Singing Bird Holistic Health Coaching

Tricks for Staying Healthy on the Road

PeppermintOilLemon

Having just gotten back from a weeklong trip to San Antonio, and about to embark on a 2-day road trip, I realized how tricky it can be to stay healthy on the road. And I only travel every now and again! I know some of you are real road warriors, traveling for two to three weeks every month. These are the simple tricks that I use to stay as healthy as I can when traveling:

  1. Pack snacks for the plane/car – Airport food is plain disgusting and overpriced. Airplane food is hardly any better. And if you have ever driven cross-country you know that the roadside attractions can leave much to be desired. Prepare for your trip by packing some healthy snacks that can double as a light meal. A few ideas:
    1. Make your own trail mix! Add in some almonds, pecans, coconut flakes, maybe even some cacao nibs. This snack is packed with protein to keep you going for the long haul.
    2. Veggies and hummus or nut butter. Pre-cut some vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, celery, broccoli for example), put them into little plastic baggies. Dip those little puppies in some delicious hummus or nut butter for a quick and easy snack.
  1. Bring along some supplements – I always pack my favorite supplements to take with me whenever I go anywhere. I don’t leave home without my high quality fish oil, multivitamin, and probiotic. Also, when traveling I like to take some extra vitamin C and two capsules of oil of oregano per day to help support my immune system. You are surrounded by a bunch of new people in small, enclosed spaces, so help your body fight off invaders as much as possible!
  1. Drink lots of water – It’s easy to get dehydrated in our normal life and that likelihood expands exponentially when traveling. Airplane air. Celebratory cocktails. An extra cup of joe to help you power through the jetlag. Make sure that you are getting at least eight 8 ounce glasses of water everyday. If you are going somewhere the tap water is safe to drink, I recommend bringing a water bottle with you. That will help you to keep track of how much you are drinking and you will always have it on hand if you get thirsty.
  1. Warm lemon water – I start my day at home with warm lemon water, and on the road it’s no different. This one is super easy to do; simply bring your own lemons along! Every hotel serves hot water for tea. Fill up a cup, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and wait for it to cool down a bit. The lemon gives you added vitamin C and having it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach can help to regulate your digestion when traveling.
  1. Get your veggies where you can – If a restaurant offers any kind of vegetable option, TAKE IT. Get the side salad instead of the fries, more sautéed spinach in lieu of rice, etc. Some places may have little to no vegetable options, so if you are somewhere that does, double down!
  1. Don’t sweat it too much – Some people like to bring along their blender for green smoothies (I used to be one of those people) or figure out in advance every place they can eat at. While that may help to make it easier to eat healthy, it will also cause your entire vacation/trip to be organized around your dietary restrictions. Of course this is different if you have any kind of allergy or intense intolerance, but if you are just trying to stay healthy, this is my motto: Do the best you can with what you have, and don’t worry about the rest. Being able to relax and enjoy yourself when traveling is worth much more than constantly stressing out about what to eat.
  1. Develop a morning ritual – For me, getting adequate amounts of sleep is one of the most difficult parts about traveling. It’s a different time zone, the pillow feels different from my usual one, and there may not be a snoring man and/or 70-pound pit bull next to me. To help me get the rest I need, I found that it is helpful to have a morning ritual. Like I mentioned earlier, I start my day with warm lemon water just as I do at home. I also bring along my peppermint essential oil and do a quick morning meditation. Before my shower, I dry brush my entire body to help me feel invigorated and detox my system. These are all things I do at home also, which gives me a sense of continuity even when living out of a suitcase.
  1. Develop an evening ritual – Much like having a morning ritual can help to get your day off on the right foot, an evening ritual can help to ensure that you get a good night of rest. Maybe you want to soak in the tub for 15 minutes with some bath salts, turn on some relaxing music and light a candle, or read a book. Give yourself at least 30 minutes before trying to go to sleep to wind down.
  1. Figure out an exercise routine that you can do anywhere – I like yoga. Luckily, yoga is something that you can do in your hotel room. I don’t even bring my mat. A few sun salutations and warriors can be a great way to start or end the day, and make you feel like you got a chance to move your body. Depending on where you are visiting, heading out for a morning stroll can also be a great option. Figure out something that doesn’t rely on a lot of space, accessories, or needing to find a gym. Simple exercises that only use your own body are key.

