Category: Healthy Aging

Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad

Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad

Delicious Quinoa Recipe

Quinoa is a flowering plant grown primarily for its edible seeds.  And it is one of the only plant-based foods that is a complete protein.  A complete protein has all nine amino acids that your body can’t produce. Most animal products are great sources of these amino acids, which makes them complete proteins. But as those following a plant-based diet know, it is very difficult to find foods containing these nine amino acids in the necessary amounts. 

But while quinoa is amazing, it also has an acquired taste that most people don’t like.  This recipe makes quinoa approachable to the average person.  So give it a try.  You won’t regret it.  Bon appétite!!

 

Strawberry Basil Quinoa Salad

The folks who promote California strawberries sponsored a national cook-off for kids and challenged them to come up with a quick creative recipe. A 12-year-old from Maryland took the prize for this grain salad, which the cook-off judge, a former MasterChef Junior winner himself, proclaimed easy, healthy and, of course most important, delicious.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups quinoa
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice 
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cups diced strawberries
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Step 1 Combine water, quinoa and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Step 2 Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, oil, maple syrup, pepper and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Step 3 Add the cooked quinoa, strawberries, basil and feta to the dressing; stir to combine.

DO YOU KNOW WHY BREATHING IS A KEY FACTOR IN YOUR WELLNESS?

I think of breathing in two different ways, after we acknowledge that breathing is mandatory for life and air always enters into the lungs.

#1: I use breath in a way that helps me to harness my reflexive core in exercise or to manage load (think picking up your grandchild).

#2: I use breathing as a practice when lying down or seated to manage my mind/body connection. This is better known as stress management or meditation.

Breathing for Core Strategy or Load Management

Air enters your body automatically because of pressure differences between the atmosphere and your internal body. By virtue of this automatic flow of air into your body, you need to increase volume somewhere to accommodate the incoming air.

This shape change is what we call breathing. We can change shape in our ribs and our chest as well as our stomach. The artful design of our body created the lungs to take in the air and they happen to live in our ribs which are designed to expand.

On the other hand, our stomach expands with increased food content. But if our abdomen expands when we take air into our lungs, it is really a bulge because no air actually changes the volume of the stomach. Think about a water balloon and how if you squeeze it, the rest of the balloon pushes out. Essentially that is what is happening on a belly breath. The ribs tighten so the belly can jut out.

Hopefully, it makes sense now that optimal breathing for movement and exercise utilizes mostly the movement of the ribs, which are designed to expand. The overflow of pressure then moves into the belly.

When you expand your ribs to breathe, you do not push down into your core. Nor into your pelvic floor. However, when you belly breathe, you do push down and out because of simple body mechanics.

Is a yoga belly breath bad? No, I enjoy lying on my back and allowing more shape change in my tummy as part of relaxation. Would I belly breathe when doing a goblet squat? A FIRM NO!

Find out how to assess your breathing and breathe for optimal core and pelvic floor health during Sarah’s free Short and Sweet webinar on July 15, 2021.

Breathing for Meditation or Stress Management

Breath work was my entryway into meditation. I found guided meditations difficult and distracting, but breath work kept my mind on my body and allowed for meditation to occur. There is a lot of good scientific research now on the power of meditation of any kind to lower stress levels and blood pressure levels, in addition to helping patients recover from trauma.

Let’s look at some of my favorite breath work guides.

Ana Lilia

Ana suffered from various stress related symptoms until she discovered breath work. She became a certified breath coach and has guided thousands of people to connect with their breath. Her healing journeys include music and guidance. I have enjoyed her free breath work offers and you may as well. She has been featured on NBC news, BravoTv, the LA Times, and Harpers Bazar.

Tai Hubbart

Tai says “For the majority of my early life I struggled with depression, and for over a decade, I suffered with chronic headaches. While I was able to remain high-functioning professionally in the Advertising & Design industry, I had little capacity to enjoy life, and spent the majority of my resources trying to track down the root of my dis-ease and simply feel better.

