Where to Find Me Online

While I've got several blog drafts in the works and ideas for more, I don't seem to find as much time to post here as I'd like. When the puddles seem a little dry for jumping here, you can often find me elsewhere online:

Websites and Blogs

Jen Mueller Yoga - Kids, Families, Prenatal, Adult Hatha YogaJen Mueller Yoga is my professional yoga teacher page. This is where I post about the benefits of yoga, yoga philosophy, yoga resources in DC, and my teaching schedule. I sometimes cross-post here, but not usually.

image from dingo.care2.comCare2 is a b-corporation site for news and commentary about social issues to promote civic engagement and build support for its sister site, thepetitionsite.com I'm a regular contributor on environmental, food, and health issues. My more personal Care2 blogs will be cross-posted here and I typically push my all articles out on Twitter, but you can also subscribe to my author page RSS feed.

Social Media

Facebook cover image capture sm FacebookMy personal Facebook profile is where I connect with people I know. I post links to Puddle Jumping in DC, social commentary and personal updates not worthy of a blog post, photos of my daughter, and links to interesting or fun things online.  

Disclaimer: I generally don't friend total strangers or friends-of-friends whom I don't at least know as an acquaintance. Regular students in my yoga classes should feel free to friend me if they'd like updates of a more personal nature.

Jenmuelleryoga facebook cover image captureMy Jen Mueller Yoga profile page is where I share yoga articles and resources for DC yogis and parents of little yogis. Anyone can subscribe to those updates simply by "like"ing my page. I don't cross post most of this to my personal profile so my Facebook friends with an interest in yoga should "like" my page to get my professional updates.

TwitterMy Twitter feed is broader than either of my Facebook feeds. I post yoga updates, select personal updates, photos from my Instagram or Flickr feed, and links to articles I've written or am reading. Topics beyond yoga include breastfeeding, environmental news, parenting, and social issues. I follow Tweeters on those topics as well as local businesses and DC bloggers.

DeliciouDelicious is my online filing cabinet. I tag articles I might want to reference in the future on breastfeeding, child development, environment, health, parenting, sustainability, and yoga. I don't necessarily share these on other channels but they sometimes get referenced in blog posts.

PathPinterest is my magazine clipping file and someday list. In addition good visuals on the topics above, I pin potential art projects, DIY ideas, inspirational or beautiful pictures, places to go or things to do in DC, and info-graphics.

LinkedInWorked with me, met me once professionally, or just want to network? That's what LinkedIn is for.

Photosharing Sites

I share photos via instagr.am and flickr. The former is designed for use and viewing by iPhone users. I post iPhone selections to Flickr along with photos taken on other cameras.

InstagramInstagr.am

FlickrFlickr

www.flickr.com

How to Make Smoothies with One Simple Recipe

I wrote this ages ago for another site long gone. Someone recently asked me about it, so here it is:

Smoothie-fruit-greens

Smoothie ready to blend

Smoothies, a blended fruit or vegetable beverage, can help anyone to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet, make an easy on-the-go meal, and can often entice picky toddlers to eat foods they otherwise wouldn't.

There are hundreds of of smoothie recipes available, but learning the basic categories of ingredients and approximate proportions can unleash the creative household smoothie chef.

Incorporate Leafy Greens into Any Diet with Smoothies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends everyone eat at least 3 cups of leafy green vegetables per week. Greens are high in iron, vitamin C, and vitamin K and are linked to lower risk for numerous health conditions and diseases. While it’s tough to get the average kid to sit down to a salad, mix that same salad with some sweet fruits and serve it as a smoothie and good-for-you food becomes great for kids.

Fresh spinach may be the easiest green to incorporate into a smoothie because of its mild flavor, making it likely accepted by children. Kale is extremely easy to grow in a home garden but imparts a distinctly leafy green flavor. Greens such as kale, arugula mustard, or others may be successfully included but their sharper flavor must be considered. Using smaller quantities of sharper greens or masking their flavor with strongly flavored fruits or flavored sweeteners can also work.

