Clearing Up the Confusion

Will the real golden chia please stand up?

By Christopher Nyerges

The use of chia seeds in the diet has grown in popularity in the last few decades. It’s a nutritious seed that can be added to coffee, drinks, puddings, desserts and lots of other foods.

Inez Ainge wrote in an article, “Native Chia” (1967), that “chia has been proclaimed a high-energy food not only because it contains a high percentage of protein (30%), but because it also contains a natural enzyme which acts as a catalyst for the protein.”

A nutritional analysis done in 1964 shows 20.2% protein, 34.4% oil and 5.6% ash, as well as significant amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and traces of other minerals common to most seeds.

This golden chia is a native to Southern California and the Southwest generally, and it is not the chia commonly sold in all health food stores, so let’s try to clear up that confusion.

Golden chia — salvia columbariae — received significant public attention in the 1950s and ’60s, due to the writing of Harrison Doyle, mostly in Desert magazine.

He authored the self-published book “Golden Chia: Ancient Indian Energy Food.” He also cultivated the seed for sale, and encouraged others to do so. Doyle writes, “As a boy in Needles, California, I played with the Mohave Indians my own age. I ate their foods, ran long-distance races with them, rode their colorful Indian ponies bareback, whacked a tin can around the yellow silt flats in the ancient game of shinny. I remember some of the Indian boys telling me (I was interested in long-distance running at the time) that Indian runners sometimes ran all the way to the coast on trading expeditions with the Coast Tribes, carrying gourd shells containing water and a handful of chia seeds to sustain them.”

Harrison also frequently mentioned the writing of Dr. J.T. Roth-rock, botanist and surgeon of the Wheeler United States Geographical Survey of 1875. Rothrock wrote that the chia was cultivated as regularly as corn by the Nahua races of ancient Mexico.

Of the seed, Rothrock writes, “An atole, or gruel, of this was one of the peace offerings to the first visiting sailors. One tablespoon of these seeds was sufficient to sustain for 24 hours an Indian on a forced march.” Harrison pointed out that this was most likely referring to Indian runners and traders in the desert Southwest.

As a result of the writings of Doyle, health food stores wanted to provide the seeds to their customers.

Though there had been some attempts to cultivate the native chia, a related plant, salvia hispánica, had already been in production in Mexico, and so this was the readily available seed that met the demand from health food stores. To this day, salvia hispánica is the majority of the “chia” that is sold in markets. Salvia hispánica seed resembles a tiny mottled pinto bean, usually dark gray or black but occasionally gray or nearly white. The native golden chia — S. columbariae — has a brownish or goldish-tan seed that is almost pyramidal in shape. Both seeds will form a gelatinous outer layer when soaked in water, nearly white.

Most objective studies indicate that whether you’re using the commercial chia (salvia hispánica) or whether you’re one of the rare ones who either grows or collects their own native chia (S. columbariae), you’ll be getting a top-quality nutritional seed either way.

Doyle reported in his book that he conducted several tests on himself of the native vs. the non-native commercial chia seeds. In general, he says, the golden chia seed produced a pronounced feeling of excess physical energy that he didn’t experience from the nonnative seeds.

Using the chia seeds

Indigenous people of the Southwest collected the seeds by bending the stems of the mature plants and shaking them into a finely woven basket. In a solid stand of the plant, a surprisingly large amount can be gathered in a short time. When I locate such a place, I usually just shake the heads into a small plastic collecting bag. You can then shake the seeds through a fine mesh screen to remove all foreign particles.

The seeds can be made into drinks by simply soaking for a few minutes in either hot or cold water or fruit juice and drinking as is. I add about a teaspoon to my daily coffee.

Almost tasteless, the seeds, when so used, are inexplicably refreshing. The Pomo Indians ground the seeds into meal and used as flour for small cakes or loaves. Today, many people mix the chia flour half and half with wheat flour to make bread. The seeds, like any other edible seeds, can also be sprouted and eaten as a fresh vegetable.

For dishes such as cereals, mush and soups, add two tablespoons of seeds per cup of water. As the mixture warms (chia doesn’t need to be cooked as do most cereal grains), the water will become mucilaginous. This tapioca-like food can be eaten as it is (or sweetened to taste with honey) or can be added as a smoothening agent or extender to pancake batter, biscuits, bread, ice cream, pudding, coffee, cold drinks and more.


