By Shar’ron Strasser
Photo: Shar’ron Strasser @themedicineshack
Typically considered a weed or nuisance plant dandelions are actually often a overlooked food source. All parts of this plant are edible – including the flowers. This plant holds many vitamins and the flowers have antioxidant properties. The greens of the dandelion plant are edible raw and cooked. The roots can be cleaned and cut to use in Stir fry’s or dry them and use them in teas. This plant contains vitamins A, B, C, K, potassium, calcium, manganese, pyridoxine (vitamin b 6), riboflavin and even magnesium.
So take a hike in the woods, get out in your own back yard enjoy nature and be on the hunt for these abundant little medicine packs that are asking you to use them.
You can try by simply picking some dandelion flowers, or perhaps you feel ready to try the whole plant. Always remember to consider the soil source, if it’s a local park there may be chemicals that where used.
To make dandelion Tea:
*Go outside and gather 1/4 cup dandelions perhaps just the leaves or flower
(feel free to harvest the leaves/roots of you would like for a stir fry or soup)
1 cup hot water
( do not use boiling water as it will brake down some medicines)
*Allow the tea to steep for 8-10 mins
It should be a light yellow color.
*Strain tea, pour into your favorite cup. Optional : This tea will have a bittersweet flavor, add a bit of honey to soften this taste.
*Sip. Enjoy and relax.
Photo: Shar’ron Strasser
Some healthy benefits:
*Adds digestion- dandelion acts as a mild laxative that promotes digestion, stimulated appetite, and balances the natural and beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
*Dandelion increases bile production and reduces inflammation to help with gallbladder problems and blockage.
*Antioxidants- every part to the dandelion plant is rich in antioxidants that prevent free radical damage to cells and DNA, slowing down the aging process and in our cells.
*Studies show that dandelion boost our immune systems and fights off microbes and fungi.
*They also improve liver function by removing toxins and reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance.
If you haven’t had lower back pain before, consider yourself very lucky. Most adults in the U.S. will suffer from lower back pain at some time in their life, many for years at a time. My suffering began at age 17 when I injured my back surfing. The doctor diagnosed it as a compressed L5 vertebral disc, prescribed me pain medication, and sent me off with the inspiring words “everybody’s back hurts”. Unsurprisingly this treatment failed to alleviate the pain. And over the subsequent years, as life became more and more stressful, the pain became worse and worse. Activities I once enjoyed, like surfing and camping, became uncomfortable and at times impossible. I tried chiropractic, Rolfing, massage, physical therapy, bed rest, supplements, herbs, and ice and heat therapy. I thought I had tried everything. I thought that my body was deteriorating and that it would only get worse and worse. It was depressing.
Photo: Mara Milam
Then, after a decade of chronic pain, my company moved into an office one block away from a yoga studio. I tried the free week of yoga they were offering and thanks to some encouraging teachers I stuck with it. Within weeks I felt better than I had in years, and soon my whole perspective changed. There was hope, I could heal! In the past few years since finding my own healing through yoga I’ve talked to so many others who have similar stories. And as I’ve read more on the subject in hopes of helping others, I’ve discovered that the science is increasingly supporting yoga therapy for the treatment of lower back pain.
Why does yoga heal lower back pain when so many other treatments fail? I could probably list off 100 reasons, but here are 3 big ones…
1) Lower Back Pain is a Psychosomatic Disorder
Psychosomatic disorders involve both the mind (psyche) and the body (soma). Take a moment right now to pretend that you are really angry but are trying not to show it. Really act it out, like this is improv class. What happened in your body? Feeling a little tense? Our emotions manifest in our body affecting our muscles, blood circulation and breath. Often they can have an adverse affect on our physical health without us even knowing it. When I think back to my worst episodes of lower back pain, they often align with stressful periods in my life. At the time I was unaware, but my stress and anxiety were wreaking havoc on my lower back. Yoga is a mind-body therapy by design. In yoga we use our breath, mindfulness and intentional movement together to heal our mind and body at the same time.
