Flank Steak Tostadas
Food Blogger, Spynga Mom and Cook, Rachel Barbaro shares her ideas for easy, healthy and delicious weeknight fare for the fit folks on the go!
I used to take such pride in making beautiful meals and new recipes every night. And then motherhood hit me with all its love and awe and exhaustion. A few months in, it was time to stop calling for take out and get back in the kitchen. Sharing my favourite meals from my blog Friendly Food Snobs that are little weeknight wonders. They’re quick to make, high on veggies and protein and fabulous as leftovers.
Flank steak tostadas got me dreaming of a trip to Mexico. My best kale ceasar salad gets in those daily greens but in a yummy way. I love these coconut peanut butter protein balls as a snack on the go, or to nibble on when you crave something sweet as they’re high in protein, good fats and free of gluten. And to start the last of winter’s snowy mornings slow cooker steel cut oats require minimal prep but deliver a delicious breakfast as the slow cooker does all the work.
Kale Caesar Salad
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Casey with her middle son, Billy
Pregnancy took my belly for a big, bumpy, RIP roaring ride. It never occurred to me that as the baby (and your belly) grows, the chances of tearing your abdominal muscles grow as well. With each pregnancy (there were 3) my #DiastasisRecti (DR) expanded and 6 fingers deep to be precise! For those of you who haven’t heard of the DR, it is defined as a separation of your rectus abdominis, AKA your six-pack! When the abdominal muscles move aside, your uterus, bowels and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue in front to hold them ALL in place. After baby, this condition causes your belly to stick out (yes, just like it did when I was about 5 months pregnant). I was so excited to feel good in my own body again, however, this unfortunate symptom has been quite hard at times on this mama’s soul. People (mostly women) constantly ask me if I am pregnant again. “So…you are going for the fourth?” and “When are you due?” are the most frequent questions that I get. Being a fitness instructor and wearing spandex for a living doesn’t allow me to wear “looser” attire!
After I delivered my first baby and lost all the baby weight, I was perplexed as to why the centre of my belly continued to push forward and when I started my workouts again, I could not sustain a plank position for more than a few seconds and sometimes, I needed help getting up from the ground! After meeting with my OB and a few other doctors, I quickly realized that DR is a mysterious effect of pregnancy that the medical field does not know a lot of about in terms of the conditions that cause the tear and more importantly, how to rehabilitate.
I remember when I began falling in love with vinyasa; not just the style of a vinyasa yoga but the beautiful sequence that is inserted between postures, that fosters heat in the body, the intense flow from the strength demanded, and the feeling of space as the body is rinsed of residual sensations from holding the previous posture. When I first began practicing, each vinyasa felt like a treat for my body; the dessert after releasing (sometimes escaping) from a series of long held postures to wash out whatever sequences we did, like they never happened but you can continue to build and feel the effects within. It was my opportunity to feel every muscle and joint working to support each other in this dance with breathe.
For clarity, the vinyasa sequence itself is low push up (aka Chaturanga), upward dog and downward dog that you will no doubt repeat 50 times in a typical power, vinyasa, Ashtanga or any other “flow” style of yoga these days.
These are 3 separate postures, merged together into a three-way relationship that not only build strength but opens the front and back body sequentially.
Each posture, with its own nuances, alignment, muscle actions, and kinesthetic qualities, that when joined together, asks us to see how they compliment each other through the use of breath and movement.
Dive into the World of Yin yoga and watch the many aspects of you and your life change before your eyes.
by Naomi Zahler
Yin Yoga is a specific style of yoga that encourages the holding of supported postures for a duration of 3-8 minutes. Not to be confused with Restorative Yoga, the purpose in Yin Yoga is to support the body only enough that the “yang” tissues of the body (muscles specifically) can relax, allowing the “yin” tissues of the body (connective tissues) to find space. The muscles of our body move our skeletal system into action. The connective tissues, like our ligaments, tendons and fascia support our joints and stabilize our skeleton. If a posture is held in a “yang” way, meaning, we find sensation or depth in our postures by using large muscle groups; our connective tissue would automatically go into protective mode. In other words, if we want to release our “yin” tissues, we must let go of strain in our “yang” tissues first. The practice of Yin Yoga focuses on exploring ways of doing just that by focusing awareness onto these connective tissues of the physical body, while clearing the energetic pathways of the subtle body as they are taught in Traditional Chinese Medicine (also know as the meridian lines of the body) and using breath work to help settle the mind throughout the practice. Stillness is encouraged while holding Yin postures so that we can witness the mind as we challenge any static energy within the subtle body. This is the true beauty of Yin Yoga and also its greatest challenge. It is while we hold these postures we are able to observe our habits toward whatever emotions arise and learn to lean toward these existing habits through breath, awareness and love for the Self.
