Saturday, December 18, 2010

The new way of eating

OK. So this isn't a totally new way of eating.  It's not even a new way of eating for me.  I sort of accidentally ate this way while I was in Goa but never really got the hang of it here.

I've stopped eating dinner.  WHOA.  This is a big shift for me as someone who truly believes in three square meals a day.  I do take a small bowl of soup and maybe some fruit, but not the two giant servings of pasta that I used to.

Why?  Because my teacher told me to almost two years ago (maybe more) and now I'm finally ready.  I have a tendency towards heaviness, slowness, and lethargy.  I have VERY slow digestion (probably TMI, but I literally have gone an entire week without a bowl movement).

I'm not entirely sure what has finally shifted that I'm now in a place where I feel I can do this.  For one, it may be our new great big apartment where we actually have a dining room where we can sit down and take our meals mindfully.  In Beantown, we always ate in front of the TV because there was no where else to go.  Without the distraction of the big electric box, it's easier to really enjoy a nice bowl of soup and become satisfied by it.

I was also very inspired by my practice most recently at Yoga Pearl in Portland.  Being in vacation mode, really had me at my heaviest (not necessarily weight, but energetically).  That made me think that maybe I'm always much heavier than I need to be in the morning and my practice could be significantly changed if I change my eating patterns.

So far, I do feel a huge difference.  Not only is my practice lighter and smoother, but I'm also sleeping better and not waking up as tired.  I have not yet seen tangible effects in any of my problem poses (pasasana! and pinchamayurasana) but I feel if I make this a permanent change, I will.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Easy Greens and Quinoa Soup

This is something delicious that I threw together the other night as we were heading out to the supermarket.

One bunch of chard - cleaned, cut into bite sized pieces
one bunch of kale - cleaned, cut into bite sized pieces
a half cup of quinoa
one quart of homemade veggie stock
water to cover veggies and quinoa
2 cloves garlic minced

Throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for longer.  Your soup is ready.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, miso, hot pepper flakes, or nutritional yeast or any combo of the above.

snow delay!

This morning we're on a 2 hour snow delay.  It makes me laugh having lived in Boston for 10 years that we're delayed for about an inch of snow.  But I'll take it!

I took advantage this morning to do a longer practice: full primary and my intermediate poses combined.  Usually, I only practice intermediate during the week due to a lack of time.  When I do a combined practice it takes me about 2 1/2 hours.  I could probably go faster and cut out my intermediate research poses.  But I like my slower pace. 

I've also been experimenting with eating only soup for dinner and a larger lunch.  I definitely felt much lighter this morning during my practice and I didn't lose any steam.  I was able to sustain all the way to the end.  It felt really great.

The second space heater is also helping a great deal.  Good morning, good practice!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

everything is sore

Did I mention the butt-kicking I got from Portland?  I don't think so.  For one, we did a lot of walking throughout the beautiful city and straight up its hills to the Japanese zen garden. 

Butt-kicking number 2 - I took a vinyasa class.  I don't think I've taken a non-ashtanga yang style class in about 2 years. We did some stuff that I hadn't done in quite some time like side plank. 

Number 3 - I took a led intermediate ashtanga class. There's one word to sum up the experience: humbling.  There were poses in there, as a matter of fact most of those after karandavasana, that I had never done before.  And I totally flubbed karandavasana.  I had a little bit of stage fright because the teacher was assisting each of us in it while everyone else watched/waited.

Number 4 - I took Mysore with a new teacher. Every teacher will have something different that they will see in your practice.  Several years ago, I was told not to lower so far in chaturanga so as to keep my shoulders from sagging in.  This teacher saw this and asked me to lower as far as I could go and keep the elbows slightly out.  This definitely accessed muscles that I hadn't been using.  I'm feeling it in the shoulders today, but I think it's a good sore. 

These kinds of challenges are just what I needed to bring some new life into my practice.  Since I don't have a teacher here, I feel like when I do get to practice under a teacher, I soak everything up like a dry sponge. 

Portland, Oregon

There's so much to say about my trip this weekend to Portland, OR with Shawn.  But I'm exhausted.

So, I'll sum up.  Vinyasa, led intermediate, mysore style, yin all at Yoga Pearl. All amazing.  Beautiful studio. Amazing teachers. 

yoga pearl

Also, I read the Life of Pi during my various long flights.  I loved it.  A truly magical book.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Freedom

From Yoga Journal's sanskrit glossary:

Moksha ("release"): the condition of freedom from ignorance (avidya) and the binding effect of karma; also called mukti, kaivalya

It's a term I've been rolling around in my mind now for about a year and using it to inform a lot of big decisions in my life.  It's been serving me so well, that I got it tattooed on my wrist lest I forget.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Aging and Yoga

This morning while eating my breakfast and flipping through the channels I stumbled on a show on our local PBS channel called "Easy Yoga for Arthritis with Peggy Clappy."  More than an instructional video, it was a documentary of sorts where several people talked about the benefits that they received from yoga.  Amongst them were ease of pain and anxiety, and greater balance.  Here's a YouTube video by the same person:





And then this morning, coincidentally, the owner of the yoga studio where I used to teach posted her prom pictures.  I didn't know her then.  But I would say from the photos that she hasn't changed very much from 22 years ago.

Can yoga keep us from aging?  Of course not.  But does it make the process much more graceful and less violent then the alternative. Absolutely.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

what's up with alignment?

Ashtanga occasionally gets a bad rap for not paying attention to alignment.  It moves really fast, only five breaths per posture, so there isn't a ton of time for adjustments and detailed description.  You are literally supposed to enter and leave the posture on one breath.  The Primary Series also contains many challenging postures that require open hips and shoulder.  When practiced without awareness to alignment, the knees, wrists and shoulders take a beating.  Then there are also the folks who let their egos get the best of them and push too far in order to reach what they believe is the ideal posture.  They ignore their whining knees and shoulders and eventually get really hurt.

Then there's the different approaches to alignment.  The senior teachers will teach a posture with attention to one thing.  Then Mysore changed the approach to the posture and their successors teach with attention to something else.  Confused students receive contradictory instructions from different teachers.  That's not even to speak of the people who approach Ashtanga informed by other styles of yoga - Iyengar, Forrest, etc.

In my personal practice, I enjoy exploring alignment especially when I learn something new from a teacher I hadn't practiced with before.  Doing this has made me stronger. For instance in Urdva Dhanurasana I could easily take my heels with assistance from the second month I was doing Mysore practice.  However, when a teacher demonstrated to me that I was doing that by allowing my feet to go way out to the sides duck style and that my legs and core were actually quite weak in the pose, I began to explore ways to strengthen those areas, keep the feet parallel, and build a better posture.

When teaching, I give basic alignment cues - which direction should the toes point, where should your hands go, how much should the knees bend, etc.  But my philosophy is that the student should be comfortable and challenged and moving energy.  If they look like they might hurt themselves, I'll give alignment corrections.  If an alignment correction can help the student become more aware, I'll also give it.  After all, this is a practice based on the connection of movement and breath.  That's where I prefer to focus my attention.

When asked about which way was the "right" way to perform a certain posture, one of my teachers said, "well what do you want to feel?"  If you perform the posture with attention to one thing - for example, catching your toe in uttita triconasana, you receive the benefit of the bind, but you might not receive the opening in the hip.  So be aware of the difference and even practice the pose differently on different days depending on what you want to receive from the posture.

Teachers teach from their own experience.  I've been very fortunate to only get injured once by the practice.  I slipped a rib when I was first learning supta kurmasana.  As I was healing, I began to pay particular attention to the bandhas during my vinyasas.  I discovered that when I was aware of them and actively using them the pain in my ribs would subside. I continued to practice in this way and have remained injury free.  I use this information in my teaching.  In the end, I think that this is the same way that most teachers choose the points they focus on in class.