2) Yoga Balances Strength AND Length
Yoga strengthens and lengthens our muscles in a balanced way that few other activities can. Each yoga pose requires both exertion and stretching, and as we move through our practice we address each part of our body in a systematic way. This balanced approach helps support good alignment and makes our body more resilient and resistant to injury. Most physical activity is good for us, but when we only do one activity like biking, surfing, or running, we can end up with imbalances in our strength and flexibility. These imbalances can create all kinds of problems, one of which is lower back pain. Yoga is the perfect way to balance your body’s strength and length.
3) Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Photo: Mara Milam
In yoga we are constantly learning to resist less and accept more. Why? Because resistance leads to suffering. When we experience pain of any type it is natural to put up resistance. This resistance can take the form of self medication, denial, or distraction. Anything but being with and accepting the pain as it is. When we learn to accept our pain mindfully a funny thing starts to happen, it starts to fade. While our ultimate goal may be freedom from pain, learning to live with our pain is a critical part of that journey. Yoga and all forms of meditation are powerful tools in learning to live with the inevitable pains and difficulties of our lives.
Want to learn more reasons why yoga heals lower back pain? Check out my workshop, Lower Back Love! on Saturday May 16th at 12pm! We’ll explore some of the latest science on back pain, and learn tangible yoga based tools for reducing pain and building strong healthy backs. Hope to see you there.
Sugar, whether we stir it into our morning brew, or mix it into dough for a late-night dessert, it’s a tough substance to avoid in anyone’s diet. I recently took the plunge to cut sugar from my diet. Now, as a nutritionist, you might think this was already the case. However, sugar is sneaky, and, no, I don’t avoid it altogether. I have the occasional slice of dark chocolate, stir honey in my tea, or have a glass of red wine, and who am I to turn down a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?! Sugar is one of those ingredients many of us in Santa Cruz try to avoid, like soy, gluten, corn or MSG – things we can easily find in many of our grocery staples. But have you ever really thought about how MUCH sugar is going into your body on a daily basis? And what detrimental roles does sugar play in the body, and what can I eat instead to beat sugar cravings and achieve optimal energy?
So what does sugar actually do in our bodies? Sugar is burned as fuel for energy. Simple right? Well not so much, when our cells need energy, our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin to let the glucose (broken down carbohydrate molecule) into the cell to be used as energy. When we don’t need energy, sugar is stored as triglycerides (fat) in the adipose tissue (abdomen). When we have too much sugar, or small amounts of sugar all day long, our insulin production is constant. Insulin in excess can lead to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, fatigue, metabolic imbalance, and weight gain, loss of appetite, irregular menses, inflammation and type 2 diabetes.
Often as a yoga teacher and nutritionist I come across the question of what to eat for optimal energy. What can sustain me for this surf session or this heated vinyasa flow? Well our bodies need complex carbohydrates to burn for fuel, but choosing the right form of carbohydrate (non-processed and in its whole-form) in combination with protein and fiber we can keep our energy for longer periods.
Burning the sugar found in a chocolate bar is just like paper in a fire, very fast and aggressive, which spikes our blood sugar and insulin production; not good. To have fiber along with the sugar, like eating an apple for example, would be equivalent to burning a log instead, long, slow and steady. Protein also plays a huge role in balancing blood sugar and increasing our metabolic health, so feel free to slap some almond butter on that apple!
Here are a few ways to avoid added sugar in your everyday intake:
Check your labels for names such as syrup, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sorbitol, maltodextrin, malt, etc.
Clear your pantry and fridge of processed goods that contain sugar with no dietary fiber (out of sight, out of mind)
Remember, sugar isn’t just in soft drinks and Girl Scout cookies. Some sneaky sugar products include peanut butter, tomato sauce, orange juice, jelly & jam, nut milks, instant oatmeal, yogurts and much more.
Here are a few of my favorite un-processed sugar options for that sweet tooth, remember to have your fiber and protein along with!
Soaked organic date juice
And of course, a sugar-free “sweet treat” for optimal energy…
Golden chia overnight pudding
2 tbs Chia seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup coconut milk
Mix all ingredients together and place in refrigerator in a closed container
Chia seeds (like flax seeds) are also high in omega 3 fatty acids as well as soluble and insoluble fiber.