The seeds, when eaten, are useful in gastrointestinal disorders and as an emollient. When drunk in tea or eaten, the seeds also aid bronchial and throat troubles. The seeds can be crushed between the fingers to produce an oil (generally called chia oil) for the skin.

Daniel Moerman, in his monumental “Native American Ethnobotany,” describes many of the edible and medicinal uses of the native chia. Among the Native Americans of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, a decoction made from the fresh or dried leaves has been used to relieve stomach troubles. The fresh leaves of all members of the mint family, including chia, abound in volatile oils contained in resinous dots in the leaves and stems.

Recognizing the golden chia plant

Mostly oblong-ovate in overall outline, each leaf varies from one to several inches long. Each leaf is bipinnately divided; that is, the margin is indented into segments along a common axis, and each segment is further pinnately divided. The leaf surface is finely wrinkled and covered on both sides with tiny fine hairs. The leaves, mostly basal, grow in opposite pairs — generally two or three pairs of leaves per stalk.

The small, typical mint-family flowers are blue, two-lipped, about half-inch long, and clustered into round whorls along the stalk(s). There are usually one to four whorls per stalk, with numerous sharply pointed purplish bracts at the base of each whorl. The plant is usually in flower from March through June, though sometimes a few random plants will be found flowering into summer.

The seeds are best collected in July and August when recently matured, but before strong winds or rains have shaken them onto the ground.

Golden chia, salvia columbariae, is native to California and is commonly found in the high-desert regions (1,500 to 4,000 feet elevations). The plant is found in the deserts, chaparral areas, foothills and yellow pine belts of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

The commercial chia (S. hispánica) is native to Mexico and South America.

Christopher Nyerges is an educator and author of 22 books, several of which have chapters on the native chia plant. More information can be found at

Finding That Balance

The Strength Shoppe clients become stronger in 20 minutes a week

By Leah Schwartz

Melinda Hughes suffered from scoliosis and knee pain until she discovered SuperSlow strength training 15 years ago.

The workout resulted in her feeling more energetic during the day and experiencing a more restful sleep each night. The then-27-year-old noticed her chronic pain had disappeared and her back felt much stronger. Her scoliosis also wasn’t as pronounced because she safely corrected muscular imbalances.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” she says.

“But the science made sense to me, based on my studies of the human body as I earned my master’s in nutrition. I took a chance and tried the workout. Right away, I could tell the difference. In only a few months, my knee pain, which was diagnosed as genetic, was completely gone. It was just a matter of strengthening the muscles.”

After working as a strength training instructor at her mentor’s studio, Hughes stepped out on her own and opened The Strength Shoppe in 2011 to bring the benefits of high-intensity strength training to clients in Pasadena. Six years later, she opened a second studio in Echo Park.

Hughes said the slow-motion, high-intensity strength training technique used at The Strength Shoppe is successful because it is safe and effective. 

“You’re lifting the weight slowly and lowering it slowly,” she adds.

“You’re not using momentum to lift the weight, so you work the muscles very intensely. You never lock out or completely straighten your joints, and you never set the weight down. From the beginning to the end of the exercise, your muscles are working to the point of muscle failure. Lifting to the point of muscle failure does not allow the muscle to rest, which causes the muscle to become stronger.”

The exercise form works, she says, because SuperSlow causes little tears to the muscle fiber. The muscle, which is attached to bone, tugs at the bone, causing a stimulus to the bone tissue.

“We don’t actually become stronger during a workout,” she says.

“A workout makes us temporarily weaker, and the body’s response to this stimulus makes us stronger. It’s necessary to offer a meaningful stimulus and equally necessary to allow the recovery time needed for the body to repair and become stronger.”

During the rest period between workouts, “growth hormones are released, osteoblasts are released, and the body recovers from the workout.”

But for the recovery process to be most effective, the stimulus provided must be significant.

“It’s like your skin,” she explains. “If you scrape your knee, your skin is going to repair itself pretty quickly. In a day or two, it’s done. If you cut your skin to the bone, it’s going to require more days for the body to repair the skin tissue and heal that wound.”

