top tips for an energizing day

I struggle with that mid-afternoon slump.. I would bet most of us do. But I’m one to stay away from sugary things to pump me up (..only because I know I’ll just fall back down again 30 minutes later). I’m all for natural forms of sugar rushes, and here’s what I’ve found to be the best.

1.) Get upside down!

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You don’t need to have this sweet aerial yoga hook up, either. Just get somewhere where you can put your feet above your head for at least 5 minutes. The reverse-blood flow is good for your circulation & can leave you feeling refreshed. 

 

2.) Drink Shakeology or another *Natural* supplement

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I’m all about getting the most for your money, which is why I’ve budgeted for Shakeology every month for almost 2 years. It’s an all-natural nutrient shake that gives me a boost.. seriously. Drinking it every day over time has decreased my “need” for coffee. I recommend this brand because of the high-quality ingredients & zero artificial sweeteners.. but I’m not here to pitch a brand. As long as you can find a good quality nutrient or protein shake out there, mix or blend with some almond milk and ice for a tasty pick-me-up.

 

3.) Water, Water, Water.

Yes, this clear liquid can wake you up, make you feel more alert, and get your body functioning at a higher level, So simple, right? Just drink more water! Plus using the restroom will wake you up 🙂

 

4.) Exercise

 

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Again, so simple. Are you a stay-at-home-mom? Take your kids on a walk. At work? Do a lap around the building — call it a “sunshine break” (my friend and I used to take them. It’s a real thing.) Stand up and stretch your arms over your head & take 3 deep breaths. Anything to get the heart rate pumping. And if you sit at a desk all day, it’s really important to get active once every hour or so. Our bodies weren’t meant to sit in one place all day long. 

 

It’s Friday– get up, get moving, and skip that mid-afternoon slump today!

 

Ashley 

5 foods to never put in your body

I generally like to keep things uplifting & positive on this blog, along with what we CAN do to get healthier.. but sometimes you just need the low-down on what NOT to do.

 

In today’s case, here are 5 common foods to start seriously cutting back/eliminating altogether from your diet:

 

1.) Artificial Sweeteners:

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Just. Not. Good. They may be zero-calorie, but those zero-calories are filled with chemicals. Studies show these bad boys are linked to health issues like type 2 diabetes & cardiovascular disease.

Better Alternative: If you *must* add sweetener to your drinks, try Stevia — it’s an all-natural sweetener. But still, just try to say goodbye to these guys altogether. 

 

2.) Microwaved Popcorn

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I know, it’s a convenient, Netflix-watching snack. But microwave popcorn is filled with, again, chemicals & flavoring agents that pose health risks. The chemicals that line the bag are also another factor in why you should put down the bag.

Better Alternative: Use plain popping kernels & invest in an air popper– then leave the butter alone & season with spices like cayenne pepper, paprika & chili powder. 

 

3.) Refined White Flours

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Primarily- bagels. I know they make your day when an employee brings them in to the office, but trust me, those few moments of bagel bliss aren’t worth the toll it takes on your body. Bagels are made of refined white flour — which can lead to increased blood sugar levels and can feed cancer cells. 

Better Alternative: Do your office friends a solid & bring in a fruit tray — or just make bagel day very, very seldom. Moderation is key.

 

4.) Canned Tomatoes

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Bisphenol-A is found in the lining of canned foods, which is, yes, another chemical that is linked to heart disease and other ailments. Canned tomatoes are vulnerable to this chemical because they are highly acidic.

Better Alternative: Use fresh fruit/vegetables over canned whenever possible

 

5.) Frozen Dinners

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Yikes. Just avoid. They are stuffed with calories, are highly processed & contain excessive amounts of sodium.

 

Better Alternative: Buy fresh foods and your local grocery store– steam some veggies, grill or bake your protein, and heat up a sweet potato. NOT hard– if this non-chef can do it.. so can you!

