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WHY RESTORATIVE YOGA?

Restorative Yoga has been such a saving grace for my yoga practice. I never thought I’d look at a yoga bolster with the same affection as I would my yoga mat! My mat and I have such a connection, it’s that safe place that is just for me, my movement, my breath, my focus. Sweat drips, hands grip, feet hop, turn and curl. 

A restorative practice is practically the opposite of a vinyasa flow class. One begins with a few moments of mindful breathing and scanning the body up and down, simply to check in with oneself and become grounded into the practice space. The main difference between restorative postures and a flow sequence is that we hold each asana for 5-10 minutes versus 5-10 breaths! We must first get our minds and bodies prepared for relaxation before attempting to rest in a posture (mind chatter free) for minutes at a time. We live in a time where we are always in our heads, buzzing off caffeine rather than seeing the world clearly and peacefully - insert restorative yoga as your medication.

At the MKE MindBody Wellness lounge you will find small, intimate class sizes maxing out at 5 yoga mats. Our room is lit with candlelight, comforted by an oversized rug and inspiring with imagery of tropical palms and plenty of green potted plants. Aromatherapy is an amazing asset to the center as we have custom blended oils that enhance the restful experience. Light, hands on adjustments will be used from the instructor, but only at the students approval.

We maintain our restorative practice in order to rest and digest our body, tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system is our goal with these long relaxing poses. As previously mentioned, we’re living in a time of high stress, typically keeping our sympathetic nervous system active and firing the fight or flight mode regardless if we find a lion in our living room or get a dirty look from our boss. 

Your body will feel warm and supported with blankets, bolsters, folding chairs, blocks and straps along with gentle encouragement from the instructor. Allowing yourself to surrender to relaxation, aromatherapy and let go of ruminating thoughts are just a few benefits of joining us for a restorative yoga class. We hope to see you soon!

Every Sunday Evening

Meditation class, 6-6:30pm, $10, 8 people max

Restorative Yoga 7-8:15pm, $15, 5 people max

BOOK NOW

Cleaning Up for Spring Eating

Spring is here! The daffodils have bloomed, seeds are sprouting, the birds are chirping before the sun has risen. Along with nature bursting from the earth, so is the notion that in spring we need to ditch the clutter, get active, and detox our bodies.

Changing seasons are perfect opportunities for modifying food choices, organizing living spaces, and finding the space outdoors for movement. Rather than viewing the changing season as a time for detoxing, we like to honor the shifting needs of our bodies.  A complete overhaul, like a detox, is not always necessary to move with the rhythm of the changing body.  What is beneficial is the mindful approach to making small changes that encourage a greater feeling of well-being - to feel good, to sleep better, to keep our bodies and minds in harmony, free of disease and sickness, digesting well, and feeling ample energy.  We have come up with some simple changes that compliment the blossoming spring energy:

A week without coffee: Swap your coffee for dandelion root tea for a week and see how you feel. Dandelion root tea is known as a gentle diuretic that is full of vitamins and minerals. Buy organic when possible. We are using this tea to support liver and gallbladder health.  Heavy winter eating, drinking, and resting can add more stress to the liver. Taking a break from coffee and supporting liver health may improve digestion, allergies, PMS symptoms, and a tendency for frustration and impatience.  This tea has a deep, rich and nutty flavor. Double up on tea bags if the craving for coffee is severe- the bitterness will curb the craving.  Drink plenty of water during this week!

Superfood infusion: Add a dose of super green powders to your morning ritual.  Dark greens and algaes are alkalizing for the body (anti-inflammatory) and provide a feast of phytonutrients that your body uses at the cellular level.  Green powders with algae have protein too- which can help relieve sugar cravings and symptoms of frenetic blood sugars.  Try adding super green powders to smoothies or pineapple juice. We suggest Alive N Vibrant Super Green powders or Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder.  If the afternoon slump is a common issue, add a super green juice to your afternoon.

Eat more vegetables. Shop the produce section or local farmers markets that are open again and thriving. Eat salads with fresh spring greens topped with asparagus, leeks, lemon and ginger fried lightly in coconut oil. Pluck homegrown herbs from a garden, windowsill or balcony for flavor and overall wellbeing. Herbs are amazing healing tools for many ailments and they add interesting flavors to common salads. Lightly sautee veggies to aid in digestion but do not cook them until completely soft (keep a little crisp in the middle).  Substitute bread with romaine lettuce when making that turkey sandwich and go to fresh veggies with dip for snacking.  Get creative with recipes to add new interest to valuable, wholesome, nutrient-dense vegetables.

