Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch!

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    Yin Yoga: Mons at 11:30 am

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    Stretch: Thurs at 10:30 am

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Archive for March, 2012

You Should Soak Your Oats

Posted by terrepruitt on March 31, 2012

Before I started teaching Nia I had a corporate job.  I worked with a woman who loved oatmeal.  If you have read any of my Oat series (Oat series?  Really?  How did that happen?) you will know that I do not like oatmeal.  She, like many others, tried to educate me on the fact that “instant” oatmeal is not really oatmeal and she said the best is steel cut oats.  She told me what brand she buys and she said that she soaks them overnight because that is what makes them so yummy.  Since then I have heard many people say the yummiest way to eat oats is to soak them.  So I have heard of soaking oats before, but I thought that was for the flavor.  A friend of mine posted a comment on one of my oat posts and she mentioned pre-soaked oat cereal.  So I went to the website she mentioned to check it out.  That led me to discover some people believe another reason to soak oats is for better nutrition.

After reading her comment I was excited thinking I would have something else to post about. I quickly looked into soaking oats, guess what I found?  If you think about it you will know . . . . . I found conflicting information!  “No”, you say, right?  I mean there is never another opinion.  Geez.  So I though maybe I could look into the health benefits and do a post and mention the two different trains of thoughts.  Then I thought, no, my poor readers, what is it with me and oats?  But then, I was talking to one of my Nia students and explaining to her about my oat series and I mentioned soaking oats.  She said she in fact, had oats soaking right that minute.  When I asked her why she said because that is what makes them yummy and you can eat them raw when you soak them.  So, while yes, it seems to make the oats yummy, and yes, soaking them allows them to be eaten raw, some believe there is a nutritional benefit to soaking them.

While I somewhat felt there might be a need to do a post on soaked oats, I thought it odd that my little quest for breakfast had grown into a series of post.  I wasn’t going to post about soaked oats, but then I realized people might want to know.  So bear with me for two more oat posts (at least I think it will be just two more).  There has to be at least two more because there is conflicting opinions.

One post I’ll call “pro-soaked oats” and one I’ll call “con-soaked oats”.  This is the “pro-soaked oats” post.

The idea is that oats should be soaked to remove or neutralize the phytic acid.  Phytic acid binds to some minerals and blocks their absorption.  There is a popular book out there, Nourishing Traditions, that states it is necessary to soak grains.  It states that eating bran that has not been properly soaked will help with regularity at first, but could possibly lead to irritable bowel syndrome along with possible mineral deficiencies and bone loss.  The soaking allows for the break down of the phytic acid so that the minerals will not be bound and they will be allowed to be absorbed.  The book says an improvement in grain nutrition is achieved in “as little as seven hours”.

Body Ecology states that grains need to be soaked for at least 8 hours, with 24 being even better.  Other information I have found on the internet states at least 12 hours.  So it seems there is a difference in opinion with how long oats should be soaked.

Most agree that oats need to be soaked in water and something with acidic properties, but here again opinions differ.  Some say to use water and a dairy product such as milk or yogurt and some say that dairy is not good because while it might help with breaking down the phytic acid in the grain it will cause acid levels to rise in the body.  Some also say that the calcium in the dairy DOES NOT help break down the phytic acid.  That is in OATS only.  Since I started this whole series because of oats and because getting into all the other grains would make this a huge series this post is focused on OATS.  So some information suggests to use lemon or vinegar as the “acid”.  A lot of comments from people who soak their oats state that they just use warm water.

The science behind the idea of soaking sounds simple enough; a seed or grain is designed not to be penetrated until it is ready to sprout.  It is ready to sprout and release its nutrients when it has had enough time to be moist and warm in a slightly acidic environment.  Eating grains that have not been soaked just drops them into your system when they are not ready making them more difficult to digest in addition to the risk of the pyhtic acid binding with nutrients and not allowing the body to absorb them.  Makes sense.  A grain’s own defense system keeps it safe and locked up until it is in the right conditions.

A common “recipe” I am seeing for soaking is:

Oats, water (enough to cover the oats), warmth, “acid”, time.

Now the only thing I have actually seen people agree on is the oats.  Ha, funny, but true.  Now that I think about it they might not all agree on what KIND of oats.  The TEMPERATURE of the water is from just above body temperature to warm tap.  The “warmth” as in a place to keep it — goes from the refrigerator (which they are not saying is warm but is just showing how different the “recipes” are) to a warm oven, the “acid” is from lemon to a dairy product, and the time, well, from 30 minutes to two days.  It is crazy.

