Each month, “My Better Day” newsletter contains tips for your yoga practice, yoga quotes to bring yoga off the mat and into your life, affirmations to brighten your day and motivate, and more!  It is my wish for your well-being that I send this newsletter to help make your day a Better Day!

In this issue: Yoga quote, Practice yoga pose, Meditation on the go, Chakrascope, Hand Mudra, Featured Card Deck and Quote, Healthy News, Featured Recipe, Favorite Yoga Music / DVD, Happenings at Better Day Yoga LLC, Final Relaxation Quote.

Namasté,

Sandy Krzyzanowski

Founder, Better Day Yoga LLC

 

“Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate.”—Sandra Boynton

Valentine’s Day—A day to share with your beloved.  Perhaps you’re giving and/or receiving flowers or candy and indulging your love affair with chocolate.  I’m not alone in adding more chocolate consumption this time of year—more chocolate is consumed in winter than any other season.  http://www.foodreference.com/html/fchocolate.html

I’ve always loved chocolate.  Haven’t you?  My mom used to buy those Christmas ornaments that were chocolate and covered in decorative foil.  She’d hang them all over the tree.  One year when I was a teenager in the ninth grade, I consumed way too many chocolate ornaments and ended up having a reaction.  My face got all red with teeny tiny bumps, dried out, and then peeled.  Lovely—just what every teenager wants to have happen to them.  (Why is it that the good-looking boy next to your locker only talks to you when you don’t want to be noticed?)  I never looked into why I had the reaction.  I don’t think I even equated it to the chocolate exactly.  I wondered if it was a new detergent my mom was using, or the soap I used to clean my face.

I was clueless—until Easter!  Foil-covered chocolate eggs and that big bunny made of chocolate!  Let me at ‘em!  It happened again.  My face got all red, dried out, and peeled.  Hmm, I thought.  I wonder if the common denominator here is the chocolate?  I think we are all slow learners when it involves giving up something you love.

Going through that twice within a year was more than enough; and since it affected my looks, AND I was a teenager worried about impressions, I swore off chocolate.  I avoided it for many years with the assumption I was allergic to it.  How sad is that?  I gradually started eating it in smaller portions with no problems—everything in moderation, right? “I could give up chocolate but I’m not a quitter.” –Lora Brody

You may be wondering if there is a connection between yoga and chocolate other than my loving both.  How about Chocolate Yoga Workshops?  David Romanelli has created “Yoga for Foodies” and his philosophy is:  “The world is a better place if people do yoga. And if they come because chocolate or wine is involved, I’m fine with it.” He offers a couple options for chocolate.  He also offers a wine and yoga retreat, but let’s stick to one vice at a time.

1) Two-hour vinyasa flow that offers a chocolate tasting before and after the yoga class.  The chocolate is a metaphor emphasizing that anything in life is better, richer, and sweeter when experienced in the present moment.

2) Two hour deep stretch experience called The Chocolate Chakra Tour. As you lie in very soothing yoga postures for 3-5 minutes, he shares stories on the 7 energy centers the yogis call chakras. (See my Chakrascope below for a crash course on chakras.)  After class, you experience a flight of 7 exotic Vosges Chocolate truffles, each specifically chosen to stimulate a chakra.

You have to love his ingenuity!  He was in Minneapolis this past summer.  Check out his Website for more info:  http://www.yeahdave.com/category/yeah-dave-yoga-2/yoga-chocolate-yeah-dave-yoga-2

Also:  http://www.suite101.com/content/what-is-chocolate-yoga-and-where-is-it-found-a205123, and

http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/yoga_and_chocolate and for another great source for a chocolate for each chakra try:  http://www.chocoveda.com/ (Chocolate + Ayurveda = Chocoveda. Chocoveda founder Julia Lungin is an ayurvedic practitioner and chocolate lover who brings her expertise in both areas to her vegan, organic truffles. The richness comes from 70% dark chocolate and virgin coconut oil. The formula also includes an ayurvedic herbal tonic.)

Now that I’m gluten-sensitive, chocolate is my go-to dessert.  So, to ease my guilt, I collect reasons why my vices might be good for me.

There’s a reason:

  • Chocolate was used as currency years ago.  “A 1545 document written in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and other Central American peoples shows that cacao was even used as currency – a turkey was worth 200 cacao seeds, a tamale was worth one, and the daily wage of a porter at the time was 100 cacao seeds.”  (Archaeology magazine Nov/Dec 2010))
  • The botanical name of the chocolate plant is ‘Theobroma Cacao’, which means ‘FOOD OF THE GODS’.   http://www.chocolatecreation.co.uk/trivia.htm#Facts
  • American and Russian space flights have always included chocolate!  http://www.chocolatesource.com/trivia/index.asp

So let’s indulge our indulgence!

“1. Chocolate contains plant-based chemicals called flavanols that are responsible for many of the benefits chocolate provides.  Flavanols are antioxidants that protect the body from both internal and external damage caused by free radicals.  External damage can come from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoke, and more, while internal damage results from the formation of free radicals due to essential body processes such as breathing and eating.