Get fresh with new beverages. Take a break from the bars and host backyard get-togethers sipping on tea, homemade kombucha, or infused spritzers. Simply cutting back on your alcohol intake can help you cultivate awareness around drinking habits, reduces sugar intake, and give the liver space to detox from a heavy winter. Try a nice organic, no sulfites added wine if eliminating alcohol is not an option.

Spring is the perfect time to make a transition from comfort habits to intentional wellbeing.  Make some small changes in big areas of life and try new things.  Letting go of pent up emotional tension, addressing unhealthy eating habits, and striving for more balance in life will relieve stress and provide more energy as we move into summer. 

Find small but beautiful moments throughout your day. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy the little things. 

MEDITATION: a beginners guide

Find your comfortable. We want to limit as many distractions as possible. Dress appropriately, wear socks, keep a blanket nearby if you get cold.

Turn your phone off or put it in a separate room on silent. If your device is also your timer or meditation app then use the 'do not disturb' silence option while practicing meditation so you don't get vibrate or light up notifications or a phone call.

In order to keep proper posture it's best if our hips are elevated above our knees. To do this sit cross-legged, in lotus or half lotus position on a cushion, pillow(s) or even folded blankets stacked on top of one another. Did you know over 80% of people meditate in a chair? If this is your preference try not to slump and keep a straight spine as you're seated on the edge of your chair. A pillow or blanket folded to support your low back would be nice, if using a chair.

Now that we are dressed properly and have found our seat we are can close our eyes, and begin to relax the muscles in our body. Pay special attention to your brow, jaw, shoulders and hips. Allow your body to soften while keeping a straight spine.

Begin to breathe a little deeper than normal in order to feel the sensation of your inhale naturally rising your chest, and with the exhale lowering your chest and belly softening slightly inwards. If it helps, place one hand on your heart center and one hand on your low belly to feel this movement. 

Simply continue to focus on your breath, heightening your body awareness. As you become distracted or your mind begins to ruminate or create lists... gently remind yourself you have gotten lost in your thoughts and return to that deepening of your inhales and exhales.

As a beginner I'd suggest a 5 minute practice every day for a week. Then adjust to 8 minutes, then to 10 minutes. Keep adjusting your time as you see the benefits begin to flow into your life.

In times of stress or when emotions rise, remember you can always come back to your breath. Why do you think we've been taught to 'just breathe' or 'take a deep breath' since we were little? Our breath is so important, so overlooked and very much taken for granted. 

Take a moment to focus on just 5 slow inhales and exhales wherever you are right now. Feel yourself calm down, even if it's just for a minute. 

Be thankful. Practice gratitude for your breath and for your body that keeps you functioning without you even trying.

Why Try Restorative Yoga?

I often hear people want to try yoga but they “don’t know where to start”, or my personal favorite, “I can’t even touch my toes!” Restorative Yoga may be a great place to begin. The goal of this style of yoga is to actively relax the body, gently moving from one pose to the next using various props such as bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets. Each pose is held a minimum of 5-10 minutes which gives your muscles ample time to relax, opening up space in your body for a more flexible back, shoulders, hips and hamstrings.

I’ve described this style as a yummy yoga nap, and that couldn’t be more true! However, this restful practice has so many benefits. Restorative Yoga not only does wonders for the physical body, but also has numerous benefits for the nervous system. As we hold these restful postures for a lengthy amount of time our body activates our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which is also referred to as the ‘rest and digest’ system. When we practice, our heart rate slows to a level where our organs can regulate themselves peacefully rather than in our fight-or-flight mode, which is all too common thanks to our high-stress, go-go-go lifestyle.

Our brains and our bodies need a break, a time to rest and rejuvenate. Restorative Yoga would benefit every body and is a beautiful gift of self-care.

What to expect during Restorative Yoga at MKE MindBody Wellness ~

1 ~ Bring a comfy sweater and socks along with your usual yoga outfit. The restful poses induce relaxation and your body will most likely cool down.

2 ~ An introduction to meditation and Pranayama (breath work) will be held in the beginning and end of class. Holding restorative postures for many minutes can lead to mind chatter or list making. By creating a basic understanding of meditative techniques, students will become present, allowing the mind and body to truly relax and restore.

3 ~ Do not be afraid to ask your teacher for help or for extra props. If you do not feel good in a posture, then something isn’t right. Allow your teacher to help you find a comfortable, relaxed state. Remember, the purpose of this practice is to relax the body from the inside out – if your mind is wandering or wishing you had an extra blanket or more support under your knees… you are not relaxing, you are creating stress. Your teacher is there to help.

MKE MindBody Wellness will be offering RESTORATIVE YOGA w/ AROMATHERAPY classes coming soon!

