Update on NIH Mind-Body Week: The Science and Practice of Stress Management Modalities

Image ©NIH Mind-Body Week

Image ©NIH Mind-Body Week

Heart disease and cancer may be our top killers, but it’s a lack of stress management that is really hurting our nation’s health. In response to this epidemic, the National Institutes of Health will be holding the first annual Mind-Body Week from September 8-11, 2009. This event is dedicated to the science and exploration of stress management topic, and all events are FREE and open to the public.

There will be four days of stimulating lectures, workshops and classes covering topics such as Interpersonal Neurobiology, Mindful Parenting, the Science of Yoga and Yoga Therapy, Meditation for Stress Management and much more.

There will be over 100 featured teachers and lecturers (details will be on the official website in July 2009!). Some of the keynote speakers include Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Myla Kabat-Zinn, James S. Gordon, M.D., Tara Brach, Ph.D., Timothy McCall, M.D., Roger Jahnke, Ph.D., Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D, Dan Siegel, M.D. and Josie Briggs, M.D. And yours truly will be presenting a talk on “Striving Toward that Elusive Work-Life Balance” on September 9.

Besides my talk :), I’m especially looking forward to talks by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Karen Soltes and Robin Carnes on how the iRest® Yoga Nidra protocol is being used to help US Military personnel suffering from combat stress, and Esther Sternberg on how stress makes you sick.

The program will be held at the Natcher Building and other buildings around the NIH Main Campus (Building 45), 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.


The Benefits of Sea Salt Baths

SOSALT_CROPThe following post is by guest blogger, Kia Guarino.

Known as Thalassotherapy, the practice of bathing in salt water is not only relaxing, but it also increases blood circulation, and helps the body eliminate toxins. It also activates the body’s own healing mechanisms, strengthening the immune system. Salt water has desirable beauty benefits as well since sea salt granules can act as an exfoliant scrub, removing dulling skin cells. Bathing with bath salts improves skin’s look and feel, resulting in a radiant, healthy glow.

As an added benefit, Herban LifestyleTM bath salts are made with essential oils that enhance salt’s natural healing powers. Lavender, for example, offers amazing natural benefits. Beyond its enchanting scent, lavender helps rejuvenate skin while clearing up problem areas. It also encourages balance for the nervous system and has been used as a powerful antiseptic and pain reliever. Most notably, however, lavender’s natural soothing properties help reduce stress, especially when added to a hot bath.

Tangerine is another of nature’s miracles. With a delicious and invigorating scent, tangerine helps to prevent heart disease and to reduce the risk of cancer through its abundance of antioxidants. Although these benefits can be received through consumption, the rind is where most healing powers are stored.

Finally, vanilla is another ingredient that does more than please the nose. As one of the most powerful natural healing plants, vanilla has been shown to provide antioxidants and anti-depressant properties. It also acts as a tranquilizer and fever reducer. When in a bath, vanilla can increase muscle energy and lower blood pressure, while relieving emotional stresses such as anxiety and anger.

With all of this amazing healing power found in nature, it is time that people got back into baths! For relaxation in mind, body, and soul, all natural scented salt baths are an inexpensive, convenient, healthy and easy solution.

If You Build It Green, They Will Come

NationalsThis weekend, I attended a Washington Nationals games at their relatively new ball park (it opened last year). I really enjoy watching live baseball, and attend games whenever I can while traveling. There’s something about the game, the fans and environment at baseball games that makes me feel happy to be there, in the moment.

So I found it especially cool when I learned that Nationals Park is the first Green ballpark. It is the first major league baseball stadium to be LEED Silver Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

They took many measures to meet the criteria for being Green. For example, they built it so that it is convenient to the train and bus systems in order to encourage people to take mass transportation. The stadium features water conserving plumbing fixtures and energy efficient light fixtures, and they used building materials that were recycled and sourced locally. There are several other features and steps they took in the process of creating this environmentally sustainable park, which you can read about on their website.

In addition, I was pleased to see several healthier food choices (something not the norm at many stadiums across the country), including veggie chili (from Ben’s Chili Bowl AND Hard Times Café), turkey burgers, and a selection of Honest Tea beverages. Of course, even though I do my best to eat healthy, I always have to buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks 🙂

IMG_0859Portions of this blog post appeared previously in my other blog, Becoming Your StellarSelf.

