Tag Archives: health

How to Not Lose It This Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is upon us and ready to kick off the holiday season! I love Thanksgiving for all that it is: a time to gather with friends and family, practice gratitude for the big and the small, and of course, a time to feast! Thanksgiving is the tastiest of holidays, and I embrace every part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal; and I am definitely not the only one who loves this feast so much.

24304 Betty Crocker's Guide to Your First Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, I have found that many people harbor a great deal of anxiety around this meal because of its nature of being much heavier than we are used to eating on a normal basis. A lot of people feel that the indulgences of a traditional Thanksgiving meal are detrimental to their weight and shape. Furthermore, many people see Thanksgiving as the start of a generally feast and treat heavy season, and that it might be easier to simply give up on trying to maintain healthy weight, shape, and eating practices by indulging from Thanksgiving on through New Year’s, all the while beating up on themselves mentally and emotionally the entire time about any bodily changes that may occur.

I have been someone who has over indulged on Thanksgiving, hated myself for it, then threw in the towel for the rest of the holiday season, continued to over indulge, and treated myself poorly in my mind the entire way. This is not healthy and it truly does not serve anyone. People, we celebrate with food. We should be able to enjoy that food. And there are ways to enjoy that food without undoing our “gains”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all about moderation. If you can practice moderation in the treats and feasts that arrive with and after Thanksgiving, you can feel fulfilled in partaking in the tasty joys of the season without undoing your shape and treating yourself unkindly for it.

So, I wanted to give you a few tips for “How to Not Lose It This Thanksgiving”; how to not undo your healthy eating completely, how to not undo your shape, and how to not undo your mind by being mean to yourself for enjoying your life!

Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy –

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It’s Thanksgiving. This is a time to indulge a bit, eat more carbs, eat more butter, and the like. Premise yourself to eat these foods and allow yourself to savor and enjoy them. Give yourself permission to be present when eating the meal without worrying about the consequences, because really there are none.

Exercise –

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Try and get some type of movement and sweat in. This will allow your body to use some of the food that you do eat to replenish excess spent calories and to restore your muscles. Plan on the exercising the following day as well to give yourself a burn after you’ve indulged.

Eat Breakfast and Snacks –

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A lot of people make the mistake of starving themselves before Thanksgiving dinner. This is wrong for a couple of reasons: 1. You are going to feel even hungrier when you sit down to eat the feast, so you are probably going to eat even more and 2. Your body goes into starvation mode after not eating for more than 4 hours, so when you do eat at Thanksgiving dinner, it is going to store the excess calories as fat because it is concerned it isn’t going to be fed again for a long time. It is better to have a healthy breakfast and some snacks leading up to the feast so that your metabolism stays active and working. Try my Frittata for a protein and vegetable packed breakfast and snack on vegetables and hummus leading up to dinner.

Have a bit of everything –

Homemade Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner

Make a plate with all the Thanksgiving foods. Don’t avoid anything, don’t overload on anything. Simply serve yourself a few bites worth of each Thanksgiving dish. Then eat slowly and savor each bite for the different flavors that they offer.

Allow yourself some seconds –

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It’s common place to have seconds at Thanksgiving, right? Of course, this can quickly turn into a whole second heavy meal. Rather than filling up your plate again, simply allow yourself 2-3 more bites of 2-3 of your favorites rather than each dish. For example, my favorites are stuffing, yams, and green bean casserole, so I will allow myself 2-3 more bites worth of each of those dishes, but pass on additional turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, etc.

Small Slices of Pie –

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It isn’t Thanksgiving without pie; you just can’t skip it. And typically, there are 3-4 pies at a Thanksgiving feast. Rather than having a slice of each, have small slices of each so that when you put them all together, it really is just like 1 normal serving slice of pie. This way, you get all the flavors of the different pies, but just the calories of a normal slice.

Hydrate –

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Staying hydrated before and after the meal really helps. If you are hydrated before the meal, you are likely to be less hungry and therefore desire to eat less. If you hydrate after the meal, you are helping to combat your body’s reaction to the higher amount of sodium you’ve just in took which will help to minimize bloating.

Give Thanks –

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This is the point of Thanksgiving; we feast and we give thanks. Instead of focusing on the indulgence of the food, focus on why you are sitting down to eat that food and how that food is part of a celebration of recognizing our many blessings. As long as this is the main focus behind your meal, it makes it that much easier to enjoy it and then move on from it peacefully.

So those are my tips for how to not lose it this Thanksgiving! Remember to sip, savor, and enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving my friends!