So it seems pretty straight forward.  Grains designed to protect themselves until ready to germinate need the ideal conditions in which to do so and then they will happily release all kinds of healthy benefits.  And the science is there to prove that phytic acid binds with minerals which would keep them from being absorbed in the body.  Now all you have to do is be organized enough to remember to soak your oats anywhere from 30 minutes to 48 hours before eating them.  🙂  Or you can tune in to my next post and see what some people have to say about why there is no need to soak the oats all the way to you shouldn’t soak your oats.

Do you soak your oats?  Do you do it because you think it increases their nutrition?

Posted in Food, Oats | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Gout and Oats – There Could Be A Connection

Posted by terrepruitt on March 29, 2012

Seems as if my quest for something to eat for breakfast before teaching my Nia classes has turned into somewhat of a series on oats.  I know a body needs to eat to break the fast, but I don’t always have time to eat something before Nia in the morning.  I wanted something quick but healthy.  Oatmeal is always said to be one of the best breakfast to have, but I don’t like oatmeal.  I don’t think eating a processed breakfast or snack bar is the answer I was looking for.  I was thinking granola even though I used to not like granola, I have found a few that I like, but most often than not they have canola oil in them so I have been looking for recipes where I can make my own.  I found one that I like after I did a little bit of adjusting.  The whole process had me wondering about oats and oatmeal.  When I did a search of nutrition one of my favorite sites came up with some information on oats I found totally interesting.  As usual I learned something totally new to me.  I hear a lot more about Gout lately than I used to.  And the information about oats and gout had me looking gout up what gout is again.  I always forget it is a form of arthritis.

Here is what wiki says about Gout:

“Gout has increased in frequency in recent decades affecting approximately one to two percent of the Western population at some point in their lives. The increase is believed to be due to increasing risk factors in the population, such as metabolic syndrome, longer life expectancy and changes in diet. Gout was historically known as “the disease of kings” or “rich man’s disease”.”

According to PubMed Health there is:

“Gouty arthritis – acute; Gout – acute; Hyperuricemia; Tophaceous gout; Tophi; Podagra; Gout – chronic; Chronic gout; Acute gout; Acute gouty arthritis”

This type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in blood and causes joint inflammation.  So just like other types of arthritis there can be flare ups.  With the different type of gout the flare ups are different.  One joint is affected by pain and inflammation in the case of acute gout, but in chronic gout it can be in more than one joint.

While they know what causes gout, they don’t know what causes the cause.  Too much uric acid in the synovial fluid causes crystals to form.  The crystals are what cause the pain, swelling and inflammation.  But they don’t know why a body might make too much uric acid or have difficulty getting rid of it.  They have a list of what they consider to be risk factors.  Risk factors include: being over weight, consuming too much alcohol, eating too much red meat or fish or foods high in purines.  Gout is more common in males than females, although woman after menopause seem to be at greater risk.  Certain medications might contribute to gout.

These risk factors could be what contributed to the historical nicknames as probably kings and rich men were more often the ones overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much red meat and fish.

It is the food high in purines that got my attention.  Oats are high in purines.  So oats might not be good for people with gout or with high levels of uric acid because they could cause gout. Even though oats are a good source of antioxidants and are believed to help lower cholesterol if you have too much uric acid you might not want to consume them every morning.  Another uric acid related health issue is kidney stones.  So monitoring your intake of oats, might be prudent if you are prone to high levels of uric acid.  Although the site does go onto say that recent research is showing the purines in the meat and the fish are the real culprits in producing too much uric acid contributing to the health issues and that the vegetable/plant purines are not, it still might be a good idea to keep it in mind if your body is prone to gout or kidney stones.

Just another thing that is so great for you, but depending upon your individual body might not be so great.  I really believe that our diets are a main factor in our health.  It is important to know that even foods that have so many health benefits and are so full of nutrition still could affect your health in a negative way.  It really depends on your body.  I think it is always a good idea to look at the diet when there are health issues.

Did you know that oats could aggravate gout?