How to Make Cold Strawberry Soup

DSCF0936_1This morning I made a trip to my local farmers market. I was happy to see that, even though it’s a bit late in the season for them, the strawberries were still available in abundance. I picked out two pints of these perfect looking berries, and decided that I would make my seasonal strawberry specialty — cold strawberry soup.

I started by washing the strawberries, then hulling and quartering them, saving a few to eat while I made the soup. 


I added 1/2 cup of organic whole milk yogurt, 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I then set the blender to the lowest setting, and blended the mixture for about 3 minutes, until it looked completely smooth. The yogurt adds a nice bit of tartness to the soup, but if you prefer, you can substitute it with milk or half and half. Also, I found that 1/2 cup of sugar was a bit on the sweet side — I think this is because the strawberries were so incredibly sweet on their own. If you are using grocery store strawberries, this amount of sugar should be fine, but feel free to adjust it to your own palate.


Once the mixture was completely blended, I stirred in 1/4 cup of Prosecco. You can leave this out, or you can use any type of white wine, champagne, cava or sparkling wine that you have on hand.


Chill mixture in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint for garnish, and enjoy! It’s best if eaten within 24 hours. This recipe makes 4 servings, or 2 very generous ones!

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A New Way to Do Yoga

DSCN3473This post is by guest blogger, Julia Guarino. 

Yoga is, for me, the ultimate workout. I began my athletic career as a dancer, and later a gymnast and diver, thus it seemed natural that as an adult I would gravitate toward a workout that not only provides strength and stamina, but also balance and flexibility. But, of course, you do not have to be a gymnast to enjoy the practice of Yoga, and over the past 12 years as I have grown as a Yoga practitioner, I have also witnessed the popularity and availability of Yoga practice grow, as it is recognized as an excellent way to increase flexibility and strength, and is actually good for your joints.

For many, the greatest barriers to practicing (as with any other form of excercize), is often time. Additionally, yoga practice tends to be very expensive (often $16 – $20 per class). But for Derik Mills, founder of Yogaglo, this became not a barrier, but inspiration. Yogaglo is a new online studio, where students can take unlimited classes for a membership fee of $18 a month. These classes can be accessed online from anywhere, or can be taken in person in Santa Monica, CA. Classes are offered at varying levels of difficulty, in yoga styles that include Vinyasa Flow, Anusara®, Pre and Post-natal, Ashtanga, Hatha and Meditation. A variety of lectures are additionally offered, and the website, www.yogaglo.com, offers guest speakers, blogs, and information on their nonprofit partners. As a Yogaglo member, you can choose which nonprofit partner 5% of your membership goes to!

As Derek Mills, says, “There is a need for a more accessible, affordable yoga practice that will attract and unify students from around the world who have different experience levels and resonate with different yoga traditions. Under this premise, I built a website and studio that deliver the essential teachings of yoga and a business that makes a social impact by funding non-profits in which we believe.  As we navigate our way financially and spiritually through our current global crises, Yogaglo offers an affordable, time-saving solution and  a much-needed sense of community that is accessible to all.”

 I, personally, find many things about Yogaglo appealing, from its social mission, to the price, to the green nature of the e-commute to the studio. Although I will still often choose to practice in the presence of an instructor – especially important for beginners, I believe – I regularly practice with a DVD, and the chance to practice in my home with a live instructor is a wonderful opportunity!

Mary’s Note 6/16/09: I just heard form Yogaglo that they will be hosting an event along with LA Yoga called “Here Comes the Sun,” a free summer kick-off festival celebrating the yoga community, local businesses and non-profits working together for social change. The event will highlight philanthropic efforts in the Los Angeles community by featuring a marketplace of local vendors who share a passion for giving back to the neighborhood and world at large. Here Comes The Sun is truly a party with a purpose so join us to enjoy great music; shop and sample select products, all whilst learning what businesses are doing to give back. Local vendors will offer food and beverages, and the Hypnotic Gurus and DJ Drez will be providing the evening’s musical entertainment. Sponsors include Lululemon Athletica, Tom’s Shoes, Whole Foods Market Santa Monica, and many more businesses that are working toward social change.

