Veterans helping Veterans find solid ground and acceptance: Mindful Warrior Retreats recap

On Saturdays January 6th and 13th, Emanuel (“Manny”) Salazar and I led our second and third Mindful Warrior Retreats for over 25 Veterans. The experience was incredible; the open-mindedness, whole heartedness, and dedication of the Vets was astounding; and the ripple effects of this program? Unknown.

On both days, Veterans came in unsure of what they had gotten themselves into. We began with breakfast, conversation, and a whole lot of laughs. Turns out a lot of Veterans have quite the trucker mouth! I was smiling from ear to ear almost the entire time.

After breakfast, I led a Nutrition Lecture. In both cases, it was supposed to last an hour but stretch for nearly 2 1/2! There we so many good questions, SO much misinformation to clear up, and such a hunger (pun intended) for healthy change. Ama girl, if you’re reading this, you were such an inspiration to me with all of your vulnerability and readiness girl. I need you to know that!

Following the lecture and lunch, we got down to the real business. Informed by Suzanne Manafort’s empirically-proven Mindful Yoga Therapy Program, I led participants in a trauma-informed yoga class featuring meditation, pranayama, movement, and relaxation. As you can see, by the end these Vets were all in on the savasana!

Toward the end of the day, Manny led everyone in the most insanely calming Yoga Nidra I have ever taken. I was deep into my semi-conscious state, straight chilling, in 90 seconds flat. Many of our Vets were snoring – getting some much needed sleep given that insomnia is a very common side effect of PTSD.

After Nidra, it was time for our Peace Circle and ritual closing ceremony. The stories our Veterans shared, the wounds they offered up to be let go…well it broke your heart and made it soar all at the same time. Everyone seemed palpably lighter as they got up to go.

Every day more than 22 veterans take their own lives in large part because they are not receiving the support they need to heal the scars from their service to our country. Take that in for a moment. Twenty-two human beings – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, community leaders, and more. The Mindful Warrior Retreat Program was founded, by veterans for veterans, in order to fill this support void through trauma-informed retreats. Utilizing a variety of holistic wellness modalities, the MWR program aims to bring hope and health back to thousands of veterans, their caregivers, and Gold Star Families with regular retreats that address mind, body, and spirit. We’ve got a strong start. Now we just need to keep going.


To learn more about what you can do to participate and/or help please email me at

Something for Sundays: Nourishing Miso Breakfast Soup

Miso Breakfast Soup - Move Well DC

One of my all-time favorite detox recipes is this Nourishing Miso Breakfast Soup. Okay, okay, so it’s not exactly a big batch recipe – though you could totally prep all ingredients except the eggs, broth and miso in advance of your work week – but it is easy like Sunday mornings are supposed to be. In under 30 minutes (20 once you get it down), you’ll have a warm, healthy and savory breakfast that will change the way you thing about this meal. If you simply can’t get behind the soup for breakfast thing, this also makes a super quick and convenient weeknight dinner. Go on, get outside your box and try something a little different!

Something for Sundays - Move Well DC - Nourishing Miso Breakfast Soup

Something for Sundays: Roasted Fennel & Butternut Squash

Amy Rizzotto Butternut Squash Move Well DC

Big batch recipes are where it’s at! Save yourself time, money, and brain space by making a sheet pan full of roasted vegetables, 4-5 servings of a healthy whole grain, and a pot full of beans or lentils at the start of each week to make workweek meals easy peasy. You can think of the recipe below like a formula – swap the veggies out for others you like (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc) and change up your spices (cumin, red pepper flakes, curry, etc). Just be sure to keep an eye as you roast different combinations as some vegetables might not need as long to cook. Look for golden brown bits around the edges and avoid letting your vegetables get black and burnt – no carcinogens please!

Something for Sundays - Move Well DC - Butternut Squash and Fennel

Something for Sundays: Papaya Coconut Granola

Work weeks are hectic and weekends are no longer for rest – at least that’s the way I’m feeling these days. In an effort to fit it all in we have less and less time for essentials like sleep, feeding ourselves and down time. What would happen if we all set aside just a few hours, once a weekend, to stay in, read a book, make some food and just plain relax?