Hughes said those who use traditional exercise and work out too often without allowing the body to recover are more susceptible to cold, flu, sickness and injury.

She maintains SuperSlow training is perfect for those who want to get the maximum benefit of exercise in a minimal amount of time. The Strength Shoppe trainers work with many clients who are busy parents and those who work long days or travel frequently.

This form of exercise was developed for osteoporosis patients in their 90s and is safe enough for those with medical conditions and injuries.

“Weight training has long been known to be the only way of halting progress of osteoporosis and reversing it aside from medication, but traditional strength training poses too high a risk of fractures for those with low bone density,” Hughes says.

Hughes and her team work with their clients at the Pasadena and Echo Park studios as well as online in virtual appointments on Zoom or FaceTime. The Strength Shoppe clients range in age from 11 to 92. Parents send their children to The Strength Shoppe so they understand how to take care of their body and feel good about it, Hughes explains.

Clients De and Pat Alcorn have been going to The Strength Shoppe since its opening. De remarks that this method of lifting is not something to pass up. There’s “such little time required. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I got stronger and stronger, and I was in my 80s at the time, and I’m 90 now. The Strength Shoppe is something I wouldn’t do without anymore. It’s just made a big difference. Without it, I think I would be a lot less healthy than I am right now.”

Pat agrees.

“I’m not one for exercise,” Pat says. “So, it started out with me not being very enthusiastic. But I feel that it has been such an important thing in my life. It’s almost like a physical therapy session for me, so I wouldn’t miss it.

“I’ve had a couple of health setbacks in the past couple of years. When we first started, I was gaining strength, especially in my upper body. The trainers were able to work around my health setbacks, and it helped me recover quickly.”

De says Hughes is a wonderful person to work with, and the trainers are excellent. 

“They’re very patient, thorough, easy to work with, cognizant of our condition, and attentive to their clients. And they’re just very friendly people and professional,” De explains.

SuperSlow training is based on scientific research.

“Doctors advise their patients to try strength training before knee replacement surgery,” Hughes says. “The healing after the knee replacement surgery goes better if you’re stronger. The after care is easier.”

Client Pam Craig says she came to The Strength Shoppe “using a cane to walk. I couldn’t stand without pain in my knee. Now it’s years later, I still come every week. I walk without a cane. I stand without pain. I still have almost no cartilage in my knee, but the stronger lower body muscles compensate. This training has literally saved me.”

According to two separate studies conducted by renowned fitness researcher Dr. Wayne Westcott, “slower repetition speed may effectively increase intensity throughout the lifting phase while decreasing momentum.” 

Westcott and his team of researchers concluded “in both studies, SuperSlow training resulted in about a 50% greater increase in strength for both men and women than regular speed training.”

Furthermore, due to the safety of slow movements, “SuperSlow training is an effective method for middle-aged and older adults to increase strength.”

Lifelong lifter Blake Boyd turned to The Strength Shoppe after experiencing neck pain in 2018. Boyd asserts, “It didn’t happen overnight, but after a couple months of strength training one day a week, my neck has never hurt since. It’s very cathartic work. Physically, it’s also very safe because you’re going super slow.

“I had both my hips replaced. That was two years ago. My trainer and I figured it out about six months ago that since the surgery, my lower body strength is up about 30%, and I’m 56.”

For further education, Hughes uses her Master of Science in holistic nutrition to create educational workshops and courses with her husband/co-owner, Arjen van Eijmeren, to offer clients of The Strength Shoppe a one-stop shop for all things health related. Clients access these programs through an online portal.

“Our goal is to help people expand the physical capability of their bodies so they are able to do all the things they want to do in their lives,” Hughes says.

“Your body shouldn’t limit you. Your body should give you the strength and ability to achieve your full potential and live your best life.”

The Strength Shoppe

350 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 105, Pasadena

305 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles

Yoga for Everyone

Cheri and Erich Ehrlich make the practice accessible

By Laura Latzko

For the wife-and-husband team of Cheri and Erich Ehrlich, their inclusive, energetic, full-sensory workouts are designed to provide the mind-body experience of yoga that everyone deserves. 

That belief guides them with their franchise studio, YogaSix Pasadena. 

