Yoga for One

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Having a yoga community is great, but sometimes a gal just needs a few minutes on the mat to herself. I’m not afraid to find a patch of grass and roll out my mat as needed. This snapshot was taken behind the library just before it opened. The birds were chirping, the leaves were blowing in the wind, and I was grateful for the socks I had stashed in my bag. Savasana was cut short by the chill, but I felt refreshed and peaceful from the time spent outdoors.

Where do you like to practice yoga on your own?

My Health Story

I’ve hesitated to share such personal information, but it’s other bloggers that have helped me thus far on my quest for health. Today, with the encouragement of good friends, I am writing the story of my journey towards health with the intention of giving the information to anyone out there that can use it for their own benefit.

It all began my junior year of college…

At the age of 20 I got a bad case of mono that triggered an autoimmune response in my body. After three weeks of nonstop sleeping, followed by many other not-so-pretty side effects and plenty of medical tests, the result was a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.

I was prescribed the steroid prednisone to get the condition under control, as well as the maintenance drug asacol (a type of anti-inflammation drug labeled NSAID). I had to eat a low-residue diet consisting of white rice and applesauce.

I was also diagnosed with a rare liver disorder called primary sclerosing cholangitis (say that three times fast…otherwise known as PSC). I was prescribed a new drug called ursodiol, which has the potential to help with PSC. There’s not much actual proof as PSC is a very rare disorder without a lot of scientific research or known information.

Back then I traveled hours to meet with a specialists at a top medical university hospital. In my opinion he was arrogant and unkind. He told my then 21-year-old self not to drink alcohol, forget about having children, and I would most likely need a liver transplant within 10 years. Talk about a depressing day.

But I refused to live in self-pity or fear. At the time I was most sad because I had already been accepted to teach Engish in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps and now that wasn’t going to happen. In the meantime I strictly followed the low-residue diet and weaned off steroids. Eventually I started to add in other foods.

Life moved on. Two years later I moved to New York City and met a new specialist. I was still taking asacol. My new doctor was, and is, amazing. He told me it was okay to drink in moderation (I was anyway) and that many people live long lives with PSC. His words got rid of that little nagging voice that made PSC a death sentence.

For the next few years I ate a healthier version of the standard American diet (SAD). Cereal with skim milk for breakfast, veggie sandwiches for lunch and the occasional trip to McDonalds. I started to learn more about nutrition and for health and ethical reasons began experimenting with veganism. In 2011 I gave up meat for lent and didn’t really miss it so I stuck with it, with the exception of fish. In 2012 I was drinking kale smoothies for breakfast and eating loads of veggies, whole grains and the occasional sugary vegan treat. With  my doctor’s approval I began to experiment with weaning off asacol. As soon as I reduced my dosage, the colitis symptoms came back (bathroom-related, immediate, and very easy to tell!).

I searched the internet for information on how to get off prescriptions with UC. I went to a five day seminar on digestive health at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I met with a nutritionist. I couldn’t find any answers. I posted about my trip to Kripalu on this blog (here and here), but I didn’t share any personal information.

In the summer of 2014 my most recent colonoscopy (yep, I’ve gotta get one every year now) showed slight inflammation. My doctor said it was nothing to worry about, but I started the search for a diet aimed to solve UC. I found the GAPS diet by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It is a very radical diet based on previous research that has been used to deal with UC, Crohn’s and other digestive disorders. It involves lots of soup made from homemade bone broth and meats. It also requires eating absolutely no sugar, processed foods, or any carbs at all including bread, gluten free bread, crackers, potatoes, and so on. I talked to M (my hubby who I have spent years convincing to be a pescatarian with me). He wasn’t going to do it with me, but he would be supportive.

With GAPS I have successfully weaned off asacol. I started in June 2014. For anyone considering weaning off medication: check with your doctor, research diet options and take it slow. For example, I was taking six pills per day; three in the morning and three at night. I began the process by taking three in the morning and rotating between three and two at night for at least a week. When that felt fine I went a week with three in the morning and two at night. This is not medical advice. When I was searching for information on how to stop taking these maintenance drugs I couldn’t find anything.

It is now November 2014. I have been dutifully eating bone broth and cooked meats and vegetables for five months. I posted here about my quest to find pasture-raised, humane animal products. In October my routine MRI (done every other year) showed new inflammation in my liver. My liver function is normal (tested through blood work every six months), which determines that the PSC is currently not progressing. I asked my doctor if there was anything I could do about the inflammation and he recommended a vegan diet. Mainstream medical experts don’t usually suggest nutrition, but maybe he did since he knows I am open to anything.

So now I am switching back to a vegan-ish diet with fish (mostly wild salmon). But this time I’m sticking with some of the principals I’ve learned from the GAPS diet. I’m saying no to sugar, processed food, and white carbs.

