by Andrea Blumenstein
photo credit @kitchencoma
I had a sense that not all fun is the same, but I didn’t know until recently that a specific type of not-your-average good time has a name.
If you aren’t into the extreme mountain sports, you might not have come across this before. It’s called Type II fun. I heard a lot about this Type II fun while sitting at dinner or sometimes breakfast during the past month when I was teaching yoga at a mountain lodge (Llullu Llama if anyone is looking for a great spot!) in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Andes are full, brimming really, with people who are all about that Type II fun. Don’t get me wrong, they like Type I fun too--that’s the stuff that is fun while you are doing it and after you are doing it, like mountain hot tubs and drinks on a boat.
How do you know if you are having type two fun? Well, it is a bit tricky because the “during” of the event/activity you are miserable. It sucks, everything sucks, you hate yourself for doing it, you hate your friend/boyfriend/whoever for convincing you to do it--even if it was your idea. BUT, what distinguishes this from your run of the mill bad times is that later, maybe much later depending on the level of trauma, you are so glad you did it. You are laughing about it! Telling stories about it! Even considering doing it again (you crazy beast!).
Did you get lost on a hike? Type II fun! No one tells a story for years to come about that time they went for a hike and then went home and ate a sandwich. But, if you went on a hike and got lost, forgot your sandwich in the kitchen before you left and ended up splitting a banana with some backwater type before slowly, painfully finding your way home, then you stumbled upon that sweet sweet Type II fun.
For me, just going hiking in Ecuador was Type II. It was so hard, I thought I was dying. I couldn’t believe that all of these people came all the way out there to do this. Ugh. (I went to teach yoga! Yoga is generally not Type II fun but never discount the possibility.) But then, later, over dinner with fellow hikers laughing about how my yoga skills somehow kept me upright when, if gravity had anything to say about it, I should have definitely slipped and fell in that steaming pile of cow dung! Yeah! And cool, beautiful photos to boot! Hello, Type II fun. It’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet. You know, to go over everything… they say that time’s supposed to heal you.
Other people that I met didn’t think a day of hiking in the Andes was Type II. Apparently totally forgettable in the mill of life. Fine. Those guys were usually also talking about spending twelve hours scaling an ice cliff and then--YES!--getting to the top. That is their level of Type II and that’s okay. It is a subjective thing.
Things that are almost always going to be ripe with opportunity for Type II:
The moral of the story? Get after it. Spring is here and there are all kinds of opportunities for Type II fun and the family-friendly equivalent. Here are a few suggestions to get you started
The Appalachian Trail offers a multitude of Type II fun opportunities and Pennsylvania boasts 229 miles of the trek that spans from Spring Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Head north from one of the many spots to enter in PA to find a challenge and for a small fee, outdoor adventurers can purchase a variety of trail maps and guides on the official website or join the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) to meet some folks to go along with you.
Lehigh Gorge State Park is characterized by a steep-walled gorge featuringing sharp rock outcropping and waterfalls of the Lehigh River with an overall span of 6,107 miles of nature. Hiking and climbing abounds but the region also offers white water for those looking to get wet.
Treetop Quest Philly will take you high with a range of courses spanning from easy to extreme. This aerial adventure park is really only Type II if you are under the age of 12, but family-style fun is always worth noting!
Hellerick’s Family Farm in Doylestown, PA also falls under the family-style category. Open seasonally, from spring through fall, this local gem offers an aerial adventure park with options for thrill-seekers over the age of 7. Reservations recommended.
Shades of Death Trail has to make the list if not just for its name. Located in Jim Thorpe, PA, the trail runs through Hickory Run State Park with enough ups and downs to challenge anyone game to try it.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia is a half marathon (with 5K and 10K options) set along some of Philadelphia’s most historic landmarks. Scheduled for Sept. 15th, the music and community engagement makes this a great race for everyone!
