Video: Yoga for Tight Upper Back

yoga for upper back

yoga for upper backSitting at your desk for too long? What about sitting in traffic? Yea, it sucks! And your back doesn’t like it either. Hence the society that we live in where we’re all hunched over and complaining of chronic and upper back pain. I’ve heard your call (including my own back) and wanted to share a quick yoga routine for a tight upper back.

Unfortunately, a tight upper back can lead to a number of issues including headaches, a collapsed chest (and therefore a collapsed heart), and poor posture (which is both a cause and an effect). By relaxing and strengthening the muscles in our upper back, shoulders, and neck we will be able to improve our posture, open the chest, and relieve sore muscles.

You can do it sitting in your chair at work, on the couch, on a mat, wherever and it takes less than 5 minutes! Let me know what you think and what issues you’d like to see focused on in the future. I’ll be sure to get them live for you so that we can all lead a happier life, which includes a happy and healthy body!

Enjoy!

Craving Pasta, but not the Carbs? Try This…

no carb vegetarian pasta

Raise your hand if you’ve bought a spiralizer… (raises hand). After watching a cooking show and being mesmerized on how easy it was to create beautiful little ribbons with just a simple twist, I was hooked. I envisioned a million ways that I would use this tiny little contraption that I bought for just $12. In my eyes, at that point, I had just reached a new level of healthy cuisine.

no carb vegetarian pastaOh how wrong I was. Have you ever bought something, put it in a draw, only to never let it see the light of day? (Raises hand.) My genius little spiralizer got pushed to the back of the drawer. Catching up with my mandolin and extra large bamboo steamer. That is… until I decided to take action and bring it into my cooking rotation. What I made with it isn’t life changing per se, you already known you can spiralize your veggies, but because it’s so simple, delicious, healthy, vegetarian, light on the hips, and appealing to all tastes – especially those looking for a big bowl of pasta – I had to share.

no carb vegetarian pastaThis recipe is packed with vegetables – I mean packed. You’ll feel so great eating it that when you go for that bite of ice cream for dessert, you’ll enjoy every last bite – no regrets! (Just don’t eat the whole pint, unless you’ve had a really crappy day – then go for it!) I also did a little variation on your normal basil pesto. I had some fresh spinach leaves in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I turned my spinach into a pesto. Delicious!

no carb vegetarian pastaI served my pasta with a quinoa stuffed pepper where I added some of the spinach pesto into the quinoa then baked the peppers with mozzarella cheese on top. Just a suggestion!

no carb vegetarian pastaOh and a side note, if you have dogs, save the leftover “knubs” of veggies for them. My one dog got a kick out of it. He played with it for a few minutes and then gobbled it down. Everyone loves their veggies!

vegetarian pasta

Pesto Veggie Pasta

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the Pesto:
1 cup Fresh Organic Spinach
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more for garnishing)
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

For the Pasta:
4-6 Zucchini and Yellow Squash (Using both creates a really vibrant plate)
3 Carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pesto, combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor until chunky. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor runs until you get a nice chunky consistency. Taste for salt and pepper.

no carb vegetarian pastaFor the pasta – time to get your spiralizing arm in gear (it’s a workout!) Spiralize all the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Once you have the ribbons, heat a non stick pan to about medium heat, add the olive oil, and saute the ribbons until slightly tender (about 5 minutes).

While still in the pan, add the pesto by tablespoon until you reach a level where the “noodles” are coated with the pesto. Grate some extra Parmigiano Reggiano over the top, maybe sprinkle a few more red pepper flakes over top and I’m telling you, you’ve got a winner!

Entering the Year of the Fire Monkey

year of the fire monkey

If you watched Superbowl 50 last night, you might have been weirdly intrigued by the “Puppy, monkey, baby” commercial. Honestly, I can’t remember what the commercial was actually selling, but the combination of the three very cute entities rolled up into one was disturbing, fascinating, and hilarious. However, that’s not my point.

year of fire monkeyToday, February 8, 2016 marks the Chinese Lunar New Year, moving from the year of the Sheep, a Yin and Wood year, to the year of the Monkey, which also happens to be a fire year. What does this all mean? Keep reading below and find out what all this “monkey business” is about!

 

Welcoming the Year of Fire

First, let’s get a little hold on what a “fire year” versus a “wood year” actually means. According to Chinese Astrologer and Doctor of Chinese Medicine Narrye Caldwell, a wood year focuses on growing your intuition, breaking through barriers, growing, and becoming enthused by new or old projects. We may have spent the past two years growing our vision, seeking our goals, but have been unable to move forward in an educated way. This is partly due to wood’s lack of wisdom and refinement, leading us to become unstable or reckless.

year of the fire monkey“Fire qi is the full expression of Wood’s vision. Fire brings forth the rose, lays the paint on the canvas, and gives voice to the song that’s been forming in the depths of your heart,” said Caldwell.

Feng Shui expert Karen Abler Carrasco also explains how wood is introspective, focusing on a vision that luckily for us, will now be put ablaze by the fire year!

Combined with the flaming intensity of fire and the foundation we set for our intention during the wood years, we will be able to manifest our dreams into reality. During this year, understand that fire, just like that in nature, is difficult to control, but when are able to allow the fire to burn bright while also keeping the flames from burning the edges, it will continue to burn brighter and brighter as the heat intensified.

year of fire monkey

The Explosive Energy of the Fire Monkey

year of fire monkeyNow what about the monkey? Known as being one of the most intelligent signs of the Chinese Zodiac, the monkey is clever, resourceful, and adventurous, but can also be selfish, unpredictable, and erratic. My favorite characteristic of the monkey is it’s magical qualities. It has a way of turning chaos into magic and transformation, testing your ability to stay calm during times of upheaval while you grab a hold of the possibilities that arise.