“In 2009, I decided to leave my corporate position and take a life/healing sabbatical in which I could listen more deeply and redirect my life’s compass.” She leads group breath work sessions, and one-on-ones. In the breath work section of her website you can enjoy a 28-minute introduction to breath work.

Annalise Sullivan

Annalise Sullivan is a writer, energy reader, and autonomy activist. In addition to her academic achievements in sociology and social work, Annalise has spent over a decade honing her methods as a breath work facilitator, intuitive guide, and NARM trained trauma-informed practitioner.

Annalise offers a breadth of techniques and resources to support you on your healing journey. I appreciate Annalise’s reasonably priced group breath work experiences on Zoom.

Rohi Coustage and Energy of Breath School

I experienced a true breakthrough when I practiced gamma breath with Rohi Coustage. She offers this description: Breathing into Gamma is a great daily practice, from a few one-minute breaths throughout the day to longer practices.

This brings us to a baseline Gamma state and all our life reflects upgrades into a higher energy state with unlimited fulfilling outcomes in whichever area we choose to focus our breath. Cultivating our gamma state leads to the unlocking of our higher sensory abilities, the development of our higher brain processing power, total manifestation power, and the evolution into our Light Bodies as we enter this era of accelerated consciousness evolution and next level awareness.

Two Types of Breaths to Try

A Basic Gamma Breath

Breathe deep – 3 seconds to inhale, 3 seconds to exhale, following this sequence:

IN MOUTH, OUT MOUTH

IN MOUTH, OUT NOSE

IN NOSE, OUT NOSE

IN NOSE, OUT MOUTH

Do 3 sets of the above and finish with:

ONE MORE IN MOUTH, OUT MOUTH

Then relax and tune in for a few moments to the effects.

Square Breath

Advice from Navy Seals: The military has found square breathing to be the best technique for on-the-go stress management. Although they teach many types of breath in the military, the Huberman Lab has worked with the military and revealed in a podcast recently that square breathing is their go-to technique for maintaining equilibrium in stress filled environments.

INHALE FOR 4

HOLD FOR 4

EXHALE FOR 4

HOLD FOR 4

Repeat for at least 3 rounds.

What have you noticed about your breathing?

Is it deep or shallow?

Belly or ribs?

Have you tried doing meditation?

Which breathing technique do you use?

Please share below!

Starting with gut health after my Osteoporosis diagnosis

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Like so many women, I received my Osteoporosis diagnosis over the phone and it was a huge shock. It was so much to take in!   Being a fitness professional, I felt embarrassed and devastated.

My doctor immediately offered me medication, which I declined because I wanted to do some research first. Sure enough, once I looked into it, I knew that I didn’t want to take medication.

From what I studied, I knew I wanted to take a two-pronged approach to my osteoporosis diagnosis: focusing on exercise and nutrition. 

I looked at my alignment so that I could see why the exercise that I had been doing wasn’t working. Then I approached nutrition in a similar way—although my diet was healthy, I was still having digestive troubles. My sister advised me to begin with an elimination diet, which helps you find out which foods you are sensitive to.

Finding out that you are unable to eat certain foods is hard. It’s a big adjustment and can be very disappointing. But when you realise how much better you feel…no more headaches, lethargy, digestive problems…it is so worth it!

So I suggest you start by really getting to know your gut health. Try an elimination diet and then you will be working from a position of strength.

Here are some resources on elimination diets that I found helpful:

 

I tried a 30-day elimination diet—that was enough for me! I thought the signs were pretty clear.  I’ve eliminated a lot of foods and I’ve learned to not to miss them. An interesting thing is that there are people who say that for instance they crave sugar.   But it’s actually your gut bacteria that crave the sugar. Once your gut bacteria is cleared of sugar,  you will no longer crave it. It’s not good bacteria, and it uses sugar for its energy. It will die off and it will be cleared when you get rid of the sugar. There are herbs and probiotics you can take to support this process.

