Feb 25, 2013

Yoga Stops Traffick 2013

Based in Mysore, India Odanadi is a wonderful organization initiating real change and positivity in the lives of many.  Their annual Yoga Stops Traffick event raises awareness and funds which help provide a "safe haven for survivors of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, slavery, domestic abuse and destitution".

DonateGet involvedLearn more.

Feb 23, 2013

Weekend Edition #3

"Stephen Theodore Schaffer, known to most as Shyamdas, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Goa, India on Saturday, January 19. He was 59. Namarupa has published a special 36 page issue containing an obituary, photographs and memories of Shyamdas and all the articles that Shyamdas ever wrote for Namarupa."  

 Download the special issue "Shyamdas :: In Memoriam" for free here.

“All forms of Yoga lead us to bhava – the enlightened, inspired state of pure being. Bhava creates in us a direct experience of the unity of all things. This journey of kirtan (sacred chant) introduces the subtle relationship between non-dual vision and loving devotion as the foundation for the yoga experience.” – Shyamdas (1953-2013)

This week we have conference notes from July 8 and October 21 as well as the appendix to our local conference which focused on breathing and awareness.

Kate O'Donnell writes from India on how waking up early for practice can bring the breathing to the spiritual and back again.

Meditations on food and practice continue with David Life's video on why diet matters and the conversation continues with Life and Sharon Gannon's discussion on the yamas and the connection to food.

T. Colin Campbell presents the science around why food matters and we end with a recipe for Super Easy Vegan Ice Cream and a thumbs up for The Yoga Cookbook.

May all beings be happy and free

No Meat Athlete's Guide to Vegan Egg Substitutions

Feb 22, 2013

Resolving the Health Care Crisis: T. Colin Campbell at TEDxEast

"Dr.Campbell has spent the last 40 years at the forefront of nutrition research. His major research project the China Project is the largest nutrition study ever conducted. Here he shares his ideas to revolutionize our nation's health."

Feb 21, 2013

Super Easy Vegan Ice Cream

Yes, this was breakfast a few days ago.  While I'm saving the fruit cobbler for a future post, today it is all about the Super Easy Vegan Ice Cream.

  • Banana (1 per person)
Freeze banana.  Yes, the whole banana -- peel and all.  The taste will differ based on the stage of ripeness, so experiment.  When you are ready to make the ice cream, take out the frozen banana and let it thaw out a little.  Remove (and compost) the peel.  Blend the banana.  Enjoy!

(It is entirely possible that freezing a peeled banana is easier to handle.  I just prefer it this way.)

That's it.  Super simple.  But that doesn't have to be the end...

Possible additions:
  • Shredded coconut
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Chocolate or carob powder
  • Other frozen fruits
Goes great:
  • By itself
  • On pies, cobblers, cakes, granola, etc.

Feb 17, 2013

Local "Conference" Appendix #2 - Breathing & Awareness

How can we become more aware of ourselves and how we move in space?  Can we begin to see new options and possibilities?  We all breathe, so attention to breathing is a great place to start.

First, some theory.  Check out Leslie Kaminoff's video "The Accordion and the Water Balloon":

Next, let's see how this works under the skin with Gil Hedley's "Exquisite lungs breathing":

Now, we move into practice with this video of a Led Intermediate class at the main shala in Mysore, India.  Remember, Led 2nd is invite only, so these are really experienced practitioners.

A bit more in practice with Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) leading Richard Freeman through the final asanas:

Here is some additional reading on the breathing we do in practice:
Ujjayi vs. Free Breathing  David Robson (Toronto) discusses the learning process and breathing.
Ujjāyī vs. Free Breathing in Ashtanga Yoga (Hatha Yoga Pradipika) The HYP on breathing.
Ujjāyī vs. Free Breathing in Ashtanga Yoga (Gheranda Samhita) The GS on breathing.

If you are congested, you might want to try neti (jala or sutra -- ask your teacher).

Also, food can be a contributing factor.  Here are some foods known to increase mucus:
  • Sugar
  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Wheat

Why does how we breathe matter?  Breathing can either limit or increase our space in asanas.  It can either calm or agitate the mind and the nervous system.  Also, the heat that comes from good breathing is essential to purification:
A vital aspect of internal purification that Pattabhi Jois teaches relates to the six poisons that surround the spiritual heart. In the yoga shastra it is said that God dwells in our heart in the form of light, but this light is covered by six poisons: kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya, and mada. These are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth. When yoga practice is sustained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated from it burns away these poisons, and the light of our inner nature shines forth.

Feb 16, 2013

Weekend Edition #2

In this Weekend Edition we've got the week's post popular post on ujjayi vs free breathing which goes along with tomorrow's local conference theme on breathing in asana practice. 