Food + Comfort

Food and comfort. Two things I love. Two things that have been an incredible roadblock for my wellbeing.

I’ve struggled with my relationship with food since I was 8. I felt broken after a move our family had to make and I quickly realized food was always there for me. When bad news greeted me or stressful situations arose, I ran to food or restricted from eating altogether. 17 years later I finally had to say, enough, and wanted to change that toxic behavior. I decided to get to know the real me, the person who dealt with her emotions rather than overeating or starving. Slowly, I was able to calm the storm that surrounded my relationship with food.

How did I begin to change? I read a fantastic book by Dr. Susan Albers called Quit Comfort Eating, Lose Weight by Managing Your Emotions, the first self-help book that actually seemed to understand my roller coaster ride of eating habits. Losing weight was hard. I’d get on board with a diet and a trendy workout and do great for 10 days then say screw it all. I’d convince myself I deserved a pint of Ben & Jerry’s + a sandwich + a bag of chips. Coming down from the act of eating, I’d hate myself and I’d starve myself the next day as punishment. This book helped me realize I can take create healthy habits surrounding my food choices instead of using food to comfort my emotions.

How to implement healthy habits:

1) Take a mindful pause. Question why you are reaching for food as comfort. Maybe you need a walk, a cup of tea or a phone call with a friend rather than food.

2) Raise awareness of how food makes you feel. I love ice cream but it doesn’t always agree with me. I will heighten my awareness of the discomfort I’m feeling when I wake up from a mucus-y rage because the sugar/dairy combo aggravates my sinuses. I ask myself if it’s worth the discomfort that is inevitable. Sometimes, yes, yes that sundae is worth it! But most times I am able to choose feeling vibrant over a short-lived sugar high.

3) Are you are eating for fuel or for fun? Close your eyes and begin to scan your body, starting with the top of your skull traveling to the tips of your toes. Inhale deeply bringing the breath back up your body, toes to the top of your head. Did this moment of breath awareness help you feel something other than hunger? Maybe you have a heavy heart that needs mending – food will not help you. Maybe you are feeling self-conscious and you could care less what eating an entire carton of ice cream will do – you need to learn how to nourish your body, your only true home.

Dr. Albers states, There is still a lot to learn about the complex reasons people eat comfort foods…just know your patterns. Identify what kind of unique stress response you have when you get overwhelmed. This can help you prepare and find strategies for eating more mindfully and curbing emotional eating.”

Let’s work to make our relationship with food a better one. Yes, food is 100% the best medicine you can give yourself. But if you are eating clean and hate the taste, curse those veggies or resent your nutritionist that you paid big bucks to ‘fix’ you, you’re not learning, growing, or changing your body and mindset.

Create healthy habits because you deserve a better life. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled in this body that is your home for your literal lifetime. Always remember, you are a beautiful work in progress.

Women and Caffeine

Caffeine consumption gets talked about a lot, and it can be unclear whether it has a positive or negative impact on our health. Let’s start first with the common sources of caffeine:

  • coffee
  • tea (non-herbal varieties)
  • chocolate or cocoa
  • soda
  • sports or energy drinks
  • some prescription and nonprescription drugs such as cold, allergy or pain medication
  • smoothie mixes
  • enhanced waters

No matter how you choose to consume it, caffeine behaves like a pyschoactive stimulant drug by arousing the central nervous system. The average person consumes 300mg of caffeine in some form each day (between 1-2 cups of coffee), and it’s been stated that just 500-600mg per day can lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, a fast heartbeat and even muscle tremors. 

The reaction of caffeine in the body can be boiled down to an energy boost, followed by the letdown. It increases the rate at which your neurons fire and triggers an upswing in cortisol (stress hormone) and dopamine (which activates the pleasure center in the brain). When this rush is over, your adrenaline levels drop and fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate and headache take over causing most people to crave the high again. Caffeine distances you from your natural energy cycles, tricking your body into a constant state of alert.

The effects of caffeine can be as individual as each person - some are able to maintain a tolerance their entire life, for others it may not be an issue for years and suddenly they find it worsens their chronic anxiety or even more severe concerns. One difference we’ll talk about is how women detoxify caffeine in comparison to men, and how this may shift at different periods of their lives. 

Childbearing Age Women

At least forty percent of women in this age group experience some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) including abdominal cramps, headache and breast tenderness. Reducing your consumption of caffeine can relieve some of these symptoms, especially the nervous irritability and breast sensitivity. There is a subset of people who are slow detoxifiers - meaning they metabolize caffeine at a slower rate so it lingers longer, increasing the potential for negative effects, particularly your risk for heart attack. 

