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For those of you who paid attention to the title, you may be wondering why in the world I am writing about post-workout snacks. Most of my posts are about yoga, right? Well, yes…but yoga can be quite a workout, depending on the style you practice, wouldn’t you agree? Also, I do other types of exercise besides yoga, and much of it can be quite strenuous.

For example, I weight train 3X per week. I approach my weight training from a “lift heavy things” perspective, so my goal is to lift to failure. This means I am tired when I finish, and my muscles need good fuel to repair and recover.

I also do a lot of walking/hiking, I attend indoor cycling classes, and I love to do HIIT workouts. All of these types of workouts, just like strength training, require fueling up properly afterwards without undoing all the hard work I just did.

No matter what kind of workout you do, it’s important to eat something pretty soon after the workout is complete – ideally, within an hour of finishing your workout. Because your muscles need to repair and recover, it’s important that what you eat be a nice mix of protein and carbohydrates. Add in some good fat if you can. It’s not necessary to eat a full meal, as many of us can’t handle that after we’ve just exhausted ourselves physically. A decent snack will do the trick!

Many of you know I am gluten-free, and as much as possible, I also try to be dairy-free. So after I’ve completed a workout, I try to reach for a snack that contains a nice mix of protein, carbohydrates and good fat. AND it should be REAL food…not processed! Here are some of my favorites:

Apples w/Almond Butter

An apple with almond butter is an amazing post-workout snack! Coming in at just under 150 calories (if the apple is small, and you limit yourself to 1 tbsp. of almond butter), you’ll get enough fuel to help those muscles repair and recover. I prefer almond butter over peanut butter, but you could use peanut butter for sure.

snack-apple-with-almond-butter
(Photo Courtesy of Food Lover’s Cleanse 2015)

Trail Mix

This is a tough one, as there are SO many varieties of trail mix you can buy. Some are perfectly healthy, but many are laden with sugar you don’t need and a TON of calories! You could make your own by mixing in a variety of things you like. For example, granola, raisins, chocolate chips, your favorite nuts, maybe some coconut flakes. I do this sometimes, but I just don’t have the time anymore like I used to. So, I highly recommend this Organic Trail Mix from nuts.com. It’s a great mix of nuts, seeds and fruits AND it’s not that expensive. You can’t lose with this one!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo Courtesy of Nuts.com)

Greek Yogurt with Fruit

I don’t do a lot of dairy, but I do like greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has TONS of protein, which I mentioned is important to helping those muscles repair and recover. Add in some fresh fruit, and you’ve got a great blend of proteins and carbs with this healthy snack! I recommend buying plain greek yogurt (don’t get any added flavoring or fruit…it’s not the healthiest!), and then I would add fresh fruit. My favorite is to add fresh blueberries and strawberries to plain greek yogurt. Yum!

greek-yogurt

(Photo courtesy of Go for Greek Yogurt)

Other Healthy Snacks

If none of the snacks I’ve listed here appeal to you, I encourage you to check out Nuts.com’s Healthy Snacks page. They truly have something for everyone on this site, and I think they are very reasonably priced. If you check them out, let me know if you love them as much as I do!

So, what are YOUR favorite post-workout snacks? I am always looking for something new, especially if it’s something super easy to make and is easily transportable. Post a comment as to what works best for you…let’s all help each other choose the healthiest snacks possible!

Namaste,

Melanie

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“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~~ Carol Sobieski

This week has been bittersweet for me. On Wednesday, I taught my very last regular yoga class. I am “retired”, as they say. I’ve been teaching yoga regularly, each and every week, since November 2002. That’s almost 13 years!

My feelings about this are a mixed bag, if I am being completely honest. I think I’ve run the whole gamut of emotions over the past couple of weeks. I’ve experienced sadness, fear, anxiousness, relief and happiness over this decision. Yoga has been one of the biggest parts of my identity over these past 13 years…people call me the “yoga lady” at my full-time job and I constantly get people asking me for some sort of yoga-related help. Yoga is what I keep telling people I’m meant to do with my life, so how could I make this decision?

Well, to be perfectly frank, I’ve been thinking about this for MONTHS. Yes, you read that right. I don’t make rash decisions, especially not when it comes to something I feel is my path in life — and when I have become so attached to my students — so I thought long and hard about what to do. Some of my closest friends know about my struggles, and I am so very thankful for their many words of wisdom over these past months, as I’ve agonized over what to do.