I guess what I'm getting to is that yes, alignment is important.  But not everyone will agree on it.  It can be a great tool to inform your practice and prevent injury. But it is not the only tool to use nor is it the most important one.

winter wonderland

We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland.  About an inch of snow fell overnight and everything is white and beautiful.

That means it's about time to bust out the puffy purpler Lululemon down coat and my Uggs.  I wasn't sure that either would come out of the closet here in the south. 


Tomorrow is a moonday which means that I have two days off from practice.  Instead of my usual Ashtanga practice, I'll practice Yin today and tomorrow.  I hope I'm not too creaky on Monday.  But maybe the rest is what I need to get my Kapotasana back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

wintry morning

It's finally starting to feel wintry here.  I rode my bike in to practice with my Ashtanga friends this morning.  I love the feeling of the cool crisp air on my face.  Riding in the cold also helps to warm up the muscles a bit before diving right into practice.

My practice this morning felt very good despite the massive amounts of turkey that I've been eating.  I was able to roll up to balance on the first try in ubaya padangustasana and urdva mukha paschimatanasana without bending my knees for the first time since the B12 crash.  That felt very good.  I'm also slowly building back up to 25 breaths in headstand. 

The neighborhood stray cat that has adopted us was waiting for me in our driveway when I got back. She's still sick but isn't sneezing green gunk. That was encouraging.  Even though it's pretty cold out, her gray fur is always warm from basking in the sun. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

small class, big love

I never quite know what to expect when I show up to teach my Saturday afternoon class.  I'm ready to rock full primary or break it down and take it easy depending on who shows up.

My classes here are teensy... so teensy that I was on the verge of giving up.  The last two classes were one-on-one with some very dedicated and enthusiastic students.  But I had to ask myself, at what point will no one show up?

So this afternoon I packed up my little Durga and my tea and headed off to class with the knowledge that I might be turning around to come right home.

But three students showed up! Two were students who had been to my class before.  The third was a new-to-ashtanga dude.  We had a great class together.  I really appreciated their dedication and effort in the practice.

Now, with my faith restored, I need to come up with a plan to grow my class.  I think I'll start with little fliers, some social media action...what else?  Time to brainstorm.

Friday, November 26, 2010

the last word on B12 - info for my veggie friends

Since my run in with B12 deficiency and nerve damage, I have drastically changed my diet.  For one, I'm giving myself a pass on being a vegetarian, at least until I've healed.  I still have tingly-ness in my right hand.  Occasionally in urdva padmasana, I lose control again of my right leg.

I've been taking a multi vitamin and a B12 supplement and definitely feel the difference. I'm also eating meat.  I'm sticking to free range and grass fed.  When I go to the doctor again in January, I'll ask for them to test my B12 levels again.  If it is back in the normal range, I'll go back to just fish and dairy.

Meantime, this is a good article about the B12 issue.  I was completely unaware of this problem until my leg suddenly stopped functioning.  For my friends who are vegetarian or vegan you should definitely read this:
http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/everyvegan.

I do believe that being a vegetarian is kinder to our bodies and to our earth and plan to return to that lifestyle once I've regained my health.  

got space heater?

Just as I was gloating yesterday over our beautiful 65 degree November weather, a cold front moved through.  We went from 65 to 27 overnight.  A small snow storm came with leaving a beautiful light powder on the ground.

We live in an apartment in a beautiful old Victorian home with high ceiling and deep windowsills.  Like most homes of this style, it is hardly energy efficient. The heat is controlled by the landlord who apparently sets it at a cool 60 degrees.  When I turn on my space heater for practice, it usually shows the temperature at about 58 or 59.

Usually, my heater will warm up the room to about 68. That's not ideal for practice, but it's not bad. This morning it struggled to get up to 64.  I kept on my long sleeve shirt but that got in the way of binds.  My feet stayed icy through the entire primary series and my shoulders wouldn't open up.

I think it's time to invest in a second space heater to help the tiny one I have.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Gratitude!

This morning I had an energetic practice.  To beat the cool temperature of my living room, I did full vinyasa between postures.  Since my injury and the cleanse, I haven't been able to catch my right heel in kapotasana.  But I am getting much closer.  With a little time and work, I'm sure that it will come back. 

Today I'm grateful for what my body can do.  I'm grateful that I am healthy and in good physical shape. 

I'm grateful that I have a loving family back in Pennsylvania, that they always support me, and that they accept me for who I am.

I'm grateful for the yoga community that I belong to, for the friendships that I've cultivated through it, and for the loving family of yogis and yoginis that I have throughout the world.


I'm thankful for this new city that I live in and my new friends and colleagues.

I'm thankful for the many years that I lived in Boston and to the enduring friendships that I built there.  I miss you all so much and send my love out to you.


I'm grateful for my husband who is generous and loving.  I'm grateful that he accepts and loves me for who I am.  I'm thankful that with him I always have someone to dance with and laugh with. 

I'm grateful that he's making our Thanksgiving dinner!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!  Much love to all of you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

come in royogini are you out there?

The long silence from this end has been due to a few different recent events.  Last week, I was at a conference in Philadelphia for my bills-paying profession.  There was not a lot of yoga related activity during the time I was there.  I packed my mat with good intentions, but the yoga studio there was holding a sold out workshop instead of Mysore-style practice and I was uninspired to do yoga in my hotel room.  I was inspired to over indulge with some friends that I haven't seen in a long time.  The brief departure from my yoga life was worth it.

Then last week I was participating in a professional development workshop through my job.  It was a week long "Humanity Academy" which addressed the topics of diversity and tolerance and becoming a change agent.  It was a really intense workshop as we were encouraged to look inward at our own biases and privileges.


Throughout the week, I kept coming back to a piece I had read about mindful speaking.  One tool to use is to ask these three questions: Is it kind? Is it true?  Is it necessary?  So much of what we say doesn't fit all three.  It's a great way to keep oneself in check especially in these kinds of forums.

I was also really impressed with the openness of the other participants.  Everyone came with an open heart and mind and was ready to share and learn.

But now I'm back and preparing for the holiday.  Last night I took a full moon restorative class with Romi of Yoga with Romi (www.yogawithromi.com).  She's an amazingly gifted teacher.  The class literally consisted of four postures that I easily could have done on my own.  With her guided imagery and gentle instruction, I left feeling completely blissful.  It's great to have such a wonderful teacher right here in Lexington.


That's just one of the many things that I'll be grateful for this Thanksgiving.  What are you grateful for?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

tortilla espanola

I'm following my glum post with something much more tantalizing...food!  This is my favorite thing to do with leftover potatoes - inspired by the Spanish dish tortilla espanola:

at least four medium leftover potatoes (cooked: baked or boiled - it even works if they have been seasoned or butter was added)
 lots of olive oil
two cloves of garlic
spices to taste
4 eggs
Peas (optional)

Coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil (do NOT be stingy!).  Heat the olive oil on medium high heat and add the garlic being careful not to burn. At this point you could also add spices like paprika or cumin.  Then add in your potatoes.  Leave them alone for about 10 minutes.  You want the potatoes to get really crusty on the bottom.  Beat the eggs together and pour over the potatoes.  If adding peas, do that now.  Cover with a lid and let cook for another 10 minutes or so. 

I used to perform acrobatics and attempt to flip the entire thing onto a plate to turn it over in the pan and cook the other side.  I've given up on that.  Only one side needs to be crusty.

Serve with some yummy bread and a light salad.

Fear

Fear is an amazingly manipulative emotion.  Even if you practice non-reacting and being in the present moment, as I have been trying to do for many years, fear is that last emotion that can really derail your hardwork and unsettle what you believe to be real and important. 