 

There it is. I’m just watching out for ya, readers. Just say no to these chemical-ridden foods.. and focus on eating fresh, local, and in season.

 

xo Ashley 

a time of change

My husband has recently accepted a job in Richmond, Virginia, and we will be leaving our gulf coast beach town of 2 years to pursue the next step in our lives. Richmond is closer to where I grew up (PA) so it feels partially like coming home. I was asked to write a reflection about my year as a yoga teacher & realized just how much can change in 12 months. Remember, everything is fleeting.

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A year ago I was angry and sad. I felt isolated from my family, living 18 hours away. To top it off, my best friend just had moved back home. I struggled with mood swings and feeling inadequate compared to the rest of my friends (basically, what I was seeing on social media and perceiving as their reality). 

 
My patient fiancé (now husband) Brian did anything he could to make me happy. But I constantly felt like I was missing purpose and direction in my life. I was struggling to start my own business in fitness & was a full-time server– and severely unhappy.
 
However, the universe knew what it was doing. It was at my golf course serving job that one of the members had asked if I knew of this new yoga studio. His wife knew the owner’s mom from the YMCA & said I should contact her. I wasn’t sure– I had tried to teach yoga at a gym earlier that summer and couldn’t get much interest. 
 
Thank goodness, I thought “What could it hurt?” & called her. She and I spoke and I came in for a tryout. I quickly realized that I needed a lot of work on my yoga teaching & she generously took me under her wing to apprentice her in the style of power vinyasa. I dove right in, and later began teaching. It’s so hard to believe that was last July. 
 
It’s safe to say this year has completely changed my life. I transitioned from serving full time, to part time, to eventually quitting that industry early this summer to focus on my fitness business (which started to thrive once I stopped feeling sorry for myself, made a schedule, and got to work. Funny how that happens) and my career as a yoga teacher. My boss was kind enough to create an additional position for me, where I could learn more about the Marketing & Community Relations side of a studio. 
 
Best of all though, were the people I met. I went from someone who sat alone at night, waiting for her husband to get home & tearing up thinking about what I was missing, to someone who was able to meet like-minded people and spend time with them. It’s like we were all ready to meet each other, and were just waiting for a location to bring us together. Yoga did that, and continues to do that every day. It’s a place where people go to get away from their day jobs, to see their friends, to workout, to laugh, to fall on their face while trying a new pose, and to do it all again the next day. How cool that this was my job?
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A year ago, I was ready to pack my bags, my man & my cat and drag him north. A year ago, I didn’t have vision or clear goals or think I could truly inspire anyone else. It makes me sad to write this because I always considered myself a confident person. But I was in a slump & to be perfectly honest, that’s just where I was during that season of my life. 
 
But it’s amazing what can change in a year. Once I started surrounding myself with uplifting people, and once I checked out of my own pity party I started to see where I was. I started to create the life I wanted rather than sitting back and watching it happen to me. It turned out that all along, I lived in a pretty great area surrounded by wonderful people. 
 
What have I learned this year? Phew. How much time do you have?! There’s so much that has shifted in my life since looking back to last summer. I’ve learned that I don’t have to choose between being a “fitness person” and a yogi. I can create opportunities by working hard and staying focused on the type of job and life that I envision for me and my family. I have learned to let go on my mat.. to stay in a pose when my legs are jello, to take a deep breath in traffic, to smile at people in Wal Mart. I’ve learned that a sincere compliment goes a long way, and that sometimes I need to get out of my comfort zone to make friends, to ask for what I want, and to discover new poses and opportunities on my yoga mat.
 
A year ago I was angry and sad. Today I write this with emotion as well– but this time it’s with excitement for the next step in my marriage and in our adventure together, but emotional to be leaving such a beautiful place & community. My only regret is that I didn’t meet them sooner. 
 
Thank you, each of you, for showing me kindness, and for helping me grow as a yoga teacher and a person. Take it from me, don’t wait to start living your life. Time goes too fast for that. Start now.
 