Big batch recipes are a great use of our limited down time – good bang for your (time) buck! With that in mind, I’m launching a new series on my blog “Something for Sundays” to provide big batch recipe ideas that will help you maximize your relaxation time. You may have to hang around the house – dare I suggest, read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a podcast – but you won’t have to be too hands on with these recipes. First up…

Move Well DC Papaya Coconut Granola Recipe


Foods to Fight Cancer

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched deeply and irreversibly by cancer. The disease – in all its many forms – is not kind, patient, or forgiving. It is surprising, frightening, and debilitating – yet so many of those diagnosed are the strongest, fiercest, bravest and most compassionate among us. Whether you have been directly or indirectly effected by some form of cancer, you can help protect and heal your body through food. Below is a quick list of what to eat and cook with and what to avoid when it comes to prevention and holistic treatment.


  • Ginger root
  • Turmeric root
  • Curry
  • Green tea
  • White tea
  • Spinach, kale, swiss chard, beet greens and collard greens (and all dark, leafy greens)
  • Salmon/fish in general
  • Lean meat – unprocessed chicken, turkey and pork (not the fatty cuts though like bacon or belly)
  • Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet and teff (or any whole, gluten-free grain)
  • Organic veggies (and if this is crushing your bank account just buy the ones on the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list organic and the rest conventional)
  • Fruit in limited quantities (no more that 3 servings per day, follow the Dirty Dozen list as well, stick to low glycemic fruits like barely ripe bananas, berries, and tart apples)
  • 2% plain yogurt
  • Folate, calcium and vitamin D supplements (but talk to your doctor about this first)



  • Processed foods
  • Red meat and processed meat (like most sausages/hot dogs)
  • Desserts
  • Added sugar of any kind (I’m going to lump maple syrup, honey and agave in here)
  • Fried foods
  • Refined grains (like white bread)
  • Alcohol – it’s basically sugar


When cooking to fight and fend off cancer, keep your recipes simple. Try seasoning with warming spices (cumin, turmeric, curry, cayenne, chili, cardamom, coriander, red pepper flakes), citrus (fresh lemon or lime), olive oil, and salt and pepper. Strip away the the excess and eat whole, healthy, real foods. We should all eat this way as often as possible, cancer or not.

5 Poses in 5 Minutes: How to Fit Yoga into Your Hectic Schedule

Let’s be honest, there is never enough time in our schedules for something extra when the groceries need to be bought, our kid has a surprise sports practice, or the laundry has been neglected for another week. Again.

However, despite our crazy and ever-moving lives – five minutes, or an individual minute – is all we need to recollect and calm down to take on the next task. Here are five yoga poses you can do anywhere during the busiest times of your day.


  1. After you turn off your jarring (or peaceful) alarm: Reclining Spinal Twist

Goodness, does that back crack a cacophony in the morning! Wipe the tiredness from your eyes and don’t hit snooze. First, stretch your arms straight out to the sides – palms face down – and breathe out slowly. Next, bring one knee into the chest and straighten the other. Then, draw the bent knee across your body over the lengthened leg and breathe out. Place the opposite hand from the bent leg on top of the knee. Repeat on the other side.


  1. Making that morning cup of whatever gets you ready: Tree

What do you look forward to in the morning? Rise like a lovely little plant with Tree Pose to bring strength and balance to the start of your day. Draw energy from your core to place one foot on the inside of your thigh, calf or ankle and shift your weight into the standing leg. Slowly bring your hands to your heart in prayer, raise your prayer overhead, exhale navel to spine to find your center, and greet that morning sun rooting as you rise!


  1. Those long hours sitting in the office: Crescent Moon

While hustling is never-ending, a yoga break always does more good than harm. To reset during the work day, stand up with your feet hips width apart with your tailbone tucked toward the heels, bring both arms up into a prayer hand position overhead, then arch your body to the side. Repeat this movement on the opposite side of your body.


