What’s in My Carry-On?

December 6, 2016

Melissa Hogan of Suitcase and Heels recently interviewed me about my travel style and I had a lot to say!

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Melanie Caines is a Certified Yoga Teacher and the owner/operator of Nova Yoga in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. She was recently a finalist at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and has also just launched a new online video subscription service called Move with Melanie. She’s no stranger to travel as she regularly hosts sold out yoga retreats around the world from Greece and Italy to Costa Rica and Mexico. We caught up with Melanie in her hometown of St. John’s.

Roll, fold, scrunch or stuff? What’s your packing method?

I roll and I also use packing cubes – it’s amazing how much you can fit in them!  I have 3 packing cubes of different sizes that fit perfectly into my carry on suitcase.

Carry on or checked bag?

Carry on all the way!  I haven’t checked a bag in over 3 years and I’ve been away for up to 17 days at a time.  I’m almost addicted to the challenge of it: can I fit it all in?!  And I always do!  I love landing and being able to roll off the plane and into the day instead of waiting for checked baggage.

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Read the full interview HERE.

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Move It or Lose It: My Story

November 24, 2016

When I was 6 months old my Dad was changing my diaper and noticed that one of my legs was longer than the other.

My Mom, a nurse, consulted a Pediatric nursing book she had (this was 1981 – we were a looooong way from Google) and suspected that I had Bilateral Congenital Hip Dysplasia.  My Mom had heard of this condition, had studied it, and knew what it meant: I had no hip sockets.  My parents made an appointment with my family doctor, my hips were x-rayed, and the doctor called the next day to confirm the diagnosis. He made an appointment with a St. John’s doctor (we lived in Corner Brook – an 8 hour drive away) so I could get admitted to the Janeway Children’s Hospital and start treatment.

Here’s what was going on:
My legs (femur bones) were pushed up past where my hip sockets should be, so the first step in the treatment process was traction: I was on my back for 6 weeks and the traction allowed my legs to be pulled down to where my hip sockets should be.

The next step was to create hip sockets: this was possible because I was so young and my bones were still soft.  I had been lying down for 6 weeks straight so I had to get used to sitting up and being upright again.  Once I was acclimatized my legs were put in a splint and I wore a full body brace that tied up around my shoulders to keep my legs in a frog-like position: this allowed the top part of my femur to press up into hip area to form hip sockets.

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After a couple of months I busted out of that contraption so we went to St. John’s again and this time I was outfitted in a different brace that kept my legs in an open split.

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All was well until I was 5 years old and the public health nurse at school alerted my parents that my feet were turning in.  My family doctor sent me to an Orthopedic surgeon who said that I would have arthritis by age 16 and a hip replacement would follow. The surgeon wouldn’t give my parents a referral for a second opinion because he said they didn’t need one.

My family doctor agreed to refer us to a renowned surgeon in Toronto (a 3.5 hour flight to the mainland) but when the office took so long to call for an appointment my Mom called the specialist and pretended to be our family doctor’s secretary (go Mom!)  We had our appointment for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The specialist there actually disagreed with the arthritis and hip replacement prognosis and said that if I sat in a cross legged seat (like Sukhasana) for 2 hours a day (instead of the Saddle position I was sitting in) my feet would straighten up.  And they did.

Life was good.  I was very active in junior high and high school: I played sports, I went to the gym, and I functioned like any other growing kid and never noticed anything different about my body or my mobility.  The treatment hadn’t worked for some of the other babies that had been in the hospital when I was there so I considered myself to be very lucky.  And treatment not working meant that those teenagers now had one leg longer than the other and had wear special shoes to compensate for the height difference.

In my mid 20s I noticed stiffness in my right hip and I started to think about the predictions of arthritis and hip replacements. It scared me.  So I did something about it.  I started to stretch.  I would sit in Sukhasana and I would fold forward, breathe, count.  It felt good. I did it every day.

In 2008 I went to New York for a month long Yoga Teacher Training course (mainly because I was feeling stressed and troubled and wanted to learn more about the healing properties of yoga).  I noticed that I wasn’t as flexible as others: my hip mobility limited and hip opening postures like Lizard and Pigeon, which most people seemed to love, were pure torture for me.

My most memorable moment in my Yoga Teacher Training was watching a video called “The Fuzz Speech.” In it, anatomist Gil Hedley presents 2 cadavers: the body of someone who had been active, and the body of someone who hadn’t.  It was shocking to see the difference.  In the video, Gil talks about fascia, which is connective tissue that covers the whole body; “fuzz” or stiffness can set in if the muscle fascia starts to bind together due to a lack of movement and stretching.

I heard his message loud and clear: move it or lose it.

And I was definitely inspired to move it.

When I got home I practiced yoga daily.  I even did a 30 day Pigeon pose challenge, holding the pose for 2-3 minutes each day (basically for the duration of a Beatles song).  By day 15 I could see a difference: my hips were opening up and becoming less stiff.

I could see the power of movement and stretching.

I knew that I could take control and change my body.