Finally, a friendly reminder to Leave No Trace if you embark on any of these nature journeys!
by Andrea Blumenstein
Remember how mindfulness and self-care topped the New Year’s resolution lists for yet another year? Well, now that January is behind us (Thank you, next.) we can all take a few minutes to reflect on set goals and expectations. Close your eyes. Breathe.
How did you do?
This is an observation, nota judgment. Simple, consistent meditation practice eludes many; what matters next is identifying why. Some get stuck because of the relatively liquidness of the concept. The terms mindfulness and meditation can mean different things in different contexts. For others, scheduling a time and establishing a meditation routine that doesn’t get slashed from the schedule as though it was merely saving space for overflow can be challenging. Maybe you need some network of support or community to stick to it. Or, maybe you need a little nudge or external reminder to stay on track. Or, you just have to decide to do it. Either way, there’s an app for that™, so read on.
When Apple successfully received trademark approval for the catch phrase from a popular iPhone commercial in 2010, they knew that they had a direct line to the future of, well, everything with the whole app thing. Including mindfulness. It might be because tech bigwigs are rumored to have had the whole brain break thing perfected for quite some time. Meanwhile, others of us were pulling out hair or turning gray with “work breaks” that involved restarting or unplugging-and-re-plugging malfunctioning devices. OM? More like um.
If technology has become more accessible, and, in theory, making our lives easier, why are stress levels and burnout reported at alarming levels? Research shows that a big chunk of anxiety stems (and productivity lost) from smart phone usage and our need to be constantly plugged-in. Scientists have actually designated a term for it – nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) – in order to streamline discourse on the growing phenomenon. So, in a seemingly counter-intuitive move, many are opening up their app store for help.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to support with science, rather than specific spiritual teachers/teachings, a practice that enables the practitioner to disentangle thoughts and emotions from the present moment.
Back when the iPhone commercial aired, Apple proudly boasted 250,000 apps. Today, the tech powerhouse is currently tailing Android, where users choose from 2.1 million apps to Apple’s 2 million. Paltry!
Among the millions of apps to choose from, almost ironically, mindfulness and meditation apps accumulated at a staggering number in recent years. One could easily slip into an internet vortex just trying to pick one to try out. So, for those of you looking to change up your current practice or develop a new one, here are some picks for digitalized meditation to help you sift through the noise. Though the best thing would be to sign up for all the free trials and pick one where you enjoy the voice and the interface because honestly, they are all kind of similar.
Beginners, start here! This is not only the most popular meditation app, downloaded by millions of users, but arguably the simplest. Some might say that the interface is too juvenile. I’m talking cartoons to teach the nuts and bolts of mindfulness. This app focuses on getting users to establish (and keep) a daily meditation practice.
This is the most social of all of the apps. It is free with an optional upgrade. It is incredibly user friendly, if you can get past the poor design, but is better suited for people that have at least some meditation experience. Features like Tibetan singing bowls, chat and ability to “meditate together” are the stand-outs of this long running app. There are more than 5,000 guided meditations and have recordings by some well-known mediation teachers but the real tour de force is that users who don’t need their hands held can keep track of their meditation practice.
This app boasts more than 500 guided meditations led by 40 experts. Downloading the app costs $2.99 but comes with rave user reviews. Instead of scrolling through your phone, the meditation studio app offers help with stress relief and anxiety as well. Most of the guided recordings are under ten minutes, so they are totally accessible for a dose of zen on the go.
“Discover your mind” with Sam Harris, neuroscientist, author and host of his popular podcast by the same name. If you are a fan of his already, a trip to this app makes total sense. The opposite if you can’t stand him. His method is geared toward both novice and more experienced users, with the goal to help users sift through their mind to get the most out of their individual internal experiences.
This app is regarded by many as having the best visuals, and claims to do more than just help users meditate. The company lists anxiety, depression and stress as among their target conditions. For free, users can access a handful of guided meditations, but they are reported as being less strong than others like Insight Timer. A subscription unlocks additional features and showcases a variety of meditation techniques, nature sounds and cool background choices. Calm is also a website, and the internet buzz suggests that there is a Calm Island on the horizon. Vacation anyone?