You've probably noticed an abundance of food-related posts.  The topic has been big around here the last few weeks and rightfully so.  What we eat has a massive impact on how we feel and on our yoga practices (not just asana)...    

How Digestion Works includes a basic primer on your insides from one end to the other.  There's an infographic and short video, but there are also a couple of longer videos that you might find interesting that includes footage from a full-length Berkeley biology course.

A Strategy for Health "Many people confuse pleasure with happiness. This can be a big problem and can lead to some very unhappy results. It is imperative that we recognize the difference between pleasure and happiness."

How to Eat Right to Reduce Stress lists foods to include and avoid so we can stress less.

The Kind Diet explains how to transition to a kinder lifestyle, become vegan, and explore macrobiotics.  Really great and simple recipes as well as clear and digestible information.  And pretty pictures.

 Forks Over Knives gets you thinking about why and what you eat.  If you're feeling inspired to do some healthy cooking, head over to Going Home to Roost for plant-based dinner ideas.

Feb 14, 2013

Feb 12, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I found this simple and tasty recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread from Pickles and Honey.  I changed a couple of things based on what I had and I also used only half the sweetener.  It came out beautifully.  My last pumpkin bread was a bit and dense.  Not this time.

Here's what I look for in store bought chocolate (or carob) chips:

I had no idea that sugar isn't always vegetarian.  Here is a list of companies that do and do not use bone char.

Feb 11, 2013

The Ultimate Guide to Dairy-Free Milks

I have never made my own non-dairy milk, but with this amazing guide from Heather Crosby of YumUniverse anyone can give it a go.  Some possibilities include: almond, amaranth, brazil nut, brown rice, buckwheat, cashew, coconut, hazel nut, hemp seed, poppy seed...

Feb 10, 2013

Wondering about a vegan diet?

The Yoga Comics

Have you seen The Yoga Comics?  This new project created by Boonchu Tanti is all about the real-life humor that goes along with being an 8-limb householder.  Check out The Yoga Comics facebook page for new stories.  There might even be one by me in the near future :) Here are the first two comics with stories by Jessica Walden.

"Andrew does a daily puja that involves chanting and meditation. On this particular day, Andrew did his normal preparations, dressed himself in his doti, did his chanting, and then started to meditate, sitting in lotus, on our living room floor. Biscotti (the dog) thought he must want to play since he was sitting on the floor. So she grabbed her favorite toy, the rubber chicken, and placed it next to Andrew's knee. She waited. He meditated. She growled. He meditated. She picked up the rubber chicken and placed it ON his knee. He meditated. She barked loudly as if to say "stop your meditating and throw that damn rubber chicken, will ya!!" He meditated….

In the samadhi state, a man had become one with a dog.....he had even become one with the rubber chicken."

"I was doing self-practice and the kids were home and playing together. I was in the flow of my practice, very focused and serious. I was doing arm balances in Advanced A series. My 5 year old broke my serious focus by hollering from the bathroom 'Mom, can you come wipe me!'
There is an ancient saying: ... 'Before enlightenment, wipe bottoms; after enlightenment, wipe bottoms.'

Jessica Walden began a daily yoga practice in 1994 and, over the last 12 years, has made several trips to Mysore, India, to study with Guruji, Sharath, and Saraswati. She is married to Andrew Hillam and a happy mother of two boys and one chihuahua.

Feb 9, 2013

Weekend Edition #1

Eating to support your practice
Guy Donahaye
Ashtanga Yoga Shala NYC

How to learn Ashtanga Yoga. Led class versus Mysore class?
Magnolia Zuniga
Mysore San Francisco

How to practice when hell’s freezing over
Angela Jamison
Ashtanga Yoga Ann Arbor

The winds
Kate O'Donnell
Ashtanga 4 Life

Food + Yoga
New segment on the blog on you guessed it, food!

Check out
No Impact Man (book, movie, how-to's)
Vegucated (trailer, watch online)

Feb 7, 2013

Recipe: The Liz Berry Smoothie

This is a thick, nutrient-rich smoothie inspired by one of my good friends...

  • Banana
  • A few leaves of kale
  • 1 handful of blueberries, cherries, or other berries (frozen is okay). Amounts vary (I usually measure by handfuls). 

  • Blender (I recommend using a hand blender.  They are much easier to clean than a regular blender.)
  • Cup

Blend ingredients until smooth.  This is a thick smoothie for sure.  For a thinner smoothie, experiment with the ratios.