Pregnant women who take in caffeine tend to give birth to smaller babies who, after birth, display signs of caffeine withdrawal because the caffeine had permeated the placental barrier. If you are breastfeeding, it is best to stop ingesting caffeine as it becomes a component of the breast milk. 

Post-Childbearing Age Women

Some women find that caffeine affects them different as their hormones begin to shift, such as during menopause. This is likely caused by a combination of estrogen loss and the decrease in rates of metabolism and detoxification that occur naturally with age. Many menopausal women experience hot flashes, sleeplessness/insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings and osteoporosis. According to some studies, all of these symptoms seem to be exacerbated by caffeine. Caffeine also speeds up the aging process and brings on menopause earlier in life.

Menopausal women are also more susceptible to bone density loss. Caffeine blocks the absorption of the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D which are needed to prevent or reverse this condition; therefore bone density decreases as osteoporosis worsens. Women of all ages should be aware that caffeine is associated with risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high homocysteine levels which lead to heart disease. 

So how can you move toward a healthier relationship to caffeine? Caffeine is not an easy drug to quit for some women but there are several changes you can make to ease into less or no caffeine. When you wake up, start with a glass of water and a high-protein breakfast. If you still want your cup of coffee or tea, drink it after you have eaten. Getting a full eight hours of sleep is important for detoxifying but will also increase your energy levels so wake up less tired and craving caffeine. Lastly, this is a perfect time to add a multivitamin complete with essential fatty acids, calcium and magnesium - drinking caffeine depletes your body of necessary nutrients.

Counteracting the Effects of Chronic Stress

Who among us is not affected to some degree by periods of stress and anxiety? Major life events such as a divorce, job change or health issues can bring about a vicious cycle of stress and it’s long-term, detrimental effects. Simply the architecture of our daily lives can contribute to this cycle, and before we know it we’re experiencing not only sleepless nights, poor digestion and anxiety, but a lack of intimacy, joy and creativity, too. 

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone - known for the famous “fight-or-flight” reaction to stress. While stress rapidly increases cortisol levels, removing the stressor tends to bring those elevated levels back down to normal. For example: the holiday season for many people is stressful - there are high expectations around giving the perfect gift, cooking the perfect meal or having an influx of family time with individuals you don’t always get along with. But the holiday season has an end, and usually we are able to feel relief at this point because we know the stressor has passed. This is would be a “normal” stress response. 

For many people, the holiday season is stacked on top of insomnia, chronic fatigue and daily stress, so the elevated cortisol levels never go down which is associated with the following conditions:

  • increased appetite and food cravings
  • mood swings (anger and irritability)
  • impaired immune response
  • increased body fat and decreased muscle mass
  • increased anxiety and depression

What To Do About It:

1. Manage and Avoid Stressful Situations

Each person will need a different strategy for avoiding their own personal stressors, but backup plans are key to making them work. For example: if your daily commute in rush hour traffic causes you stress, you can choose to stay ahead of traffic and leave your house as early as possible in the morning & in the evening. If your first line strategy doesn’t go as planned, have a backup, such as listening to a favorite podcast which can keep you from stewing in the traffic jam and instead learn something new. Also, practicing saying “no” to additional commitments we know we can’t take on can improve our stress levels tremendously, as well as maintaining healthy boundaries.

2. Emphasize Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition and Supplements

For some, the very idea of incorporating relaxation techniques into their already hectic lives simply adds another source of stress. Instead of trying to control the stress, you can be proactive towards the lifestyle changes that will help ease your reaction and lower cortisol levels.

  • Sleep 

Sleep is one of the most effective ways to manage cortisol; as little as one to two nights of good, sound sleep may do more for you in controlling cortisol levels & reducing your risk for chronic disease than a lifetime of stress-management classes. Adults should be aiming for eight hours of restful sleep each night. Exercise returns cortisol to a normal range which will also bring caloric expenditure back to normal levels, reduce body-fat levels, preserve muscle mass, decrease appetite and increase energy levels.

  • Exercise

We know that exercise leads to the production of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are “feel good” anti-anxiety and anti-depression chemicals produced in the brain. In fact, researchers have show that 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week can be as effective as prescription antidepressants in relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

  • Nutrition & Supplements

One of the most positive anti-stress decisions you can make in terms of your diet is to cut down your use of alcohol, caffeine or any other stimulants. Too much caffeine can send the nervous system from a state of heightened alertness into a state of nervousness and anxiety. As for what you should eat, try to maintain a balance of your macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat, along with your micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Aim to make as many meals at home as you can, using whole ingredients like fruits and vegetables.