The event will be held on Friday, June 26th from 5:00pm-10:00pm at the Yogaglo Studio, 1800 Berkeley Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Infant Massage Makes Babies Happy

42-17251068Ongoing research by Tiffany Field, PhD, of the University of Miami School of Medicine, has shown that massage is effective in reducing stress, depression, anxiety, pain and in boosting the immune system. Field believes that massage accomplishes these various healthful effects by prompting the body to release serotonin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol decreases, stress is reduced and immune cells are stimulated. 

Herban Lifestyle Baby™’s new baby oil is perfect for giving your baby a massage. It is made from organic oil, lightly scented with pure organic essential oils. As one of our customers said, “We used the baby oil on [our baby] James. He was a happy little clam after bath time!”

For more information on the benefits of infant massage and local resources for learning infant, visit the Infant Massage USA website.

And this month, Great Soul Wellness Studio in Baltimore is offering free infant massage classes on Saturdays from 10:00am-11:00am. For more information, please visit their blog.

Note: Portions of this article originally appeared in my other blog, Becoming Your StellarSelf.

how to make rose petal jelly

DSCF0852When I moved into my house a couple of years ago, I inherited a beautiful rosebush from the previous owner. She said that it had belonged to her grandmother, and had not only survived being transplanted, but had thrived in the new garden with very little care.

The blossoms are petite and pale pink, with a light floral scent. In the last week, the entire rose bush has bursted with blooms. Because it is producing such an abundance of flowers, I thought it would be fun to make something out of them. The scent of the petals is subtle, so I thought they wouldn’t be suitable for making floral water. 

I remembered a recipe for rose petal jelly that I had found in Euell Gibbons’ book, “Stalking the Healthful Herb.” It is a version that is uncooked, and therefore preserves the large amounts of Vitamin C contained in the rose petals.

Here’s how to make uncooked rose petal jelly. This recipe makes about a quart of jelly. (NOTE: Only use petals from a rose bush that has not been treated with chemicals of any kind):


Pick 1 cup of petals. Rinse thoroughly to remove any debris.


Place the rinsed petals in a blender along with 1 cup of water, and the strained juice of 1 lemon. Blend until the petals are completely liquified. The petals will collect along the top of the blender at first, so you will need to stop the blender and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula from time to time.


Once the petals are thoroughly pureed, reduce the blender speed and slowly add 3 cups of sugar. I found that my blender tended to splash a bit, even at the lowest speed.


In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of fruit pectin (found in most grocery stores) with 1 cup of water. Heat to boiling. Boil, while stirring, for 1 minute, then pour slowly into the rose petal mixture while blending on the lowest speed for about 3 minutes. You will hear the sound change suddenly as it thickens up. Pour immediately into a sterilized jar. Keep refrigerated. If you don’t plan to use it within a few days, put it in a sterilized freezer-safe container and freeze for up to a year.


Since the jelly is not cooked, it comes out opaque. And, because I used unbleached cane sugar, my jelly came out a pinkish cream-color, rather than pure pink. It looks pretty and it tastes great. I used it as a glaze on a roasted chicken, and it was delicious!

Red roses would make a more dramatic looking jelly. Also, if you want to enhance the rose flavor, you can add a couple of tablespoons of rose water during the petal-blending stage.

Strawberry Leaves Forever

Recently, while visiting the local garden supply store, I overheard a woman asking a salesman if he had any product that would kill wild strawberries. I have tons of wild strawberries growing all around my yard, and it made me wonder if there wasn’t some good use for them. I know the animals enjoy the berries. What could I do with them? 

I looked in his book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus and found quite a bit on wild strawberries. Apparently the leaves have extremely high levels of Vitamin C — more per serving than a glass of orange juice.

So, I tried making an infusion from the leaves. I picked about a cup of fresh, unblemished leaves. Then I rinsed them off to remove any dirt. I placed them in a quart jar, and poured 1 quart of boiling water over them, then let them steep for 4 hours. 

The result was a mild tea that tasted something like spinach water. I added some peppermint tea to the infusion to give it a more interesting flavor. I’m not sure that this is something I will add to my regular diet, but it is good to know that, in a pinch, abundant doses of vitamin C are right there for the picking.

Please note: My yard is completely pesticide-free and has been as long as I have lived here. Do not ever make teas or consume plants that have been exposed to chemical pesticides.