An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Lauren Grogan of
Center Your Health. Lauren is a holistic health coach and yoga teacher who is passionate about life. I wanted to interview Lauren because I find her to be incredibly positive, authentic, and kind. These are qualities that I admire most in others. I also love how Lauren lives a full life and manages to balance everything with grace and organization. After reading this inspiring information, please watch Lauren’s video which is embedded at the end of this interview. Her smile and shining light will brighten your whole day.

1) Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to allow me to interview you. How would you define yourself to those who have never met you?

You’re so welcome! It’s funny that you ask that question, because I’m at the point in my yoga and spiritual practice where I’m trying to no longer “define” myself! It’s been a very, very difficult process since it’s easy to attach to certain labels or ways to identify ourselves. With that being said, hopefully this brief interview together can help others get a glimpse of who I am at this point of my life and accept me for what I’m all about!

2) You are a holistic health coach (like me ::high five::) and a yoga teacher. What are your coaching/teaching philosophies?

It’s pretty simple, do what’s best for YOU. We’re so conditioned to look outside of ourselves for knowledge or healing but we need to remember that our bodies are designed to heal. We each have an innate wisdom within us that’s always there as a guide, no matter what is going on. We must learn to listen to our bodies, hear what they’re saying to us and give them exactly what they need. I love explaining this to my students/clients in hopes to remind them of the personal strength that resides in each one of them.
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3) From what I can tell, you are an advocate of gluten-free living. Do you recommend this for all people or is this just something that has helped you personally?

The only thing that I advocate or recommend for all people is to eat more veggies! Otherwise, I love explaining to my clients how gluten effects our system (it’s an anti-nutrient that causes inflammation) and then ultimately leave it up to them if they’d like to minimize their gluten intake or avoid it all together. Either way, I support them and always remind them to take it slow. It certainly takes awareness, patience, and practice. If they decide to give gluten-free a try though, I’m thrilled! I’m amazed at the symptoms that clear up in my clients after they’ve gave up gluten such as less body (joint) pain, no more bloating or gastrointestinal issues, weight loss or less headaches. To clarify though, while (in my opinion) gluten stinks, whole grains in general may be pretty disruptive to our health in large quantities. It varies person to person though.

How has going gluten-free been a game-changer for you personally?

Going gluten-free was something I never even considered until I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune condition effecting my thyroid function. When it comes to (any) autoimmune conditions, consuming gluten is like pouring fuel on the fire, so it must be eliminated. I realized that I had to finally give it up after my diagnosis. It was a slow and gradual process until I finally could feel the benefits enough to ditch it for good. It was a hard breakup, I must admit, one of the hardest I’ve ever gone through.  However, I’ve NEVER been happier! I breathe so freely each day (have absolutely NO congestion in my sinuses), I can focus and think clearly throughout my day (no more brain fog), I’ve lost weight and my muffin-top disappeared, my face/body in general is less puffy, my keratosis pilaris (a rash on my upper arms that I’ve had all of my life) cleared up, and I almost never have that “stuffed” feeling after I eat a meal (even when I’ve eaten a bit too much!). I’ve had a blast getting creative with prepping gluten-free meals. The best part is it’s made me eat more whole, real foods more than ever before. I’ll make cauliflower crust pizza, spiraled zucchini pasta, stuff half an avocado with tuna salad, enjoy hummus with fresh crudite, or create wraps with lettuce or collard greens. I steer clear of foods like breads, crackers, cookies and other goodies marketed as gluten-free. Let’s be real, that’s straight up junk food. Before I transitioned to gluten-free I viewed it as so restrictive. Now I see how wrong I was to think that since I’ve never been so satisfied or felt better!

4) I have written about being body positive and for people to focus on health and healing rather than their looks/weight alone. What are your thoughts on this topic?