 
Namaste.

healthy homemade granola cups

So granola is one of my go-to snacks when I’m on the run & need to stay full for a period of time. (Especially before teaching yoga). My mom passed me this recipe for overnight granola cups and they are DELISH– lots of good-for-you-ingredients, and you create it the night before so breakfast is as simple as grab n go. 

 

WHAT YOU’ll NEED 

1/2 cup granola (homemade, or I recommend the KIND brand)

1 rounded tablespoon of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins)

1 tablespoon slivered almonds

1 teaspoon chia or flax seeds

2/3 cup almond milk

1/3 cup fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, etc. can use frozen fruit too)

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or other natural sweetener 

optional add-ins: pumpkin or sunflower seeds, cinnamon or vanilla extract 

 

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HOW TO MAKE:

In a 12 oz jar, combine first 4 ingredients 

Pour in milk & maple syrup, stir well

Gently fold in fresh fruit 

Cover & refrigerate overnight 

Stir before eating. Add extra milk if desired. 

Can also top with extra granola for a little crunch.

**Keeps in refrigerator for about 3 days**

 

Oh and here’s another yummy thing to do with homemade or KIND granola– throw a handful on Greek yogurt! 

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Don’t waste the most important meal of the day on crap. If you don’t drink Shakeology for breakfast (which is my usual thang) granola cups are awesome! Even for a mid-afternoon snack. Just say NO to candy & processed JUNK. You will feel worse after you eat it– I know because I have struggled to cut out the junk too, and life is so much better on the clean-eating, occasional cheat meal side 🙂

 

xo Ashley 

how to make your own kombucha tea

If you’ve discovered kombucha in your local grocery stores & are ADDICTED (but not to the hefty price per serving) read this post!! I am the opposite of a whiz in the kitchen but guys– I successfully brewed my first batch of kombucha and it was SO EASY. I know have 5 servings on hand along with the leftover SCOBY to continue to brew my own batches. 

First off- if you’ve never heard of it– kombucha is a lightly fermented sweetened black & green tea that is used as a functional food. It’s produced by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or “SCOBY.” The sugar you brew the tea with gets primarily used up by the scoby during fermentation, so you’re left with a drink filled of probiotics, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. According to the American Cancer Society, kombucha has been promoted as a “cure all” for many conditions, although there’s not much scientific evidence to back that up. I drink it because I love the flavor & the good stuff that comes in it. If you can get over the urge not to shake up the little “floaters” of bacteria (I’ve done it.. & ended up with kombucha all over my car.. yikes), you too can make this at home & enjoy for SO much less than the cost of one serving.

 

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

1 scoby with starter kombucha from a friend, looks like this:

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2-3 organic black tea bags and 2-3 green tea bags

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a large glass container– here is what I used:

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a clean white, cotton cloth that you do not mind getting stained

rubber band

 

HOW DO YOU DO IT???

Bring 3 quarts of filtered or distilled water to a boil.

Add 1 cup of sugar, stir with a wooden spoon, cover, boil 5 minutes

Remove from heat & add black and green tea bags 

Steep for 10 minutes, then remove bags

Let tea cool to body temp, about 96 degrees. NOT overnight, doesn’t need to be room temp of 70s.. 1-2 hours only. You should be able to stick your finger in & not burn (if tea is too cool, it will not ferment correctly & too hot will kill the scoby)

Pour tea into glass container, add 1 scoby & about 2/3 cup starter kombucha 

Cover with clean cotton cloth & large rubber band

Place in calm, dark room without direct sunlight– NEEDS air! NOT in kitchen–> higher potential for bacteria to get in kombucha around food/cooking

Check kombucha in 7-8 days. When cooler may take 10 days to brew. Full moon or warmer weather speeds up brewing time. The new baby scoby that forms on top of the new batch should be about 1/8 or 1/4″ thick.