This app is geared toward meditation, relaxation and sleep. This is definitely a next-level app, and you might even consider it like the Porsche of the bunch. That may or may not be your thing. The app has a journal feature and a bunch of guided meditations – a lot focused on adult, work related issues. Inscape is also a studio in Manhattan where users can go to meditate.
Dan Harris published a book, 10% Happier in 2014 and after its off the charts success, he launched a podcast and then “meditation for fidgety skeptics” with this beginner friendly app. Added bonuses include courses in the form of video content aimed at improving relationships, work and health. There are a handful of meditation teachers to choose from, so subscribers can try out different voices and personalities. New users can check it out with their free 7-day trial.
by Andrea Blumenstein
So you still have no plans for New Years and some cash to spare? Instead of spending New Year’s Eve smoking your last pack of cigarettes or New Year’s Day drinking Pedialyte® and consuming all of the remaining holiday calories from your fridge before “eating healthy” or binging all of the Netflix before taking a serious screen break, how about something a little bit more inspiring?
Life is all about making choices and loads of people look to the New Year for a fresh start. But habits are incredibly difficult to break. This is why an overwhelming percentage (Business Insider estimates 80%) of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Self-care is increasingly gaining popularity among heady resolutions, but without really defining it, how can you succeed? Odds are not in your favor. So, if you are looking to prioritize the mind/body, taking yourself out of your routine while also meeting a bunch of other people who feel the same way about another holiday season hangover (No thank you!) might be just the thing.
Head south for one of these awesome New Year’s-themed holidays.
Hola 2019 – A New Year’s Retreat at Apoyo Lodge – NICARAGUA
Saturday December 29, 2 PM – Wednesday Jan 2, 11 AM
Investment: Starting at $240 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Apoyo Lodge)
Spend 4 nights unplugged from the outside world and connecting with your inner self at Apoyo Lodge, Health & Wellness Boutique Hotel. Start the morning with an inspiring yoga practice and then, with the support of a professional team, choose to read, relax, hike or swim in the clean waters of the volcano crater.
- 4-night accommodation in the room type of your choice
- Three plant-based meals per day including a natural drink with every meal and dessert at lunch and dinner
- Daily morning yoga class
- Unlimited water, herbal tea and bananas
- Round-trip airport shuttle service
- Unlimited WiFi (if you choose to use it)
Exhale Yoga: New Years Yoga Retreat – El Salvador
Friday, December 28 – Saturday, Jan 5
Investment: Starting at $1,999 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Facebook)
If you like to move your body, this is for you. Lead by Yoga Teacher & Yoga to Life Coach Rachel Wainwright at Las Flores Resort, this retreat is focused rhythm, dance, yoga and surf that will foster a deeper connection to self and other like-minded individuals. The retreat schedule offers two daily yoga classes, healthy eating and a host of other activities plus welcomes in the New Year by coming together to dance open heartily with a group of positive people so that you will go home feeling lighter in love with yourself, others and life.
- 8-night, 7-day accommodation of your choice.
- Twice daily yoga classes
- Three daily meals
- Surfing (board rental and lessons are extra)
- Salsa dancing
New Year’s Rejuvenation Retreat with Doron Hanoch – Guatemala
Saturday, December 26 – Wednesday, Jan 2
Investment: Starting at $847 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Doron Yoga and Zen Center)
Immerse in a spiritual community and ring in the New Year from a place of balance, joy and gratitude at the Doron Yoga and Zen Center at Lake Atitlan. This is an ashtanga-vinyasa retreat, mixed with bhakti and kundalini, for all levels. This week-long retreat will focus on bringing your mind and body back to alignment to start the New Year. Prepare to laugh, eat, dance, practice powerful yoga, focus your mind like a Jedi, and learn to love yourself and others like never before.
