Melody Tijerina

Tips for Holiday Dining:

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Dining with friends and family is one of the many pleasures of life. We love to celebrate with food, delicious decadent food!

With the holidays approaching, we find ourselves wondering how to enjoy all the celebratory gatherings without taxing our bodies with excessive calories and unhealthy choices.  Here are a few tips:

Before the Gathering:

Hydrate – Before you go, make sure you are well hydrated. We often confuse thirst with hunger. When we are well hydrated, we feel more satisfied and content and this will influence all of our habits and choices, including our food choices.

Eat – Eat wholesome balanced meals before you meet for the gathering. Consider a high fiber breakfast such as oatmeal and chia porridge. A good amount of fiber early in the day can assist you in properly digesting a larger meal later in the day.  Don’t show up “starving” hungry. When we are hungry, it is much harder to make good choices.

Plan ahead – If time permits, take a look at the menu before you arrive. Conveniently, most restaurants have their menus online. Take time to look at the menu before you arrive and identify some healthy options in advance.  If attending a gathering at someone’s home, volunteer to take some healthy dishes to share with others, like vegetables and whole grains.

Don’t rush – Allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination. When we rush, we set off an entire chain of neurological stressors within our bodies. These stressors don’t just fade away when we arrive. We carry our stress into our activities and stress influences all of our choices, including our food choices.

During the Gathering:

Take a Moment – Before you eat, take a moment to check in and make you are present and aware of your environment. This is one of the many benefits of blessing our food before we eat. It acts as a mindful transition between the busyness of preparing the food and setting the table to the act of enjoying the food. Preparing the food and eating the food require very different energy. When preparing the food, you are often rushing and attempting to complete multiple tasks at once. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and digestion has been shut down. When you are eating your food, you want to be calm and at ease to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus signaling your body to re-prioritize digestion.

Food Sequencing – Make wholesome, nutritious food the priority and eat those foods first. Begin the meal with vegetables, whole grains, and salads. If you are going to have dessert or alcohol, eat your vegetables, proteins and healthy fats before to buffer the glucose spikes these foods can cause and also to temper your appetite before consuming high-sugar food choices.

Avoid empty calories – Desserts and alcohol are generally highly caloric and not nutrient-dense, so you’ll want to avoid or minimize consumption. In addition, sauces and salad dressings can be laden with sugar and unhealthy fats so you may want to skip these or ask for these condiments on the side, so you can consume them in moderation.

Slow down – It takes a while for your brain to recognize when you’ve had enough to eat, so you want to eat slowly to allow the brain time to get the message. Often times when we are eating with family and friends, we become so consumed with the conversation that we lose track of how much we are consuming. Be cognizant of this while sitting at the table and make it point to eat slowly and mindfully.

Stop Before You’re Stuffed – I know this one seems like a no-brainer. Many times, we are enjoying our food so much that we don’t stop eating even after we know we are full. We stuff in a few extra bites after our brain is signaling that we are full. Do not overburden your digestion. Many people feel obligated to finish everything on their plate. This may be residual conditioning from our childhood. Give yourself permission to stop eating when you are full.

After the Gathering:

Take a walk – It’s important to take at least 100 steps after each meal, especially a large holiday meal. Walking will raise your metabolism, improve digestion and encourage peristalsis. If you cannot take a walk, help clean the kitchen and clear the table. Any moderate movement after a meal can be helpful.

Sit tall – If you must sit after a large meal, be sure to sit up tall with posture aligned to avoid compressing the abdomen. When we slouch, we create compression through the front side of our body which impacts our digestive system and makes it harder to digest our food. If and when you sit, sit tall with your spine properly aligned in an upright position to aid your digestion. Sit either cross legged which is said to divert energy from the legs into the digestive tract and heart center. If you cannot sit cross legged, sit with your feet on the floor. The contact with earth helps to ground the body and increase the downward moving energy which signals peristalsis.

Continue to hydrate – Your body needs water to aid in digestion. Casually sip water; don’t chug. Ideally, the water should be warm or room temperature. Stop drinking 2-3 hours before bed to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night.

Enjoy – Finally, enjoy your meal. Don’t stress about any of this. Breathe calmly and deliberately. Enjoy the company of your friends and family!

Pitta Pacifying: Tips to Beat the Heat

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Summer is almost over but the hot days are still here. Here are some tips to help you cope with the persistent heat.

