Finally, some sleep relief

historian

I am almost through the more than 900-page book, The Historian, which is a fascinating read. Up next, something from the bookshelf

Recently I realized one night as I was reading my 900-page book before bed that I was finally sleeping better.

For years I have had a battle with sleep. And lack of sleep and tiredness was winning.

I usually fall asleep without an issue, but I wake up a lot (sometimes more than 10 times a night).

I went to my doctor in November to discuss my sleep issues. Everything I was already doing (like going to bed every night around the same time and waking up about the same time in the mornings) was what I should be doing.

But my doctor had one thing to add: Reduce screen time before bed.

Screen time=iPhones, smart phones, iPads, tablets, computer, Kindle, TV, etc.

My norm at the time and for years had been to fall asleep to the TV. From many years ago when I lived alone falling asleep to the TV was a comfort. And it was a bad habit I had continued until November.

My doctor suggested I reduce my screen time one to two hours before bed. Two hours is extreme for me. So I’ve been doing at least an hour.

My doctor told me it could take up to three months to take effect.

I started it mid-November. About a month later I lost a student in my cycling class and my sleep was pretty messed up. I was emotionally exhausted and sleeping whenever I could get it in. I fell asleep almost every night with the TV on.

But early January I started up the healthy habits once again.  And a couple of weeks ago as I was reading my ginormous book I realized my sleep had been better lately.

I see a lot of friends complaining about insomnia, sleep issues, being tired, etc. on Facebook regularly.

Friends, seriously, reduce your screen time. Don’t post on Facebook at 2 a.m. that you are having trouble sleeping. That blue light is altering your melatonin and hurting your sleep.

For me it took three months.

But since I started my healthier habits and I have shared that information with others. Some have tried reducing their screen time as well and they were sleeping better within a week or even a few days.

Friends, please, please try it. If nothing else, you are living healthier habits. AND, maybe you will finally get to read those books you don’t have time for. I’ve been book “shopping” on my bookshelf.

And when you wake up, please don’t get on the computer, phone, tablet. Maybe do a little yoga or pranayama (breath work) or meditate. Or even pick up that “big, boring book.”

My sleep isn’t perfect. But it’s so much better.

I’ve woken up many times with a book on my face. But that’s so much better than falling asleep with the TV on.

Delicious lentils

lentils

Delicious lentils can be made with meat (I used chicken) or vegan.

One of my yoga students recently shared a lentils recipe with me, which he had made and thought I would like it as well.

Let me just say, wow, delicious.

He found it online and it is basically this recipe here.

It doesn’t take much work to prepare the ingredients for this recipe.

Here’s what I did:

  • 2 cups of lentils
  • 2 cups of tomato puree
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 potato diced
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 gloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • red pepper flakes to taste

Throw all ingredients into slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours. Once cooked I added three chicken breasts, which were already cooked.

I added red pepper flakes in my bowl instead of the full recipe. I love super spicy. But not everyone else does.

I added chicken to this recipe. But it could be made vegan without the chicken and you could substitute chicken stock for vegetable stock or even water.

The recipe is delicious, filling and healthy. It is great as leftovers.

As leftovers I would scoop some into a bowl and add a little more chicken stock and then nuke.

You could also serve the lentils over rice.

You could double the recipe to make a really huge batch.

This recipe also appears on the Recipes Tab on GFG!

My newsletter

FUNNNN

Last Friday (April 15) I posted my first newsletter.

I am reposting it for my GFG! readers right here.

If you would like to sign up to receive future newsletters in your inbox, you can go right here to enter your e-mail address.

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Hey friends! Welcome to my first newsletter.

I’m so excited to start a newsletter. I’m not sure yet how often a newsletter will come out. But I won’t go overboard. I know we all get lots of junk and can miss the important e-mails.

My newsletter will update you on things going on for me and you. Whether it’s about yoga, indoor cycling, a blog post, eating/cooking, a workshop or something cool coming up. You will be updated here and you can always go to my blog for information as well: Go Fit Girl!

