Displaying items by tag: exercise

We All Float On – Canoeing and Kayaking in Dawson Springs

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/22/13)—If you live in or around the Hopkins County, KY region, adventure is right outside your doorstep (or at least a few miles down the road). From acres of sprawling forests, unique rock formations, and trail-laden parks, to immense waterways, scenic back roads, massive cave systems, and beyond, the western Kentucky region—and the state itself—is brimming with a variety of outdoors opportunities.

Yet, for all of the adrenaline-based activities at our disposal—mountain-biking, rock wall repelling, ATV/dirt bike riding, and jet-skiing, which is to name only a few—there are just as many options for relaxation, nature observation, family-friendly fun, and even a little light exercise.

Case in point: canoeing, kayaking, or boating on Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park’s Pennyrile Lake or Dawson Springs’ nearby Tradewater River.

Though many in our area are familiar with both locations, there may be less who are aware of their canoeing, kayaking, or boating possibilities.

Don’t own a canoe or kayak? While there are even more options at your disposal in Hopkins County if you do, don’t worry—both Pennyrile Lake and the Tradewater River have rentals available for reasonable prices. Worried about the upcoming shift into the fall and winter seasons? Don’t be. Both locations are accessible well into the later months of the year (and sometimes further).

Pennyrile Lake
A decades-old, 56 acre, reservoir-style body of water that stretches well over 3,300 foot from north to south, Pennyrile Lake is located amongst more than 14,000 acres of majestic woodlands. Though Pennyrile Lake’s size could be considered small in comparison to other nearby sites, such as Lake Beshear and Kentucky Lake, its diversity lends itself to a variety of pursuits. Take a few hours to soak up the indigenous wildlife amongst untainted shorelines, varied inlets, and a dense lily-pad “field”; examine the intricacies of sheer rock facings and outcroppings that border the lake’s edge, which are common to the Dawson Springs area; cast your fishing lure into fallen brush piles, beneath overhanging trees, and around the perimeter of adjoining docks; bring your camera and capture a variety of intriguing photographs; or simply take a fresh look at Pennyrile Lake’s historic dam from the water level. And that’s just scratching the surface. The pathway and approach you take to explore this striking setting is up to you and yours. What’s more, Pennyrile State Forest Resort Park offers lodging, camping, fresh food, golfing, swimming, and a bevy of other services/outdoors entertainment.

Here’s the lowdown on pricing and boating options, as well as times/dates that the lake is open to visitors:

• Paddleboats - $5/30 minutes; $8/hour; $25/day
• Canoes - $8/hour; $30/day
• Jon Boat (no motor) - $10/hour; $35/day
• Jon Boat (with motor) - $20/hour; $45/day; $86/two days

All rentals include boat paddles and life-jackets at no additional charge. Rentals are available from 10am – 5pm every day of the week until October 31st. For more information on Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, such as boat availability, call (270) 797-3421 or visit http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/pennyrile-forest/. Detailed directions to the park are also available at the aforementioned link.

Tradewater River
Named for the oftentimes “neutral” trade interactions it fostered between various native American tribes and white settlers in the early-to-mid-1800’s, the Tradewater River is a truly historic tributary of the Ohio River that meanders across western Kentucky and parts of Indiana for well over 100 miles. Though portions of the relatively slow-moving, yet tranquil and naturally picturesque, river are difficult or impossible to traverse by boat, canoe, or kayak due to large, sporadic deposits of fallen debris, local outdoors enthusiast and Dawson Springs resident, Hank Mills, offers regional adventure seekers and nature lovers a chance to experience between two and five unobstructed miles of the relaxing waterway through his personal, riverside business, Tradewater Canoes and Kayaks.

Below is a list of canoeing and kayaking options, as well as times/date and methods of scheduling a rental.

• Lower River (approx. two miles/one-and-a-half hours)—$20 per boat OR $15 per boat for groups renting three or more boats
• Upper River (approx. five miles/three to four hours)—$30 per boat OR $25 per boat for groups renting three or more boats

Rental fees include paddles, life-jackets, and onsite transportation to and from your launch/arrival site (if applicable). While walk-ins are acceptable from 9am to 5pm up until Labor Day (September 2nd, 2013), calling ahead of time to schedule a rental is strongly encouraged for those traveling into Dawson Springs from out of town. After Labor Day, pre-scheduling trips and rentals by phone will be mandatory. To set up an appointment, to find out more information, or to get specific directions, please call (270) 871-9475. Leave a voicemail if you don’t get an answer and someone will call you back as soon as possible. You can also find Tradewater Canoes and Kayaks on Facebook.