  1. While dinner is cooking: Warrior 2

Whether it’s microwavable Pad Thai or a pot of steaming vegetables, the minute waiting for the heat to start can be spent channeling your inner warrior. Celebrate your strength for you’ve once again tackled the day! Take a step back from the stove top and spread your legs three to four feet apart, with your right toes pointing straight forward and your back foot perpendicular to your front foot. Now, raise both arms out to the sides so that your arms are parallel to your right thigh. Gaze forward over your right fingertips. Repeat on the left side.


  1. Before beauty sleep: Child’s Pose

It’s a requirement to be comfortable in your favorite pajamas for this pose. Since you’re laying comfortably in bed, roll over to rest on your stomach. Keep your knees in place while you slide your hands under your shoulders and press back to rest your butt on the heels. With extended arms or with them tucked by your sides – you might find yourself wanting to sleep in this wonderful and relaxing position to put an end to the day. Stay as long as you like and unfurl into your favorite sleeping position when you’re ready.


Written by Rachel O’Conner. Rachel is an experienced content writer who has written for a variety of different industries, including fitness, business, travel, education, fashion and lifestyle. She enjoys practicing yoga, training for half marathons, and cooking in her free time. Learn more about her through her website and LindkedIn.

Monday Mocktails for Dry January

Well friends, I know many of us are going to feel the need to drink to get through this weekend. Whether you’re committed to dry January or just need to dry out this week in preparation for inaugural imbibing, I’ve got a few mocktails to keep booze-free beverages interesting.

I recently went on ABC7 Good Morning Washington to show DC what mocktails are all about. There are some serious health benefits to cutting out alcohol. Whether it’s a temporary or intermittent choice, or a permanent commitment, eliminating alcohol from your diet will improve your sleep, lessen stress and anxiety levels (it’s a depressant y’all!), and decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer. For those of you with New Years weight loss goals, steering clear of the bottle(s) will also do amazing things for your waistline.

If you’ve never tried going dry, give it a try – you’ll be amazed at how good your body and brain will feel!

Check out my mocktail recipes below:


To see the recipes in their full size visit Good Morning Washington’s website.

How to Deal: 3 Healthy Coping Strategies

As a yoga teacher, you’re taught to show up for class no matter what happens in your personal life and hold the space – sacred and safe – for your students. There are days where this is much harder than others. Today is a tough one. Really tough.

Like many of you out there, I am shocked, disappointed and admittedly a little scared of what the future holds for this amazing country I call home. While I am devastated on many levels, I am proud of that Nasty Woman I admire for handling the outcome with such grace, humility and strength. In light of her calm and peaceful processing of this momentous and painful turn of events, I too am inspired to cope with the fallout in the best way I know how. Time to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps (or shoelaces)!


Here are my 3 Healthy Coping Strategies for Shock, Disappointment and Fear:


1. Move your body. Not surprising this is my number one, but exercising is a powerful way to redirect your energy in a positive way, increase dopamine (feel good hormone) in the brain, and do something immediately good for yourself. It can be as simple as a brisk walk or run (no equipment required!), or your favorite yoga, HIIT or spin class. Get your mind off it for a while and come back to your reality with a more level-headed and peaceful disposition.



2. Read something that inspires you. Now is not the time to watch CNN, Fox News or whatever media outlet you prefer running 24/7 post-election coverage at nauseam. We have to move forward, one foot in front of the other, and must try to do so with an eye toward the change we can affect and the gratitude we can experience. My sweet mama reminded me of two such readings – one a quote, one a poem – that helped me immensely as I woke up to the news this morning:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
~Desmond Tutu


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks


Remember to remain open, loving, accepting and hopeful. We cannot control what others do – though we can certainly do our part to try and influence them for the better – so we must turn the focus onto our individual roles in affecting a greater good.


3. Do something of service. Whether that be putting together a basket of food for a thanksgiving meal drive; offering to watch your friend’s dog or babysit their children so they can have some time for self-care; volunteering for an organization like Girls on the Run; or any other compassionate act you can dedicate to someone in your community, near and/or far.


We all have something to give – time, money, talents – so put yourself out there. As Gandhi once said, we can make the world a better place one small, kind act at a time, and those small acts combine to radiate waves of love and acceptance far and wide.