Last week’s yoga sequence theme was about us going bone deep. Weight-bearing yoga poses can reverse the negative effects of osteopenia (loss of bone density) and osteoporosis (bone loss). I wrote a blog post about it, which also has a link to the New York Times article: 12 minutes of yoga for bone health, which I referred to during my yoga classes.

Every week I have a theme in my yoga classes. My week of teaching runs Wednesdays through Mondays. The current theme is about your brain on yoga, running through Monday, April 18. Practicing yoga can help make you feel happier, less depressed and sad while also calming those monkey minds/brains.

The following week’s theme is in celebration of Earth Day, which is Friday, April 22. From Wednesday, April 20 through Monday, April 25 we will focus on yoga poses where we are connected to the Earth, feeling grounded, rooted and balanced while also challenging ourselves. We’ll work with yoga poses that reinforce inner stability, strength and balance.

Check out My Classes tab on Go Fit Girl! for a list of my schedule of public classes, both yoga and indoor cycling.

If you would be interested in writing a testimonial for me, I would be honored. But please, don’t feel obligated. I would post your testimonial on my blog and identify you however you are comfortable, which could be first and last name, first name last initial, first initial last name or initials. You can e-mail me your testimonial: ann@gofitgirl.com. (If you also want to include your Instagram and/or Twitter handle, you can add that information as an additional identifier.)

Stay tuned for some exciting updates coming soon.

Want to keep up with me?
You can friend me on Facebook
You can like Go Fit Girl! on Facebook
You can follow Go Fit Girl! on Twitter
You can follow TheRealGoFitGirl on Instagram
You can read Go Fit Girl! blog
You can e-mail me at ann@gofitgirl.com

At any time you can unsubscribe to this newsletter. Thank you for your support and time.

~Ann

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I have some cool and exciting ideas I am working on and hope to share them with my friends, students and readers soon. They will be posted in future newsletters.

Going bone deep

Warrior 2

Virabhdrasana (Warrior 2).

Every week in my yoga classes I have a theme.

Last week and today we went bone deep.

My theme idea came from an article a student shared with me. It was originally in the New York Times and was reprinted in The Oregonian.

Click here for a link to the article.

Weight-bearing exercises, which includes many yoga poses, can actually reverse some of the negative effects of osteopenia (loss of bone density) and osteoporosis (bone loss).

The article that spurred last week’s sequence and today’s post is about a doctor at Columbia who did a study with 11 practitioners who practiced yoga and had results of increased bone density in their spine and hips.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has also done studies on the effects of yoga and osteoporosis and found that weight-bearing yoga training had a positive effect on bone by slowing down bone resorption (break down of bone).

The 12 poses the doctor gave his yogis to practice are:

The doctor had each practitioner hold each pose for 30 seconds. The daily regimen, once learned, took 12 minutes to complete. The poses with an asterisk (*) were poses I included in my sequence plus several more.

And I do believe that weight-bearing yoga poses can reverse some of the negative effects of osteoporosis and osteopenia. One of my yoga teachers, who is also a doctor, regularly told class that holding a weight-bearing yoga pose, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) (pictured above), for 30 seconds can help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis/osteopenia.

My mom has been practicing yoga for about 20 years. When she was diagnosed with osteoporosis she started working with little dumbbells. She was able to reverse some of the negative effects of osteoporosis.

We know that yoga has lots of positive side effects, such as better posture, stronger muscles, better body alignment, better balance, reduced stress, better body awareness, better sleep, etc. If reversing bone loss is another benefit, I am on board.

Soaking up the sun

sun vegas

Enjoying the warm sun in Las Vegas last month.

Last week I was walking up to one of my classes where students were waiting for the previous class to get finished so we could practice yoga.

One student looked at me and said something to the effect that I looked happy and smiling.

I said, it’s the sun!

We are transitioning into Spring.

Last week and this week we have had many days where Portland has been warm and sunny.