Let It Go

I recently happened across an inspirational quote that truly spoke to me:

“You’ve done your best today, now let it go.”

A simple sentence with a deep and impactful meaning, one that I very much needed to read, and feel many others could benefit from as well.

Like many, I have an extremely busy life: full-time job (the American version, not the French or Swedish version, meaning over 40 hours per week as oppose to under 36 – get on board USA), a second job (teaching yoga), this blog (the writing and the social media management that comes with it), a household to run, an elderly dog to care for, and dedications to my family, friends, and interests. My plate is very full, sometimes to the point where I doubt my ability to manage all of it. In recent months, I have found myself struggling to keep up with all of my commitments and responsibilities, often feeling overwhelmed and drained.

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Mantra Intention

In many of the yoga classes taught today, you will probably find that many instructors encourage the class to “set an intention” for the practice. This setting of the intention is typically done within the first minutes of class and can either be specifically assigned by the instructor or left open for the student. The inspiration behind the use of intention in certain schools of yoga is that said intention becomes a point of focus for the mind along with the breath to keep it stable and steady as well as dedicating energy to the manifestation or strengthening of the intention; in this way, the yoga practice becomes more than just a physical practice, but a moving meditation on various levels. For me, the fact that we do set an intention, something to mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually focus on along with the physical postures and movements is what makes yoga so magical and I why I love it so deeply.

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All that being said, it can be deeply challenging to choose an intention for your yoga practice and even more difficult to hold onto that intention throughout the class. Once you get going in the practice, it is very easy for the focus on the intention dwindle or even complete drop off. You may find yourself going over your to-do lists and what you need from the grocery store, or you may simply find yourself consumed by the physical efforts that are required of your body in the physical practice. Before you know it, class is cooling down and you never focused on your intention after the first sun salutation. This is completely normal and nothing to beat yourself up over – practice ahimsa (non-violence) – but obviously, we do want to work toward being able to hold our minds on an intention to strengthen our focus and the subject of the intention itself.

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Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am starting a new series on this blog called “Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!” which I will be publishing every other week or so. The intention behind my roundup is share links to other online material for your weekend browsing that I found interesting, informational, and otherwise inspiring that hopefully you will as well since we are all like-minded people here!

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 12, 2016!

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Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

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8 Things Fit People Do

Being the yoga instructor, #healthyfoodporn hashtag using Instagram cook, and lifestyle blogger that I am, I often receive a lot of questions about how to get fit and stay fit. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers come to me for my advice on how they can achieve greater health. I offer my tips and tricks like in the blog post here, and I always always always stand firm with my belief that being fit is about creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself that you can sustain over a long period of time rather than a quick fix diet or work out program. Also important, I always remind that a pant/dress size or scale number does not equivocate good health, but rather an overall feeling of wellness and ability.

All that being said, people still want to know how us-in-shape-people do it. I know lots of in shape people, and most of us have several things in common with the way we live our lives. So, I will share those with you now so that maybe you can see what we do and if those things appear to be ones you can do in your own life.

1. We prepare much of our own food

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Fit people still go out, fit people still get take out; but fit people also buy whole food ingredients and cook/prep many to the majority of our own meals. By purchasing quality ingredients and handling the preparation of them, we are able to control the amounts of fat, sodium, sugar, etc. in our food as well as manage our portions. It’s just an integral part of the lifestyle. It means carving out time to shop for the groceries, cook, and pack the food; it means hella Tupperware and a messy kitchen, but you feel great, often saves money, and it can be more flavorful too!

I have looked into the flames….

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…And I see Rubbermaid in your future!

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2. We make exercise a priority –

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It’s true; fit people make getting in movement an absolute priority in our day. I hear a lot of excuses along the lines of “I just don’t have time,” and that very well may be if you are just hoping for a random hour to open up in your day so you can fit a sweat in. The fact is, no matter how busy fit people are, they schedule the time for exercise in and rarely negotiate about it. It sometimes means getting up an hour earlier to make it to a before sunrise yoga or aerobics class or having lunch at your desk so you can squeeze in a gym sesh or spin class over your lunch break, but fit people will make it happen no matter what. Why? Because it makes us feel strong, it makes us feel good, and it makes us healthier and happier the rest of the time! The sacrifice of an hour is well worth it.

3. We drink tons of water –

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We are very blessed in the Western world to have access to clean running water. As much fun as water slides are, a much better use for all that water is using it for hydration! Hydration comes with many various health benefits including aiding digestion, purifying internally, releasing water retention and bloating, and even revving up metabolism. Fit people end up sweating a lot, and so we need a lot of water to replenish, and when we get it, our bodies are the happiest!