 

I wasn’t sure at first if my new scoby had formed after 8 days– but when I took a look at it I saw the thin layer on top of my tea was my scoby! I saved the original and new scoby along with a cup of starter kombucha so I can pass one to a friend & brew another batch myself. Next time I’ll double ferment & add some fruit flavor, but this round was original. And I’m proud to say it tastes GOOD! Could be a little fizzier, but that will come with practice. Cheers to home kombucha brewing!! 

The finished product:

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Ashley 

what I wish I knew a year ago

We all wish we could go back & shake our former selves sometimes, don’t we? Like MAYBE I didn’t need to go out of state for college & take out a gazillion loans to pay for it… and I REALLY could have done without those embarrassing moments (don’t be all crazy as a teen & take photos — those pictures WILL resurface! relax readers, its nothing too wild.. but I don’t want to relive those years in photos. Yikes.) 

 

But here’s what I wished I had known just ONE year ago, and it has to do with my passion.. fitness. I have been seriously toying with the idea of SOMEday doing a bikini figure competition, & had I began really focusing a year ago, I know my body would be in a much different shape today.

 

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Don’t get my wrong, I am VERY proud of my body and how hard I have worked in the last few months. But do you know what I would say to the July 2013 Ashley? 3 things. Lift heavy, small meals, and stop drinking. Here’s why:

 

1.) Lift heavy: I do understand now that adding muscle does not make women bulk up– I’m living proof of that. But a year ago, I was still shy about lifting.. and would not lift as heavy as I probably could. Now, I see how freaking important it is to really have the “trifeca” of fitness: cardio, flexibility, and strength. I am pretty committed to the first 2– but strength? I still lack the focus to lift on a regular basis. But I see these women who lift heavy weights & do it consistently (and safely! Rest days, good form, proper technique) and they are BEAUTIFUL! They are strong and lean, with a body that shows off their hard work and incredible shape. So, last year Ash, get some heavy dumbbells & join your fiancé (now husband, woot woot!) in the gym! 

 

2.) Small meals: I have always struggled with eating. I had the mindset that because I was working out, I could eat whatever I wanted. SO not true. My entire well being is made up of only 30% exercise and 70% Nutrition.. and that statistic just wasn’t hitting me. Now, by all means, I am still a work in progress, but lately I have been packing small meals for when I’m out (veggies, apple & peanut butter, KIND granola, Quest bars) so that I never get to the point of being super hungry. Plus, with eating healthy things sporadically throughout the day, my metabolism is always fired up. And when I do my cardio workouts, I burn even more calories, thanks to wake up call #1 (lifting heavy).

 

3.) Stop drinking: I know it’s fun to be social and go out with friends & have wine or cocktails. I get it. I get it a little too much. I’ve been through some ups & downs this past year with being far away from my family & struggling to adjust, and I definitely turned to alcohol more than was necessary (is any of it necessary? no, probably not.) But all those calories & sugars just for a DRINK? Scary. 3 beers can easily be 600-800 calories — liquor has a large amount of sugar, and wine is right up there on the sugar scale. Is a drink bad for you? No. But if you constantly add in alcohol to your regular nutrition, it can easily sabotage the hard work you’re putting in during the rest of the day. So, 2013 Ashley, lay off the booze and start chugging H20.

 

We all learn and grow and change and evolve, and we can’t go back in time. But occasionally we can look back and see where our tendencies lie, and decide to change or remain the same. I choose change. It’s scary, tough, and sometimes frustrating, but it beats spinning my wheels any day.

 

Can’t wait to see wait 2015 Ashley will think of the today me. But I’m pretty okay with myself 🙂 

 

Ashley 

 

4 things I eat when I crave SWEETS

I crave chocolate. A lot. I also love ice cream. And sometimes I have both– because this is life, and life is meant to be enjoyed. But too much of a sweet thing usually results in an unhappy stomach for this girl. SO I’ve found 5 go-to snacks that combine healthy & sweet, & satisfies my hunger pang.