While the two aforementioned options are ideal for a relaxing daytrip by yourself, with friends, or with the whole family, Tradewater Canoes and Kayaks will also be hosting an exciting, adrenaline-pumping fitness challenge on Saturday, August 24th. In addition to a two mile kayak portion, the event will also host a 4K run and a 16.5 mile bike ride. If you’re interested in participating in the challenge, visit the following link for information on registration, locations, and more:
http://www.dawsonspringsky.com/trails/2013%20Brochure%20.pdf.

You may also find the Tradewater River Fitness Challenge on Facebook.

In the end, taking time out of our busy schedules and modern, fast-paced routines can oftentimes remind of us of what we are: adventure-seeking beings that have a natural drive to explore the world around us. We are nomadic at heart. And why not go and smell the roses from time-to-time? Immersing one’s self in the natural world can soothe and relax the mind, body, and perhaps the very essence of our being. Floating and swaying along on a serene waterway lightens our sense of immediacy, giving us a feeling of buoyancy and weightlessness, while provoking our ancestral instincts. 

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Luke Short and Tradewater Canoes and Kayaks

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nOM—Adventures in Yoga & Food: The Now of Nostalgia


PHOTO: Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/16/13) - Three years ago today, I dove into a month of living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of western-Massachusetts, training to become a yoga teacher. I made this choice sight unseen. I landed at the Albany airport, got on a shuttle with a handful of other people from all across the world—most of whom also looked slightly shell-shocked and equally nervous—and an hour later I was lugging a month’s worth of yoga clothes, toiletries, and instant coffee into a dorm room I would share with 20+ people. (Yes, I said instant coffee. The literature Kripalu had sent said we had to be on the mat at 6:30am, six days a week, and there was no coffee in the dining hall, which didn’t open until 7:30am anyway…you better believe I was ready to eat Starbucks Via like a pixie stick on my way to practice!) It was a huge leap of faith, took almost all of the courage I could muster, and I had absolutely no idea—not even an inkling—as to how powerful and transformative the next month would be.

You know those split-seconds that are actually vibrant sparks on the continuum of time, where a simple choice can dramatically shift the trajectory of the entire story? Those seemingly mundane moments you can look back on in hindsight and see as defining, revelatory, a step onto a new path, a choice that would impact every single day of the rest of your life? I think of other moments with similar reverence: my first day at my first job at Block’s Hot Bagels when I was 16-years-old; my first day at summer camp in Maine; and my first day of freshman orientation at Kenyon College, an undergraduate community that would become a intellectual, creative, and spiritual home. It was that brand of split-second. Arriving at Kripalu felt like landing. Becoming a yoga teacher felt like a calling. In a thousand tiny, awesome ways, it was a coming Home.

I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with that month of my life.

And I miss it. I’ve been bathing in nostalgia as of late—swimming in thick pools of memory—caught between that extraordinary month at Kripalu and the present. I’ve been missing the way life smelled and tasted and was three years ago, the way I felt physically and emotionally, the people who were cheering me on from afar and the people I met in the Berkshires, and the place itself, right down to my bunk bed in that dorm room. I’ve been elbow-deep in the photos and the music, reaching out to the people who share a similar brand of experience, and generally longing for any connection to that month.

Anniversaries are an obvious time to remember and honor the past, and sometimes an easy time to sink so completely into remembering that you start to feel as though you are living in a highlight reel, longing for something you will never get back. Nostalgia is a strange beast. Inevitably, the pain of missing becomes greater than the joy of remembering. Don’t misunderstand; I think there is a purpose in remembering. Memory is a gift. I believe that honoring the past is innate to human nature, and a powerful practice. But dwelling in the past can cause all sorts of problems.

In yoga, we are taught to be present, to stay present, to come into the Now breath by breath. This is easier said than done. The question becomes, then, how to maintain your connection to your story while being fully present to Now, while simultaneously looking ahead toward a future that is in no way guaranteed. Indeed, this is the practice.

Have you been there? Maybe it is an experience that is over: summer camp, your vacation, a wedding, a college reunion. Or maybe it is a person. Someone you loved deeply who passed away, a friendship that came to an end, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it is an old way of being you have had to shed as you have grown. Whatever it is, that spark—any of it, all of it—deserves to be honored. It deserves the energy and respect of your memory. It deserves to inform your Now in some way, shape, or form. And then you let go. You can always remember again later.

