Author Archives: Grier Cooper

Beat Stress: Five Steps to Use Yoga to Relax and Beat Stress

In today’s world of multi-tasking mania, we have all become super-stressed superheroes. However, in five to ten minutes, a simple regenerative yoga technique can help anyone completely relax and re-energize. Follow these five steps anytime for the perfect tonic to counteract fatigue, stress, or a generally hectic day.

Step 1: Unplug. Turn off all ringers and any device that beeps, blips or vibrates. Instead, choose quiet music if that helps you relax, or just plain quiet works, too.

Step 2: Find a quiet space. It is important that you can rest without being disturbed. Inform family members or coworkers that you will be unavailable for the next ten minutes. Close the door to give yourself privacy.

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Step 3: Assume the position. Find a three-foot wide section of blank wall space and lay a towel or yoga mat on the floor directly in front of it. Seat yourself, with your left side facing the wall, hip touching the wall, legs extended in front of you. Shift your weight back onto your elbows and simultaneously swing the legs straight up the wall. Press through the elbows and move your bottom up against the wall, then lay your upper body flat. At this point, your body will be in an “L” shape up against the wall. Let your arms rest gently on the floor, palms up.

Step 4: Slow it down. Close your eyes and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Listen to the sound of your breath as it flows in and out of the body, making it as smooth and even as you can.

Step 5: Let it all go. Set a timer if you need to, and then give yourself a mental vacation while you are resting. Set aside all thoughts, responsibilities and the dreaded to-do list. Place all the focus on breathing deeply, and imagining the breath is releasing any tense areas. Feel the body being held by the floor.

Following these five simple steps to perform this easy yoga pose, inverting with your legs up the wall, can yield powerful results. You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you give yourself the gift of truly relaxing.

Clean Car, Clean Mind!

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I love the feeling I have getting into my car after it has been through the carwash. For some reason, the sight of a well-vacuumed, immaculate interior, and a buffed, glossy-looking dashboard gives me the sense that all is right in my life and I have things under control. At least in my car. As a parent, these brief moments of feeling the illusion of control give me the power to carry on.

The truth is, there are times when things feel distinctly out of my control, and, in reality, they are out of my control much of the time, as they are for pretty much any other human being on the planet. However, since I am also a parent, the same sense of looming chaos is often exponentially multiplied, mostly because of the amount of details that must be remembered, coordinated, and orchestrated when one is raising a child. And if there is more than one child involved, well… just take a look inside of the car that transports more than one child on a regular basis and you’ll see what I mean. Often, the interior is a sheer cacophony of wrappers, spills, books, stickers, drawings, and random food items, all liberally decorated with a sprinkling of crumbs. If the family has a dog on top of it all, forget about it. If they offer you a ride in their car, I suggest you find a way to politely decline. Not only will the car be filled with the detritus of child rearing, it will be covered with hair, and smell really, really bad. Even worse, if their dog suffers from incontinence or any type of bowel disorder, it would only be fair to unsuspecting passengers if the car were simply incinerated, instead of being offered as anything resembling a viable means of transportation.

No. A nice clean car drives better. This is a scientifically proven fact. Well, it is in my mind, anyway. I guess I don’t really use the scientific method of unbiased, empirical observation when driving the car away from the carwash. The rosy glow of gladness I feel reflects off the glossy dash, and the world looks and feels cleaner and brighter, so therefore my car just drives better. Fact. Certainly the ride is more pleasant, for we humans are visual, sensual creatures at our very core, and no one can resist that new-car look and feel. One can even purchase new-car-smell air fresheners, and enjoy the sensation ad infinitum, so I am evidently not alone in appreciating the pleasure.

Perhaps we could all save millions of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent at therapists’ offices by simply washing our cars a little bit more often. Speaking from personal experience, I have noticed that when life seems to hang precariously in the balance, I experience a great sense of relief when the car is pristine. It is a small demonstration of the fact that order can be maintained in life, which is sometimes all that we need in order to feel…safe… or together. There is great confidence to be gained by being able to say to oneself, “Hey, I’ve got it together. My car is clean.”