Green Leafy Options: spinach, kale, arugula, mustard, tatsoi, swiss chard, and more

Use Proteins to Make Smoothies into a Complete Meal

Sources of protein like yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, or tofu both thicken and bulk up the nutritional component of a smoothie. These ingredients can be a key to satisfying hunger. Smooth and soft tofu works best and is easiest to blend. Peanut butter and other seed and nut butters thicken while adding flavor.

For dairy eaters, there’s the old classic: yogurt, but cottage cheese also whips up into a very nice smoothie base. Kefir is another, less thick, alternative, but the flavor can be distinctive and overwhelm mild fruits. Sweetened yogurt can eliminated the need for additional sweeteners.

Protein/Thickener Options: yogurt, tofu, kefir, cottage cheese, peanut butter, and more

Fruit Makes the Smoothie Fun

Green-smoothie-in-blender

Green smoothie blended

High in vitamins and natural sweetness, flavor combination possibilities are endless when incorporating fruit into smoothies.

Frozen fruit gives smoothies nice ice cream consistency and can be used instead of ice to make smoothies cold. Using frozen fruit also makes incorporating exotic or out-of-season fruits easier.

Be wary of seeds and textures when adding fruit. Skins on pears or peaches and seeds in blackberries or raspberries are not necessarily bad, but they do affect the texture and may not pass through all straws or sippy cups used by children.

Generally, juicier fruits are a better choice than fruits like apples. Bananas work well as an alternative to thickening smoothies with proteins. Pumpkin puree (add cinnamin and ginger for a fun pie-flavored drink) can be another fun alternative.

Warning: Very fibrous fruits can clog blenders and make for a fibrous smoothie.

Fruit Options: bananas, strawberries, mangoes, peaches, blueberries, papaya, pumpkin, or other favorite fruits

Smoothie Liquids Ease Blending

No need to get fancy with liquids. Water works just fine. Juices can be used in place of or in addition to other sweeteners. Milk or soymilk provide added protein. Alternative milk beverages add flavor.

Liquid Options: water, juice, soymilk, ricemilk, almond milk, hemp milk, cow's milk.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Smoothie Go Down

But, don’t use granulated sugar, it does not dissolve well in cold liquids. Liquid sweeteners like honey, agave syrup, or even maple syrup work great.

Sweetener options: honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup.

Child-enjoying-fruit-smoothie

Maya enjoys her smoothie

Extras Can Boost Nutritional Value and Flavor

The list of possible extras at the average smoothie restaurant is quite long but vitamin powders and protein powders are common. Vitamin powers like Emergen-C come in a variety of flavors that can help mask a sharp or strong green. Protein powders from whey or soy are available in most natural food stores.

Universal Smoothie Recipe

This simple formula for making smoothies will free the smoothie enthusiast from the recipe books forever. Makes two servings (all measures are approximate)

  • Up to 2 cups leafy green vegetables
  • ½ cup protein/thickener
  • Up to 3 cups of fresh or frozen fruits
  • 2 cups liquid (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon of sweetener, or more to taste
  • Optional: ice, extras

Smoothie Making Instructions

Add ingredients to blender in order presented, holding back at least half the liquid. Add additional liquid as needed to ease blending or reach desired consistency. Pour. Enjoy.

30 Dr. Seuss Quotes that Can Change Your Life

 

While I love them, I don’t read as many Dr. Suess books in my kids yoga classes as you might think. Unless you’ve regularly read bedtime stories to a skilled bedtime avoider (so they always start a little later than you’d like), you might not realize that Dr. Suess writes fairly long books. But the above illustration from Mamiverse.com (via Daily Cup of Yoga) reminds me that I should really get more creative about incorporating some of these.

