Anxiety

Sometimes it feels like my anxiety is driving and I’m the passenger. Any dietary tips that could help?

Anxiety is more prevalent than ever. With the invention of the internet, smart phones and wifi - life is moving at a faster pace than ever before. The antidote lies in slowing down, but that is not an option on most days for most people. There are definitely some simple dietary tips to curbing your anxiety and it’s not just about saying “no” to your second cappuccino.

First - Identify where you fall on the anxiety spectrum. Are you anxious at normal times? Like before speaking in front of a large group of people? Or are you anxious every time your phone rings? Are you losing sleep? Do you suffer from racing thoughts? Feeling scattered? Forgetting appointments? If this is you, you may have what is known in Ayurvedic medicine as a vata imbalance. Vata dosha individuals, (those with more air/wind in their bodies) are most prone to anxiety and their way of moving through the world can often perpetuate these feelings of anxiety.

And now a second set of questions….What is your morning routine around food? Do you eat breakfast? Do you drink caffeine? How often? Do you like to have salads or green juices for lunch? Do you ever eat meat?

If you answered yes to many of the above questions, it is actually great news! Why?!!? Because it means there are a lot of things you can do to start playing some offense against feeling anxious.

Eating breakfast (and eating in general) is actually a great tool for relieving anxiety. Food in the belly makes us feel grounded and balances out blood sugar. You can read about the link between low blood sugar and anxiety in Dr. Weil’s article here. If the food we are eating is easy to digest (spoiler alert: salads are NOT easy to digest), the blood sugar will balance itself quickly and efficiently. So to avoid making a short answer any longer…here are Litt’s top recommendations for meeting anxiety head-on:

  • Eat regular meals, try not to skip breakfast or lunch particularly

  • Opt for cooked, warm food when possible (rice bowls, soup, stew, dahl etc.)

  • If you like caffeine and alcohol, enjoy them, but keep the balance by consuming with food and plenty of water

1 day cleanse

This is not a cleanse based on severe restriction. It is a 24 hour period where you eat the same thing at every meal, which, for most of us, is a welcome break from decision making. Try to focus on how you think you will feel at the end of the cleanse and let that be your motivation for doing it. If you aren’t feeling excited and committed about it…it’s probably not the right time! When it is - you’ll have the information below to guide you through!

The night before: Soak mung beans, chop toppings, set intention and decide on mantra

Upon waking: repeat mantra to yourself in the mirror and drink warm water with lemon

Breakfast: Mung bean soup

Lunch: Mung bean soup

Dinner: Mung bean soup

Optional toppings: green onions, cilantro pesto, cilantro, lime, raw sauerkraut, sesame seeds, avocado, greek yogurt, sauteed greens

Recommended beverages: herbal detox tea, water with lemon, water with ACV, warm water, other herbal teas, green juice (vegetable only, not with fruit)

Snack choices: Cucumbers with salt, sauteed greens, fruit by itself, pesto w/ radishes

Dessert: dates with ghee

Before bed: wind down with low key yoga or guided meditation, repeat mantra in the mirror, any other evening rituals you’d like to include

Throughout the day drink PLENTY of water and don’t overdue it on your exercise!

Recipe for Green Mung Soup

Recipe adapted from Dailyayurveda.com

Green mung bean soup has been used for thousands of years in Grandmothers’ kitchens all across the Asian continent as a healing medicine. Well renowned for its nourishing and detoxifying effects, green mung soup helps to balance all 3 doshas.  It helps clear away Aam (toxicity) that gets lodged in the body over time due to poor diet, lack of exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle. This soup is ideal for anyone trying to shed a few pounds or wanting to do a gentle cleanse.

Ingredients:

1.5 cups green mung beans (pre-soak for 3-8 hours, then rinse and set aside)

Approximately 4 cups hot water

1 large yellow onion

1 clove garlic (optional)

½ bunch of kale or 3 handfuls spinach/arugula

2 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon himalayan pink salt

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of black or brown mustard seeds

A couple grinds of black pepper

Directions:

  1. Soak mung beans overnight.

  2. Dice the onion, wash and chop the greens and carrots and set aside.

  3. In a large pot, melt the ghee over medium heat.

  4. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and wait for the sound of the pop or until they become fragrant.

  5. Add diced onion and let it caramelize for about 10 minutes over medium low heat, in the last few minutes, add the garlic

  6. Pour the pre-soaked mung beans over the onions.

  7. Pour hot water over the mung beans until it goes about 2 inches over the mung beans.

  8. Add the turmeric and pink salt and black pepper.

  9. Simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally, then add the carrots.

  10. Simmer for 15-20 more minutes or until dahl starts to fall apart and then add the greens.

  11. Simmer for 5-minutes.  Add salt to taste


Why do people cleanse?