Yesterday was a big day for fear here.  When we got home last night after work there were several news vans parked across the street at a neighbor's house.  Being nosey, we scoured the internet news sites to try to find out what was going on.  What we found out was deeply disturbing.  Our neighbor's home had been brooken into around 10am while he was there.  The robbers tied him up and were apparently quite violent with him.  He is fine now but many valuable things were stolen.

Hearing this, my imagination ran wild. This was surely going to happen to us. I was looking for ways to better secure the doors (pushing a dresser in front of one came to mind).  Shawn was shopping online for weaponry. 

How did this all happen?  One minute, we weren't even thinking about home safety, the next we were shopping for guns.  Fear.  It's not like people's homes aren't broken into every day.  But somehow, having it across the street is good fodder for the imagination.  Before we knew it, we were wrapped up in this story, our hearts racing, and thinking wild thoughts.

I'm not saying that the things we imagined couldn't come true.  Sure they could.  As could any number of things that we haven't imagined. 

I could just "sit" with the fear rather than trying to do something to get rid of it.  I could meditate on fear, how it feels, what it does to me, etc.  Or I can booby trap my home. 

So where is the line between taking responsible measure to prepare/protect yourself and getting caught up in a story? 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Sunday

I love Sundays.  And today's an extra special Sunday since we turned the clocks back an hour.  The cats were apparently not informed of this and woke me up anyway.

One of my favorite things about Sundays is our group practice.  It's the only day that I get to practice with other people.  I stick to primary since that's what everyone else does.  I do a speedy version of primary to keep up with my practice buddies.  My kapha imbalance tends to make for a very slow practice.  So it's good for me to work a little faster once I week. 


After practice I make me and Shawn a big brunch usually with an omelet and some greens.  Then I set to my bread baking for the week.

Sour dough is fun because you're working with a living entity that you have to nourish week to week.  The bread starts with the sour dough starter that I've been cultivating now for months.  I add to it 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water and let it bubble up over night to become the "sponge."  Here's the sour dough "sponge" that I prepared last night. 



Left over night, it gets all bubbly and foamy. 

From here you can make a simple recipe:

2 cups of sponge
3 cups of flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tsp sugar (or honey)
2 tsp salt

Mix the sponge, olive oil, sugar and salt together in the mixer. Then add a half a cup of flour at a time until the dough won't take any more flour. Kneed and let rise.

Here's what my dough looks like:



This has already risen a little bit.  I'll let it go a few hours (when I first started, it took a long time.  Now my starter is strong and it rises better and faster). Then I'll punch it down and let it rise again.

After the second rise, bake for 45 minutes at 375 (don't preheat the oven).

I've been experimenting with different flours and ingredients.  Last week I added sprouts.  It was delicious.  I'm adding them again this week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Natural Bridge

We hiked at Natural Bridge State Park today.  It's a little over an hour from the city but feels like worlds away.  Today was the perfect day for a hike.  The air was cool, crisp, and damp.  The sweet smell of leaves permeated the air. The last of the fall colors were on display.  What a marvelous day to share with my love.

the big exhale

Some weeks Saturday feels like a big Forrest Yoga style exhale:  Ahhhhhhhh.  But if Saturday is the big exhale, does that mean that I've been holding my breath all week?  I'm doing some practices to literally breath more during the work week.  I have a tiny Ganesha that I found in Goa.  He sits in my window sill.  When I enter the office, I close the door and before I do anything, I breath for two minutes and focus on my Ganesha and my breath.  Taking the time, even just two minutes, to break the routine of immediately checking voicemail and email makes the rest of the day that much more mindful. 

Saturday is also a day when Ashtanga is traditionally not practiced.  My class this afternoon is canceled, so I'm going to take a long hike at a local park.  Hiking will be my yoga today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mars - Bringer of War

Tuesdays are ruled by Mars, the bringer of War. 
In the Ashtanga Mysore tradition, new poses are never added on a Tuesday.  Maybe this is so we don't have an angry relationship with the pose.

It would be pretty intense to practice with this in the background:


This Tuesday is an election day.  It definitely feels like there's a lot of "fight" mentality out there from the news broadcasts.  I tried to vote from a place of love instead of anger and fear.  I hope I wasn't alone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Learned so much! Thinking about so much!

This cleanse has been so educative.  In many ways, this was thanks to the timing with my injury/vitamin deficiency.

The B12 deficiency problem was extremely scary. I continue to read up on it and am thankful that I pushed to find out the real cause of my "foot drop."  Here's a really interesting website on the issue.  Going through this has made me question two of my core beliefs:

1) that your vitamins should come from your food, not capsules.
2) that a veg diet gives you everything you need and all of this hooplah about protein is just more misguided American food culture.

But now where to go with this.  I am taking a daily multi vitamin and felt the effects almost as soon as I started.  I'll continue to do this.

I'd also like to get more B12 sources into my diet.  Fish is not an issue.  I don't mind eating something that I know that I could catch and kill myself.  However, here in the Midwest, fish is not as plentiful/fresh/appealing as on the East Coast. 

Someone told me that nutritional yeast has B12 in it.  I bought some. Does anyone know what to do with it?

But I'm also questionning whether my vegetarian diet was serving me.  With access to cruelty free meat products, does it hurt to have a serving or two of animal protein a week?  Should I have more than that?  My continued hesitation on this issue stems from the effect that the American farming industry has on the earth environmentally and also the cruelty that most animals suffer before they get to our plate.  If the animal is sad, aren't we eating that sadness.  I continue to wrestle with this question but will see what might be available to me from small local farms where animals are raised cruelty free. 

Some other interesting results of the cleanse were that during the "purgation" phase, I literally felt high.  I was laughing at everything even more than usual.  Being so light must also effect your attitude towards life.  It was glorious.

Cleansing also has this wonderful way of making you confront your biggest phobias and insecurities.  Here was my example.  I had signed on for the group cleanse support with my teacher.  About halfway through last week, I realized that I wasn't getting any emails from the group. At first, I thought that maybe the group just wasn't very active.  But then some of my negative patterns began to emerge.  I started thinking that I was shunned from the group and being purposefully excluded.  I let myself chew on this for a day or two, contemplating the many ways that I was undeserving especially of friendship.  Then finally, I asked myself if what I was creating was really true.  How could I know it was true?  I felt more at peace with this.  The peaceful sensation opened up a new space for my creative mind to work.  I thought that maybe I would check the Google Groups page to see if there was any activity there and if I was indeed added to the group.  Sure enough!  I was and there were over 70 messages.  I just hadn't set up my account correctly to receive emails.

Lessons learned: 1) Many of our patterns of negative thinking are our own creation that we need to break down in order to open up space in our minds and hearts.  2) I can do a cleanse on my own without support of a group...but the support is definitely more fun.

And so now a very fruitful cleanse has come to an end.  There is certainly a period of mourning at the end of a cleanse, a sense of loss of something very profound.  But there's the spring cleanse to look forward to.  And in the meantime, there is regular LIFE, beautiful life.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Poached Salmon and Kale

I came up with this recipe this evening when trying to figure out how to integrate "normal" foods without all the fat.  My usual kale is sauteed in a healthy dose of olive oil.

1 lb salmon
1 bunch of kale
1 cup organic unsweetened apple juice
salt
pepper
cumin

preheat oven to 375
Line a baking vessel with tin foil and have enough excess to be able to fold the foil over the fish and cover it.  Pour apple juice into the bottom of the container.  Rip kale into bite sized pieces and put into the container with the apple juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Lie the salmon, skin-side down, on top of the kale.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle a light amount of cumin.  Fold in the sides of the foil (en papillotte style) sealing it well so that steam won't escape.  Bake for about 30 minutes.

I served this with my imitation of the byrani rice that we get from our local Indian restaurant. 

reintegration!

