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Inner Dialogue Reflection & Elevation

Every day, we think and speak in “I” statements.

“I am good.”
“I am bad.”
“I am excited.”
“I am stressed.”
And so on….

These I statements are profoundly influential to how we feel within and how we experience the world with-out as these statements effect our mindsets, emotions, and energetic vibrations.  Quite often, we think and speak in negative I statements such as:

“I am stressed.”
“I am tired.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I don’t have enough.”

When we repeatedly think and speak with these negative statements, we can trap ourselves in a negative mental and/or energetic state.  This may lead us to subconsciously and energetically attract or fall into more interactions, situations, and experiences that further promote the negativity we are enduring.  For example, if we find ourselves consistently thinking and speaking “I am tired,” our tiredness will remain at the forefront of our awareness and impact every aspect of our day. 

Luckily, with a little awareness, we can uplevel our inner and outer dialogue to be more positive and empowering in order to guide ourselves into better states of mind and energy.  We may adopt I statements such as:

“I am strong.”
“I am powerful.”
“I can.”
“I have what I need.”

When we utilize these more affirmative I statements both internally and externally, we expand into more uplifted mental and energetic states which may lead us to subconsciously and energetically attract more interactions, situations, and experiences that further promote this new found positivity.  For example, if we previously found ourselves thinking and speaking “I am tired”, we might then adopt statements like “I am strong,” or “I am capable.”

It’s important to note that choosing these positive I statements is not synonymous with denying, erasing, or hiding the negative or heavy emotions and sensations we are experiencing like exhaustion, stress, sadness, or fear.  It’s important to be honest with ourselves and others about our thoughts and feelings, and sometimes we will need to ask for help in navigating them.  

Simply, in this practice, we have to acknowledge our true, valid feelings first, then we shift the narrative, then we evolve our inner dialogue to be more positive in order to move forward.  Let’s look at a couple examples:

Example 1 – 
Negative Statement: “I am tired.”
Acknowledgement: “Yes, I am tired and I do need rest.”
Shift: “But I am strong enough to continue on until I can rest.”
Positive Statement: “I am strong enough.”
In this example, we are not denying our tiredness as in “No, I am not tired. I am strong. It’s fine!”  That would be lying to ourselves.  Instead, we acknowledge the tiredness, we identify the need for rest, but we find an empowering statement to keep moving forward until that rest can be taken.

Example 2 –
Negative Statement: “I can’t do this.”
Acknowledgement: “Right now, I feel like I can’t do this because it is hard/challenging/scary/etc.”
Shift: “Even though I feel like I can’t right now, I believe I can figure out how do this and get through this.”
Positive Statement: “I can.”
In this example, we take time to acknowledge why we are feeling incapable of overcoming the challenge/obstacle/problem/etc. We own the fact that it is causing us stress/overwhelm/doubt/fear.  Then we decide that even though it is hard and scary, we are capable of finding a way forward.  Through this process, new empowered inner dialogue is born. 

Example 3 –
Negative Statement: “I am stressed.”
Acknowledgement: “Yes, I am stressed because of _________.”
Shift: “But I am capable of overcoming this situation.”
Positive Statement: “I am capable.”
In this example, we own the fact that we are experiencing stress and we identify the source of that stress. From there, we view ourselves as capable of overcoming the stressful situation.

At once, I statements impact how we feel and the frequency we are putting out into the world to eventually receive back.  And so, mindfully working with I statements can be a very powerful practice to incorporate into your life. I have experienced immense growth and success in working with affirmative I  statements in my own life.  Additionally, I have taught yoga and meditation classes with an emphasis on I statements and have received positive feedback from my students about the practice.  

Here are the steps I follow when practicing and teaching positive I statements.

Step 1: Reflect & Identify

Take a moment of mindful reflection and contemplate the following –

What are the negative I statements that I often think and speak? These can be statements that have been coming up for you recently or ones that have been prominent for a long period of time.

Where are these negative I statements coming from? What am I feeling or experiencing that is making me think and speak in this way? Do I need to commit to any action steps to help address these feelings and/or experiences? 

What are the positive I statements that I would like to integrate in my life? What are the qualities and characteristics I want to embody?  What are the positive I statements that will serve me best?

Step 2: Practice

You can practice your I statements in a variety of ways –

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Everyday life

Now, it’s time to practice working with your I statements.

Seated Meditation –

  1. Come to a comfortable seated or reclined position.
  2. Clear your head of external thoughts and begin to focus on deepening your breath.
  3. As you inhale, recite a positive I statement.
  4. As you exhale, recite another positive I statement.
  5. Continue to focus on the repetition of your I statements and your breath for 2-10 minutes.

Yoga –

  1. Take a yoga class or do a yoga practice at home.
  2. Move through the practice and focus on your breath.
  3. As you inhale, recite a positive I statement.
  4. As you exhale, recite another positive I statement,

Daily Life –

  1. Write down your I statements-
    • Write them on post notes and place them where you will see them often. Write them once per day in your journal.
    • Type them in your phone and look at them every so often.
  2. Speak your I statements-
    • Say them to yourself in the mirror when you are getting ready, say them before you go to sleep, say them when you need to hear them in challenging moments.
  3. Recite your I statements silently-
    • Do this throughout your day as feels organic and beneficial to you.

I do not claim to be an expert or master in the art of changing energy and manifesting, but I have found practice with I statements to be powerful in my own life and hope that you may find this as well. At minimum, working with I statements will help you to feel more empowered and positive within. And perhaps it will spark change without and around. 

Listen to the podcast component to this article, Inner Dialogue Meditation, on the What’s the Pasta!? Podcast! Within the episode I guide you through a meditation centered on unleveling inner dialogue with “I” Statements.

My Relationship with My Body and Food, Then & Now

I believe that vulnerability and empathy are essential elements to a kinder world and better future.  With that belief, I want to share with you about my relationship with my body and with food as it has been and as it is now.  This relationship has been a journey that has at times included disordered eating, body dysmorphia, toxic fitness, and deep insecurities.  My hope in this vulnerable share is that others who have struggled or who are struggling on similar paths will find a relatable voice, know they are not alone, and be inspired to take outer and inner action toward positive change.  Additionally, I seek to add to the ongoing conversation around these topics with the wish that more people will hold space and empathy for those who have endured these challenges.  With that, my story. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My relationship with my body negatively shifted when I was 17 years old.  Prior to 17, my body and I had decent relations – I was overall healthy, relatively active, and comfortable in my skin.  It all changed, however, when I returned from my high school choir’s trip to China.  I received the developed pictures from the trip (it was the mid 2000’s and I was still using disposable film cameras).  I was alarmed at my appearance in the photos; I looked puffy, bloated, approaching plump even.  Now, I was not overweight by any means, I was not even what some would label as “chubby”, but my face had become more rounded and my belly more extended than I had ever seen myself apart from the typical fuller phase I had gone through as a growing child.  