Last week I was waiting at the bus stop. It was warm. Lots of people were out and about. People were smiling, looked happy. One woman even cheered.

Yes, the people in Portland are happy for the weather change.

I thought the Winter was manageable. Not always fun or enjoyable with a few days of snow, many days of endless rain and gray skies.

With my teaching schedule I get out of the house regularly and exercise regularly as well.

But I do know that I thrive with the sun and warmer weather. I’m a true Arizona girl.

Since moving to Oregon a little more than a year ago I realized the best time to travel out of state is during the cold, gray, wet Winter to warmer places, such as Tucson and Las Vegas–places I will always regularly visit.

Summers, I’ll be here … hanging out regularly at the community pool. Oregon summers are awesome.

Vitamin D is important to stay healthy. I do like to tan, but I do it safely with sun screen and limited time outside.

Depending on what you read there is different information on how much vitamin D is needed per day. Anywhere from 200-1,000 IU of vitamin D per day is recommended.

I am 41 years old and I take 1,200 mg of calcium a day, which includes 800 IU of vitamin D per day. (I also eat pretty healthy having a diet high in water, protein, fruit and vegetables.)

According to an article on WebMD, vitamin D (promotes) healthy bones, largely by promoting the absorption of calcium. … But there is recent and mounting evidence that links low levels of the vitamin to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and, perhaps more serious, cancers of the breast, colon, prostate ovaries, esophagus and lymphatic system.

The truth is that sensible, non-burning sun exposure preferably at midday with no sunscreen applied is critical to health and not just because it can dramatically boost vitamin D levels into optimal range, according to an article on The Healthy Home Economist.

For people who live in areas where the sun is not out regularly they can use heliotherapy, which mimics healthy sunlight exposure, has proven to be a successful treatment in many conditions that also provide a wide range of benefits for the entire body, also from the same article on The Healthy Home Economist.

Heliotherapy has been used for:

  • Acne, psoriasis and other skin disorders
  • Muscular stimulation and relaxation
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Reducing body odor
  • Boosting the body’s immune system for the treatment of AIDS
  • Reducing bacteria count by as much as 50% from infections
  • Decontaminating blood transfusions
  • DNA repair
  • Irradiating the blood of cancer patients
  • Hyperbilrubinemia (neonatal jaundice)

I know many people are leery of the sun and for good reason. Skin cancer is real and can be deadly.

But the sun is a healthy, natural thing of which our bodies need exposure. Plants and animals depend on the sun.

Here are some benefits of sun exposure from an article on Mind Body Green:

  • Sunlight and whole foods send breast cancer into remission.
  • The sun’s light kills bad bacteria.
  • Sunlight has a beneficial effect on skin disorders.
  • Sunlight lowers cholesterol.
  • The sun’s rays lower blood pressure.
  • Sunlight penetrates deep into the skin to cleanse the blood and blood vessels.
  • Sunlight increases oxygen content in human blood.
  • Sunlight builds the immune system.
  • Regular sunlight exposure increases the growth and height of children.
  • Sunlight can cure depression.

Please be mindful of how much time you spend in the sun. When you know you are burning get out of the sun.

If you’re in Portland, enjoy our beautiful weather. Stay hydrated. Drink water and wear sun screen.

Produce pancakes

sweet potato pancakes

The recipe made four Sweet Potato Pancakes, which ended up being two lunches for me along with a side salad. (The pancakes heat up great the next day.)

One of the great things about being a teacher is the relationship you develop with students.

Sometimes I have some pretty personal in-depth conversations.

Other times things are light hearted and fun. People have questions for me or give me some tips.

Recently after one of my yoga classes my students and I were talking about losing weight and maintaining weight with healthy eating and exercise, including a regular yoga practice.

We talked about our go-to snacks and other things we love to eat.

We started talking about what I am calling produce pancakes.

Simple, healthy, delicious and filling.

The first recipe I tried were for the Sweet Potato Pancakes:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 eggs

I microwaved the sweet potato until it was soft enough to scoop out. Sweet potato “guts” went into a bowl with 2 eggs. Whipped everything together.