So, yes, I still eat fruit! But I’ve vastly eliminated all the sources of refined sugar. Not to say that I don’t have some dark chocolate. In fact, I have a little bit of dark chocolate every day. 

After I cleaned up my gut by altering my diet, I decided to start with probiotics.

Rather than going the route of reading all of the various suggestions on probiotics that you can buy, I decided I was going to make my own! I bought bottles and I started making my own kombucha; it’s really easy to make. You can find the instructions and the recipes online, and you can even buy a scoby, the little kombucha starter online.  I love the recipes and tips on this website.  I am not an affiliate, I just like the site.  

Then my husband decided to make sauerkraut! It’s also full of probiotics. So, again, it’s super simple, it’s just a lot of chopping. Or you can even purchase bags of pre-chopped cabbage. My husband used a darker cabbage and ginger to get just the right flavor.

Now I feel great about what’s going on in my gut!

The next step was to start looking at how to get the nutrients that I need, through diet.

The facebook group Osteoporosis Natural Remedies was a big help with food and supplements.  

I highly recommend that you do not take anyone’s word for it when it comes to what you should and should not supplement. I made my own decisions based on getting advice, being pointed in a direction, and then reading the research myself.  It is only after all that work, that I chose my supplements.  For example, I do not take calcium. After reading the most current research, I decided to get my calcium from food.  It is interesting to note that a 2019 Harvard Medical School Newsletter outlines why the 1200mg RDa for post menopausal women is likely too high.  

If there’s anything I’d like to impart to you, it’s to take your time and do your research. I know the fear is real but you do have time, you do not have to rush.

When you are comfortable with the gut and nutrient side of things, then you may want to think about a fitness approach. Exercising with weights is a recommended and proven natural approach to bone growth promotion that makes sense for many women. Many of us need to address our core strategies before we embark on a progressive loading weightlifting experience.  Additionally, many of us are interested in core strength and mobility for the lifestyle benefits they provide.

I’ve developed a system for finding core stability and strength while improving whole body mobility that is not a chore, but a fun journey of discovery.  This process lives as a community online in the Short & Sweet with Sarah Membership. We open the membership four times a year. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here!

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Surprisingly Effective Chair Exercise for Your Arms and Core

Chair Exercise for Your Arms and Cores that Works for Strength Building

Are you concerned about how to exercise if you have poor balance or can not get up and down from the floor easily? This is an exercise solution for you!

To prevent muscle atrophy as we age, it is important to continue to activate our muscles even if we are not able to move around a lot. I recommend this short routine as a movement break.

Find Your Sitting Posture for Effective Chair Exercise

You will need a towel, yoga strap, belt, or tie.

The unfortunate thing about chairs today is that most of them encourage us to slouch and sit on our sacrum. The sacrum is the triangular-shaped bone that forms the link between your spine and tailbone. Sitting on our sacrum is one of the culprits in low back pain and SI joint pain.

To find your ideal sitting posture, start by finding your sitting bones. Those are the bony protrusions at the bottom of our pelvis. Rock side to side in your chair and back and forth a bit. You should be able to locate those bony landmarks. Now that you have found them, try sitting right on top of them. Push down through your feet as you lengthen the top of your head to the ceiling. Do not reach your nose to the ceiling, but rather, think of the back of your head getting taller.

Find 360-Degree Breathing

Now that you have your sitting posture, place your hands on your lower abdomen. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Notice your belly move out into your hands on your inhale while sitting down for an effective chair exercise.

On the next breath, see if you can make that expansion happen in your rib cage instead of your belly. If this is extremely difficult, do not be discouraged. Just having this new awareness is the perfect place to start.

Now that you are aware of the fact that you can move your inhale into your ribcage, try practicing your breathing this way. Imagine that your chest is full of little holes and as you inhale, air flows into your lungs through all those holes. The air fills your lungs as if they were a sponge. The sponge of your lungs expands into the rib cage and the bones of your rib cage move outward.