My reasons for stepping away from teaching aren’t anything earth-shattering. But I can only ignore the signs from the Universe for so long before I finally have to listen, right?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I’ve been dealing with Lyme Disease for years. Stress causes flare-ups of my symptoms, and I am not a person who handles stress well. I’ve got a stressful, full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena, I’ve got a husband and two daughters, two dogs (one of which just got diagnosed with her second mast cell tumor that is most likely cancerous, since her first one was), I’m working through the Toastmasters program, AND trying to teach yoga in the spaces in between.

My doctors — all of them — have been telling me for what feels like forever that I can’t do it all. That I need to rest more. That I need to take care of ME. Someone with my health issues has GOT to back off and recover. My best friends tell me the same things. So does my family. So does my massage therapist.

Well I heard what they told me, but secretly, I just kept trucking along. I pared back as much as I could (or at least, I thought I had). I mean, I gave up ALL of my classes except for one. I even got better at not responding “Yes” to every sub request sent my way. Yoga is part of who I am, part of my soul, so how could I give it up totally? Right???

Well, things have gotten more stressful as of late, as my youngest daughter made the competitive Cheer squad at her middle school. She will be practicing 4 days per week, and will have competitions to compete in. It’s funny, but as soon as I found out she made the team, I instantly — FINALLY — knew. I knew I had to give up teaching altogether so I can get well and be there for my daughter.

The Universe finally hit me over the head, and everything became clear. All these years, I’ve looked at all the other women around me who seem to be able to “do it all”. The women who seem to be able to have a full-time job, a beautiful family, a spectacular house, can somehow manage to teach yoga (or whatever other side passion they have), and exercise whenever they need to in order to look perfect. All these years, I’ve felt that I must do the same. Otherwise, I don’t stack up, right? If they can do it, then I should be able to as well. Isn’t that how it works?

But the day my daughter made the cheer squad, suddenly I just knew that I am not one of those women. Melanie Deal cannot do it all. My health is constantly reminding me of that, and on that day, I knew I finally had to listen.

My daughter is only young once. My oldest is already out of the house, as she just started her Sophomore year of college. She doesn’t need me in the same ways as she did when she lived at home. But my youngest daughter is still here and she needs me. She’s in 7th grade, so before I know it, she will be in college and won’t need me like she does now.

So you see, the decision is clear. I think I need this anyway, as I have been feeling for quite some time that the type of teaching I’d been doing wasn’t where my heart was anymore. My health struggles, though challenging and frustrating, have been rewarding at the same time. I’ve had lots of people reach out to me who are also dealing with health issues, and I think I’ve helped them in some way with what I’ve learned on my own journey. I am strongly being pulled towards working with “special needs” people, but haven’t had the time to explore it in great detail.

Well, now I have time on my hands to do that. Time to come up with a plan and figure out how to use my yoga in a new way. Preparing for a regular class each week left me with no time to really explore how to branch out. But now, I will have more time for me, which will allow me to meditate on how to move forward in the future.

Believe me, I am not going to do anything drastic anytime soon. I truly am going to take this time and work on getting better. I am going to take this time to spend more quality time with the people I love. I am going to take this time to work on doing the things that I love.

And then, when the time is right, a new journey will begin.

Namaste,

Melanie

Yesterday, I gave my 6th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #5 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 6th speech). The purpose of this 5-7 minute speech was to work on the skill “How your body speaks”, which means making sure that you use your body in ways that come across naturally, using appropriate gestures and facial expressions, making appropriate use of the space you’re giving your speech in, and making appropriate and adequate eye contact. I do these kinds of things all the time in the yoga classes I teach, but doing them in a more “professional” setting was a little scary to me, I must admit.

I decided to tackle the topic of prayer for this speech. Why? I am not sure, to be honest. Talking about praying in a setting like the one I was planning on can be considered tricky and taboo.

But, just as it happened when I was preparing for my last speech, a song popped into my head that I could not seem to get rid of. There must be something about songs from the early 1990s that resonate with me, because I kept hearing “Pray”, by MC Hammer, over and over in my head. In the chorus of that song, he says, “We got to pray just to make it today.” When he says those words, he’s talking about how we’ve got to include prayer in our lives if we’re going to make it in this tough world we live in.