Posted in Food, Oats | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

The World’s Healthiest Foods Description of Oats

Posted by terrepruitt on March 27, 2012

Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, SF Bay Nia, San Francisco Bay Area Nia, NiaNow.com,Oats are easy to grow because they can grow in soil that other crops cannot grow.  Oats have a lot of health benefits including fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.  Because of the fiber and the nutrients a breakfast of oatmeal is often recommended as great way to start the day.  I do not like oatmeal and realized in writing this oat series that I haven’t bee that found of oats at all.  Since it has been a while since I have not liked them I forgot that I just didn’t like them.  They are really chewy.  But I do believe in the nutritional value and I am happy that I like them now.  I still do not believe that I like oatmeal, but I really don’t need to since there are really so many ways you can eat oats and get the benefit of all the great things they contain.

I love the website The World’s Healthiest Foods.  Here is what they say about the different types of oats:

“Oats gain part of their distinctive flavor from the roasting process that they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Although oats are then hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and their germ allowing them to retain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients. Different types of processing are then used to produce the various types of oat products, which are generally used to make breakfast cereals, baked goods and stuffings:
                   
                    • Oat groats: unflattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing 
                    • Steel-cut oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel
                       blades that thinly slices them.
                    • Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
                    • Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
                    • Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin.      
                        Oftentimes,  sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product. 
                    • Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and 
                        steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to     
                        make a hot cereal.
                    • Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours
                        when making leavened bread.”

I think that fact that oats do remain “whole” even after being processed (harvested and cleaned) is a great testament to the hardiness of this grain.  While I imagine that the least healthy of the oats described above would be the “Instant oatmeal” kind because they might already come with other ingredients added, but since oats sound “superfood”y to me, I would think you would still gain some benefit from them.

So seeing this description of oats might allow you to see how many different ways you can get oats.  It seems with them available in so many different forms it would be easy to add them to your diet even if you don’t like oatmeal.

Posted in Food, Oats | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Oats – The Incredible Whole Grain

Posted by terrepruitt on March 24, 2012

Since breakfast is so important I have been looking for an easy and healthy thing to eat before I rush off to teach Nia.  I don’t always have a chance to eat before my Nia class, but I have been looking to try to change that.  Oatmeal is always touted as being one of the best breakfast foods.  I do not like oatmeal.  I recently found a recipe for granola that is basically just oats and I started to wonder if oats cooked that way are as good as oatmeal. Here are some nutritional facts on oats:

The fiber contained in oats is known in studies to have a cholesterol lowering effect. Since high cholesterol is associated with buildup of plaque in the blood vessel walls the lowering of cholesterol helps with heart disease. In addition to oats special fiber that helps lower cholesterol scientists have also found an antioxidant compound in oats that help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have also shown that postmenopausal women can greatly benefit from eating oats at least six times a week.  The study showed that the antioxidant slowed the progression of narrowing the arteries.  In addition oats have been shown to improve or enhance the body’s immune system’s response to infection.  They were mentioned in my post Some Foods Can Boost Your Immune System. Oats also help stabilize blood sugar.
 
You have probably heard a lot of talk about flora in the intestinal track and how important it is to keep the guts healthy.  Oats also contain phytochemical the gets converted to friendly flora and a healthy gut contributes to a healthy digestive system which helps the body in so many ways.  If your digestive system is healthy it allows you to absorb the nutrients you need and eliminates the stuff you don’t need.
 
Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, SF Bay Nia, San Francisco Bay Area Nia, NiaNow.com,Oats are also gluten-free which is very helpful since it is a whole-grain and it can be used as a serial and it can also be used ground as a flour.  So it can be a very healthy substitute for gluten containing cereals and flours.
 
The oats I bought show that 1/2 cup of uncooked oats have:
 
Calories 190
Total Fat 3.5 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 32 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Protein 7 g
 
Of the Daily Values there is 2% calcuim and 15% iron.
 
A lot of fiber and a lot of protein and the benefits of a whole grain.  I am thinking that I might even just like the oats toasted and eaten as a cereal without adding all the extra stuff as called for in the granola recipe.  Since I have this whole bag I might just try that.  Of course I will also have to use some of this bag for the Banana Oatmeal Walnut Cookies.
 
Oats do contain tryptophan so if you get sleepy after eating them it could be more than just because you might think of oatmeal as a comfort food.

With the large amount of fiber and protein this is a great food to start the day with, both fiber and protein help keep you full. So you can start the day off energized and satisfied.  Oats are an incredible whole grain!

Are you including this whole grain as part of your breakfast?