4. We sleep –

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Fit people make sure to get ample rest and sleep; when you’re active, it is important to allow your body to recuperate on the daily. A lot of us might be considered grandmas in that we choose to turn in early so that we can catch a full 7-8 hours, but here again, we make it a priority and it feels so good!

5. We are active in our free time –

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A lot of fit people choose hobbies and activities in their free time that involve getting outdoors and moving, and they genuinely enjoy it. Here again, it is all part of the lifestyle! For me, I enjoy taking my dog to the park after work or going on a Saturday hike, some people enjoy surfing in the mornings or playing football in the park on a weekend afternoon. These are all activities enjoyed in addition to normal exercise and movement that we simply find fun and fulfillment in while also being active and getting fresh air.

6. We eat, a lot –

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Yes, we prepare much of our own food, yes we control our portion sizes, but that doesn’t mean we are eating just kale and orange segments. Healthy people eat every few hours and make sure to get plenty of good foods with lots of nutrition. Starving yourself for 10 hours straight does not equal health, feeding yourself nutritionally rich foods every 2-4 hours usually does. Which would you choose?

7. We say no –

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Sad Panda, but sometimes we have to say no. Sometimes we turn down the slice of cake if we’ve been having too much sugar or we opt for the chicken and vegetables rather than the burger if we’ve been going to town on the carbs and salt. This is NOT to say you can never have the cake or the burger, but you have to check in with yourself and see what is going to make you FEEL the best, and sometimes that means saying no.

Here’s a sad Panda for you

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8. We say YES!

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Living a life of strict eating patterns that never permits a little indulgence is not fun or sustainable. It is important to enjoy what life puts on the plate for you, and sometimes that is a big pizza or brownie Sunday. Don’t be afraid to indulge and enjoy: make sure to treat yourself! Complete deprivation is not the goal here, its balance. Your dessert Monday through Thursday might’ve been a small piece of dark chocolate, but on Friday go ahead and have the Pizookie! You are golden! I live by an 80%/20% rule: 80% of the time I eat those traditionally healthier choices, 20% of the time I eat whatever the hell I want without apologies! So eat up me hearties yo-ho!

So, those are some of the things us “fit” people do. But remember, even if you are starting a new fitness journey, be kind to yourself and love yourself as you are now and along every step of the way!

Why Meatless Monday?

Ciao friends! If you read this blog and/or follow me on social media, then you will know that I am a big supporter of the Meatless Monday movement that is taking the globe. This past month, the folks behind all the vegetarian magic at Meatless Monday reached out to me and have made Johnny La Pasta (that’s me!) an official representative of Meatless Monday!

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So, today, I want to talk to you a little bit more about Meatless Monday, why I practice it, and why you should try it out!

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Many reasons!

So what is Meatless Monday? It is a simple movement aiming to inspire the world to cut their meat consumption completely one day a week for our bodies and for the planet. The statistics around the benefits of what going meatless one day a week does and can do are frankly astounding.

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Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

As you may be aware, I have recently become entranced by the fantastic vegetable that is cauliflower and all the vegan sorcery you can perform with it. Remember when I made Cauliflower Steak and highlighted the basic technique for turning a head of Cauliflower into a steak? Well, Oops I did it again, and this time got fancy!

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with the Cauliflower.

This is my original Cauliflower Steak Marsala, which I am very proud to have developed. Inspired by Italian restaurant staple Chicken Marsala and steakhouse classic Steak Marsala, I have created a vegan friendly version of these beloved dishes.

I cut a head of cauliflower into steak looking slices, season them well as you would a piece of meat, and bake them to a crisp tenderness that possesses a meaty texture which I then effectively use to replace chicken or beef. Then I concoct a near traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. Since there is no meat, I have built the sauce to be even richer in flavor than the traditional with a few heartier components. My vegan Marsala sauce includes sweet caramelized onions for another added layer of flavor and texture. Rather than using cremini or button mushrooms, I use strips of hearty, meaty Portobello mushrooms to make the meal more substantial. I add thyme and garlic for an earthy note to contrast the sweetness of the wine.

i love magic

Vegan Magic!

Lastly, I have come up with another piece of vegan magic! Most marsala wine sauces call for butter to thicken the sauce, which is great because…butter. Butter, however, is not vegan and quickly adds another couple hundred calories of fat to the dish. Instead, I puree cannellini beans which are buttery in texture and taste, and add a bit to the sauce. The pureed beans dissolve into the sauce which not only thickens the sauce, but gives it a nice silky smooth texture just like a traditional Marsala sauce.