As for that original specialist…I’ve since traveled to Costa Rica four times, gotten married, had a beautiful healthy baby boy and have not needed a transplant.

You don’t have to believe everything a doctor says!

November: A Month of Gratitude

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Walking on my neighborhood trail = grateful connection with nature

Writing three new things a day that we are thankful for can actually change the chemical makeup of our brains and make us happier.

Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Anchor says doing this for 21 days helps the brain “retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first” creating happiness.

Count me in! November is a great time to start a practice of gratitude. I’ll be recording on old fashioned pen and paper but I’d love for you to join me!

What three things are you grateful for today?

I’m happy to have Max’s smile, fall foliage and pumpkin smoothies.

 

Reason #9: Yoga Makes Me Smile

Reason #9 Yoga Makes Me Smile: Stretching out feels sooooo good!

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At Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, New Jersey

There are some poses that just make the heart sing they feel so good. Whether we’re hunched over at an office desk or toting around a 33 pound toddler (!) most of us are holding stress in our neck, shoulders, and back. Taking even just a few minutes to counteract that tension feels so good. One of my favorite heart opening poses is triangle:

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I also love reclining hero pose, especially when propped on a few pillows or a sturdy cushion.

Which poses feel soooo good to you?

For all the other reasons yoga makes me smile: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Farm Country

 

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Lancaster, PA

I am no longer vegan-ish. It took me a while to admit this to my friends and family, and even longer to post it here in my little corner of the virtual world. I still feel very strongly about animal rights, but for now I am making the choice to consume animal products. The Westin A. Price Foundation is a resource for those that would like to find pasture-raised, organic meat, dairy and eggs. In an effort to find the most responsible farm products as possible I joined a farm buying club. The items get delivered every three weeks from an Amish farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to a location in a nearby town. Last month Max and I went to visit the farm and check things out for ourselves. The Amish family was very welcoming and I feel comfortable with the care of the animals. The Amish don’t allow their photo to be taken, but we had fun getting to know them and even invited them to visit us sometime. Max loved playing peek-a-boo and chasing the older children on their scooters.

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Southern Italy

In June my hubby M and I took our toddler to a little known town on the Southern coast of Italy. Tropea had breathtaking views, plenty of carbohydrates and very little English. Our vacation consisted of wine, pasta and delicious dark coffee balanced out by a daily climb up the very steep hill. We dared to venture on a three day road trip across the Straits of Messina to Sicily. Driving through this local region without much Italian or a GPS system isn’t for the faint of heart, but we loved the adventure.

IMG_3712A view of Tropea from the water

IMG_3694Our bambino waiting for his beachside panini

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IMG_3763His daily cookie with my daily espresso after our hike to town

IMG_3731Babywearing on a tour of a countryside farm

IMG_3733Local honey

IMG_3754Captivated by the juggling act in the main square of Taormina, Sicily

IMG_3759Fresh lemons outside our hotel in Sicily

IMG_3771One last glimpse of Tropea

 Did you go on any adventures this summer? Where’s the farthest place you’ve traveled with an infant or toddler? I’d love to hear your stories!

Under Construction

Hello and thanks for stopping by Veggie Vinyasa! I am currently in the processing of updating this blog and giving it a fresh new look. In the meantime, come visit me on Instagram @veggievinyasa.

I’ll be participating in Dhyana Yoga’s Pose of the Day for the second year in a row. Last year Baby Max was six weeks old at the start of May. This year he is a walking, talking busy little bee which will keep things fun & interesting.

I will also be participating in The Pistachio Project’s Cloth Diaper Challenge on Instagram where I will be posting pics of Baby Max in his adorable cloth diapers.

I’m super-excited about Veggie Vinyasa’s facelift, and until then I look forward to keeping in contact through this month’s Instagram challenges.

Ciao!

~Angela

Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Svadhyaya

Good morning! The word of the day is Svadhyaya. It means self-study.

Svadhyaya is the fourth niyama, or personal guideline, laid out in Patanjali’s eightfold path. The previous niyamas are

1. saucha- purity

2. santosha- contentment

3. tapas- heat

The “self” in self-study is referring to our inner selves. Basically our “self” in yoga is what’s left once we strip away the titles, relationships, characteristics and qualities that we identify with. It’s our inner truth and light. The Yoga Sutras teach us that our “self” is separate from our ego. It’s our ego that wants to identify as smart, pretty, interesting or whatever else we desire. If we can learn to detach from what we are on the surface then we can begin to let go of pain and suffering.

“One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.”     ~Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now

First Fiesta

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Vegan zucchini cake with whipped coconut frosting

On Monday our little taco turned uno. We celebrated over the weekend with a backyard Mexican fiesta. My friend Nicole made the cakes, a healthy-ish zucchini for Max and a decadent tres leches for the rest of us (find her on Facebook at Belle Torte Cakes). The local Mexican restaurant delivered the food and we kept the whole thing simple yet festive.

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A year of Max

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