Fall Pumpkin Soup with Maple Coconut Cashew Cream (Vegan)

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Yesterday, fall arrived officially, and with it, nice long walks or runs in cooler weather, cozying up with great books, and, of course, all things pumpkin. To usher in the new season, I spent many hours in the kitchen using almost every dish in my quest for a yummy pumpkin soup, rich in protein. Since I tend to be quite experimental in the kitchen, the results are never guaranteed, but I was thrilled at how this pumpkin soup turned out. This might even replace my longtime favorite, chickpea lentil soup (which I’ll post another time). Next time I will double the amounts so I can freeze more of it.

On the health front, lentils are a great source of protein, and pumpkin, lentils, and cashews are considered superfoods. As for packaged coconut milk, there’s far more back and forth, but I think it’s a fine in treaty moderation. The entire carton of coconut milk has 20 grams of fat, which isn’t bad spread over the entire amount of the soup. The cashews are, of course, high in fat, but you only need to drizzle a bit of the cashew cream onto your soup.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

INGREDIENTS

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

  • Small to medium pie pumpkin
  • 11-ounce carton So Delicious Lite Culinary Coconut Milk (or equivalent amount/style)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 4 cups water for lentils
  • 2 cups water for soup (or broth if you prefer)
  • 4 T fresh ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 T nutmeg
  • Dash of chili powder
  • Cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. or so of olive oil

Maple Coconut Cashew Cream

  • ½ cup cashews soaked for 2 hours to overnight
  • A splash of water
  • Splash of coconut milk from the coconut carton above
  • 1 T maple syrup

Servings: About 8 cups

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You’ll need about 2 cups of pumpkin for the soup. My pumpkin was 3.5 pounds, which yielded the two cups, plus about a cup more to make pumpkin butter or to simply have on hand.
  2. Wash pumpkin thoroughly under running water; be sure to scrub well to get all dirt off from skin. Dry, cut off top, then cut pumpkin lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and pulp. You will have to work at this—those strings like to hang on—and set aside.
  3. Place cut sides down on shallow baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes, until soft but not too mushy. (Begin testing at 40 minutes, then use judgment as to how often from there.)
  4. For red lentils, pour four cups of water into pan, and put flame on high. Take lentils and spread out on flat wide plate or baking sheet to examine and sort, looking for any stones, dirt or damaged lentils. Rinse throughly in fine mesh strainer moving them around to make sure you’ve rinsed from all angles. Once rinsed, place lentils into the pan of water that’s been heating. Bring to boil, then lower flame and simmer gently will lid tilted, until lentils are soft but not mushy. Scoop off the foamy stuff that rises to the top (you’ll need to do that a few times). Start checking the lentils for doneness at 10 to 15 minutes, though the recommended time on the package is 20 to 35. If they get a bit too mushy, it’s no big deal, because you’ll be blending them into the soup.
  5. While pumpkin is baking and lentils are cooking, finely chop onion, then sauté on very low in enough olive oil to just smear the bottom of the pan. You can do this in a large soup pan that you will transfer the blended soup to in order to save using another dish. Stir onions at regular intervals to prevent from sticking. Onions will be done when they reach an almost caramelized consistency.
  6. While onions are cooking, wash and peel the ginger. Finely chop, then add to onions. If you would like a stronger, fresher ginger flavor, simply set aside. You can add the ginger during the blending process.
  7. Now separate pumpkin pulp from the seeds as best as you can easily, just using your hands. What you can’t separate easily, soak in water. After you’ve separated all the seeds from the pulp, dry them a bit, then lay flat on baking sheet. Salt them lightly.
  8. When pumpkin is ready, take it out of the oven, and allow it to cool for a bit. Leave oven on and place baking sheet with the seeds in there. Bake for 15 to 30 minutes, until crisp. Take them out every 5 minutes or so and stir them around so they don’t stick or burn.
  9. Add cashews to blender, splash with just a bit of water, then enough of the coconut milk to almost cover the cashews. Add the tablespoon of maple syrup. Blend thoroughly until the mixture has a cream-like smooth consistency. Pour into small dish or measuring cup (which makes the mixture easier to drizzle on soup). Pour out as much as you can, but don’t worry about cleaning it afterward. You’ll blend the soup in here and any residue will add to the taste of the soup.
  10. Back to the pumpkin: Scoop out two cups.
  11. To blender, add ginger, onions, and coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Then add pumpkin, lentils, some of the water, and your spices. Blend until a smooth puree, and taste at each stage so you don’t add too much water. If you’ve decided to bump up the spices (per the notes below), don’t add more than the baseline amount until you’ve got everything blended. It’s always easier to add more spice than take it away!
  12. Once blended, pour the amount of soup you want to eat now into the pan you cooked the onions in or a new one, and heat on low until desired temperature. Freeze or refrigerator the rest.
  13. Pour heated soup into bowls, drizzle with cashew cream, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Serve with small salad, and toasted sourdough bread topped with Earth Balance.