Yoga for Runners and Kids

If you haven't been keeping up with me over at Jen Mueller Yoga, you might have missed the following:

Yoga for Runners

Stretch it out

. . . Over many years, yoga has affected my entire life, but in the beginning, that's not why I practiced. When I first started regularly attending an Ashtanga-inspired class at my gym on Tuesday nights, it was to keep me on the road so I could finish a marathon in the fall of 2001.

Back when I started running (which I did when signing up for said marathon) and over the first few years, I was diagnosed with a laundry list of runners' injuries. My ailments included shin splints, plantar faciiitis, patella femoral syndrome, chondromalacia . . . 

Read the rest of Yoga for Runners at at Jen Mueller Yoga.

Check out my Yoga for Runners workshop at Capitol Hill Yoga next Saturday (discounted registration ends 3/24.)

Yoga IN School?

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. . . As I let my 3rd-5th grade after-school yoga class into the room this past Wednesday, one of my students had near-panic written on her face. Before she even walked through the door, she asked if she could do her homework instead of participating. "I'll never get it all done tonight," she pleaded. I cocked my head to one side and looked at her. "Yeah, you're right. I need the yoga," she said and headed for a mat. . .

. . . Preliminary research on child-specific benefits include reduced problem behavior, test anxiety, and anger and increased feelings of well-being, self-regulation, and focus. . . .

Read more Yoga IN School at Jen Mueller Yoga.

Yoga for Runners

My primary reason for getting on the yoga mat has nothing to do with what happens on that 12-or-so square feet of foam or rubber and everything to do with what happens off of it. I’m what’s known in yoga circles as a “householder,” a student of yoga for whom the practice supports her engagement in the wider world.

Yoga makes it easier for me to interact with my work, my relationships, my (sometimes strong-willed) 4 year old, and life in general in a way that reflects my core values. Yoga makes me happier, stronger, more energetic, more optimistic, more flexible, and more patient.

Over many years, yoga has affected my entire life, but in the beginning, that’s not why I practiced. When I first started regularly attending an Ashtanga-inspired class at my gym on Tuesday nights, it was to keep me on the road so I could finish a marathon in the fall of 2001.

Stretch it outBack when I started running (which I did when signing up for said marathon) and over the first few years, I was diagnosed with a laundry list of runners’ injuries. My ailments included shin splints, plantar faciiitis, patella femoral syndrome, chondromalacia . . . 

The orthopedist took x-rays and referred me to physical therapists.  The podiatrist made me custom orthopedic shoe inserts and referred me to physical therapists. The physical therapist was fascinating: she hooked me up to electrical shock machines and taught me a bunch of exercises to do at home.

My podiatrist and and the guy at the shoe store agreed that I needed motion control shoes (with the custom inserts) to prevent excess outward pronation of my feet and compensate for my low arches. The right shoes are definitely important, but I still credit my yoga practice for keeping me on the road.

The poses in my weekly yoga classes strengthened the parts of the body that running neglected and stretched the parts of the body that running tightened. The emphasis on breath helped focus my mind and, like running, reduced my stress level and improved my mood. While learning to engage my muscles to properly align my bones, I discovered a body awareness that translated off the mat onto the road and has subtly and not so subtly affected my running form and stride . . . and eventually my bio-mechanics.

Last summer after a short running hiatus, my shins started bothering me again. When new versions of my old running shoe weren’t available, I went back to the shoe store for advice. As all good running shoe salespeople should, the clerk watched me run before suggesting shoes. It turns out that after decade of yoga, I had re-patterned my movement style. My feet, ankles, and shins can keep proper alignment all by themselves, without motion control shoes or custom orthotics.

 

While I can’t promise you won’t need orthotics if you come to my Yoga for Runners workshop (March 31, 2:30-4:30pm, Capitol Hill Yoga), I can promise to show you some of my favorite preventative therapeutics and how yoga poses target common runner problem areas.

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photo credit: stretching runner by flickr user lululemon athletica/creative commons

Yoga IN School?

Growth of yoga for children being offered in school has paralleled the explosive growth of yoga for adults being practiced in studios, gyms, and community centers around the country.