Posted in Food, Oats | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

A Granola Recipe I like – Sort Of

Posted by terrepruitt on March 22, 2012

It is important to eat breakfast.  I don’t always have a chance to eat before my Nia class, but I have been looking to try to change that.  Oatmeal is always touted as being one of the best breakfast foods.  I do not like oatmeal.  I used to not like granola, but I have found a few I like, but most often than not they have canola oil in them so I have been looking for recipes where I can make my own.  I found a recipe that looked simple and quick and had ingredients I could live with.  Oats is a main ingredient in granola so I can get my whole grain oats in granola instead of oatmeal.

Do you ever wish that you would have followed your instincts?  The first time I make a recipe I follow it.  Then after I make any adjustments.  Well, with this one I made a few measurement adjustments and as I was cooking it, I had a feeling that I should also make some procedural adjustments, but I didn’t.  I thought, “No, I will do what it says and it will turn out fine.”  Honestly it DID turn out fine if you want crumbly granola and that is what this recipe is.  So had I really thought about it I would have realized that I wanted more like bars.

I am not sure where I got this little booklet from but the recipe on the website is a little different from the one in the booklet, but that is the beauty of it you can add whatever you want to your granola.  I opted for plainish because that is one of the things I don’t like about granola and granola bars they often have dried fruit in them.  I don’t like dried fruit.

I altered the recipe to be:

Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, SF Bay Area Nia, Dance workout CampbellGranola:

3 1/2 to 4 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup olive oil
a little over 1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
a round heaping 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon**
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 cup roasted almond slivers
          (you can add in anything you’d like)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix together the oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. 

Pour over the oats and mix well. 

Spread the coated oats onto the baking sheet.  Stir every 5 minutes.  Bake about 20. 

Then let cool completely then mix the oats with your add-ins.  Store up to 2 weeks.
 

Well, I will probably use less salt or omit it all together (YES!  ME, saying I will use LESS salt or remove it all together . . . . hmmmmm . . . . )  And I will cook it less than I did.  I think I cooked it for more than 20 minutes.  I won’t do that, but it didn’t look like it was cooking at all.  I will put my add-ins BEFORE it cools, maybe even before I bake it.  Depends on what they are.

I am also going to try using less oil and sugar.

Anyway, this is a granola recipe I like — finally– after I made my own adjustments (I use olive oil instead of canola and more oats).  With this recipe after a bit more tweaking I can experiment with anything now.  Now that I have a really simple basic recipe I can go from here . . . . or not.  I is really good on its own.  I can see having it warm as a hot cereal.  Not quite making it oatMEAL, but making it a meal of oats.  🙂

Do you like granola?  Do you like oatmeal?  Do you eat oatmeal?  What type? 

 

**As I was making this today and using my posted recipe I realized I typed this incorrectly!  It is NOT a full teaspoon of cinnamon, but a 1/4 of a teaspoon!!!

Posted in "Recipes", Food, Oats | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Meatless Mondays

Posted by terrepruitt on March 20, 2012

Have you ever heard of Meatless Mondays?  I thought about it when I was talking to my Nia student who is about to go vegan.  Seems as if we always try to make things sound neat or nice.  The double M has a nice ring.  MEATLESS MONDAY.  It is just a tool that someone thought up to help and encourage people to eliminate meat from their diet. I guess the thought process is that people eat meat every night for dinner so one night would be good to not have meat and why not make it Meatless Monday.  I always thought it was just for dinner, but I guess you could have a whole day of non-meat.   The reasons for eliminating meat from the diet range from health to environment.  We don’t have a meatless Monday in our house.  What we have is a oh-snap-I-forgot-to-take-any-meat-out-for-dinner-so-we-aren’t-having-any kind of meatless dinner.  Or sometimes I just decide I am not going to cook meat and I figure something else out.  We do not have meat every dinner.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like meat.  It was a few years after we had been married that my husband gave me the go ahead regarding meatless dinners.  I probably was whining about having meat every night and he said he was ok with not having meat for dinner.  WAHOOO!  That was a happy, happy, happy day for me.  Meat for us primarily consists of chicken breast or ground turkey.  Yes we do have pork every once in a while.  Beef even less often.  But actually more than we used to.  Just not having to have meat every night was so freeing.  Because having that freedom meant to me that we could have less meat.  So sometimes we can still have meat but instead of having a piece of chicken each we can split one.  Since he is ok with not having meat than having less is ok too, right?