Depending on if you want sweet or savory you can add seasoning to fit your tastes. (Savory: garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder, etc. Sweet: cinnamon, pumpkin pie spices, etc.)

Sprayed some cooking spray into a skillet. Poured the “batter” in skillet.

The recipe made four pancakes.

The next day I tried the Banana Pancakes:

banana pancakes

Banana pancakes can be breakfast or a yummy snack.

  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg

Mash up the banana in a bowl and whip with egg. Spray cooking spray into a skillet. Pour the “batter” in skillet.

Makes two pancakes. I added a little peanut butter on top.

Super yummy as a snack or even breakfast.

I have made the Sweet Potatoes Pancakes twice and the Banana Pancakes at least three times.

These recipes can also be found under the Recipe Tab. Check out other fun, yummy, healthy recipes I have shared there as well.

Taking my advice with time change

coffee

Limiting my caffeine intake the past few days has helped me adapt to the time change.

For many years I write a post when we Spring Forward and Fall Back and I give advice and tips on how to prepare before the change and things to do after.

(Here’s last week’s post with tips to prepare to Spring Forward.)

I usually follow some of my advice. But not all of it.

This year I decided it would be best to follow my own advice, especially since I have such a difficult time with the time change.

And I actually went beyond.

This is the first year I have felt pretty OK with the time change. And I think it’s because I changed things up a little this year.

  • I am “off the sauce” as The Husband says. I have taken a little time off drinking–to prepare for what is coming up in Vegas this week/weekend.
  • I only had one cup of coffee Saturday, Sunday, Monday and this morning. (Even though a second cup sounded awesome.) It’s been cold. I’ve been having more tea lately.
  • I’ve been staying hydrated with regular old fashioned water and a little coconut water thrown into the mix.
  • I didn’t take any naps over the weekend.
  • Saturday morning I woke up a little earlier than usual and did a morning yoga practice. Because I teach at 8:30 Saturday mornings I normally skip the home practice.
  • Saturday night I started getting ready for bed about 9. Getting ready entails brushing teeth, washing face, etc. and then some time reading before I hit the sack.
  • Sunday morning I did my morning yoga home practice before heading out to teach my cycle class.
  • I’ve been trying to keep my meals healthy and filling, which is the norm.
  • Sunday night I got ready for bed a little later than Saturday night. But still with enough time to get a good night’s rest.
  • Yesterday (Monday) morning did my home yoga practice before heading out to teach cycle class. No nap Monday afternoon, which has been happening during the week a little more often than I would like.
  • Monday afternoon I did a Restorative Yoga practice in the middle of the day between classes.
  • Last night after teaching a class and this morning I took yoga classes. I love being a yoga student. It doesn’t happen often enough.

I did sleep in today. But it’s my day off. And sleeping in means waking up at about 6 or so, falling back asleep until 7:45. It’s unusual for me to sleep that late.

I’m glad I followed my advice and then some. Surviving the time change will be easier for me in the future.

Preparing to Spring Forward

On Sunday at 2 a.m. most of us in the U.S. Spring Forward.

On Sunday at 2 a.m. most of us in the U.S. Spring Forward.

Twice a year I write about time change. (Read last year’s Spring Forward post here.)

It’s that time again to Spring Forward (Sunday at 2 a.m.). I am not a fan of time change.

I seriously don’t get the point of it. I grew up in Arizona where time change doesn’t occur.

So to my Arizona family members who can never quite get the time difference: Starting Sunday we will be on the same time.