And what an incredibly empowering realization that was.

I’m grateful to have a job where I move every day.   I don’t know what my hip would be like today if I wasn’t doing yoga, or if I had a job where I was sitting 6-8hrs/day.  Sitting is the New Smoking – have you heard that?  How about Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle Is Killing YouForbes, The Globe & Mail, The Huffington Post, and the Mayo Clinic all have articles outlining the dangerous effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

The message is clear: we have to be active, we have to get moving, we have to keep the fuzz at bay.

I don’t take anything I can do with my body for granted.  I’m so grateful that I can walk for hours, move without pain, and practice yoga.

I wasn’t born able to do the yoga poses that I can do – quite the opposite, actually.  I learned to do these poses and I trained my body to be able to move this way.

And I’ll tell you what I tell my yoga students when it comes to being active, getting moving, and overcoming physical challenges:

If I can do it, you can do it.

-melanie-
xo

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Picture this: you wake before the sun, a warm breeze from the open window passing over your skin.  With a big stretch and a big breath you lift from your cozy bed and take a step out of the door and onto the sand.   You walk down to the ocean with a cup of coffee, green tea, or lemon water, and a bowl of fresh fruit.  You drink in an incredible sunrise.

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A few steps takes you to the yoga room where you exchange greetings and smiles with your fellow participants.  Rolling out your mat you lay on your back before the class begins, indulging in the warmth, the peace, the perfection of the moment.  The class unfolds in a sweet and sweaty journey, leaving you with so much energy and spark for the day ahead.

You join the group for breakfast and share morning stories as you enjoy an amazing array of fresh and healthy treats.   A img_5988huge grin spreads over your face as you consider the only decisions you have to make today:  Lounge on the beach?  Swim in the ocean?  Ride a bike into town?  Relax with a massage?  Explore and sightsee?  So what do you do?  Whatever YOU want; the gorgeous sun warms you all day long as you engage in whatever is calling your name.

A late afternoon class takes you back to your mat for more yoga, a delicious dance of breath, movement, strength, stretch, laughter, and rest; a glance up from Pigeon Pose and you catch the last few incredible moments of the sun setting.   A beautiful dinner with your new friends closes out the day and you fall into bed glowing, full, and happy.  Repeat for 6 more days and you’ll have had one of the most fun and fulfilling trips of your life.

This, my friends, is the magic of a Yoga Retreat in a sun destination.  Think about it: 6am mornings, vegetarian meals, and 3.5 hours of yoga a day: bliss, right?!  Ok, I know it sounds like a nightmare for many people but it is INCREDIBLY delicious.  And listen, I’m no saint: I like my late nights, my live music, and my Irish whiskey but sometimes you have to strip that all away and truly nourish yourself.  The yoga retreat is a great concept: it’s a healthy vacation!  Instead of coming home from your trip feeling exhausted, bloated, and hung-over from holiday indulgence (ever hear people say ‘I need a vacation to get over my vacation’?) you return to real life feeling motivated, refreshed, and renewed (and really, really clean.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish for a week?   Amazing!)

I treated myself to my first yoga retreat in December 2012 and I found that it was a really amazing way tojbp-26 give back to myself – a great boost to my body and mind.  And I realized how important it is to give yourself that treat, you know: to refuel, to recharge, to show yourself some LOVE .  Give back to yourself and you will have so much more to offer those around you.   I’ve been both a participant and a leader of yoga retreats in Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and in Europe and have heard people admit they feel guilty for stealing this time away, for not bringing the kids or partners, for focusing on himself or herself.  And you know what I hear at the end of the journey?  “I feel amazing.” “I’m going to be such a better parent after this trip.” “I’m so motivated to start that project now.”  It’s funny how self-care can stir up feelings of guilt, but afterwards there’s that energy and exhilaration and realization that you are now functioning at 100%, that you have renewed your energy, and you now have so much more to give.  It’s like securing your own oxygen mask before helping someone else.  Makes sense, right?

How do I choose a yoga retreat?
  An internet search will return countless results for yoga retreats, so your research will probably start there.  There are two things you can focus on: some people might decide on the retreat by choosing a teacher you would like to ‘yoga’ with for a week.   Someone you know of, or someone you know personally, or someone with a great reputation.  It’s great to be familiar with the teacher’s ‘style’ so you know it’s something that you are interested in exploring for the 10-12 classes you’ll do on the retreat.  Some people might make the final decision based on location; Indonesia, Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and other sunny destinations are real hotspots for these kinds of trips.

Do I need to be a yoga rockstar to attend a retreat?  
Not at all!  Most yoga retreats are meant to appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities, but it is a good idea to have a regular yoga practice before you go.

What does a trip usually include?  
All trips are different but the fee quoted will usually include 2 yoga classes a day, 2-3 meals a day, accommodation, and sometimes airport transfers to the destination.  Airfare is generally not included.  Most yoga retreats last 5-7 days.

