Total Core Strength: What is my core & how can I strengthen this core-tastic pillar of wonder?

By | News, Posture | Movement | Exercises, Self Care, Travel Well

As featured on myVega.com, written by Jaime Komer

You have a body. Surprise! I guess you didn’t need me to tell you that, yet bare with me here. I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. Let’s continue…You have a body. And your body has a torso of awesomeness. This torso of awesomeness, more officially referred to as your core or powerhouse, needs to be agile, strong, supple, fluid, and sturdy. Wow, apparently we’re quite demanding of this pillar of stability and mobility!

What is the core?

As the core is not a specific muscle, there is some discrepancy on what is included. I like to think of the core as all the muscles and connective tissues that support your spine. Yep, your entire torso area, sans limbs. Together, these muscles allow you stabilize your spine while doing, well, everything. From moving your furniture around to transferring energy while swinging a golf club to extending your back to get up on your surfboard.

Rethinking the power of “crunches”

Culturally, we have placed an exaggerated emphasis on the 6-pack (rectus abdominus) as representing strong abdominal muscles. There’s more to your core than how your abs look! Striving for this image of a fit stomach has fueled the obsession of doing abdominal crunches (also known as abdominal curls, as we curl or crunch our spine into flexion, bringing the upper body towards the lower body). Yet let’s be honest, focusing on strengthening only one area is like building a house with a thick oak door and weak walls made of hay. It just doesn’t make sense. Dr. Spine is the man to listen to when it comes to back health and why ab crunches are not the best option for most folk. Oh, his name isn’t actually Dr. Spine, it’s Stuart McGill.

It’s never just about the core

Your entire body is connected through meticulously woven tissues (fascia), creating a web of influence from your toes to fingers. What you do with the rest of your body while working your core is just as important as the movement itself. I know, like you didn’t have enough to think about already!

AWESOME ALERT: You can find heaps more videos and exercises for your core-tastic core here.

Important: During these exercises, you can discover your very own compensation patterns and where you hold unnecessary tension. The better you understand your own habits, the easier it will be to improve muscular balance and prevent injury.


Exercises to embrace your CORE & improve body awareness

 

 Full Body Crawl

Our body is designed to move dynamically, hence why we need to train dynamically. Exploring new movements in the body can improve your blood circulation, muscular balance, body awareness, strength, and range of motion. Get ready to roll!

Go slow or go home

To best address and recognize your own alignment during movement (which will determine how safely and efficiently you’re moving), these exercises emphasize slow, controlled, and small movements. Notice if anything changes between movements (e.g. breathing pattern, clenching of toes, tucking of pelvis, flaring of ribcage, tensing of jaw, etc.)

By the way, if you find reading exercise instructions to be a bit challenging (you prefer visual instruction), head straight to my YouTube channel.

1. Lil’ Leg Lifts = Lots o’ Work

leg-lift-1

Set Up Lay on back with legs parallel to each other, pelvic-width apart.

  • Pelvis: We’re going to use 3 bony points as markers to help position your pelvis, your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine—we have one on each side) and your pubic bone. To find your ASIS, place your hands on each side on the top crest of your pelvis, follow the curve of the bone towards the front and downward and you will hit a ridge/slightly bony protrusion. These are your ASIS.
  • Self-Check: Place your palms on your ASIS and fingers reaching towards your pubic bone. You want these 3 bony markers to be level. (If your pelvis is tucked, these points will not be level, as the pubic bone will be lifted higher than your two ASIS.)
  • Your Spine: Envision the natural curves of your spine and try to simulate this while on your back. There will probably be a small gap between your lower back (lumbar spine) and the mat. The back ribs (thoracic spine) will lay on the mat (if you’re a notorious “rib thruster” like myself, the ribs may pop up instead. Yet you can still envision reaching the back ribs towards the ground – without tucking the pelvis).

Movement

  • Upper body stays relaxed. Inhale to prepare.
  • On an exhale:
    1. Solidify your core by creating a tense tube-like sensation around your spine. Your tube should not suck inward. If anything, let it expand outward slightly.
    2. Do a self-check on any compensation patterns–did you tuck your pelvis, curl your shoulders inward, or tense your jaw?
    3. Hover feet 1mm off the ground. Seriously. 1mm. You should be able to feel the texture of your mat–that’s how close you are.
    4. Hold for 1 to 3 breaths. Slowly lower. Repeat until fatigued and your compensation patterns arise. Remember, quality over quantity.

