Singing Bird Holistic Health Coaching

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.

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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.

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