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The Body Knows

Our #1 emotional intelligence rule: The body knows. 

In a culture that loves to explain everything, we forget to feel our bodies. When we think about emotional intelligence, we think about strategies to have effective conversations, we think about becoming aware of our patterns, we think about defining our needs. The truth, none of this is possible if we don’t listen to and FEEL THE BOD.

How your body feel lets you know if your needs are met. How you react to your bodies needs creates your emotional patterns. And, if your body isn’t relaxed, you can kiss that effective conversation.

Before developing great emotional strategies, you need to build a relationship with your body. What does it need? What does it crave? How can you take care of it? 

When that person asks if you want to do that thing, does your body say “heck yes!” or “heck no!” How do you know? 

Here is our favorite tool for listening to your body, it’s called Clench/Unclench. 

Clench/Unclench

Step 1) 

Ask yourself a question. I.e. Do I want to eat ice cream right now?

Step 2) 

Notice your bodies’ response. Does it clench? Or, does it unclench? Unclenching is a sign to go for that thing, it’s a sign that your body wants it. Your body relaxing around that thing is a deep, embodied yes. Clenching, on the other hand, is a sign that your body does not want that thing. It’s a pushing away, a closing, an embodied no. 

Step 3) 

Follow your bodies’ yes. Listen for the unclench and follow it for one whole day. What do you end up doing? How do you feel? How is it different from your normal day?

I bet you’re thinking, if I always follow my unclench, I’m going to be a lazy hedonist who never does anything productive. You’d be surprised. Following the unclench often leads people to do their laundry, go for a walk, and eat green stuff. It might also lead to a cookie or a nap. 

Consider this article encouragement for you to follow your unclench and see what happens. At the very least, you’ll start to get acquainted with… YOUR BOD!


Mieka Briejer is the founder of Frankly EQ; brain based emotional education which gives you the knowledge, tools, and hands-on practice you need to become an emotional genius. Got questions for Mieka? Reach out to her here.

emotional genius

3 Steps to Becoming an Emotional Genius

To learn more, check out Frankly 101: Become an Emotional Genius, a blended learning program designed to use hands-on practice and neuroscience based concepts to build emotional genii. 

Step 1: Understand your system.

To become an emotional genius you need to understand your emotional system. Emotions are one of our bodies many tools designed to keep us safe and connected to other people. Their function is to guide us toward actions that meet our needs. 

Over time your body learns to produce habitual emotional responses that have a high likelihood of getting your needs met. For example, when I cry, mom comes to get me. When I appease, people accept me. When I’m aggressive, I win. These responses are shaped by our unique biological system (aka ‘the bod’), our identity within a particular historical context, and our current context.  

Emotions are made of:

  1. Your body doing it’s best to take care of you. 
  2. Your historic conditioning.
  3. Your current context.  

Understanding our system opens the door to more agency. 

Step 2: Treat emotions as information.

Once we understand the function of emotions, it’s time to listen to them. Emotions are information. We should treat them as useful data sets that help us understand and take care of ourselves. 

So what exactly are you listening to when you listen to an emotion? Frequently I ask my clients how they feel. Then I ask them what let’s them know they feel that way. Then they look at me quizzically. 

Emotions like sad, happy, angry, and stressed are concepts. Underneath those concepts are physical sensations that we make meaning of and eventually give a name like happy. When we can tap into the sensation beneath the emotion concept, we are much less likely to get trapped in old stories and much more likely to address core needs.

There is endless information available when we listen to our emotions. At the end of the day, taking in that information enables us to make conscious decisions about how to respond to emotion and meet our needs. Listening to emotions and meeting needs is a whole book. More on how to get what you need next week. 

Step 3: Take things a little less personally

Simple, right?! It can be easy to take what’s going on for other people and make it about us. The reality, just like your emotions are the product of your body, history, and current context, theirs are too. Realizing this frees us from taking emotions personally.

The first step here is separating your feelings from the other persons. When you think, “Oh no, they didn’t call me back.” Rather than going straight to, “They hate me,” notice that you feel stressed, worried, and sad. Care for that. Once you recognize and care for your emotions, then you can begin to consider what’s going on for them. 

Remember: Everyone’s behavior makes sense in their system. 

Some good questions to ask to explore this are: 

  1. Q) What is that behavior/emotion so smart? 
  2. Q) What need does it meet? 
  3. Q) Why does it make sense? 

Questions like these help dig into the needs, history, and context beneath feelings, starting us down the road to curiosity and toward increased agency. 

That’s all for now folks. If you want to learn about any of these skills, check out Frankly 101: Become an Emotional Genius, a blended learning program designed to get you up and moving so you can learn EQ skills that stick.


Mieka Briejer is the founder of Frankly EQ; brain based emotional education which gives you the knowledge, tools, and hands-on practice you need to become an emotional genius. Got questions for Mieka? Reach out to her here.

transition to fall

How To Navigate Seasonal Transitions with Ayurveda

According to Indian lifestyle and medical science – Ayurveda – each season of the year has its own dominant elements, energies and qualities. Seasonal living is one of the cornerstones of Ayurveda and one of the foundations of health. Just as we switch wardrobes for each season, we are encouraged to switch daily routines, foods, herbs and supplements to support our health and well-being.

Ayurveda views seasonal junctions, Ritusandhi, as inherently vulnerable periods. During these times, usually lasting for 2-3 weeks, we are more prone to get out of balance as the weather shifts and qualities of the seasons change – and, once our immunity or resilience reservoirs get low, more prone to getting sick. 

There are two key aspects to navigating any seasonal transitions with grace: mindfulness, and refilling the resilience reservoirs. Good news is that the seasonal transition is not coming up for several more weeks, so you have time to prepare!