Concerned and reared in a society that greatly values external validation, I asked my best friend at the time (who I had a borderline toxic relationship with) if he had noticed a change in my appearance.  With his six-pack visible through his thin t-shirt, he affirmed that I had gained weight, poked my lower belly, and said “Pudgy.”  That interaction was and forever is burned into the fabric of my memory.  I remember feeling as though my worth had dropped because my shape had morphed into one that was devalued and even frowned upon by my society.  Suddenly, I understood the inner hardship many of my female identifying friends had expressed enduring as they compared their own bodies to the female bodies the culture around us glorified. My girl-friends felt inferior to the models and actresses in the magazines with their blonde hair, flat abs, and size 2 figures.  I too felt inferior as I contrasted myself to the lean, sculpted, ab-tastic male models in the cologne commercials and in the windows of Abercrombie & Fitch. 

The message was clear – as a man, if you did not have chiseled muscles and a whittled six-pack, you were not the optimum man.  Looking back now, I realize that this subliminal messaging was particularly potent to me for a couple of different reasons. The first was that, like everyone, I was an impressionable teenager. The second was that I was suppressing my queer nature and in that inner conflict already felt subordinate in my manhood.  Externally my body’s shape was deemed as undesirable and internally I knew that many would view my true sexuality as abominable.  It was in this perception that deep insecurities were born and a hard journey was begun. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

Feeling lesser in my newly developed form, I decided to address the issue of my shape head on.  In this endeavor, at least to start, I found success through healthy means.  I began to be more mindful about my food choices – eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, limiting how much sugar I was intaking, practicing moderation, and so on.  I started to exercise more regularly by jogging, lifting weights, and doing yoga.  Being only 17 and with good genetics, the weight I had accrued quickly fell off.  In a couple of months I had dropped fifteen pounds, lost the bloating in my face, and pulled in my belly. 

I will note here how I was lucky in that I had parents who were healthy, active individuals who had both at one time been athletes.  They modeled positive behaviors with exercise and diet for me to emulate.  I have to attest that my insecurities about my body and the negative behaviors I developed later on did not come from my parents.  Neither of them obsessed over their shapes, practiced extreme diets, or overexercised.  Of course, they were baby boomers (a particularly judgmental generation) and at times made comments on other’s appearances, but it was minimal.  And they certainly never body shamed my sister or I.  Overall, their focus was on maintaining good health and they showed what it was to live an active lifestyle and maintain good fitness in sustainable ways.  In the beginning I followed their examples and made progress, but eventually listened to society’s demands for extremity and perfection and veered off on a darker path.  

When I returned to school for my senior year I received praise and accolades for my newly trim figure and defined muscles.  I of course appreciated the positive reinforcement for all my hard work and the results that came from it, but my mind took the external affirmations and combined them with my inner insecurities to create a very negative narrative.  The story I told myself was thus – I had gained weight and fallen out of shape before and if I was not careful I could do so again; and I could not let that happen because in order to be fully accepted I needed to remain thin.  It was in the believing of that story that my disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and toxic fitness began.  The next several years of my late teens and early twenties were darkened by these conditions and at times completely controlled by them.

Photography by Steven James Photography

My body dysmorphia was the main culprit that enabled the disordered eating and toxic fitness.  Body dysmorphia is a condition in which one obsessively focuses on a small or even imagined physical flaw, often leading to a constant desire and action to remedy the flaw.  Quite commonly, many people who struggle with body dysmorphia see themselves as larger than they actually are – this was the case with me.  Despite being slender, I looked in the mirror and often saw myself as bloated, undefined, flabby even.  It is difficult to articulate to those who have not experienced it.  The best I can explain is that many times when I looked into the mirror, I saw a glimpse of myself as I was, and then suddenly my belly would drip outward, the muscle definition in my abs would melt, and my face would swell; almost like a character in a Hollywood movie going through a magical transformation in a matter of moments courtesy of the film’s special effects team.  The body dysmorphia paired with my inner insecurity and feelings of unworthiness caused me to at once obsess over my body’s shape and never be satisfied with its condition.  All of this led me to disordered eating.

Now, I did not develop a clinical eating disorder.  I did not starve myself as is common in cases of anorexia nor did I purge myself as is symptomatic of bulimia.  Rather, disordered eating is characterized by various abnormal eating behaviors that by themselves do not warrant a traditional eating disorder diagnosis, but are indeed problems that negatively impact one’s physical and mental health.  As my disordered eating advanced, I created an enormity of rules and restrictions around food such as no simple carbs, no sugar (not even from fruit), extreme limitations on foods like dairy, protein, and fats, and a strict schedule of eating certain foods at certain times on certain days.  I believed that these rules must be obeyed in order to maintain my trimmer form and progress toward pursuing greater fitness.  If I strayed even a little from the restrictions I had placed around my food, I spiraled into a blackhole of self-inflicted guilt, shame, and hatred for my body and self.  If I had even just one extra bite of Greek yogurt at breakfast, I felt I was setting myself back on the advances I had planned to make that day.  If I ate a meal that was even slightly different from the meal I was scheduled to eat on a certain day, I feared I was at risk of my body bloating in reaction.  God forbid, if I indulged in a food that was off limits like pizza or cake, I believed I would be set back by weeks in my fitness goals, needed to start over in my journey, and go even harder and harsher than before.  Needless to say, these regulations led me to practice a diet that undernourished me.