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Stop Cooking Everything in Olive Oil

Today we are going to cover one of my favorite subjects: FAT. Fats have been a controversial food topic for the last thirty years or so. Common belief still tends to be that fat makes you fat, and saturated fat clogs your arteries and gives you heart disease. Well recent research has shown that is not in fact the case. So before we dig into olive oil, let me say don’t be afraid of fat, not even saturated fat!! If you are going to fear anything food related, let it be sugar!!

Okay now that I have that off my chest, let’s get to the topic du jour. For those of us who want to eat healthy, our go-to move for cooking fat is typically olive oil. Olive oil, the main fat source of the Mediterranean diet, has long been touted for its health benefits, like lowering rates of heart disease and high blood pressure. And olive oil is very healthy and good for you, but sometimes is not the right man for the job!

There are a couple of factors that one needs to consider when selecting which oil or fat to use in cooking. The first is the smoke point. The smoke point is literally the temperature at which the fat starts smoking. Heating a fat, especially unsaturated fat, above this temperature will cause it to break down, which eliminates the health benefits and releases harmful chemicals and cancer-causing free radicals.

The second factor that we need to consider is the stability of the oil. Saturated fats are more stable than unsaturated fats, with polyunsaturated fats being the least stable. Common polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils like soybean, safflower and corn oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, high in oleic acid. The fact that olive oil is monounsaturated (versus polyunsaturated) makes it healthier and more stable option than vegetable oil, for example. Per Sally Fallon in her book Nourishing Traditions, “the high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures”.

However because of its relatively low smoke point, it’s best not to use olive oil when frying foods at higher temperatures (especially if you are using unrefined olive oil). This will diminish the healthy benefits in the oil and can actually make it detrimental to your health!

So what do you use instead? Coconut oil has a slightly higher smoke point than unrefined olive oil. Also, because it is made up of 92% saturated fat, it is less prone to oxidation and binding with free radicals. Ghee, or clarified butter is also a great alternative for very high temperature cooking. You can read all about the health benefits of ghee here http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-amazing-benefits-of-ghee.html

I have actually never tried ghee, but have heard amazing things and am now intrigued. I will be attempting to make my own ghee in the next few weeks and if successful, I will post a video on how you can do it too!

I hope this has been a helpful introduction for you, and that you are now aware of the various factors to consider when sautéing up that fish next time. For further information about which oils are best for different types of cooking, I found this article in depth and informative:

http://www.cavemandoctor.com/2012/05/27/checking-your-oil-the-definitive-guide-to-cooking-with-fat/

 

 

 

 

 

I Jumped Off the Proverbial Cliff

JumpingOffCliffs

Every year we have these two doves that come in the spring and make their nest in our carport. This was the first year that they were successful (previously they kept nesting on a very bright light and baking their poor little eggs), and a couple of days ago I saw two fluffy heads with beady little black eyes poking out from the haphazard-looking pile of twigs. By the next day, one was sitting on the ledge and the other was gone. By day three, neither were anywhere to be seen.

I checked the concrete floor of the carport, and no little birdies were to be found. Eight feet off the ground, they had no choice but to learn how to fly. And they would have never known unless they took those first steps off the ledge.

It’s a sweet story, but you may be wondering why I am telling you all this. Well I have just taken my first steps off the ledge and now I am flapping my arms like hell, trying to trust that deep down inside I already know how to fly.

I just gave notice at my job that I am leaving and will be pursuing my own business, my passion, full-time.