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Notes and Modifications

  • Halve the cinnamon and nutmeg measurements for a more subtle pumpkin-pie-spice flavor. Same for the ginger.
  • Alternatively, for a more warming and stronger pumpkin-associated spice flavor, bump up the amount of the ginger and cinnamon, especially, but as mentioned do so only a bit at a time, continuing to taste.
  • This is a savory soup. If you want a sweeter soup, add a bit of maple syrup to the soup. The cashew cream will sweeten the soup slightly when mixed in, but not much.
  • The chili powder is a different flavor entirely and is only meant to add a subtle complexity. If that’s the flavor you wish to make stronger, hold back on the other spices.
  • So Delicious promises their packaging has no BPA. The entire carton of Lite has 20 grams of fat, which spread over the whole soup, doesn’t seem to bad, but if that worries you, go easier on the coconut milk and replace some liquid with broth. As for the cashew cream, if fat is of concern, leave that out of the equation.

WEIRD PUMPKIN FACTS

  1. You can eat the skin!
  2. Pumpkin is a great DIY beauty ingredient.
  3. Apparently, a lot of people make their pumpkin pies with butternut squash. (But then isn’t it just squash pie?)

Happy fall!

Do you like fall? What favorite fall things about it, if so?

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Glute Strengthener, A Playlist Fit for Rocky, Oiselle Fashion Show, and More

Walden Pond

View from trail at Walden Pond during fall

This week, temperatures dropped and I saw telltale signs of fall—a smattering of yellow and orange leaves amongst the lush green, a sparkle to the air as if you’re looking through diamond glasses, vivid blue skies, and pink and orange sunsets. At this time of the year, I feel as if I could run forever. (Though fyi: emphasis on the word ‘feel.’) Fall is a great time for running, and it seems like there’s lots of exciting news and developments around it. So, I thought this week I would put together a bit of link love for things that grabbed my attention.

First up, Oiselle used only real athletes in their fashion show, which grabbed the attention of the New York Times.

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The new Runner’s World hit newsstands and doorsteps, and, Wow! I love the fresher and edgier redesign. I always thought the covers turned something really exciting into something, well, kind of staid. So it’s nice to see some movement and life reflected. Plus, how about those vegan socks! Also, I loved the passion with which Sons of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi spoke of running.

Karla Bruning (as usual) has wonderfully motivating posts. Two faves: running mantras and a Philadelphia Marathon playlist.

On a different note, the Apple Watch may have worrisome repercussions for all the other fitness trackers and running watches.

And finally, here’s my new favorite strengthening exercise: Marching bridge. It’s from a series of strengthening exercises taken from the book Build Your Running Body.

 

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In Loving Memory of My Cat, Sox

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Our sweet Sox, ca. 1999 to 2014. I was lucky to have him in my life, and I will miss him always.

On July 5, we said goodbye to our beautiful and loving cat Sox. Both his illness and death hit me hard. But I realized, finally, that not marking this important passing was a barrier. It feels very strange to come back and talk about books and running and so much fun stuff without talking about this important part of my life. Even if it feels too private. And even though it’s definitely an attempt that is completely imperfect. (I’ve scrapped lots of drafts already.)

***

In early June, on a Friday night, Sox lost control of his right back leg, and the next day, when my boyfriend and I brought him in to the vet, we found out he had cancer. It was pressing on his nerves, and that’s why he’d lost control of his leg. Given his age—15—and how huge the tumor was (probably one-third to half the size of his entire torso area on the X-ray), the prognosis was really bad. The doctor said there was not much we could do besides make him comfortable. There would come a time, and soon, when a hard decision would need to be made. He’d become increasingly ill, and before long, he’d lose complete control of all his limbs, period.