Ayurveda recognizes that we are intricately connected to our environments. We are constantly absorbing and consuming information from our environments. The information is received through our five senses. The five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) are known as the 5 gateways. They are the five entry points to the body and mind. Everything we absorb or consume subtly affect our nervous system. The high temperatures affect our nervous system and the effects are reflected in our physiology and behaviors. Inflammation in the body is considered a sign of excess heat in the physiology. Bursitis, tonsillitis, pancreatitis, and other ailments that end in “-itis” are considered signs of excess heat. Anger, frustration, impatience are considered excess heat affecting the mind. We can use the 5 gateways to reset the nervous system and calm the body and mind Here are a few suggestions:


There are some images that calm the mind and others that aggravate the mind. Think of a clear, blue sea. How does it make you feel? In contrast, consider a busy highway with cars driving by aggressively and honking. Just imagining these scenarios will subtly affect your nervous system. Could you feel the effect?

Your body responds to the real experience and the imagined experience in almost the same way. Consider this as you think about how many of us sit in front of the television and watch a true crime story or the evening news as a form of relaxation? How do you think these viewing choices affect one’s nervous system?

Bringing more mindfulness into our choices can help calm the body and mind.


We all know that music has the power to heal. When we listen to music, we are absorbing sound waves. Those sound waves cause our cells to vibrate in a particular manner. Some sounds wave can be very calming to the body. Other sounds cause our cells to vibrate in a way that make us feel excitement, aggravation or the undeniable urge to dance! Some excitement is good for us!

Here is a calming playlist I created on Spotify:


In the Ayurvedic tradition, it is understood that there are 6 different tastes and each taste has a heating or cooling affect on the body.

The tastes that help to cool the body and mind are: sweet, bitter, and astringent. The taste that heat the body are: sour, salty, and pungent (spicy). When Ayurveda recommends sweet, they are not referring to cupcakes or ice cream, but rather fruits like apples (sweet), pears, avocados and coconuts. Whole grains such as wheat berries, bulgur and basmati rice are considered sweet. Even some vegetables are considered sweet. Sweet vegetables include zucchini, peas and potatoes. Green leafy vegetables are bitter as are broccoli and celery. Astringent is more of a property than a specific taste. Pomegranates, chickpeas, unripe banana, green apples and okra are considered astringent. In the summer or times when our body is showing signs of excess heat, it is recommended that we favor foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent. These foods will help to cool the body and mind.


Multiple studies have proven that touch can accelerate healing and encourage relaxation, pain relief and general comfort. Scheduling a massage everyday may not be practical, but a quick foot massage can also be helpful. Ayurveda teaches that the energy lines of all the major organs course through our feet, so when we gently massage our feet we are calming the organs.

Some oils are cooling and others are heating. Oils that are best suited for pitta are: coconut, sunflower and olive oil. Simply massaging cooling oil onto your feet before bed can help the body relax.

Note: You may want to allow enough time for your feet to absorb the oil before climbing bed or place a pair of socks on your feet to protect your bed sheets from the oil.


Smell is the most primivitive of the senses. Aromas and scents directly affect the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus influences many bodily functions such as sleep cycles, blood sugar, body temperature and emotions. This is why aromatherapy can be so effective. Cool, soothing and sweet scents such as: sandalwood, mint, rose, lavender, jasmine, ylang ylang all pacify pitta. A simple way to utilize the power of smell is to Invest in a diffuser, and use it in your office and personal space.

Savasana: A Part of the Life-Death-Life Cycle

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Life offers many different experiences. We will have adventures that make our heart soar, encounters that make us giggle with delight, losses that are heartbreaking and setbacks that make us question who we are. We are forced to re-evaluate our goals, our actions and ourselves, time and again. We are inspired or perhaps, frightened into assuming new approaches and to find new ways to live to keep ourselves safe and sane. 

This is the human experience. All of life – in the animal kingdom, the plant world, and the human race – is subject to what is called: The life-death-life cycle. 

One moment we can be flying high and the next we are on a quick panicked downward tumble. Life presents us with lot of ups and downs and how we deal with all the turns and twists of life will determine our happiness and sense of well-being.

A yoga class is a metaphor for life. As we practice our asana, we may experience moments of feeling quite glorious and accomplished, only to feel completely humbled by the next posture. We work through the asanas and settle into Savansana at the end of class. As we lay there on the floor, most of us feel restless because “laying around and doing nothing” is seriously discouraged in our culture. In addition, when we lay around, awake and alert, we are left with our thoughts. For some of us, that does not feel like a safe place. For these reasons and others, Savasana can be one of the hardest of all postures.  However, if we can master Savasana, then it is said that we can gain more mastery over life. 