This decision has been a long time in the making, and was not an easy one to reach. My previous job was pretty great. I got to work from home, had a flexible schedule, made a decent living, and worked with people I genuinely liked! It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You are probably thinking, what the heck are you doing giving up on this gig? But you know there is always a “BUT”….

It wasn’t what I am meant to do. I would wake up feeling like I was made for something more. It sounds so cheesy, but I really want to leave this world a better place. Helping people to uncover their spark for life fills me with a deep sense of purpose that I never knew before. I was always jealous of people who were driven to do one thing, be that writing, music, photography, or engineering. But I finally uncovered my own purpose. It was under my nose all along; I just didn’t see it. And it would feel like I am turning my back on the universe, and stalling my own journey, if I didn’t follow this through.

ShipisSafe

I will end on this: My husband, brother-in-law and I went to see Billy Joel at the Hollywood Bowl last week. The guy is 65 and put on such an amazing and energetic show, you’d think he was 22. I realized that is what happens when you follow your heart and do what you love. You don’t age because you are filled with the energy of life. Even if Billy had been eating all the kale in the world and worked some mundane desk job, he would never look as vibrant as he did up there on that stage. Making music was what he was born to do. Our body, mind, and spirit are all inextricably intertwined and to ignore one is to the detriment of all the others.

So from baby doves to Billy Joel, here I go, my wing growing stronger every day.

Avoid this #1 Joy-Stealer

After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I have spent the last month or so focusing more on my own health coaching. I absolutely love spending my time coaching, creating recipes, and figuring out ways to help people lead the lives that they were meant to. I have also started finding and following more people in my field: other health coaches, food and lifestyle bloggers, etc.

It’s so inspiring to see all their amazing work! But honestly looking at all their beautiful websites, gorgeous photos of delicious recipes, and thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter can also be downright overwhelming! Little doubts start creeping in: How did they get there? Will my stuff ever look that good? Does anyone even care about what I am saying?

I think we all have a propensity to do it. We see someone who has something that we want – be that success in our career of choice, the most perfectly put together wardrobe, inhuman flexibility in their yoga poses – and we compare ourselves to that person. And…

ComparisonThiefJoy

Instead of enjoying the present moment where we are, embracing the journey and focusing on growth and evolution, we just want to be there already. And yes, the journey can be long, windy, and mysterious. It’s full of questions lacking answers, gray areas, wrong turns and dead ends. Sometimes you have to loop back, cover ground for a second or third time to get where you want to go. But here’s the thing: The JOURNEY IS LIFE. That’s where the living and growing and joy happen. Imagine if you actually got to where you wanted to go by sidestepping all the time and work involved. It wouldn’t feel very gratifying and you would soon move on to wanting something else.

ComparingBeginningToMiddle

Remember that that all those people you look up to were beginners at some point too. They probably worked their ass off to get to where they are today. It’s like with a band’s breakthrough hit single. They may be considered a “new artist”, but most of them have probably been toiling away in garages and small clubs for years. We just don’t get to see that part.

SpaceBetween

Finally, don’t be frightened of the spaces. Don’t be afraid that your dreams are too big, and that even having the audacity to think them will somehow cosmically jinx you and prevent them from happening. Our dreams are always 10 feet ahead of us, like the older sibling we can never quite catch up to, and it’s the gap that keeps pushing us forward.

So stay present, focus on and love your own journey, look to others for inspiration not comparison – and finally, embrace your dreams wholeheartedly! They are little bits of your soul seeping out into the world. Let them do their thing.

5 Reasons You Can’t Keep Me Off the Pole

woman pole dancer

The bass resonates in the floorboards and vibrates up through the soles of my feet. My hips begin to sway from side to side, testing their boundaries. I run my fingers through my hair and if you were to look into my eyes, they would be saying, “Come over here, I dare you”.

A couple of months ago, I started pole dancing as a new form of exercise. Four months later and I am totally addicted. To the point that I can’t stop talking about it, and want all my friends, and potentially ALL WOMEN everywhere, to try it out.