The cleanse is ending and I'm starting to phase in normal foods.  Yesterday, I enjoyed a baked sweet potato (plain) and today some steamed spinach for lunch. This evening I had some delicious poached salmon. 

Reintegration can be challenging.  It's difficult to not dive right into the bourbon and donuts.  Sometimes I feel like this part of the cleanse is actually tougher than the rest of it where there's no black and white.  I guess I don't like food ambiguity.

But I'm managing to go gradual.  I made my husband the  buckwheat sourdough donuts from www.nourishedkitchen.com and will simply take his word for it that they're good until Tuesday - if they last that long.  If not, I'll sample the next batch.  We bought a fancy bourbon from the Whole Foods (I wasn't kidding about bourbon and donuts!) which Shawn opened last night.  He was so sweet and asked if it was ok if I smelled it.  I thought so. It smelled rich and comforting and everything you want in a winter digestif... after Tuesday!


I've also begun reintegrating my practice.  I haven't practiced Intermediate for quite a while, since my leg was first injured, maybe 3.5 weeks ago.  I felt so light and clean moving through standing but the fatigue of the fast caught up with me once I hit the floor.  I continued through and let the poses be what they wanted to be.  I thought there might be binding in pasasana considering the amount of weight I dropped, but no such luck.  I made peace with it and flowed through to karandavasana. My stamina was pretty much gone at that point.  After two attempts I moved on to backbends and finishing.  Sometimes it's nice to let go of the struggle and just let the poses be light and humorous.  That's what my practice was like today. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Feed the Bitch or she'll die

This line is about my sourdough starter, not about me as I near the end of my cleanse.  "Feed the bitch or she'll die" is a line from the amazing Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (I love him!  He's like a Hans Solo who can cook - yes, I'm that nerdy).  I highly recommend the book especially if you like his series No Reservations.  He writes like he talks.  In this case that's not a bad thing.

Anyway, I have been making sourdough bread since August.  I was initially turned on to the idea by the Nourished Kitchen.  It's almost sinfully easy to do once you get started.  Here's a really good website on the process.

Admittedly, the first few batches took a long time to rise and were still quite dense.  But after the first month, we had loaves with a nice crumb and perfect crust. And we never cheated by using packaged yeast!

I usually make two loaves a week either on Saturday or Sunday. This yields plenty of bread for the week and then some.  Now that I'm comfortable with the process, I've started experimenting.  Today I made one loaf with wheat flour and added fresh home grown alfalfa sprouts.  Shawn said it tasted like "lying in a field of grass in the summer."  It smells that good, too.  The other loaf I made with a smashed up leftover sweet potato, oat flour and oats.  He didn't dive into that one yet.



I'll get to try both when the cleanse is over.  I can't wait.

is it safe to emerge?

I'm asking myself if it is now safe to leave the bathroom.  Last night I wrapped up the purgation portion of the cleanse by taking castor oil before bed.  When I got up this morning, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the "evacuation" was. 
I went about my normal Saturday rituals, made coffee for Shawn, made bread for the week (more to come on that!) and prepared my kanjee for today.  Kanjee is a kind of really simple rice cereal.  It's basically overboiled brown rice.  You eat the liquid part first then the rice bits if feeling ok.
I really over-boiled my kanjee and there was no liquid to speak of left.  Rather than struggle with smashing the rice through the strainer, I went straight for the rice.  I added some honey and cinnamon.  It was actually a tasty little cereal.
I continued my chores and was feeling really good until the second wave hit me.  How could there possibly be anything left to purge?!  After quite a while in the bathroom, I felt confident to emerge.  Hopefully that is the end of it.  I teach today at 3pm.  I don't want any scenes where I have to stealthily put my students in downdog and run out to use the bathroom!  I wouldn't be the first yoga teacher to do this, but I don't want to go there if possible!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Too much information

I'm debating how much should be shared here about the last day of ghee. Do you really want to know all the details?
Today I fasted. The last solid food I had was last night, two apples, around 6pm. Since then, I've had some apple juice and of course the BIG ghee. Throughout the day I took some juice and some herbal detox tea. Just now I had some miso soup with some alfalfa sprouts (which I grew myself).
Let's just say that throughout the day, the results have been pretty dramatic. I definitely feel that the ghee has gotten deep into some places where it hadn't in the past. I'm also feeling the results of bi-annual cleansing beyond just what is happening in this cleanse. I'm letting go of a lot of shit (literally and figuratively).
This cleanse has really enlightened me on my relationship to food. Today I packed some kichari as a safety net. I didn't want to feel starved and then freak out and pig out on campus chow. I was able to sit all day with the kichari and not eat it. To be able to have food around without the impulse to consume is huge. I felt very free in my relationship to the food and still feel that way.
Consuming has been a huge struggle in my life. The impulse to buy and the need to have RIGHT NOW have caused me great financial distress. My weight struggles have been reflected in that. Somehow this freedom from food, from the impulse to eat RIGHT NOW, signals something larger to me. And it does in many ways mirror things that are happening in my financial life.
There is no greater sensation than freedom. In my yoga teacher training we often talked about "choosing freedom first." Something huge has unblocked itself in me and I am finally getting there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Follow your intuition

A little recap on my leg episode: A few weeks ago, my left leg went numb and tingly. Over a period of about 4 days, it got worse and then the right leg went into this foot drop thing. That's basically where you lose control of your leg/foot and are basically dragging it around. Then my right hand joined the fun and I could barely hold a pen.

First visit to the health clinic yielded a diagnosis of "sciatica" even though I insisted that I had no lower back pain. No blood work was taken.

The condition got worse and I didn't believe it was sciatica. So, I started doing some online research. Many diseases had the similar symptoms, but tracing them back to their causes, I kept finding the same root: B12 deficiency.

B12 only comes from animal products and nutritional yeast. Since moving to Kentucky, my intake of animal products, which was already only dairy and fish, greatly diminished. Seafood isn't exactly plentiful here.

Upon this discovery, I called the clinic again and insisted getting blood work done. They had me come back in and after an hour, the practitioner agreed to order the blood work for B12. Meanwhile, I began to take a vitamin with high levels of B12 (400% dv).

My legs are 100% better now, about 3.5 weeks later. And I finally received the results of that blood work. Drum roll please....the blood was taken 4 days into my vitamin regimen, so I was expecting that I might even be normal and never have the satisfaction of proof...continue the drum roll...but here are the results: my B12 levels are at 149. The normal range is 175-852.

The lesson to be learned is
1) Don't let healthcare practitioners bully you into the easy "diagnosis."
2) Always follow your intuition. If someone says you have sciatica, and you feel that is not true, press on and find the answer yourself.

Once again, I'm so grateful for the yoga. If I hadn't learned how to listen to my body, I could have ended up treating the wrong problem and never finding a solution.
I figured out a way to make the ghee go down much easier. I put the "prescribed" amount of ghee into a tea cup. I dowse ghee with cinamon and cardamon and pour hot water over it. When the ghee mostly melts (it never seems to totally melt)I shoot back the thick stuff on top and then drink the rest (the ghee tends to float and the hot water and spices sink). This isn't the perfect solution, but it does get me through it.

Why the ghee anyway? The theory goes that most toxins like to live in fat. So give them a whole lot of fat to get into. When the body passes the ghee the toxins go along with. It is also nourishing for the joints. At least this is my understanding.

Some fasting/purgation days are coming up soon. I asked my teacher about adding a gall cleanse to it. She said that adding in this kind of "hocus pocus" would be unecessary and too much. I have to say that having done a gall cleanse before, I'm somewhat relieved. Here's a description http://www.astrodreamadvisor.com/Cleansing.html. Adding this on would probably be the cleanse version of "jumping the shark!"

