Setting a Morning Routine for a Happy Gut.

A happy gut equals a more enjoyable life & starting out your routine right away in the morning to make sure you have that happy gut sets everything in the right order. I recently shared all about what the gut is and why it’s important in a recent post so if you’re unfamiliar about it, check out that post now & then head back here for your morning routine.

For this post, we’re diving into more specifics of how you can give your gut biome a start on the right direct early on in your day. That being said, if you’ve had a few days of junk food or a few too many glasses of wine the night before (no judgement!) – this routine won’t completely reset your gut. We all know life is about blanace but making sure our body feel healthy is a continual process of flushing out toxins, feeding ourselves with healthy, nutrious foods and getting plenty of water to hydrate ourselves.

The morning is a perfect time to set up a consistent routine of steps you implement into your lifestyle. Keep noted, you’ll want to find what works for you and make you feel your best so take and leave any suggestion below.

  • Set a time to wake up consistently
    • Getting your body on a routine provides it an opportunity to fully rest when it needs to and be energized when it’s being ask to because it’s on a schedule. Set a timeframe that works throughout your week. For myself, I like setting an alarm for 6:30AM during the week and 7:30AM for weekends. I provide my body a little more rest time on the weekend but I’m not totally throwing off my routine by sleeping into noon. Even though that sounds really nice, my body is so use to this routine that it physically can’t do that.
  • Hydrate
    • We all know the importance of water and it highly needed to rehydrate your body after a night of deep sleep. Try getting in 8-10oz right after waking up.
  • Meditate
    • It doesn’t have to look like the picture-perfect meditation set up. You can simply just sit up on the edge of your bed and provide yourself with 3-5 minutes to simply focus on your breath. I wrote about starting a meditation practice in a recent post that can provide more tips.
  • Journal
    • I prefer to journal at night but a morning practice is also very popular for many people. Journaling allows an opportunity for you to expel your thoughts onto paper and express your emotions in a way you might not have an outlet for in your daily life. The gut has a connection to our brains – we may notice this connection when we are nervous or excited and our stomach begins to feel funny. This is how journaling can have an effect on our gut by providing that outlet. Stay tuned for posts on the Gut + Brain connection and the power of gratitude journaling coming soon. 
  • Move your Body
    • A little exercise in the morning can do wonders for our body by jump starting our digestive system and getting oxygen following to the blood and organs. Keep it simple with walking, yoga, or light strength training if you’re not use to morning exercise.
  • Shower or Clean Up
    • Freshen up and feel good! Cleaning yourself up by showering or simply washing off your face and then getting dress is a mode booster and provides positive vibrations.
  • Probiotic + Vitamin
    • Speak with your doctor and research your options for a good daily probiotic and vitamin.
  • Set a Meal Plan
    • Decide what works best for your body for when your first meal will be. I prefer to have something very light around 10AM, such as a piece of fruit or lara bar. If you are more active in the morning, your schedule might look more like a heavy full meal in the early hours. Experiment and explore the different options to find the right fit.

The most important part of this is finding your routine. When you’re not only being healthy but you also allow your body an opportunity to get into a flow state, that is when it really starts to feel good.

If you try out these tips or like to implement other helpful routine items, feel free to share!

Healthy Road Trip Guide.

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Oh, the open road.

It’s a great escape during this time but it can also be a daunting one if we’re trying to stick to our health goals. Gas stations and rest area vending machines aren’t necessarily the best options when it comes to fueling our body with nutrition-dense food. Top 40 and talk radio also might not be the best option to feed our brains for a long drive either. Which is why today I’m sharing my tips on how I prepare for a long drive, because we know I’m on the road plenty! (Stay tuned for a Healthy Flying Guide soon)

I’ve been on my fair share of long drives and to be honest I’m not always super excited about them. There has been many mornings before hitting the road that I dreamed of a time traveling machine that would just zap me right to my desired location. But on days that I plan ahead, I can actually be excited for the time in my car. 