I know to many of you this may sound crazy, but trust me, the experience is amazing and completely life changing. The pole? Life changing? YES. Well not just the pole, more the class in general.

I have been interested in the political issues surrounding the female body for years. It’s such a loaded subject – concepts of ownership, decency, guilt, shame, and intrigue all rolled into one little body! Because of this, as an artist, the depiction of the female form was one of my favorite subjects. I understood the power of the feminine theoretically, but somehow I was still separate from it. For example, I loved reading Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and thinking/discussing the ideas presented in the book. Yet something was still missing in my own life and I couldn’t figure out how to bridge the gap with logic.

Cut to a few years later. I have a few friends who have tried pole dancing and love it. Then I see this TED Talk by S Factor founder Sheila Kelley. It sounds like the living embodiment of what I was trying to convey in my artwork, so I decide to give it a whirl. Now, I am finishing up level 2, moving onto my next 8-week session in a few days and I just can’t get enough. And for the first time, I feel like I understand all those theories I loved reading about. I don’t understand them in my head. I understand them in my body and in my soul. And I didn’t think my way there. I danced.

With that said, these are my top 5 reasons that I think every woman should try pole dancing. And if there is one in your neck of the woods, I definitely recommend S Factor.

Pole2Cropped

1. Gain strength

Pole dancing increases your overall strength. Climbing and twirling on that pole requires some massive arm and core strength! To prepare you, each class comes with an hour-long mat warm-up/workout, tweaking moves from dance, yoga, and pilates to name a few. Going to class just once a week, it’s amazing how much stronger, and more toned, you get!

2. Become more flexible

Like many forms of dance, pole dancing improves your flexibility. Keeping your spine and legs flexible has so many health benefits! It can reduce your risk of injury, improve your posture, increase your blood flow, and reduce stress. Even if you are an active person who loves cardio, you can benefit by adding a stretching routine to your daily repertoire!

 

3. The support of an amazing female community

This is hands down one of my favorite parts of S Factor. How often do you get women stepping into their sensuality and cheering each other on? It’s great seeing all the girls in my class week after week, and noticing how far each of us has come from those first awkward steps in the intro class. There is no competition, only support.

 

4. Learn to feel comfortable in your own body

Pole dancing teaches you to be comfortable in your body, to revel in it, to love each and every curve (…or lack thereof)! There are women of all shapes and sizes. At first, we all wear the standard workout gear: a pair of sweats or yoga pants and a t-shirt. Then within just a few weeks, the shorts start getting shorter, eventually shoulders and bellies are revealed. It’s honestly an amazing transformation and such a wonderful thing to witness and be a part of. Women are strutting their stuff and feeling good about themselves!

 

We are inundated with daily cultural messages that we are not good enough (till we buy this face cream, lose those 10 pounds using this new diet, have it all perfectly together, etc.). It is so refreshing that after a two-hour class you can walk out and feel sexy just as you are.

 

5. Which brings to my last point, the permission to be sensual and feminine.

 

Many of us are not comfortable being sexy or sensual. If you are anything like me, those were just not words that I ever used to describe myself. I was more comfortable with words like pretty or cute, but not sexy. Sexy is dangerous. And that my friends, is what makes it exciting.

 

In this class you have permission to be feminine, sensual, and unabashedly SEXY. You can let your body move, and be moved, by the music without thinking about it. There is no following an instructor or dissecting how you look in the mirror. Let your hair down, shake that ass, and just let go.

 

Somehow, it connects me to a deeper part of myself that I was never able to access before and there is a wellspring of strength and creativity there. And it feels so great, like I am finally coming home into my own body.

 

There you have it. Now you know why you won’t be getting me off the pole, or out of my class, anytime soon. I look forward to that Saturday afternoon the whole week – the low lights, the music, and two hours spent simply having fun with other women.