So that my husband wouldn't have to suffer the cleanse, I ordered him a pizza. I made sure to get toppings that are disgusting to me: sausage, jalapenos, so as not to be tempted. Pizza is probably my favorite food in the universe. As he chomped away on the pizza, I sat and ate my kichari.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ghee and support

It's day 4 of the kichari cleanse. Physically, I feel lighter, more compact, less a "waste of space." Mentally, I feel very sharp. I rode my bike home this evening. It was cool and damp. Every sense seemed heightened: the sweet smell of the fallen leaves, the deep dark blue-black of the post-rain sky, the cool damp air on my hands as I biked home.

Today started the second phase of the cleanse, "stepping it up a notch." This entails taking a certain amount of ghee in the morning. I'm not specifying, because if you're doing this, you should really be working with a teacher. Each morning the dosage of ghee increases for a few days.

There was a big change in this this time around. The first time I took the ghee, it was no big deal, even the biggest dose. This time, I could hardly stomach it and I'm only on the first ghee day. I wonder if this is the leftover effect of the gall cleanse I did in the summer in which I drank a disgusting amount of olive oil. At any rate, it was tough.

Also, my appetite has greatly decreased. This is a first for me. Usually, I can get through my pot of kichari and then some. This cleanse, I'm hardly finishing a pot a day.

Writing this blog has been really great for me. In the absence of a group and teacher to do this with, the blog is helping me express what I'm going through. I'm also very grateful to my friends who are commenting (virtually and in person) about the process. I feel very supported by this "virtual" community. And it's wonderful to see the curiosity this inspires. In the end, so much of doing this practice, a yoga practice, or a meditation practice is about curiosity. Part of the motivation of these practices is curiosity about foods, the body, and the mind. On every level, it's beautiful to see that curiosity in others.

Shawn comes home tonight from five days at his dad's in Oregon. This will be a boon of support to my cleanse. While he doesn't participate in the cleanse, he always offers me encouragement and is very respectful of my choice to engage in this practice. I owe a lot of my past cleanse "success" to him.

Monday, October 25, 2010

dreams of bread

I drifted off last night with dreams of bread in my head. I've been making an amazing sourdough bread from scratch ! As I was getting ready for bed, I kept thinking about just one little piece. But I let it be. The bread will be there when this is done.

I found an Indian grocery store yesterday near UK. It opened only a month ago. Among other delightful things, they carry Moong Beans! Hooray! Now I can really get wild with the kichari.

Yesterday afternoon I took a huge nap. I blame the cats. As a Kapha dominant type, I should really not nap. And I know why: A body at rest tends to stay at rest. I could barely get up after a full three hours. When I did I was sluggish. Then of course I slept super poorly last night.

Intermediate Series is forbidden during the cleanse. Only primary is to be practiced. Primary is supposed to be therapeutic (yoga chikitsa). Today's practice felt really good - very light and open. But I want to be practicing Intermediate. Since I was injured a few weeks ago, I haven't practiced any of my second series postures. It's been about two and a half weeks. I'm afraid of coming back to them and having regressed. But maybe this is what I need right now to cleanse and continue to heal.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

evening practices

Yesterday was mostly easy. I hid out for the majority of the day, except when I taught my class. I spent the day doing yin and meditating and just generally relaxing. All was going super until about 10 minutes before bed time when I felt so hungry. I didn't entertain it and just went to bed. The hunger was not there in the morning. Maybe it was boredom instead :)

In the afternoon during a cleanse, I try to do a seated practice daily for at least 20 minutes. Meditation is tough for me. I alternate practices between pranayama, chanting, and silent meditation. For pranayama, I practice the four purifications. For my chanting practice, I chant the first book of the yoga sutras (I'm trying to memorize it. I have one through 15 more or less memorized). Meditation is my weakest practice. I usually try to either focus on my breath or practice the Loving Kindness meditation.

Then I have my dinner (more kichari!). And then I practice Abyanga (self-massage). It's better to do this in the morning, I'm told, but I don't have the time. So, I tend to do it at night.

For Abyanga you need:

A body brush
Sesame oil (if too cloying, you can use something lighter like grapeseed oil)
Coconut oil for hair (if doing hair)

Start by using the dry body brush to exfoliate. I begin at the belly and go in circles with the brush, then I do the limbs using long strokes on the arms and legs and circles on the joints.

After I've brushed, I massage the sesame oil in the same order that I did the brushing. Coconut oil is massaged into the hair. I sometimes add tea tree oil to the sesame and coconut oils, sometimes I use them plain. Then I sit for a few minutes. On occasion, this is when I do my seated practice.

Afterward, I will shower if I'm short on time, or I'll soak in a salt bath. I have thick hair and usually have to spend a good amount of time rinsing the coconut oil from it. So, the coconut oil tends to be a weekend thing.

I stop eating at 6. Sometimes I'll do a short restorative practice just before bed.

Before bed I take Triphala tea. You can find it in a capsule form at Whole Foods, but I get the powdered from Banyan Botanicals . Triphala is a mix of herbs that help digestion.

In preparation for bed:
Rinse the face with cold water
Brush and floss teeth


To the extent that it's possible, I don't use any lotions (body or face) during this time. It doesn't make a ton of sense to slather all kinds of chemicals on the skin when you're trying to cleanse from the inside.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

cleansing food - kichari

Over the next ten days, I'll be eating one thing: kichari. Kichari is an awesome nourishing dish of grain (typically white rice), a legume (split mung - oh where oh where are you split mungs in Lexington - or red lentils), and some veg. It sounds like it could get a little boring, but honestly, it's not too bad since you can switch up the type of vegetable and your spices. I sometimes even get nuts and use brown or white rice.

There are soupier versions, but I like the one I first learned from my teacher. It's great even when you're not cleansing as something easy to make for lunch. And if I feel myself coming down with a cold, I'll make a big batch of this and go on a one or two day mini cleanse.

For one day:

one half cup lentils
one cup rice
soak lentils and rice overnight in water

1 tbs of ghee (I've seen recipes that use as much as 3!)
your choice of spices (mine are usually, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, paprika or chili powder) - garlic is to be avoided (there's garlic in chili powder - this makes my spice mix a little "incorrect")

one cup of veg (preferably green leafy things, but I also like squash and sweet potatoes)

Drain the soaked lentils and rice. Put them in a pot with 3 cups of water and your veg. Bring to a boil, turn heat all the way down and cover for about 20-30 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat the ghee and add your spices. Heat until you can smell the spices, but don't let them burn (this is a fine line to walk!). As a rule of thumb, I generally combine no more than 3-4 spices. It's easy to get carried away and end up with a spicy inedible mess.

Add the spices to the rice mixture and you're ready for the day.

Kichari is a great place to learn about your spices because the food isn't contributing that much flavor to the dish. You have the opportunity to get to know the properties and individual flavors of each spice. You can use that information later in cooking other dishes.

I'm not a huge in-between-meals eater. During a cleanse, I do keep some soaked almonds on hand for the occasional snack. Soaking makes them easier to digest. As I understand it, the water triggers the nuts to start acting like seeds and break down their fatty bits to begin metabolizing and turning into plants. I soak a handful of nuts over night, drain them, and keep them out on a paper towel.

Miso broth is also good on the cleanse. It's great at this time of the year to take the chill off. I just boil some water or veggie broth and then add a spoonful of miso.

During my first cleanse, when I felt that I had to have something that was like cheese, or the whole thing would come to a grinding halt, I've taken a bit of avocado, sprayed some Braggs on it, and pretended it was cheese. That's not a terrible stand in in a real emergency. Otherwise, it's just kichari.

The largest meal of the day should be at lunch (seems like that's what everyone in the world but us does anyway) and then no dinner or a light dinner. Eating ends before 6pm.

day one

Today begins the first day of the "real" cleanse. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that last night I attended a birthday party and had a few glasses of wine. This was already figured into my planning for the cleanse. It does set back some of the work that I did throughout the week. But birthdays are so important. And just as important as it is to get in touch with yourself through practices like cleansing, it's also important to be connected and have community. Balance.