After all, our cars bring us out into the world. In a way, they are our connection to the world at large, at least in this country. The way we keep them is a statement to others, sometimes even to those who never ride in them. I once had a property manager confess to me that he always walked prospective tenants to their cars to get a glimpse of how they were kept, which helped him decide whether or not they were the right tenants.

But back to me… And my car. Today, my car is blissfully clean, and a nice, long ride in its glorious cleanliness sounds like just the thing. The wide-open road to the city is beckoning in a most becoming way… and I must heed the call. For today, for this moment, at least, all feels right in the world.

Gotta Get Green – Growing Your Own Sprouts!

by Grier Cooper

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We all know we’re supposed to eat green stuff. It’s good for us, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all the things that keep us healthy and disease-free. Adults know this already, but trying to get kids to cooperate and actually eat this kind of stuff is another story.

I once read a theory that the reason kids refuse to eat anything green is actually a latent Paleolithic-era survival instinct – if something is green in nature, that means it isn’t ripe and is unfit for consumption. Any kid under five will certainly agree with the “unfit for consumption” part, but that still leaves the problem unsolved. What if there was a reliably simple way to get them involved, on the same page, and enthusiastic? I’ve got one (magic) word for you: sprouts.

Growing sprouts, or “sprouting” isn’t just for hippies, although the hippy era may have made the technique more popular. In just minutes per day, with a minimal amount of effort, you’ve got a science experiment, gardening project, and a fool-proof method to get your kids emotionally invested in green stuff! The materials required are minimal – good quality seeds and a container to rinse them in that drains well. Kids don’t even need to get dirty to do this; they simply rinse the seeds twice daily and leave them to grow happily by the kitchen sink. The hardest part is remembering to get the seeds wet twice a day.

Before your kids get started, you’ll need to acquire the seeds to sprout, and it’s important to begin with the best seeds you can find, either at your local health food store, or online from a reliable retailer, such as Sprout People in San Francisco.

Many different types of seeds can sprouted, from alfalfa to sunflower, even some peas, beans, and peanuts or almonds (!) which add a great, crunchy texture to salads.

It’s best to start off with something mild that your kids will enjoy, such as red clover, alfalfa, adzuki beans, even raw peanuts. A container to rinse the seeds completes the list of materials. A colander, strainer, or sprouting tray are all good choices, so water can easily drain away as the seeds are rinsed.

Most seeds will need to be soaked overnight first (8-12 hours), so before bedtime, have the kids fill a bowl with water (cool temperature, 60-70 degrees), and add a few teaspoons of seeds.

The following morning, the seeds should be poured into whatever sprouting container you’ve chosen, and then rinsed again thoroughly, and left somewhere near the kitchen sink, but out of direct sunlight.

Continue to follow this procedure for several days, rinsing once in the morning and once in the evening, draining thoroughly.

It’s exciting to watch as the seeds crack open and the tiny plants begin to become luscious, green sprouts. For many types of seeds, this will happen within two to three days; others, such as alfalfa and alliums, may take longer, even up to six days or more.

Once the sprouts are green, they are ready for consumption. If you wish to remove the hulls from your sprouts, do so during the final rinse by breaking up the mass of sprouts, placing the sprouts in a bowl filled with water, and removing the hulls by hand as the sprouts float. Always end by giving the sprouts one final, good rinse, and allow them to dry fully (about twelve hours), before refrigerating them in a sealed plastic container.

You might be amazed at how enthusiastically your children will eat this green stuffthey have grown themselves. When our first crop of sprouts was ready, my (then two-year-old) daughter couldn’t get enough of them, and stuffed them into her mouth by the handful. This was nothing short of miraculous because she had been on a vegetable embargo for quite some time. As I watched her happily munching away, I knew we were onto something good. I have to admit the process was so easy and satisfying that I became a bit of a sprouting junkie myself. I went online and ordered stackable sprouting trays (so convenient), and the most exotic mixes of seeds I could find. As I write this, I still have yet to try one I don’t like. From what I can tell, in this era of the green revolution, it begins at home, right next to the kitchen sink.

To find Sprout People online, visit: http://www.sproutpeople.com/