Organic Love

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I’m crazy about yoga, veggies and natural health. I’ve spent hours researching where to buy the least toxic foods, home products and skincare items. I’ve tried dozens of  facial cleansers and even more natural deodorants. My quest has led me to some pretty amazing companies and products that are healthy and way more effective than yucky chemical-laden stuff. Here are my all-time favorites and where to find them:

Food

I buy milk and eggs from an organic farmer that I have personally visited. Click here to read about our trip to Amish Country. Miller’s Biodiversity Farm is located in Pennsylvania with monthly deliveries to New Jersey and New York.

I get my vegetables from Bonterra Market (a local health food store), farmers’ markets and a weekly delivery from Door to Door Organics. Although I’m currently not a CSA member I support Jah’s Creation Organic Farm.

Home

I love Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap. My favorite scent is Lemon Verbena. I use Seventh Generation Free & Clear laundry soap. Both brands are sold at Target. I also like Method for cleaning products.

Skincare

I use Pangea’s Normal to Combo Face Ritual Set. The Australian Wild Plum & Willow Facial Cleanser and Green Mandarin with Sweet Lime Facial Toner smell amazing! I have three other essential products from Pangea: the facial scrub, mask and balancing oil. I really love their lip balm and body oil too.

I started using Pangea products recently, but I fell in love immediately. The Colorado-based company uses organic, fair trade and responsibly-sourced ingredients. Pangea is committed to transparency. An ingredient list is posted on the website. Pangea also uses environmentally-responsible packaging and has won many beauty and environmental-related awards.

Pangea is only sold through independent business owners. Part of my dream is to someday lead wellness retreats. To me, it makes sense to be part of a company with the same beliefs that I do, so I became an Independent Pangea Business Owner. I’m excited to start throwing mini spa parties & Pangea happy hours! Please email me if you have any questions about Pangea products or would like to host a happy hour (veggievinyasa@gmail.com).

Deodorant

This subject gets its own category because I have spent years testing out every brand I could find. I now have a combo that holds up through back-to-back 90 degree power yoga classes and weekend yoga teacher trainings!

I use 4-5 sprays of Thai Chrystal Mist Pump Spray topped with a few swipes of Philly-based Duross & Langel violet deodorant.

The salt spray kills bacteria, but does not neutralize odor. The stick does not prevent odor (for me) on its own. Together they are a magical nontoxic combo that keep me fresh. I reapply the violet stick as needed throughout the day.

What’s in my purse:

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What are your favorite organic brands? Which companies align with your values? 

My Health Story: Part Two

I strive to appreciate life and generally don’t like to focus on the negative. However, I feel compelled to write about this topic because I know there are many people that feel alone in what they are going through. My intention and hope in sharing these personal details is that they reach anyone who feels alone or stuck with their health issues. If that is you, please know you aren’t the only one. You don’t have to believe everything doctors tell you and you don’t have to blindly accept what’s been handed to you. You can take charge of your own health.

I am one of many people who has been told they have an illness for which there is no cure and there is no other option than to sit back and wait. I refuse to accept this fate.

I have found great support in blogs, Facebook groups, books and internet forums focused on natural health. They provide valuable tools, inspiration and suggestions. I have learned so much through these resources that I joke with friends that I’m practically a doctor now. This is just a joke of course.

In November 2014 I posted my personal health story here. At the time it was too painful to get into the details of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). But time has since passed and I am eager to connect with a support network about this condition.

PSC is an autoimmune disease of the liver. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body attacks itself. In my case, my body is attacking the bile ducts in my liver. The purpose of the bile ducts is to drain bile (and toxins) out. When they are damaged the liver is not able to flush out toxins. This can cause a buildup and damage the liver. PSC usually results in a liver transplant.

I’ve known that I have PSC since 2005ish. As I wrote in my personal health story, it was a shock at first, but since then I have been living symptom-free so it was something that did not affect my everyday life.

This past October I had a routine MRI test. The next day my doctor scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a surgeon. They found new damage to my liver and suspected the possibility of cancer. This rocked me to my core.

After two visits to new specialists and a procedure where a tube with a camera was placed down my throat to inspect the area, it was determined that it is probably not cancer, but the natural progression of the disease.