This does make me reflect a little bit on the difference between starting your fourth or fifth cleanse and your first. The first time I did this (and perhaps the second), the day before the cleanse felt like an all or nothing bacchanalian extravaganza. I felt like I had to get everything in before the two weeks of deprivation. I would stuff every morsel of bread and cheese in my face, over drink, and start the cleanse feeling like crap. Now that I've done this a few times, I realize that two weeks isn't actually a very long time and those things will be there when I come back up to the real world.

So what does the first morning of a cleanse look like?

Wake up before sunrise (lucky me! in Kentucky the sun doesn't come up until about 7:55!)
Use tongue scraper to remove all the gunk from my tongue (this is one of the practices that I've actually kept and made a daily routine)
Brush teeth
Brush hair 100 times (this is something I added in myself. It just feels very nurturing)
Rinse face with coldish water
Drink lemon tea (hot water, juice of half a lemon, honey, a dash of cayenne)
Neti and then treat nostrils with sesame oil


Unroll the mat for a yin practice and meditation

You might notice there's no mention of food yet. So much of the cleanse has nothing to do with food. I think that's important to remember. It's very easy to get really hung up on the food part of the cleanse which is really just a reflection of our consumptive nature as Americans. The real challenge of the cleanse is the self-care. It's making enough time for yourself to do these little rituals and bring the entire self back into balance. Not just the waistline.

Off to the mat...!

Friday, October 22, 2010

groceries

I'm ready for the cleanse. I went grocery shopping last night and should have enough goodies to get me through the next week. Here's what my cleanse grocery list looks like.

Already on hand "pantry" items:

ghee
sesame oil
trifala (www.banyanbotanicals.com)

From the whole foods

red lentils
white rice
brown rice
frozen peas, spinach, and brocoli (these are my cheater items when I'm too pooped to cut up fresh)
fresh ginger
lemons
limes

unsweetened organic apple juice

Tomorrow I'll go to the farmer's market and pick up some fresh greens and maybe some squash. Otherwise, I'm good to go.

This is my fifth day without caffeine or booze. I feel pretty excellent. My practice this morning was very fluid. Everything felt great. I made some oats for breakfast and had some quinoa kichari for lunch. There was a tiny headache after lunch but some fresh air and a tea remedied that.

Here's my recipe for oats:

1/4 cup (generous) oats (soaked overnight if possible)
1/4 cup (stingy) shredded coconut
1/2 tsp coconut oil
a dash of salt
cinamon and cardomon to taste
a palmful of raisins

cook the above together for about 20 minutes (or as long as it takes you to get dressed and put on your makeup :) )

then dress with a little bit of raw honey.

YUM!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

four days in

First, let me say how completely overjoyed I am at the fact that my leg has made a complete recovery. Who knows what happened there, but it's better and I am grateful.

I'm on my fourth day of preparing for the cleanse. I've had no coffee or alcohol since Sunday. The booze actually isn't much of an issue. When I go out with friends, I order a cranberry juice spritzer (half cranberry and half seltzer). It's really refreshing, doesn't attract attention (most people assume it's a vodka cran), and really keeps me awake. It's a great feeling to socialize and feel so alert and engaged.

The coffee is the real challenge. The days are getting shorter. It's dark out when I wake up. The morning is colder (although not as bad as in Boston! so that's been somewhat easier). I'm drinking my detox tea as my morning at-work-beverage. I haven't felt too bad before noon. But around 2pm, I really start to drag. I get so sleepy that I could fall asleep right at my desk.

Today I tried the Tazo Orange Blossom Tea in the afternoon for a little pick me up. I don't think it's caffeinated. The orange and spicy aroma did the trick. I felt like I had taken an hour long nap. That's going to be my go-to through the rest of this cleanse, I think.

Tomorrow is a birthday party. I'll bring items for my mocktail. Then Saturday I start the real deal...kichari for two weeks. Yum!

Monday, October 18, 2010

on the mend and getting ready to cleanse!

Lesson learned: follow your intuition. If someone says to medicate for something you don't think you have, keep looking for the right solution. 5 days after starting to take vitamins (chock full of B12) the limp is 95% gone. I was able to do the full primary series practice this morning without modification. And I'm generally feeling clearer and more energetic.

There was a discussion a while back on one of the lists that I'm on about how to keep the excitement for the practice alive. Make every day a celebration of what you can do! I was never a natural athlete. Doing this practice pleasantly surprises me every time I hit the mat. The human body is a wondrous thing.

Now that I'm back in form, I'm getting ready to start a fall cleanse. I try to do a full on cleanse twice a year under the guidance of my teacher, Kate O'Donnell. I am going to document some of what I'm doing here. But I recommend that if you choose to cleanse, you do so under the guidance of an experienced teacher. If you are in the Boston area, I recommend that you do the cleanse with Kate (www.one-yoga.blogspot.com)


Cleansing, for me anyway, is not dieting. It is cleansing - cleaning out the system. Unclogging all the nasty gunk I put in there and greasing the joints. It's also taking some additional time to myself to reflect and journey inward. Yes, I inevitably lose an insignificant amount of weight when I cleanse. But the more important results are a sense of clarity and lightness.

This week, I'm gearing up. That means that I'm cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and added sugars. Caffeine is always the toughest for me. I work long days and as the daylight hours become shorter, it's hard to skip that morning pick-me-up.

I'll be starting the day with some hot water with the juice of half a lemon and a dash of cayenne. Then, I do neti pot. Neti clears the sinuses, removes allergens, and is supposed to help you think more clearly (try it out, see what you think).

Throughout the day, when the desire to caffeinate comes, I'll be drinking either a decaf tea or Yogi Teas "Detox" tea.

Next week, I'll start the good stuff...the mono diet and eventually a one or two day fast. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

healing!

i'm feeling so much better than i was at this time last week. i'm walking almost limp-free and am looking forward to my first practice in a week tomorrow. i will try not to push it too hard. i don't want to take any steps back in my healing.

but the B12 regimen definitely seems to be working!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

vitamins!

I've been on again off again about vitamins. On the one hand, I think that your vitamins should get in your system the old fashioned way...through your food. On the other, I've had moments where I felt I need something extra.

It's been a long time since I've regularly taken vitamins. And now I'm struggling with this peculiar nerve injury. I'm reading a lot about vitamin B12 deficiency and more and more am convinced that's the culprit.

The symptoms fit and even more so, the causes fit:

vegetarian (i hardly even eat eggs or cheese like i once did)
strange bacteria blocking the absorption of B12 (i was to India this year; I've been experimenting with fermented foods)

so, i'm taking my vitamins again and upping my dosage of B12 foods.

in a few weeks, I'll be cleansing with my teacher and folks in the Back Bay Yoga community. Hopefully, that will eliminate any bacterial friends that I've picked up.

I will continue to be pro-active in healing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

ouch! injured!

In the 8 years that I've been practicing yoga, I have never had to sit it out due to an injury. I've had to take breaks for the flu or colds, but I've never been injured badly enough to really affect my practice.

Wednesday afternoon I had pins and needles in my leg. Thursday it didn't go away, but that was a moonday. Friday, it was still there with some pain in the left abdomen. I could only do a half practice. I reflected on the impermanence of our bodies and was grateful for the practice that I'd had until now. Sunday was more of the same.

This morning, I got up ready to do what I could. It had become worse. Now the other leg joined in the fun. I couldn't get up from prasarita padotanasana b and c without putting my hands on the floor and really bending my right knee. I kept moving through standing, did a modified finishing and then lay on the floor in savasana crying.