“Our mission was always to build a community that is open to anyone who wants to come in and practice,” Cheri says. “There is a lot of fear when people talk about yoga studios. Many potential students say, ‘I’m not good enough to take a yoga class. I’ve never done it before.’ Our goal is to take the fear out of it.”

The couple opened the studio in October 2021. Previously, they were in the wholesale and retail apparel business. Cheri was an executive at Macy’s for over 25 years and Erich was in the wholesale business in Los Angeles. She says they were looking for a change when they approached YogaSix. 

“We stepped back and said, ‘We want to do something great in the community.’ We researched YogaSix and really liked it. It was welcoming to anyone. You didn’t have to have a ton of experience to come in and benefit from doing yoga. That was our big draw to purchasing the franchise.”

The YogaSix franchise is part of a larger company, Xponential Fitness, which shares information through weekly calls, emails and recaps. Fellow YogaSix owners learn from each other. “We meet with other owners to share ideas and help each other out,” Cheri says.

Cheri is a yoga practitioner who started with Bikram yoga about 15 years ago. Yoga is newer to Erich, who underwent a knee replacement several years ago. He has witnessed the benefits of yoga and become more flexible. It even helped his golf game. 

Cheri says it was arduous getting the word out about the studio at first. Word-of-mouth advertising has been important. It also helped that they moved into a space previously occupied by YogaWorks. 

“Our best advertisement comes from our members,” she says.

“Check out our reviews on Google and Yelp to really understand what the studio has to offer.”

The studio uses lights, music and heat (warm and hot) to create a full sensory experience. The state-of-the-art practice room is equipped with a UV air filtration system that purifies the air throughout each class. 

At the end of each class, students are greeted with a chilled, moistened eucalyptus towel to refresh and relax.

Y6 has its own language formula; it’s its vinyasa-based cueing style that utilizes breath, action, body part, direction and pose name to guide all the movements and transitions in any YogaSix class, creating clear, concise and direct communication with each student. 

“We are always talking about the breath and where to place your hands and your feet,” Cheri says. “We build from the ground up so that you aren’t constantly looking around at other students, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re able to really focus on your practice. In doing that, you can achieve your own personal goals.”

Building community

The best part of practicing yoga is practicing with a friend, Cheri says. Many clients attend classes with close friends or groups. Some even make yoga part of a night out. 

“When we first opened, maybe six months in, we had a group of friends who met at the studio, and after yoga, they would go out for dinner together,” Cheri says. 

Many members go to the studio multiple times a week. Others take multiple classes in one day.

Yoga has so many benefits; it’s known to help with flexibility, strength, stress management, restful sleep, heart health, energy level and mood elevation. 

“Most people fit into these areas, whether they want to build strength, work on flexibility, manage pain, or work on mindfulness and relaxation,” Cheri says. “Depending on their experience and other activities, we provide a road map to assist them in taking their first weeks of classes. We want our members to continue to make progress and achieve their goals.”  

When new students arrive for their first class, they are welcomed with their name on the chalkboard. Cheri, Erich or one of the wellness advisers take them on a tour of the studio and introduce them to the teacher. 

“We provide that special connection so that the student is set up for success from the very beginning. The teacher helps the student set up their mat, secure the props from the back, and inquiries about any injuries,” Cheri says.

Varying experience

The teachers at the studio range in experience level. Some are newer to teaching, while others have been practicing and teaching yoga for over 10 years. All instructors must have their 200 hours Yoga Alliance training before teaching at YogaSix. They also participate in “bridge training,” where they learn the Y6 methodology. Teachers must be signed off on each of the six class formats before leading a class. 

Each of the six core yoga classes has a specific focus and produces specific body benefits. 

Y6 101

The perfect class if you’re brand new to yoga or looking to ease back into your practice. Vinyasa. Warm room. This is a launching class for other classes.  

Y6 Slow Flow

A slower-paced (but still challenging) vinyasa class, enjoy more time to transition and experience postures as you flow. Warm room, all levels class, fewer postures; more time to hold. 

Y6 Restore

The ultimate recovery class… slow down, stay low to the ground, and open the major muscle groups of the body. Warm room (85-90 degrees). Great counter-class for those doing high-intensity sports or sedentary lifestyle. 