“But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale,” said Shelly Wu.

During the year, make sure you engage your senses with creative energy both externally and internally. Nourish your body and mind with activities that both inspire you such as writing, drawing, dancing, singing, playing, and ground you such as practicing yoga, meditation, and gardening. It’s also important to balance your food, lowering the inflammation inducing ingredients because our fire energy is already strong. (Check out this recipe A Summer Grain Salad).

My Intentions For This Year

year of the fire monkeyNow that we understand a bit about what’s coming, it’s time to turn inward and see where we would like to go. This is the time to take charge, delve into your dreams and allow them to take shape. For me, I’m going to focus on what makes me happy: sharing my love and passion of yoga, meditation, healthy eating, nourishing the body and soul, and writing. One step in front of the other or as Dory in Finding Nemo said… “Just keep swimming.”

Use your intuition that you’ve nourished throughout 2014 and 2015 and allow them to take shape within the fire. We’ve come this far, we’ve created our vision, and now it’s time to take hold of it and move forward. Remember to use your intuition and knowledge and you step on the path towards illumination. It’s your time to shine and the best way to shine is when you’re being true to yourself while sharing it with others.

As always, “Bee” Well,

Melissa

Recipe: A Summer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

quinoa salad recipe

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that my taste buds are craving bright, fresh, and bold flavors – basically summer flavors. As much as I love the soups, stews, and pastas of winter, I’m also in love with grain salads that are the perfect meal, side dish, or snack.

quinoa salad recipeMy obsession with citrus continues with this salad that is packed with summer ingredients. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate eating outside of the season – we all know that things tend to taste better when they actually grow relatively around the same time that you’re consuming it – however, sometimes you have to make an exception!

My Summer Grain Salad is the perfect antidote to those winter blues (and pounds!) And be prepared to make extra! The last few times I’ve made this recipe, I just threw it all together in a tupperware container so I could grab a bite (or two) or a bowl in a flash.

This recipe is also super, super, super simple. I mean, you can basically put this together in your sleep!

quinoa salad recipeSummer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

2 cups Quinoa, rinsed
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 Avocado, diced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 limes, with zest removed
2 tablespoons jalapeno olive oil (or plain, then just add chopped jalapenos!)
1 tablespoon jalapeno infused white vinegar (or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, and rinsed quinoa. Toast until fragrant on medium heat. Then add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add in the quinoa when finished (no need to let cool, it will help wilt the spinach ever so slightly) and then dig in.

Seriously simple… Simply delicious… Enjoy!

Vegetarian Recipe: Quinoa Stew

vegetarian quinoa stew

I’m a sucker for stews, especially when it’s chilly outside and all I want is a big pot of delicious vegetables without going crazy cooking all day long. Hence… the stew. The perfect one-pot-wonder that is the answer to those days when you want something hearty, delicious, good for you, but super easy to make.

vegetarian quinoa stewOne of my favorite dishes to make is a stew that’s packed with sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, and quinoa. I love the combination that they bring together. Similar to southwestern flavors, this stew also packs a punch in heat and tartness that helps cut the thickness of the stew.

If I haven’t sold you on the flavor profile already, let me give you a little urging on the nutrition front:

quinoa stewSweet Potatoes – Packed with Vitamin A and C (gotta love that bright orange color, think beta-carotene in carrots) as well as some great dietary fiber, sweet potatoes good for every part of your body, even your heart thanks to B6 that helps keep your heart walls flexible and healthy.

quinoa stewBlack Beans – You know the song, Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart, the more you fart, the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal! There’s a reason why that song is so popular. Now, if beans tend to be a little difficult on your digestive system, just make sure they’re cooked properly.

quinoa stewQuinoa– Oh quinoa, the ancient Peruvian grain that has successfully won over millions in their quest to get healthy. This little powerhouse is  one of the only non-animal based foods that considered “complete protein.” What does that mean? It contains all of the essential amino acids, which means it’s packed with protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium (one of my favorite vitamins, especially for those suffering from headaches.)

quinoa stewTomatoes – Ok, even though we know that Gisele and Tom don’t eat them (tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family), these plump, red and juicy bites of summer are also packed with Vitamin C (this soup is a great idea to eat during the flu and cold season) and a host of other antioxidants that combat the formation of free radicals in your body.

Now that I have (hopefully) convinced you to jump on the healthy eating train, let’s get to the good stuff. Make an extra helping of this as the soup only plumps up more as you reheat it later in the week. It’s definitely a dish that both meat lovers and vegetarians will love to eat.

vegetarian quinoa stewQuinoa Stew with Sweet Potatoes – Hacienda Style

1 cup Quinoa, rinsed
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons chiles in adobo sauce
3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, and diced into bite size pieces
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1-2 cups water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful of chopped cilantro
2-3 limes, zest first, then quartered
crumbled tortilla chips to garnish (optional)
Mexican crema to garnish (optional)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized pot, put one tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the pan. Place the rinsed quinoa in the pan and let toast in the spices until fragrant. Then add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until cooked – about 15 minutes.

vegetarian quinoa stewMeanwhile, heat a large dutch oven under medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Saute till translucent. Add the garlic and rest of the cumin and the chiles in adobo sauce. Add salt and pepper. Once fragrant, add the sweet potatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sweet potatoes are slightly cooked. Then add the can of fire roasted tomatoes. Add enough water to almost cover the potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the lime zest, quinoa, black beans, and a 1/2 of the cilantro. Cook together for at least 5 minutes to let the flavors combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in a bowl garnished with a squeeze (or two) of lime, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips, and Mexican crema… maybe even some diced jalapenos.

Enjoy!