Working a desk job for 40 hours a week and running a blog on the site, it can be a much needed change of pace to get away from screens. And I know I’m not the only one that needs this change every once in awhile. So might as well use the time I’m already spending in the car to focus on hobbies I wouldn’t necessarily have time to invest in. 

So what is my plan you ask? Here is how I prepare before my road trips to make the time more enjoyable: 

  • Clean my car, vacuum the floors, and insert a new Air Freshener (I use the car fragrances from Bath & Body Works)
    • It feels so good to spend time in a fresh space!
    • You’ll also need space for your suitcase and anything else you’ve packed so remove unnecessary items you’ve had store in your backseat and trunk.
  • Prep Podcasts and Music Playlists
    • I go back and forth between the two when I find my mind drifting off. Sometimes podcasts are nice to dive into for new inspiring information and at other times, you just need to have a little car karaoke session. 
    • Here is my current playlist I’ve been jamming out to in the car. 
    • Favorite recent Podcasts:
      • Den Talks Podcast
      • Teaching Yoga Podcast
      • Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher
      • Mile High Podcast
  • Pack snacks – this is a very important one!
    • Favorite road snacks:
      • Pretzel sticks
      • Apples
      • Bananas
      • Grapes
      • Lara Bars
      • Built Bars
    • I pretty much like anything that is light (in the sense I won’t feel heavy or tired after eating too much) and that won’t be distracting to eat. 
  • A good pair of Sunglasses 
    • Because it’s always more fun to be fashionable – but we also need to protect our eyes.
    • If you wear contacts, have your glasses ready incase your eyes get dry and you need to switch out. 
  • Sunscreen
    • You might be thinking, “we’re not outside”. But you are still being exposed to sun rays so not only should we look out for our eyes but our skin as well. 
  • Stop & enjoy the view when possible.
    • A really smart person once said “It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey” (It was Ralph Waldo Emerson if you were wondering). Give your mind and eyes a break from staring at the road & take in some open air. 
  • Simply enjoy your time!

 

Gut Health: What is it & why it matters.

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The human gut microbiome is complex and powerful in impacting our overall health – in a good or bad way depending on how we treat it. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, as well as heart & brain health, boosted mood, healthy sleeping patterns, and an effective digestive tract.

The term gut microbiome refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

Signs your gut might be out of whack:

  • Digestive Issues
    • Gas and/or bloating
    • Constipation
    • Irregular bowel movements
  • Mental Issues
    • Like depression, anxiety, and brain fog
  • Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
  • Unintential Weight Gains
    • Or struggles managing a healthy weight
  • Chronic Unmanaged Stress
  • Skin Problems
  • Trouble Falling into a Deep Sleep

Ways to improve your gut health: 

  • Improve Eating habits (see below section)
    • Monitor consumption of prebiotics and probiotics
      • If it is a struggle to get enough in your normal diet, consider taking a supplement (address this with your doctor to make sure it is a healthy option for you)
    • Consider food intolerances that upset your gut
  • Stay Hydrated
    • Attempt to get in a recommended amount of water for your body weight
  • Implement a Consistent Sleep Pattern
    • Going to bed and waking up at the same times will help your body & digestive system fall into a flow
  • Reduce Stress
    • This is easy said than done but consider areas of your life that are more stress inducing and consider how you can change this.

A happy gut means a healthy feeling body. A diet rich in immune-supporting probiotic & prebiotic foods will fuel your gut with what it needs for your microbiome to thrive. Probioctic foods contain “good” bacteria or live cultures that are found naturally in your gut. Prebiotic foods nourish the probiotic foods in your digestive tract.