“How long do you think he has?” I asked.
“Two weeks, a month,” he said. “Not long.”

There’s nothing like knowing you’re going to lose a loved one to snap you out of autopilot, and make you realize: No matter how much you appreciate your life and lives in it, nothing is a given. How many times had I fed Sox and his much younger brother, Amos, worried over them, cleaned their litter boxes, made sure I gave them equal attention? How many times had I felt a tap tap on my leg during the work day and knew I would look down to see Sox’s little paw demanding permission to sit on my lap. To which I would say, “I’m trying to work,” as I leaned back and let him on. Every time. I never really stopped to think, this too shall end.

All these little things, and plenty more like them, are acts of love and connection that accrue over time and give happiness and purpose. In this pet realm, more than nine years of it. My boyfriend and he came into my life as a great package deal, they’d been through things even before I was in the picture. But once I was, Sox loved me as if I’d raised him from a kitten. I adored him right away.

The last time Sox sat on my lap was the night he lost control of his leg, the night before we took him into the vet. I dissolved into tears immediately, because I just knew something was really wrong, though I never would’ve guessed cancer. (We’d already been through some medical issues earlier in the year with Amos.) My boyfriend put Sox on my lap and my little tuxedo guy pressed against me, him doing his usual, “Feel better, k?” One of the best things about him was the way he gave comfort. He could never stand to see you sad, and would snuggle you, a worried look on his face so you had no choice but to feel better. That night, I felt so upset already (who knew how much more there was to come), but I calmed down so I wouldn’t distress him as well. But you know what? What I didn’t think was, “That’s the last time he will sit on my lap.” After the thousands and thousands of times he’s done so. And that wasn’t the only thing that changed.

He got worse and fast. You could almost see the weight falling away, and he deteriorated day by day. He stayed his absolutely sweet self, of course. Sweet and loving as always. But for the next month, my life revolved around setting up little beds so he could be with us (or simply giving him a rug when he started laying in weird places), reading on the floor next to him so I could pet him, giving him syringes of pain medicine, trying to find food he would eat since as time went on that got exponentially more difficult, etc. etc. This was a new reality, and gone were all his typical behaviors. There would be no more lap sitting, or him laying in his round brown bed we called a “cookie,” and the cat who’d never been able to get enough petting eventually became so sensitive, he even moved away from my touch a few times at the end.

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In the good ol’ days: “Helping” me read

And then, on July 4—after a few days of free-fall worsening and him not eating at all, not even the broth from the broth-based food I’d found and definitely not the acute care food—he crashed. We were in the kitchen, me preparing food for the 4th of July family barbeque, when I looked over and saw that he was literally collapsing. His limbs completely went out and the frantic look on this former fierce and regal cat’s face as he struggled against it was utterly heartbreaking. My boyfriend had been walking through just at the same time, and he quickly helped Sox onto a rug I’d set down. Needless to say, I didn’t go to the barbeque. (I literally made my boyfriend get out for a while. Though he didn’t want to, I think he needed it. Later that night, when I went to bed, they got their alone time.) But that afternoon, I spent just sitting next him and singing softly. I patted him only briefly so as not to disturb him, while Amos lay next to him on the other side, a position he’d steadfastly held since our finding out about the illness.

Earlier, in June, not long after I’d found out about the cancer and during a call about bloodwork, I’d talked to the other vet at the clinic, Dr. H, about the inevitable hard decision that would have to be made, and asked her, “How will we know when it’s time?” The decision to euthanize is one I’d never actually thought that I’d have to make, but if you have a pet that you care for in a way that enables them to live a long life, the odds are you may face it. The short version for me is that although I absolutely love both Sox and Amos, the idea that they would have a horrible suffering life is intolerable to me. But that doesn’t make the decision any easier or raise any fewer questions. Dr. H said simply, “Believe me, you’ll just know.”

Although just a few days previously I’d picked up a new pack of pain syringes and was maybe in some sort of hopeful denial that we had lots of time, the next morning, on July 5, there was no more hope or denial, just a sad knowing. It was clearly time, or at least as clear as such a huge thing could be. Yet, one of the things that’s so painful in all of this is that I so want for Sox to have still known at the end how loved he was. But honestly, by the end, I think his mind had left him. He even had these kitten-like moments, but with this vacant, dazed look in his eyes. But there’s that fear that for all I know, his life force still said, “More time!!” I’ll simply never know. We did the best we could with not enough information, which is a lot like life generally, only I’m not usually so conscious of that fact, nor do the consequences seem so huge.