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Benefits of Yoga for Children

Even elementary school kids deal with a lot of stress these days. As I let my 3rd-5th grade after-school yoga class into the room this past Wednesday, one of my students had near-panic written on her face. Before she even walked through the door, she asked if she could do her homework instead of participating. "I'll never get it all done tonight," she pleaded. I cocked my head to one side and looked at her. "Yeah, you're right. I need the yoga," she said and headed for a mat.

The highly controversial book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards by the New York Times' William Broad summarizes the studies on benefits of the practice for adults. A similar book on studies about the benefits to kids would be mighty thin. Parents and teachers who witnessed those benefits will tell you that yoga is great for kids.

Preliminary research on child-specific benefits include reduced problem behavior, test anxiety, and anger and increased feelings of well-being, self-regulation, and focus. The video below discusses the results of a pilot study with 4th and 5th graders in Baltimore.

What is a School Yoga Class Like?

Yoga classes offered in studios may be structured very much the same as a class offered in a school, but they are often very different.  Michelle Kelsey Mitchell from Yokid wrote a very nice blog post on the subject after hosting a writer from the Chicago Tribune at one of their classes. Yoga classes in schools tend to be noisier and more chaotic and the environment often isn't ideal, but the objective and results are very much the same:

"Studio: students who achieve a quieter mind, enjoy relaxation and appreciate the time “away” from their busy and stressful lives. Students who get that much closer to their True Self…….      School:  the exact same thing."

What Do Kids Do in Yoga in School?

While many of the poses will look familiar to adult yogis, there's much more emphasis on games and social interaction in a kids class.

Tween-yoga-school-girl-meditate

We always do a physical warm up to get the body moving and calm the mind. Then we might play a game, act out a story, or do partner exercises. Toward the end of class, we'll wind down with some more poses and do a final relaxation or guided meditation.

In that 3rd-5th grade class I mentioned above, we focused on stories this past week. After we warmed up, I told The Magic Pear Tree from Sydney Solis's Storytime Yoga. We identified the characters and actions and assigned yoga poses to the story and then we acted them out.

After that story example, I passed out yoga pose cards and the students worked in small groups to write their own story. We could have done this exercise for much longer than the time availabe. It was quite the hit last week.

In other classes, we'll get silly and try to pass a hula hoop around the group while everyone holds hands, pass a balloon using only their feet, or blow cotton balls across the floor.

I love the photo of the girl "meditating" in this post because I recognize the attitude and it could easily be one of my kids. Upper elementary school kids are starting to put up emotional walls as they near adolescence. Approval from peers becomes more and more important. When everything is working in yoga class, they get to let their guard down a bit and just be.

Bounce!

Pgcounty_bounce_mosaic

If you're a DC resident with kids who hasn't made it over to a Prince George's County Sports & Learning Complex "gymnastics workshop," look up the schedule and and plan on it. At $6 per kid, adults free, it's a steal for an hour of free play on the equipment, trampolines, and foam pit.

Play can get a little wild during the workshops held in after-school hours. While there are a handful of staff on hand, they are really only there to enforce basic safety rules. Go during the day for a slightly more mellow experience with mostly younger-than-kindergarten kids.

But, if you go on a Friday night, you get to watch the competitive gymnasts practice while you play.

More silly, in black and white (playing w instagr.am)

Mosaic: 1. Bounce! (Playing with instagr.am filters), 2. Bounce! 2 (playing w instagr.am), 3. Upside-down and enhanced (playing w instagr.am), 4. Foam pit. (playing w instagr.am), 5. Like a sticky thing (playing w instagr.am), 6. Silly picture (playing w instagr.am), 7. Parallel bars (playing w instagr.am), 8. More silly (playing w instagr.am), 9. Toes (playing w instagr.am)

Black & White: More silly, in black & white (playing w instagr.am)

Ode to an Olive

 
 

"But I don't like the zoo!" protests Maya in one of her last utterances before sleep on Friday night.