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Probioctic Foods:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Fermented Foods
    • Kimchi
    • Kombucha
    • Olives
    • Pickled Beets
    • Pickles
    • Sauerkraut
    • Soybeans
  • Grains
    • Sourdough Bread

Prebiotic Foods: 

  • Fruit
    • Berries
    • Bananas
    • Tomatoes
  • Veggies
  • Grains
    • Barley
    • Flaxseeds
    • Oatmeal
    • Wheat
  • Legumes
    • Beans
    • Chickpeas
    • Lentils

Beginning a journey to improve your gut might take a bit, so be patient. Implementing a healthy diet and reducing your stress won’t heal a gut in a day but will begin to detox the gut microbiome of toxins.

But please keep in mind this isn’t an overhaul either! Like I always like to say, life is a balance of healthy habits and periodic indulgences. We want to incorporate healthy habits in our lives so that WE. FEEL. GOOD. but what also feels good…. a fudgy brownie with vanilla ice cream. So definitely implement new healthy habits into your life but don’t deprive yourself!

Stayed tuned for a Morning Routine for a Happy Gut later this week!

How To Start Meditating.

Meditation can be a scary topic for many as we live in a society that promotes non-stop productivity as the ultimate goal. If we’re not consistently “hustling” than we might feel like we’re failing. But meditation should actually be seen to help benefit our productivity. The practice isn’t only good for our overall health but could actually make us more productive in our daily lives. Taking a moment to slow down helps us to reset & clear our mind, become more present, and appreciate the here & now. This practice will flow into every element of our lives, allowing us to show up more fully in every moment. 

When beginning the journey to meditate, you might feel there are multiple aspects to “get right” but just stepping away to a quiet space to close your eyes and turn inward is really all you need to start.

If you are still stressing to “get meditation right”, here are a few tips to help guide you:

  • Breath
    • If you are a beginner, don’t fret over “calming the mind” but actually focus on the sensations of your breath. Appreciate the smells around you and the feeling of your lungs expanding and clearing. 
  • Mind
    • Focusing on your breath is the easiest way to clear your mind of thoughts. It gives your mind a focal point. When your mind starts to wander (which it will) just recognize you’re thinking and then come back to your breath.
  • Emotions
    • Long-term meditation shows the increased size in brain regions associated with emotional regulation. This can result in the habit of cultivating positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and mindfulness.
  • Arms & Hands
    • Relax your arms & shoulders, letting your hands rest on your thighs or in your lap. 
  • Eyes
    • If working to turn inward, close your eyes. If on days this makes you feel dizzy or emotional, you can anchor yourself to your space by making your eyelids heavy and focusing on the space about a foot out in front of you. 
  • Legs & Feet
    • If you’re sitting in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor. Draw your spine straight. If you’re sitting cross-legged or on a cushion, make sure your knees are lower than your hips. 
  • Time
    • The length isn’t as important as the frequency so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sitting for an hour each day. Start in increments aiming to build up over time (i.e. 3 minutes to 5 minutes to 10 minutes). 
    • A timer is very helpful so that you’re not focusing on a clock. There are a lot of app options for a pleasant timer instead of relying on your phone alarm (i.e. Insight Timer, Headspace, Clam). A few of these options will also have a payment option that can then access guided meditation – another great option for beginners. 

Below are a few Breathing Techniques to also try out before or after meditation to calm or energize the body:

  • Warrior Breath
    • Inhale/exhale with no pause 21 times – this super oxygenates the system
    • At the end of the 21 breaths implement the Box Breath for 4 to 5 rounds
  • Box Breath
    • Inhale big for 5 counts
    • Hold for a count of 5
    • Exhale slowly for a count of 5
    • 4-5 rounds
  • 2-7-8 Breathing
    • Inhale for 2
    • Hold for 7 
    • Exhale for 8
  • Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)
    • Take a long, slow inhale
    • Exhale rapidly through the nose by “snapping” in your lower belly for 10
      • Inhale will occur naturally
    • Inhale fully 

Meditation might be intimidating but it doesn’t need to be because all you need is time to give to yourself. Beginning today can help radically change your life for the better. I’d love to hear where your meditation practice is at and what it has helped you learn about your life! 