Supplements that are important for everyone whether you face low-level or high-level stress include: B-complex vitamins, Vitamin C and magnesium. If you are struggling with major, chronic stress the following would be recommended for daily use: magnolia, bark, epimedium, theanine, phytosterols, phosphatidylserine, though it's recommended you meet with an acupuncturist or herbalist before starting them.

The biggest take-away from this is to know that having an outlet for your stress can do wonders to lower your cortisol levels - even if you aren’t ready to make the lifestyle changes above. Some great examples are: dance, long walks or jogging, the outdoors, playing or listening to music, acupuncture or a supportive friendship or relationship. 

Feng Shui For a Good Night's Sleep

Utilize January's introspective energy to assess your bedroom space in a new way. Feng Shui is a simple practice that enhances your environment according to principles of harmony and energy flow. Whether you're aware of it or not, your environment - and your relationship with it - are constantly affecting you, and even your sleep. Feng Shui is something that can be implemented with just a few basic techniques, or fully integrated into each space of your home to magnify the energy in each "life area". 

So where to start?

1. Rid Clutter

This first step will feel easier if you consider donating or gifting these items to someone who could use them, rather than simply throwing them away. Examples of things to move out of the bedroom are: any artwork that doesn't bring you joy, a desk piled high with bills or paperwork, and any other objects that you associate with a negative time in your life. Try to keep furnishings on the light side and keep clutter as contained as possible - avoiding storing anything under the bed. This is your first stride towards good feng shui energy (called Chi) in your home. The goal of Feng Shui improvements is to keep Chi flowing gently throughout the environment rather than running straight through it. 

2. Swap Out Decor

If you must have a mirror in your bedroom, drape a sheet or curtain over it at nighttime as our eyes are sensitive to movements. Bright lights keep us awake and can disrupt our sleep pattern. Try to use dim lights with a soothing color and use blinds or curtains to completely block out light. When choosing a headboard for your bed, chose wood as they provide additional strength and support while you sleep. Lastly, there is research behind the recommendation to remove plants from your bedroom as they release more carbon dioxide than oxygen at night. Carbon dioxide has the ability to affect the quality of your sleep so it is best to move plants to other parts of your home. 

3. Move Electronics Out of the Room

For many, it's too tempting to stay up late with a smartphone or TV in the bedroom. Not only that, but many times emotional shows or movies can keep us from falling asleep.  It's been proven that artificial light from electronics wrecks your sleep - instead, dedicate your bedroom simply for getting a good night's sleep. To ease into this new habit, you can swap out your device for a couple pages in a relaxing book. 

4. Change Your Daily Habits

Close the window while you sleep to keep outside city noise and scents - like cigarette smoke - from disturbing you. Closing your bedroom door can provide you with a sense of security which can relax your survival instincts to help you sleep. Lastly, open your bedroom windows during the day at least for an hour to refresh the air quality in your room. We give off carbon dioxide as we sleep and releasing this will help the next night's sleep. 

We spend a third of our lives in our bedroom sleeping and these tips will create a place for rest, contemplation and intimacy. Applying these Feng Shui principles to your bedroom will give you a space to not only let go of the stresses of the day but also get more quality sleep. 

Detox Your Home

When you come home after a long day, it’s essential to have a clean environment that is conducive to relaxation and is free of clutter and toxins. Here are some tips to making some easy swaps and changes to detox your home and breathe easy:

Add House Plants to Each Room

Certain varieties of houseplants, such as English ivy, bamboo palm and spider plants can filter pollutants from the air, allowing you breathe in the benefits. Your best bet is the Garden Mum - NASA research found this to be the air-purifying champion, removing benzene, formaldehyde and xylene from indoor air. 

Purify the Air You Breathe

Himalayan salt lamps can generate negative ions in your home, improving the air quality over time - all thanks to their hygroscopic effect. Water vapor (found naturally in our air) and its pollutants are attracted to the salt lamps and these microscopic compounds remain on the salt, not in the air you breathe. An even better way to get exposure to these negative ions is the old, natural way: spending time outdoors surrounded by a body of water and plant life. 

Swap Out Your Chemical Cleaners

Although many of us have been made to think the dirt in our homes is worse than the spray we use to clean it up - there is increasing evidence that it may be the other way around. A common ingredient in everyday cleaners is bleach, which can irritate the respiratory tract and mucus membranes. There are lots of non-toxic cleaners available, but one Google search can bring up plenty of simple, homemade ones for you to try with ingredients like white vinegar and lemon. Also, Norwex is a brand of microfiber towels that use an antibacterial agent (micro silver) against mold, fungi and bacterial odor. Take this one step further and remove fragrance-filled candles and room sprays. Most candles are made of paraffin wax, which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). Instead, try out an essential oil diffuser to freshen up a room or make your own room spray with the essential oils of your choice. 