But we do have meatless dinners.  Having the added help of quinoa to get a seedy/grainy protein is nice.  Because I am not a fan of beans I usually don’t substitute beans for meat.  Sometimes I do during the summer when we are having a bean salad, but not always.  Sometimes we will just eat soup for dinner.  If we are not having soup or bean salad then we are filling up on a ton of veggies.

Tonight we had a green salad, roasted eggplant, and mushrooms with broccoli thrown over pasta.  It was pretty good. Between the pasta and the mushrooms I am ok with the amount of protein.  We don’t have just pasta every night.  (I took pictures because I actually thought, “Hmm, I might blog about this.”  And they didn’t come out.  I mean my computer is giving me that little question mark in a red box.  Hmmm.  Oh well.  You would have drooled.)

Even though I might be having meatless dinners for other reasons there is still the same benefits that some people are doing it for.  It seems as if it is a “movement” and it is for those that truly do eat red meat every night.  That is probably why when I first heard about it I didn’t really get it, because we rarely eat red meat and we don’t even eat meat every night.  I can see how it can help people that do, although I didn’t know that people did eat red meat every night.

What about you?  How often do you eat red meat/beef?  Do you eat meat every night?  Do you have a Meatless Monday (or one night a week that you plan to not have meat)?

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Once You Go To A Chiropractor You Always Have To Go

Posted by terrepruitt on March 17, 2012

When I was younger I remember many people saying that “once you go to a chiropractor you always have to go”. Maybe you have heard that. I still hear people say that. Back when I was young I don’t think a lot of thought was given to that statement. I know I didn’t think about it much, I just had heard it so often I believed it was true. At one point in my life back then I considered myself to “have a bad back”. Being in so much pain once I found myself at a chiropractor. This was all a very long time ago so I don’t remember all the details. I guess they did SOMETHING to make me feel better because I left and must have felt ok. But before I left he prescribed something outrageous like I would need to visit him three or four times a week in order to take care of it. Again, fuzzy on the details, but I know I never went back to that guy. I do remember having medical insurance at the time that would pay for a portion of my visits if I visited a doctor on their list. So, I found one, I believe he was on the verge of retiring and was not interested in seeing people more than he really felt was necessary and he did not think I needed to be seen more than once a week. But I do remember that by the time my next appointment came around I was ready. I think my issue was, and still is, stress or tension.  I don’t have a “bad back”. I hold my stress in my upper back. Well, after I had seen a chiropractor I came to believe the saying “once you go to a chiropractor you always have to go” is true. It is because that once you go and you get relief then you always want to feel that good so you “have to go”. But now I also know that there are a lot of things we can do ourselves to either bring relief or make sure we don’t get in a state where we need it in the first place.

One of the things I was doing back then was holding the phone in the crook of my neck and shoulder when talking on the phone.  I worked in the mortgage business and like many businesses when you get a phone call you don’t stop working, you keep working because you are having to look at information while talking. After I had been to the doctor I decided I was not going to hold the phone like that any longer and every place I worked after that I got a headset. Ever since then I’ve had had headsets for my home phone, too.  That ONE thing alone brought HUGE changes in my back.  I never hold the phone in the crook of my neck and shoulder.

But occasionally I still allow the tension to rest in my back. I have been fortunate enough to have someone help me with my back when she is available, but she is not always available and so I try to work on it myself. As I said, I believe a lot of it is making sure we don’t allow our bodies to get into a state where it needs work, but that is not always possible, but there are still things we can do. If you have read a few of my posts you know I have a tendency to scrunch my shoulders up towards my ears. That is a major thing that causes my back to hurt, so I really work on keeping my shoulders down. Also, I work at sitting up straight, which is not easy for me because I like to sit on a leg folded under me.

Aside from plain ol’ not doing things that cause issues I have been doing some things that tend to help my back by keeping the muscles loose and the vertebrae lengthened and relaxed. Often the floorplay in Nia helps with keeping my back loose, but the Nia routine that I have been doing the past few weeks does not have that type of floorplay in it so I am doing other things.  My old friend the Downward Facing Dog is a great help for opening the back and releasing the spine. Doing the Downward Facing Dog at least a dozen times as part of a sequence is a great help in keeping my back loose.