I love that you’ve written on this subject. It’s so important, especially today. Obsessing over looks/weight only encourages unhealthy behaviors towards ourselves and effects our relationship with food. I think it’s so important to truly love yourself. This concept may be foreign to us since we are not encouraged to do this, but it’s an extremely important practice. Changing the way you speak to yourself is a great place to start. Most of us would never speak to others using the tone or words that we use towards ourselves. Part of my morning ritual is applying oil to my whole body after I’ve showered and silently thanking each and every part of my body. “Thank you, feet. Thanks, elbows! Thank you, eyes. Thanks, fingers. Thank you, belly.” It may sound silly, but I’ve grown to love, adore and appreciate so many different parts and aspects of my own body. It’s also helped me realize how grateful I am for the body I’ve been given and for its health. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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Where do you think most people go wrong when it comes to dieting and restrictive eating?

All or nothing thinking. I give so many lectures on different types of diets…just to lure people in, not to encourage them to subscribe to them. They think they’re coming to learn all about a plant-based diet, or even a paleo diet, and while I’ll educate them on it I like to give suggestions of how to take aspects of the diet that they like, “drop the label” and make it their own. Then, there is no longer restrictions and unnecessary pressure – two things that should never be associated with foods in the first place!  Create your own way of eating that’s best for you. 

5) Do you have any recommendations for people reading this blog who might be new to yoga and a little nervous to try a class?

Skip the free yoga class at your gym. While gym yoga teachers may be talented and great, it may not be the right environment for yoga if you’re a newbie. A simple google search for “beginner’s yoga class” in your area will bring up a bunch of local studios. Start checking out different studios and see what classes resonate with you and your schedule. Most studios even offer a discount or free class for your first time. When you attend class, go with an open mind. A true yoga class should be free of judgement and/or competition, so if you’re feeling any of that from the teacher or students (or sometimes even your own mind!) that may not be the class or studio for you. Your yoga practice is your own. It will look and feel different than anyone else’s, and that makes it beautiful and your own. Embrace that and you’ve embraced the essence of yoga…even as a beginner!

6) What is your message to more advanced yogis reading this blog?

I find that there is always something new to learn with yoga each and every time we roll out our mat. This mindset will keep us a beginner at heart when it comes to our advanced practice, remind us not to be so focused on “mastering” the asanas (poses) but rather enjoying them wherever we are that day. I have observed that as most yogi’s practice progresses (including my own!), the ego tends to be overconfident. It’s important to recognize when this happens so that you can realize you’re no longer practicing yoga with ego-driven thoughts. Yoga teaches us to be present and honor the body wherever it is. We must remember the fundamentals of yoga to truly excel in our practice…and that may or may not have anything to do with the asanas!

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7) Is there a personal struggle you’ve experienced in your life that you would feel comfortable sharing, as well as how you dealt with that challenge?

I’ve had a few personal struggles with my health over the years that I can now confidently say that I healed myself. That’s a lot easier said than done though! However, since I’ve done it more than a few times by now, I approach any struggle or health issue the same way and can execute the healing process much faster. I catch myself when I’m being the victim and instead look at whatever I’m going through as a blessing. I look at it as a challenge for me to go through so that I can learn from it and then help others to overcome similar issues. I make sure that I recite positive affirmations each day during my struggles and most of all allow myself the time to practice self care. I make rest and food prep my top priority so that I’m nourishing myself healthfully on all levels. I also reach out to the therapists, practitioners and mentors who I know will be helpful in my healing process. Healing takes lots of inner hard work and patience. After healing my IBS, anxiety disorder, autoimmune and thyroid disease, I feel pretty empowered to take on whatever is next. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, we just have to realize that and give the body what it needs to thrive! 

8) What inspires you?

Yoga…on and off the mat, because it’s the thing that I resonate most with before anything else. 

Creating…in all different forms keeps me sane and allows me to express myself. 

Food…because I’m a total foodie. 

India…everything about it. The smells, rich colors, the rituals. To me, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. 

Nature…the colors, the patterns, the textures, the taste! 

Connecting with others…because I make it a point to surround myself with others who leave me feeling empowered rather than drained. 

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9) Can you name one public figure who you admire and share why?

Lately, I’ve totally been admiring Daniel Vitalis of Rewild Yourself. I heard him speak about the domestication of human beings and it blew my mind. I’ve been a fan ever since. He reminds us of that wild wisdom that resides in our DNA which most of us have lost touch with. He’s got an online magazine and informative podcast. Check him out! His girlfriend Ali Schueler, of Wild Woman Speaks, also offers a similar approach that I’m totally jiving with. These past few years I’ve been so intrigued by primal living and working towards making little shifts here and there to get back to a more ancestral way of living.  