Turmeric is one of the most noteworthy herbs, due to its anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric has been shown to reduce blood pressure and decrease oxidative stress tremendously.
Cinnamon includes compounds that balance blood sugar, which reduces insulin secretion, preventing against diabetes. Cinnamon also has a sweet-like but sugar-free taste to it, which can substitute for sugar in any desert much like this one!
Strawberries provide anti-oxidants, fiber and many other nutritious vitamins and minerals, they aid in digestion and are a natural sweetener.
Spring is here and moving through us. It is a season of growth and change – energy that is both spontaneous and creative. Experiencing this energy can be exhilarating yet chaotic, even unsustainable – a disorganized spiraling out into the ether. To reap the full potential of your springtime flighty energy, look to ground yourself more fully in order to harness in all the goodness the season has to offer. When I think about harnessing- I imagine it as a gathering in, an intentional gathering of energy in order to draw ones self back into a balanced state. Think of yourself as boat on the sea in slightly breezy, exciting weather. If you are adrift it can be difficult to enjoy the ride. But if you have a sail- the ability to harness the breeze and navigate more clearly- the ride becomes much more relaxing and enjoyable. That is the potential of working with your springtime, flighty energy!
In your yoga practice drop into grounding aspects of asana (physical postures) to harness your physical and energetic strength. On the studio, on the beach or at home you can practice these qualities in familiar standing poses such as Warrior’s 1 & 2 (Virabhadrasana), Crescent pose (Ashta Chandrasana) and Mountain pose (Tadasana). Feeling our feet as anchors, connect through each toe, arch and edge with the earth and lengthen up through our limbs, core and crown with a sense of organized purpose. As you breath evenly run the energy up towards the heart and out through the hands- encouraging the mid-line (pelvic floor, through crown of head) to stay clear, strong and gathering in toward the spine. This action is simultaneously energizing and calming for the body-mind.
In addition to honing in your yoga practice, taking a little extra time during your day to harness outward flowing energy inward toward greater balance.
* Take time away from computers and devices. So much input, all the time, can clutter and frazzle our minds.
* Eat AT LEAST one of your meals each day sitting, calmly nourishing your body.
* Harness your creative thoughts with lists to keep grounded and moving forward.
* Be in nature as much as possible be it your back yard, the ocean, the forest, for a moment and many– nature is everywhere and brings us to center!
* If you days are busy, give yourself small breaks to close your eyes, breath and re-charge.
photo: Lanny Headrick
Enjoy your Spring for all it’s awakening and spontaneity while practicing a bit mindful harnessing of energy to make everyday extraordinary.
Imagine beginning your yoga journey at 6, 7, …8 years old. or simply incorporating light stretching and calming breathing techniques into your way of life. That’s what these kids are up to. Practicing simple vinyasa sequences as well as light pranayama (breathing) kids at Pleasure Point Yoga are having fun tuning in. It is such a joy and honor to lead these little Grasshoppers in their yoga practice at the studio. Working with kids, in any field, is always amazing and truly rewarding. Their bright smiles and beautiful sense of light and open heartedness is beyond inspiring. Truly teaching us so much.
Humble New York City yoga master, Sri Dharma Mittra, says, “be like a child”. Children do not have expectations for themselves – who they are or who they think they ‘should’ be. They are open vessels, full of endless possibility. Living in the present, children have little concern for the past or future moments in time. We can learn so much from our youth. Especially in yoga.
When we (adults) come to our mats we all come from different life experiences – making us all uniquely beautiful. The mat is a safe haven to work everything out. With time to tune in we’re able to catch our breath and really listen. The beauty lies in that it is different for each and every one of us. Sometimes we are simply having fun – breathing in the flow, getting lost in movement and breath. Other times, we have tears dripping down our face. With many points standing in middle ground. All of these scenarios are perfect and many of us experience all sides of this ever changing coin at different periods throughout life.
Children ride their own waves as well. We all do. I have to say as a teacher, it is so cool to work with these kids who are learning yoga basics at such a young age. Simple things like learning to listen to their breathing to help calm down… things that can help throughout life. Learning to cope with stress and everyday ups and downs is something we are all learning to do constantly. Using all of our tools we can grow into healthier, happier, and more radiant beings.