- Detailed workshops
- Morning yoga sessions
- Osho Kundalini and zen meditation
- Pranayama practices to enrich your energy and life force
- Yin yoga to deepen flexibility and balance the body
- 3 daily meals with drinks
- 7 nights accommodation
Exotic Yoga New Year Retreat at Xinalani – Mexico
Sunday, December 30 – Saturday, January 5
Investment: Starting at $1,995 USD per person
(Photo courtesy of Exotic Yoga Retreats)
Begin your year in vibrant health, rejuvenation, yoga and fitness at Xinalani, an award-winning eco-resort near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The retreat features gentle flow yoga with Nina Butler and fitness with personal trainer Lisa Nielsen on a private beach. Take in the sun and sea amidst a gathering of multicultural, like-minded yogis focused on relaxation, gratitude and inspiration.
- 6-night, 7-day accommodation
- Airport pick-up in Puerto Vallarta and boat transfer to Xinalani
- Three meals daily: delicious vegetarian and pescatarian dishes with option of meat on request
- Exotic Yoga Retreats’ New Year Program to set your intention for 2019!
- Two yoga classes daily with yoga teacher Nina Butler
- Two health and fitness classes daily with personal trainer and coach Lisa Nielsen
- ‘Guac Walk’ through the jungle to a neighboring beach for swimming and fresh chips with guacamole!
- Evening activities: Latin dance lesson and beach bonfire
- Ocean kayaking
by Stephanie Spickler
Healthy is more than just an adjective, it’s a way of life. Healthy, in our day and age, is roughly defined as being free from disease or pain; overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing; The current, full definition can be found here at merriam-webster.com
We see “healthy” everywhere, in magazines, in grocery stores..on TV. But what does Healthy actually mean? I figured the definition was a lengthy scientific calculation regarding weight, height, BMI. I am slightly embarrassed to admit I thought that. I didn’t even think about mental wellness or the emotional aspect of the word. How did I not think about that? Probably because our society has been so caught up with the physical, aesthetic aspect. Apparently I did too!
So why is the term healthy important and why are changing workouts regularly beneficial to overall health?
Because our bodies change on a day to day basis, from the amount of sleep we get, the types of foods we eat and put into our bodies, the hormone levels, environmental conditions. The list goes on. Healthy encompasses so much more than just the physical state of being. Healthy does not necessarily mean skinny, Healthy also doesn’t mean you must look like a chiseled rock. Healthy is different for everyone. A lot of men and women, including myself at times, pack the pressure on internally, to achieve a “look” and we often forget to put enough emphasis on the way we feel.
Do you eat the same thing, every single meal, every single day of the year? No, probably not. So why workout the same? Gyms have great equipment options, but they can be intimidating all around sometimes! We need to change more than just the muscles we focus on at the gym that day. Alternating from ‘leg day’ to ‘arm day’ is a great way to ensure you target all parts of your physical body, but you need to change more than that for overall health. I know that when I go to the gym, I constantly worry about my form, whos looking at me, am I doing my reps quick enough?.. Is there someone waiting for the piece of equipment I am using? All those things can distract your mind from reaping all of the benefits of the workout. Try grabbing some free weights from your local store and take them to the park. Take them to the beach with your bestie...get tan, chat with your bestie and enjoy an after workout cooldown in the saltwater! Take your workout somewhere that you can exercise and rejuvenate both your mind and body.
Working out isn’t just good for physical fitness, it can provide huge benefits mentally and emotionally. It can boost your mood or help release tension, it can strengthen your muscles and your mind. It’s important to change your workout routine regularly to reap all the benefits of exercising. Just like in eating, we eat a variety of vegetables, a variety of fruits, etc.. variety is key to reaping all the benefits of the foods available to us.
So... what does exercise for the mind and the emotional aspect of our health actually mean? Working out for the mind and soul can include so many things! Indulge in whatever it is that you need to work on, personally. Just like when you set a plan for physical fitness, you should create a plan for your mind and soul. Everyone is different and reflecting within yourself to find the things that stretch and work your mind and soul out is the first step. Working out for the mind and soul just means we focus on who we are as humans, our passions, our interests. We actively need to seek activities that enable us to FEEL good, not just look good - activities that help us grow our uniquely precious characteristics and individual skills.