Ironically, it was during this time in my life that I also developed binge eating which I would characterize as a subset of my disordered eating.  I heeded my intense restrictions 90% of the time, but within the other 10% the pendulum swung to the polar opposite and I would binge savagely on all of the foods I denied myself.  All of the foods that society had programmed into my mind as “bad” like pizza, pasta, bread, cake, ice cream, and the like I fed on in a frenzy like a shark on a fresh whale carcass; entranced, mindless, and all-consumed.  Once I gave into what I then called “the temptation”, I would lose myself in the act of eating and indulging, at times even blacking out in the process.  I remember going to a summer party at a friend’s house when I found myself alone in the kitchen where all of the food was artistically displayed in a buffet style – burgers, hot dogs, chips, pretzels, cupcakes, cookies, and all.  Part of me desperately wanted to go outside, to join the others, and be away from the food, but the other part of me that was starved willed me to stay.  I began to eat slowly, telling myself I would indulge in just a few of the buffet’s pleasures, but before long I found myself eating everything in sight with haste and an inability to stop as I fed the body that needed more nourishment and the inner child that yearned desperately to be free of insecurity and to be happy again. After every episode of binge eating I felt unbearably terrible and utterly defeated.  The cruel inner voice of my ego would shame me, often reducing me to tears.  I would react by quickly reverting back to my restrictive ways of eating and would force myself to work harder at the gym to compensate for my food-based sins.  This leads us to my struggles with toxic fitness.

Photography by Steven James Photography

 A relatively new term, toxic fitness describes an exercise culture rooted in body shaming and negative reinforcement.  Toxic fitness is born out of the beliefs that one must exercise to the point of exhaustion and even pain in order for the exercise to be effective, that extreme work outs are necessary to undo past indulgent feeding or to grant permission for future indulgences, and that true fitness equates to thinness. In pursuit of an imagined, future, more ideal physical version of myself, I subscribed to this culture’s practices believing that it would help me reach that version.  I spent hours in the gym multiple days per week wearing myself down to the bone with rigorous exercises that because of my disordered eating I was not nourished enough to properly perform.  While the work outs kept me lean and I did achieve some muscle definition, I lacked the proper fuel to achieve muscle gain and ultimately reach the goals I set for myself.  Rather, I repeatedly drained myself of energy and at times injured myself.  I felt weak and unsuccessful.  Instead of encouraging me forward, that inner voice of ego belittled me and thrust me forward through this vicious cycle with negative reinforcement.  Despite not finding success in my workouts and continuously feeling rundown, I refused to miss a work out even when injured or sick.  There were days I would wake up at 4:30am after only a few hours of sleep to get a 2 hour work out in that only resulted in more exhaustion and pain.  And yet, I could not break my orbit from that cycle. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

Looking back, I realize that if I had properly nourished myself and followed a more balanced exercise regime, I would have actually achieved my fitness goals – even if they were based in societal insecurity.  Still, if I had not restricted my diet to a state of malnourishment and had committed to an exercise program that prioritized quality over quantity and allotted time for rest, I believe I would have been much more fit than I truly was.  Additionally, I theorize I would actually be an inch or two taller today if I had not treated my body back then the way I did.  You see, I was in my late teens and early twenties during everything I have just described.  Thus, I still had the potential to grow.  However, because I was malnourished and overexerted, I truly believe my growth was stunted, keeping me at my 6’0” height as opposed to the possible 6’1” or 6’2” that could have been. 

Blessedly, yoga came into my life at this time.  And while it did not immediately save me from my toxic ways with food and fitness, it planted the seeds for change with lessons of self-acceptance and balance.  Like many, I began my pursuit of a more consistent yoga practice for the physical results I had seen others achieve, but I ended up falling most in love with the mindfulness and spiritual components of the practice.  I slowly started to integrate the lessons and philosophies my teachers wove throughout their classes into my own life, leading me to speak to myself more-kindly, be more gentle with myself, and take a more holistic approach to my wellbeing.  Eventually, I transitioned to making vinyasa yoga my primary form of exercise which was more sustainable for my body at the time and started to eat more with an emphasis on whole foods.  These were small yet mighty steps in the direction of better physical and mental health, but my struggles with my body image and all that went with it were far from over. 

Whilst my movement into the yoga world did come with many benefits, it also came with its own unique challenges.  There is a subset of the western yoga world that idealizes certain body types and creates its own rules and restrictions around nutrition.  Most in this culture would not condone starving one’s self, but many do support a diet with a hyper focus on foods that are labeled as clean, organic, wholesome, etc.  Of course, foods that are as such are great, but there is a fine line between maintaining a focus on these foods and developing an obsession on them that permeates into other issues all within the realm of disordered eating and toxic fitness.  It was this pitfall that I fell into. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My disordered eating became less transfixed on the foods I was avoiding and instead borderline obsessive about consuming foods that were nutrient-dense, organic, and sourced with quality.  I demanded that the majority of my food be free of pesticides, pure, and ideally locally sourced.  Again, these are all wonderful qualities for our food to have and do indeed provide many health benefits; but to focus so fervently on this manner of eating to the point where one believes their health with suffer otherwise is known in clinical psychology as orthorexia nervosa.  Orthorexia is a lesser-known eating disorder characterized by an extreme focus on eating healthy with a fearful belief that not following strict guidelines will result in illness, general poor health, and a less fit figure.  I am not a psychotherapist, but reflecting back to that time of my mid-twenties, I would diagnose myself with orthorexia.  For I did believe that if I did not eat foods that were organic and in certain portions my overall health would be compromised and my body’s shape would not be optimized.  This time in my life did lead me to research food and learn valuable information about nutrition that I still apply to this day in a more balanced way, but at that time it continued a pattern of restriction that supported my poor relationship with my body. 

My struggles with toxic fitness also continued to a certain degree.  On the bright side, my nutrition was better which supported my activity level a bit more and I began to integrate into my regime the concepts taught in yoga of listening to my body and practicing moderation when it came to movement.  Still, I often found myself forcing myself to a heated yoga class or the gym even when I knew I could use a break, regularly pushing myself too hard in my Vinyasa practice and gym work outs, and sometimes still choosing exercise over rest when sick or injured.  I also created a lot of unnecessary stress for myself on days where I was far too busy with work and other responsibilities by still scheduling major gym work outs and classes that truly did not fit into the day without strain and conflict.  If I missed the gym or yoga or if I had a subpar work out, I felt great anxiety that I was setting myself back in the pursuit of my fitness goals.  In many ways, my exercise regime detracted from my life rather than adding to it because of the mindset I viewed it through. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My mid-twenties were greatly influenced by these continued struggles with body dysmorphia, disordered eating and orthorexia nervosa, and toxic fitness.  Reflecting back, the most tragic part of these years was how these body image-based issues impacted my social life.  While your mid-twenties are meant to be a time of liberal socialization and exploration, mine were often contained by my self-imposed restrictions with food and exercise, blocking me from truly enjoying many of the experiences offered to me.  There were countless occasions of being out to dinner with friends where I spent an absurd amount of time stressing over what I could and could not order to eat, causing me to be less present with those around me.  Many times when I had allowed myself to order something indulgent, I would be so worried about how it would affect my body that I energetically withdrew from the outing and could not fully enjoy the experience with my loved ones.  There were tons of parties and celebrations where I passed on the pizza or cake that everyone around me was relishing because it did not fit into my allotted food schedule, leaving me as the odd man out; I pretended that my abstinence did not bother me, but it always did.  There were times where rather than allowing my friends to kindly cook for me, I opted to cook for them so that I could control what the meal entailed even when I was too busy or stressed to be the host.  Worst of all, there were too many instances when I declined plans with friends and family because those plans would interrupt my diet and my fitness regime, instead choosing to eat what I had assigned for myself and rigorously work out in solitude instead.  