This is an asana (yoga posture) practice designed to help ground you during times of nostalgia, times when the past is desperately trying to get you stuck in your head and disconnected from the present. This practice gives ample space for allowing integration of the trip down memory lane and, ultimately, garners the power and gift of memory to create strength and intention in the present.

PHOTO: Child's pose.

1) Begin in Child’s Pose (Garbasana), knees the width of the mat, inner edge of big toes just touching, dropping the bottom toward the heels, hands above the head, elbows slightly bent to take any strain out of the shoulders and upper back. Notice your breath. Slow and deepen the breath, inhaling and exhaling completely. Count five rounds of breath as you allow yourself to look back to whatever you are feeling nostalgic about. Allow any and all thoughts. Notice how you feel. On the fifth exhale, release the breath with a sigh through the mouth, letting go.

2) Practice Mountain Pose (Tadasana) to create a rooted connection to the present. Stand with feet hip-width apart, inner-edges parallel to one another. Lifting and spreading the toes, press firmly into the three corners of the feet—the ball mound under the big toe, the pinky toe, and into the heel. Feel your foundation and connection to the earth. Draw energy up the legs as you inhale deeply and engage the upper thigh muscles. Feel the lower belly draw in and up, and as you exhale, tuck your tailbone under and lengthen from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Feel the upper body buoyant, lifting and lengthening, even as the feet ground into the earth. Feel yourself fully present, at home in the body. Count five rounds of breath. You may choose to chant five rounds of OM instead, being present to the vibration and sound.

PHOTO: Tree pose by the Crabtree kids.

3) Practice Tree Pose (Vrksasana) to continue rooting into the present as you balance the inevitable wobbles and falls both in the pose and on your path. Rooting into your right foot, lift your left foot off the ground. Externally rotate the left hip and press the sole of the foot into the right upper thigh. Aim for five consecutive breaths in the pose, letting go of judgment if you lose your balance and have to put your left foot down. Simply pause for a round of breath and come into the pose again.

4) Practice a supported chest opener on a rolled blanket or blocks to integrate past and present, and to physically and emotionally make room for the future. Lay back on a rolled blanket, a bolster, or yoga blocks with the soles of the feet together and knees dropping naturally to either side. Allow the shoulders to relax completely as the spine lengthens. Breathe into the open space of the body from the floor of the pelvis to the crown of the head, and garner the strength of your past and your personal story as support to allow for deep release. As though you are sweeping out cobwebs, allow each inhale to clear out space and each exhale to affirm your experience of each moment in its fullness, as enough.

5) Take Corpse Pose (Savasana) for 10 minutes or longer. There is nothing left to do and nowhere to go. Allow the body, mind, and spirit ample time for integration and rest.

6) As you slowly, gently, and mindfully release Savasana, come into Sukasana or any comfortable cross-legged seat. If your lower back rounds, sit up on a blanket or cushion. Float your hands to heart center. Drop your chin to your chest, a gesture of gratitude toward the self for taking time to practice.

As a stand-alone or complimentary journaling practice, consider what the memory you are feeling nostalgic about brought out in you. How did it serve you? Many times we fall in love with an experience, a person, a thing, or even a time in our life because something about it allowed us to feel safe and comfortable in our own authenticity. To put it simply, you were able to truly be you. What could you do in the present moment to give yourself permission to fully embody your truth? Can you find it within you instead of in a memory?

These practices become an inquiry into optimal living. They encourage active participation in designing the tapestry of your life and are a means to weave fluidly in and out of the linear with an awareness of the greater scope, the bigger picture, the now and the not yet.

Jai Bhagwan.

Namaste.

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Hilary’s website: www.hilarylowbridge.weebly.com 
Connect with Hilary on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HilaryLowbridgeYoga
Hilary in 140 characters or less: www.twitter.com/hilarybreathes  

Find previous "nOM - Adventures in Yoga & Food" installments by clicking here.