There are many reasons why it is a good idea to do a cleanse at least once a year, let’s take a deeper look at some rationale behind cleansing. We’ll start through the lens of Yoga and then through the lens of Ayurveda.

Yoga is comprised of 8 limbs. They are:

  • Yama (things to restrain from)

  • Niyama (things to aspire to)

  • Asana (postures and poses)

  • Pranayama (breathwork)

  • Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)

  • Dharana (meditation)

  • Dhyana (single-pointed focus)

  • Samadhi (Enlightenment)

Each of these limbs deserves their own book really but today we are looking at Pratyahara in particular. Pratyahara means to withdraw from the senses. When we withdraw from the senses there is a natural opportunity to turn inward and often find clarity. This is why Yoga retreats are so popular. They force us out of our normal routine and allow the senses to take a break from all the stimulation they are constantly receiving. Cleansing is an act of pratyahara for our taste buds and also for the nervous system. As modern humans, most of us consume an extremely wide range of foods throughout our week. This is a lovely privilege and something to enjoy. This wide variety of flavors, textures and culinary experience is a joyful, beautiful thing AND it also can be a little overwhelming to our systems. A cleanse is an opportunity to minimize thought and variety in order to rest the GI system and reset any food addictions that have crept in.  (the most common food addictions being: processed grains, sugar, caffeine and alcohol). But that’s not all folks - something pretty wonderful happens when you cleanse. Unburdened by the ups and downs of a varied diet, the brain and nervous system take a collective exhale. Mono-diet (eating one thing for several days in a row) has long been a tactic of monks and Yogis alike as a way to reach deeper meditation and a profound sense of calm. Cleansing can be monotonous and a little boring, but the upsides are many.

Ayurveda tells us there are 3 major causes (trividha karana) of imbalance and disease. The idea is that if one can keep the 3 causes in a happy state, good health will ensue.

The causes are:

  • Kala (seasonal affect, time of day/year etc.)

  • Artha (underuse or overuse of the sensory organs)

  • Karma (action)

All three of these causes give us good reason to cleanse and here’s why:

Kala

When the seasons change, there is a very high risk of falling under the weather. In Springtime we also see a lot of allergies. Practicing a mono-diet can assist the body in making the adjustment from spring to winter. In winter, there can be build-up of Winter sludge (accumulated heavy/dense/sticky qualities) not only in the GI tract but throughout the body. As the sun comes out and things get warmer, our sinuses, skin and small intestines are doing their best to melt excess weight and mucus outward. Cleansing can assist in the process.

Artha

The 5 sense organs; ears, eyes, skin, tongue and nose do an amazing amount of work for us. Sometimes they are underutilized but more often they are overutilized. The tongue becomes accustomed to foods with too much salt or sugar, the eyes are exhausted from time spent on screens, the nose is overexposed to fragrances and scents in our public environments, the skin is in and out of goosebumps from all the rain and we all can relate to the feeling that our poor ears just get too much noise! Cleansing is an intentional reset for our tongue in particular, but often when cleansing the other sense organs get a break as well.

Karma

Karma in this context includes all actions, good and bad. As we know, (thanks Sir Isaac!) every action results in a reaction - Ayurveda thinks so too. Ayurveda also recognizes the human tendency to often make the choice that harms over the choice that helps. This tendency is so human that there is even a word for it! Prajnaparadha means “crimes against wisdom”. Although this translation feels rather intense, we can probably all recognize that the reaction comes back pretty strong when we repeatedly do something we know is not good for us. On the flip side, when we make the choice that is good for us, we often see a positive reaction soon after. A cleanse can be a positive action for anybody and the results tend to include all kinds of positive reactions.

People who cleanse often experience:

  • Deep, high quality sleep

  • Minimal bloating and gas

  • Regular bowel movements

  • Increased, healthy appetite

  • Clear eyes

  • Calm mind

  • Reduced congestion

  • Depth in meditation

  • Improved complexion

It’s important to note that like all things, doing a cleanse is a temporary process. It is not recommended to continue the mono-diet beyond 7 days. It is also important to remember (especially mid-cleanse), that you will eat all things you love again in the near future. In fact, you might even enjoy them more!

More questions?! Send them over through our Blog page “Ask Litt”


Chilled and it's not chill

This rainy season is really getting the best of me and I can’t seem to keep my body warm enough! Any tips on how to stay warm during the winter months?