So after I made the necessary arrangements, we went to the vet clinic. We were truly blessed with a wonderful and compassionate doctor and vet tech/practice manager. The latter, in particular, had worked very hard to make every visit, call, and interaction in the previous month so much better than it would have been, if not for her having been a part of it. They were both so soothing and sweet to us, and I am forever grateful to them for making a terrible experience better. They made Sox as comfortable as possible, and we were allowed to be in the room with him the whole time and for as long as we wanted after.

Still, it was what it was. Which was heartbreaking. I definitely haven’t skated through life without my fair share of challenges, but for me, that experience was the saddest, hardest thing I’ve ever been through.

Kitty Brother love

After the illness takes hold, Amos is always nearby (and now suddenly heavier than his brother because of all Sox’s weight loss.)

When we got home that day, Amos’s little head peeked around our legs looking for his brother. He continued to do that for weeks afterward, and when the reality that Sox wasn’t coming back sunk in, Amos’s grief really took hold. (And by that, I mean beyond the crazed reactions to Sox’s left-behind stuff in the early days.) I adopted Amos from the shelter as a kitten more than 8 years ago, when Sox was an adult, and it took awhile for Sox to accept Amos (partly because Amos can be, let’s just say, aggressively rambunctious). But, for Amos, he’s never been alone until now.  The last couple days (cross fingers) I think I am finally starting to see signs that he’s going in a more positive direction, and maybe at some point we’ll think of getting him another sibling.

***

A long time ago, a woman I worked for told me something along the lines of, “Don’t get a pet. You’ll come to love and depend on them, and then in 10 to 15 years they’ll die and break your heart. It’s not worth it.”

Well, she got one part of that right. But the “worth it” part, not so much. It definitely has been.

Sox was a great cat, and I seriously can’t believe my always-there little guy is actually gone. But here’s at least one thing: A few days ago, I got up in the middle of the night, my cell phone shining in front of me as a flashlight, and my heart felt like it stopped. For a second, I thought I literally saw him in front of me, not in that ‘oh he used to sit there’ way, but literally. It was just a moment, but it was so strong. And then I realized it was just the cell light casting a shadow on Amos in the hallway, making him look darker and bigger where the shadow outlined his form a few inches away from his body.

Darker and bigger. Our losses steal some of our “lightness,” certainly. Perhaps we come to have a bigger shadow ourselves, and we are also heavier, weighted down a bit more, but oh, what we gain. Grief, when it comes from love (as a feeling and a verb) given freely albeit imperfectly, is definitely worth the price of the happiness it bought. Although I don’t 100% feel that right now, I believe that’s true.

Mr. Sox aka Sexy aka SexyBeast aka loving and loved feline with a thousand names….

We love and miss you. We’re moving on (or trying), but we’ll never forget you.

***

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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Tips for Introverts and Their Managers

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I’m guessing Thoreau’s plan would not have thrived in open-plan-lovin’ Corporateville U.S.A.

Plenty of people don’t fall into the extrovert category. For those inward-looking, quiet types and their managers, there are ways to make the typical work experience more hospitable.

I don’t usually share the work I do in my paid work life on Books+Body, but I think I might start doing so a bit, starting with an article that published today. The piece is called “Four Tips on Getting the Most from Your Introverted Team Members,” and it takes a look at what managers and project managers can do to foster the participation and potential of their introverted members, and I think it has interest for the introverted employee as well.

As an introvert myself, I took special pleasure in writing this. I’ve done other articles on the subject and find that writing is even more satisfying when the subject matter is close to my heart. So what is an introvert? Or, for that matter, an extrovert? In the simplest terms, an extrovert draws energy from the external world, introverts from their inner world. From the article:

Studies show that introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population. Yet most offices are set up exclusively with extroverts in mind, a fact that becomes immediately obvious when you look at traits associated with the two personality types.

  • Extroverts gravitate toward groups and constant action, and tend to think out loud. They are recharged by the external world and from being around other people. They represent the Western ideal of showy confidence and “men of action,” often moving into that action before they’ve formed a concrete strategy.
  • In contrast, introverts typically dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings. They instead prefer quiet solitude, time to think before speaking (or acting), and building relationships and trust one-on-one. Introverts recharge with deep dives into their inner landscape to research ideas, focus deeply on work, or delve into a book.