Sugg Street Post
Writing/Photos by Hilary Lowbridge 

 

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nOM—Adventures in Yoga & Food: Hello, Sun

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (6/28/13) - “Each morning the sun takes another course into the sky. Light and warmth follow and the day begins, a common event of enormous circumstance. The sunrise informs and actuates the present. Each one is different. And deep within that mystery lies a gift for anyone perceptive enough to notice, anyone willing to accept it. It is the blessing for the day at hand, a fresh chance to create and to connect and to experience what it is that we were born to do.” – Robert William Case

Up until very recently, I was a self-proclaimed night-owl, passionate about how much I loathed the morning. After my first year of college, I (purposefully) never had a class earlier than 10am. Throughout my 10-year career in college admissions I had to be at work at 8:30am, and I was the queen of the snooze button. Every time my alarm went off, a few more minutes of sleep sounded like a better idea than eating breakfast, never mind a morning workout or a yoga and meditation practice. This was partially because of my insomniac tendencies. I rarely went to bed before 2am, oftentimes having caught an unplanned nap on the couch after work, my daily 4pm Starbucks habit getting me through the workday but not keeping me from crashing as soon as I got home.

It was an unexpected bout with anxiety (a story for another column) that inspired me to stop hitting the snooze button and create a morning routine, and now I can’t imagine my life without it. While I’m not sure I’d go as far as to call myself a “morning person,” I have begun to really enjoy the stillness and ease of the early hours. There is something sacred about the morning–a heaviness that lends itself to slowing down and paying attention, peacefulness that promotes deep inner listening, newness that feels like tangible hope and pure potential.

These days I’m almost always in bed before 10:30pm and I’m up long before I have to be anywhere. I have seen positive transformation and improvements in my life that I can only attribute to changing my schedule and using the golden hours of morning to my advantage. This is how I’m currently starting my day.

• 6am – My “Tibetan bell” alarm fades in, slowly nudging me awake. I sit up and notice my body and my breath, and take a moment to just watch my thoughts without engaging. (Try it–those first few thoughts you have can be equally hilarious and crazy!) I head to the kitchen, juice a lemon, add lukewarm water, and step outside and say hello to the sun. I bring myself present by reminding myself of the day and the date. I’m fortunate to live in bucolic splendor; I often walk barefoot into my yard in my pajamas and notice my feet firmly on the soft ground. It is a beautiful reminder of my connection to the earth, an acknowledgement of the support she provides me day after day.

• 6:30am – I’m on my yoga mat. I might do an online practice via Kripalu or YogaGlo, or a practice I have on CD or DVD. I might do my own practice set to music or in silence. But I always practice pranayama (breath work) and asana (yoga postures).

• 7:00am – I light a candle as I set an intention for my day and settle on to my meditation cushion for a minimum of 21 minutes. (I always give myself that one extra minute to settle in and breathe deeply).

• 7:30am – I make breakfast (usually fruit, raw nuts, and chia seeds or flax meal, or a green smoothie, or sautéed greens, poached eggs, and avocado), and an almond milk latte.

• 8:00am – I break a sweat (for the second time if yoga practice was vigorous!) and get outside, heading to the park for a walk. (I find that a walk after breakfast works for me; if I’m doing something more vigorous like a kick-boxing DVD, I do that before I eat breakfast).

• 9:00am – I begin working for the day.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times that I can’t keep this schedule for one reason or another. There are some days that I make the choice to stay in bed longer, or I go to the diner for breakfast with my boyfriend if he has a rare day off from work, or I listen to my body and choose a gentle yoga practice or skip the walk if I’m feeling truly run down. I have had to learn not to freak out if my routine doesn’t happen exactly as planned. The point is not to accomplish it, but to be present for it, morning after morning after morning.

Your needs – physically and spiritually – are unique to you. Here are few general suggestions that you can mix and match to create a morning routine that works for you.

-  Wake up gently.
Instead of that blaring alarm that rudely jolts you out of sleep, why not experiment with a kinder, gentler alarm? I have an app on my iPhone called “Sleep Machine” that is wonderful for ambient noises to fall asleep to, as well as an alarm that fades in and includes soothing music or a Tibetan bell (my personal favorite).

-  Drink lemon water.
Lemon juice aids digestion, helps to cleanse the body of toxins, and boosts the immune system. Drink the juice of one lemon with 16oz of lukewarm water on an empty stomach and if you can, wait 30 minutes before eating breakfast.

-  Say hello to the sun.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The sun is new each day.” Saying hello to the sun each morning is a lovely way to mark the new day, to acknowledge it, to be present to it for at least a brief moment. Time passes and the days go by, and sometimes we get so busy that we wake up, five years have gone by, and we were too preoccupied to notice. Taking just a moment each day to acknowledge the new day itself helps to counter this.

-  Practice yoga.
After a night of sleep, the body can be stiff and sore. Gentle yoga breath work, movement, and postures can help to wake up the muscles and connective tissues, preparing the body to move with more ease through the tasks of the day.