To Juice or To Blend, That is the Question

I can’t speak for other places, but in LA green juices and smoothies are all the rage. They are popping up on street corners faster than Starbucks in the suburbs circa 2003! This new movement is definitely one I can get behind. Both juices and smoothies are a great way to increase your daily consumption of vegetables and fruits, which most American diets are drastically lacking.

I often hear people use the word smoothie and juice interchangeably. While they do have quite a few similarities, they also have several key differences, which I am going to outline below. I think there is plenty of room in a healthy diet for both, but in order to make an educated decision on what is best for your body and lifestyle you need to understand where they differ.

Green Smoothies

In a green smoothie, you typically combine your green of choice (popular varieties include spinach, kale, and chard), an assortment of fresh fruit, a liquid (water, juice, and almond milk are just a few of the options), plus any add ons (such as nuts, seeds or other super foods) into a high-speed blender. You blend the entire concoction together and voila, you have a green smoothie! Green smoothies have several benefits, which include:

  • Keeps the fiber – Because you are blending the whole produce, you will be getting the fiber from the fruits and vegetables as well. If you struggle to get enough fiber in your diet i.e. if you don’t poop within an hour of waking up without the aid of coffee (which means that you are constipated), a smoothie can be a great option.
  • Keeps you full longer – Retaining the fiber, and adding in other protein/fat elements into your smoothie like nuts, nut butters or chia seeds will help to keep you full longer. So if you are looking to have a green beverage as a breakfast or other meal replacement, a smoothie may be the better way to go.
  • Slower release of sugar into the body – Having fiber, proteins, and fats in your smoothie not only keep you full longer, but also promote a slower release of sugar into the body. This will help to reduce blood sugar spikes and crashes!

To make a green smoothie, you will just need a high-speed good quality blender like the Vitamix or the NutriBullet.

Juices

Juices on the other hand, extract only the water and nutrients from the fruits and vegetables, leaving the fiber behind. This comes with its host of benefits, including:

  • More veggies – With juicing, you don’t get filled up as quickly so you are able to consume more vegetables, and their nutrients.
  • Only veggies – While most green smoothies rely on fruits for sweetness, in a juicer you can easily make only veggie juices. This will cut down on the amount of sugar that you take into your body.
  • Straight to your bloodstream – Because you don’t have to digest all the fiber that is associated with a smoothie, all the amazingness in the juice goes straight into your bloodstream.
  • Give your digestive system a rest – When you bypass the digestion process, it gives your system a break. All the work has already been done for you by the juicer!

To make your own green juice, you will need a juicer (Omega and Breville are two of the top brands). A blender will not cut it, as it will not separate the fiber out of your produce.

I hope you found this article helpful and can now articulate the difference between a smoothie and a juice. And more importantly, I hope that it helps you to make the right decision for you on which to incorporate into your life!

So You Had a Big Weekend

This week is a pretty big one in this girl’s life. It marks two very important landmarks in my life. On Sunday, my husband and I will celebrate our one-year anniversary. I will also be finishing my last class for my nutrition school this week.

What was also my 30th year brought with it so many amazing experiences and growth opportunities.

Big weekends. Nights out. Vacations. Celebrations. We all have them. These joyous times in our lives when we let loose, have a couple of cocktails, order the appetizer and the dessert! And we should all be able to enjoy such occasions without feeling guilty or saying to ourselves the next day “I really shouldn’t have eaten that”. The great thing about not dieting is that you can never break your diet. I am firm believer in the 90/10 rule. Eat good stuff 90% of the time and then don’t worry about the rest! Sometimes that ratio may even swing towards 80/20 and heck, that’s okay too.

A survey was conducted of French and American women a few years ago. They were both shown a piece of chocolate cake and then asked what the first word was that came to mind. The number one word for American women was “guilt”. How about the French women? Did they associate that indulgence with guilt? No. They said “celebration”. So put the guilt aside and celebrate!