Now, I do not proclaim to be a poor unfortunate soul who had miserable twenties. On the contrary, I greatly enjoyed my twenties for the most part and still found ways to live and love my life. That said, my body image based issues did greatly detract from life and hindered me from the full potential of those years. While they say “no regrets”, I have to admit I deeply regret how I deprived myself of so many moments of pleasure and joy in those prime years of my life because of the unhealthy relationship I had with food and my body.  I have missed out on grand experiences and precious moments because of this toxicity I allowed myself to develop over the course of a decade.  I can never get those opportunities or that time back.  And this is one of the many reasons why I share my story now; to offer a cautionary tale to all who are struggling as I have struggled, especially to those who are younger than I and have so many years ahead of them.  I do not wish what I went through and what I have lost because of it on anyone else.  My hope is for everyone to learn how to address these issues and move past them as I learned to do later in my life.

Photography by Steven James Photography

Luckily, my story does turn happy.  My late-twenties finally ushered in a time of revelation and revolution for me.  It was in these years that I experienced a steep incline in my confidence and security in myself.  A shared sentiment, many people have felt that the couple years before and after age thirty come with a new sense of assurance and of knowing one’s self to a greater degree; this was certainly the case for me.  By this time I had fully owned and celebrated my sexuality, found greater determination in my career, felt certainty in my purpose, and appreciated my own uniqueness.  With this inner empowerment, my insecurities lost much of their influence and that allowed me the slack to evolve my relationship with food and my body into a healthier space.  There came a day where I realized change was needed and I made the conscious choice to pursue that change and nurture that relationship.

Physically speaking, I began to focus more on what my body needed to feel healthy and strong rather than just thin and cut.  This partly involved taking a more scientific approach to what proper nutrition and balanced exercise looked like for my body type, genetics, and so forth while also tuning into an intuitive awareness of what my body needed and liked best.  All of this led me to increase my calorie intake and practice more moderation and gentleness with my exercise regime.  Ironically, these changes resulted in my achieving of the fitness goals I had been chasing for near a decade.  As it turned out, when my body had the right amount of nutrition and rest, I actually became more muscular, leaner, and most importantly felt better overall.  The paradox of it all is laughable now.

Photography by Steven James Photography

Emotionally speaking, I finally felt more secure and comfortable in body.  Not only because I had eventually reached some of my fitness goals, but because I had reframed my perspective and re-sorted my priorities even prior to those achievements.  I shifted away from focusing on what my body was not in favor of finding gratitude for what my body was – whole and capable.  I evolved my view of food as potentially dangerous to appreciating it as fuel and a blessing.  I learned to honor the truth that my body sometimes needed to skip a work out in favor of rest just as one sometimes needs to take a vacation in favor of rejuvenation.  And I accepted the reality that all of our bodies fluctuate to some degree depending on the time of year and the season of life you are in, and that is perfectly okay.  These inner changes brought me into a space of greater contentment and overall peace with myself.  Additionally, this greater acceptance of myself helped me to become more accepting of others as well. 

Now in my early thirties, I can proudly say that my relationship with my body and food is the best it has every been.  I find myself in great shape, however, I do not allow the shape of my body to define my worth or dictate my life.  I challenge my body with movement, but allow it the time it needs to rest.  I maintain good nutrition, and also permit myself to indulge without guilt or shame.  I practice gratitude for my holistic health as oppose to a sole focus on my form.  I have found balance that allows for fluidity and supports me in all I do.  Of course, I do still have difficult moments.  There are times when I critique the size of my arms or the definition of my abs, there are times when I feel guilt for helping myself to second servings of pasta or for being lazy with my workouts, and there are even times when my body dysmorphia will rear its ugly head for a moment or two.  I am not immune to the tendencies of my past; none of us are.  I have learned, however, to navigate those difficult moments and find my way back to the the path of healing, the positive mindset, and supportive practices I have developed.  I do not allow those difficult moments to undo my progress.  I have the tools to maintain this healthy relationship I have finally built with my body and food which I intend to nurture for the remainder of my life.  And I can state with deep enthusiasm that healing your relationship with your body and food opens the door to living a much more authentic and joyful life. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

If you find yourself struggling in your relationship with your own body and food, I hope you know that you are not alone.  I implore you to find people with whom you can be vulnerable and share your story.  I empower you to ask for help and support.  I invite you to do the work because, even though it is hard, I promise you it is worth it.  Know that it is your birthright to enjoy life’s pleasures like food and to be happy.  Please remember that your body’s shape does not define your worth; you are inherently worthy as you are.  Your journey does not have to stagnate here in the dark; if you try, you will find your way to the light. 

Photography by Steven James Photography


Photography Credits:

All photography by Steven James Photography.

Steven James is a photographer based in Hollywood, CA.

When I decided to produce a visual art component for my story, I knew that Steven was the only photographer for the project. I deeply admire his aesthetic as photographer and authenticity as a visual artist. I trusted he would help me create the pieces I had envisioned for this project, and he far exceeded my expectations. Steven guided me through this vulnerable yet empowering photoshoot, capturing me in a way that helps tell my story from start to finish through a visual medium. It was one of the best photoshoots I have ever done and these photos are now some of my favorites.

If you are interested in working with Steven, reach out to him via Instagram or email below.
Website: www.stevenjamesstudios.com
IG: @stevenjamesphotos
Email: Steven@stevenjamesstudios.com


Podcast Episode:

Listen to the sister project to this essay, my podcast episode “My Relationship with My Body and Food, Then & Now” on the ‘What’s the Pasta Podcast’ in which I tell this story through a different medium. Link here: https://whatsthepasta.buzzsprout.com/1530110/10747209

Breathwork

Breathwork has become one of my favorite meditation techniques to teach my clients and to practice for myself. Breathwork is an active meditation technique in which we practice a controlled breath, allowing us to enter a meditative state in order release stress, tension, and blocked energy from the body and mind while achieving a wide array of benefits.

