A guest blog by dietetic intern Tanya Mezher

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Part of what intrigued me most about interning with Anastasia Health is her holistic approach to disordered eating, which includes offering yoga therapy as a course of healing and treatment. My first experiences with yoga began about five or six years ago when I sought out ways to diversify my exercise routine. The gym I visited regularly happened to offer classes to its members and I often watched curiously through the glass windows at the synchronizing yogis, as I reluctantly clung to my habit on the treadmill. Eventually, I would join my first class, forever transformed. I quickly became enamored with the uplifting, holistic effect of each experience. Yoga is much more than a physical movement - it has become a form of grounding, anxiety and stress relief, creativity, playfulness, spiritual meditation - a way to care for myself, my body, my mind, my soul. It has helped me increase awareness of my internal dialogue and thoughts - creating space for loving gentleness, kindness, patience and peace toward myself and others.

The practice of yoga is innately therapeutic, and for many, has been incorporated into their days as a way of life. Yoga has significant benefits on stress marker levels, flexibility, respiratory and cardiovascular function, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep and overall quality of life.[1] By addressing an individual as a whole being where the function and wellness of the body, mind, and soul are intricately intertwined and cannot be healed apart from the other - it is no wonder yoga therapy is considered a complementary and alternative approach to medicine.[2]

Yoga therapy is particularly influential as a complementary approach to treatment for eating disorders. Eating disorders are often categorized as anxiety disorders, in which individuals cope with emotional and psychological issues through objective manipulation of their physical bodies and behavior. Individuals who struggle with disordered eating also generally experience disconnection from and discomfort with their physical bodies - often ignoring or completely out of tune with hunger and fullness cues. The practice of yoga can be considered an embodiment or external expression of what is happening internally within the individual. By intently focusing on each breath and movement - one is brought to an awareness of the physical and emotional feelings that are present. With pauses in the stillness, an individual can be gently guided to confront anxieties, which in our typically fast moving pace we tend to bury or flee from, often resulting in harmful behavior as a means to cope. This increased sense of self-awareness facilitates a unique process of healing and attunement to our needs and respect for our bodies.

Regular yoga therapy has been shown to significantly improve body satisfaction in individuals who participate in as little as 30 minutes of yoga per week.[3] Ultimately, yoga therapy is a self-healing practice, the frequency, and duration of which are based on individual needs. Yoga can be complex and approached from various styles, however, it can also be as simple as breathing into the depths of the belly or taking a few minutes to sit in a squat to start to feel a shift in energy and mood. 

 

References:

[1.]     Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga, 4(2), p.49.

[2.]     (2017). Yoga: In Depth. Retrieved from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm

[3.]     Neumark-Sztainer,D et al. (2018). Yoga and body image: Findings from a large population-based study of young adults. Body Image, 24:69-75.

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AuthorAnastasia Nevin
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A guest blog by dietetic intern Isabelle Carren-Le Sauter

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Working with Anastasia, I have been recently introduced to the Ayurvedic tradition and its personalized recommendations for maintaining health and happiness. As a soon-to-be dietitian, the nutritional recommendations were most interesting to me, and right from the beginning I realized how intuitive they are. Of the three doshas, or personality-types, the kapha dosha tends to be very solidly built, calm, stable and strong. However, when someone who is primarily kapha is out of balance, they tend to oversleep, become congested, and feel unmotivated. I instantly connected: This is me. When I feel this way, I seek comfort food; I crave pastries and Mac and cheese, heavy foods in large portions. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with these foods, the Ayurvedic tradition would argue that eating heavy food will only allow a kapha to sink deeper into their kapha-ness, while eating opposing foods such as lightly sautéed leafy greens over a bed of whole grains, or going for an energizing walk will bring you out of what I think of as the “kapha funk.” Intuitive, right?

In addition to describing personality types, the three doshas also have primary seasons. We have just entered Pitta season, which ranges from mid-June to mid-October. When out of balance, pittas tend to be fiery, prone to sarcasm, irritability and easy overheating: all things which can be exacerbated by the sticky, hot weather at this time of year. Even people without much pitta in their constitution can begin to feel irritable and easily frustrated when the weather turns hot. But an in balance, pitta is focused, energetic, organized and creative, and to return to these wonderful qualities, here are a few simple tips:

  • Stay Fresh: Seek out ripe fruit for a light, delicious, and refreshing snack that will quench your hunger and your thirst without weighing you down. Watermelon, mango, grapes and apples are all great choices. Water-laden vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, zucchini, and leafy greens are also recommended. Sautee, blanch, or steam them briefly, and add cooling herbs and spices like mint, fennel, dill and coriander.
  • Avoid heavy foods and flavors: A hearty butternut squash curry may sound extremely appealing after a long day out in the snow, but a steaming hot stew on an 85 degree day may just get your blood boiling. Try to avoid heavy, greasy foods, as well as sour, spicy or salty foods such as citrus, unripe fruit, sour cream, cayenne, chiles, and pickles or other condiments.
  • Don’t Shock the System: While an ice-cold beverage may seem like just the thing to cool you down, the Ayurvedic tradition cautions against this because instead of calming the digestive fire, it may just snuff it out. Plenty of hydration with room temperature or slightly cool water is a much better way to go.
  • Take It Outdoors: Daily exercise strengthens the mind, improves mood, and restores the body’s natural flow, and doing it outside is a way to be in nature and appreciate the beauty of summer. To avoid flaring up that Pitta fire, try cooling exercises like early morning or nighttime walks, yoga in the park or on the beach, and swimming.
  • Routine: Ayurveda really promotes the importance of doing certain things daily, like eating breakfast and rubbing your skin as a form of awakening massage each morning. They also promote arising with the sun each morning, which may seem like a struggle, but allowing yourself time in the morning to stop an enjoy that cool summer breeze on your way to work, or to do 15 minutes of yoga before you leave can really create a beautiful start to your day. Give it a try for a few days – once you get used to it, you may never go back.

The most important thing to remember is that the Ayurvedic tradition is meant to help and heal, not cause stress. If you find you are feeling weighed down or especially irritable with the heat, feel free to give these tips a try, but only if it is helpful for you. Everyone is different, and you know yourself better than anyone, so trust yourself.

References:

Krishan, S. (2003). Essential Ayurveda: What It Is & What It Can Do for You. Novato, CA: New World Library.

(2007). A Food Plan to Balance Pitta Dosha. Retrieved from: http://www.holistic-online.com/ayurveda/ayv-Pitta-food-plan.htm

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AuthorAnastasia Nevin

I made this recipe a few weeks ago and wanted to share it with you because it is simple, delicious, and Vata-Soothing. In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, Vata dosha is the constitution associated with the Fall and a dry, light, airy, etherial, and irregular qualities. Grounding, warm, cooked and sweet foods like root veggies are balancing for Vata.  If you are interested in learning more about Ayurveda, contact me for a consultation. 

To make the recipe, I bought a bag of sweet potatoes, rinses, boiled them and peeled the skin off. (you can also roast the sweet potato with coconut oil for a more toasty flavor). I then added 1 can of light coconut milk and minced fresh ginger into the sweet potatoes and blended with my immersion blender. Add salt to taste. I cut up some cilantro and crushed walnuts on top for garnish. Enjoy!