Mindfulness

Staying balanced during seasonal transitions requires a deeper connection with ourselves, the needs of our bodies and our changing environment. Are you starting to crave warmer and heavier, or colder and lighter, foods? Are you taking in raw foods well, or are they starting to overload your digestive system? Are you warm or cold? Is your skin getting drier or oiler? Do you have more or less energy? Are your sleep patterns shifting? Our ability to notice what is happening right now, today, vs. continuing what has worked for us through the previous season is key. You need to mindfully pay attention to what’s working for you and what’s not.

Seasonal shifts are rarely abrupt – and that’s what makes them tricky. We are phasing out foods and routines of the old season and gradually starting to incorporate the new ones, constantly testing, experimenting shifting and adapting. That is why mindfulness is key to navigating the transitions. Continuing with the seasonal wardrobe analogy: during the shift you might still keep the summer dresses out, but also pull out a light jacket and a scarf and start carrying your umbrella along with your sunglasses. 

Meditation practice is training our “mindfulness muscle”. If you already have a meditation practice, it could be very supportive, especially for the early Fall. If you haven’t tried meditation, but have been curious – now is great time to start.

Resilience

Our resilience/immunity are not just physical: viewing individual as a whole, Ayurveda stresses the importance of mental and emotional resilience (more on how to refill your emotional resilience reservoirs below).

To support your physical immunity Ayurveda recommends Chyawanprash: a traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam (yes, it does have sugar) of Indian gooseberry (Amalaki) and 45 other herbs and spices. I really love this one (https://www.tattvasherbs.com/wild-crafted-chyawanprash-12-oz-why-settle-for-less-than-the-best-45-herbs/), from a local Seattle company. I eat a teaspoon a day straight out of the jar. But you can use it on toast, in your oats, with yoghurt, basically, the same way you would use a jam.

Summer to Autumn Transition

If we are looking specifically at the Summer to Autumn transition, we are moving from the fiery, active Pitta (Fire + Water) season of doing and achieving to a more introspective season of Vata (Space + Air), a season of subtle, dry, rough, mobile qualities. Subtle quality of Vata is our source of creativity and connection to the world around us, but light and mobile qualities of this season could also make emotionally brittle: prone to nervousness, anxiety, feeling of being untethered and ungrounded (think of a dry autumn leaf in the wind). Our sleep can get disrupted: lighter sleep that can get interrupted in the early hours of the morning. Often we also become more sensitive to sounds and wake up at the slightest noise.  

Here are some ways you can start laying the foundation for a healthy Autumn:  

Food

Start integrating more warm, cooked foods: soups, stews, curries, and other one pot meals. Add warming spices: ginger, turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg (there is folk wisdom to the pumpkin spice blend!). As we move further into the Fall, plan for these foods to become the majority of your meals, as you slowly transition the smoothies, cold and raw foods out.  For more ideas, you can read my blog post on foods for fall & Vata season.

Hobbies

Schedule some time for creativity. If there was a class you wanted to take/skill you wanted to learn, schedule it for this Autumn! Pitta season is all about doing and planning, Vata season would be more conducive to creativity, but hectic Vatas tend to have a hard time following through, so use that organized Pitta energy to schedule everything in advance and get the supplies. Vata season could also bring up a lot of anxious energy – creative hobby or making something with your hands is a wonderful way to channel that energy into a slightly different direction.

Self-Care

Start a self-care list. Autumn can be exhausting and depleting (especially once we get closer to the holiday season), leaving you more brittle and less resilient. Refilling your cup becomes incredibly important. However, we often don’t know what actually refills us and fall back on the standard routine of bubble baths and massages. Wonderful as they are, they might not be what fills up and restores you. So start an actual, physical list in your journal or on your phone. If you notice that something has left you feeling rejuvenated, built up your emotional resiliency, write it down. Follow the smallest pings of joy and over time you’ll build up a larger picture, small piece by small piece. More importantly, make sure you do things from your self-care list regularly – better yet, schedule them. Don’t fall on them during hard times, make sure to refill your resilience reservoir regularly. 

Abhyanga

A warm oil massage; Abhyanga is the classical Ayurvedic treatment that could be performed by an Ayurvedic massage therapist or you can do it at home by yourself. 

Warm the bottle with oil under running hot water and standing on a towel (to catch any spills) apply the oil with long strokes along the bones and circles around the joints. Allow the oil to sink in (if you are a multitasker, you can use this time to brush your teeth or put a face mask on). Take a shower in 10-15 minutes, but do not use soap, just rinse the oil off.

You can also do an express abhyanga – massage your feet with warm oil, put the socks on and go to sleep.

Traditional Ayurvedic practitioner will use oil infused with different herbs, but you can use whatever high quality oil you have at home. Sesame will be the best for Autumn, but sunflower or olive will also be good. You can add your favorite essential oils to the base oil, about 10 drops of essential oil for an oz. of carrier oil. 

Traditionally Abhyanga is a part of the morning routine; however, I often recommend my clients, specially those who struggle with sleep, to do it before bed. Give it a try and see how you feel and sleep!

If this sounded like a fun dive into the lifestyle side of Ayurveda, these are exactly the subjects we discuss at an Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation. But we dive deeper into the details of how your individual constitution (combination of doshas) plays into the energy of the season and look closer at how recommendations could fit into your life, so that you actually implement the changes. E-mail me (valentina@venetyoga.com) to enquire about an individual consultation (in-person or online) or book an Ayurvedic treatment with me at Embrace Ayurveda

Enjoy a happy and healthy Fall!


Valentina Komarova is a wellbeing practitioner based in Seattle, Washington. She helps her clients explore relations between their mind and their body through yogaAyurveda and Massage.

 

 

Support Your Hormonal Health With Nutrition

When it comes to our hormones, what we consume matters. However, there is not one diet that works for every single person. Food is neither bad nor good-rather, bio-individuality predicts that we all react to what we consume differently.  When we begin to assign morality to what we consume, we can develop perfectionist attitudes and an unhealthy cycle of shame around our food choices. This behavior can cause an immense amount of stress that cannot only be dangerous but will have a detrimental impact on our hormones. 