-  Practice meditation.
Meditation doesn’t have to be scary. Set a timer (that Tibetan bell timer works great for this, too!), sit comfortably, close your eyes, and simply rest your awareness on inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Here is a great illustration that explains the many benefits of meditation.

-  Eat a healthy breakfast
Starting the day with a combination of healthy carbohydrates, protein, and good fat is a great way to ensure good choices for the rest of the day. You are literally breaking a fast, and what you put in your body first can and does set the tone for your entire day.

-  Break a sweat.
There are a lot of reasons to exercise in the morning, but my favorite? To get it over with. Plus, I find I make better food choices over the course of the day if I’ve already got a solid workout under my belt. Win-win.

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Hilary’s website: www.hilarylowbridge.weebly.com 
Connect with Hilary on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HilaryLowbridgeYoga
Hilary in 140 characters or less: www.twitter.com/hilarybreathes  

Sugg Street Post
Writing/Photos by Hilary Lowbridge 

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nOM—Adventures in Yoga & Food: The Reality Yogi

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (6/6/13) - Practicing yoga is an act of self-care. It is a way to take time – ideally, every day – for connecting with body, mind, and spirit. The reality is, however, that it can be really challenging to make the time for this kind of practice. Especially when it becomes one of those things, and you know all about those things. Things that you think you need a very specific set of circumstances to do correctly. If I lived in my perfect yoga world, every day there would be 90 solid, consecutive minutes, falling exactly three hours after I last ate (a light, healthy, organic, free-range, locally-sourced, gluten/soy/wheat/dairy free meal) in a day that I was perfectly hydrated (but for some amazing yogic reason, I wouldn't have to pee during those 90 minutes) and wearing the perfect yoga outfit (and it would have to be Lululemon from head to toe, because what is more ironic than a $300 yoga outfit?) in a room that had been smudged with (organic) white sage approximately 30 minutes before I began my practice, candles (that I made myself) lit, and a perfect playlist cued up. And of course I'd be on my Manduka Black Mat Pro. Duh.

I think those exact circumstances happened once. Well, except for the Lulu outfit. Oh, and I've never made a candle in my life. And I only just got a Manduka Black Mat Pro a year ago as a birthday gift. But yeah, something like that happened one time. In 1999. That's the ticket.

Okay, it never happened.

And let's face it—it probably never will.

Here is the truth: you don't need the perfect amount of time, the perfect space, the expensive mat, and definitely not the $300 yoga outfit to practice yoga. You don’t even have to make it to one of my classes at the YMCA to practice yoga. You can practice yoga anytime, anywhere. You can practice yoga for ten minutes a day with incredibly positive results.

Let's say it is the end of a long day and you finally have a bit of downtime to yourself. And if we are being honest (and we are, or at least, I am about to be), you are probably likely to grab a glass of wine, maybe some chips, (mmm, chips), definitely a lime La Croix, and sneak a moment to catch up on your DVR. Maybe it's Housewives, Parks & Rec, or a Law & Order: SVU marathon. Or you catch up on your internet-world for a minute—Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger. Maybe you attempt to do all of this at the same time. All the while you might be thinking, gosh, maybe I should do a bit of yoga. (By the way, if this is true for you, word for word, it also seems that we are the same person!).

So it feels like a choice, then: yoga or guilty-pleasure decompression. I know what I’m more likely to choose.

But it does not have to be a choice—at least not all of the time. Have your wine, have your chips, watch your reality television. Or listen to your favorite music. And while you do, put your legs up the wall for 10 minutes. Or sit cross-legged on the floor and lengthen your spine as breathe deeply (and sip your wine). Or just sit on the couch, watch your favorite show, and focus on inhaling deep into your belly, flaring your rib cage with the breath, and drawing it up over the collar bones, exhaling from the upper chest, rib cage, and following the breath all the way out with the belly.

I'm not saying this should replace your focused practice of yoga, or that you should never step foot in a yoga studio again. But as an addition to a mindful practice, this is a great way to work some additional yoga, gentle stretching, and deep breathing into the reality of your day.

Today, I did some yoga in my kitchen in between folding laundry and drinking coffee, thinking that I need to start eating more celery because it's supposed to be good for your heart—or at least that's what I read in some magazine yesterday.

Luckily, the beauty of yoga is that I stopped thinking about celery and stressing about heart health for a hot second and had a very fleeting moment of blissful peace and concentration.

You can, too.