10) What are the most important lessons you have learned so far in life?

(Cue John Lennon’s song, Love.)

LOVE. Just love. Love yourself. Love everyone. Love every being. Love everything. Love cures all. Love nourishes all. Love is what we all desire. Love is what it’s all about. Give it, get it, share it, enjoy it! 

Also, my Italian Pop-Pop, Mike the barber, would always say, “The darker the vegetables, the better they are for you.” I have fond memories as a child of watching him tend his garden harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for us to eat.

12) What are some of your future goals?

Bhakti yoga has been a major part of my life in these recent years and I want to continue diving deeper into the practice as time goes on. My husband and I plan to start a family and I look forward to making that a big part of our children’s lives. Chanting each day has brought me so much joy and satisfaction and I look forward to sharing that with any kiddies we may have. 

Any additional thoughts or comments?

Thanks so much for having me, Mary. I’m so inspired by you, your recipes, your homemade soaps, and your warm, positive message in general. Your smile lights up a room and is unforgettable! 

Thank you, Lauren! Keep shining bright!

Why It’s Important for Us to Be in Nature

Why It’s Important for Us to Be in Nature

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
-John Lubbock

Recently, I have added 15 minutes outside in the early morning hours as part of my morning routine. In just a short time, this has already helped my state of mind and well-being immensely. I cannot recommend this act of intentional living enough.

I first walk outside barefoot and stand outside in the grass underneath one of my favorite trees. I enjoy the sensations and sounds of the crickets, the birds, the gentle wind, the cool morning air, the grass between my toes, the dirt beneath my feet – everything.

After a couple of minutes, I do a couple of sun salutations and yoga stretches, then I do 100 crunches, and 10 push-ups. I then lay down in the grass and just relax and enjoy the peacefulness. I never bring my cell phone with me during this relaxing practice. So for the sake of this blog post, I took this picture later in the afternoon to share the view from the grass. I will lay in the grass for a couple of minutes or to my heart’s content.

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For the final part of my time outside in the morning, I stand up and ground my feet to the Earth again, and I express gratitude for the day and for the natural world. I cannot express enough how much this has shifted my perspective, and I highly recommend this to anyone. Just go outside for even two-five minutes every morning and be thankful and express gratitude. Enjoy all that nature has to offer. You will feel more alive and more connected.

Why It Is Important for Us to Be in Nature

1. We are meant to be outside. That’s right. We have really botched things up with our 9-5 desk jobs, artificial fluorescent lighting, stressful commutes, and addictive technology. Humans are meant to walk and be active and be outdoors. That is our natural state. We are not robots and we are not zombies. It is up to us to make the shift.

2. Going outside can help our health. Sunlight provides Vitamin D and can elevate our moods. Going outside has also been shown to help concentration and encourages people to be more active and boosts energy levels. People who go outside daily tend to be happier. Being in nature has also shown to help with depression and mood disorders. (Sources: Harvard and Everyday Health)

3. Trees are wise and have the power to heal. Hug a tree and give thanks to all that trees do for us. “Trees provide breathable air, timber, fuel, food, shelter, medicine and beauty. Without trees, we could not live. They can help us think better — Plato and Aristotle did their best thinking in the olive groves around Athens, Buddha found enlightenment beneath a bo tree, and Isaac Newton realised his theory of gravity when an apple fell from the tree under which he was sitting — and they can help us feel better.”
(Source: Psychologies)

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4. Exercising outside is optimal. “A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who walked on an outdoor track moved at a faster pace, perceived less exertion, and experienced more positive emotions than those who walked on an indoor treadmill. In another recent study done in Scotland, subjects who walked through a rural area viewed their to-do list as more manageable than those who walked on city streets.” (Source)

5. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is 2-5 times more toxic than air outside. Shocking? It’s true. One of the best ways to help the air in our living and working environments is to add plants. But another important thing to do for your own health is to go outside. (Source: Dr. Axe)

6. There is an actual disorder called nature deficit disorder. Don’t believe me? Read here. Let’s get away from the boob tube and the iPizzle, and the cell phone madness and go outside. Another benefit: being in nature can help increase our attention spans.

