It Feels Good To Stretch!
I am finally back in New York after my 2.5 weeks-long family visit to Russia and can’t wait to get back to my regular teaching/writing schedule! NYC yogis, I hope you are ready for some new mindful-flow classes!
While at home I wasn’t teaching as much as usual besides a couple of fun classes with Italian new friends but I was practicing more than usual. I even described my inspiring sunrise practice! All in all my major focus was flexibility and relaxing into discomfort to reduce anxiety. Interestingly, my practice was as much emotional and mental not just physical. Of course, yoga has the potential to increase physical flexibility and make muscles strong and supple but so does simple stretching. Yoga has a less visible but a very powerful benefit of stretching our mind and teaching us how to relax into the most uncomfortable situations.
Going to Russia I was a little scared of not having my daily dose of chia & hemp seeds, kale, spinach, and excess to all kinds of berries and fruits. While you can find most of these items in Moscow, Orenburg‘s food/grocery selection is still very limited due to its geographic location and a traditional demand for local foods. No one is dying to buy avocado in supermarkets and no many care about quinoa in the place where buckwheat rules.
Instead of worrying about my changing menu, I decided to embrace it and watch how my body would react. It was an interesting and useful experience!
Often we base our decision to eat or not to eat something on some magazine article, research or expert advise. We hear that dairy is bad and we start cautioning all our friends of its dangers. We read that soy can lead to hormone imbalance and we avoid it as a plague. I am not even talking about a new-found enemy – gluten, that seems like a major reason behind all the inflammatory conditions and has a growing army fighting against it!
Rarely do we stop and ask our own body about what works and what doesn’t. We look for super-foods and for miracle supplements without paying attention to our body’s feedback on food combinations, eating times, and nutrition requirements which might be more important than anything else.
So my goal was to pay attention to my body and to create a better feedback loop to determine what I actually thrive on and what dulls my energy. My findings were quite surprising!
First let me show you my food creations from Russia. I used only local ingredients and lots of spices. Out of the 2 weeks, I spent almost every day in the kitchen creating hearty vegetarian dishes using locally bought/picked ingredients.
My frequent go-to meals included a variety of:
Herbed Tomato soup from my mom’s garden
Cous cous salads
Russian traditional borscht
And way more dairy than I eat in NYC
(Actually, I barely have any dairy in NYC because I never crave it but at home I love Kefir that last only up to 1 week (even non-organic varieties!) And raw unhomogenized milk chai with a tsp of raw honey)
I even made my own Un-sweetened Raisin Hazelnut Granola to go with kefir:)
My surprising findings:
1. Dairy didn’t make me feel slow, heavy, or bloated. Actually quite the opposite! It felt light, satisfying, and refreshing in a 100 degree heat. I had kefir, syrniki, and raw milk chai! I don’t know if I will crave as much dairy back in NYC but if I do, I will get it from farmer’s market to make sure it’s fresh and not the kind that lasts for months even after opening.
2. Super foods are everywhere – just keep your mind open. For the lack of spinach, kale, collards or other dark greens, I searched my moms garden to find smth similar. I found a plant that my mom used for the looks actually possessed quite a superman health reputation – amaranth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranthus_cruentus). It is a dark green/red plant used in Russia mainly to feed cattle. Similar to spinach it is incredibly rich in protein – 25% of it’s calories are much-searched for muscle builder. It went well in lentil soups, cous cous salads, and even buckwheat kasha
Another super nutritious treasure I found was my mom’s freshly picked honeycomb. It was still in beeswax and with pollen. It is quite a treat! I had it with my milk chai!
My grandma had a treasure of her own – homemade kombucha. if you ever read about the origins of kombucha, you might know
that it comes from Russia. My grandma’s variety was very light, perfectly fermented and un-sweetened.
3. It felt good not to have as many fruits as I do in NYC. It might sound surprising or not as healthy but it is true. Due to a much smaller variety of fruits in Orenburg markets, I limited my fruits to our garden apples and market-bought plums. Of course you can find imported pineapples, grapes, and other fruits but for some reason they didn’t appeal to me. Since there were not that many fruits to choose from, I wasn’t craving so many of them. The more variety of taste you have access to, the more you will tend to taste all of them. So if your fridge has 7 varieties of fruits you will tend to eat more of them rather then if you had just 2 varieties of fruits. Undoubtedly, fruits are an amazing source of nutrition and are good for us, don’t misunderstand me. But sugar is sugar! We, humans, like it’s taste but our body does better if there is less sugar, even the one that comes from fruit. Upon arrival to NYC and my first trip to Whole Foods I wasn’t craving fruits as much. For now I will try to keep it down to 2-4 pieces of fruit a day.
4. I didn’t gain weight even with though my eating schedule was very irregular. Sometimes I would have breakfast at 2pm and dinner at 9pm. Sometimes I would skip dinner all-together and sometimes I ate 5 times a day. When you are traveling it might be difficult to stick to your regular schedule so be prepared for it and don’t let anxiety to build. Instead just let your body dictate when to eat. Rely on your hunger. It might be weird, especially if you are changing time but it won’t mislead you as long as you listen carefully.
5 My last finding was not about food but still health-relevant. In NYC I do at least 2 1-hour-long weight classes a week and 45 mins of cardio 5-6 times a week, at home I didn’t lift weights once instead I just played around with a band and did 40 mins of jogging in the forest 4 times a week. It was a lot less intense than what my body is used to. I thought my muscle tone would go down and that my endurance would not be as good but it didn’t change! Today I did an elliptical at level 16 for 45 min without once glancing at the time and without getting tired! Conclusion: don’t be afraid to change your workout routine, your muscles won’t disappear in 2 weeks!
Lesson learned: don’t be mentally and emotionally frigid! Let go of expectations and be open to new experiences! To learn from the new experiences, stay mindful and present in your body. The more you listen, the more you will hear!
Let me know how do you go about your diet and exercise routine when you travel. I would love to hear your tips and try them out during my next trip!
See you in class!
- The Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever! (spinachandyoga.com)