• Stand with your feet a little wider than your hip’s width apart.
• Begin to twist, allowing the arms to gain momentum like empty coat sleeves of a trench coat draped over your shoulders. Lift the opposite heel as you look behind you.
• Coordinate it with some strong pranayama (breath work) practice—a sharp inhale through the nose as you come through center, a forceful "HA" breath out the mouth as you twist.
• Let the momentum build and build, and let your hands hit you wherever they may (it's probably somewhere you have a big concentration of lymph nodes, and they need a love tap now and then!)
• Continue for a minute or two, then let the momentum slow down, like the battery in the toy is slowly dying.
• When you are finally still, notice how you feel. Breathe deeply.

This incredibly simple twist is so therapeutic and beneficial. It is a nice squeeze and soak for all of the organs in the abdomen, flooding them with freshly oxygenated blood, and it also keeps the spine supple and creates space for all of the nerves traveling out of the spine to the rest of the body. Hooray!

Or go throw on your Lulu clothes, roll out that Manduka, light the candles, smudge the room and have that perfect, enlightening 90-minute practice. I'm jealous already.

Love,
The Reality Yogi

Hilary’s website: www.hilarylowbridge.weebly.com 
Connect with Hilary on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HilaryLowbridgeYoga
Hilary in 140 characters or less: www.twitter.com/hilarybreathes

Sugg Street Post
Written by Hilary Lowbridge
Photos by Hilary Lowbridge

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nOM—Adventures in Yoga & Food: It’s Not Easy Being Green

MADISONVILLE, KY (5/2/13) - Many years ago, a friend of mine went on a diet of solely bagels, fat-free cream cheese, and diet cranberry juice cocktail. “I’m eating exactly 800 calories a day,” she proudly exclaimed, in a simple carbohydrate, artificial sweetener, blood-sugar-roller-coaster induced euphoria. She stuck to it for about 48 hours before she almost passed out during a spinning class we were taking together. So she went back to eating whatever was easiest – fast food, frozen dinners, and stuff out of the office vending machine – and worked out more. “I’m really gonna beat myself up,” she’d say, as we walked into the gym. Later, as we munched on pizza and guzzled Diet Cokes, she stood in front of a full-length mirror and continued the beating: “My stomach is so disgusting. Ugh. Oh, I really hate my thighs. Look at my flabby arms! I am revolting!”

I have seen this same brand of devastation in my own life, and I see it in the lives of people all around me every day: somehow the body has become a thing we have to punish, beat into submission, force into compliance, or just ignore completely. We do this when we don’t consider what we eat at all. We do this when eating calorie-restrictive diets full of processed, nutritionally devoid foods. Or we do this with exercise, as (supposed) fitness experts yell, "Show the body who the boss is! Don't let the body control you! You control the body! No pain, no gain!" Essentially, we are encouraged, in a thousand tiny ways, to disembody ourselves in order to achieve something physical. This is a recipe for misery, illness, injury, and self-loathing. Why? Here is a guess: if I am punishing my body, I am punishing myself. If I hate my body, I hate myself. The body and the mind are not two separate entities; we are whole. Yet, we certainly do not seem to be living that way.

This disconnect is so great that it is hardly a surprise that morbid obesity is a serious and scary epidemic, or that others are starving themselves and over-exercising on a quest to meet some arbitrary standard of physical beauty. It seems that, for many people, the most important accomplishment, or the place in which they feel the deepest sting of failure, is whether or not they are the proud owner of a body that looks a certain way that fits into a specific mold.

My own journey is certainly ongoing, and did include at least 15 years in a similarly constant and cruel battle with my body. What I have learned so far is that true transformation and optimal health is actually dependent upon compassion and integration. Specifically, it is dependent upon non-judgmental, compassionate self-awareness and the understanding that I am not, in fact, a floating head. Whether it involves making better food choices, losing weight, or exercising more, we must shift from doing to our body to working with our body, and stop propagating this mindset in which we live as two separate entities at war with one another.

The truth is, how you move, fuel, and talk to yourself (and others) about your body is an opportunity you have, many times, day after day, to practice self-compassion. When you listen to your body and fuel it with nourishing, real food, it is a small, but profound, gesture toward the self—a message that says you deserve care and comfort. Your desires matter. You are worthy of love.

This is the practice. In yoga, we practice on the mat. And then we step off the mat and continue practicing, perhaps noticing that all of life—including what we eat—is part of the same inquiry. We notice that life starts to get more satisfying when we are living in the fullness of ourselves—our WHOLE selves. We start to notice that when we put delicious, high-quality, nutrient-dense food into our body we feel better. We have more energy, a stronger immune system, less disease, and maintaining a healthy weight becomes an effortless given. And yes, this can include wine and chips, and even the occasional Denny’s burger with egg/hashbrowns/bacon/cheese sauce on top (Not that I’d know anything about that!).