In some ways, having an injury is good for my sturdy kapha type. It's hard to work with other people's injuries if you haven't experienced many yourself. But it can also be super frustrating feeling limited, getting scared that it will never be right again. I thought about my friend Gabe who took his own life last year. Some say it was because of his shoulder injury, that it was keeping him from everything he loved (body work, yoga, fire spinning). I never quite believed or understood that. Having this temporary injury even puts that into better perspective.

I thought it was a spider bite. My health practitioner says it's sciatica. There's not low back pain, so I'm not sure that I buy that explanation. I'm following my instincts and continuing to treat this as an infection.

In the meantime, I'll continue to do what I can taking each morning for what it is. I will try to accept that this can be a tool for me to learn more about myself and the practice.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall is time for change

I have always had mixed feelings about the fall. Growing up in the Northeast, I'm fond of the beautiful fall colors and the radiant light that comes at this time of the year. I still get excited about wearing new school clothes and snuggling up in cozy hoodies with my husband and cats.

But fall also is the end of the summer, my favorite season. It's colder and the days are shorter. Before my path brought me to yoga, I really struggled with seasonal depression. I would fall asleep at 6pm and find myself unable to do anything social.

Yoga, and particularly, my morning mysore practice, has made a huge impact in my reaction to this time of the year. I am more equipped to sit with the weather and fading light and I have a routine and something to look forward to in the morning.

I have also adopted a biannual cleansing ritual under the guidance of my teacher Kate O'Donnell. She'll be running her group cleanse again towards the end of the month. You can read more about it and the virtual option at her blog www.one-yoga.blogspot.com.

I'll be participating in the virtual option. While I've been through this several times now, I feel that having a support group can make all the difference in between a successful cleanse and a less-successful cleanse.

As I cleanse this time around, I will post periodic updates. Be on the lookout later this week for my timeline and goals for my cleanse.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

going home again

Back Bay Yoga in Boston, MA is my yoga home. It isn't where I first learned yoga but it is where I became fully committed to the practice and was exposed to the people I consider my teachers. Over labor day weekend, I took a five day holiday and returned to Boston in part to celebrate a friend's birthday and in part to get back to BBY and reboot with some of those awesome yoga vibes. The two goals weren't entirely in sync with one another, but that didn't prevent an amazing weekend.

On the first day, I practiced with my teacher, Kate O'Donnell, after the regular Mysore class. This allowed me to sleep in a little, which I desperately needed (I got in around 1am!). We practiced in the tiny private lesson room off to the side. It was intense practicing side by side with the person who has shaped my practice and whose practice serves as an inspiration to me. Mysore really embraces the traditional Indian student teacher relationship. After practicing in that way for many years, it is really tough to practice with one's teacher in an egalitarian way.

The next day, I took led primary - a class I used to teach - with Anna Neuman. It was exciting to flip the tables once more and take class next to the students I used to teach.

Then on Sunday, I subbed Mysore for Kate. This was sort of the icing on the cake. Lauren Peterson was there. Her practice is so awe inspiring I felt there was nothing I could do for her. Then she asked me for help in Karandavasana. I guess every one has trouble with that one! Her youtube video has been encouraging me to keep up with my own practice even on my own.

I came back from that weekend feeling super charged with motivation and energy to bring back to my mat. Namaste.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

chewing 100 times?



I just finished reading The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics. Besides the fact that a dear friend swears by the Macrobiotic lifestyle/diet, I knew nothing about it before opening the book.

Many of the books principals seemed logical to me: the balancing of energy (yin and yang) through our food. I definitely will incorporate some of it into my own practices.

However, one of the bits of advice was to chew your food (particularly grains) between 50 and 100 times. When I attempt this, I rarely get to 50 before my food is completely pulverized and practically disintegrated. I like the idea of bringing this level of mindfulness to your eating. But I do find myself wondering about the logistics...Is Jessica Porter, the author, taking much bigger forkfuls than I tend to?

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the way that our foods can affect us or just generally curious about this practice.

nature

yesterday the husband and i went to raven run nature preserve just outside of lexington. The short drive took us through the Blue Grass past beautiful estates and horse farms. Though we have taken a few drives through this type of scenery before, it still takes our breath away to see strong beautiful horses grazing in the late summer sun.

Another surprise in Kentucky are the butterflies. I've never seen so many butterflies in my life. Yesterday on the trail we saw some particularly beautiful butterflies, large ones, the size of birds with bright yellow markings. It was such a joy to stop and watch them in flight, their fragile wings trembling on the wind.

We also saw the smooth rocks of a creek bed that must have been formed by glaciers.

I felt renewed by our 3 hour hike in the wilderness. Taking the time to commune with nature and observe the sights, sounds and smells in near seclusion gave me the sensation of opening my heart wider and allowing prana to enter and fill me.

It was no surprise then that my practice this morning was light and energetic. I felt the energy of the earth, and butterflies, and creek bed carrying me through my asanas.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

delicious accident

One of my favorite pasttimes is experimenting in the kitchen. Occasionally, I consult recipes and cookbooks to get information on cooking times and inspiration, but usually, I'm throwing together what I have on hand.

This dish was born of forgetfulness. It's an old standby I think I got from a Wholefoods flier. While I bought the key ingredients (frozen veg and tofu) I neglected the seasoning ingredients (the thai garlic chili paste and fish sauce). What I came up with through substitution was amazing:

Thai (inspired - I've never been to Thailand :) Basil Coconut Curry with Tofu and Veg

1 package frozen organic veggies
1/2 onion sliced
3-4 cloves garlic sliced
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 package extra firm tofu (works best if you weight it and press out the liquid for a few hours, but ok if not)
fistful of basil
splash of soy sauce
splash of siracha

Saute the onion in some vegetable oil until they are translucent and a little bit golden, add in the garlic and saute a few more minutes. Add the frozen veg for about 5 minutes. Cut the tofu into little cubes and add to the dish with coconut milk. Saute until tofu is heated through. It won't brown but should stay firm. Careful not to stir too much and break up the tofu.

Serve with rice and garnish with basil, soy sauce and siracha to taste.

fasting

In surfing around on the internet, I came across a Kundalini site that talked about fasting on the New Moon, the Full Moon and 11 days after the New Moon. Since I enjoy experimenting with food and energy, I thought that I would try this out myself and see what the effects would be.

I was going to fast from both food and technology. However, the timing turned out to be very bad. This fast coincided with my second attempt at making sourdough bread. And this time (unlike the first) my bread rose! How could I wait an entire day to cut into that warm delicious loaf. So, I took it easy this time around and only fasted from technology.

The iphone was off for the entire day and I didn't check email or facebook once. I felt very open and clear without the bombardment of this stimuli coming at me the entire day.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Eat Like a Yogi

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece from Yoga Journal on yogi eating habits .

My relationship with food is complicated to say the least. As an adolescent I suffered from anorexia. I recovered from it on my own, but my relationship to food still is not an easy one. I definitely go to food as an emotional crutch.

That's why I so appreciated the author's advice that food is perhaps the most important part of your practice. When you neglect what you're putting into your body, you won't be able to get much out of your practice. I work on mindful eating every day. Some days are better than others.

But one thing that is most helpful to me is how I shop. If it isn't in the house, I'm not likely to eat it. So I set myself up for success through these "rules":

1) If I couldn't fathom killing it myself, I don't buy it. I could easily catch, gut, and clean a fish. I could not slaughter a cow or chicken.

2) Buy local as much as possible. This is easy for me living in Kentucky where there is a long growing season and a great diversity of foods. I'm not dogmatic. I do get the occasional avocado. But when i do, I do it conscientiously, knowing that it was picked far away and took considerable resources to get to me.

3) Buy organic and in season. I love strawberries. They are my favorite fruit. But please don't give them to me in January. It's just not right.