So, I took it as a sign that I needed to tackle this one. I wrote my first draft and ran it by my mom, my most trusted advisor when it comes to writing…plus, she’s pretty damn knowledgeable about this topic, so I wanted her to help me ensure that I didn’t offend anyone.

The end result? It went better than I hoped, so I was ecstatic! I was able to creatively use my body language to talk about the topic of prayer, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. My evaluator said I inspired her to start praying regularly…that’s exactly what I needed to hear! Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I did and said.

I started off by asking everyone to fold their hands in front of them, close their eyes, take a deep breath and relax their bodies. Then I told them to think about something they need in order to be happy.

If it’s something you already have, then think about how grateful you are for that thing. If you don’t already have it, then ask for it. Take in another deep breath, and as you let it out, seal in these words you just spoke to yourself. Now, open your eyes.

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most awesome guests,

Believe it or not, you just said a prayer. How did it feel? Comfortable? Weird? Scary? Prayer doesn’t come easy to all of us, and it may be because we don’t truly understand what it is.

Today, we will cover what prayer is, different ways a person can pray, and how you can use prayer to help you live a happy life.

What is prayer, exactly?

A prayer is a solemn request for help, or an expression of thanks, addressed to a higher power. In other words, it’s a communication process. It may seem a little weird to think of it that way, since you’re not physically seeing or hearing anyone when you pray.

Many people think prayer is complicated, but I assure you it is not. It is simply an expression of faith that comes from the heart.  When I pray, I like to think of it as my “direct line to the Divine”.

Think of praying like having a conversation with your best friend. Your best friend loves you unconditionally, right? Well, so does the Divine! When you can talk to the Divine like you would your best friend, you’re better able to talk about your needs and what you are thankful for with joy, with confidence and with conviction. These are things that will help your life be a better one.

Time for a pop quiz. Following are three examples of what people might consider to be prayer. One is NOT an authentic prayer. Can you guess which one it is?

  1. “Today, I am thankful for the gift of wonderful friends and family.”
  2. “I just had some medical tests and I’m scared. Please help me get through this, no matter what the results are.”
  3. “PLEASE, let that shirt I saw last week be on sale when I get to the store!”

Got it figured out yet? If you answered #3, you get the gold star! While choice #3 is a request for something, it’s not something that will truly make your life better.

Ways to Pray

Now that you understand what prayer is, you may wonder how to do it. As I mentioned above, prayer is an expression of faith, which makes it universal and part of every religion. Different religions may approach prayer in different ways, but they all have the same purpose when it comes to praying: bringing you closer to the Divine.

Take a look at these images:

PrayingCollage

These are just a few of the many examples I came across when I was searching for images of people from different religions praying. These images show Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all praying. Notice the variety of postures being used. But also notice the similarities…folded hands, bowed heads and closed eyes seem to be commonplace, wouldn’t you agree?

Personally, I pray in different ways, depending on the occasion. Sometimes, I simply sit cross-legged with my eyes closed and my head bowed, and I run through a list of things silently that I need to pray about. Sometimes, I sing my prayers…certain songs just seem to strike a chord with me sometimes, if the lyrics are about something I am feeling the need to pray about. And sometimes, I pray on a verse or quote that speaks to me.

As you can probably tell, I don’t believe there is a “right” way to pray. As long as it is done earnestly and from the heart, I think it counts!

Conclusion: How to Find Happiness with Prayer

I encourage you to find a form of prayer that resonates with you and incorporate it into your life on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to establish a regular cadence. When you do this, you may notice you are happier. Why is that?

For one thing, remember that you’re communicating one-on-one with the Divine…how can doing that regularly not be wonderful?

Secondly, as you pray more regularly, your prayers will come more and more from the heart, giving them a whole new level of meaning. You find more and more things in your life to be grateful for, you start praying for your true needs (rather than that shirt you really want to buy), and you may also find you start praying fervently for those you love and care for, which gives your prayers a more selfless quality. More meaningful prayers provide you with a sense of security.

Finally, having a heartfelt conversation with the Divine helps you realize you are not alone. Modern life is stressful, after all, and we will have hard times during our lives. But knowing that we don’t have to go through those hard times on our own gives us the courage to be strong and to say “No” to the behaviors that may bring us down.

Remember this guy?