Some benefits of breathwork include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased focus

Controlled breathwork techniques can achieve these benefits by calming the central nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and oxygenating the blood.  One recent study found that during breathwork exercises several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are active (source).  This suggests that the breath is a powerful tool for tapping into those brain regions to regulate stress and awareness.  More research is being conducted on breathwork and the findings are showing the benefits are not only psychological but also physiological and physical (source).

Now there are many different breathwork techniques with various origins and benefits.  In my opinion, no one technique is greater than the other – all just different tools we can use to achieve greater wellness in body and mind.  Below are a few of my favorite breathwork techniques with background, written instructions, and audio instructions.

Breathwork Techniques


Rest Breath

Benefits –

  • Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System
  • Reduces stress

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4, Exhale for 6
  • Repeat for 2 -10 minutes


Box Breath

Benefits –

  • Sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds – Exhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Ladder Breath

Benefits –

  • Clears mind and sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 1 – Exhale for 1 – Inhale for 2 – Exhale for 2 – Inhale for 3 – Exhale for 3 – Inhale for 4 – Exhale for 4
  • Begin again at 1 and work up to 4
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-4-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Releases stress and tension

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 4 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-7-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Calms the nervous system

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 7 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Interrupted Breath

Benefits –

  • Cooling effect
  • Quickly release tension and rest

Formula –

  • Take 3 quick inhales through your nose – Take 1 long exhale out of the mouth
  • Only repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Sun & Moon Breath

Benefits –

  • Balances left and right sides of the brain

Formula –

  • Plug right nostril and inhale through left nostril for 2-3 – Plug left nostril, open right nostril, and exhale through right nostril for 2-3 – Inhale right nostril for 2-3 – Plug right nostril, open left nostril, and exhale through left nostril for 2-3
  • Repeat for 1-2 minutes

3 Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)

Benefits –

  • Grounding breath
  • Increases oxygen flow
  • Inspires presence

Formula –

  • Inhale deeply to chest, then ribs, then belly – Exhale deeply from belly, then ribs, then chest
  • Repeat for 2-10 minutes


Enjoyed the information in this article? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share out into the world! Happy Breathing 🙂

Alternatives to Chaturanga Dandasana

As a Power Vinyasa Yoga instructor, I am well acquainted with the posture/transition Chaturanga Dandasana; well enough to have decided to have a restricted relationship with it.  Chaturanga Dandasana, also known as High to Low Plank which typically proceeds an Upward Facing Dog, is a challenging movement that indeed tests and strengthens shoulders, arms, chest, and upper back.  It is, however, a movement that requires proper form in order to be effective and not destructive.  Additionally, it is a transition that is often overused with many Power Vinyasa Yoga classes containing 25-30 Chaturangas or more per class.

 As yoga has risen in prominence and we have begun to apply more scientific theory and critical thought to the practice of yoga, we have discovered that the prominence of Chaturanga Dandasanas in Vinyasa Yoga can create complications for many practioncers, chief among them pain in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.  Why?

  • Compression – Chaturanga Dandasana and Upward Facing Dog together create a good amount of compression in the shoulders and wrists even when form is optimal.
  • Form – Suboptimal form when performing Chaturanga Dandasana equates to the straining of muscles, ligaments, and tendons leading to inflammation.  Unfortunately, many practioncers – even advanced students – do not have optimal form in Chaturanga Dandasana.  Even those who do have optimal form may begin to sacrifice that form once fatigue sets in after dozens of Chaturangas have been offered in the class.
  • Repetition – Too much repetition of ANY movement can result in injury and complication.  Science tells us that when we use parts of bodies in one particular way too often while neglecting to counterbalance with other movements it can create reoccurring stress which will manifest as inflammation and injury.

In a Power Vinyasa yoga class, we can have all of the above happening at once.  And if a practioncer is partaking in Chaturanga Dandasana bountiful yoga classes multiple times per week, the above complications will be amplified.

 And so myself and many other yoga instructors of migrated away from defaulting to Chaturanga Dandasana and instead opted for other transitions and postures.  Incorporating alternatives to Chaturanga comes with a multitude of benefits, chief among them:

  • Variety – Science tells us that moving in a variety of ways – Dynamic Movement – optimizes mobility and overall health by introducing vectors and forces that work to ensure the body is strong at every angle and capable of all types of movement as oppose to just a few.
  • Neuroplasticity – Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning and experience. When we present the brain with new movements to learn and experience, our brains work to carve out new neural pathways, and this helps to keep neuroplasticity optimized long term. (Yoga and dance are great practices for Neuroplasticity)
  • Presence – The introduction of various transitions and postures in a Vinyasa Yoga class inspires us to be more present in the practice because we are not following a familiar or even memorized routine and therefore cannot just go through the motions.
  • Fun! – It is both challenging and fun to try out different transitions and postures in the yoga class.

    Now, none of this is to say that Chaturanga Dandasana is wrong or bad.  After all, when used correctly Chaturanga Dandasana can also be dynamic movement.  However, knowing the complications Chaturanga Dandasana can present when being taught dozens of times, multiple days per week, I think it is advantageous for more Vinyasa Yoga instructors to offer alternatives. 

*Note: What about teaching Chaturanga Dandasana and giving students the option to skip the movement?
I have found that even when I offer this option, many students – particularly those that really do need a break from Chaturangas – will perform the movement out of habit or even ego.  And so, I typically opt to take Chaturanga Dandasana out of the equation.

Below are a few of my favorite Alternatives to Chaturanga Dandasana.  These Alternatives still provide a path back to Downward Facing Dog in the middle of a Vinyasa Flow whilst also offering new challenges and benefits.


Active Seal Pose

Arguably the best part of a Chaturanga Dandasna to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog combination is the Upward Facing Dog which stretches the chest and belly and strengthens the upper and middle back.  Active Seal provides the same frontal stretch and lateral strengthening but passes on the compression of Chaturanga Dandasana and the additional compression Upward Facing Dog places on the wrists. Additionally, this pose flows easily and seems like a natural path back to Downward Facing Dog.