In my own work, before even exploring different foods that may help or hinder happy hormones, I work with my clients to cultivate intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is the skill of making decisions about what we consume based upon a place of listening to our own authentic needs rather than ascribing to pressure from outside ourselves to eat a certain way. We begin with the understanding that our nutrition has a unique effect on our mental, physical and emotional state. From there, my client identifies exactly how they want to feel in their mind, body and spirit and begin to make nutritional choices based on their own intrinsic desires and motivations.  

Our physiology, goals, health history, and struggles are all so vastly different. With some basic understandings about what we need to nourish our bodies on a daily basis, we can determine what is right for us. Below I share the essentials to maintaining hormonal health from a nutritional perspective. 

stabilize your blood sugar to support your nutritionStabilize your blood sugar.

Do you ever wake up, drink a cup of coffee on an empty stomach, run out the door with a muffin in your hand and an hour later feel shaky and hungry? What about an intense craving for caffeine or something sweet around 3PM? Do you find yourself consistently hangry or moody when a few hours ago you felt great? This is dysregulated blood sugar.

When our blood sugar spikes, our pancreas releases insulin in an effort to convert the sugar in our bloodstream into energy for our cells. Our bodies are designed to deal with this chain reaction sporadically. However, our modern lives are filled with sneaky sugar and pre-packaged, nutrient deprived foods to eat on ‘the go,’ causing us to experience these effects constantly.

When our insulin levels rise so do our cortisol levels. Refer to my previous post on how high cortisol can impact our sex hormones. There are also insulin receptors on our ovaries and when we have high levels of insulin production, our ovaries can respond by overproducing testosterone instead of estrogen. This can cause us to ovulate infrequently or not at all.

What are some culprits of dysregulated blood sugar?

  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • simple carbohydrates/refined grains found in pasta, white bread, baked goods
  • refined sugar found in sauces, sodas, candy, nut butters-read your labels!
  • even high glycemic fruit like pineapple, mango and banana

Do your best to limit your consumption of these foods and beverages, especially if you notice symptoms of dysregulated blood sugar (low energy, headache, insatiable appetite). In addition, when sitting down for a meal or reaching for a snack, make sure that there are good sources of healthy fats and/or proteins present. By implementing these macronutrients, our bodies are better equipped to maintain stabilized blood sugar allowing you to experience sustained energy, moods and happier, more balanced hormones. 

inflammatory foodsBe aware of how you react to inflammatory foods.

Dairy, caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol, gluten, eggs, soy and peanuts are some of the biggest culprits of inflammation. Inflammation in our bodies is responsible for most chronic conditions and can contribute to painful periods, skin issues like acne, anxiety and chronic fatigue. We are not all reactive to these items but when trying to identify the root cause of a symptom, a good place to start is examining your experience with these common culprits. Cutting these foods out in a way that aligns with your life and goals may give you more answers as to what your system can handle and what it cannot.

drinking water is key to nutritionDrink water.

Many of us are in a chronic state of dehydration, which has a direct effect on our body’s ability to function optimally. Aim to consume at least half your body weight in ounces daily or more if you are very active. 

Consume mainly whole foods from clean sources.

At the end of the day, our body’s function optimally when we nourish ourselves with the nutrients that come from the abundance of food our planet provides. The plants and animals with the greatest nutrients are ones that have lived in an environment that is free from toxic chemicals. Do your best to consume organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, free-range and wild caught. You really are what you eat. Here are some examples of nutrient packed foods that support happy hormones and optimal reproductive functioning: 

  • cruciferous vegetables: kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts
  • seaweed and kelp 
  • healthy fats: olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts
  • omega-3 rich foods: sardines, flax seeds, walnuts and salmon
  • organ meats… I know, I know, but they are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Organ meats are especially beneficial for women preparing for pregnancy.

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance, I urge you to experiment with what you consume from a place of curiosity. Take note of how you feel as you make subtle changes and let your findings guide your decision making on how best to nourish yourself moving forward. 


If implementing diet and lifestyle changes seems overwhelming or you feel as though you need support on your journey, please contact Lizzy at wellwomen@lizzymoran.com! You don’t have to walk this path alone.

Want to have a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle? Check out Lizzy’s first blog post in the series.

Curious about the keys to happy hormones? Check out Lizzy’s second blog post in the series.

Your Guide to Happy Hormones

The Basics

When it comes to optimizing our hormonal health and well-being, starting with the very basics can seem almost too simple. We are programmed to think that a pill or a potion has the capacity to fix us faster and better. The truth is, if we don’t have the basic foundations of health in place like quality sleep, getting out in nature, moving our bodies daily and consuming water than all of that money we shell out on products, pills and potions will be a waste.  

I get it, changing our behaviors can be hard which is why the lure of a pill or potion is so strong!  When navigating implementing new behavior changes, I urge you to reflect on your values; your WHY for making the change. This is the first powerful step to creating a sustainable shift in your behavior. Secondly, start small and change what aligns with your life right now. Forget the shoulds or the all or nothing mindset. What is one thing that seems manageable and maybe even exciting for you to implement in this moment?

sleep is essential for happy hormonesSleep

When it comes to happy hormones we must prioritize sleep. While recognizing that everyone’s life is different and access to a good night sleep can be difficult or seemingly impossible depending on your work or familial responsibilities. Identify what your barriers are for sleep and try to address them.

Are you staring at a blue light past 8PM? When your body is exposed to light (especially blue light) past sunset, it can disrupt the communication between your brain and your ovaries.  Put the phone/laptop/tablet down and pick up that book that’s been collecting dust on your bedside table. Maybe when you first get into bed, squeeze in a mini meditation. Insight Timer is a free app and has many meditations designed to help you drift off to sleep. 