The result is a rich, hearty, and gourmet meal that is 100% vegan! Serve with your favorite vegetable sides and you will blow your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike away! I am super proud of how this development turned out and I hope you enjoy it too!

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pureed cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Slice the head of cauliflower into 1 ½ inch steaks. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with half the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, Herbs de Provence, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake additional 15 minutes, until the upward facing side of the cauliflower is browned and crisped.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Note* Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan if onions start to stick or burn. Add the mushroom strips and season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become tender and browned. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala wine and stock to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to reduce for 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce until dissolved and the sauce becomes thick and silky.

Plate the cauliflower steaks and spoon over the sauce to cover the steaks. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve!

Note: The sauce is also good for more than Cauliflower. Grill, bake, or sauté chicken, steak, or salmon and add the same sauce over the top for a carnivorous with marsala dish with an even healthier sauce!

Note: I have only made this recipe for 2, but you could easily double or triple the recipe as needed.

Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

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YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

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Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

 

Saucha and the Spring

In yoga, we practice principles called the Yamas and Niyamas. These principles are essentially positive codes to live by – I often refer to them as the 10 Commandments of Yoga. Back in November around Thanksgiving time, I discussed Santosha, which translates to contentment or gratitude, and is one of the Niyamas. For that post, please click here. Today, I am moving onto another of the Niyamas: Saucha.

From Sanskrit, Saucha translates to “cleanliness” or “purity”, and it applies to many different facets of our lives. Saucha is a concept, or in the definition of a Niyama – a positive duty – that I have come to value a great deal. When we talk about Saucha, we talk about cleanliness in our environments, in our bodies, and in our mental and spiritual spaces as well. The big idea is that when we regularly purify and keep clean these different areas of our lives, it allows us to live in our best health physically and emotionally, which then allow us to more freely pursue our spiritual journeys.

So what does it mean to practice Saucha in these various corners of our lives? Let’s break down.

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The practice of Saucha in environment means a few different things. The first is keeping clean our immediate living spaces; yes, this means cleaning your room, organizing your cubicle, clearing out the fridge every so often, and so forth. We need to have clean spaces to live and operate in, when we have our immediate environments clean and tidy, it allows us to operate more efficiently and healthfully which allows the mind to reflect that state of purity and order as well. Friends of mine have commented on how impeccable I keep my room and how I seem to be quite diligent about cleaning my apartment; this is because I really value having a nice, clean space for myself to live in and especially at home rest in.

Beyond our immediate living spaces, Saucha in relation to environment also means working to keep a clean community and ultimately world. Saucha would encourage us to adopt sustainable practices, to not litter, when we see litter to have a hand in helping to pick it up and dispose of it properly. For me, this means lending a helping hand every so often at a beach clean-up through my yoga studio, it also means being more diligent about recycling and actively working to reduce my plastic consumption, and at the very least, it means not littering myself. If we can all work to practice Saucha on a larger scale through small individualized means, it can equate to a cleaner and purer Earth for all, which is very important at this time.

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The practice of Saucha in the body is much what you would think it be: taking care of your body, your temple. Saucha in the body means nourishing your body with whole foods, providing it with the necessary amount of sleep, moving it to keep its internal functions working well, sweating to cleanse from within. In many ways, this is the simplest part of the practice of Saucha; we all know that we should strive to take good care of ourselves, but it’s often an area we fall flat in. Once you practice taking good care of your body, however, it is amazing the difference you feel; and that eventually translates from a physical space to a mental and emotional one as well.

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That is the perfect transition into the final practice of Saucha; Saucha in the mind space. This area of the practice is a bit more challenging, and one could argue it is a bit subjective as well. The way I look at the practice of Saucha when it comes to the mind is cleaning out and releasing old thought patterns and mentalities and generally negative thoughts that are not serving in the present. Sometimes, we mentally cling to old ideas or ways of thinking about or working out happenings in our lives; when they no longer serve us, it is time to let them go and embrace new types of thoughts that are positive and do serve us. Just as it is important to regularly clean your bathroom and detox your body, it is also equally important to tend to the mind and emotions in such a way as well, constantly cleaning out so that nothing potent grows and always making space for good and light to come in.

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As we transition into Spring, we enter into a season of cleaning, a season of Saucha. We resew and water the garden, we deep clean our homes, and we reorganize the disarrayed garage. This is a great time to reconnect with the idea of Saucha, recognize how good it feels to practice it, and then make a commitment to regularly practice Saucha more often throughout your daily life. Clean space, clean body, clean mind – feeling clean typically means feeling good and who doesn’t want to feel good all of the time?