Also the Pyramid Pose/Intense Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana), which I mentioned in my Muscles Used In Nia During Yoga-like Sequence post. When stretching the crown of the head out and over it really does a great job of creating space in the spine. Since my discomfort seems to manifest in my upper back, moves or poses that have me hanging over do a fantastic job of opening my cervical and thoracic spine.

Another “hanging” pose that I feel does a nice job of relaxing my joints and muscles is the simple fold. Just folding over and letting the body hang. Either the ragdoll or the forward fold. Doing both types of hangs, with a relaxed back and a straight back, works to create the sensation that I want – space, space, space, and more space in my spine. The space in my spine helps to relax the muscles that hold the tension.

As I was doing some side bends today, I actually heard my back crack. On each side I heard it crack. While I am not a fan of hearing my body snap, crackle, and pop, I take my back making that noise as the vertebrae getting back into place. When I can move my bones back into place and not have someone else do it, that makes me happy. It is what I have come to think of as self-healing. One of the side bends I have been doing consist of bending to the side while holding my arms over my head with my hands clasps. The other is holding my wrist as I bend.

So I am excited that I am working on my back myself. I have to say that I have not had back pain, tension, or even discomfort in the last two weeks. Yay. I know that I am not the only one that holds stress and tension in the back. So I was hoping sharing some of the things I have been doing to give me relief might help you too.

Do you have issues with your back? Do you hold stress in your back? What do you do to bring yourself and your back relief from your discomfort?

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Muscles Used In Nia During Yoga-like Sequence

Posted by terrepruitt on March 15, 2012

While Nia is not yoga nor is it a yoga class we do borrow from Yoga.  We borrow some of the ideas and sometimes some of the poses. In one of the Nia routines we do the Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II).  We do it both static where we just rest into it and we move in it, we bend our bent leg more and sink into it and come up.  Then we do the Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), then a version of the lunge, which depending upon your body could be a variation of the Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), or the High Lunge (Utthita Ashva Sanchalanasana), or the Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) – all without the backbend.  Then we straighten our leg into the Pyramid Pose/Intense Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana).  With these poses we are using a lot of muscles.  The muscles can be challenged in strength, stability, and/or flexibility.  It all depends are your body at that moment.

When we do the Warrior II pose in this Nia routine the arms are extended out to the sides, opposite from each other, the hips, torso, chest, and shoulders are facing the mirror/front, while one of the legs is bent at a 90 degree angle and the foot is in line with the arm.  The other leg is straight and the foot is slightly turned with the toes pointed toward the body and the heel pointed away.  Of course participants have the option of having the foot at a right angle, but for this dance it is led with a slight angle.  Even with that slight variation it is working the glutes (all of them), the thigh muscles:  inner, outer, hamstrings, and the quadriceps, and your calf muscles.  And for some, like me, who have a habit of scrunching the shoulders, it works the rhomboids while holding up the arms and keeping the shoulder blades down and pulled back.  This is true for many yoga poses, that is why it is so great for encouraging straight posture.

Then for our Extended Side Angle Pose the arm, on the same side as the bent leg, is lowered, forearm to the thigh, the opposite arm is raised towards the sky and extended to a position that puts the arm next to the ear.  There are options to stay in this modified Extended Side Angle or to move to another modification by removing the forearm from the thigh and placing that hand on the earth next to the inside arch of the foot.  With this pose the primary work is in the bent leg.  It is another pose that works the hamstrings and thigh muscles.  Through the back of the straight leg and all along that side of the body there is a wonderful stretch, which is greater and more wonderful the better the body is as keeping the shoulder blades down and the back straight (not leaning forward).

We then move into a lunge with many options.  As with all movements in Nia the responsibility falls on the participant to decide what it is their body is able to do and needs to do at that moment.  We start off by placing the hands on the ground and straightening the foot on the leg that was straight in the Extended Side Angle Pose to be parallel with the foot on the bent leg.  Then gently bring the back leg down resting the knee on the ground.  As I said, many options so many places to go from here.  One can stay here in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), or do a moving lunge by moving up and down, or go to High Lunge (Utthita Ashva Sanchalanasana), or come into an extended Warrior Pose I (Virabhadrasana I) with the arms up but with a parallel back foot and a straight back.  Here the body receives the benefit of a lunge no matter which one the body does.  If doing the extended Warrior Pose I like pose, the glutes and thigh of the bent leg are getting a great deal of work, while the straight leg’s foot parallel to the other foot results in a slight change in the muscles being worked and stretched than with the angled foot position of a traditional Warrior I.  The inner thigh gets less work while the work and stretch shifts almost entirely to the back of the leg, the hamstrings and calf.  The arms extended up in the extended Warrior Pose I allows for work in the spinal extensors, deltoids, lats, and traps . . . . basically a lot of muscles in the back, including the ones that keep your shoulders down.  With the crown of the head reaching towards the sky abs get a stretch too.