Sugar-Free Taco Salad.

In true Cinco de Mayo fashion, this night calls for a robust taco salad. And luckily this is a recipe that is suuuuuper easy to make sugar-free (minus the red wine I had to include for festivity purposes). You really can’t go wrong with a veggie filled salad that is topped with some homemade salsa. 

Ingredients:

  • Ground Beef
    • Cook up with taco seasoning
  • Sauteéd peppers & onions
    • Season with salt + cracked pepper
  • Corn
  • Black Beans
  • Homemade Salsa
  • Plain Greek Yogurt 
  • Lettuce

Throw all that yumminess in a bowl and do a little salsa dance because you have one good dinner! Feel free to substitute the ground beef for chicken, pulled pork, fish, or jackfruit. Also, can add whatever vegetables your heart desires. 

What are you enjoying this Taco Tuesday (or indulging in ;))?

Home Work-Out Equipment.

Taking your home workout to the next level can be as simple as investing in some new workout equipment. I know this probably isn’t the best time to share this list since every store is sold out of workout gadgets but I also think it’s a great time to inspire others to pull out the set of weights or the band we have hidden in the closet. (Seriously, when we were in Walmart last weekend the weight section was completely cleaned out!)

My collection has been added to over the years for different items so my home workout routine doesn’t get stale and I can honestly say I use all of these items at least each week. Sometimes I find a really good deal at TJ Maxx or the local sporting store that I just can’t skip out on 😉 but for this list today, I’ve added all reasonably priced items from Amazon that all look to be in stock [when this post was created]. 

  • Yoga Blocks
    • I’ve found both of my at TJ Maxx. They do not match but I’m okay with that. One is heavier than the other so I will eventually invest in a matching pair but for the last couple years they have done the trick. Mine are foam but investigate the style of blocks you prefer. 
  • Roller
    • Another TJ Maxx find. I enjoy using my roller after a long run or an intense strenght training session for the upper body. 
  • Gliders
    • These Brooke Burke gliders came in one of my mom’s Fab Fit Fun boxes and I definitely had to snag them for myself. Here is a good set from Amazon. I prefer to use these for lunches or under hands during plank for an added core challenge. 
  • 5 lb & 3 lb Weights
    • A variety set of weights is the best way to make sure you have options to go heavier or lighter when needed. This set on Amazon is an amazing option. 
  • Bands
    • Great item to have for traveling! A light option you can throw into your suitcase or bag that still pack a punch for a good workout. Just like weights, I like to have a variety of strengths to have options during a workout. Another set from Amazon. 
  • Yoga Strap
    • This is my favorite tool to stretch out my hamstrings! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other uses for a yoga strap but I have notoriously tight hamstrings and I try to work with the strap at least 2-3 times a week. I found on Amazon (are you noticing a theme) and this one has plenty of color options to choose from. 
  • Barre Ball 
    • If you are a barre fanatic like myself, than you know exactly what this piece of equipment is used for. It’s a love/hate relationship but definitely a workout necessity. Amazon find. 
  • Small Roller Ball
    • Another great restorative tool for rolling out tight areas in the shoulders, gluteus, throughout the legs, and bottom of the feet. Amazon find.  

I do have my eye on kettle bells and ankle weights but this list is more than enough to get your at-home workout off to a great start! Another great tip for fitness at home is to check out the endless resources available on Youtube. I have a strong theory that if you have a desire to get in-shape, you don’t need to shell out tons of $$. Here are a few videos I have tried out in the past that incorporate my equipment I recommended above. 

I hope you enjoy these suggestions & I would love to hear what equipment you have at home that you can’t live without! 

 

Favorite Berry Smoothie.

You can’t go wrong with a good smoothie. I enjoy the fact that you can cram in a ton of good fruits & veggies into one glass. Also there is such a variety that there are endless opportunities for a new flavor every day. 