2. Lil’ Leg Lifts + Arm Extensionsleg-lift-arm-lift

  • Follow Set Up and Movement steps in Exercise #1.
  • Once legs are hovering (on an exhale), inhale and glide your arms slowly to the sky.
  • If your spine has maintained its shape (make sure your ribs aren’t flaring outward, thus arching your back), lengthen your arms as far back as comfortable.
  • Exhale lower the arms slowly, followed by lowering your feet. Repeat until fatigued and your compensation patterns arise. Remember, quality over quantity.

3. Lil’ Leg Lifts + Lateral Flexionleg-lifts-lateral-flexion

  • Follow Set Up and Movement steps in Exercise #1
  • Option for arms to remain at sides or create “goal posts.” Be mindful of what happens to your rib cage if you lift your arms into goal posts.
  • Initiating movement from the torso (instead of legs), exhale and hinge lower body to the right. Repeat on left. Make sure that your bottom and ribs do not lift away from ground as you hinge from side to side.
  • Here’s the doozy: keep your feet hovering 1mm above the ground at all times while keeping the legs apart and parallel.
  • Repeat until fatigued and your compensation patterns arise. Remember, quality over quantity (yep, I’m going to keep saying it over and over. Come on, you know you love being a quality kid).
*click here to see the blog post on Vega’s website

Oh hey, what do you know! I’m doing the “best warm up ever” right here in this pic! Yep, it’s pretty much my favorite thing…so fun for young kids, too!

Defunk your gunk & junk: from your connective tissue to digestion to movement.

By | News, Posture | Movement | Exercises, Recipes, Resources, Self Care, Simple Tips + Natural Solutions, Travel Well

Warning: The following content may prove to be inspiring and thought-provoking. Reading, absorbing, and acting on this following information can create contagious symptoms of happiness, enjoyment, drive, ambition, clarity, introspection, and motivation.

(photo and recipe featured in Vega’s “Recipe Center” by Jaime Komer)

We all have “gunk” in our body. At least that’s what I like to call it. You know what I’m talking about; the trigger point, the sensitive area, the limited range of motion. By bringing fresh movement into your body, you can find some of this gunk and literally release it. This is one of many reasons why I love incorporating different activities into my daily life. Oh the benefits! One activity I never plan to give up is walking. And there’s so many different ways to do it! Read on to see how you can mix up your routine and bring new life into a regular activity like walking. Now back to feeding your gut health!

After your chosen activity o’ fun, how can you continue to nourish your body and mind? When thinking about what to eat, I want something that is easily digestible, soothing to the stomach, yet energizing, to satisfying. I created this smoothie with that in mind.

Try this post-activity smoothie to balance your body after you’ve defunked the gunk. The recipe is so simple. It’s a fantastic starter to adding things on and getting creative! (see preparation section for modifications in sugar intake)

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 serving Vega All in One Shake Vanilla Chai
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Hearty handful of spinach
  • 1 Tbsp cacao nibs for garnish

Preparation

Add ingredients to a blender and blend until well combined. Pour into a glass and top with cacao nibs.

Do you want to minimize the sugar? Reduce the maple syrup to 1tsp or less.

Do you want it creamier? Add a half banana. 


Get movin’ & groovin’

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Not all movement is created equal. I’m hearing a lot these days that “sitting will kill you”. Geez, so morbid. But fair enough, I don’t think our body was designed to sit for hours at a time. Or let me rephrase that, I’m pretty gosh-darn-doodly sure that your body does not thrive when you sit for hours at a time, every day. Let’s face it, your body is designed to move, groove and get wild!

Yet is all movement created equal? Of course not. That’s like saying all food has the same nutritional quality. We need to make sure we consume a variety of nutrients. But that doesn’t mean variety should include things like Snickers, McDonald’s, and Gatorade. (all of which are sponsors for major sporting events, I might add. Hmm, that’s weird. Or maybe I should say, hmm, that’s strategic.)