Get into the sun EVERYDAY! Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythm allowing us to sleep more soundly at night. This may not be easy for everyone! If you live in a place that doesn’t always see the sun like in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, then get your Vitamin D levels checked (in an ideal world your levels would be around 50) and talk to your healthcare practitioner about supplementation. Vitamin D is critical for hormone balance.

Managing stress

The physiological response to stress can have many different causes:  

  • food sensitivities or allergies 
  • past traumas 
  • negative self-talk, perfectionist tendencies, people pleasing
  • family
  • work
  • finances
  • climate change
  • over-exercising

The list goes on. How does this impact our hormones? When we are stressed the hormone cortisol is released.  In small bouts, this is normal and healthy. However, many of us are in hyper drive and in response our adrenals are pump out excess amounts of cortisol. The big issue is progesterone, the hormone that keeps us feeling calm and at peace, is the precursor to cortisol. When we are in a state of stress our adrenals require progesterone in order create cortisol. Progesterone is also responsible for nourishing and maintaining the endometrial lining of our uterus for an embryo to be implanted and carried to term. 

When we’re stressed all of the time, regardless of what that stressor is, our progesterone levels can be diminished quickly causing an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen is the dominant hormone we are susceptible to a whole bunch of unsavory symptoms like anxiety, breast tenderness and night sweats. 

So where do we begin? Identify some of your biggest sources of stress. Can you remove ONE item off of your plate or modify it in some way? 

Then, identify what brings you to a state of relaxation. That feeling where you can (almost) let go of all that is demanding your attention. This can be as simple as taking three deep breaths, which is scientifically proven to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and downregulate your stress response. Try out one of the many different forms of meditation or yoga.  Go for a walk outside or take five minutes to laugh and connect with a family member or friend.

Identify what it is that allows you to let go of your daily worries, even if just for a moment. Do your best to incorporate your chosen technique as often as possible. It does not have to be perfect, just easy to implement so that it serves as respite and not another chore to add to your already overflowing plate. Inhale. Exhale.

Environmental Toxins

We live in a world where there are toxins in almost every thing we come in contact with from the food we eat to the products we put on our bodies. One of the biggest hindrances on our hormonal health are endocrine disruptors. Xenoestrogens are found as naturally occurring compounds in plants or in synthetic chemicals. Both types of xenoestrogens can interfere with our hormonal communication due to the similarity in molecular structure to the hormones we naturally produce in our body.

Some places to explore decreasing your exposures to endocrine disruptors are:

  • Switch your natural beauty products. (makeup, shampoo/conditioner, body lotion, deodorant). Look for products that that are free from phthalates.
  • Do your best to consume mostly organic fruits, vegetables and dairy products and grass fed, free range meat.
  • Switch to natural cleaning products.
  • Filter your drinking water. You can check out what toxins are in your city’s water source by going to EWG.com.

This topic is vast and can be overwhelming for many including myself. My suggestion is to start with what sounds easy and accept that we will never rid our lives of all toxins, our bodies are resilient and we can only do our best.

Remember, before anything else, identify why you want to make a change. This step is crucial when you are tempted to go back to your old habits. Then choose one or two things from this list that you would like to implement. Behavior change is a process that does not happen overnight. Starting with these three areas will set a solid foundation for any additional forms of healing you include in your wellness routine. 


If you have questions or concerns about your menstrual cycle or are curious about working with Lizzy, please set up a free 30-minute consultation on her website: www.lizzymoran.com

Want to have a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle? Check out Lizzy’s first blog post in the series.

Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle

A Shared Experience

There was a time in the not too distant past where I viewed my period like many humans in the world who have a uterus: a painful burden that brought acne, bloating, rage in my veins and an overwhelming craving for Cheez Its and Ben & Jerry’s. My understanding of my monthly bleeding was simplified down to two basic understandings; Because of the anatomy I was born with, I was destined to endure a shameful, painful, ‘dirty’ experience every month for at least three decades AND I wasn’t pregnant.

I am not alone in this experience. Many of us are kept in the dark about our menstrual cycles due to lack of sufficient education coupled with false beliefs perpetuated by society. The truth is our menstrual cycle is important for reasons other than creating more humans. The fluctuation of our sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone, throughout a healthy menstrual cycle can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on our energy, libido, skin, bone health, emotional wellbeing, metabolism, and productivity.

A Vital Sign

The menstrual cycle is also considered a vital sign by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Yes, a vital sign. Like our heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The information our bodies are giving us through presence of pain, amount of menstrual blood, regularity of bleeding, mood and energy can give us essential insights into our overall health.

This article is not to shame you for feeling disgust, or indifference towards your menstrual cycle. This article is also not to make you feel as though you should add one more item to your list of things that make you ‘imperfect’ because what I describe below is not your current reality and never has been. I am writing this article to share information that we ALL should have learned years ago. Maybe then something as natural and essential for life as menstruation wouldn’t be so taboo.

I will explain below what a healthy menstrual cycle can look like. This can serve as a baseline to reference. Please keep in mind that there is no ‘perfect’ cycle and that slight variabilities will occur due to stress levels and your health. I invite you to start noticing your own cycle and how you feel throughout the month. Take note when you notice something out of your ordinary. If it becomes a persistent issue, I urge you to seek to support from a trusted healthcare practitioner. Our bodies are giving us signals constantly on what they need in order to function optimally. We need to start listening with compassion and curiosity instead of judgment.

Let’s dive in!

The Phases

There are four phases to the menstrual cycle:

  • Menstruation (the bleeding part of the Follicular Phase)
  • Follicular phase (the non-bleeding part of the Follicular phase)
  • Ovulation
  • The Luteal phase

The menstrual cycle encompasses ALL of these phases, not just menstruation. In fact, a menstrual cycle is only considered healthy if ovulation has been confirmed (more on this below!) A healthy menstrual cycle should last between 24-35 days. It begins on day one of your flow (not spotting) and ends the day preceding your next first day of flow.