Grasshoppers: Kids’ Yoga is a yoga program designed and catered to children ages 6-12. Light pranayama (breathing) and meditation exercises open class followed by playful concentration of asana (postures & flow) concluding with deep relaxation. Yoga really is great at any age! Please check out workshops for more information!
With sweat dripping down my face, feeling frustrated and slipping on my mat the forearm balance has always been a struggle for me in my yoga practice. Through years of practice, with good intention I learned forearm balance, or pincha mayurasana. Not by force, or strain but through repetition and awareness. After failing this pose countless times I’ve learned that by engaging my core to counter the flexibility of my lower back, and controlling my momentum while kicking my feet up I can finally find a balance, I can finally hold pincha mayurasana.
Though, these few set of steps toward balancing in this pose might not be standard for everyone, this is because everyone has a different body type.
Krishnamacharya taught “ It is not that the person needs to accommodate him – or herself to yoga, but rather the yoga practice must be tailored to fit each person.”
Often we think the opposite, that we should fit a certain mold to become a certain way, taking specific and standard steps to get there. Society often sets us up for disappointment in this way, constantly feeding us the idea that we need to look, act, feel and be different or better to achieve a certain goal. Whatever it may be, there always seems to be a desire to achieve from the outside to fit into a certain structure or category.
On my journey to become a Yoga Teacher and Nutrition Consultant, I’ve experienced the ebbs and flows of different diet and lifestyle choices brought on my stigma and image. I understand what its like to try a vegan diet and need animal sources of protein and I’ve sweat through a Bikram class waiting for the bliss that I never found.
In the same way not all of us experience yoga asana the same way. Not all of us should have the same diet or contain the same nutritional status. Just how you might find different instruction to forearm balance than me, if that pose is even in your personal practice at all. Each of us contains our own biochemical individuality, making each experience, whether it is a yoga class or a meal, different.
What is so beautiful about the human anatomy and digestive system is that it contains everything we need to know for vibrant and sustained energy and longevity as long as we treat ourselves properly and as long as we listen. The human anatomy is so intelligent, it contains the tools to recover from anything, with proper support. That is one of the most important things I’ve learned in my studies and ties directly with a Yoga practice.
Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies, and to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. It asks us to practice with good intention, and with mindfulness. We can constantly take this practice off of our mats and into the real world, as a tool applying this intuitive interconnection to our relationships, our workplace and especially our dinner table. The act of taking care of the self is found with profound yet simple steps of nourishment, by eating SOUL foods (seasonal, organic, unrefined, local) and finding that deeper intuitive connection through yoga asana and meditation.
It is said:
“You cannot love, care or serve anyone else until you love, care and serve yourself wholly and truthfully”
This falls true on so many levels. Yoga and nutrition are two ways I’ve learned to consistently care for myself and through that care; I’ve been able to serve others. I don’t hope to display a diet plan or certain image for others to follow, but rather to simply teach people to tune in and listen to themselves and the intelligence of their own bodies to know what is best for their needs. To express that change is only necessary if it is called upon by disease and not by force.
It’s my pleasure to be hosting four free classes this summer at pleasure point yoga on the connection of yoga and nutrition, nutrition especially relating to overall health and wellbeing as completion of my nutrition program studies. I couldn’t be more grateful to Aimee for the beautiful space I get to teach in every week and to bring something I’m so passionate about in similar and different ways to this space.
Here is a healing and rejuvenating Citrus Breeze Tonic perfect for a cleansing and detoxifying transition into spring full of antioxidants, fiber and allergy defenses.
½ cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
2 cups filtered water
2 medium oranges
1 medium ruby grapefruit
½ cup frozen grapes
¼ cup fresh cranberries
1 tsp ground chia or flax seeds
1 tsp raw local honey
In a saucepan, combine water and lemon verbena leaves and bring to a strong simmer. Lower heat and simmer gently for 15 mins. Drain and cool.
Juice oranges and grapefruit and place in blender.
Add frozen grapes, cranberries, lemon verbena tea, ground chia or flax seeds and honey. Blend until smooth.