I personally change my workout style, intensity and activities. Most of November i kicked butt with intense physical workouts….but the other week I skipped my BeachBody a couple days and opted to completely rearrange the furniture in my great room. I arranged the furniture to focus around one another instead of focusing around the TV so we could inspire more conversation and family time. Everytime I switched my decorative pillows, I squatted. The next day, I rearranged the Art on the walls. I did walking lunges around my home while doing it. Then decorated for the Holiday (which did not include squats or walking lunges...I drank a beer ha! What I did do though was focus intently on making my home feel and look the way I wanted it to in order to feel good living there. It helped clear my mind while I got a workout. I came out of the experience very uplighted, excited and physically exhausted in the best kind of way and according to my iWatch, I burned 98 calories while achieving my target heart rate to consider it a cardio workout! (See more here; Burn Calories By Moving )
There are Beer and Yoga events, who says you can’t enjoy a cold beer while in Warrior pose? I personally think this sounds amazing, life is busy, combine a refreshing beer with a relaxing Yoga workout. So do what makes you happy and do what rejuvenates you. There are Wine & Painting classes you can go to that exercise your mind and soul which can rejuvenate and restore our moods. Maybe painting doesn’t necessarily burn calories or make you sweat like your spin class but it does wonders for your mind and emotional wellbeing, which is very important to overall health.
Working out physically is extremely important, there is no substitute for a sweaty workout. It’s important to remember though, that you must indulge in the things that rejuvenate and build your mind and soul to. Even with perfect physical health, without emotional or mental health - we’re not healthy. So let go of the images and ideas of the perfect body or weight and focus on loving yourself all around, enjoy good sweaty workouts, laugh and love to fulfill your soul and work hard to accomplish your goals and dreams - no matter what they are or what they look like because it’s the only way to achieve a true overall healthy life.
by Andrea Blumenstein
Yoga and… beer? It’s (still) a Thing.
Thankfully, two of the friendliest communities around – the craft beer lovers and the yogis – are not parting ways. However, despite a bunch of press suggesting global prominence, “beer yoga” hasn’t taken over the United States quite the same way that Goat Yoga has, and they might pee on you! (But, I mean… baby goats!)
Since making a debut at Burning Man and then growing international attention thanks to some beer-savvy yogis in Berlin, “Beer Yoga” has gone flat in the United States. Beer Yoga (the order of words is key) involves drinking beer while practicing yoga, and even uses the bottle as a prop. The phenomenon was picked up by male-oriented outlets like GQ in 2017 and Draft Magazine and later covered by Business Insider, Lonely Planet and Huff Post to name a few, but, my feed has been void of any such invitations. And I teach yoga. And I like beer!
What is pretty rockin’ is the yoga, and then beer. Beer, or not beer, if you’d prefer temperance, is all over the place. A quick search of “yoga and beer near me” and you will find that tons of breweries are pairing up with awesome yoga teachers around the country to utilize the massive amount of open space that these places have. It seems the yoga and beer communities are forever linked thanks to resurgence in community.
The yoga community is well-known for uniting its people. But what about newcomers? For the last few years, yoga has been popping up at non-traditional locations and by doing so, inviting a new wave of practitioners to the ancient art. Yoga, as many people are finding out, is one of the best remedies – and even better preventer – of ailments resultant from a lot of sitting and a lot of scrolling. Before I started teaching yoga, I wrote an article for Paste Magazine, yoga was among the suggestions for preventing and curing lower back pain.
I’m all about lifting spirits the natural way, breath and movement, but no one says you can’t do both. A little bit of booze plus some awesome people in a great space? Many spirits lifted! Did you hear that Mary Poppins is back with another spoon full of sugar to make the medicine go down? She’s back but only for the Banks’ residents so for the rest of us, a little Namaste with a side of hops sounds like a nice cure for the winter blues.