So back to movement. Let’s look at walking. The act of walking. Walking is awesome. Yet is all walking created equal? Should we be getting different types in? Walking on pavement vs. grass vs. hills vs. rocks? Hmm…You probably know my answer (variety is way more fun for my body and brain!). Yet let’s go to the Biomechanist for this one…

Let’s look at the big picture – how your body thrives. Biomechanist Extraordinaire, Katy Bowman, breaks it down for us in her upbeat blog on “Junk Food Walking”. Here’s the first paragraph to wet your appetite and click link to read in full.

“Junk Food: Something you eat that provides short-term satisfaction at the expense of long-term health.Junk Movement: A way of moving that provides short-term fitness benefits at the expense of long-term health.Food, like movement is a complicated issue. I hope that by this point in your internet-reading career you understand the difference — at least in principle — between whole food and junk food. Fresh, organic, unprocessed foods are now recognized in many circles as superior to their preserved, extended shelf-life, highly processed counterpart. Then, to make matters even more complicated, it turns out that even fresh, organic foods (like grains) eaten extensively and repeatedly throughout a lifetime aren’t so hot either.”

ps: Nutritious Movement is where I go to nerd out on whole body health. It completely shifted my perspective on healthy living. I’m in the middle of the 2-year program to be certified as a Restorative Exercise Specialist with Nutritious Movement. Curious about it? Let me know!

My on-the-go Breakfast (or snack): Chia Pudding Recipe

By | Eat Clean + Recipes, Recipes, Resources, Simple Tips + Natural Solutions

You’re on a search party for a hearty & healthy breakfast option. No wait, you’re looking for an energizing snack. Or is it an invigorating lunch? Whatever your current query may be, I’ve found that chia seeds are a cross-functional recharging resource for just about any occasion. Wow, that sentence sounded so serious. Let me rephrase: I think chia seeds are super crazy rad because they can be used in so many ways. Ahh, that’s better.

I’ve organized this recipe starting with a base recipe. It’s ridiculously simple. I like to think of it as a way to get your feet wet without having to dive in headfirst just yet. This is your opportunity to get creative, friends! You’ll find suggested add-ons below, plus a low-sugar recipe I like.

Before we begin…why chia seeds? This superfood of fantasticalness (is that really a word?) has a 3:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6. This is a really good thing! While both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are oh so wonderful, we already get a lot of Omega-6 in our diet. So we need to balance things out by getting a solid intake of Omega-3’s (which might explain why Omega-3 seems to be a buzz word in health foods). The best way to get it? Just like most things, in it’s natural form. And in walks the Chia to save the day. Yay! Side awesome note: chia seeds are also a plant-based protein packed option. Double Yay!

Now it’s time to get gooey and create a meal for, well, anytime of the day!

1000x200 blog titles-29

  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup liquid
    • e.g. filtered water (this will make the flavor super plain…but still works fine. You just might need more add-ons)
    • e.g. almond milk
    • e.g. coconut water or milk

Creation Station: Stir chia seeds and your choice of liquid together in a bowl. Place in fridge for approximately 10 minutes to allow to gel. Tadaaa! This is your base recipe. What will it taste like? Whatever liquid you use. Simple, plain, and possibly sugarless (depending on your liquid of choice). This is why it’s a base recipe…you’re meant to add things to this! 

1000x200 blog titles-33Looking for almond milk? Here are a few options depending on your location and time available:

  • 1457558079621If you’re in Southern California, pick up locally-made Rawmond Milk, which is raw, sprouted and organic.
  • Learn to make your own with this simple recipe by Whole Foods Market. (it’s easier than you may think!) Contrary to the norm, I love keeping the pulp in my homemade almond milk – it adds nutrients and texture.
  • If you buy your almond milk (or coconut milk) at a grocery store, opt for an organic and unsweetened version.

1000x200 blog titles-31

Once you have your base recipe, you can add all sorts of raw and natural goodies. The cleaner your gut is, the easier it will be to listen to it. You’ll notice I have a couple sweeteners listed (honey and maple syrup)…I recommend using the fresh berries or goji berries first and hold out on the honey and maple syrup. In other words, start on the less-sweet side. Also, the sugar in the berries are better absorbed because they’re paired with the fiber naturally found within the fruit. See next section for sample recipe. 