I asked my gastro doctor about a diet to reduce inflammation. He suggested a vegan diet. I asked the liver specialist about natural remedies. The only thing he suggested was to stay a healthy weight. I contacted a naturopathic who suggested a gluten free diet.

I’ve scoured the internet for alternative treatments for PSC, but haven’t found much. This is what I’ve got thus far:

The Liver Doctor: Dr. Sandra Cabot

More information from Dr. Cabot

Survivor of “incurable” cancer Kris Carr

Blogger and PSC transplant survivor Emily from She Chooses Joy

Another blogger with PSC: Journeys into Wild Health

Gluten Sensitivity and Liver Disease

Living with PSC Discussion Forum

PSC isn’t common and I’ve never met another person that has it. For the person that’s just been diagnosed, I want to share that it is possible to live a healthy, full life with PSC. For the person struggling with unpleasant symptoms, there is a whole world of possibility with holistic health (in conjunction with traditional doctors). In less than four months I was able to wean off prescription drugs (for ulcerative colitis) that I had been taking for ten years by following the GAPS diet. Don’t try it without checking with your doctor first. Mine was apprehensive but gave me his blessing to move slowly. When I asked my doc about high strength probiotics he told me they haven’t been scientifically proven enough for him to verify their use but that he doesn’t believe that taking them could hurt me.

As I’ve started eating sugar and non-gluten carbs, I’ve noticed some colitis symptoms return. I am slowly beginning to realize that I have to listen to my own body more. I’ve read and followed a lot of information, but I need to pay attention to the cues my body sends me. It is a learning process.

Today I have the courage to share my story because I feel supported and loved by my family and community. It’s still not easy to be vulnerable, but I believe in the power of authenticity.

Are you living with a chronic illness? How have you taken charge of your own health? Where do you find support and connection?

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Making kale chips with Max

Empowerment & Community

Welcome to Veggie Vinyasa! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m Angela, yoga-lover, veggie enthusiast and mama to one adorable toddler.

These days I post fun pics of yoga, veggies and toddler life on Instagram. I teach Baptiste-style, Yin and teen yoga at Grow Yoga in Galloway, New Jersey. During the summer I teach yoga to children and adults at Belhaven Lake RV Resort in the Pine Barrens. I am passionate about natural health and choosing organic as much as possible. I’m crazy about Pangea Organics!

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I started this blog to connect with like-minded souls after finishing my first yoga teacher training in 2011 at Dhyana Yoga in Philadelphia.

Since then I’ve moved to New Jersey, had a baby, gotten married and found an amazing community of yogis at Grow Yoga in Galloway.

Finding my community took a few years and a lot of effort. I started a Facebook group (South Jersey Crunchy Moms), attended meetings (La Leche League and a new mom support group), hosted play dates, threw parties, attended church and chatted with everyone I could on my lunch break at work. Along the way there were awkward friend dates and even a few no-shows at local parks, but I just kept putting myself out there.

Hard work and luck landed me a meeting with Tara at Grow Yoga (arranged by one of those Crunchy Mamas). It was love at first latte, we hugged and Tara hired me. I am forever grateful. Before I became part of the Grow community I spent my days in New Jersey dreaming of my next trip out of town. Now my husband can’t believe it when I don’t want to leave.

I share this story to empower you to follow your dreams. My dream was to have a local community of friends where I could feel loved and supported. I also dreamed of teaching yoga at a studio.

My dreams continue to grow. Now I aspire to empower others to follow their dreams. I hope to mentor beginning teachers and be a part of future teacher trainings. I dream of someday facilitating wellness retreats. I also want to teach yoga in a public school setting. I truly believe the sky is the limit!

What are your dreams? How can you empower yourself? Where can you find support?

My Grow Yoga YTT Group

Giving Up Alcohol

I’ve always been the friend to agree to suggest a round of drinks for just about any occasion. But the time has come for me to reevaluate habits that are no longer serving me. Drinking is one of ’em. I’m not sure if I’m going to be 100% dry, but I do know that I’m the type to eat the whole bag of chips. It’s easier for me to quit something altogether rather than do it in moderation.

Why I’m Giving Up Alcohol:

1. Health. As I’ve recently shared, I have an autoimmune liver condition. I’ve spoken to a specialist who suggested commanded I drastically reduce my drinking to a minimum. He said a glass of wine a day may be healthy for some people, but not me. So this is the main catalyst for change. However, if I really give it some thought there are many other reasons why I will probably be better off without drinking.