It is spring! For many of us this is a time of planting new seeds, ideas, creating new habits and patterns within our lives both on a spiritual and physical level. perhaps, it is also a time of noticing. Noticing the seeds that have taken root, and weeding and uprooting the ones that no longer serve us; giving space for new life to unfold within our hearts’ intentions.
As we witness seeds shooting upward from soil to sky and growing further into the Earth, this time appears to be a time of pushing or extending. In this culture it brings many images and ideas up around the concept of detox. For some, this includes diets such as the Ten-day master cleanses, strict juice-only regimens, or restrictive carb/gluten/sugar/dairy-free diets. There must be a way to get back to the basics without stripping our bodies. Water infusions are a simple way my family and I like to introduce our bodies into Spring. It is so easy to enjoy a healthy and flavorful beverage without the added sugars and chemicals that are found in so many other drinks. By adding a few slices of fruit or vegetable, into our daily intake of water, we can benefit our mind, body, and soul all at the same time…
Start with something simple like a lemon. For many us yogis at Pleasure Point Yoga, our teachers sure keep us on our toes – activating our meridians (Chinese Medicine) and getting us sweating while calming our spirits – and when we sweat, we also have to remember to replenish in any exercise we do. So, whether you are coming in to take a yin, vinyasa or slow flow class or just getting out of the ocean simply try by adding lemon to your water. the benefits are plentiful!
infusing lemons w/ water:
helps replenish the body’s salts after a workout session
when consumed before meals it can reduces hunger
consuming after a meal with warm water can aid in digestion and also contributes to detoxification by aiding liver function
the potassium content in lemon helps to Nourish brain and nerve cells
the scent of lemons has been said to increase alertness and boost ones energy
lemons also contain a high dose of antioxidants, Vitamin C and Citric acid. This trio is helpful to boost your immune system. it also increases collagen production for more plump, youthful skin, and helps to clear up blemishes. yay.
Some literature indicates that roughly 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated – greatly impacting the peoples’ health. So, I encourage you to give it a try. with simple infusions…your body and mind will thank you for the hydration and nourishment.
Pleasure Point Yoga
written by: Shar’ron Rose Strasser @Themedicineshackshop
At the yoga studio- in any class during any season- you will hear the teachers use an abundance of nature based words: Cultivate, grounding, growing, sowing, seed, blossom. These words are used to help transform how students feel by linking their physical bodies with the energy bodies; overtime, discovering a greater insight into becoming more spacious and working with new found flexibility and strength. From strong rooting actions in the feet (and sometimes hands!) we are able to grow, lengthen and extend toward the sky. Similarly we use steady, grounded effort to cultivate heart opening back bending practices to allow the heart to bravely blossom open feeling each extraordinary moment as it passes. As Yogis, we are tuning our senses in to our physical and energetic bodies. Over time, increased sensitivity allows us to be more connected to both inner and outer worlds and ultimately the oneness of the two.
The season of Spring is a beautiful time to use our 5 senses in nature. We witness the very same qualities we hear about again and again in the yoga studio. Just stepping outside my front door in the early morning, I HEAR more activity from the birds as they arise with the sun (and some even earlier – that would be you Mockingbird!) , I SMELL a multitude of sweet blossoms mixing in the morning air, SEE rapid changes as my trees begin to bud, flower and leaf out, I TASTE the sweet and savory from my herb garden that is booming with production from spring rain and sun and I FEEL the hum of growth even in my humble front yard. Everywhere there is evidence of new beginnings arising from what has passed. new growth from rooting strength gives way to blossoming from somewhere hidden and deep within.
It is easy to feel separate from all this spring time activity – that we run on a different schedule. When we are able to slow down a bit: we see that our bodies (both physical & energetic) are governed by the pulse of nature. That, we are no different than the flora and fauna around us awakening with the spring season. Stepping onto the mat gives us a chance to come into tune with the growth and change in our own system while spending time in nature gives us a chance to remember that we are one whole living system ebbing and flowing together. The more we practice, the greater the experience! And In this way our everyday becomes more and more extraordinary.