You can check out Beer Yoga and Neshaminy Creek Brewing's upcoming Yoga and Beer Event in January 2019 here.
photo credit Neshaminy Creek Brewing via Facebook
8 Reasons Vegan Food Is Going To Take Over The World—According To A Michelin-Starred Chef by Andrea Blumenstein
When Chef Josita Hartanto and her husband opened Lucky Leek in 2011, a 100%
plant-based restaurant in Berlin, Germany, few thought it could succeed. Thankfully,
the pair believed in their idea enough to stick it out during the hard times to prove
the skeptics wrong.
Prove is an understatement. Just two years after opening shop in the Prenzlaur Berg
locality of Berlin, the restaurant expanded to a larger plot a few doors down. Today,
with a trio of cookbooks – the third, Vegan Genial in 15 Minuten (Vegan Genius in 15
Minutes) just launched in the summer of 2017 – and a Michelin Bib Gourmand later,
Chef Josita Hartanto continues to expose the beauty and range of textures available
for those with a penchant for a green lifestyle.
We checked in with Lucky Leek Chef Hartanto to find out why she reckons vegan is
1. You are what you eat. “Because vegetarian food always looks good, is easy to
make and never gives you the feeling of having eaten too much. Also, a
vegetarian/vegan diet makes you look younger and feel better.”
2. The numbers. Global population growth means that we can’t all eat animal
protein. “If everybody had a steak a day, we would already need more than one
planet earth to satisfy the demand.”
3. Sexy food photos (you can follow @luckyleek) all over the internet unite lovers
of #vegan eats. “We [vegans] just needed some sexy food (in pictures), a few
celebrities that live this life and of course good restaurants that show people how
good life can taste even without meat.”
4. Great restaurants and cookbooks to make the options readily available. “Here
in Germany it is very easy to find more and more places in every city, even the small
towns offer a vegetarian/vegan option by now. It grew very fast!” As the author of
both Vegan Genial: Aufregend Anders Kochen (Genius Vegan: Exciting Different
Cooking) in 2013), followed by Vegan Schnell Schnell: Genial Einfach, Einfach Genial
(Vegan Quick, Quick: Simply Genius, Geniously Simple), she should know.
5. Vegetables have been seriously underrated in the past. “You can transform
them into almost any texture and flavor you can think of. That is what makes my
kitchen so complex and complete, always trying to achieve new textures and tastes
by trying out different things and techniques.”
6. Variety is the seed of life. “Wheat protein, soy protein, even regular vegetables
contain proteins, it is all about the mixture. The more variety you add to your diet,
the healthier your life will be.”
7. Hosting chefs and sharing knowledge. “People from all over the world have
been working at my place already. I had a trainee from Osaka, Japan, she was so
interested in learning and even taught me some Japanese skills.” Chef Hartanto has
opened her kitchen to people from Israel, United States, UK, Italy, Portugal, and
South America. “I really love new influences and enjoy sharing my knowledge with
others. It’s a give-and-take.”
8. Non-vegans eating vegan. People that are interested in a sustained way of living
opt for inclusion of vegan meals as part of their regular diet. “Wisdom is being
acquired by trying new things, tasting new food, experiencing new and unthought
things. Everybody who stays in his/her comfort zone and never comes out will miss
the best things in life.”
Today, the city of Berlin is listed among the pioneers of beyond worthy meat-free
dining options whether you are a vegan or not. Looking for something a little more
Philadelphia’s Vedge Restaurant in Center City offers inventive vegetable cooking in
an historic brownstone home renovated to serve dinner 7 nights a week, with a full
bar with natural wines, craft beers and other elixirs to complement dinner and
At the helm of Vedge are James Beard nominated Chefs Rich Landau and Kate
Jacoby, restaurateurs committed to shaping the culinary landscape in Philadelphia.
They recently brought their modern plant based dining experience to the
Washington D.C., were residents and visitors at our nation’s capital can sip cocktails
and dine on the freshest of veg at Fancy Radish D.C.
Other spots to check out:
Graze Nashville; 1888 Eastland Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Vital Root Denver; 3915 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212
True Food Kitchen (TFK); National