I want to mention hormonal birth control because many forms work by suppressing ovulation. If you are currently on the pill or some other form of hormonal BC, what I describe below may not be your current reality. We all have goals and maybe yours is to avoid getting pregnant because you are having heterosexual sex. I am providing this information because you or a loved one has female reproductive organs and therefore should have a basic understanding of how they work.

Here’s a closer look at the 4 phases:

Menstruation (Lasts 3-7 days)

  • Consistency and color of blood matter! Your period should resemble some variation of red from the color of cranberry juice to a deep burgundy. The consistency should resemble that of maple syrup with little (no larger than a dime) to no clots.
  • 25ml (roughly half a shot glass) to 80ml (roughly 2 shot glasses) is a normal volume of menstrual blood to lose each cycle.
  • Your key sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone and progesterone) are at their lowest, which can cause you to feel tired and low energy. If your schedule allows, take some time to rest. Perhaps a quiet night at home watching a movie or journaling.
  • Your cervix is at its lowest and feels like the tip of your nose.
  • Light pain or cramping is normal. Moderate to extreme levels of pain are not and could be caused by inflammation due to nutrition and lifestyle or another underlying health condition.
  • If you are experiencing pain, having an orgasm may help! When we orgasm, a hormone called oxytocin is released which has been found to suppress low levels of pain! And don’t fret if you’ve never had an orgasm before. Check out The O School ….. You’re welcome.

Follicular Phase (Lasts 7-10 days)

  • As estrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels, our energy increases.
  • Your mood may improve as you progress further into this phase due to the increase in estrogen. Estrogen supports the healthy production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
  • The increase in estrogen as you approach ovulation will also influence your cervical fluid to change from a drier or sticky consistency (not fertile mucus) to a more wet, slippery or egg white consistency (fertile).

Ovulation (3-5 days)

  • The mature follicle in one of your two ovaries bursts and releases an egg that travels into your fallopian tube. A temporary endocrine gland called the Corpus Luteum will grow on the follicle that burst. Yes, we are aliens. This temporary endocrine gland that grows and disintegrates every cycle is responsible for the progesterone surge that we will receive for the remaining two weeks of our cycle. If we conceive, then your progesterone will continue to rise. Without ovulation, we do not receive this surge of progesterone.
  • The actual event of ovulation takes seconds, but the physiological effects on mood, energy, and even appearance can last days.
  • Progesterone has a thermogenic effect which means that our body temperature is warmer during the second half of our menstrual cycle.
  • Estrogen and testosterone are at their peak levels which can contribute to increased sex drive, improved mood and high energy. Take advantage! Go on a date, hang out with friends or try something new!
  • Studies have shown that we have increased verbal skills during this time. Personally, I input my entire cycle into my google calendar and try to plan all my speaking engagements around ovulation.

How do we confirm ovulation?

  1. Your cervical fluid is a wet consistency, like egg whites, boogery, slippery, watery and clear in appearance. Fertility, regardless of whether you choose to use it or not, is a good indicator that you are healthy! So, let’s celebrate cervical fluid!
  2. Your cervix is soft, high, open and wide.
  3. Your basal body temperature, has increased and remained higher for three consecutive days. You can determine your BBT by taking your temperature first thing in the morning, ideally around the same time every day, before doing anything else.

Luteal Phase (10-16 days)

  • After ovulation estrogen and testosterone will slowly decline with a slight increase mid luteal phase. The predominant hormone in this half of our cycle is progesterone.
  • Progesterone keeps us feeling calm and peaceful.
  • 5-7 days out from menstruation we may begin to feel more withdrawn, tired and less social. This is NORMAL! If possible, make plans to incorporate more low-key activities: long walks, naps, baths or even saying “no” to one more social engagement. Your body and mind will thank you!

With a greater understanding of how your cycle impacts you on a daily basis, you can feel empowered to make daily decisions that feel nourishing to your mind, body and spirit. In addition, the increased awareness of your cycle will allow you to better advocate for your health if you notice something that is out of the norm.

Resources on Menstrual and Hormonal Health:

Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden
The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
The Period Party Podcast with Nicole Jardim (my mentor!) and Nat Kringoudis
Fertility Friday Podcast with Lisa Hendrickson-Jack


If you have questions or concerns about your menstrual cycle or are curious about working together, please set up a free 30-minute consultation on my website: www.lizzymoran.com

If you would like to dive even deeper into understanding your menstrual cycle and holistic ways you can support yourself throughout the month, please sign up for my newsletter. I am planning some exciting workshops around this topic for the Fall and would love to see you there! In addition, if you are interested in inviting me to lead a workshop at your place of work, book club or yoga studio please contact me at wellwomen@lizzymoran.com

Information in this post is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of practice experience and research by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem.

Wellness Around the World: Latvian Summer Solstice

latvian summer solstice celebrationMy name is Datza and I was born and raised in Latvia. I’m currently a teacher and owner of Datza Studios here in cozy Eastlake neighborhood. Latvia is a tiny country by the Baltic Sea, just across from Sweden, east of Poland and west of Russia. Yasss, we were part of Soviet Union but we have way a different language and culture. Proud to be pagans, proud to be Latvians!

I love love my country but somehow life brought be me to US. First, it was east coast for a few summers and a little over 15 years ago – Seattle. Change is constant and life thrives on change; it is the essence of the 2nd chakra and the story of my life. It’s also one the main teachings of Yoga (union of mind, body and soul).