Love this question and yes! We have a few life-hacks when it comes to cold weather. The winter months are hard on our bodies and hard on our minds too. (Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing!) Animals gain weight for the Winter, some grow thicker coats, they burrow, their body temperature rises, they sleep and they slow down until it’s time for Spring again. All of these tactics are good for humans too! Yes - I really did say that it’s O-K to gain a couple lbs in the Winter. Dressing warm and raising our internal temperature may seem like no brainers but we can really take that to the next level with these 5 tips.

  • Don’t neglect the feet. Wear heavy wool socks inside and out. Slippers are a good idea when at home and cover those ankles before you leave the house! Save the flats for May.

  • Focus on the trunk. The fastest way to heat up the body is by activating the muscles of your abdominals, back and glutes. Think bridge pose with pulses or strong core work. When these large muscle groups are exercised blood flow increases to the heart and organs. The heat we create in the trunk will spread throughout the body quickly. Of course jumping jacks, push ups and squats don’t hurt either!

  • Warm foods and liquids. There is a reason all you want at the end of a wet day is an English stew and a Guinness. Heart soups and stews warm us from the inside and they are easy to digest. Think of your digestion (metabolism) as a little furnace inside your body. If it is struggling to burn up cold, raw foods, it won’t do much in the way of heating the body either. Warm, cooked foods are easier to digest. Tea and room temp water will help your cause too.

  • Cold rinse. WHAT?! That’s right, a cool/cold rinse at the end of your hot shower will actually help your body adjust to the temperature of the air. The end of the shower might be a bit painful but getting out of it will be a breeze. Cold water also helps our blood circulate!

  • Love your neck! Treat your sweet little neck to a scarf every time you leave the house! Another go-to trick is to fill a long tube sock with rice, tie a knot at the end and pop it in the microwave for 4 minutes. Drape the sock around your neck when you first get home to cozify yourself and relax tension in the shoulders!

We love hearing other ideas so please comment below if you have some more tips on how to get through the gray days! The planet is happy but these California bodies don’t know what’s hit them! Stay cozy friends :)

Wellness Shmellness

How can I be sure incorporating wellness into my company is going to be beneficial?
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It is pretty hard these days to scroll for more than 30 seconds without being bombarded with the most colorful superfood smoothie bowl, most effective diets and latest in wellness research. What’s with the health obsession that seems to be taking over our instagram feeds and billboards around the country? What’s worse, you can’t even escape the wellness pressure at work?! Come on!

The truth is, most other countries have wellness woven into their cultural DNA. The United States is a place where people work hard and work harder. Wellness is cast out as an indulgence and therefore worthy of guilt. One little hiccup in this societal norm is that the United States has some of the highest stress-related illness rates in the world. In fact, US employers spend almost 300 billion in stress-related healthcare and missed work days. So maybe it’s not the worst thing that we start to consider a little bit of a lifestyle shift over the coming decades. To quote Brianna West,  “A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.”

Alas, we are moving in the direction of integration and that is pretty cool news. Many of the most desirable places to work have lead the charge in adopting wellness as a big part of their company culture. Clif Bar CEO, Kevin Cleary set the bar years back by paying employees for 2.5 hours of weekly workout time and shutting down emails after 7pm. Now, as 2018 is upon us, the heavy hitters (Google, LinkedIn, Apple) almost all have onsite gyms, kombucha on tap and even in house massage therapists. Wellness is the wave of the future and if the expectation for the average working American is to continue at breakneck speed, thank goodness this is the case.

As with any trend, as it picks up speed it has the potential to become extremely off-putting and even annoying. The good thing about living WELL is that there are a lot of ways to do it. If Paleo diet and dumbbells aren’t for you, there is always a dance party, a meditation class or simply a long walk in nature. When companies build their identities to include wellness, they will attract like-minded folks that keep each other balanced by encouraging a balance of quality sleep, healthy food, deep breaths and movement. As individuals, most of us still need permission to take care of ourselves guilt-free. What better permission than that of your employer?

Still not sold? Here’s a chance to read up on more reasons to jump on the wellness wagon.

Do Wellness Programs Make Employees More Productive?

Improving Company Culture Starts With Wellness

Yoga and Meditation Can Change Your Genes, Study Says

This Is What Self Care Really Means...

Downside Up

Why do we practice inversions in yoga? When should I practice them and when should I hold off?
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As a yoga teacher, I get a lot of questions about inversions so I’m really happy you asked! Inversions are poses in which your legs and hips are higher than your heart. A few common inversions are headstand, shoulder stand and legs-up-the-wall. Inversions are tricky because while the usual response of “listen to your body” definitely applies here, there are some instances in which inverting is not recommended.