Moving from whichever lunge was done to the pyramid where the bent leg is straightened and the crown of the head is reaching over the leg while back is straight and chest is on or close to the straight leg.  Of course, variations are offered and participants do what is right for their body to remain in the sensation of Joy.   With this pose the sensation experienced is a great stretch.  The leg to which the head/chest is close to get the largest stretch in the back.  If the body is active with the leg and working to keep the knee cap up then the quadriceps will be engaged.  The spine gets a nice stretch because the crown of the head is being reach over and down.  The back leg might also feel a stretch in the hamstrings if the body is like many people’s and has tight hamstrings.

This is a small yoga-like sequence that we do as part of the cool down cycle of one of the Nia routines.  Again, since Nia is not a Yoga class there are many options and variations that are offered that might not be part of a yoga class teaching strictly yoga.  With all classes whether it be Nia, Yoga, Zumba, Jazzercise, whatever, the goal should be to give your body what it needs at that time.  Bodies are constantly changing so the needs do too.  The idea is not to force the body into a pose, but to allow the muscles and bones to sink into the pose, finding strength and flexibility along with openness in the joints and that constant sensation of Joy.  This is a little review of movements that are Yoga or are very similar to Yoga, to explain some of the muscles we use in Nia.

Can you see how Nia can improve strength, stability, and flexibility?

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Healthful Teas Can Be Yummy

Posted by terrepruitt on March 13, 2012

Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, NiaI like tea.  Do you like tea?  I like to have tea to warm me up during the day when I don’t want to have caffeine or when I don’t want to just make a hot cup of spices.  I also drink it at night for the same reason.  Herb tea in itself is said to be good for you.  Green tea is supposed to have all kinds of benefits.  I like tea and I do believe that herbal tea has benefits depending on what herb you are drinking.  Echinacea tea would fall into that category. For instance I whole heartedly believe in Echinacea being helpful when you feel you might be catching a cold.  I believe it can help you not get the cold or help make it less severe.  In the same vein I think it can help you get better faster if you are sick.  Echinacea is one of those herbs that helps with immune systems.  Whenever my husband mumbles he is not feeling well, I make sure he has a cup of Echinacea tea. I also tend to believe in the teas that claim to help with certain things (help you sleep, boost your immue system, etc).

Last October we used up the last of our Echinacea tea.  Funny I remember when it was exactly because the studio I teach Nia at had just moved.  I found myself looking around the new area one day in November.  Normally I wouldn’t remember when I bought tea but this I remember.  I wandered into a health food store.  They had a large selection of herbal tea.  My friend and I had just been having a conversation about green teas so I was looking for green teas. I wanted something to replace my Echinacea tea.  There were two I could not decide between.  But then I spotted another one and wanted that.  So I ended up getting Green Tea Triple Echinacea and a Green Tea “Super Antioxidant”.  Not sure I believe that one, but I did believe it was green tea and thought, “Well, what the heck.”

Well, they taste green.  If you are conscious of green taste you know what I mean.  I don’t think my other Echinacea tea was green tea because it didn’t taste like green.  They are ok, I like them but I kind of just save them for when I think I need them.  When I want a yummy cup of tea they are not what I think of.  Plus they have caffeine.

Not all herb tea is decaffeinated.  Green tea has caffeine.  So if you are not drinking coffee because you don’t want the caffeine and you are drinking green tea instead, you you could still be getting caffeine.  Unless it says it is decaffeinated it has caffeine.  Sometimes I don’t mind the caffeine, in fact I will drink it because of the caffeine.  But lately it has been cold here at night and I don’t want the caffeine at night.  I wanted some decaffeinated tea.  While I was buying my calcium I clicked on their tea section and found some interesting looking tea.  It is Echinacea Immune Support.  It was on sale so I took a chance.  Ahhhhh!  I am so glad I did.

Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, NiaIt has Echinacea root and Cinnamon Bark in it.  Also Cardamom Seed, Rose Hip, Ginger Root, and Elderberry Extract among other things.  This is not a green tea, but it has other things I like, for instance a yummy taste.  It is really good.  This tea is one that I think of drinking when I want to have a warm cozy cup of tea.  The moment I ripped open the little package I was intrigued by the delicious smell.