Y6 Hot

Flow, strengthen and stretch in our set sequence in a heated room (105 degrees). Come hydrated. All levels. Type A personality, working professionals. New to yoga, but not new to fitness. 

Y6 Power

A faster-paced, fun and challenging vinyasa class, you’ll develop strength, focus and flexibility while having fun. Vinyasa style but not a set sequence. Rocking playlist. 

Y6 Sculpt & Flow

The class to build strength, cardiovascular health and endurance by using dumbbells, bands and bodyweight exercises. Fitness focus class. 

The studio offers memberships based on the number of days you plan to practice on a weekly basis. There are four times a month, eight times a month and unlimited memberships, as well as an all-access studio pass that allows guests to visit the over 150 YogaSix studios around the United States. There are also single and 10-class packages available.

YogaSix Pasadena

277 W. Green Street, Unit 110, Pasadena


‘Turning the Corner’

Gabby Giffords named Rose Parade grand marshal

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Former Arizona State Rep. Gabby Giffords was named the 2023 grand marshal by Tournament of Roses President Amy Wainscott. 

Giffords’ remarkable recovery from traumatic injuries epitomizes the 2023 theme, “Turning the Corner,” according to Wainscott.

The announcement was a celebratory event on the front steps of Tournament House in Pasadena, 80 days before the Rose Bowl Game and Rose Parade presented by Honda, both on January 2.

“It’s a tremendous honor to serve as the grand marshal of the 134th Rose Parade,” Giffords says in a statement.

“I love the theme of ‘Turning the Corner’ — the idea that we all can make a conscious decision to go in a different direction, toward something better. This philosophy of moving ahead is one that I’ve tried to embody both in my personal journey of recovery since being shot in 2011 and in the fight for gun violence prevention that has become my life’s work.” 

Wainscott says she is looking forward to hosting Giffords. 

“We are just over the moon thrilled to have Gabby as our grand marshal,” she says. 

“It all starts with our theme, ‘Turning the Corner,’ and I can’t think of anybody who is more of a hopeful, optimistic person that embodies that theme.”

There’s a second Tucson tie to this year’s parade. The Catalina Foothills High School marching band is going to participate in the parade. 

“It’s a great coincidence that we have the high school and Gabby Giffords in our parade,” Wainscott says. “They’re under the direction of Renee Shane Boyd, who is another incredible female.”

To choose Catalina Foothills, Wainscott traveled to Tucson in the spring. She also encourages the community to help fund the band’s trip to Pasadena. 

“We visit all of our bands and bring awareness to the community that they’ll be traveling to Pasadena,” she says. 

“They have to pay their way to get to Pasadena. We were there this spring, and we were able to visit with the students who are amazing musicians and the boosters, the administrators at the school and the community. (Artist) Diana Madaras had a fundraiser, and Gabby said she knew her. It all came full circle for us.”

Giffords was the youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate, representing the community in the Arizona Legislature from 2000 to 2005 and then in Congress from 2006 to 2012.

On January 8, 2011, at a “Congress on Your Corner” constituent event in Tucson, Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman who killed six people and injured 12 others. She stepped down from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery. Giffords embarked on a path to regain her ability to speak and walk.

“The idea of ‘turning the corner’ also resonates from a national perspective,” Giffords says.

“Our country has faced multiple years of a deadly pandemic and political rancor. Yet medical advances and bipartisan compromise have helped us to take steps toward a better future, even if these steps aren’t always as quick or as sure as we would like them to be, but I’ve learned the importance of incremental progress — and that progress starts with having the courage to hope and then to act on that hope.” 

In 2013, after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Giffords co-founded the organization now known as Giffords. 

During the past several years, the organization has made gun safety a kitchen table issue for voters. Giffords has worked hard to pass legislation in states across the country and at the federal level. This summer, Giffords was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” a documentary from the filmmakers behind “RBG,” premiered this year and is now available to stream at home on demand.

“I’m extremely grateful to follow in the footsteps of the many distinguished grand marshals in the parade’s history and to blaze my own path forward,” Giffords said.

“Thank you so much to Tournament of Roses President Amy Wainscott and to the board of directors for this privilege, and I look forward to being at the parade on January 2.”