 

1.) bananan

Banana BonBons

Ingredients:
2 bananas

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

3 tablespoons finely chopped raw peanuts (3/4 ounce)

Directions:
1. Line a small pan with wax paper. Cut each banana into 6 or 8 equal pieces. Stick a toothpick or lollipop stick into the end of each piece, place in the pan, and put in the freezer to freeze solid.

2. Place the chocolate in a glass 1-cup measure and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Add the oil and stir until very smooth.

3. Place the peanuts in a small bowl. Dip the banana pieces halfway into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Dip just the end of the banana in the peanuts.

4. Return the bananas to the freezer for 15 minutes to set the chocolate, then store in an airtight container in the freezer. Have 3 large or 4 small bonbons per serving (depending on how you cut the banana).

Serves 4

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 145 calories, 3g protein

 

2.) KIND Peanut Butter Granola

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Gluten free. Ingredients you can actually pronounce– and SO satisfying! Just be cautious not to eat the whole bag in one sitting…umm, totally possible! I like to sprinkle the granola in plain vanilla yogurt. 

 

3.) Shakeology Protein Balls: SEE my last post for the pic & recipe!

 

4.) Trail Mix

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Skip the M&Ms and create your own healthy trail mix! My go-to ingredients are raw almonds, raisins, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. This is higher in calories so watch your serving size (and small handful is plenty), but satisfying? You bet! 

 

Sometimes you need an ice cream cone. Most of the time, however, you just need a deep breath, a full glass of water, and a healthy pick-me-up snack. The better you eat, the better you feel. See? Health is simple. Just takes daily commitment & getting back on the wagon. (Did you fall off? There’s still time- jump back on!) 

No bake protein balls

I don’t know about you, but sometimes (ok, very often) I crave chocolate and peanut butter. It’s, like, a heavenly mash up of goodness. But I don’t love all the unhealthy things that come in a Reese’s that makes my stomach angry with the rest of my body.

So- I swear by these no-bake protein balls. Super easy to make & they satisfy that mid-afternoon sweetness craving:

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8 tablespoons PB2 (powdered peanut butter)

3 tablespoons natural peanut or almond butter

1/3 cup chocolate Shakeology protein powder

3 tablespoons raw honey

1/2 cup steel cut or quick cooking oats

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Mix PB2 with water until it’s a paste-like consistency. Mix all ingredients, including the PB2 mixture. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle in more protein powder so it’s a dry/crumbly texture.

Roll mixture into small balls & place on wax sheet. Put in freezer until firm (makes about 12, 1-ounce balls).

nutrition

Serving size 👉1 protein ball

Calories : 80

Carbs : 10g

Fat : 2g

Protein : 7g

 

These are delicious and satisfying! Perfect to enjoy after a hard workout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

how to survive (and enjoy!) your first yoga class

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Just a few short years ago, I was the girl who never thought twice about yoga. I ran, I did tricep dips from time to time (never got around to my biceps back then.. poor guys). To me, it honestly seemed like not enough of a challenge for this impatient, sweat-craving, sometimes ADD-ridden Yankee. 

That all changed when I went with a friend to my first power vinyasa yoga class in my hometown of Lancaster, PA. This was years ago, but I remember how I instantly liked my teacher & the urban chic of the tiny 2nd floor studio. 

Those next 90 minutes on my mat shifted my view on yoga forever. It was no longer this ancient, un-relatable practice, it was hard work! I was moving my body in ways I hadn’t before. Growing up as a soccer and field hockey player, my legs and arms tended to vacillate on one plane (back and forth)– with yoga, I felt like I began wringing out all those years of pounding the grass & never taking more than 2 minutes to stretch before games (admit it.. you’ve probably skipped the stretches in workouts once or twice.. or 100 times). 