So let’s say you heed my advice. Well the downside of such celebrations is that on Monday you may wake up feeling sluggish and a little blah. These 5 simple steps will help you to usher the toxins out of your system, up your energy and have you feeling like sunshine again in no time.

  1. I am talking water, water, and more water. If you were enjoying coffee or adult beverages, both of which are dehydrating, come Monday you will be in serious need of some re-hydrating. Start your day with warm water and the juice of half a lemon. Then move on to several big glasses of H20. If I were you, I would skip the Gatorades. While they do replenish electrolytes, one 32 oz bottle also has over 50 grams of sugar (that’s about 3 and a half tablespoons) and uses artificial food coloring.
  1. EAT (OR DRINK) YOUR VEGGIES. To cleanse and detox the body, up your fresh vegetable intake. Green juices are a great way to replenish key nutrients directly into your bloodstream. Swap heavy cooked foods for light, raw salads. I would steer clear of meat and any processed carbs for a few days as well. Finally, add in some extra parsley or cilantro, both of which are very detoxifying.
  1. SKIN BRUSHING. Okay this one may be new to you. Your skin is considered to be the largest organ in your body to aid in the elimination of toxins. It handles one fourth of the body’s detoxification every day! Dry brushing assists in this detoxing process by cleansing the lymphatic system and sloughing off dead skin cells. While less common here, dry brushing is popular in Scandinavia and my mom used to do this when I was growing up. You can buy a natural bristle body brush at pretty much any health food store and read all about more of its benefits at Natural Health Techniques

http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/healingtechniquesdry_brushing_technique.htm (one of which includes reducing cellulite!)

  1. Sweat out all those toxins, baby. This is the time to add in some cardio to your workout regime. Go for a run. Do some bikram yoga. Visit a sauna. Maybe even enjoy a little roll in the hay. This will not only help you to release toxins, but also increase your energy and get your feeling back on track!
  1. This last one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s one that may people overlook, big weekend or not. Sleep is when your body repairs itself! You should aim for no less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis, and your body may need more than that. To hear all about the importance of sleep, check out this interview with Marie Forleo and Arianna Huffington: http://www.marieforleo.com/2014/03/arianna-huffington/

There you have it. Five easy tips for a Monday detox. So allow yourself the occasional celebration. Always remember that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed.

How to Get Calcium without all the Dairy

We all know that getting a sufficient amount of calcium is important for strong and healthy bones. Most dietary guidelines urge us to get most, if not all, of our calcium from dairy – low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. However, the verdict is still out on whether dairy is even good for us and with a good portion of people being lactose intolerant, we need to ensure that we have other ways of getting our calcium.

This is especially important for pregnant women. As babies develop, they need the calcium to build strong bones and teeth, as well as a healthy heart, muscles, and nerves. If the mother doesn’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, the baby will take it from wherever it can. This usually means stripping it from the bones of its mother, which can cause her issues later in life.

If you are looking to up your calcium intake without all the dairy, here are some great options:
Dark leafy greens – Kale, spinach and collard greens are packed with calcium. Two cups of raw kale contain 188mg of calcium, or 19% of your daily value. Eat these greens fresh in a salad, blended into a smoothie (see recipe below), or sautéed with olive oil and garlic. This is one of my favorite kale salads. It is super easy to make and saves really well overnight. And sauteed kale is one of my favorite side dishes. Once again, it only takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. Some dark leafy greens, like spinach, are high in oxalic acid which may affect your absorption of calcium. So make sure you vary your veggies to get the most bang for your buck!

Almonds – These delicious nuts have about 75mg of calcium per 1/4 cup. Eat them as a snack, throw them into salads, make them into almond butter, or once again, throw them into a smoothie.

Sesame Seeds – These little guys have 88mg of calcium per tablespoon. They are easy and delicious to incorporate into any salad recipe. This broccoli salad with sesame seeds looks delicious and packs the additional calcium punch of broccoli. Two cups of cooked broccoli have 124 mg!