4) If I consume meat, I only do it if I feel that it was prepared with love. I won't buy a burger at a fast food joint. But if my Turkish friend invites me over for Kebabs, he's trying to share his culture with me and I will accept.

5) Share. Eat communally. Sit together at a table with some friends. Our society is too interested in the pomp and circumstance of gatherings which crushes the spirit of them. If you are hungry, you can eat at my house. You don't need to bring anything. I don't care. And one day I'll show up at your house and eat too. We'll enjoy our food and a laugh.

The better I eat the lighter my practice and my conscience. I think it was Michael Pollan who suggested that every time we go to the grocery store we are voting with our dollar. I'd like to add that every time I go to the grocery store, I'm also practicing my yoga.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

yoga retreat DIY style

This weekend my husband is visiting a friend in Ohio. I'm taking advantage of some alone time to connect in a deeper way to my practice. I like to do this by creating a "home retreat."
First order of business for an excellent home retreat is a clean home! You wouldn't want to show up at a retreat in Costa Rica where the place was cluttered and dusty. Your home retreat should be just as nice. Think of the cleaning less as an obstacle and more as a practice in and of itself.
Second, create conditions so that you do have to leave your retreat unless you want to. Silence the cell phone, turn off the tv, alarm clocks, etc. Take a shopping trip for your retreat and get the essentials:

Food: avocados, leafy greens, brown rice, fresh fruits.
For self care: tea tree oil, sesame oil, body brush.

And then settle in.

My retreat so far has been extremely relaxing. Last night I had some eggplant for dinner, did a deep hip opening yin sequence, and then meditated for 35 minutes chanting the Anusara opening chant. This morning, I went on a tour of local farms, got to pet some awesome doggies and goats, learned about bees and visited a vineyard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

disrupted energies

do you ever feel like everything is just falling apart? things aren't turning out the way you expected. you aren't in sync with your loved ones.
that's the way i've been feeling recently. the unbalance in my life has led to unbalance in my yoga practice. i find myself skipping days of practice here and there and distracted on the days that i do practice.
when things come to this point, i find the best thing to do is to come back to my seated practice where i can face the distractions and get grounded again. i can't change the energies around me. but i can support my loved ones better if i can tune back in to my own energy and ground back into myself.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

moon days

Tomorrow is a Full Moon Day. In the Ashtanga tradition we take rest on New and Full moons. Tim Miller has an excellent explanation for this on his website .
For me, these days of rest are especially important. Even prior to studying Ashtanga, I had noticed imbalances in my emotional state around the New and Full Moons. My cycle is also synced to the full moon.
I have wanted for some time to incorporate a seated practice on moon days so that I am still engaging with my practice. I have also wanted to fast on moon days. Tomorrow I will attempt both. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

how'd that happen?!

Every day I practice. Every day the same postures. Some days are stiffer than others. Some are lighter. It's always new and yet always the same.

That's the beauty of the Ashtanga practice. You know exactly what you're going to do, but you never know what you're going to get. For example about two years ago, I was jumping into Bakasana B. Knees were landing near shoulders, feet stayed off the ground. I was there for the full five breaths. Then, one morning, practicing in a hotel room in Ayacucho, Peru, I jump slightly to the left rather than center. This catches the weird spot where I had broken my arm 11 years earlier. I felt intense pain and haven't been able to jump into the pose since. I'm sure that I actually can do it. But my body remembers and stops me just before I get there. Nonetheless, I continue to try it every morning with the faith that one day I will surprise myself.

I've also had sudden triumphs like this. A few mornings ago while doing my drop backs, I decided to walk my hands in on the last one. They made it to about an inch from my heels and I still felt strong and light. So, I walked them in some more. They touched my heels and I was able to stay there and breathe. I was surprised and elated. I thought that practicing by myself, I would never reach my heels in drop backs again. But I opened myself up to the possibility and it just happened.

And so I hope will happen with Pincha Mayurasana. I received this pose in December. We are now in June. I am still unable to catch my balance without the wall. Without the wall, I kick up and over into a kind of cartwheel. With the wall, I'm sometimes able to catch it. I will continue trying. I have faith that I will surprise myself one morning.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

sangha

Flashback 7 years to my first journey up the steep steps to Back Bay Yoga studio in Boston. I had been practicing yoga for two years, mostly at the gym, and was petrified to step into this unknown territory. Would these people all know each other? I would surely be an outsider. My heart raced and I was sweating profusely. This was one giant leap for me. (I later came to realize that I probably suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder - which has been greatly reduced since my regular yoga practice).

Overcoming my fear led to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The next 7 years, I would practice at BBY regularly (first weekly, then daily, and then teaching). I loved rolling my mat out next to familiar faces. Even when we didn't know each other's names, we knew each other's struggles on the mat and often off the mat. This was my original sangha. Sangha is the sanskrit word for community.

The anxiety disappeared and I began to take yoga classes at studios wherever I traveled. The faces at those studios were different, but the feeling was the same. Here we were sharing in something special, for many of us, the most important part of our day.

Sangha had become as important to me as the practice itself. Yes, I could do my practice in a hotel room or on my kitchen floor. But nothing compares to the soothing rythm of everyone breathing ujiya breath with the occasional whisper of instruction from the teacher or burst of laughter at someone's triumphs or blunders.

Hence one of my only hesitations to leaving Boston for a city, Lexington, KY, that had virtually no yoga scene and certainly didn't offer a daily Mysore practice. First, I would miss all of those yogis from Boston. I knew I could continue my daily practice on my own. My spacious living room with its hardwood floors lends itself easily to yoga.

I do practice there every day. But it's not the same. It's not better or worse, it's just different. When I am saddened by my lonely practice, I think of my friends in Boston who are practicing at the same time that I am. I'm reminded that only distance separates me from them and from all the Ashtangis throughout the country and the world. My teacher's reminders flow back to me when I struggle with certain poses. And my cats wonder across my mat and narrowly dodge my feet when I take a vinyassa.

Since arriving here, I have found a few (maybe the only) other Ashtangis in Lexington. They invited me to practice on Sundays with them. This Sunday was the first. There were four of us in a small front room. We opened with the opening invocation as is the tradition in Ashantaga. It felt so wonderful to hear other voices intermingling with my own chanting. We practiced at a common pace. For me, that was much faster than my usual practice. But I enjoyed the unity of movement and the syncing of our breath.

We will practice again next Sunday. The days in between, I am comforted to know that I don't have to go 900 miles away to be a part of the Sangha.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

to the small studios

I've had the privilege of practicing yoga in studios in Boston, San Diego, LA, Toronto, and Tel Aviv. I also had the great honor to teach at a studio in Boston. Living in a large city with a great yoga scene, it's easy to take it for granted the community of like minded individuals who make it possible for great studios to thrive and offer a wide variety of classes.

This evening I was reminded of the sweet reality of probably the majority of yoga studios in the US. They are small studios with limited schedules and usually in dual-purpose space. Five students makes for a pretty bumpin' class. And some evenings, like tonight, maybe you only have two - just some girls who walked in off the street and decided to take your class for the first time.

That's what happened when my friend and I took a class this evening in Lexington. The teacher could have been well on her way home, had a nice dinner, hung out with her boyfriend. Instead, these two strangers came in for the last class of the night.

There was no disappointment, no rush to leave. Our teacher warmly invited us in and took the time to introduce herself and get to know a little bit about us. The studio space was warm and inviting. Romi, the teacher, held the space for us in the same way any teacher would do in a large studio in New York.

There's the beauty in the small studio. The space is open to the mere possibility that someone might want it or in my case tonight, that someone might even need it. It's a raw expression of faith on the part of the teacher to show up and hold the space for anyone or no one to show up. It's a lesson we can take into our lives - be open and hold that openness for any possibility - love, laughter, light, and connection.