2. Making family a priority. Along with the idea of health comes living a long happy life. Being with my son as he grows up is my top priority.

3. More time and money for things that are fun. Like maybe this photography class.

4. No more hangovers. Waking up at six with a toddler isn’t fun with a headache. Waking up at six is never really fun, but it can be worth it for the hugs and giggles. My hubby and I are taking our little munchkin to Mexico this Saturday for a week. Hence, why I’m not sure about jumping into complete sobriety. But if I do drink, it will be only once or twice(?). But the days at the beaching running after Max will be much more enjoyable without the usual hangover symptoms.

5. Better sleep. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’ve noticed that I sleep much more soundly on the nights that don’t involve a few glasses of vino. Better sleep = a much happier me.

As I test the waters of swimming upstream in a world where drinking is the social norm, I’ve found a lot of support in these relatable blog posts:

A Year Without Alcohol by Kelly at The Adventures of a Sober Senorita.

Why Blog About Giving Up Alcohol by Johanna at Mocktail Hour

Why I Finally Gave Up Booze by Rebecca

One Year of Living Without Alcohol by Alison Travels

How to Socialize Without Alcohol: 7 Tips and There is Another Way by Aidan at Ivy League Insecurities

 Would you or have you considered giving up alcohol?

Word of the Year: Joy

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This year I am trying a new kind of resolution. Rather than choosing something to DO, I am picking one word to BE.

This year I choose JOY.

Specifically, I will use joy to help me in the following areas:

1. Health- Because of an autoimmune condition I must reduce reduce my alcohol consumption by drinking only on special occasions with a maximum of once per week and switch to a 100% gluten free diet. Rather than being sad, I choose joy. Health is more important than a chocolate croissant, however delicious it may be (more about this in a future post).

2. Simplicity- Clutter stresses me out. Shopping is a vice that contributes to physical clutter. Gossip contributes to mental clutter. I choose joy over shopping and gossip.

3. Ease- I choose to be authentic in my relationships and here on this blog. I will let go of any ideas of perfectionism and accept myself and others for the perfectly imperfect people we are. Being authentic contributes to joyfulness.

What would you like to BE in 2015?

Read about choosing a word here: Resolution Revolution: A Better Way to Start Your Year

Intentions for 2015

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Energy flows where intention goes…that’s the inspiration for a different kind of new year’s party. Next week I’m hosting an intention setting gathering with a few close friends (the party won’t actually be on 12/31).

There will be yoga, healthy snacks, and a tarot card reader. Guests are asked to bring yoga mats and journals if they’ve got them.

We’ll tear out magazine pictures to create vision boards. There will be journal questions and inspiring quotes posted around the room.

Putting intentions into words, as well as sharing them with others, will hold us all more accountable. We’ll each start out 2015 with support and a clear vision. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a new beginning.

Sample Journal Questions:

What were my happiest moments of 2014?

What were my biggest challenges? How did I react to those challenges?

What lessons have I learned?

What do I want more of in my life? What steps will I take?

What can I let go of? Where am I stuck?

What am I grateful for?

Who is in my support system?

(A few of these questions are from this comprehensive list.)

 

*What are your goals for the new year? How do you find support?

Black Friday Opt Out

Good Morning! It’s Black Friday and I’m snuggled at home in my pj’s with absolutely no intention of shopping today. In fact, I’m barely shopping at all this Christmas season. In the spirit of waste not, want not and gratitude for everything I already have I’m saying no to excess. I’ll still be giving gifts, but they won’t be the traditional items I usually give. Instead of focusing of stuff, I’m focusing on experiences.

I’ve gathered a few of my favorite resources about simple gift giving and keeping the integrity of the holidays.

If you want to read just one article about the subject then I highly recommend: Holiday Shopping: We Can Do Better by Becoming Minimalist.

Need more ideas, suggestions, or inspiration? Keep reading!

The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents by Zen Habits

Let’s Talk About Black Friday by The Minimalists

This quote from the above article says it all:

“Black Friday is the day we trample people for things we don’t need, the day after being thankful for what we have.”  

Nourishing Minimalism has Clutter Free Gift Lists for everyone: Toddlers, Children, Teens, Women, Men, Grandparents, and Teachers.