Savasana is Sankrit for corpse pose or dead man’s pose. The objective of the posture is in the name. Savasana is the practice of “dying” or letting go of our old self. To master Savasana, we must let go of the ego, our desire to control things and just be. Savasana is a sacred pause between our yoga practice and picking ourselves up and carrying on with our lives. 

In Savasana, we allow the benefits gained from the asana practice to trickle down deep into our cells. We allow the deep relaxation to bring forth the deep wisdom from the shadows of our mind to the forefront, from the subconscious to the conscious mind. We gently let go of the false roles we have assumed and allow ourselves to rise from our mat more aligned with who we truly are.  It is similar to life; we must let go of old experiences, emotions, and limitations to ascend to new heights. 

It is recommended that you allow 15-20 minutes for Savasana at the end of each yoga session. Allowing 15-20 minutes can be extremely challenging, so I encourage slowly lengthening your Savasana in your personal practice.

Nutrition: The Fundamentals

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March is National Nutrition Month.

In my role as holistic lifestyle director at an integrative clinic, I felt I needed to learn more about nutrition since nutrition is a cornerstone of health.  In 2021, I completed an online Nutritional Science Course offered by Stanford Medicine. The program was a lot more intense than I had anticipated. It included a lot of chemistry, lots of scientific facts and research. I do not know what I was thinking. The word, “science” was right there in the title. I had to write weekly essays and multiple case studies with proper AMA citations for the first time in what felt like forever. I had inadvertently jumped into the deep end of the pool and felt like there was no retreat. I learned a lot not only about nutrition, but also about myself. :0)

I won’t bore you with all the nutritional details, but here is the conclusive lesson from the program: Eat more plants. 

Here are the fundamental nutritional guidelines from Stanford Medicine. 

What to Eat: 

  1. Consume a variety of vegetables and fruits every day. Make half of each plate vegetables and fruit, mainly vegetables. Vegetables and fruit will ensure you are consuming fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. 
  2. Consume legumes regularly. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein and fiber. 
  3. Consume whole grains. Choose whole grains over refined grains as often as possible. Whole grains will provide fiber and all the valuable vitamins and minerals that have been stripped from refined grains.
  4. Consume small amounts of dairy. Diary is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and protein, but you only need small amounts. Choose fat free or low-fat dairy. 
  5. Consume healthy proteins. Legumes, soy, nuts, fish, eggs, and poultry are excellent sources of protein. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna offer omega 3 fatty acids and are good for cardiovascular health. Lean red meats in small amounts can be a healthy source of protein. Incorporate plant protein into your diet regularly for it does not contain cholesterol and it has little to no saturated fat. 
  6. Consume healthy fats and oils. Unsaturated fats such as fish, seeds, nuts, olive oil and avocado oil are better for you than saturated oils. 

What to Limit: 

  • Added sugar: Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. 
  • Saturated Fats: Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.
  • Trans Fats: Keep trans fats to a minimum.
  • Sodium: Limit sodium consumption to 2300mg per day.

First New Moon of the New Year!

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Harness the Expanding Energy of the Moon to Fortify Your Success

Saturday January 21st is the first new moon of the new year. The new moon initiates a period of expansion. The moon will grow brighter over the next few weeks until it reaches a full moon. The moon will then slowly fade back into darkness and the cycle begins again. The new moon ushers in a time of building and creating.

As the illumination of moon grows brighter, we are encouraged to work toward bringing our intentions to reality. We carry forth our dreams from the subconscious to the conscious, from the dark into the light of day. In this way, our actions are fortified, encouraged to grow and propagate in unison with the anabolic energy of the moon. This is a subtle, but powerful way of living in harmony with our planet. 

This is not a new concept. It has been practiced for hundreds of years. The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1818. Since then, farmers have used the almanac to plant their seeds in accordance with the cycle of the moon to achieve a bountiful harvest. Like plants, we too are biological beings responsive to the pull of the moon and tides. In the same way that a seed is planted in the dark, it is recommended that we plant our intentions in the obscured light of the new moon. 

More recently, scientists have been intrigued by the many effects the moon, sun and seasons have upon our human physiology. The research has been so extensive that it has merited the creation of a new term, chronobiology. In years past, you may have read about circadian rhythms. The study of circadian rhythms is a primary subject of chronobiology. 