How to:

From Plank Pose –

Inhale – Active Seal

  • Drop knees to the floor
  • Curl your heels to your glutes
  • Straighten your arms
  • Lift your chest

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Land your already tucked toes on the ground
  • Lift your hips up and back
  • Gaze between your feet

Core Stabilizers

I never want my students to feel as though they are missing out on a more challenging work out because of the absence of Chaturangas in my class. So I like to have my Chaturanga Alternatives provide challenges of their own. For me, Vinyasa Yoga is all about core work, and few things challenge the core more than these Core Stabilizers! Here again, this movement easily transitions to Downward Facing Dog.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Inhale – Core Stabilizer

  • Lift right arm forward and your left leg back
  • Square your hips to the ground
  • Pull your abdominals in
  • Shrug your right shoulder blade and your left glute towards on another

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Place your right hand and your left foot down
  • Lift your hips up and back

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Falling Star

This sequence is sure to challenge you and your students with upper body and core work! As a more complex string of movements, this is a fantastic one for neuroplasticity.

How to:

From Lunge or Plank Pose

Inhale – One Legged High Plank

  • Lift your right leg up and back

Exhale – Knee across body

  • Draw your right knee to your left elbow

Exhale – Falling Star

  • Extend your right leg out to the side
  • Turn your hips and chest up
  • Reach your left arm up

Inhale

Exhale – Bring your left hand down

Inhale – 3 Legged Dog

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Windshield Wiper Drills

Sometimes in place of Chaturanga Dandasana, I like to offer a muscle action drill which trains the body in strength and stamina. This sequence is sure to challenge you and your students with upper body and core work! As a more complex string of movements, this is a fantastic one for neuroplasticity.

How to:

From Lunge or Plank Pose

Inhale – One Legged High Plank

•           Lift your right leg up and back

Exhale – Knee across body

•           Draw your right knee to your left elbow

Inhale – Draw your knee to your right elbow

Exhale – Back to the left elbow

Repeat the movement several times

Inhale – 3 Legged Dog

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Side Plank with Extended Bottom Leg

Plank to Side Plank to Down Dog is a challenging and smooth sequence of postures on its own. Now add in the extension of the bottom leg in Side Plank and you have a smooth transition with a major core challenge in it! This is a great chain of movements to incorporate into a class with an oblique focus.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Inhale – Side Plank

  • Power down into your right hand
  • Roll open to the left
  • Stack your hips and shoulders
  • Reach your left hand up to the sky

Exhale – Extend Bottom Leg

  • Kick your right leg out to the side and hover it from the ground

Inhale – Reach your left arm

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Land your left hand
  • Square your shoulders and hips down
  • Send your right foot back
  • Lift your hips up and back

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Sphinx Pose

Sphinx is one of my favorite poses for stretching the front line of the body and strengthening the back line of the body. Using this in place of a Chaturanga Dandasana-Upward Facing Dog-Downward Facing Dog sequence is not as quick, but it is effective and feels great.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Exhale – Forearm Plank

  • Lower down to your forearms
  • Bring your elbows underneath your shoulders
  • Bring your arms parallel like the number 11

Inhale – Sphinx Pose

  • Lower your hip bones to the ground
  • Untuck your toes
  • Lift your chest
  • Gaze forward and down
  • Breathe here for a couple rounds of breath

Exhale – Forearm Plank

  • Tuck your toes
  • Lift your hips in line with your shoulders

Inhale – Plank Pose

  • Plant one hand down at a time under your shoulders
  • Straighten your arms

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Lift your hips up and back


View all tutorials in 1 video here –

Conclusion

These are just a few poses, transitions, and sequences you can use in place of Chaturanga Dandasana to offer new challenges for body and mind.  Again, I do not wish to demonize Chaturanga Dandasana. We can absolutely still do and teach Chaturanga Dandasana, we can even still do Chaturanga Dandasana heavy classes from time to time, it still has a place in our lives.  I simply offer the science that incorporating other varieties of movements into our practices and teachings is advantageous and the opinion that doing so can be fun too!

Did you enjoy learning these Alternatives to Chaturanga? Do you have others you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

*Disclaimer – While I believe all of these yoga postures and transitions to be safe, I take no responsibility for any injuries or ailments sustained for practicing them. If you practice, you practice at your own risk.

The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast

I am excited to announce the launch of my new podcast – The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast!⁣

To quote my intro jingle “The podcast where the pasta of the day could be anything and everything from thoughtful discussions of wellness & spirit to candid conversations about culture & life. All served with a cup of mindfulness and a side of sass!”⁣

‘The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast’ is now available on Spotify and iTunes which you can access via the buttons below. If interested, please listen, rate, review, and subscribe as well as share with your friends!⁣

I sincerely hope you enjoy what I have to offer with this new venture. Thank you for all of the support!

3 Year Anniversary of the Leap

3 years ago today, I left my full-time career as a digital marketing manager to pursue a career of my design comprised of yoga and meditation, mindfulness and wellness, and the craft of writing.  Teaching yoga and mindfulness, engaging in the wellness world, and writing were all deep passions of mine that I had been doing on the side part-time whilst working full-time in the marketing realm for nearly 6 years.  Finally, I reached a point where I realized I would never be fulfilled being a full-time marketing manager or eventual executive.  It became crystalline clear that in order to be fulfilled I profoundly needed to teach and to write and to see the direct impact of my work on other humans.  And so, I leapt from the stability of my marketing career into the unstable, riveting gig economy.

Me running away from the corporate world

Since then, I have taught thousands of yoga classes, led multiple yoga teacher training programs, taught hundreds of meditations and mindfulness workshops, written hundreds of articles, pages, and posts, become a ‘micro-influencer’ and a somewhat working model, and met hundreds of beautiful, inspired humans and have had greater opportunity to work with and befriend them.

It has not always been easy.  Leaving my marketing career meant leaving a perfectly steady paycheck, employee covered insurance, perks, and more.  I have still worked in the marketing world taking on consulting and project jobs as means of supplementing my income.  (And to be clear, I am grateful for any marketing job I have had and have great friends from those jobs who I would still work with in some capacity!)  Especially in 2020, having a career like mine has been incredibly stressful and continues to be uncertain.  

My current work attire

Still, I would not change the last 3 years for anything.  For in these years of doing the work that I love and building a life that is more on my terms, I have felt myself blossom into the best version of myself.  It is this version of myself who has been able to help more people, learn and grow abundantly, and connect with so many wonderful humans.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of and supported my journey.  Now, let’s continue forward together!