MCHammer

This guy, MC Hammer, had a popular song in 1990 called “Pray”. Listen to the lyrics if you don’t know the song…they really do a great job at expressing why it’s important to pray, in my opinion. In the chorus, he says, “we got to pray just to make it today.” Even 25 years later, these words still hold true.

Find a way to make prayer a part of your regular life, and discover the inner peace and joy that come with it. Then…you’ll find your happiness.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

“This is a marathon in life. You can’t be sprinting all the time or else you wear yourself out. You have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, keeping yourself grounded and not letting every little thing get you worked up.” ~~ Brian Moynihan

Settling down. Feeling grounded. Establishing roots. These are phrases I use a lot in the yoga classes I teach and as I was preparing to write this post about being grounded, I decided to search all my posts to see how many times I’ve written about the topic. Holy wow! This must be one important topic to me because I have written about it a LOT. Which only means to me that I need to work harder at it. I tend to write about the things I need to focus on, and apparently, I am not very good at settling down and feeling grounded. Or at least, I am not very good at it being permanent.

Right now, things have been feeling a bit scattered for me. My oldest daughter is about to begin her Sophomore year in college and is moving back next weekend. My youngest daughter is starting 7th grade and just found out she made the competition Cheer squad, so we’re getting ready for all the practices and games and competitions we’ll be dealing with this fall. At work, things are C.R.A.Z.Y.!!! In both good and bad ways, but crazy nonetheless, which always throws me for a loop, as I am a very structured and scheduled person by nature.

Because things have been so different, I’ve seen a resurgence of some of my Lyme symptoms over the past month. Nowhere near as horrible as they once were, but a regression is a regression and it SUCKS. Luckily, my doc is really good about nudging me and reminding me that I need to stick to the lifestyle changes in addition to the meds and supplements I take. In an attempt to focus on the ability to feel grounded during this hectic time for me, I came up with the following yoga sequence…if you need to feel a bit more grounded, try it out for yourself and see if it helps (you can go to http://www.yogajournal.com to see pics if you need them):

  1. Child’s Pose. Be here for at least 10 breaths, and focus on closing your eyes, so you can shut out all the “noise” around you. Make sure your breaths are as deep as possible, and with every exhale, imagine yourself releasing just a bit more into the earth.
  2. Cat/Cow. While moving through these two poses, focus on rooting down into your hands and knees. Flow with your breath between each pose, but don’t move too fast. Do 5-10 rounds.
  3. Spinal Balance. As you lift alternate arm and leg, make sure your abdominals are engaged, which will help you feel a bit more grounded. Like cat/cow, flow with your breath between each pose, but go SLOW! Do 5-10 rounds.
  4. Vinyasa. Move through a slow vinyasa, focusing on feeling grounded. Think about your hands and feet in plank and chaturanga, focus on rooting your hip points and your feet during cobra, and again on your hands and feet once you reach Down Dog. If you have time, do 5 rounds.
  5. Forward Fold. As you hang in forward fold, focus on balancing between all four corners of each foot. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  6. Mountain. This is perhaps the best pose, in my opinion, at helping a person feel grounded. I encourage you to close your eyes here and focus on your feet, just like you did in Forward Fold. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  7. Warrior 1. Keep your torso stacked over your hips, and focus on keeping the balance even between both feet. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  8. Warrior 2. Same focus as Warrior 1. Don’t let your upper torso lean forward. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  9. Triangle. As you tip forward, don’t lose that balance between both feet. Keeping shoulders and hips stacked should help. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  10. Balancing Half Moon. Use a block if you need to, or even a wall, to help you feel grounded and balanced. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  11. Repeat poses 5-10 on the other side.
  12. From Balancing Half Moon, come into a Yogi Squat. Focus on feeling settled in this pose. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  13. Seated Forward Fold. Focus on rooting down between both sitting bones and the legs as you reach forward for the toes. Use a strap or blocks, as needed. Hold for 10-15 breaths.
  14. Reclined Bound Angle. As you lie back, if you notice your knees are way up off the ground, you can use blocks underneath them to help with feeling more grounded. Hold for 10-15 breaths.
  15. Savasana. Like Mountain pose, this could also be considered the best pose in helping a person feel grounded. Feel the earth underneath your whole body, supporting you. Allow your bones to completely relax and feel as heavy as possible while here. Stay here for at least 5 minutes.

If you end up trying out this sequence, I’d love to know what you think of it.

Have a sparkling day and Namaste,

Melanie

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