Yoga + Ayurveda = Robust Good Health in 2015

Happy New Year! Here we are again, January, a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. After all the holiday feasting, January arrives like a lovely winter stay-cation. For me it is a time to truly slow down, reflect, and to go within. It is also a time to renew and re-enliven my commitment to my good health! One way this happens for me is through yoga and her sister science, ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the “the science of life”  and is a system of natural health care that like yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago. An ayurvedic lifestyle balances body, spirit, and mind through nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle practices fostering stronger digestion, deeper sleep, and more robust health in general. By including a few basic ayurvedic practices into your daily routine, you can begin to make changes toward a more vital, more aware life.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to join, unite, or yoke together.” By regularly including three fundamental aspects of yoga: exercise/movement (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation into your life you can enjoy a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Making yoga and ayurveda a regular part of your daily/weekly routine now will have direct and lasting healthful effects for the rest of your life. The best wisdom for this beginning or recommitment is simple — begin where you are now. Don’t try to begin where you wish you were, or where your friend is at. Take responsibility for your health and just start where you are. Take a weekly Beginners or Chair yoga class or starting a ten minute a day home practice, begin by picking three of the ayurvedic practices below and bringing them into the fold of your day to day.

In the beginning, it takes attention and commitment to make a new practice part of your daily life. However, as you feel better and better about the results, your priorities will naturally adjust to make space for it. Whether you’re choosing to add three morning asanas to start the day, ten minutes of breathing exercises after work, or eating regular home-cooked meals, once you have established your routine, it becomes a part of who you are and how you live!

Getting Started

Yoga: Start small, set moderate, realistic goals for yourself. One class a week (until June) or 10 minutes daily home practice (choose a regular time to practice each day) will be enough to experience benefits! It’s the quality of the time, not the quantity. If you miss a class or practice don’t be hard on yourself or give up altogether. Take a breath, recommit, and get back in the groove again. You may need extra support at first; set up a yoga buddy or teacher you can check in or practice with.

Ayurveda: Here are a range of great places to start including ayurveda in your life. Choose any 3-5 of these practices and commit to incorporating them into your daily routine for three months.

• Wake before dawn.

• Tongue scraping — Upon waking, gently scrape the tongue from the back forward, until you have scraped the whole surface for 7-14 strokes. This stimulates the internal organs, helps digestion, and removes dead bacteria.

• Drink a cup of warm water with a squeeze of lemon or lime first thing in the morning.

• Eliminate in the a.m. — try to sit on the toilet at around the same time each morning, this will help train the bowels.

• Yoga Asana — pick 3-5 that you enjoy, practice them 3-5 days a week.

• Pranayama — a simple 1:1 breathing exercise; inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of four for 5 minutes a day.

• Lunch — try making lunch your main meal of the day without TV or computer.  Favor warm, cooked, and nourishing foods in the winter months. It is also best to sit while eating, eat mindfully, chew slowly (digestion begins in the mouth), enjoy light conversation or silence, sit for 5-10 minutes after eating, and enjoy a light walk afterwards.

• Supper — try eating before 6 p.m. and make supper, which comes from the word sup as in supplemental, a lighter meal followed by a little walk.

• Favor light reading, social activities, recreation in the evening and try to be off the computer by 7:30 p.m.

• Early to bed — try to be in bed, winding down by 9:30-10:00 p.m.

There are endless possibilities to growing more health and wholeness in your life. Yoga and ayurveda can help, and now is a beautiful place to begin! Here’s to your robust health in body and mind this year!

Tracy Chipman is a yoga instructor and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist based in Menomonie. Currently she teaches weekly drop-in classes at The CORE Menomonie, a {Going Within} winter yoga series, and offers Ayurveda Yoga Specialist consultations by appointment. For more information visit

Adopt a Natural Strategy For Detoxing Your Body

Regularly taking time out to detoxify your body, removing all toxins from your diet and your general lifestyle, has long been considered to be beneficial to your health. An interesting recent article in New York Magazine[1] has suggested that whilst we have no idea exactly how many toxins we have in our body at any given time (because toxin testing is very expensive and can often prove to be inconclusive anyway) the number of potentially cancer-causing chemicals in use has increased tenfold since 1975. The toxin situation is only getting worse, which means that one of the best ways to protect yourself is to take matters into your own hands and start a detox. There are many difference detox products and programs available on the market right now, but one of the best (and least expensive) ways to detox is to adopt a natural strategy[2], listen to your body’s cues, and rid yourself of toxins at a pace that you are comfortable with. Here are a few hints and tips:

Change Your Diet

The easiest way to control what toxins you have in your body is to control and be mindful of what you are putting into it yourself. One of the first and most vital toxins to remove from your system is alcohol. If you tend to only drink on special occasions you will find this relatively easy. If you drink regularly and finding cutting alcohol from your diet difficult then you may need to think about your lifestyle and seek additional support with this step.[3] Replace any alcohol or other toxin filled drinks with water. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day will help you to flush the toxins from your system. Next you need to think about the kind of food you eat: there is a difference between healthy food and toxin-free food, and many people often confuse the two. The four most common food toxins are  wheat, sugar, industrial seed oils and soy[4] so cutting these, and foods containing these from your diet is your most important dietary step.