At times everything comes together. There is connection and flow with movement in time and space, so that even though everything changes due to the nature of impermanence there still remains a beautiful, balanced, fluid harmony. One day a week, the teachers at Pleasure Point Yoga come together for a group practice. We all look forward to this time that we spend together. Sometimes we all do the same poses at the same time, sometimes we set a timer and each do our own thing for a designated, shared amount of time. We work hard, we play, we give one another reassurance when we’re tired or feeling weak, we laugh and often support one another to transcend limits and discover new poses. At the end of the session, we go our separate ways but we are still sharing a sense of synchronicity even though we are no longer at the studio.
This is what we hope to share with everyone who attends regular classes with us. A space to drop in and focus on your body and breath, allowing your mind to unwind and to come into synchronicity with your heart. Yoga is an amazing practice for dropping stress, obsessive thinking patterns, negative internal dialogues in order to wake up to the sweet synchronicity of each day, each moment, each breath. In class, you might not say a word or speak to anyone but you have shared an experience together and a collective consciousness. When you leave, besides having tuned up your body there is a peaceful feeling of being more in synch with yourself and the world all around you. Everything will come together, everything will move apart but a space of equanimity is always present before, in between and after. Let yourself go with the flow!
Taking a few weeks off from practicing and teaching at Pleasure Point Yoga, I went on assignment to New Zealand. I was there attending a multidisciplinary event called ‘New Frontiers’. This gathering was held to explore our collective well being and the realities of our changing global environment. I did not know what to expect from this island and this experience, what was unearthed was a deep awareness of the connectedness between personal and global health.
“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -The Lorax
I slowly stepped foot into the wild of the native forest. Here at the edge of Middle Earth, the land itself seemed to sigh in limerick and in song.
Every cell in my body was on high alert as if at any moment a golden secret were to be whispered to my soul. As I walked deeper down this steep valley, pathless and thick with vines, each step brought me closer to the wildness from whence I came.
My time here in Aotearoa (the Māori name for the islands of New Zealand) was spent diving deep. This deep dive did not take me from one beautifully protected park to the next but rather into the depths of the ecological situation we are facing as a planet.
Over the course of 6-days a selected group of specialists and system thinkers from around the world came together to explore the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ frontiers of our collective wellbeing. Through the various avenues of Digital Media, AgTech, Entrepreneurship, Education, Culture and Investment we got down to the nitty gritty science of our current systems—From top-down and bottom-up we explored solutions to channel intellectual, educational, financial and technical capital toward creating regenerative economies.
On the softer side, the container of the New Frontiers event, made ample space for embodied awareness and ritualized self-care. Based upon the understanding that collective change comes from first stepping within. There was a great emphasis placed upon the transformative power of art, music, yoga, sustainable food and the healing arts.
Imagine a room full of leaders who hold the keys to creating equitable change and policy to heal our planet. These individuals must be properly rested, fed, hydrated and in a state to make grounded, clear headed and integrated decisions. Throughout our time here it became increasingly evident that our individual wellbeing plays a role in the greater story. As Ken Ausubel Founder of Bioneers so graciously reminded me:
“It’s all alive. It’s all connected. It’s all intelligent. It’s all relative[s]”
When we choose stand in the face of unprecedented global environmental degradation it is easy to disconnect, to run from the alarming truths of our current reality. My hope for our future comes from a place that embraces technology’s role in reconnecting us to ourselves, to one another and (in the next stage) to the natural world. It is easy to see that what we need on an individual level is “same-same” as what the earth is calling for—clean water, clean air and fertile soil.
In this moment, start small, use your food as an access point to understand our interconnection to the natural world. With each bite remember our connection to the “earthly elements” that make us whole. Give yourself the spaciousness to assimilate new ways of being, new ways of seeing and new ways of eating. The very fabrics of our neural pathways have an ancient need for the space, quietude and time to grow. Use your presence and your breath to calm inflammation in your system. Fill your soul.
Start small. Start by looking in.
When the fire of inequality pours toxins into my waterways and blazes through the forest lungs of our home it strikes me at my core. In these moments of forgetting I am tempted to numb-out and shutdown. Tears, strength and hope swirl together as I remember how connected we truly are. Moving further into the depth of our ecological story I travel back down the valley and into the heart of the forest—whispering gently she says to me:
“Listen closely, it is from silence that all solutions are born.”