She got as far as the bedroom doorway after being woken for Saturday morning ballet class before starting to cry because she does not like the zoo!

"You made a deal," we explain in a conversation that is not just a little bit surreal over the morning bathroom visit. (Who are these cruel parents?) "We went to the Playseum yesterday, so today we are going to the zoo."

She had made a deal.

Mac and I picked Maya up from school on Friday afternoon, swim-gear in hand, with the plan to head to one of the local public pools for the afternoon. Maya had a different agenda.

"No, I want to go to the Playseum. Please!" she pleaded. "But the pool will be closed all weekend (love budget furloughs) and if we go to the Playseum tomorrow, we can spend much more time there," we countered. Maya was not swayed by this logic.

After much discussion, agreement was reached that, because we were only going to do one spend-money activity this weekend (that I do love about DC), if we went to the Playseum Friday afternoon, our Saturday activity would be the zoo. Maya was very pleased with this deal, until bedtime.

The mood did turn around on Saturday morning when Maya thought of something: "Can I have a treat at the zoo?" "I think we can arrange that." "Popcorn. I want popcorn."

Other than unseasonably warm weather on a holiday weekend bringing out more visitors than the zoo's off-season concession staffing scenario could reasonably handle, all went well. Maya remained fixated on popcorn, but appeared to like the anemones in the invertebrate house and the touchable-things in the Amazon house1. The  dissected frog preserved-in-acrylic was a big hit.

"I just realized something!" she exclaimed as we began the uphill trek from the Amazon house toward home. "When I die, they can put me in the exhibit. But, then I won't be able to see it. I want to see my brain!"

Since we couldn't solve that dilema for her, we decided to look up some pictures of bodies and brains on the computer2. As usual, we made it her job to remind us when we got home. "Daddy, write it on your hand so we won't forget."

Part of our bedtime routine is to ask Maya to recap the best parts of her day: "Eating popcorn." "Anything else?" "Playing in the gopher holes3 and the giant pizza, but not when it was time to leave."

Ode to an olive.

 

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1) The lack of hands-on exhibits is probably the root of Maya's zoo aversion.
2) These pictures from the Bodies exhibit met Maya's criteria. I was a bit hesitant to do a web search on this one since I couldn't think of search terms off hand that would give me what I wanted without a lot of what I didn't.
3) Prairie Dogs actually.

Conversing with the 4-Year-Old

Excerpts from conversations with my 4-year-old after picking her up from school today:

Typical stance.Maya: "Can I use my new pencil to do homework this afternoon?"

Jen: "Sure."

M: "Can you help me because I don't know what homework is?"


J: "Do you want an example of how a knock-knock joke is supposed to work?"

M: "Yes."

J: "Ok, knock, knock."

M: "Who's there?"

J: "Cars."

M: "Cars who?"

J: "Cars I love you."

M: peals of laughter, "Knock, knock."

J: "Who's there?"

M: "Cars."

J: "Cars who?"

M: "Tree!" laughs even harder.


J: Getting ready to close the rain cover on the bike trailer,"Ok, now remember that because of the rain, I won't be able to hear you while we ride home. We'll just have to talk when we get there. [15 min, max] Unless it's important, then just yell."

. . . a little later, about half-way home

M: SCREAMING FROM THE TRAILER!

J: "What?"

M: something that sounds like it could be "LOOK AT THAT CASTLE!"

J: Since there's no obvious castle, stops on the side of the road and turns around: "What did you say Maya?"

M: "LOOK THAT BUILDING OVER THERE [a church we pass about twice daily]! IT LOOKS LIKE A CASTLE! IT LOOKS JUST LIKE A CASTLE!"

J: "Yes, yes it does." (And important is relative.)


On the agenda this afternoon:

  • Look up pictures of panthers,  because we established on the way to school that they are not pink in the real world.
  • Investigate how much an ant can really carry (same inspiration).

Both very important inquiries.

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