Echinacea is good for fighting colds.  Cinnamon and cardamom are anti-inflammatory spices.  Rose hips is high in Vitamin C so it has anti-oxidants.  Ginger can help with chronic inflammation and digestion.  And I just learned about Elderberry being an immune system boost.  So, with all the ingredients in here that I am familiar with I can concede its claim to be Immune Support.  Even if not, it is a good cup of tea.

Do you drink tea?  Do you drink herb tea?  Do you drink herb tea for health benefits?  What is your favorite tea? 

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Act As If – Pretend – Fake It; Stage 3 of Nia White Belt Principle #4

Posted by terrepruitt on March 10, 2012

I have posted about Nia FreeDance before.  Nia FreeDance is meant to encourage creativity.  In Nia routines sometimes we have entire songs that are FreeDance.  Not all routines have an entire FreeDance song, but all routines have at least one part as FreeDance.  The one part could be that our feet have choreography and our arms and hands are free to move.  The creativity is released.  As the 4th Principle of the Nia White Belt it can also be used as a tool to help a Nia teacher learn a routine and/or explore his or her practice.  The principle has 8 stages.  The third stage of FreeDance is Feelings and Emotions with a catch phrase of: Pretend, Fake It, Act As If.  This is the stage where you pick an emotion and you act it out.  This is not the same as stage 4 where you draw on the real you and you act out a story you have experienced, this stage is pretend.

The idea of stage 3 of Nia FreeDance is to pick an emotion, a feeling and then act it out.  Pretend you are feeling that emotion at that moment.  This would be practice or play outside of a class setting where you are doing a routine.  So when using this tool as a way to grow and create you aren’t even expected to dance.  The exercise is to pick an emotion act it out for a bit, then pick another emotion.  Acting and explaining the feeling with your body in an exaggerated way.  If it helps create a story in order to fake that emotion.  It can be somewhat fun because normally when you are angry you probably would not throw yourself down on the floor and kick and scream, but when we are pretending to be angry and acting “as if” you can.  You can throw an angry punch.  You can run and jump for joy.  You can do anything you would like and since it probably wouldn’t be something you would be “allowed” to do in society it tends to spur creativity.  And this creativity gets your body moving in news ways.  It gets your heart pumping.  It gets your blood moving.  It gets your joints juicy.

I used this stage not too long ago as the focus of a few of my Nia Classes and it turned out to be very interesting.  So within the class setting we actually danced our pretend feelings and emotions.  We continued on with the routine we were doing at the time, but we added our “act as if”.  So it altered our movements a bit.  We allowed ourselves to follow the emotion so as we were dancing steps and hand movements might have been changed, but we still danced.  As I said it was interesting because my class did not want to act the “negative emotions”.  Some had a difficult time with some of the ones we deem as “negative” or ones that go against one’s normal self.  We danced:  keeping a secret, letting a secret go, happy, loopy, light, jealous, worry, love, angry, masculine, annoyed, bashful, brave, calm, childlike, guilty, fearless, and more.   We tend to assign negative and positive, but they just are . . .I think that we can look at an emotion and or a feeling and it can be neither, but as we live with it it could become one or the other.  If we let it affect us in a negative way, then maybe it can be perceived as a negative emotion?

The Embody and Share portion of the Nia White Belt Manual states: “Emotions are energetic responses to our experiences. We must learn to deal with our emotions to keep ourselves free and unblocked.”  So my thought process is, that if an emotion “blocks” us or causes us stress then we consider it negative.

People didn’t like the emotions they felt were negative. There was a tendency to not pick them from the list I had displayed.  But I think they are good for exploring movement.  So it’s fun to play with them all.  Remembering it is pretend, we are faking being (whatever the emotion is that we chose), we are pretending.

Well, what do you think?  I invite you to make a list of emotions and feelings, then put on some music.  Pick an emotion/feeling from your list and move to it.  Stay with it until you are ready to move on and then pick another one from your list.  Do this for a few songs.  You might be surprised at your movements.  You will probably be able to create ways to move that you didn’t realize.  When you are not thinking of your movements it allows your body to release and —- ahhhh! —- movement creativity.  Go ahead, you can do it.  Let us know how it goes!

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