7. Now let’s apply this to children and teens. Young people need to go outside. If a person grows up with no connection to nature, they will most likely have no appreciation for it. Even more, with obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses on the rise that affect young people, I think it is time we get back to the basics. Go outside with your family.

8. Gardening and putting our hands in the dirt can be one of the most healing and enriching acts we participate in. To connect with new life and to watch a seed grow into a plant is a miracle that so many people take for granted. To connect with our food on the most basic level, helps us to eat healthier and to feel at one with the Earth.

If you don’t have land to cultivate, consider a window garden, a container garden on a deck or patio, or rent space at a community garden. There are options. This is a photo of what we harvested yesterday plus saving arugula seeds.

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What are you doing right now? Can you spare two minutes of your day to go outside and get some fresh air? I hope so. Nature is a beautiful gift. Let’s get back to it. Let’s be thankful for it.

Mary Signature

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

We are all connected, yet for some of us, it has been challenging finding those sustainable, meaningful, deeper connections. Maybe I speak for myself, but I have never felt like I ever fully belonged. I have met thousands of great people, but have chosen to be very selective with who I choose to spend my time with. This may come as a surprise, because I get along with just about everyone, and I enjoy talking with people, and I truly love and appreciate my friends and family; what a blessing to have so much love in my life.

However, I feel as though I prefer to be by myself most of the time or just sitting silently with my animals or in nature, where words are absent. And maybe that is because I just really enjoy the solitude and the clarity. Or maybe that is because it just is. I have chosen to be an observer of everything, of all of the beauty and the source. With each passing year, I let more light into my life. Sometimes I sit outside by myself and I just don’t do much of anything except listen, and sometimes I even lay in the grass. It’s amazing what we can be witness to, if we just allow it.

So what’s my point? My point is, it’s okay to be alone with yourself. I have learned more from that than anything else in this life. I have learned that we are all spiritual beings and we all want the same things: purpose, love, and happiness. I know myself, and I understand this purpose. I know that this life is a treasure. I know that we can be distracted by so many things – so many things that do not matter, and so much negativity. We must filter all of this. I know that labels and doctrines can divide us. We are all human. I promise that no matter what you’re going through or if you’re feeling alone, you are not alone.

We are all one. We are all important. Let this be validation that it is perfectly okay to be alone sometimes with yourself and to learn what it is that makes you happy. ONE LOVE!

Mary Signature

Beekman Farm Tour, Sharon Springs, & Camping in Upstate NY

Beekman Farm Tour, Sharon Springs, & Camping in Upstate NY

This weekend falls in my list of top 20 weekends ever. Cody and I had an amazing time camping in part of upstate NY, then exploring Sharon Springs and Cooperstown, visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, meeting The Fabulous Beekman Boys, taking the Beekman Farm tour, enjoying incredible farm to table food, and being surrounded by the beauty of nature!

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“Chugalugalugging 5 miles an hour on my INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER!” Welcome to the country.
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This was our camp site at Glimmerglass State Park. It was picturesque and quite peaceful.
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Here are a couple of the goodies I purchased at the Beekman 1802 Mercantile.
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Book signing with the Fabulous Beekman Boys. They were the sweetest, most down to earth gentlemen.
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A fabulous photo. Thank you for taking this picture, Cody!
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Book signing ❤
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Cody and I enjoying the great outdoors
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View from the top of the hill on the Beekman Farm
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A possible love rock. Cody and I didn’t take any chances; we made sure to kiss right next to it.
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The Beekman house
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The goats like Cody. Who doesn’t? 🙂
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Cody talking farm life and agriculture with Farmer John.
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Polka Spot makes her grand appearance!

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Little piggy hinies at the harvest festival
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“The Sultan of Swat, The King of Crash, The Colossus of Clout, The Great Bambino” “Heroes get remembered. But legends never die.” The legend and I.
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Baseball Hall of Fame, Rain?
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Wait. What?! Giant Pumpkin
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For our final evening in town, we enjoyed an incredible dinner at The American Hotel. The mayor was especially hilarious, and we shared a table with some fun people from Arkansas and Wisconsin.
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Enjoying our final day of camping