Minimize Your Exposure to Toxins

No matter where we live, we are all exposed to toxins every day. Of course if you live in the heart of an industrial city you will be exposed to more toxins than if you live in a remote mountain range but, no matter where you live, you can work to minimize your toxin exposure[5]. The best way to minimize your toxin exposure is to only eat organically grown foods: that way no pesticides or other chemicals can enter your body via your food stream. You can source these at your local farmers market, where you’re likely to meet other like minded people concerned about the levels of toxins in their foods. Many other toxins are absorbed from our environment into our skin, and there is little we can do to stop this. However, one thing you can do to remove these toxins is to engage in regular vigorous exercise. Increased respiration, circulation, and perspiration all support healthy detoxification. If you don’t like the idea of exercise to build up a sweat[6] then regularly spending time in a sauna or steam room will have the same affect. Finally, think about anything else you regularly apply to your skin that could be absorbed into your system: sunscreen, make up, and shower gel are all great examples. Whilst it is important to wear sunscreen every day[7], and you may feel you can’t live without your make up, you can buy versions of all of these products that don’t contain harmful chemical toxins. You simply need to be mindful when you hit the shops.

If you’re never tried a detox before then you are likely to be amazed by just how good it makes you feel: you should find yourself less fatigued and more full of energy, and detoxification can also help to reduce the impact of headaches and other minor ailments. Why don’t you give it a try today?

[1] “Should I be trying to rid my body of toxins?”, New York Magazine

[2] “Five things to know before you start a detox diet”, Chicago Now

[3] “Find the best luxury 12 step recovery programmes”, Rehabs

[4] “Nine common foods that contain toxic ingredients”, Shape

[6] “Take advantage of sweat to release an avalanche of toxins”, Cancer Defeated

[7] “Sunscreens explained” The Skin Cancer Foundation

More Than Just Water

Even though we know that washing our hands before we eat protects us against unhealthy toxins and bacteria, we don’t always think about also washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly before we eat them.

Did you know that a quick rinse under running water doesn’t really remove much of what is on most produce? Even organic or sustainably grown produce can have hidden dangers lurking on their surfaces. And even if you grow your own fruits and vegetables, fertilizers, animals, and unhealthy soil can contaminate even homegrown produce. Washing with a good fruit and vegetable cleanser can help eliminate surface toxic chemical residues, but it’s still better if you can buy organic versions of these twelve fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Peeling a piece of fruit or vegetable is sometimes an option, but that often removes beneficial nutrients.

The Threat of Fertilizers

Pesticides aren’t the only unhealthy element that may be in your fruits and vegetables. Fertilizers are also potentially dangerous. Although they increase the yield of produce, there are often adverse effects from them. At one time, the EPA decided that unwanted, treated sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment facilities was legal to give to farmers and anyone else to use as inexpensive “fertilizer” or “compost”. Farms and homes across the country unknowingly spread this sludge-derived fertilizer on their fields, lawns, and gardens. But, it’s been found to be loaded with chemicals and heavy metals.

The Environmental Working Group, who analyzed samples of this sewage sludge, found:

? Over 100 synthetic organic compounds including phthalates, toluene, and chlorobenzene
? Dioxins in sludge from 80 percent or 179 out of 208 systems
? Forty-two different pesticides
? Nine heavy metals, often at high concentrations

Why Rinsing Isn’t Enough Protection

It is impossible to remove all the contaminants mentioned above with just water. Plus, produce is often waxed after harvest to withstand the long time it takes to get to market and to protect it as many hands touch it. The wax seals in pesticide residue and debris, and this makes them very difficult to remove with just water. Thus, to get to and remove the contaminants buried beneath the surface of your vegetables and fruits, you need a cleanser that also removes the wax.


The two-sided Veggie and Fruit Cloth is perfect for scrubbing and polishing fruit and veggies. Rough side for scrubbing, smooth side for polishing.

SunSmile® Fruit & Vegetable Rinse cleans dirt, waxy coatings, oily substances, and other undesirable residues from your fruits and vegetables. It even cleans delicate produce like broccoli heads, field greens, and herbs.