Yoga for me is more than just asanas, yoga is the practice through which we are able to liberate ourselves and create the freedom we desire (in the yoga universe we call it Moksha). I’m more than grateful for my Yoga Teacher Training at Samadhi where most of the teachings were about yoga philosophy and most of the practice teaching was done after the regular hours with friends, other trainees and our mentor. Shout out to Jennifer Isaacson, Kathleen Hunt and Steve Shiva!

garden yogaIt’s been over 10 years since I was introduced to yoga and I constantly find similarities between yoga and my upbringings in Latvia. As pagans, we believe that there are higher spirits and nature Gods who guide us, who help us, and who can also destroy us, if we are ignorant to their messages. Yoga sutras states:  “Ignorance is the seed of the suffering.” We have our Earth, Wind, Sun and other gods similar to Hinduism where there is Kali, Shakti, Shiva etc. We have Latvian mythology symbols weaved into our clothing, put in our houses, and even on our bodies. We accept that mood and energy levels change, and when we get sick the first treatment would be natural remedy – herb tea, mixture etc. Ayurveda would be the word we know here and is a sister of yoga!

We have always been taught to live in the moment – the power of NOW. We believe that happiness is freedom and you become more free by getting together and singing and dancing (which is pretty much a must for every event), whether it’s a name day, birthday or other festivity. Every 4 years we have a National Song and Folk festival when Latvians from our country and abroad come together for a week and express themselves through singing and movement.

Did you know that Latvian language is one of the closest languages to Sanskrit? Did you know that we still celebrate summer solstice and it’s a national holiday? Summer solstice celebration is the biggest festivity in Latvian culture, same as the Deities celebration in Hinduism (celebrating deities like Kali, Shiva etc.)

latvian summer solstice attireIn Latvia we call it “Jani” and it is always the night from June 23 to June 24 when all Latvians participate in joyous festivities just like the ancestors did centuries ago. “Jani” celebration dates back to middle ages and is a celebration of nature and the changing of seasons mixed with all traditions.

Yes, it is a national holiday!  Everyone tries to get out in the country to their relatives and our friends and just eat, drink, dance and sing.

I can tell you for hours and go in details but to keep it short yet sweet, there are few things which are just plain mandatory and you will find during the celebration:

  1. Bonfire – definitely the hallmark of the festivities. We sit by the bonfire and wait for the sun to come up. Late in the evening when the bonfire becomes smaller, we jump over it which signifies ridding people of their burdens. Couples jump together and the magical force of the flames binds them for life. The bonfire also helps to keep the insects away.
  2. Latvian food– must have “Jani”cheese (a sour cheese made with caraway seeds) and beer. Gotta keep our bodies alive all night long!
  3. Garlands for everyone made of oak leaves or wild flowers – they were believed to have magic powers during the summer solstice. Houses are also decorated with birch oak and rowan branches to keep the evil spirits away.
  4. “Field Trip Into the Woods” – it is believed that the Summer Solstice night is the only night when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one really has seen it yet, but it is a great excuse for couples to wander into the unknown. The fact is, 9 month later there are lots of newborns.
  5. Stay up till the Sunrise – we are up in the North and daylight on the “Jani” night is only a few hours. If you end up falling asleep by the time the sun rises, you will be sleepy all summer long and who wants that? At dawn, one should find water and wash their face in order to have a fresh glow all summer long. Walking through the morning dew is said to bring wealth.

summer solstice bonfireSummer Solstice from early childhood has been the highlight of the year because finally we could stay up all night, wander around in nature and see family and friends getting silly, yet happy.

I’m more than stoked to announce that we will be celebrating the Summer Solstice and National Yoga Day on Friday, June 21st at our Studio – Datza Studios.

Most of our studio teachers will be there to guide you through their own variation of Sun Salutations since the Sun is what we celebrate on Summer Solstice. In between, Teju (professional story teller from India who is going back on her travels after the event) will educate us on Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva) and how it is linked with the summer solstice even though down in India they don’t celebrate it (too close to the equator).

The best part – you will feel and look good since after the practice there will be a Nordstrom beauty pop-up with oxygen facials and other goodies.

For more info & to register, follow this link.


Datza Telmane is a local yoga teacher and owner of Datza Studios in Eastlake.

Wellness: Create Your Own Definition

Wellness is a buzzy word these days.

It’s an umbrella term that we can apply to almost anything, and the amount of wellness modalities, practices, and rituals that are out there is frankly overwhelming.

So how exactly do we define wellness for ourselves? Some people might think that wellness is waking up at sunrise and meditating or practicing yoga. If this is your version of wellness, that’s amazing! For me, it’s not at all realistic. But for a long time (and until just very recently!) I thought that this early-rising, lengthy ritual of morning wellness was THE epitome of wellness and what I needed to do in order to consider myself a “well” person.

The truth is, we are not allowed to beat ourselves up with things that are good for us (learned this from a former life coach). If we read self-help books, we can’t punish ourselves for not following their guidance. If we practice yoga occasionally, we can’t berate ourselves in class for not coming more often. If we buy into this cycle of negativity, our vision of self-care and attainable wellness practices will become narrower, and narrower, until we’d rather just call the whole thing off.

What I’d like to propose, is instead of viewing wellness as something that we are grasping for, to view wellness as something that we already do (!) and can layer on to. I have a few suggestions on how to do so below, but above all I want to give you permission to create a new definition of wellness for yourself. One that is free of any outside influence, unique to you, and that you actually enjoy!

food as wellness“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

This is the simple motto of US-based journalist Michael Pollan who explores this idea in his book and accompanying show, “In Defense of Food.” When it comes to nutritional wellness, keeping it simple is the way to go. I also no longer force myself to eat “healthy” foods that I don’t like. If you don’t like the currently trending “super food,” don’t eat it! It’s much easier for me to nourish my body when I eat foods I enjoy.

Add movement to your meditation.

A seated meditation practice has always been difficult for me, so I was really excited when I was recently introduced to Kundalini Yoga / Meditation. It’s weird, but the repetitive movements that you perform in sets or “kriyas,” are incredibly powerful for moving stagnant energy and uniting mind and body. I would highly recommend going to a class for the full experience, but you can also find short and impactful Kundalini meditations on Insight Timer, Youtube, or Alo Moves

wellness teaUp-level the ways you already take care of yourself.