This is the advice I like to give on how to deal with time change:

  • Don’t go to bed too late Saturday and Sunday night.
  • Make sure you have breakfast Sunday morning (and every morning).
  • Try not to eat a lot of crap. Stick to fruits and veggies as snacks instead of sugary or salty foods.
  • Drinks lots of water Saturday and Sunday (and every day).
  • Exercise. (At least a walk sometime Sunday and maybe even Saturday.) I’ll be doing my own yoga home practice as I am teaching an indoor cycle class Sunday morning and a yoga class Sunday afternoon.
  • Keep up the exercise throughout the week, especially on Monday. It will be tough, but well worth it.
  • If you do nap Sunday (I love my weekend naps), don’t nap too late.
  • If caffeine really affects you, maybe cut back Sunday and definitely don’t have it too late in the day.
  • Try to start winding your day down an hour before you go to bed on Sunday. If you normally go to bed around 10, then at 9 make sure you are done for the day and ready for Monday’s workday. Do something relaxing for that hour: read a book, knit, lounge, take a bath, do the next item on the list.
  • Maybe try a cup of warm tea, cider or even hot cocoa to get you warm and cozy before bed.
  • Perhaps take Melatonin (a natural supplement). I wouldn’t take this for the first time Sunday night. And you should discuss this with your doctor first. You want to make sure it doesn’t make you groggy the next morning. So maybe try it a night or two before the time change if this will be a first time for you.
  • Do a gentle yoga practice. Anytime is nice. But later in the afternoon or soon before bed can help with your sleep. This week I am teaching a sequence for time change, transition, insomnia, stress, anxiety and even sadness. Try a couple of simple poses: Lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest; Jathara Parivartanasana (Reclined Twist); Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold); Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog); Supported Setu Bandha (Supported Bridge Pose); Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall). (I wrote a post sharing a yoga sequence for sadness, which I think benefits many things, including calming the body and mind for rest. Feel free to try it out.)

Any of my readers have any other suggestions or things they do?

Heart opener does body & mind good

heart opener over blocks

I’m practicing heart opener over blocks.

Are you a desk jockey?

If you are someone who regularly sits at a desk and most likely at a computer then you are a desk jockey, which is a person who sits at a desk.

The yoga sequence I am teaching this week is to help those of us who suffer from our sitting culture. We need to open our hearts, relax our shoulders and reverse the negative effects we do to our bodies in a regular position of flexion.

Because of our sitting culture we also have tight hamstrings, hips, glutes, etc. We have a weak core. Our shoulders and neck are tight. Our posture is poor. The imbalances in the muscle strength in our bodies have a domino effect.

I believe our sitting culture is hurting and possible ruining our bodies.

Sometimes when I end a yoga class I remind my students who I am, when I teach and if they want to chat with me I am available for questions, comments, etc.

A few months ago one of my students told me he had a comment.

He told me that from repetitive typing he had some nerve issues in his arms. He had tingling, numbness, discomfort, etc.

In some of my classes we practice heart opener over blocks, which is also called Supported Fish Pose. (I am also pictured above in this pose.)

In my classes this week this pose is practiced early in class.

This is a great pose for low back pain. This pose puts our bodies into extension (instead of the usual flexion–think about typical computer back hunch back). We open our chest here, spread shoulder blades and take stress out of the low back. Having the block behind our shoulder blades reminds us where backbends should come from, behind our heart center, not the low back or the neck.

My student told me he loved that pose (as many do and I do, too!) and that for a whole week he practiced the pose at home.

A week later he told me that the issues in his arm are gone. WHA??? No way. Here’s the other crazy thing. He has had doctors, physical therapists, etc. try all kinds of things and the issues just wouldn’t go away.

He does the pose for a week and he says he is “cured.”

I told him I would do some research into it and tell him if I found any reasons why this pose “cured”* his arm issues. *Cured–his words.

I found an article on YogaJournal.com that mentioned Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and mentions a modified version of heart opener over blocks: TOS is caused by compressing or overstretching nerves or blood vessels far from the hands, near the top of the rib cage. It can develop from repetitive stress and unhealthy movement patterns, like playing a musical instrument for long hours or typing with your head pushed forward and out of alignment with the rest of your spine, or from an injury such as whiplash.