Of course, the labels extroversion and introversion lie on a continuum; few people are purely one or the other. Moreover, it’s a rare U.S.-born introvert who hasn’t developed at least some skills to navigate the perpetually extroverted workplace. They have to. In a culture where the typical meeting resembles a competition for loudest-and-most-talkative, where the space is open and desks are practically touching, and where turbocharged confidence, charisma, and sociability is the gold standard, introverts often feel they have adjust who they are to “pass.”

In other words, the modern open office is pretty much a nightmare for the typical office worker. But for many, it’s the reality, so the piece—drawing from an interview with Self-Promotion for Introverts author, Nancy Ancowitz and the work of Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking—gives ideas managers, leaders, and introverts themselves can use in such settings. I hope you’ll head on over and read more about the deep, quiet type.

And in closing, I share my favorite quote from the piece:

“While an extrovert is comfortable coming up with ideas out loud, the introvert needs to send her thoughts to her internal editor first,” says Ancowitz. “Introverts are less likely to share their ‘drafts.’”

-Diann Daniel

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Mandy Ingber, Yoga Instructor to the Stars, Shares Health Tips

Mandy Ingber

Celebrity yoga instructor and wellness expert Mandy Ingber

Mandy Ingber makes her living promoting wellness and self-esteem. Here, she shares advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and insight into her work with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

 

Mandy Ingber, the self-esteem and wellness expert who is commonly known as Jennifer Aniston’s yoga teacher, will be leading this year’s fundraiser FenwaYoga for the Red Sox Foundation. As part of the conversation around that event, she shared with Books+Body insight into her weekly fitness routine, ideas on how to be kind to oneself, and tips for being healthy—inside and out.

Books+Body: Do you exercise in addition to yoga? If so, how do you balance yoga and the other exercise?

I was actually a certified spinning instructor prior to being a yoga instructor. Yes, I love cardio work, and have always loved all forms of moving my body. I try to incorporate yoga and stretching daily, and three to four days a week I include another modality.

How do you counsel clients on balancing different types of movement?

I encourage the client to incorporate cardio as well. Jen [Aniston] and I spin together, and she will run on the treadmill or do the elliptical machine prior to our yoga workouts. With Kate [Beckinsale], I have hiked with her in addition to yoga. Other clients hire me to be their spin buddy or yoga buddy, and I just think it’s great for people to move their bodies daily—in whatever way they like. I have multiple modalities in my book Yogalosophy, and my DVD Yogalosophy is a hybrid of yoga poses with toners as a complement to traditional yoga poses.

Women in particular can be so harsh with themselves, and that’s exponentially true when the media puts that harsh spotlight on a person’s looks. What have you found most useful, besides yoga and exercise, in helping to develop kindness toward yourself? How about in terms of helping clients?

The best I can do is to be an example, and to speak positively about my own body. Developing a loving attitude towards the self is key, as is restricting our critical self-talk. What works best is speaking out the miracles of the body. “The body is falling right into place naturally,” “this is what it feels like to get into shape,” and “appreciate your curves”…these are all ways to be kind to the self. So my goal is always kindness to the self, and others really learn by example.

This year, Mandy Ingber will lead a team of Red Sox Foundation MVPs.

On Sunday, Mandy will lead yoga classes at Fenway Park to raise Red Sox Foundation funds to benefit underserved children. One focus of the foundation’s programs is building kids’ self-esteem through fitness.

I know you must have a frenetic schedule. For example, the week after you’re at Fenway in Boston, you’ll be doing a workshop in New York. [Ingber will be holding a workshop at the Omega Institute in New York from June 13–June 15.] What techniques do you use to keep relaxed with your busy life?

I carve time out for myself for meditation, walks, gratitude lists, and journaling. It’s important for me to slow down, and take that time. I consider that my home base. I have always been pretty good at time management, but I make sure to schedule in my down time, otherwise it won’t happen! Primarily, enjoying the moment is the best way too stay relaxed. Presence is the key. But like everyone, I am working on it, one breath at a time, and it isn’t always easy.