Some days, I wake up late and seem to move straight into my day without even taking a moment to be intentional or breathe deeply. But what do I always do before leaving the house? Brush my teeth and go through my skin care routine. These are ways I already care for my body (but didn’t really count as wellness), and by adding an extra layer of intention like adding a drop of essential oil to my dry brush, or lovingly massaging lotion onto my body, or even listening to my favorite song while brushing my teeth, has allowed me to practice self-care without adding a lot of extra time or steps. What are the things you always do that you could add a little intention to? Here’s a list of 45 small self-care practices if you need some inspiration.

 

Reinvent your definition of wellness.

I will assume that because you are here, you most likely have an interest in wellness. But if any of my words don’t resonate, that is totally okay because I am not for everyone and even more importantly, everyone is not for you! As you chart your own wellness path, you get to choose who your teachers are, where you attend class, and what kind of inspiration you take from those around you. Wellness is incredibly personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My mission through Three Moon Collective is to introduce and share many kinds of wellness in hopes that they resonate with our community. If you’re interested in being part of this community and exploring wellness with us, I’d encourage you to sign up for our weekly newsletter here, or explore our Collective of diverse wellness practitioners.

For a daily dose of wellness, follow us at @threemooncollective on Instagram. 


Hannah Exner is the founder of Three Moon Collective and still creating her own personal definition of wellness. Follow her at @hannahexner or send her an email at hello@threemooncollective.com. This blog post originally appeared on Head + Heart

Wellness Around The World: Curanderos in Mexico

My name is Rafael Toledo but just about everyone calls me Kiko. I was born in Texas, first generation American of Mexican parents. I spent every summer in Mexico as a child then at 15, I moved there. From there I lived in San Diego, Florida, Beijing for a bit, Seattle and recently a little island offshore called Vashon. I studied biology and chemistry in college and worked as a research scientist in neuroscience for about 6 years before completely changing careers. I initially became interested in wellness because of experiences I had with my father and the world he introduced me to at a young age. Which brings me to a topic that extends wellness past our southern border: Curanderos, aka Mexican Alternative Healers.

My father practiced traditional pediatric cardiology but quickly became frustrated with its limits and inefficiencies and began to explore alternatives. He began in Mexico and let me tag along as an 11 or 12 year-old kid. We visited and interviewed dozens of Curanderos. They were somewhat underground, though not hard to find since most people hesitated to admit visiting one, but visited nonetheless. There was plenty of wonder in these visits, especially for a curious boy. Dark smoky rooms filled with a roller-coaster ride of quiet whispers, frantic screaming, cry-sobbing, flicking out demons and curses, as well as rolling eggs along the body and cracking them open to expose black, smelly and spoiled yolks. Lots of candles and incense and chanting. I loved it, and thought it was quite the adventure.

Recently, we’ve come to appreciate many of these ancient practices – Ayahuasca, Tepezcohuite and Nopales to name a few. But it was a bit different in the late 80’s. These remedies were seen as superstitious and a just a little bit backwoodsy (before backwoodsy was a good thing). The conclusion we came to after many sessions and interviews was that in many cases, yes, the herb, oil or tea helped. But more than that, folks needed a space to unload. To talk about their taboo desires and anxieties disguised as demons. Metaphor manifested as reality. Most people wouldn’t go to a Curandero for a broken bone and the good Curanderos (there were crooked ones as in any industry) would send away people with more serious maladies.

No, most would visit for those hard-to-pinpoint ailments. The pains traditional medicine is terrible at diagnosing, let alone correcting. It’s so much easier to unload, inspect and let go of emotions and uncertainties in a dark room smelling of burnt herbs with a cup of pungent tea in your hands than it is with a cardiologist and his unblinking notepad in a sterile medical facility.

What I took away from those experiences, as well as my stint in science, was to try to keep an open mind. To try to not judge what works for others as a way to heal. To not be intimidated by new words or concepts and use it as an opportunity to learn. To not let the uncertainty of something lead me to grasp at the first person with a purported cure. To question, experiment and be grateful for what works for me and put aside that which doesn’t. To challenge the things I don’t understand, but to try and be willing to listen to the response without prejudice. To take the best of time-tested remedies (the healing power of Manuka honey is real ya’ll!) and those developed by science.

After all, the best science is just an interpretation of Nature. The powerful results of meditation are as real as the life saving capabilities of a heart transplant.


Kiko Toledo works in video production and lives on Vashon Island with his wife Lindsey. Feel free to tell him about your favorite backwoodsy remedies or ask about what they use in Mexico at @rkikotoledo. Or if you’re as interested in seeing the various sides of the world as he is, say hello at @ramblinhombrefoto

Endometriosis – A Health Journey

My Endometriosis Story

I had painful periods for over 20 years, starting when I was 16. I accepted this as normal and incurable all the way back then. What medicine could not fix, I was told pregnancy eventually would. I thought the pain, nausea, vomiting, etc. were just how my body worked, endometriosis was never part of the conversation.

About 15 years ago, I started developing other symptoms as well, such as GI issues, yo-yoing thyroid hormone levels, abnormal ovarian cysts, and malabsorption issues that no provider could fully diagnose. These additional symptoms were weirdly cyclical in a way I could not pinpoint at first, but after multiple tests and procedures – ultrasounds, an MRI, a colonoscopy, tests for parasites and many blood tests – found nothing really wrong with me, I started keeping a detailed diary of my symptoms.

Because I had long accepted the incurable nature of my painful periods, my diary was initially a way for me to keep track of these “other” symptoms, but over time I started to wonder if they actually could be related to my periods. My symptom diary led me to think back about when I first started to feel sick and began to try different herbs and foods as remedies. That took me back 20 years to the first time I felt sick on my period – I was so ill, vomiting so much that I couldn’t leave the bathroom, and I was in pain.