Clear Clutter + Let Go

Donate and purge items that no longer serve you - whether it’s unused appliances, clothing, or books, there are several donation centers that will take them off your hands for you. Simplifying one room - let’s say your office or den - to have only what you need, makes work much more productive. Instead of shuffling through old papers, you can easily grab what you need and stay focused. Having a home for all items in a room means you can walk into the space feeling relaxed rather than stressed to tidy up. 

Make Cleaning a Regular Occurrence

It seems obvious that the more frequently you clean your home of germs, dirt and dust, the better your health will be. By regularly dusting and vacuuming you’ll remove common allergens that stick to carpet, and get rid of the pet dander, mold spores and chemicals that collect in dust bunnies. Even if you can't deep clean as often as you'd like, taking your shoes off at the door will prevent pesticides and other contaminants from entering your home. 

Maintaining a clean and orderly space (even organized chaos) provides the sanctuary needed to relax at home. Trying one or all of the above tips will help improve the quality of your health and create a place you feel good to come home to.  

2016: Ending With Reflection

Give 2016 some thought and note the times that you celebrated, re-charged and felt whole. You might be surprised how frequent this actually was. We tend to remember and dwell most heavily on the challenges that were presented in our year, or altered the path we were on. What we tend to forget is that many of these path-altering challenges indeed forced us to learn a necessary skill or grow in a new direction that we wouldn’t otherwise have gone. Reflecting on an entire 12 months can be a powerful reminder of the bigger picture, and demonstrate your resilience despite those rocky moments - and when you step back, you can see they were only moments. 

When Did You Feel Your Best?

Was 2016 the year that you took a leap in your career and left a toxic work environment? Or did a family trip bring you and your children or siblings closer? Even on a smaller scale, we can find memorable and important times where we felt really alive. Maybe you took skiing lessons for the first time, started to go on weekly nature walks or started volunteering your time for a cause you really believe in. Journaling can be an excellent practice to uncover these specific times for yourself, and to discover new ones as well. 

What Are Your Happiest Moments of 2016?

Was a new member or pet added to your family, or did you get to connect with an old friend or relative that you haven’t seen in a long while? Did you get recognized for your hard work on a project, or were you able to able to be present at a sibling’s wedding? A “happy” moment can easily be a subjective way to describe a shift or experience in your life, big or small. 

Past, Present and the Future

With only one day left of 2016, this is a prime opportunity to kick-start a flow of energy that helps keep our minds calm and clear and also invites fresh positive energy to enter. Decluttering your space helps clear that old energy and make room for new projects and ideas. Focus time and dedication on finishing any projects that have been started or halfway completed. Anything that we have been procrastinating on will need some kind of structure so that we can release the energy caught up in it, even if all we do is make a plan with a realistic deadline. 

Here are a few intention-setting prompts to help you reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed:

  1. What’s the last good habit you developed? How did you do it?
  2. What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t gotten around to doing? What is stopping you?
  3. What are one of the desires you have for your career? 
  4. What relationships (with children, relatives, coworkers, romantic etc.) do you want to grow and flourish? 
  5. What brings you joy every single day?

Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

Many parents battle to have their kids eat balanced, healthy meals both at home and at school. Families, however, can make the shift towards healthier meals without having to coax their children to eat something they don’t want to eat. Here are a few ways that you can make healthy food a fun part of your meals together and even have them requesting whole, nutritious foods. 

Give Them the Chance to be Involved

Many kids enjoy helping out at dinner time and even helping out with the grocery store list. Bringing them along to the farmers market is a great chance for them to learn about vegetables or fruits they have never had before, and together you can come up with a dish to try them in. Depending on their age, you can start to let them join in on preparing food and even cooking. An easy way to start cooking together as a family is with “build it yourself” meals such as fajitas, salad bars, pizza or fruit and yogurt parfaits for dessert. This is also a great method if you have some picky eaters as it will give them the chance to try something new, but also eat what they like. Cooking at home shows them that healthy means using whole ingredients and can be fun, too.

Teach Your Kids to Follow the 80/20 Rule

Kids’ appetites fluctuate with their level of activity, mood and growth so don’t stress over a couple of unbalanced meals - or days. The 80/20 rule means they eat wisely 80% of the time, which leaves the remaining 20% for pizza with friends or enjoying the occasional treat. As parents know, it can be stressful trying to control what your child eats at a friends house or at school lunchtime. But the 80/20 rule shows them that perfection is not the goal, and it's alright to indulge in a small treat here and there. This also helps them see that not everything about food has to be restrictive - setting up positive eating patterns early on.