Also from the above linked article on Yoga Journal, TOS occurs when tight muscles, misaligned bones, or scar tissue near the thoracic outlet squeeze or pull on these nerves or blood vessels hard enough to cause pain, numbness, or other unpleasant symptoms in the hand, arm, shoulder, or neck.

From a post on Yoga For Healthy Aging blog: … Most people diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome will first be referred to physical therapy for postural re-alignment and stretches to open up the area of the neck and upper chest in order to create more space around the brachial plexus and arteries and veins to lessen or eliminate the symptoms associated with the condition.

Heart opener over blocks stretches and creates space to open the area of the neck, shoulders and upper chest.

After my students come out of this pose I love to look at their faces. Most of them look like they just got up from a nap.

The heart opener does amazing things for the body and the mind.

The more I teach the more I learn about yoga and the body. It’s fascinating. I’m so glad my student shared his experience with me.

And I am helping more people with the information I learned from him and what I find in doing my own research.

I love learning and sharing my knowledge and love of you with my students.

The not so perfect yoga pose

eagle

I am practicing Gardudasana (Eagle Pose).

Every week on social media I post a picture of me in a yoga pose and let my friends and followers know what my yoga theme is for the week.

Every week I have a theme in my classes. The theme is a focus of the class. It’s a full well-rounded practice with a point.

Sometimes I teach a type of pose (standing poses, twists, etc.) or a part of the body (neck, feet, hips, etc.) or it could be something I have noticed in my students’ bodies (recently I noticed a lot of hyperextension in elbows during Adho Mukha Svanasana [Downward Facing Dog]) or something in my own body (tight side body muscles) or what’s going on in the outside world: time change, changing of seasons, super moon, etc.

eage tries

My various attempts at Garudasana: Photo 1: Ugh! Camera too close. Photo 2: Falling out of pose. Photo 3: Not fully into pose when camera clicked. Photo 4: Ah, forget it!

I teach the same sequence for a week. It’s also the sequence I practice at home on my own mat.

A recent theme was the neck, which was brought back by popular demand and will be coming back again soon.

The pictured yoga pose I used was Garudasana (Eagle Pose), one of my least favorite balance poses.

A friend on Facebook said he was liking the picture “’cause I’ve done this pose and it’s damn hard.”

Most of the pictures I post on Facebook of me in yoga poses I am taking my self, with a timer on the camera.

I get the camera set up, set the timer, run over to the mat, get myself into the pose and hope to get into proper alignment and then click, click, click.

Sometimes it’s successful, other times I have to take the picture over and over. Maybe my hand is cut off, my alignment is not great, I didn’t get into the pose in time or I’m falling out of the pose, among many other things that can happen.

Garudasana is not an easy pose. When I practice and teach it I take it step by step, making sure I am breathing and taking time to get my foot in the right place, sitting down a little, arms into the appropriate position for my body that day and work with the breath while I try to not fall over and maintain feeling rooted, grounded and stable while raising my elbows up to shoulder height and pressing them away while stretching the upper back and shoulders while also releasing tension in the neck.

I try to be an honest and genuine person and I am an honest and genuine yoga teacher. I let my students know what poses I am not a fan of, what poses are difficult for me and frankly, some I haven’t even attempted.

I used to put my yoga teachers on a pedestal. I figured they were some sort of higher being, more enlightened, I was in awe of them (I still am, but just in a different way).

But then I started hanging out with them. And news flash: they are just like you and me.

I am a regular person who loves practicing yoga and teaching yoga. But I haven’t perfected every (or really even any) yoga poses.

Yea, I have the tools to help myself in a situation with my breath. But I still get road rage, think people are idiots, drink beer, eat meat, say bad words (oh my!), fall out of yoga poses, sometimes not want to practice yoga, watch TV marathons, read trashy celebrity news, stuff myself with Doritos, etc.

I am a student of yoga and continue to take classes, research and read, take workshops and trainings. I learn from my students regularly and myself and have fun while doing it.

And sometimes I say shit as I fall out of Garudasana and decide a beer sounds a lot better than my yoga practice.