Can I go by myself or will I be the odd yogi out in a sea of couples and friends?
  Going solo is an adventure – embrace it!  In img_9008the retreats I’ve participated in and led there are a large number of people who are there on their own.   Remember – you’ll be surrounded by a group of awesome, like-minded people and by the end of the week you won’t believe how close you’ve become with these once strangers.  Chances are, you’ll have 15-20 new BFFs.

I should warn you that you may become a yoga retreat addict (which, in my opinion and experience, is not a bad thing at all).  Experience the joy, bliss, and radiance of a yoga retreat and you’ll be shining for days, weeks, months.  The only problem being you may never want to leave.

Want to retreat with me?  Check out my Retreat Page to see what adventures are coming up!

Safe and happy travels!
-melanie-
xo

 

smoothie-uprightGreen smoothies.  Ok, DON’T RUN AWAY OR STOP READING.  Stay with me – I promise they’re not as bad as they sound.  In fact, they are pretty darn fantastic.  With a green smoothie the idea is to incorporate greens and vegetables into your tasty, blended drink.  Why?  Because it is oh-so-good for you: you get to detox your bod, increase your energy, boost your immune system, improve your digestion, and enjoy a gorgeous healthy glow, among other benefits.  Sounds pretty good, right?

Can I just use my regular blender you might ask?  And to be honest with you I wouldn’t recommend it.  You definitely want a blender that has some power to make sure your creation is perfectly mixed and you’re not picking shards of kale out of your teeth.

New to the green smoothie craze?  Try out this formula and plug in your favs:

1 banana (for creaminess)
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit of choice
1 1/2 cups fresh leafy greens (swiss chard, kale, spinach)
Add water or juice

Optional:
1 tbsp oatmeal (for fibre)
1 tsp almond butter or peanut butter (for protein)
1 tsp of flax, chia, or hemp seeds
A squeeze of honey (for sweetness)

Throw it all in a blender & blend until smooth.

Ready to experiment?  I posed the question ‘what’s in YOUR blender?” on my Facebook page and I got a whoooooooole lot of responses!  Here’s a list of ten different concoctions for you to try out:

1. Swiss chard, blueberries, partridgeberries, lime, & avocado.

2. Banana, blueberries, cranberries, greens (kale, spinach, chard) flax oil, water, almond milk, protein powder and of course a little bit of cocoa.

3. Frozen strawberries, cashews, coconut water, a date or 2, and vanilla. Add a banana for smoothness!!!

4. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, spinach, almond milk, coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, & flax seed!

5. Blueberries, partridgeberries , avocado, swiss chard, hemp harts, lime juice, beet, banana, stevia.

6. Bananas, spinach peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, rice milk, coconut water, and greek yogurt!

7. Banana, pear, blueberries, hemp hearts, flax seeds, carob powder, peanut butter, almond milk.

8. Spinach, almond milk, avocado, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, and sometimes protein powder.

9. Spinach, kale, strawberries, banana, blueberries, peach, ginger, cinnamon, matcha, greek yogurt, almond milk, and vanilla protein powder.

10. This is what’s in my blender: pomegranate, frozen berries, apples, clementines, banana, cabbage, spinach, cucumber, ginger, hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut oil, and water.

You can play around with ingredients and amounts until you find what you like.  Have fun trying them out and let me know what else you come up with!

Enjoy the glow!
-mel-
xo

An Attitude of Gratitude

November 4, 2016

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Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving Weekend, everyone! I love that there is a day dedicated to giving thanks but how great would it be if that gratitude could extend beyond the weekend and into your every day life??

Have you read Elephant Journal’s post “The Coolest Thing about Gratitude” by Lucy Animus? The writer says:

“By now, most of us have heard the news: grateful people are happier, healthier and generally more fulfilled. And while these are all really great side effects of gratitude, for me, one of the coolest things about gratitude is the way it affects the heart. The heart creates an electromagnetic field that expands up to five feet from the body. Its electrical field is 60 times stronger in amplitude than that of the brain. Studies show that when people cultivate positive feelings, the heart’s frequency changes and its waves become smoother and more consistent, while anxiety or stress caused waves to be shorter and less organized. Though most positive feelings were capable of affecting the heart in this way, researchers noted that gratitude changed the heart’s rhythm more easily and faster than any of the others.”

How cool is that?!

Ready to start YOUR daily Gratitude Practice?

In your meditation or at the start or end of your day recognize 3 things that you are grateful for; maybe you write a list, maybe it’s a mental list, or maybe you share this practice with a partner or friend.
You can also embrace one of my favorite affirmations:

As you inhale silently say to yourself, “My life is abundant.”
As you exhale silently say to yourself, “I am grateful.”

Spending time focusing on the abundance in your life creates so much joy; a regular Gratitude Practice where we acknowledge the richness and fullness of our lives can help to uplift us in times of struggle and afford us a greater sense of perspective and peace.

Try this practice for a beautiful and fulfilling addition to your life!

Anyone feel like sharing something they are grateful for? Comment below – let’s shout it from the rooftops!
-melanie-
xo