Chronobiology is also a central tenet of Ayurveda, but since Ayurveda dates back 5000 years, the practices were developed long before the terms, “chronobiology” or “circadian rhythm” existed. There is much to be said about this fascinating subject both from the burgeoning scientific perspective and the Ayurvedic perspective. It is interesting to see how contemporary science bolsters some of these long-standing traditions. Ayurveda has a more nuanced and in-depth understanding on the subject. I am curious to see if future scientific research will continue to support the recommendations created by the sages of India who lived centuries ago. Time will tell. 

For now, let’s now focus on the how to utilize the expanding and constructive power of the moon. 

Here is the process I recommend: 

  1. As with every crucial endeavor, it is important to begin with stillness. In quiet stillness, it is easier to hear the gentle calling of the heart. It is easier to separate your true aspirations from those which have been placed upon you. For many of us, this is a difficult differentiation to make. We have grown so accustomed to caring for others and placing another’s needs ahead of our own that we cannot discern what is ours to solve and achieve and what is not. Establish clarity about what you truly want.
  2. With clarity, set forth a goal or intention. Start small. Be reasonable and gentle with yourself. Take time to ensure that the intention comes from a place of self-love rather than self-criticism. As a fitness instructor, I have heard so many people criticize their bodies. An example of a goal set from vaguely disguised, self-loathing would be, “I’m going to work out three days a week to get rid of this muffin top!” For this exercise, we want the goal to be aligned with our highest good.  To illustrate, choose to work out three times a week to honor your body, to feel exhilaration, to work up a sweat, to feel more energetic or to feel gratitude for being able-bodied and alive. You get the jest. I’m certain you’ll think of something. Whatever it is, be kind and loving with yourself as you set your intentions and goals. 
  3. If your goal is large and will require more than two weeks to achieve, isolate some actions that can be achieved in the next 14 days. Recall, we are working with the cycles of the moon, so break down large goals into smaller tasks. In truth, this ability to break down large goals into small achievable tasks is a basic skill required to achieve any goal. In this first attempt, I recommend working with a 14-day cycle, new moon to full moon so I am writing the article accordingly. You may also work with a longer cycle of new moon to new moon if you choose.  
  4. Next, write down your goal in a journal. If you can, set key milestones between now and the full moon, which will be on February 5, 2023.
  5. Every morning, review your goal and commit to yourself that you will utilize the day ahead to do what you can to move a bit closer to achieving your goal. 
  6. Every night after you have fulfilled the commitment you made to yourself, look at how the moon has grown brighter from the night before and smile knowing that your goal has also grown closer to becoming a reality. On the days, you were not able to achieve the tasks necessary to bring your dream a little closer to reality, be kind to yourself.  Step 5 and 6 allows us to continually reflect on our goal, so it remains present on our mind. It is not necessary to remind yourself throughout the day. The simple act of giving it your conscious attention briefly in the morning and evening will be enough to secure it in your conscious and subconscious mind.  Even when you are not thinking about your goal or actively working on it, the subconscious will be scanning your environment for opportunities to move you closer to your goal.  When opportunities arise, your subconscious mind will recognize them and prompt you to act. 
  7. At the very end of the day, take a moment to focus on why you’ve set the goal in the first place. Remember the goal was set with your highest well-being in mind. Go to bed; sleep peacefully trusting that everything is working in your favor. The next day begin the process by recommitting. Step 7 adds positive reinforcement and detachment. It is easy for us to get discouraged when things do not work out as we planned. However, I cannot tell you how many times my plans were completely ruined and what transpired in the end was so much better than what I had planned. 

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

Joseph Campbell

I am writing this on a Thursday afternoon as I sit on the beach watching the sun set eating crispy baked chickpeas, I made earlier today in the quaint little kitchen of my Gulf Coast home. 

There was a time when I spent a large portion of my waking hours in a high-rise office building overlooking a loud and bustling city scape. I was an up-and-coming corporate executive. My stress induced acne and digestive issues were tell-tale signs that I was defining “success” all wrong, at least for me. I did not want to spend hours behind a computer pushing a corporate agenda that I did not feel passionate about.  The strain and stress I observed in the people around me was palpable. I wanted to make a living in a manner that uplifted me and the people around me. At that time, I did not know what was possible, but I set an intention to transform my life many moons ago. Here I am years later incredibly delighted and grateful for how things have evolved.

I write this article in the hopes that it will expedite your trip from where you are to where you want to be.  Best Wishes and Namaste.