Clutter Free Christmas Ideas: One In, One Out by Neat Nest Organizing

How are you keeping Christmas simple this year?

Toddler Tiki Hut

My hubby M and I wanted a fun outdoor play space for Max that flowed with the tropical vegetation in our Florida backyard. He came up with this interactive tiki hut & fish cleaning station made from all natural materials. We had fun searching for the perfect (second-hand) bell and decorations from local shops at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. Max has been busy serving up sand drinks ever since. Cheers to many peaceful afternoons!

Toddler Tiki Hut

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Have a great week!

Cherry Berry Coco Smoothie

This smoothie is too delicious to keep to myself any longer! It’s full of antioxidants, found in the cherries and berries, and hydrating coconut water. The secret ingredient that makes the magic is a splash of full fat coconut milk. The texture is creamy and delicious…just like a milkshake. YUM!

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100% Coconut Milk with NO preservatives (found on Amazon)

IMG_2954Toddler approved!

Cherry Berry Coco Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 frozen banana (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen cherries and/or blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • splash of coconut milk
  • 1 cup coconut water

Directions: Blend and enjoy!

What are your favorite smoothie combos?

Five Benefits of the GAPS Diet

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The GAPS diet refers to the protocol found in Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She is a Russian neurosurgeon who used nutrition and detoxification to cure her own son of autism. Her ideas are radical and the diet takes a lot of work, but many people have found success with it. I started the GAPS diet in June 2014 as a possible way to heal ulcerative colitis. Although I have been virtually symptom free for years, I wanted to stop taking the maintenance drug asacol. While I won’t go into the details of what the diet entails (there are plenty of resources, including those listed at the bottom of this post) I will just say the key components are lots of homemade bone broth, soups, cooked meats and vegetables, fermented foods, strong probiotics, and nightly detox baths. What I do want to share is the effects of the GAPS diet on me.

1. My addiction to sugar is broken. This is a biggie for me. While I’ve always tried to eat pretty healthy, I had a crazy sweet tooth. Soda was my favorite, as well as vegan cupcakes (icing made from powdered sugar and Earth Balance butter-not exactly a health food) and cookies. Giving up sugar was perhaps the hardest part of the GAPS diet for me. Honey, in moderation, is the only sweetener allowed. Fruits started to taste sweeter, and slowly but surely I stopped missing baked goods. Now there’s only the occasional pang of longing and only when I see something that looks yummy.

2. Food from scratch is the norm in my kitchen. Homemade stock simmers for 24 hours. Everything that is eaten must be made from fresh, organic ingredients. This takes time to get used to. It helps to menu plan and bulk shop. I simplified by eating the same thing for breakfast every day (a bowl of chicken soup).

3. I have more energy. Once I got into the flow I started waking up earlier on my own. Maybe it’s because I was taking a nice relaxing bath before bed. I naturally wanted to go to bed earlier and I started to feel more in alignment with the natural cycles of day and night.

4. My emotions have been in check. This one I didn’t notice on my own. My hubby pointed out that I’ve never been calmer, rational, or clear headed. This study by researchers at UCLA found probiotic yogurt can actually alter the way the brain works.

 5. I am no longer taking asacol, a maintenance drug for ulcerative colitis. I shared more about this in my personal health story.

The GAPS diet is not for everyone. It takes a big commitment, but for those with serious conditions that Dr. Natasha addresses, the GAPS diet provides hope. Check out the resources below.

Resources for GAPS

Empowered Sustenance offers 10 Reasons to do the GAPS Diet.

This seven-part YouTube GAPS diet course goes into the science behind GAPS, as well as helpful hints for doing GAPS as a family.

The Well Fed Homestead has many posts about GAPS, including a comparison chart of GAPS and the Paleo diet.

Health, home and happiness offers tons of free recipes as well as a downloadable 30 Days on the GAPS Intro Diet for purchase.

And why I quit…

Last week I stopped the GAPS diet cold turkey. As I shared in my health story, recently doctors have found inflammation in my liver. It was last checked in May and everything looked fine. I began GAPS in June. I have to wonder if eating animal products contributed to the inflammation. My doctor suggested a vegan diet to counteract the inflammation, so I am currently back to my old veggie ways.  However, I have kept many principals from the GAPS diet, including skipping all sugar and processed foods, making food from scratch and keeping things simple.