If you have any of the following conditions, inversions are contraindicated for you:

  • Detached retina

  • Cervical spine injuries

  • Late term pregnancy (highly debated)

  • Day 1 -3 of your menstrual cycle (also debated)

  • Low blood pressure

  • Frequent migraine headaches  

  • Heart issues

The reason some women don’t invert during menstruation and late pregnancy is due to an internal force called apana vayu. Apana vayu is downward moving life-force energy and we all have it. Apana vayu assists our body in defecation, urination, labor and menstruation, but it also helps us to feel grounded and connected to the earth. When our body is menstruating or preparing for pregnancy there is a lot of energy moving down toward the earth. These are big projects for a female body and in some cases, when we flip everything over, it can interrupt the project.

So why even bother with all this upside down craziness?!? Here are the benefits of inverting:

  • Shoulder strengthening

  • Tones the abdominals

  • Moves lymphatic fluid and stimulates our glands

  • Wonderful for digestion

  • Can be uplifting, good for depression

  • Can also be calming

  • Changes perspective

My favorite reason for inverting is a concept called pratikpaksa bhavana which translates to: cultivating opposites. When we turn upside down we are seeing the world from the opposite angle. With changed perspective we can look at tendencies and thought patterns with new eyes - an AMAZING way to catch ourselves when we suffer from negative thinking, worry or doubt.

Let’s try it right now….

Consider a recurring thought pattern or doubt that you’ve been struggling with:

“I am terrible in social situations and always feel like I say the wrong thing.”

Now consider the precise opposite thought pattern:

“I am a social butterfly and everyone always thinks I’m witty and fun.”

Although you may not completely believe your “new” perspective right off the bat, often the drastic discrepancy between the 2 is so extreme that it will snap you out of the thought. You may even find humor in it! Realistically we all probably fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes which is why it’s only fair to consider both sides!

Hope that answers your question! If you want to get deeper into the topic just let us know!

Soaking Beans

What is the purpose of soaking your dry beans before you cook them?
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Answer:

First of all, dried beans are a wonderful and economical source of protein, fiber, iron, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium. When we cook them from scratch they maintain their prana (life force energy) as opposed to consuming canned beans which become tamasic (stagnant or dull energy). In addition to softening beans in preparation for cooking and shortening their cooking time, soaking beans may makes them easier to digest and can even enhance their nutritional benefits. 

From the Ayurvedic perspective it is very important to soak your beans before you cook them. That said, all beans and legumes have different qualities and some need more time to soak than others. For example, peas and red lentils only need to soak for about 20 minutes before you cook them. Black beans and garbanzo beans need at least 8 hours to soak. 

In addition to soaking, cooking your beans with ghee (clarified butter) and cumin seeds can help to reduce the gas as well! Try the recipe below to experience it for yourself!

Here's the Science!

"The outer coatings of many varieties of beans have sugars called oligosaccharides. When beans aren’t soaked, these sugars can bypass your stomach and small intestine without being fully digested. When these sugars enter your large intestine, bacteria break them down, producing intestinal gas in the process. Soaking dried legumes dissolves the membranes that cover beans and releases their oligosaccharides. After soaking, discard water and rinse beans to remove sugars." - www.livestrong.com

-Recipe For Traditional Ayurvedic Green Mung Soup-

Green mung bean soup has been used for thousands of years in Grandmothers kitchens all across the Asian continent as a healing medicine. Well renowned  for its nourishing and detoxifying effects, Green Mung soup helps to balance all 3 doshas.  It helps clear away Aam (toxicity) that gets lodged in the body over time due to poor diet, lack of exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle. This soup is ideal for anyone trying to shed a few pounds or wanting to do a gentle cleanse. 

Ingredients:
1 cup whole green mung beans (must soak at least 5 hours)
3 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp Ghee
1 1/2 tsp ginger - chopped
1/2 tsp garlic - chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Turmeric          
1 small pinch of hing (asafoetida- available for purchase at the Indian store- not necessary... you can still make it without the hing)                                                                
1 tsp Himalayan Pink Rock Salt or to taste (available at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)

Directions

1. Soak the mung beans overnight in water. 
2. Finely chop ginger and garlic. 
3. Drain the mung beans, rinse them and put them in pot with 3 1/2 cups of water.
4. Add salt and turmeric and bring to a boil.
5. Cook Mung beans fully stirring occasionally. (they are not fully cooked until they are breaking apart. Will take approx. 45 min unless you use a pressure cooker in which case it will only take about 20 minutes)
6. Heat ghee in a separate pan. Add hing, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Wait until you hear the cumin seeds pop. Then add garlic and ginger and let simmer for a few minutes until garlic becomes golden brown.
7. Add ghee mixture to cooked mung beans and stir.
8. You can add greens like kale or spinach to this for some added texture.
9. Enjoy!