2.  If you’re working out to look good as well as to improve your health, grab a glass of chocolate milk, which has been shown to help your body, especially your muscles, recover after a workout.  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152240.php

3.  Chocolate has been shown to improve brain function so you can better perform various mental tasks.  (Fun trivia:  It is said that Eleanor Roosevelt ate three, chocolate-covered garlic balls each morning as a memory aid.)

4.  Chocolate is one of nature’s leading sources of a substance called theobromine, which is related to caffeine (another one of my vices that also has some surprising benefits…but I digress.)  Preliminary research has shown that theobromine helps suppress coughing and may be an alternative to cough supplements with their side effects and generally unpleasant taste.

Let me just interrupt the line-up here to introduce the next three.  February being the month of the heart, chocolate makes a great indulgence to highlight (in moderation, of course!):

5.  The flavanols in chocolates help make the platelets in your blood less sticky.  That’s good because less sticky means less clotting, and less clotting means a lower risk of heart attacks or stroke.

6.  Chocolate has been shown to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and thereby may help protect against heart attacks.

7.  Regular chocolate consumption offers another bonus for cardiovascular health:  it helps reduce blood pressure.

8.  The high flavanol content in chocolate has been shown to help protect skin from harmful UV damage.  Look for the Cocoapro label on M & M/Mars, Callebaut, and CirkuHealth chocolate products for the highest concentration of flavanols.

9.  You probably don’t need science to tell you that chocolate can boost your mood.  It elevates your spirits thanks to a compound called phenylethylamine, which releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins throughout your body.  Happy people have an abundance of this compound, just as, it seems, do people who are in love.  Who doesn’t want to create some of that euphoria?  (Fun trivia: The Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac.)

10.  Chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, a discovery that may help in the development of new treatments for dementia, vascular problems, and stroke.  Even in the absence of those conditions, improving blood flow to any part of the body is usually beneficial.

Current research suggests that the most health benefits come from dark chocolate or cocoa (with the exception of chocolate milk).  The last word on chocolate is moderation.  (Remember my reaction in my teen years?) Portion control is key to enjoying the pleasure and benefits without packing on the pounds.  The amount of chocolate that offers health rewards without causing your weight to creep up is about 1.5 ounces.  If you enjoy that much and no more each day, you’ll reap the rewards without seeing a difference in your waistline or in the numbers on your scale.”  Article in Today’s Diet & Nutrition, “A Love Affair with Chocolate”, by Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN

Speaking of moderation—American consumers average 10-12 pounds of chocolate a year, while in the UK they eat almost twice that amount.  An average Swiss will eat about 21 lbs of chocolate a year. The Swiss, however, have one of the lowest heart failure rates and obesity cases in the world. http://www.foodreference.com/html/fchocolate.html & http://www.2020site.org/fun-facts/Fun-Chocolate-Facts.html )

And to expound on number nine above:  “Chocolate causes certain endocrine glands to secrete hormones that affect your feelings and behavior by making you happy. Therefore, it counteracts depression, in turn reducing the stress of depression. Your stress-free life helps you maintain a youthful disposition, both physically and mentally. So, eat lots of chocolate!” – Elaine Sherman, Book of Divine Indulgences.

Last year’s Super Bowl ad with Betty White featuring the Snickers candy bar encouraged those of us who use chocolate as an energy source.  (Fun trivia:  The Snickers bar galloped on to the scene in 1930. It was named after a beloved horse of the Mars family. This thoroughbred has overtaken the competition. It’s now the all-time top selling chocolate bar with annual sales of over $ 2 billion a year. http://www.health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.com/candy-bar-trivia.html)

I highlighted Betty White’s resurgence back in my June 2010 newsletter:  It all started with her successful appearance in the Super Bowl commercial which was voted the most popular commercial.

This was not a new idea. “The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food.” – Hernando Cortés (1519)

Chocolate has long been heralded for its value as an energy source. Think of it this way: a single chocolate chip provides sufficient food energy for an adult to walk 150 feet; hence, it would take about 35 chocolate chips to go a mile, or 875,000 for an around-the world hike.
http://www.chocolatecreation.co.uk/trivia.htm#Trivia

Chocolate has been around for a long time:  Chocolate in its solid forms of candy, cake, and ice cream are relatively modern developments. The first known uses of the cacao bean were by the Aztec people around 1100 BC. They made a bitter drink called xocoatl. Recently even earlier evidence of a fermented, alcoholic drink from the fruit of the cacao tree was found in Honduras. Archaeologists trace this back to 1400 BC.
http://www.alaskawildberryproducts.com/education/alaska-chocolate-trivia.html

My husband and I have been getting dark chocolate-covered almonds from the local Trader Joes (also a great place for plenty of gluten-free products!).  Add the health benefits of almonds to the already mentioned health benefits of dark chocolate, and you’ll find it easy to justify consuming this delectable treat.  They have a few varieties.  One has Belgian chocolate and they’re sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar.  Mouth watering yet?  If you haven’t tried them, they are “to die for”.  They’ve been tweeted about on Livestrong.com and http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/trader_joes_dark_chocolate_almonds/.   By the way, In the U.S., 25% of all peanuts and 40% of all almonds are used in chocolate making.

We are currently thinking it’s time to lay off the chocolate-covered almonds.  But “I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process…It may not be true, but do I dare take the chance?”—Unknown. Enjoy this month of the heart!