Stock the Fridge with Healthy Choices

Just like adults, kids will make better choices if they are easy. Filling a bowl with fruit and keeping it on the kitchen table puts a healthy and quick option in plain site. The same works for the less healthy options like soda and chips - if they are kept out of sight they are not as tempting. It’s one thing to tell your kids to “eat the rainbow” -  meaning eat colorful fruits and veggies - but it’s another for them to open the fridge and see it. 

If you're used to going down the snack aisle and picking up pre-packaged snacks for your kids, it won't be as difficult as you'd think to pick up quick and healthier options instead. Many stores carry pre-cut vegetables and fruit and although they are a bit more expensive, it can offer more convenience when you need it. Here are some simple snack ideas that require minimal prep or cooking:

  • apples and peanut butter or cheese
  • broccoli and hummus
  • ants on a log (celery, nut butter and raisins)
  • lettuce wraps (turkey+mayo, tuna salad...the fillings are endless)
  • sweet potato and zucchini fries
  • fruit and yogurt ice pops
  • homemade trail mix

If your kids are curious about learning how to make their own snacks, this peanut dipping sauce goes great with carrot sticks and can be put together in less than 5 minutes:

  • 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • Water to smooth
  • Carrot sticks

Mix everything but the carrot sticks together with a fork or whisk in a bowl. Add water as needed to thin mixture to a dipping consistency (all-natural peanut butter needs more; everyday brands need less).

Still concerned your kids will reject “healthy food”? They will eat healthy, delicious food if you continue to offer it and try to model the right food choices for yourself.  Kids can learn to eat on their own terms which is the key to healthy eating in the long run. It is good to strive for balance but over the course of the week most kids will eat what they need; let them decide how to eat so they learn their own satiety signals.

Start the Morning Off Right

If you go about your days feeling disorganized or overwhelmed, starting a morning ritual can be a simple way to start your day more positive and focused. There are several different things you could use to start your morning, depending on personal preference and the amount of time you can set aside each morning.

This ritual could include activities such as meditation, stretching, journaling, exercise or even cleaning. It can be stacked onto another part of your morning, for example: meditating for three minutes before brushing your teeth. The idea is to create space for reflection so that you know where your day is headed, and give you a sense of control so that you are less reactive and more productive for the day. Over time you can add on more time to this morning ritual, ideally setting aside 45 minutes to an hour each morning. 

One morning ritual that has a long list of health benefits and is easy to incorporate: drinking warm tea. Tea has less caffeine than coffee (some are caffeine-free), so it provides mental alertness but is less likely to increase anxiety or jitteriness. The general health benefits that tea provides includes: protection against heart attack and stroke, improved bone mineral density and a boost to your exercise endurance. 

If you're curious about adding tea to your morning routine, we're happy to announce that you are now able to purchase our new proprietary tea blends at the clinic. We have taken a lot of time to curate these exclusive blends with Urbal Tea that support the body in managing stress, fighting inflammation and better digestion. Here's what you can find in our two blends:

Sweet Relaxation

  • Hibiscus: reduces high blood pressure and symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Oatstraw: high in calcium and other minerals, stabilizes mood and supports the nervous system
  • Kava Kava Root: offsets anxiety, stress and disrupted sleep patterns

MindBody Wellness Blend

  • Turmeric: effective at managing arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Milk Thistle: lowers cholesterol and detoxifies and protects vital liver functions
  • Dandelion Root: strengthens the immune system and balances the natural and beneficial bacteria in the gut

Urbal Tea uses 100% herbal quality ingredients in their tea blends and are based here in Milwaukee. You can find several of their blends such as Brain Booster and Sleep Tight inside our  clinic in addition to our proprietary blends. To learn more about Urbal, check out their website here

Staying Active in the Winter Months

The cold months here in Wisconsin can convince a lot of us that exercise can be put on hold until Spring. Yet we know the benefits to staying active (lower blood pressure, relief from stress and depression, and reducing your risk for several diseases) come from doing it regularly. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression that is related to the change in seasons - especially the shift into winter.  So how does one fight the cold and keep moving? Just like any new habit, it helps to find an activity that you look forward to doing and even a partner to do it with for extra accountability. Maybe a variety of activities is what will work for you - lending a challenge to the body and the mind during these slow moving months.

If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, the following winter activities probably are familiar to you - but has it been a while since you’ve done them? Could you now invite your kids to try it with you?