by, Charlene Yeh
Teaching Restorative Yoga is one of the most important gifts that we can give our students and ourselves. Slowing down and resting are acultural for our society, so encouraging others to rest and relax requires a deep personal commitment to exploring one’s own quiet practice. How can we hold space and create a safe environment in which others can let go, forget their worries, and rest deeply? Because being active and dynamic are usually deemed more important than quiet and passive states, as restorative yoga teachers, we must have our own inner experiences to share.
Convincing students that they need more rest and not another workout, requires a belief that there is much benefit to be gained through the restorative practice. Through balancing the nervous system, we regulate hormonal levels, decrease cortisol levels, gain better sleep and a clearer mind. The practice also helps to release tense muscles, relieve achy joints, and train the mind in transitioning from stress to calm.
My Cleanse for life story starts before I met Dr. Jodi Larry.
In April of 2014 I began spinning at Spynga as a way to train for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Spynga gave me a comfortable place to workout. The exercise felt different. The space felt warm and welcoming and I wanted to be there. I spent time on the bike thinking about my intention, I yearned to do yoga, but truly felt I couldn’t. In spin class I was hearing about gratitude and setting intentions, and I was finding that my mind was thinking about these ideas as well as patience both on and off the bike. I was starting to think more about how I could take care of myself, and what I really needed to do for me.
That summer I began following Jodi’s posts. Friends of mine had participated in the Cleanse for Life program and said it was great. I thought that maybe it would help me lose unwanted weight. Like yoga, I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up sugar and crackers and cheese – not even for 10 days. But, somehow I found the courage and I signed up to cleanse.
Me pictured here with cycling Instructor, Joanna Perlmutter
At seven-weeks post baby, I woke up and no body part was screaming pain. Sleep deprived, yes, but I can cope with the fatigue much better if my body is not in any pain. After trying my first yoga class last week, I though I would brave the bike. I have to admit, I was scared to even sit on the saddle, afraid of reliving parts of childbirth and embarrassing myself with the thought of not even getting through the class!
I went to a dear friend and staff member’s class, Joanna, who is a mother of two as well. Comforted by knowing her style of teaching which is commanding, high energy as well as inclusive of all riders, I knew it would be a good class to find my legs again.
I sat next to loyal client who comes to Spynga 3 x a week and is there to work hard. She was my secret inspiration to keep pace with. Truthfully, I was just happy being in the excitement of a cycle class again. Those who are indoor riders seriously love the endorphin rush, music and challenge of it all, not to mention the continued results they see and feel in their body.
So here I am reemerging from the newborn baby bubble at 6 weeks post- pardum where, I think, you can finally semi catch your breath. Recovery from the wild ride of labour and delivery is hopefully becoming a distant nightmare or dream, depending on your experience and your body is healing, at least on the surface. Personally, I am knee deep in sleep deprivation mode where it is natural to feel like you have left your brain on most days and where 2-3 hours of snooze time feels like you drifted off for just a moment. Since my mind has been mostly occupied with feeding, poop, devising inventive ways to settle a fussy infant, and incorporating a toddler into this all – It was sadly foreign albeit natural, to turn my attention inwards.
I took my first breath with a vinyasa level 2 yoga class yesterday and besides reliving moments of childbirth again in certain poses, it was incredibly humbling on the mat for this veteran teacher and student of yoga. I have been stretching periodically since giving birth to Theodora. Mostly a few sun salutations to shake out the legs from sitting and nursing, forward folds with arms following over head to reverse my caved in chest from hovering over baby day in and day out, breathwork to get through the initial pain of breast feeding and meditating any chance I get….or is that sleeping?