  • Frozen or fresh organic berries (if they’re frozen, make sure you let them thaw in your pudding)
  • Nuts or seeds, e.g. walnuts, cashews.
  • Goji berries
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Unsweetened coconut shreds
  • Cacao nibs

Healthy Pairing Tip: This is one reason why our Happy Dough includes fibrous flax meal. Since we use a wee bit of maple syrup and sometimes dates, Matt and I want to make sure these natural sweeteners are paired with hearty protein and fiber to keep your energy lasting longer. You can use this Healthy Pairing Tip to help you recognize when you eat sugary items (fruit juice) without a fibrous pairing (the skin of the fruit that’s been taken out during the juicing process).

1000x200 blog titles-30

Here is a simple recipe that uses a few of the optional add-ons (above). I hope this helps get the creative juices flowing! Notice the only sweetener in here are the superfood goji berries. Yet the cinnamon adds a nice spice, which I find helps curb the craving for an extra sweetener. Superfood radical radical, if you ask me. Not to mention omega-3 brain stimulations from the walnuts and chia seeds.

  • FullSizeRender-30Chia pudding base recipe: 3 tbsp chia seeds + 1/2 cup liquid of choice (see base recipe for examples)
  • Once your concoction has gelled in the fridge (approximately 10 minutes), stir in the following:
    • 1 heaping tbsp walnuts
    • 1 tbsp goji berries (or 1/4 cup fresh berries)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • pinch of sea salt
  • Enjoy now or pop into a closed top container and take it with you for lunch!

 

Blog labels (etsy size) (10)

Love how you Live. Create your Personal Philosophy (free download)

By | Daily Gumption, Free Downloads, News, Resources, Simple Tips + Natural Solutions

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, read it here first. Enjoy! 1000x200 blog titles

A personal philosophy is as belief system, a way you intent to live your life. It can play a major role in how you make decisions. Your philosophy is not based (usually) on fact, hence why it is a belief.

1000x200 blog titles (1)

There are many factors that come into play when making a decision. ANY decision. Typically we make our choices so quickly or even subconsciously that we don’t have time to think about why we made a choice in that particular moment.

One factor that plays a large role into making decisions is our past. A previous experience (positive or negative) can influence a decision. Fair enough, right? If you burnt your hand on the stove as a kid, your experience has taught you to keep your distance from the heat to avoid pain.

Yet what if we start making all our decisions out of fear? You and I know there are more fears besides the fear of burning oneself on the stove. How about the fear of failing? The fear of being put down by others? The fear of being alone? The fear of being left out? The fear of the unknown? The fear of not being in control?

Often times we make decisions basked on something, such as fear, without even knowing it. I mean, how often do you take the time to analyze each choice you make, no matter how wee or ginormous? (Yet oddly enough, you are in fact, the choices you make. Well, I guess that’s why we’re talking about creating a solid personal philosophy to help us along the way with our choices!)

Here’s a good quality example: As I write this for you I am also in the midst of creating an outline for a book on my journey to discovering how to live a healthy lifestyle. Yep, a book. Holy Shnikeys! Can you tell I’m a little intimidated yet thoroughly stoked about the idea? Yet for a good hunka chunka time, I stalled my ambitions out of fear and worry that no one would want to fund it, publish it, buy it and read it. Talk about throwing the towel in before the game even started! Clearly I wasn’t sticking to my guns and my personal philosophy of exploration, creating opportunity and getting out of my comfort zone.

Once I realized I had been bitten by the decaying zombie of fear (yep, they exist), I decided to do something about it (you can, there is a cure). I picked up the towel, got back in the game and beat those lame decaying zombies of fear by making a decision based on my personal philosophy (which does not include zombies). Word. Hey, it’s not easy, but it’s my life…it’s worth it (and so is yours).

Declare and Share! After completing your complimentary Personal Philosophy Worksheet, share with us in the comments below or on our AYT lifestyle facebook page!

Create Your Personal Philosophy Worksheet

Blog labels (etsy size) (10)

Daily Purpose

Create a rewarding, efficient, purposeful day you are ridiculously PROUD of.

*Craving extra focus, motivation and purpose? Me, too. Make the most of your day with my free DAILY PURPOSE download. 

Great success!