Practice this as often as it occurs to you. It’s great little workout for your ribcage as well as your internal pressure system. Over time, you will notice that you have a more evenly distributed inhale—and that will help you with core stability and strength.

Core Warmup

Grab a towel or strap and hold each end.ull the strap back across the front of your upper shins or your knees while you grow your spine taller. Make sure you exhale as you pull the strap. Remain tall in your seat and exhale as if you are blowing out 100 birthday candles while you pull on the strap.

Do you notice the backs of your arms turning on? If not, try having your thumbs forward and your pinky fingers pointing behind you and try again. Do this 6 to 8 times.

Now let’s do a little walk with our hips! We will not be leaving the chair but we will shimmy our hips forward and backward in our seat. Remember to stay tall and keep your spine straight as you move your right sitting bone forward and then your left. Return your right sitting bone and then your left. Next time reverse that order. Keep going back and forth without tucking your tail or arching your low back.

Working Your Arms During Effective Chair Exercise

Now we will do an exercise called pull-aparts. Take the ends of your towel or strap and hold them directly in front of your chest. If holding your arms parallel to the ground at chest level hurts your shoulders or neck, just hold your hands lower. You will have your hands in an overgrip on the strap. We will pull the ends of the band apart 6 times. Use an exhale and grow tall with each pull. Reverse your grip to underhand and repeat the exercise. Where do you feel each one on your arms?

Next, we will do the Bow and Arrow exercise. You are still holding your towel or strap. Imagine that the strap is a bow with an arrow in it. Take your right hand to your right armpit while your left hand out to the left and a bit forward of you. There is not a right or wrong for your arm and hand placement. Switch from side to side and see if you can find a rhythm of right to left and find the positioning that feels good in your body. Your arms can be as high or low as you want. This is about the movement, not about how it looks.

More into the Arm Workout

Put your towel to the side and pick up your block, ball, or any object that you can comfortably hold in one hand at a time. Hold the object in your left hand and pass it to your right hand in front of you. Be curious and see if you can take the object behind your back and pass it to your right hand. If this is not possible, it’s ok. Pass the block from hand to hand in front of you. Maybe see about holding the object higher or lower or changing the speed of the transitions. We are going to do this for one minute at a time followed by a 30-second rest and another minute of activity. It is your choice to pass the object behind you or in front of you.

When you are done, put your object down and let your hands come to your lap. This is the end of your upper body workout in the chair. At this time, take a moment to notice your breathing. Can you focus on breathing into all of the lobes of your lungs as if they were a sponge? Fill the entire spongy lobes of your lunges and slowly blow the air out as if blowing out 100 birthday candles. Repeat this activity 4 times and then return your breathing to normal.

Take your right ear toward your right shoulder and breathe. Slowly take your head back to the center. Take your left ear to your left shoulder and then slowly return to the center. Repeat this 2 more times to each side.

Notice your arms and torso. Hopefully, you feel more energized and alert with this effective chair exercise. Let me know in the comments how you feel!

If you enjoyed this mini strength workout in a chair, join me next month for a leg workout in the chair.

Experiencing Neck Stress? Try these 5 Simple Exercises.

Exercise for Neck Stress Even During Holidays

The holidays often bring a change in your routine that can cause stress and pain in your neck. You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s all connected” in the mind/body world lately. This is never more true than with the relationship of your neck and shoulders to your posture.  Most people have overly helpful upper traps—yet other important muscles (like your lats) remain underused. Let’s wake up those underused muscles! These strength workouts may look simple, but if you sit, type, text, drive or read a lot, this work is important for you, and you’ll feel the results fairly quickly. And if you’re a visual/kinesthetic learner, you can follow along with the video! Just scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it.

Exercise 1: Notice what your arms are doing

The pulley system that supports your cervical and thoracic spine (neck and mid-back) can be viewed with your x-ray vision by taking a look at your arms.  Stand in front of a mirror with your arms relaxed by your sides. 