I believe that food can be delicious, beautiful, and profoundly nourishing. Here is a simple and tasty way to practice compassionate eating: the green smoothie.

Leafy greens have more nutrients than any other food group—they are chock full of amino acids, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants, and phytochemicals. When you eat them raw, you don’t lose any of their stellar nutritional value, and, when you blend them, all of that nutrition becomes more readily available to your body. And honestly, when you pair them with fruits like bananas, pineapples, berries, grapes, and/or citrus fruits, you really can’t taste them. So if you avoid greens because you don’t like their taste or texture (although I think I could convince you otherwise if I had you over for dinner), this is a great way to sneak them into your diet.

Hilary’s Basic Green Smoothie:

2 cups of raw spinach, washed OR collard greens, washed and de-stemmed (or a combination of both!)
1 cup of plain coconut water (I love ZICO, and both the Kroger’s and Walmart here in Madisonville have started carrying it! Yay!)
1 banana
4 ice cubes

Place the spinach or collards and the coconut water in a blender. Blend until very smooth. Add the banana and ice (or you can freeze the banana ahead of time and skip the ice!). Blend more.

Drink and enjoy!

You might try adding any or all of the following, thinning it out with more coconut water if it gets too thick:

10 green grapes
½ cup fresh pineapple
½ cup fresh mango
1 orange, peeled, seeds removed

Blue-Green Mint Smoothie

2 cups of raw spinach, washed OR collard greens, washed and de-stemmed (or a combination of both!)
1 cup blueberries
handful of fresh mint leaves
juice of a lime
½ banana
¼ avocado
1 cup coconut water

Blend the spinach and/or collards with the coconut water until smooth. Add the mint leaves and blueberries and blend. Add the banana, avocado, and lime juice and blend. Add more coconut water if it is too thick. Yum!

Green Smoothie Tips:

• I swear by my Ninja blender. It is affordable, and it works (but I do long for a Vitamix).

• If you’re new to green smoothies, start with spinach. It blends well and it has practically no discernible taste. Collards are a close second – de-stemmed, they also blend up very smooth. My advice: save the kale for a little bit later, unless you have a really fantastic blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec).

• Bananas and/or avocados are great for texture. They add body and creaminess to your smoothie.

• Always blend your greens with your liquid first, until it is a juice-like consistency. Then add your additional veggies, fruits, and supplements (I love chia seeds and flaxmeal!)

• Speaking of your liquid base: many people are sensitive to dairy and don’t realize it. Try your smoothies with water, coconut water, or nut milks like almond or coconut. I am currently obsessed with Almond Breeze’s Almond/Coconut Blend for both creamy smoothies and lattes.

• Rice protein and hemp protein are great, soy-free, dairy-free ways to boost the protein content in your smoothie.

• Don’t count the calories! This is real, whole, nourishing food that is good for you. Drink up!

Sugg Street Post
Written by Hilary Lowbridge
Photos courtesy of Hilary Lowbridge

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nOM—Adventures in Yoga & Food: Hello!

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (4/25/13)—Hilary Lowbridge, who holds a BA from Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) and is a Registered Yoga Teacher (Kripalu School of Yoga, Stockbridge, MA), began practicing yoga when she was 19-years-old. She received her undergraduate degree in political science and religion, the two subjects you are not supposed to talk about in polite company. After a successful 10-year career as an admission professional at three prestigious colleges, and finally getting a handle on her impossibly curly hair, Lowbridge followed her passion for yoga. One sunny afternoon, while sitting on a porch in southern California, she decided to go to yoga school. Accepted into the renowned residential yoga teacher training program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, she not only learned a lot about yoga and meditation, she also began a torrid love affair with kale that continues to this day. Graduating in August 2010, Lowbridge began offering yoga classes at the Hopkins County YMCA in Madisonville, Kentucky, and has since logged over 1,000 hours teaching yoga and meditation at several health and fitness establishments, as well as with many private clients. Her enthusiasm and passion for yoga, wellness, and nutrition is infectious. With a playful and compassionate style, Lowbridge encourages her students to laugh as much as possible, to eat dark chocolate regularly, and to engage fully in the inquiry of life.