Tips from Mandy on Being Healthy Inside and Out

  • Visualize your best self, and as you imagine that, hold on to the feeling. It should feel like being in love.
  • Commit to yourself. Make healthy choices about diet, meditation and physical activity.
  • Do one thing daily that stretches you.
  • Be of service to another. A kind act towards a fellow will make you feel amazing. When I can’t find the love in myself, I give to another, and when I am feeling awesome, I force myself to be present to someone whose shoes I will be in tomorrow.
  • Take time to feel into your heart. Literally place your mind into the center of your chest, and you will feel a buzz or vibration there. Energy flows where the mind goes. If you don’t feel it, then imagine you feel it—that’s just as good.
  • To expand your happiness, write a gratitude list.
  • Set your sights on a short-term goal, such as a workshop, to give you an immediate sense of accomplishment.

-Diann Daniel

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Celebrity Yoga Instructor Mandy Ingber on Yoga at Fenway Park

Boston's Fenway Park will serve as Mandy Ingber's yoga studio this Sunday.

Boston’s Fenway Park will serve as Mandy Ingber’s yoga studio this Sunday.

This year, Mandy Ingber will lead a team of Red Sox Foundation MVPs in two yoga classes on the warning track of the Fenway Park field.

 

Los Angeles-based celebrity yoga instructor Mandy Ingber is known for helping the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale, and Brooke Shields in such enviably shape. But on June 8, Ingber’s primary focus will be to represent the Red Sox Foundation as it holds “FenwaYoga” for the second consecutive year. The fundraiser—held on the sacred grounds of Fenway Park—will raise money for the Red Sox Foundation’s Red Sox Scholars Program, which provides academic support to promising disadvantaged students, and its RBI Program, which helps at-risk youth develop self-esteem and life skills, make healthy choices, achieve in school, and develop teamwork skills through participation in baseball and softball programs. Two classes, one for 9:00 a.m. and one at 10:30 a.m. and which can each hold 244 people, will be held along the warning track of the Fenway field. Registration fee is $25, and each participant must commit to raising $250 for the Red Sox Foundation. (If registering after 5:00 p.m. today, that amount is due at the time of registration.) To sign up, click here. (See bottom for additional information for participants.)

Ingber spoke with me for Books+Body in 2013 about her book Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover, and I’m thrilled to have her back. Below, she shares some background on how she came to be involved in FenwaYoga, her excitement about leading this fundraiser, and thoughts on why physical activity can be so crucial to building self-esteem. (In the next post, she shares more on being healthy inside and out.)

Books+Body: What led to your involvement with FenwaYoga this year?

Mandy Ingber: Ever since I was a recurring character on Cheers in my late teens-early 20s, Boston has always had a special place in my heart. I used to visit my best friends at Emerson College, my boyfriend’s hometown is Boston, and my half-sister goes to Northeastern currently, so I have a lot of heart connections to that city. When the people from KIND [one of the partners of the event] asked me to participate, I immediately said “yes” because it is such a great brand—and because I was so excited to step foot on the Fenway Park field! I can’t wait to practice yoga there; it’s a dream to be able to be my version of athletic at such as historical site.

Besides being in Fenway Park, what are you most looking forward to about the experience?

I am secretly excited to be up on the screen. But mostly excited to practice yoga with like-minded people who are caring for themselves, while they work for a cause. This is the best of all worlds. For this Fenway event, everybody gets to win. Not only that, but I have never taught yoga in Boston before, and I am excited to meet the Yogalosophy fans there. I will be meeting and greeting, and DVDs and books will be available, so I am really looking forward to the personal connection.

FenwaYoga will be geared to all levels. How do you approach a situation like that when there are presumably so many different levels of ability and experience with yoga? (Not to mention the unusual setting.)

As with most yoga sessions that I teach, I will have a plan and then will likely have to adapt. Flexibility comes in all forms, right? Yoga is a little more difficult to teach to all levels than say, spinning, because each body is so different and there are multiple movements to master. A lighthearted approach, with the focus on having a good time, contemporary music, and a little prayer that it will all go okay will be my formula. I also plan to incorporate some Yogalosophy hybrid moves [yoga blended with more traditional toning exercises], which are doable for newbies and challenging for old school yogis and yoginis. I’m also pretty excited, because the Red Sox Foundation is providing prizes for the biggest fundraiser and one of the prizes is joining me at the Omega Institute the following weekend to create vision boards and set intentions for ourselves through yoga and meditation. Should be powerful.

