.  Breathe.  And enjoy them.  You've been blessed with a true friend, who can show you how to live in the moment.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raw it for you?

Raw foodians will tell you that raw is the only way to go for health.  Others say that raw is not healthy.  From an ayurvedic standpoint, raw is only good for some people, as it is so cooling.  The famous raw foodian, Dr. Cousens says we should limit calories and pretty much anything but raw veggies.  But isn't yogurt good for you?  What about whole grains?  What about traditional meals, like dahl, miso soup, etc?  So many questions!  What's a yogi to do?
Many questions, only one answer-food is individual!  Just like our yoga practice, we have to look at what our individual bodies need and find a way to fulfill those needs.
I am entering the third week of my most recent food experiment.  I am eating 2 raw (or living food) meals a day.  And I feel awesome!  I'm not going totally raw.  As a Vata Dosha (ayurvedic constitution), I am often cold, and a totally raw diet may have unintended consequences.  Also, I'm what we call a "householder", which means I also need to take into account the dietary needs and tastes of my husband.  Plus, I know I need probiotics, so I'm including delicious yogurt and other living foods during the day.  In the evening, when I'm eating cooked foods, we are also consuming many more vegetables, as that's what I've stocked up on.
After 2 weeks of this eating practice, I feel great.  I have more energy, my belly is happy, and I feel good about my food choices.  Another reason I'm not too strict about my diet is that I need freedom & self-compassion in all things.  Eating is a yoga practice all to itself.  Non-attachment, non-harming, purity...
Some great books I've found include, but are not limited to:
The Yoga of Eating-Charles Eisenstein
Raw food for 1 or 2 people-Jennifer Cornbleet
Rainbow Green Live-food Cuisine-Dr. Cousens
Nourishing Traditions-Sally Fallon
There are many great books out there about concious and mindful eating.  Start today to consider your food part of your yoga practice!