Firm Tofu – One half cup serving of firm tofu contains about 227 mg of calcium. Saute it up with some sesame seeds and add to a stirfry.

Bok Choy – One cup of bok choy has roughly 74 mg of calcium. So if you saute up the bok choy with the tofu, and add a tablespoon of sesame seeds you are at 39% of your recommended calcium intake!

If you are still eating some dairy, or are only mildly lactose intolerant, adding some kefir could be beneficial. Kefir is 99% lactose free and one cup contains about 30% of your daily recommended value. I make my own kefir (you can read about that here, where I also describe the probiotic benefits of kefir on your digestive system), but you can also buy the Lifeway plain variety at Whole Foods or another health foods store. When it comes to any dairy product, I always recommend going full fat and organic. You want it as close to natural as you can get!

To start your day off right, try one of my favorite smoothie recipes below:

Strawberry Banana Green Smoothie

2 cups of dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collards 

1 ripe banana

5 strawberries

Handful of almonds (roughly 15 nuts)

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup to 1 cup kefir, depending on how thick you like your smoothie (If not eating any dairy, you can use almond or some other nut milk, or water)

Ice is optional, I usually don’t include it

Just blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. You are not only starting your day off with a good amount of calcium, but also other important nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein.

When Your Teacher is Four-Legged and Furry

My 75-pound pit bull Sophie is my baby. I have had her since she was only 5 weeks old and in that time, I have learned quite a bit about myself. As many dog lovers can attest to, raising a dog will allow you to grow as a person, understand unconditional love, and test your patience on a regular basis.

However, I would take it even further. I consider my dog to be one of my greatest teachers. She was a turning point in my life. Well, her and Cesar Millan.

I got Sophie when I was 26. I was working in marketing at the time, in a long-term relationship, and going out and getting blitzed on the weekends. If I was truly honest with myself back then, there were a lot of areas in my life that weren’t quite gelling. In comes Sophie. She was a whole lot of puppy and a handful to take care of. Okay let’s be real, several handfuls. While weighing in at only 7 pounds when I got her, she quickly grew into an energetic ball of pure muscle.

Having little to no experience in how to train a dog, I was taken by surprise. Our walks were regular disasters that ended with me in tears and holes in my shirtsleeves. I began to dread taking her out, would get nervous any time she looked like she was going to misbehave, and would yell and scream at her when she would inevitably treat the leash like a tug-of-war toy.

I needed help. And like any dedicated modern mom, I turned to the TV for answers. Hello Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer. Cesar appeared to have superhuman powers of turning any dog, no matter how aggressive or misbehaved, into a perfectly well adjusted canine specimen. And the trick was he didn’t really do a whole lot of anything. The change came about simply through his energy.

This was the first time I began to think about the energy that I was exuding. If my dog could pick up on it, how was it affecting other areas of my life? Cesar had many gems for me during this time, including something along the lines of “Your dog is your mirror”. Well if my dog was my mirror, I was putting out some pretty chaotic schnizz into the world!

I began to realize that my nervous energy during the walk was the result of me projecting my fears into the future. I would see her jumping for the leash and going crazy, it would make me anxious, my body would respond to those negative thoughts and then, bam! Sophie would respond to those signals. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dogs don’t live in the past or the future. They are the golden beacons of mindfulness! The only moment for them is this moment.

It all started to click. To further my understanding and practice of mindfulness, I took up yoga after a hiatus of several years. I suddenly became very conscious of my own reactions, thoughts, and energy. And over time, my whole life began to change. Sophie started behaving better. I finally found my true passion. It didn’t happen overnight; it was, and continues to be, a gradual journey. BUT, it all started with Sophie and her leash biting. As the wise Cesar would always say, you don’t get the dog you want. You get the dog you need.

Basically, the moral of this story is: Keep your eyes and heart open. Your teachers, mentors, and gurus are all around you. They just may not take the shape that you expect.

SophieHeadTilt