Vermont Soap’s Fruit & Veggie Wash For the past hundred years or so we have bombarded ourselves with new chemical combinations on our food, now it’s time to get them clean again.  Apply directly to foods and rinse. Apply to a brush — scrub and rinse. Add to a container of water for root crops and larger volumes. Add just enough Produce Magic to the water to work up a hint of foam.


by Benji Williford, Chain Reaction Fitness

After what seemed like a never-ending polar vortex, it’s finally time to “spring” into action! You probably have plans to landscape, travel, and spring clean. All of these activities will entail lifting objects such as flowerpots, landscaping blocks, suitcases, and various other heavy items. Anytime you pick up an object from the ground, you are performing a deadlift. Proper form when performing a deadlift will strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and core, and can eliminate back pain. Conversely, rep after rep of poor form will incur injuries such as back pain, potentially causing you to be out of commission.

Here are some deadlifting guidelines to keep you injury-free:

Place your feet (hip-width apart) on either side of the object so that it is centered between the arches of your feet. (Place yourself to the side of objects with handles such as a suitcase so that the handle is lined up with the arch of your foot.)

Really root both feet into the ground.

Tilt your pelvis by pulling the top part of the butt toward your heels. This shouldn’t be confused with an excessive “scoop” of the butt as that would strain the back.

Pull the lower ribs inward while you pull your navel in toward your spine as if you were trying to lift it up under your ribcage.

Your midsection will feel very strong and “engaged” while the lower back lengthens out (below).

Sit back in your hips, keeping your midsection tight and your back straight.

Keep your knees over your ankles and bend your knees until you can grab the object.

Your shoulders should be in front of the object/your hands.

Your glutes, hamstrings, and midsection are tight.

Now tighten your armpits as if you were holding a newspaper under each arm (below).

Keep your arms straight and stay tight in the armpits.

Push into your heels and straighten your legs. Really use your glutes and keep the abs tight!

Fully open your hips/straighten your hip flexors at the top of the rep.

The path of the object as you lift it should be straight up (not in an arc). Think about working with the pull of gravity (below).

Be sure to add deadlifts using equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and sandbags to your workouts. This functional exercise will ensure that you enjoy being strong when it matters!

Benji is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT), a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and Owner of Chain Reaction Fitness LLC.

Hula Hooping for Fun and Fitness

by Ilona Udvari

With the onset of warmer weather, we are all dying to get outside, shed our layers of cold-weather clothing, and kick up our heels a bit. The parts of us that were once well hidden are begging for sunlight, and the secrets of our winter and holiday indiscretions are soon to be front-page news. I used to be disheartened considering the number of crunches it was likely to take to get me looking and feeling good for summer, but now I just smile. Though not for lack of trying, I could never sustain a love affair with ab work, but I started hula hooping several years ago, and not only was it easy to tone up, I could hardly wait to do it!

The history of hooping pre-dates the emergence of the beloved Wham-o hula-hoop of the 1950s, by several thousands of years. But its evolution has taken us from the small, lightweight child’s toy into a whole new era. Such children’s hoops are often the perpetrators misleading us all to believe we cannot, and never could, hula-hoop. But times have changed, and adult-size weighted hoops are available for a full range of activities from weight loss to hoop dancing. A long list of health benefits has also made hooping grow quickly in popularity. But the greatest lure by far is the fun! Imagine the idea of looking forward to your workouts. What a difference it makes in your success!

Hooping can burn up to 100 calories per ten-minute session and up to 400–600 in an hour. It’s a great low impact, aerobic, cardiovascular workout that melts away unwanted fat at the core and tightens the stomach. Plus building up your core muscles also helps you to burn more calories. It’s a win-win situation!

The new larger and heavier hoop is easier to control and a greater benefit in toning the body. In fact, it sculpts and builds muscle in the glutes, back, thighs, hips, legs, knees, as well as in the abdomen. This in turn increases your range of motion, flexibility, and balance. In doing so, one can actually prevent back problems.

If you’ve had commitment issues in the past, fear not. You can see the benefits from working as little as ten minutes a day using a weighted hoop. But believe me, stopping after ten minutes will be the farthest thing from your mind. Hooping helps to reduce and manage stress, and it generates a magnificent feeling of well-being.  Devotees will tell you that it works as a powerful means of meditation to calm one’s self, clear one’s thoughts, and process the day’s stresses.

As we hula, learn tricks and routines, and have fun playing, the hoop gently massages our vital organs and improves their integral function, particularly those in the digestive system. There is an increase of blood flow to the brain, oxygenizing the blood and increasing vital energy. It can be as equally reviving as a short nap! Dopamine is also released by the body, improving our ability to focus and raising our attention level. And if that isn’t enough, studies show that the gray matter of our brain also expands and improves.

Hula hooping can be done by people of all ages, genders, and shapes. It’s a fantastic activity to do with kids and encourages healthy lifestyle choices. Whether you are reliving the simple joys of childhood or cashing in on the amazing health and exercise benefits, you will find yourself smiling and laughing. So buddy-up, get a hoop you like, remove breakables from the hoop area, and get fit and stay fit! It just takes a little practice and the right equipment.