It is very common to feel that exercise is a grueling, laborious task in which we drag ourselves outdoors or into gyms to complete. Ten reps of this, three laps of that, treadmills, spinning, sweating, panting, heaving, aching…you get it. Many of us have been there and done that. It can be especially challenging during this time of year, when the days are cold. I stopped looking at exercise that way a while back and it has been very beneficial for me.
Actually, I feel that some of the things I stopped doing allowed me to start moving without the strain and fuss:
First, I stopped calling it exercise and started calling it my “movement practice.” If I think about going for a run, a bike ride, or practicing yoga, I think about it as my movement for the day. Dance, lifting weights, yoga, swimming, cycling…You can apply this to whatever form of movement suits you. It is all movement. When we bring in our consciousness and presence, it is embodiment.
I also stopped thinking about goals, destinations, repetitions, etc., and I started realizing that any length or duration was just fine, as long as I feel good about it and listen to my body as I go. I can feel the burn and push myself without beating myself up. I can be gentle with myself and still feel like a warrior. It is easy to know when I need to continue or stop when I am listening.
I stopped telling myself I had to do it, and started asking my body what it truly wants in the moment. I find that when I am honest and truly listening to my body’s response, it is often that it wants to move and to be outside. And, on the flip side, sometimes it truly wants to sit and read a book with a cup of tea, and that is just fine. This can be nourishing in another way and I will feel all the better having fulfilled this desire. It will want to move again at some point, and if I’m listening, I’ll know when that is.
When I approach movement this way, it is much easier for me to get going. Many of us know the feeling that once we get going we feel great; that the hardest part is getting started. When we experience this, it is as if we are realizing what our bodies were saying all along. “Ahhhh…now I feel better.” That’s because our bodies are made to move. We are free flowing cosmic bodies full of the stars and water and the elements, and we are aware of it! How cool is that!?!? When I feel the answer, “Yes, I need to move,” I know that I can do it in a state of joy rather than resistance. I can be present for it and enjoy each moment I am in it. I can smell the trees, feel the sun and wind on my face, feel the earth beneath my feet, see the blue sky, puffy clouds and all the people wandering about their day. I can make this a time for joy, gratitude, and presence. I can make it a meditation, a mindfulness practice. In fact, I can make it a holy endeavor; I can make it a prayer. When I do this it is not only good for my body, but good for my mind, my heart and my soul.
I find so many benefits to this practice. I no longer feel the fight and resistance. I find myself feeling free of injury and pain. I also have more mental clarity and I feel good about my day. I feel good in my body because I gave it what it so desired. I feel nourished from being in nature, from being in my body and being in the present moment. It is a gift to give my body this and because of that, is a gift for those around me. Better yet, I can practice this with others. I can go for a run with a friend or engage in a yoga class. I can bring peace to myself, and peace to the planet.
Some of you might be saying, “Chill out, dude. You’re just talking about going for a run.” To that I say, if you’re really listening to your heart, you will hear its call. The more we can bring peace, presence, joy, and love into our lives in each of our tiny seemingly insignificant moments, the better. The more we feel full of love, the more love we have to give. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves. The world is obviously in need of all of us right now. It needs us to listen. We have to start somewhere. We can start by listening and taking care of our bodies. We can start by living fully in our bodies. This is the magic of embodied movement.
Pu-erh(yes...POO-air) is a post-fermented(fermented+aged) tea that was made famous in the Yunnan region of southwestern China. Like a fine wine, pu-erh gets better with age. It is used medicinally throughout the world. It can have a very dark, rich, earthy flavor. Because of its richness, I have used it in the past when I wanted to take coffee out of my diet. While it can be a little pricey, the beverage can be steeped multiple times and some say it gets better with each infusion. It is mildly caffeinated, so beware if you avoid or react strongly to caffeine. Pu-erh does lots of wonderful things:
There are many types of pu-erh. Some are cheap(not recommended) and some are really expensive(go crazy!). I recommend researching companies before you buy and only drinking organic fair trade teas. There is also an entire world of pu-erh out there. Once you get into it, you will find there is so much to explore!
Though it is time-tested and some research has been completed, more research needs to be done to fully validate these statements.
This warming drink will get the blood flowing on these cold days. My hands and feet can be stubborn and difficult to keep warm. This drink helps to get some warmth to my extremities and it is super easy to make. It is great for people with diabetes, as cinnamon has the ability to regulate blood sugar. It is also great for people who run cold or have poor circulation.
1 cinnamon stick
1 (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a few slices
2 cups or so of water
a few pine nuts
sweetener if desired: I recommend local raw honey over all others
Combine the cinnamon, ginger, and water in a pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for around 15 minutes. Strain, add honey and pine nuts.
Double or triple the recipe to share. Enjoy!!!
Kitchari is one of my favorite quick and easy meals to make during this time of year. This nourishing dish is a staple comfort food in India, and usually is a warm porridge consisting of rice, beans, spices, and often vegetables. It is amazingly delicious and nutritious and, because it is so easy to digest, can even heal the gut. This food has been used as a mono diet cleanse in India since ancient times. Kitchari is said to be calming, soothing, and warming, and highly detoxifying. The turmeric will help to reduce inflammation, which is a major cause of pain and illness.
If you're looking for a gentle and easy fall/winter cleanse, eating kitchari for a number of days can allow digestive enzymes to restore balance. Unlike other arduous cleanses, eating kitchari for days can feel like a treat because it is so tasty! For more on the cleanse, I suggest looking at Dr. John Douillard's article here. Douillard says about kitchari: "Above all other Indian meals, there is one which is considered to help facilitate spiritual growth." I have to agree. Kitchari is a magical medicinal delight!
I always recommend sourcing all of your food as freshly, organically, seasonally and locally as possible. This recipe is easy to alter and play with once you've experienced the power of kithcari!
1/4 cup white basmati rice
1/4 cup split yellow mung dahl
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced green beans
1 cup cubed sweet potato
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp turmeric
1 bunch of dark leafy greens, I usually use collard or kale
1 tsp himalayan sea salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground coriander
cilantro to taste
Heat the ghee or oil on medium and add the cumin seeds for 1 minute to toast them. Then, add the onion, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until tender.
In a large pot, bring the water or stock to a boil, then turn to simmer add the rice and beans(rinse off before adding), onion, cumin, jalapeño, ginger, green beans, sweet potato, cinnamon stick, cardamom and turmeric. Cover and let this cook for 1/2 hour.
Add the greens toward the end of the boil for about 5 minutes. When the time is up, remove from heat, remove cinnamon sticks and add salt and coriander. When serving, add in cilantro.
Boom! Taste the magic!
It's also easy to make a large batch and freeze some for later use. Just double or triple the recipe.
I originally got this recipe from the book "Yoga Kitchen" by Faith Stone and Rachael Guidry. They are affiliated with Shoshoni Yoga Retreat in Colorado. I fell in love with kitchari while studying yoga there.