Hilary’s website: www.hilarylowbridge.weebly.com
Connect with Hilary on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HilaryLowbridgeYoga
Hilary in 140 characters or less: www.twitter.com/hilarybreathes

In 2009, there was only one public yoga class offered each week in Madisonville, Kentucky. Since then, I have watched as awareness of this powerful practice has grown, slowly but surely. By my count, there are currently four active teachers offering over 10 classes a week here, including my own classes, which are held six days per week at the Hopkins County YMCA. Thanks in part to the YMCA now including yoga in the cost of membership, I have seen a number of new people in class as of late. Even more tell me that they want to try yoga, learn how to meditate, make a green smoothie, try a gluten-free diet, a vegan diet, go paleo, learn how to juice, figure out how to set aside more time for self-care, or just give kale chips a try. It’s all yoga, baby. So let’s do it.

Here at my fancy new internet digs (thanks Luke Short and the Sugg Street Post!) I am going to have the weekly privilege and honor of offering you something related to the big world of yoga, meditation, wellness, nutrition, and holistic health. As a yoga teacher, my style blends a light-hearted playfulness with a profound reverence for the sacredness of life, a ton of laughter, deep respect for quiet inner listening, and a whole lot of falling on my face, dusting myself off, and picking myself back up again. As a writer, my style is pretty much the same: raw, sometimes comedic, and always honest. Life is, indeed, a journey—and you can choose to consider it, or not. Patanjeli said it best: “atha yoga anushasanam.” Now, the inquiry.

This is an incredible opportunity to reach a lot of people, and I teach yoga because I have an admittedly idealistic desire to help people. (I know. It’s cheesy. Yes, I’ll take some wine with my cheese, thank you. I prefer a dry red). Having taught yoga in Madisonville, Kentucky for almost three years now, I know that mine is a niche market. And that is something that I am passionate about changing. Why? Because I also know that consistent yoga practice offers deeply profound benefits, and no, twisting yourself into a pretzel isn’t the goal. Sure, you can build strength, you can increase flexibility, you can develop balance, and you can find deep peace and relaxation by practicing yoga. But even if you are never able to touch your toes or stand on your head, practicing yoga improves your health, your relationships, and your ability to cope with stress. Stress, by the way, is proving to be a major cause behind much of the disease we’re fighting these days. Research at well-recognized universities and medical centers has suggested that yoga can address insomnia, digestive conditions, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain and many other common ailments. Yoga has been proven to strengthen the immune system, balance and strengthen the endocrine system, permanently lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, relieve pain, alleviate anxiety and depression, and cultivate self-compassion.

Sound good? We’re just getting started.

A strong personal practice of yoga is a stepping stone to wonderful things—transformation in your life for the better in ways you didn't necessarily realize you wanted or needed. The true magic of yoga is this: what you do on the mat is a launching pad for what you do off the mat. I have been a cardio-junkie, a regular at both Jazzercise and step aerobics back in the ‘90s, a walker, and a runner. I spent many an afternoon in the spinning room, followed a very regimented and intense strength and interval training program, been the queen of Tae-Bo, and put Jillian's 30 Day Shred in my DVD player numerous times. Let’s not even start to talk about the number of diets and eating plans I’ve tried. Through it all, what I've come back to again and again is yoga. When I commit to my practice, I start to see positive changes in my life without planning or force—life just starts to blossom. I start to make better choices. I start to take better care of myself. I almost effortlessly become actively engaged—in a soft, safe way—with this overwhelming, extraordinary, confusing, beautiful reality of being alive. I have witnessed how this practice transforms, supports, and heals. Turning your attention and awareness to your body, your mind, and your spirit on the mat inevitably inspires the same off the mat. This is called the inquiry of optimal living, and I don’t know many people who aren’t interested in an optimal life.

And let’s just address the elephant in the room (on the screen?): yoga is not a religion. We’ll come back to that one later.

For now, try this:

Sit up a little straighter in your chair and take a deep full breath in through your nose as your sweep your arms up over your head. Stretch through your fingertips as you exhale slowly and draw your shoulders down the back, squeeze the shoulder blades toward one another, and rotate your upper arms toward your center so that the pinky fingers are next to each other. Take a few more deep breathes here, filling belly, then ribcage, then upper chest, and exhaling completely. On the fifth exhale, bring your palms together and lower your hands past your head, past your lips, and bring the backs of the thumbs to your heart center. Close your eyes for a moment and notice how you feel.

See you next week.

Om, shanti. Om, peace.

Namaste.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Hilary Lowbridge

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