Seeing the Multitudes in Others

Recently I have been bringing more awareness to how I and those around me describe and categorize others.  It has been interesting, and sometimes concerning, to see how an adjective can suddenly become a defining component of someone’s entire identity when assigned to them by another.  Certainly it is not news to anyone that our society has an affinity for labels, boxes, and color codes.  Our collective tendency for discrimination and prejudice based on these affinities has and continues to create problems and cause harm.  And as many of us seek to become less judgmental and exclusive and instead become more empathetic and inclusive, we must become more mindful about how we think and speak about others; even and especially those that stand on the opposite of us on various issues and beliefs.  For the truth is that one or two adjectives cannot accurately describe anyone, for everyone contain multitudes.

“She is just basic.”
“He is a problematic man.”
“She is just crazy liberal.”
“He is an ignorant republican.”

These are just a few examples of statements I have recently heard those around me speak about others.  And I confess, I am guilty of thinking and speaking about others in much the same way.  As I reflect on these descriptive, categorical statements, what strikes me about them is not necessarily the use of any one of the words, but rather the finality and permanence with which they were spoken.  As if “basic” or “problematic” accurately sums up the entirety of those people’s beings.  Of course, we know on some level that these people must be more complex than just being basic or problematic, right?  True – she might be “basic” in that she is an average woman who enjoys popular things, but she is also probably a loving daughter/sister/mother/etc., she probably has worthy talents, and she probably cares deeply about something important in the world.  Sure – he might be a man who says and/or does “problematic” things, but he also probably is a loving son/brother/father/etc., he probably has respectable skills, and he probably has and does try to do some good in the world. 

While it may be accurate to describe her as basic and him as problematic in some respects, is it not unjust to reduce them as people to being only such?  Is it not wrong to deny their other admirable qualities?  Is it not cruel to not give them the opportunity to be more?  These are the considerations that I have been meditating on as I catch myself labeling and categorizing others.  These considerations may or may not change the verbiage of the statements, but will change how they are spoken.  I may still think or say “She is basic,” but the way in which I say it does not cancel out her other admirable qualities nor does it solidify with finality that “basic” is all she is or ever could be. 

 Personally, I am striving to edit the way these statements are spoken to allow for more consideration and respect. For example:

“In some ways, she is basic.”
“He can be problematic.” or  “He does have problematic tendencies.”

I feel that when I think and speak in this way, I am finding a balance between honoring my own perspectives and opinions and allowing space for the people I am speaking about to be more than just the adjectival labels I have attributed to them.  At once, I am affirming in my eyes that he or she is this or that, but also recognizing that he or she also contains multitudes.  For me, this seems more respectful, more empathetic, and leaves open space to foster conversation and connection, even between two people who may oppose each other. 

Now, there are of course individuals in the world who seemingly can be summarized with strong adjectives and harsh statements.  We know there are people whose entire beings are consumed with negative and evil qualities and they do not deserve any considerations.  However, these people are the exception.  I would argue that the rule is most people are dynamic, multifaceted beings that are capable of being many things at one time and have the great potential for change and evolution.  I believe that in order to cultivate authentic connections, have honest conversations, and share different perspectives, harboring consideration and respect for each other without harsh discrimination and permanent condemnation is of the utmost importance.  Imagine if each of us looked at and listened to each other through the lens that everyone, no matter who, contains multitudes.  How much deeper would those authentic connections be?  How much more productive would those honest conversations be?  How much more could we grasp and understand others’ perspectives to then work toward mutual agreements?  

To be clear, this is not to say that we go through life with rose colored glasses on, bypass conflicts, and blindly hope for the best.  Absolutely, we must continue to call out harmful behaviors, demand change for the betterment of the collective, and engage in disagreements and conflicts as they arise.  All I offer is that as we do so, we allow the space for connection, growth, and grace by staying rooted in the knowledge that all of us contain multitudes and each of us has a role to play as we navigate this lifetime.

Fun Yoga Transitions 2

Creatively sequencing challenging and fun vinyasa flow yoga classes is one of my favorite parts of my job as a yoga instructor.  For me, sequencing is both art and science – artistically choreographing movements while scientifically choosing postures and exercises that safely and effectively fulfill a purpose. 

In my 2019 article Fun Yoga Transitions, I shared some of the different, unique transitions I sometimes incorporate between yoga postures to create a diverse, challenging, and fun yoga flow class.  That article has become my most viewed post on Johnny La Pasta and I humbly continue to receive positive feedback from other yoga instructors who have found success in using those transitions in their own classes.

Now, I present to you Fun Yoga Transitions 2 in which I am sharing even more transitions I have been enjoying teaching and I think perhaps you will too!


Chair Vertical Twist Kick to Crescent Lunge

This transition challenges balance and coordination.  While it may be a complex move, it feels intuitive, dance-y, and fun!

How to:

From Chair Pose –

Exhale  – Chair Vertical Twist Kick

  • Sweep your Right arm back, reach your Left Arm Forward
  • Kick your Left heel up
  • Balance on your Right Leg

Inhale – Crescent Lunge

  • Send your Left foot to the back of your mat and land your toes
  • Circle your Right arm down, forward, and up
  • Turn your torso forward

Reverse Rights and Lefts when repeated on second side.


Half Splits to Revolved Low Lunge

This is a great low to the ground transition that links a great hamstring stretch (half splits) with a core strengthening twist (revolved low lunge) and therefore preps two key areas for a continued sequence. I enjoy using this transition at the beginning of a Sun Salutation B flow that will present further exercises for the hamstrings and the core.

How to:

From Half Splits

Inhale – Revolved Low Lunge

  • Lunge forward and plant your hands
  • Lift your back knee from the ground
  • Sweep your Right/Left arm forward and up

Revolved Low Lunge to Wide Legged Forward Fold

This is another transition that feels dance-y and fluid.  Additionally, it is a great transition for keeping low to the floor for classes focusing on grounding and foundation!

How to:

From Revolved Low Lunge

Exhale – Wide Legged Forward Fold

  • Sweep your top arm forward and down
  • Spin on your feet and turn your toes to the Right/Left edge of your mat
  • Walk your hands over to the side and place them underneath your shoulders
  • Allow your head to hang heavy

Revolved Crescent Lunge to Prayer Twist to Revolved One Legged Mountain

This has become one of my favorite chains of postures! This sequence is the ultimate challenge to core and balance requiring complete presence and concentration.