Once I noticed that connection, I began to research with the knowledge that all the symptoms I had outside of my period were way worse during my period – so maybe that was the place of origin. After watching a documentary called Endo What?, I started to suspect I had endometriosis before any provider had a chance to diagnose me.

endometriosis excision post-operation

On February 18, 2019, I had surgery to excise endometriosis. At the same time, my gallbladder was removed, as well as my appendix. My gallbladder was chronically inflamed and functioning at a level of only 3% – only the second lowest level my surgeon had ever seen, and the lowest was 0%. My appendix was scarred and wrapped around behind my colon, where it was attached. Endometriosis was found on my sigmoid colon, cul-de-sac, rectovaginal septum, left and right uterosacral ligaments, left and right pelvic sidewalls, and my right ovary was scarred down with endo and attached to my pelvic sidewall.

Almost every day, I notice myself feeling better. It’s crazy because since my symptoms were so chronic, I had learned to live with them – and with some of the symptoms the truth of their existence occurs to me when I no longer feel them. I am going to pelvic physical therapy to address the dysfunction that is happening in my muscles and nerves after years of pain and symptoms. I’m working on getting stronger through movement. Endo is a chronic, life-long condition, but I am hoping I continue feeling the benefits of excision surgery and other lifestyle modifications. It is possible I will need more treatment later, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it

In the last week, I have also been diagnosed with celiac disease, and I hope that going strictly gluten free will alleviate even more of my symptoms. This is all a process, and I hope that in 6 months, I feel better than I have in many years.

freedom from endometriosisFor so long, women’s health has been focused on fertility, and I think that it’s the truly upsetting thing – that we are only concerned with a woman’s health when it hinders her ability to conceive. Even the stages of endometriosis correspond mostly to fertility – the higher the stage, the more infertility is expected. But the stages do not illustrate how much pain or symptoms are present, nor do they indicate where in the body endometriosis was found.

As women our health is tied to our menstrual cycles and the hormones made by them, but fertility or lack thereof is not the only indication that a cycle has gone awry. And, we need our hormones for more than just reproduction. I read this somewhere and can’t recall where: Would a man ever be told he doesn’t need testosterone until he’s ready to be a father?

As a yoga teacher and someone steeped since childhood in the world of “unconventional” medicine, I often notice anger in those who hear my story. They are frustrated at how long it took for doctors to listen to me and for me to find skilled care. It is true that Western medicine took a long time to diagnose me, but naturopathic, functional medicine did not diagnose me, either. And highly specialized, highly experienced Western medicine has also saved me with endometriosis excision surgery and detection of celiac. There are so many providers out there on both “sides” who want to learn more and want to do good, but the true symptom profile of endometriosis is still unknown to most doctors and patients.

To many, it is still seen as simply painful cramps, and trouble with conceiving. In my body and in the bodies of so many other women, it is much, much more than that.

endometriosis resourcesEndometriosis Resources

  • EndoWhat.org – start with watching the documentary.
  • Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education – an online patient community on Facebook. This group is more for research purposes than support, though you will find support as well through education.
  • Greater Seattle Endometriosis Group – also a community on Facebook. They host meetups throughout the year, and have more localized PNW resources than Nancy’s Nook will. I found my pelvic floor physical therapist through this group.

About Endometriosis

(info from Nancy’s Nook, EndoWhat, etc.)

  • Endometriosis – when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus that sheds each month during a period implants itself in places outside of the uterus. It can be found on the ovaries, uterus, uterine ligaments, appendix, bowels, fallopian tubes, lungs, liver, brain, etc. It causes inflammation and pain (though some can have it without any pain).
  • Endo can be found in anyone born with a uterus, and, though rare, has also been found in cis men.
  • Laparoscopic excision surgery is the gold standard of treatment today, and reoccurrence rates are much lower than for ablation
  • Endometriosis is rarely seen on imaging tests, such as ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. The only way to definitively diagnose and treat endo is with surgery.
  • Excision does not equal ablation – ablation is like burning the top layer, leaving the “root” of the lesion intact. Excision is removing the lesion at the root.
  • It takes an average of 10 years for a person to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
  • Hormonal birth control (includes Lupron, Orlissa, and the Pill) is often prescribed for endometriosis, but its use is now understood by endo specialists to be palliative only. Hormonal birth control does not shrink lesions or make them disappear. If it helps symptoms, that is great, but beyond that it does not treat endo. Lupron and Orlissa often have terrible side effects that do not go away once the medication is stopped.
  • Pregnancy is not a cure for endometriosis. While many people do have a reduction in symptoms while pregnant, that is not true for everyone. And symptoms can come back with a vengeance after pregnancy and breastfeeding are complete.
  • Hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis. Endo is a disease that by definition occurs outside of the uterus. Removing the uterus does not remove endometriosis. Removing the ovaries (an oophorectomy) does not cause lesions to shrink either – endo lesions can make their own estrogen, so they do not need the ovaries to persist.

Going to the Doctor – When you think you have endo (but also anything else)

Some of these are my own, some I’ve heard along the way.

  • Make a list of concerns you want to cover, and any questions.
  • Make a separate doctor’s appointment for each concern you have (i.e. don’t tack on a question about possible endometriosis to your yearly check-up – give it its own space.)
  • Be direct and as concise as can be.
  • Practice describing your pain and when you have it. Is it hot? Stabbing? Does it feel like pulling? Does it happen all the time? How long have you had it? Do any movements or positions make it better, or worse?
  • ALWAYS ask for records, and read them. It is much easier to do this right after the office or hospital visit rather than years later. It is in my record from an ER visit in 2011 when I had classic appendicitis symptoms “patient admits she may have overindulged at her wedding two weeks ago.”  
  • At the end of the visit, re-cap what was covered with your doctor, so that you both are on the same page.
  • If the treatment does not work, and you still think that doctor can help you, go back and say the treatment did not work. Or if you find the answer through another provider, share that record with your previous doctor, so they get feedback.

Written by Collective member Lindsey Toledo, a local yoga teacher who lives on Vashon Island. Follow her on Instagram, or stay connected by joining her email list or sending her an email.