  • sledding, snow tubing, skiing or snowboarding
  • ice skating, snowshoeing or cross country skiing
  • snowmobiling or renting a fat tire bike and hitting the trails
  • taking brisk walks in the city or in the woods; either with a destination or time limit in mind or without
  • shovel snow from your driveway and offer to do your neighbors’

If you don’t necessarily enjoy being out in the elements, there are plenty of ways to stay active while also indoors:

  • get hand weights and resistance bands to do resistance exercise at home
  • buy or rent an exercise DVD from the library or download an exercise app for your smartphone
  • practice yoga: there are free videos here (https://www.doyogawithme.com/)
  • go indoor rock climbing at Adventure Rock
  • schedule a day each month to deep clean: extra cleaning like mopping or cleaning windows will get your heart rate up
  • join a gym or health club: there are a variety of group exercise classes for all levels 
  • join an indoor sports league like soccer, volleyball or basketball

If you’re not in a place to start up a new activity, just know that having a daily ritual of any kind can make the winter months more enjoyable. Even walking around the block on your lunch break or parking far away when you do errands can help alleviate tension in the muscles from long periods of sitting and help you think clearer. As your blood flow increases and your body warms up, being outdoors will start to have a positive association thanks to the release of the protein BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This acts as a reset switch which is why we eventually feel happy and so at ease after exercising.

The cold, dark days take adjusting to and everyone struggles with it at least sometimes. Lower the feelings of isolation at this time of year by asking a friend, coworker, neighbor, significant other or family member to join you in getting outside on a regular basis. Start small with the goal to get outside for a walk at least once a week and build from there to find a new rhythm that works for you. 

Mke Magazine Health

We are so grateful to Milwaukee Magazine for reaching out to us for the Health edition! For sale now, the article features local "spa" remedies that have medicinal properties.  We are enthusiastic about the work we do, and shared the benefits of far infrared sauna and acupuncture for seasonal depression and anxiety.  Find your copy and see what other great businesses are providing to improve holistic healthcare in Milwaukee!

Creating an In-Body Experience

Building and maintaining a relaxation or meditation practice is ever growing in importance, but some methods may work better for you than others. One type of meditation that can easily be practiced while at home is a body scan meditation. You can feel an improvement in your state of mind and relaxation after 30 minutes, 5 minutes or even 3 minutes.

This approach is a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done and create an “in the body” experience. Finding the links between emotions and physical sensations in your body can bring you in touch with many aspects of your life. Many of us know we struggle to manage stress and anxiety, but don’t completely understand how it affects us. This practice is a safe, simple way to release those pent-up emotions, bring mindfulness to the body and be present. 

Depending on your preference, you can use an audio guide to help you start the process or try it out on your own by reading a transcript. It's a good idea to find a space that is quiet, comfortable and where you can't easily be disturbed. Initially, give yourself a 30 minute window to try it out and see where it takes you. Once you get a hang of it, you can scale back or add more time as needed. Start by lying down or sitting up if you prefer, and begin by feeling the weight of your body on the floor, bed or chair. Once you're comfortable, you can follow the next few steps to start practicing a body scan meditation:

  1. As you breathe, imagine your breath going down your body and into your toes.
  2. Expand your awareness to the sole of your foot.
  3. Repeat this process of gentle, kind, curious accepting awareness with the lower part of the left leg, the knee and the upper part of the left leg.
  4. Gently shift your awareness around and down the right leg, to the toes and in your right foot.
  5. Become aware of your pelvis, hips, buttocks and all the delicate organs around there. Move up the lower torso, the lower abdomen and lower back.
  6. Bring your attention to your chest and upper back. 
  7. Go to both arms together, beginning with the fingertips and move up to the shoulders. Focus on your neck. Imagine a space in the top of your head and soles of your feet.
  8. Now let go of all effort to practice mindfulness. Acknowledge the time you've taken to nourish your body and mind. Come out of this meditation gently.

So when is a good time to do this meditation? Since the body scan meditation asks you to lay down, it fits perfectly into a bedtime routine. Many times we rush from our hectic day right into bed without releasing the energy of the day, and this can contribute to poor sleep and the inability to fall asleep. Taking just 5 minutes to check in and bring some relaxation to your mind and body will help you slip right into a deep, quality sleep each night.

VOTE BEFORE DECEMBER 1

We are incredibly grateful to be finalists in the 2016 Shepherd Express Best of Milwaukee! Being nominated by the community makes this feel really special~ and with your vote, we may have a chance of winning!  Please take a few minutes to vote for Best Acupuncturist and all of your other favorites in Milwaukee. 

VOTE HERE: Medical: Acupuncture