How to:

From Revolved Crescent Lunge

  • Inhale breath – Gaze down at your front foot and shift your weight forward

Exhale – Prayer Twist

  • Step your back foot up to meet your front foot
  • Sit your hips down below your shoulders
  • Maintain the twist in your torso
  • Inhale breath
  • Exhale shift the weight to your Right/Left foot

Inhale – Revolved 1 Legged Mountain

  • Slowly straighten your Right/Left leg
  • Lift your Right/Left knee up
  • Maintain the elbow to knee connection as you rise up

To Reverse – From Revolved 1 Legged Mountain

Exhale – Prayer Twist

  • Bend your standing leg and slowly lower your lifted toes to meet your grounded toes
  • Maintain the twist in your torso

Inhale – Shift the weight into your Right/Left foot

Exhale – Revolved Crescent Lunge

  • Step your Left/Right foot back
  • Maintain the twist in your torso

Low Lunge to Extended Side Angle

This is a different path to entering Extended Side Angle.  As oppose to coming down into Extended Side Angle from a Warrior 2 or a Reverse Warrior, this transition calls to move up into Extended Side Angle and thus utilize our muscles in a new way to enter the posture. The “Exhale – Lift your torso up by 4 inches until your side body is long” also provides a core challenge and capitalizes on the importance of a long side in this posture.

How to:

From Low Lunge

  • Bring your Right/Left hand to the inside of your front foot

Inhale – Extended Side Angle

  • Spin your back heel down
  • Roll your hips and chest open to the side
  • Lift your Right/Left hand to the sky
  • Exhale – lift your torso up by four inches until your Right/Left side body is long

Low Lunge to One Legged High Plank to Falling Star

Most often when we come down into a Low Lunge from a Reverse Warrior, Warrior 1, etc. we step our front foot back and move through a Chaturanga Dandasana.  This transition offers a fun alternative that challenges upper body and core in a way that is more dynamic than a typical Chaturanga.

How to:

From Low Lunge

Inhale – 1 Legged High Plank

  • Shoot your Right/Left Foot back
  • Hover your toes from the ground
  • Keep your hips in line with your shoulders

Exhale – Bring your Right/Left knee across your body to your opposite elbow

Inhale – Falling Star

  • Extend your Right/Left foot out to the side
  • Push down into your Right/Left hand
  • Lift your hips, chest, and Left/Right hand up to the sky

One Legged Mountain to Half Moon

This has become my favorite way to enter into Half Moon. Most often, we move into Half Moon from a Warrior 2 or an Extended Side Angle which requires us to launch forward and up by straightening our standing leg, lifting our back leg up, and finding length in our torso.  In this transition, the standing leg is already straight and we are already balanced one the one leg so we just have to focus on the rest of the posture.

How to:

From 1 Legged Mountain

Inhale – Open your Right/Left knee out to the side

Exhale – Half Moon

  • Kick your lifted foot back
  • Hinge forward and bring your Right/Left fingers down to a block
  • Roll your Right/Left hip and shoulder over your Left/Right hip and shoulder
  • Lift your Left/Right hand up to the sky

View all tutorials in 1 video here –

I hope you have enjoyed learning these transitions and posture chains. Try them on in your own practice and in your teaching. Let me know how these work for you in the comments below!

*Disclaimer – While I believe all of these yoga postures and transitions to be safe, I take no responsibility for any injuries or ailments sustained for practicing them. If you practice, you practice at your own risk.

California Power Bowls

I am truly Californian – born and raised at the beach, a lover of summer, a practitioner of yoga and meditation, and a lover of fresh, healthy cuisine.  Most of my food is inspired by the Mediterranean and created with a California sensibility.  My California Power Bowls are a prime example of this – a perfect blend of Mediterranean and Californian ingredients and flavors designed to at once satisfy the nutritional needs of an active lifestyle and the desires of the taste buds.

These bowls have everything going for them – tuna for lean protein, quinoa and brown rice pasta for complex carb fuel, greens and veggies for vitamins, fiber, and hydration, and avocado and avocado oil based dressing for heart healthy fats.  They are satisfying without being too filling, cooling and hydrating, and of course, tasty as hell!

The dressing I like to use for these bowls is Primal Kitchen’s Ranch DressingPrimal Kitchen produces salad dressings, mayos, marinades, and sauces all made from real food, organic ingredients without the nonsense you find in many other store bought options.  While many store bought dressings, mayos, and the like are made with refined oils like canola oil, Primal Kitchen’s products are made with avocado oil which is a superior oil rich in good fatty acids and vitamins.  All Primal Kitchen products are Paleo and Keto friendly and they have Vegan options as well.  Their ranch dressings have all the savory, cool flavors of classic ranch without the dairy and other processed ingredients and are the perfect topping for my California Power Bowls.  Order Primal Kitchen here!

Now, let’s make the California Power Bowls –


California Power Bowls
featuring Primal Kitchen’s Ranch Dressing

Serves: 1 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • ½ can to 1 can of tuna in olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups salad greens
  • ½ cup tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup cucumber, chopped
  •  ¼  cup red onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup quinoa, brown rice, or other gluten-free pasta, cooked and chilled
  • ½ medium avocado
  • 2 tablespoons Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing

Directions:

Assemble ingredients tuna through pasta side by side in a large bowl.  Drizzle with Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing.  Top with avocado.  Eat and enjoy!


Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad

I love a good pasta salad, especially during summertime. A savory, chilled pasta salad is one of my go-to dishes for contributing to summer parties. A couple of years back I was invited to a summer gathering at which I knew several people with dietary restrictions would be in attendance – a few vegans, a couple of gluten-frees, and a paleo-er. I wanted to make a dish that all of these guests could eat, and that is when I came up with this Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad.

This Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad has everything going for it: it’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, it’s paleo-friendly, it’s veggie-full, it’s savory flavorful, and it’s cooling for the summer season. Make this recipe to share at summer bbqs and potlucks or for yourself to enjoy as a meal-prep lunch for several days. Bon appetito!


Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad

Serves: 4-12 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup roasted or fresh red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup vegan pesto (I use Trader Joe’s Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional:
    • Add 1 cup chickpeas for protein (makes recipe not paleo)
    • Add vegan feta or mozzarella cheese (may make recipe not paleo)

Directions:

Spiralize the zucchini and spread the noodles out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the noodles with the salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes. The salt will draw excess water out of the zucchini. Squeeze the noodles over a strainer in the sink until most of the water is released. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss well. Add remaining ingredients and toss well again. Serve and enjoy!


Visuals :


Spiralizers:

I have a Cuisinart CTG-00-SPI Spizalizer which can be purchased for under $40 here:

There are many other models out there at various price points for your selection. Search and find the best one for you!


Let me know my Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad goes for you! Cmment below and/or tag me on Instagram @johnnylapasta

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