In the months and years following the first, memorable yoga class, I’ve had many, many more classes & began teaching myself. I often get some nervous, first-time students wondering what their first class will be like. In my humble opinion, here are 5 helpful tips to get the most out of your class:

1). Expect an open environment – I have so much love for everyone who walks through our studio doors. It’s an automatic acceptance that we as teachers bring to students, and students bring to teachers. Don’t worry about looking silly, not knowing a pose, or falling in the balance series. Yogis are known to be very respectful.. and honestly, they are probably so involved in their own practice that they are not looking at you. So be open. Try something new. Make it a goal to stumble.. that way you’ve succeeded, not failed. 

2.) Don’t get freaked out by OMs. If you’re in a vinyasa practice where the teacher leads a guided OM.. it’s cool! It’s not a religious thing.. we are simply sharing energy. If you’re self-conscious.. simply close your eyes and listen. But I’ll bet through consistent practice, OMs will become a part of class that you look forward to.

3.) If you practice in a heated room, prepare to SWEAT! We keep our hot classes at 90 degrees. I’m not a sweaty person by nature, but I WRING out my clothes after a hot practice. Your body is working hard to cool itself, so go into the class being totally fine with sweat. Bring or rent a towel for your mat.. once your hands get too slippery, you’ll need it. 

4.) Set an intention. Whether or not your teacher gives you a moment to set an intention for your practice- do it! Think about what brought you into the room, and WHY you are practicing yoga. Then, in a tough pose, remember that “WHY” and take a giant breath. You’re here, you’re doing great, and your body needs this.

5.) Have fun. So cliche, but so true. If you dread your practice, you won’t come back. You’ll miss out on all the amazing life shifting things that come with a consistent practice, so bring some fun into the class. Smile. No one is staring at you, so let the corners of your mouth turn UP and let your mind chatter turn DOWN. See fun in the smallest things.. in being upside down, in rolling your spine on the mat, in Happy Baby pose..anything! 

 

Yoga has changed and continues to change my life, yet it’s taken me years of looking back to see how those shifts have taken place. So give it time. Everyone, even the most experienced Yogi, started with their very first class. 

 

Namaste,

 

Ashley 

 

day one of my 3 Day Refresh

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I’ve been feeling BLAH with my body as of late. I work out, yes, but my “healthy” eating has taken a nosedive. I justify that I can eat what I want as long as I’m working out, which is so NOT true (Health is only 30% exercise and 70% nutrition..yikes, I know). So, enough with this bloat-y, yucky feeling I’ve been carrying around for half the summer. I’m teaching by example and decided to give Beachbody’s new 3-day cleanse, the 3-Day Refresh, a shot. 3 days, I can wrap my mind around. 3 days, I can stick to. 3 days- seriously, if I can’t do this for 72 hours.. someone reach through your iPhone and pinch me! 

What is it? A quick, non-starvation cleanse of lower calorie, high nutrient food & shakes. Vegan Shakeology (a nutrient-dense, superfood shake I’ve been adding to my daily diet for over a year now) for breakfast, fruit, a fiber supplement, a “Vanilla Fresh” protein shake for lunch, more fruit, and clean dinner recipes like veggie stir fry, kale with pine nuts, cucumber and tomato salad. 

No meat, seafood or dairy — but I’ll still be getting fiber and protein from my natural shakes & from vegetables. So for the next 3 days you’ll get to hear directly from the horse’s (hmm.. I don’t want to be a horse. Can I be a yogi? Yes, Ashley, it’s your life. You can) ..rather, YOGI’s mouth how this cleanse is going. I’m still working out with my home program PIYO, but will be taking it easy since my calories will be around 900 for each day.

If this works, you’ll hear about it. If it’s awful, I’ll be honest. If I cheat.. you’re pinching me, right? 

Today I’ve had vegan chocolate Shakeology blended with strawberries, and did some yoga in the grass.

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I’ve had the “fiber sweep” supplement that comes with my cleanse.. honestly– I plugged my nose and chugged it. Now on the vanilla shake and a serving of fruit, veggies, and a healthy fat (avocado) for lunch. 

Stay tuned for day 2! 

 

xo Ashley 

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