Scene from FenwaYoga 2013.

Scene from FenwaYoga 2013.

FenwaYoga is being held to raise funds for the Red Sox Foundation, which has a cornerstone program that uses physical activities (baseball and softball) to foster the development of self-esteem and the ability to make healthy choices. Though your own primary modality (yoga) is different, these ideas have obvious parallels with what you do, and also speak to how something as seemingly superficial as “getting in shape” or “getting healthy” can really have powerful ramifications for the rest of your life. Thoughts on that?

We all have a body that needs care. From the most famous celebrity to the man on the street. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, if you are in love, or what your situation is, the body needs self-care, and each of us is the one responsible for that. When we take care of our bodies, we build self-esteem. It’s really quite phenomenal, this instrument we have. We can use our bodies to build strength or energy, or to mellow out and calm our nervous systems. The more you get to know how the body works—and feel how powerful feeling strong and healthy is to all aspects of your life—the more confidence you develop. Moving the body moves energy and relaxes the mind. It improves focus, concentration and presence. That phrase “you can’t think your way into correct action, but you can act your way into correct thinking” really applies.

There are advantages to working as a team as well. Since I have no hand-eye coordination, my MVP position is as a yoga instructor, and a yoga class becomes its own kind of team.

 -Diann Daniel

For FenwaYoga Participants

Fundraising prizes

First-place prize is a trip to the Omega Institute in New York, as well as yoga mat, supply of Vita Coco water, and an autographed Dustin Pedroia baseball. The second-prize is four green monster seats at a Red Sox game, as well as a yoga mat, autographed Jon Lester jersey, and supply of Vita Coco. Finally, the third prize is four in-field grand stand seats at a Red Sox game, a yoga mat, and a case of Vita Coco water.

Expo, Participant Arrival
Guests can arrive as early as 8 a.m., through the Gate C entrance. That area will host the Health & Fitness Expo, which will be open to the public from 8am-12pm, and everyone (whether registered for FenwaYoga or not) is welcome to come in and check out the vendors and the expo.

Other Boston Area Events

The Boston area will also be hosting Runner’s World’s events this weekend. For information, start here and here.

 

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Study Finds Walking Boosts Creativity

View from a walk along the Charles River in Boston.

View from a walk along the Charles River in Boston.

Many of history’s most famous thinkers were walkers—Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, and Walt Whitman, to name just a few—and many of them held a deep belief that walking boosted their creativity. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, from Stanford researchers gives scientific weight to this belief.

The study, composed of a series of four experiments, looked at idea generation conducted while sitting and while walking, using different experiment constructions, for example, walking outside versus walking on a treadmill, sitting first, then walking, and so on. Walking was the clear winner. In the first and the most straightforward experiment, where participants completed a four-minute task of creativity first while sitting, then during a walk on the treadmill, researchers found that walking increased participants’ creativity by 81 percent.

Walking itself, whether done on the treadmill inside while starting at a blank wall or outside, was found to produce this greater creativity. For example, two out of the four experiments compared creative idea production for sitting, walking on the treadmill, and walking outside. Participants exhibited greater creative divergent thinking—or what you might think of as free-flowing ideas—whether they walked outside or on the treadmill. Moreover, participants experienced a residual creative boost when they were tested while sitting after they had first walked. In contrast, participants who were tested twice but both times while sitting did not show any improvement, demonstrating it was not merely an issue of repetition.

To measure creativity, researchers administered two types of tests. In the first three experiments, participants were told to generate new uses for common objects, such as a button, a shoe, and a key. As an example of this kind of test, one participant heard “button” and brainstormed “as a doorknob for a dollhouse, an eye for a doll, a tiny strainer, to drop behind you to keep your path.” The last experiment used a different kind of test for metaphoric-creativity thinking, which asks participants to come up with symbolic equivalencies for the prompt they are given. For example, a candle burning low might produce “life ebbing away” or, as an example of a more creative response, “the last hand in a gambler’s last card game.”

Previous studies have already found that aerobic activities, such as running, promote greater creativity. Yet, for those who don’t have time to run or who simply don’t want to, taking a quick walk can be a great way to get the creative juices flowing. On a broader note, it also points to the importance of gym class in schools, which seem to be disappearing, and provides yet one more reason for effective and supported workplace wellness programs.

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