  • Bananas - potassium, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin b6, vitamin c
  • Kale - fiber, calcium, vitamin b6, magnesium, vitamin a, vitamin c, vitamin k, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus
  • Blueberries - dietary fiber, vitamin c, vitamin k, manganese

Feb 6, 2013

Create a pre-practice ritual aka jedi mind tricks by Elise Espat

Eventually it is possible that it won't matter. You'll wake up without any kind of encouragement and get on with it with ease and grace.  Perhaps you're even able to right now decide to turn the switch for complete and absolute engagement to the "on" position.  If so, now is the time to set it to "on" and leave it there.
As the senses contact the object of the senses, feelings of heat and cold, pain and pleasure occur, Arjuna.  These sensations come and go; they're impermanent.  Patiently endure them, great Prince.  -2.14 Bhagavad Gita, Swami Satchidananda
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.  Then the Seer [Self] abides in His own nature.  At other times [the Self appears to] assume the forms of mental modifications. There are five kinds of mental modifications which are either painful or painless... -1.2-5 Yoga Sutras, Swami Satchidananda
Yes, with practice (which implies time, right?... a repeated effort?) all is coming.  But first, one has to actually practice.  Talking about it, having special clothes, reading interesting books, memorizing facts, a bit of previous experience, etc., don't count.
Success comes to him who is engaged in the practice. How can one get success without practice; for by merely reading books on Yoga, one can never get success.

Success cannot be attained by adopting a particular dress (Veṣa). It cannot be gained by telling tales. Practice alone is the means to success. This is true, there is no doubt.-2.67-68 Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pancham Sinh
As someone who has tried every sort of scenario possible to avoid the inevitable early morning practice, I can honestly say that a daily morning Mysore practice is simply the most practical, peaceful, and healing situation I have ever experienced.  It just works. 

That said, it was not easy for me to establish...  Well, actually, it was really easy and simple.  Or at least it could have been had I been even slightly willing to give it a real chance.  For me, many things had to shift.  Each day I had to look at how I was investing all aspects of myself.  It was painful.  I had to make big and what felt like big choices and sacrifices in order to make it happen.

For a long time it was uncertain.  Each day had a question mark.  I had to write down that I would do it so that I could check it off my list.  I needed some sort of validation that I was making an effort.  This was also around the time when I didn't think it was important to have a morning ritual.

Slowly I started to notice glimpses of light shining through the darkness.  I moved toward it.  A regular morning routine started to form.  This regularity began to saturate everything else.

I've realized that it can be very helpful to do the exact same thing every single day.  That when things are simple we have lots of room for pleasant.

How to create a pre-practice ritual:

Close your eyes and spend some time daydreaming.
Imagine your teacher, another practitioner, someone you respect that is further along the path.  How do they wake up?  What do they do?  What is the environment like?  What sensations or associations does it bring?

Close your eyes and spend some more time daydreaming.
Imagine a person you love, respect, or care for deeply.  If you were creating a ritual and environment for them, how would you do it?

Insert yourself into the scenarios.
How does that feel?

Put it all together in a practical way.
Let's say you imagined waking up from a baby deer nuzzling your wittle nose.  Birds lifting you to your feet.  Cartoon flowers exploding from the floor with glitter shooting through the air.  You get the point.

You get on the internet and get yourself a deer poster.  You get an alarm clock that has nature sound options.  You get a flower bedspread and a glittery practice top.

Set out your clothes the night before.

Set up coffee/tea the night before.

An exceptional music playlist can be very helpful.

Basically, arrange everything the night before so that all you have to do is get out of bed and have the willpower to not turn around and get back in it.  Be strong!

Upcoming Local Cooking Classes to Consider

Annapurna School of Cooking
Feb 9 Soup and Chapati
Feb 23 Baking
March 9 Spices
March 23 Spring Kitchari

The Ayurveda Institute
March 1-3 Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing

Feb 5, 2013

Local "Conference" Appendix

A few notes from our post-practice 1% Theory/Q and A on Sunday...

How long should I wait to eat after practice?
Your organs get a big massage each time you do your asana practice.  Try to be sensitive to what is really happening on the inside.  Are you eating out of habit or are you truly hungry?

Do I really have to shower before practice?  What if I don't smell?  Isn't that just wasting water?
You really ought to shower before practice.  If you feel guilty and that you are wasting water, the solution is simple -- become a vegetarian and better yet, vegan.

You can also help offset your pre-practice shower by using public transportation or riding your bicycle, using reusable grocery bags... The book and movie "No Impact Man" are pretty inspiring.  You might also find some good ideas here

Fear in practice?
As Sharath says, "No fear, no fun!"  :)

And anyway...

Is it weird that I am asymetrical?

What should I focus on while I practice?
Pick one thing - God.  Or the tip of your nose, or your breathing, or a happy thought, or your bandhas, or the vinyasa count... Pick one thing, because it all comes back to the same thing, right? 

Ellen DeGeneres on being vegan

Because we are thinking about food...

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