Over the years, I’ve definitely done my fair share of experimenting with different concoctions of smoothies and have nailed down my favorite blend of ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I still do some new mixing every now and then to keep things spicy but this is, for sure, my tired and true smoothie recipe that I keep coming back to and it hardly ever fails that I don’t have these ingredients on hand. 

I prefer to blend my smoothies in a Nutribullet (not sponsored but wouldn’t mind being ;). It’s the perfect kitchen gadget to blend everything in one cup and then drink straight out of that same cup. Who doesn’t like less dishes? I also like to use my Nutribullet to blend my homemade Ranch Dressing.   (Not going to lie, I do have my eye on a Vitamix too).

Ingredients: 

  • Frozen Berries 
    • I prefer a blend of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries but also grab blends with mango, banana, and peaches often.
    • Make sure to check the back of the package for any added sugar. Unnecessary ingredients are sometimes added to make the berries sweeter – but we don’t need that 😉
  • Spinach 
    • I add about a cup
  • Banana 
    • For creaminess
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
    • About 2-3 scoops 
    • For creaminess
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Chia seeds & Flax seeds
    • I use the Barlean’s mix which can also be found at most Sam’s Club locations
  • Vanilla Protein Powder (optional) 
    • I prefer NG Nutritions brand & it looks like they now call the flavor ‘Vanilla Ice Cream which sounds absolutely delicious. 
      • This brand does contain 2g of sugar per scoop
  • Almond Milk
    • I add this last and fill the cup up to about an inch below the rim

Enjoy this yummy treat as a mid-afternoon snack on a hot afternoon or as a breakfast replacement on those rushed mornings!

Let me know your thoughts after you try this delicious drink & if you make any substitutes to make it your own. 

Sugar-Free Shopping List.

The biggest concern for me the first time I started an added-sugar-free detox was “What the heck am I going to buy at the store?” I was intimidated by the lack of knowledge I had and almost embarrassed to be one of those shoppers looking at the ingredient list on the back of items. But why? Nobody actually is noticing me and if I need to take a little bit longer to pick out my items NO. BIG. DEAL.

Once I started shopping I was relieved by how simple it became and how empowered I felt taking control of what I knew I was putting into my body to fuel it. Over time I’ve came back to my staple items that I know I’ll use up between meals and snacks.

So today I’m sharing that staple shopping list with all of you! I will more than likely be updating this list as I’m exploring new meal ideas in the coming weeks. Feel free to share your additional items with me as well or ask what I use specific items for!

Sugar Free Shopping List

Printable .pdf file available on request: ashraeeiningyoga@gmail.com

No Sugar May.

Do you struggle with bloating, inflammation, or trouble sleeping? Or maybe you wake up most mornings to stare in the mirror with a puffy face and dry eyes? Or maybe you are victim to the afternoon slump most days?

If none of these things resonates with you then congratulations! But this is the definition of my life when my diet contains too much added sugar. Which is why I attempt* a monthly detox a few times a year. 

*Attempt is the key word because our lives still need indulgences. 

Added sugar is a variety of caloric sweeteners or sugar carbohydrates added to food and beverages during their production. This type of sugar is chemically indistinguishable from naturally occurring sugar that we would find in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Added sugars have no nutritional value and are “empty calories”. 

These sugars can cause the body to become inflamed, gain weight, higher blood pressure and can even increase risk for heart attack and stroke. These little punk ingredients aren’t only bad for us but are just as addictive as alcohol, caffeine, gambling, etc. Our bodies become dependent on the need for sugar that we are consistently craving to fill the desire to consume more sugar. This desire than results in withdraw when we detox our body from them. Symptoms of withdrawal are headaches, increased cravings, and mood swings that can result in feelings of anxiety and sadness. The good thing is most withdraw symptoms only occur for a few days or a week. 

You might be thinking, why would I give up added-sugar then? Well, the rewards extremely outweigh the work. All those questions at the beginning of this post… ya, let’s get rid of those!