What most people see is that both arms hang hand down, landing a little bit in front of their bodies. Often the backs of their wrists are facing the mirror. Ideally, in this natural, relaxed state, you’d see your thumbs facing forward. However, what most of us see is the backs of our hands. What you see is an important indicator of how things are working at your neck and shoulders.

This posture means that your arm bones are not in a place where your upper arms can even get toned without creating neck tension. Let’s fix that!

Exercise 2: Squeeze it in exercise

Standing in front of the mirror, bring your hands alongside your body as if you were trying to touch racing stripes on the side of athletic pant legs.  Press the palms of your hands into the sides of the thighs.  Once your hands are flat on the side of your leg, try working all the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and mid-back to get as much of your entire arm to touch your body as you can. Now you are working all the little muscles at the shoulder, as well as the big latissimus dorsi! Hold for about 10 seconds. Do this 5 times.

Exercise 3: Independence for your shoulders

Sometimes our arms and shoulders move as one; other times they move independently of one another. This independence is vitally important for the health and mobility of your neck, upper back, and shoulder area.  The rhomboid push up is a great way to create more movement in your shoulder blades so that your mid-back and neck don’t get tense and knotted.   Stand with your feet solidly planted beneath your hips and reach your arms out in front of you. Shoulder height is great, but if you feel neck tension at shoulder height, drop your arms a little lower.  Now pretend you’re reaching for a yummy dessert about three inches in front of you. With straight arms and outstretched fingers, invite your arms to reach for the dessert by allowing your shoulder blades to get wide on your back and wrap to the front. Now pull that dessert back towards you without bending your elbows. The dessert gets closer to you as your shoulder blades come closer together.  Invite the bottoms of your shoulder blades to get closer to each other. If you concentrate on the tops of your shoulder blades, your neck may decide to join the party—and we don’t want that. 

Exercise 4: The no-grip hold 

I know that this exercise looks pretty darn easy.  But it is VERY difficult. Many will perform it with the elbows out to the side, rather than the photo with straight arms. Straighter arms are what we’d like to see, to strengthen the correct muscles. For this exercise, you’ll need a yoga block or a book about 8-10 inches long. The longer the object is, the easier the no-grip hold will be.   All you need to do is hold the block behind you by pressing your palms into it.

Hold with no gripping for 10 to 20 seconds, 3 times.  If your elbows were out to the side: it’s those darn lats that we need to work with again. The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in our upper body, but our shoulders have gotten so tight that our lats no longer generate much force.   As a bonus, think of how your metabolism might rev up if it needs to power this big muscle more often. This will help you muster the strength for one more hold!

Exercise 5:  Simple wrist puzzle

What is the puzzle you ask? Getting the backs of your hands to touch in a reverse prayer shape in front of your chest. Try to replicate the shape I am making in image 8.  Although the goal is for the entire backs of the hands to touch, including your thumbs, it takes time to undo the tension and get to this point.  Play around with how close to your body and how far up or down you need your hands to be to make this work.  It may look like images 9 or 10 and that is ok. Do not worry about how much or how little is touching right now.

The practice alone is the work. Remember, we are looking for progress, not perfection. There are no hard and fast rules about how often to work with these exercises. If you find them challenging, then you need them! And if you are someone who has an attitude of “a little is good, a lot is better,” I urge you to please not overdo it. Change is slow. After 60 change is slower.  But it’s never too late. I have clients in their eighties who have reduced their neck tension and improved their posture as well. It takes patience, and sometimes six to nine months for real change. Then one day, you’ll be surprised to have a friend or colleague notice that you walk with more energy, or you look brighter and lighter as you get up from your chair. They may not realize that your head is no longer hanging forward and your neck isn’t in pain, but they will know something is different and that it looks and feels awesome on you.

Check out the video and follow along! https://vimeo.com/37811387