Cutting out (or for the most part) added sugar from your diet will likely decrease inflammation, boost your energy levels, and improve your ability to focus. You might even lose weight or see more definition around muscles. A low sugar diet also has been known to help with diabetes, heart disease, brain health, mood levels, and even improve the health of skin, hair, and nails. 

An informed diet does take work though. The food industry has a long history of sneaking in these ingredients in ways that do not have to be stated in the nutrition chart as actually added sugar. That means even if you see 0g added sugar, you still need to review the list of ingredients to actually be sure. For example: 

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Brown Rice syrup
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane Juice crystals
  • Cane Sugar
  • Caramel
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Ethyl Maltol
  • Fruit Juice
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Golden Sugar
  • Grape Sugar
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing Sugar
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado Sugar
  • Panela Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refiner’s Syrup
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle Sugar
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Yellow Sugar

The sad part is this isn’t even close to all of the sneaky ingredients the food industry shoves into food. The most effective way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. You might be thinking that is way too hard – I thought the same thing the first time I did an added sugar detox. But once you get into a routine of what to eat that is good for you, not too mention how good you’ll be feeling, it becomes a lifestyle that you don’t want to quit. 

If you would like to join me for the month of May, I’ll be sharing tips for shopping, meal planning, and yummy dish ideas here as well as on my Insta account (@ashraeeining). Having a tribe to go through this together, ask questions, and share ideas makes it WAYYYY more enjoyable (yes, it can be enjoyable!)

Like I said earlier, indulgences are still part of life – so have that donut or 3 scoops of ice cream. I know I sure do! Enjoy that margarita on a nice day and the cheesy enchiladas at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But making sure we are monitoring these indulgences so they don’t become a habit is when we start to take control over our health so we can feel all the benefits I stated above. 

So if you would like to join me on this journey for the month of May (or at least attempt* it) then stick around and follow me over on Instagram as well. I like to share some esthetically pleasing, highly edited photos of meals, snacks, and drinks (you can even follow just to creep the photos).  

Let’s get to feeling & living a healthier life!

 

 

 

At-Home Favorite Workouts.

While everyone is staying home during this time, I have received requests to share recorded material of my yoga and barre sequences. I’ve dabbled with the idea because I do truly miss teaching and connecting with my students.

But deep down in my gut, I know there are so many incredible teachers out there sharing their skills virtually at the moment (seriously, we are being spoiled right now). I selfishly have been taking this downtime to be a student again and I also want to allow these other teachers to truly shine. I can’t believe I am able to take class again with some of my favorites from San Francisco as well as finally indulge in some long-obsessed-over other teachers!

So I thought instead of sharing my own material, I would provide a list of resources I’ve been taking advantage of to support (& you should too 🙂)

  • Barre Forte: If you’ve been around here a bit, you know I have a deep love for Barre workouts. I’ve been going through my local studios to stream online classes and they. do. not. disappoint. They are offering a great discounted offer for new students!
  • Mary Beth LaRue: A fellow yogi that I have stumbled across on Instagram (@marybethlarue) during my student retreat (what I’ve begun to call it). I believe I actually learned of her streaming offers through Sol Rising’s stories since he’ll live DJ some of her classes (yes, it’s pretty yummy). Her classes have truly been a treat for me!
  • Touchstone Live Fitness: They have been sharing a TON of great variety of options (not just yoga) on their Facebook page and I’ve been enjoying taking Samantha Feinerman’s yoga classes. I’ve been following her on Instagram for a while now (@sunandmoon_asana) so it has been so lovely so experience her teachings.
  • Arielle: Another fellow yogi and Coloradan, who I’ve also been following on Instagram for some time (@arielleshipe). She has shared a few different free options and live yoga flows on her platforms or else she has previous recordings of sequences as well.

These have been my quarantine favorites lately but there are definitely a ton more amazing resources out there! I’d love to hear what you’re doing at home to stay sane, fit, & healthy. Share with me in the comments section 🙂