Jupiter Thursday

yellow flowers

Thursday is traditionally associated with the color yellow and the planet Jupiter.  Ayurvedic teachers recommend various practices involving these aspects on the days they’re associated with as it’s said to attune our microcosmic selves to the macrocosm of the universe*

* Rea, Shiva. 2013. Tending the Heart Fire. Sounds True Inc.: Boulder, CO. p.179

Connecting with the Inner Body

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Direct your attention into the body.  Feel it from within.  Is it alive?  Is there life in your hands, arms, legs, and feet — in your abdomen, your chest?  Can you feel the subtle energy field that pervades the entire body and gives vibrant life to every organ and every cell?  Can you feel it simultaneously in all parts of the body as a single field of energy?  Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments.  Do not start to think about it.  Feel it.  The more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger this feeling will become.  It will feel as if every cell is becoming more alive, and if you have a strong visual sense, you may start to get an image of your body becoming luminous.  Although such an image can help you temporarily, pay more attention to the feeling than to any image that may arise.  An image, no matter how beautiful or powerful, is already defined in form, so there is less scope for penetrating more deeply.

The feeling of your inner body is formless, limitless, and unfathomable.  You can always go into it more deeply.  If you cannot feel very much at this stage, pay attention to whatever you can feel.  Perhaps there is a slight tingling in your hands or feet.  That’s good enough for the moment.  Just focus on the feeling.  Your body is coming alive.

From Tolle, E. 1999. The Power of Now. Namaste Publishing and New World Library: Novato, CA, 236p. (at p. 112)

Empower Yourself & Improve Your Health with Ayurveda

Hi!  I hope you are all doing well.  I haven’t been posting as regularly because lots of changes are happening for me and I’m busy with the transition and just trying to stay grounded and focused!  A few people have asked, though, and I truly appreciate your interest!  I hope you always let me know what has been helpful or not as well, and if you have any specific topics you’d like me to explore.

I have been studying and practicing more Ayurveda lately, so I thought I’d share some of the techniques I’ve tried.  I hope you enjoy them, too!  Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old medical system that focuses on natural health and the individual’s power to establish and maintain good health.  It is “the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature … to maintain the health of a healthy person and to heal the disease of an unhealthy person … Both prevention (maintenance of good health) and healing are carried out by entirely natural means” (Lad, 1998, p. 1).  Ayurveda and Yoga go hand-in-hand.  

Some of the daily morning practices I’ve espoused and found to be very effective are tongue scraping, oil pulling, drinking warm lemon water, meditating and/or doing yoga asana (usually sun salutations or variation) for about 20-30 minutes, and starting the day with a green smoothie.  I also dry brush my skin before bathing and do self-massage with oils on a regular basis.  Ayurveda recommends doing this before a shower, but I usually do it after.  It’s important to find what works for your specific constitution.  It gets easier as time goes on.  Making many changes at once can be daunting, so I’d recommend starting out slowly and enjoying the process, not putting pressure on yourself.  Try one or more of these practices and see if they make a difference in your life!  

Here’s another one that feels pretty good (Lad, 1998, p. 252):

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Lad, V. 1998. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.Three Rivers Press: New York, NY, 326p.  Continue reading

Coming Home to Your Self Through Yoga

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I recently had the privilege of practicing with my lovely and amazing teacher, Shiva Rea, in Boston.  You know that Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”?  Well, that’s sort of how it happened with Shiva.  In my early days of discovering yoga, I came across one of her CDs and practiced at home with it for months.  I found it very challenging, but her voice was soothing and the poetic, spiritual quality she brought to her teaching I had never experienced before.  I continued practicing heated power yoga in studios and gentler hatha and restorative practices at home.  Some practices felt more mechanical than others.  All were more fitness-focused than holistic.

When I moved to Cambridge, MA, I started going to Om City Yoga.  That magic of yoga, which through breath and simple movements had the power to shift my entire being into a blissful, transcendent state, kept me coming back.  I fell even more deeply in love with yoga when I discovered it could transform my state of mind and bring me closer to my spirit, as well as keeping my body healthy! Dee Greenberg, the owner of the studio (who is now in southern Florida), fostered the spiritual aspect of the practice that I was craving.  One day, Dee was advertising a Yoga Journal conference workshop.  I recognized the teacher’s name — it was Shiva Rea!  Shiva was Dee’s teacher.  I was intrigued yet a little nervous to go to an event that included seemingly esoteric practices, like chanting, which made me a little uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, I signed up and I LOVED IT!  Shiva was even more amazing in person (of course), and the group energy she cultivated, I’d never felt before.  When I returned with new enthusiasm for yoga, Dee encouraged me to sign up for teacher training with Shiva.  It was something I’d never considered, but truly transformed my life for the better and continues to do so!

Today I’d like to share a very simple, yet very powerful practice based on Shiva’s teachings:  Prostrations, or what she calls “Pranams.”  This practice can be done on its own or at the beginning (or anytime during) your regular yoga practice.  The idea behind it is that you are bowing to a higher power, releasing your sense of control and being receptive to what arises.  A prostration is an act of reverence and submission, an expression of devotion and faith.  You don’t need to be religious in order to perform this act and receive substantial benefits.  You are simply coming home to yourself, to that deep wisdom that resides within.  Releasing yourself completely to the earth, feeling your forehead connect with the ground, and listening to your inner voice can lead to great transformation, acceptance, and awareness.  Sometimes powerful emotions can arise in this process.  Sometimes solutions to problems or other creative ideas spontaneously emerge.  Pranams are powerful and accessible to all.  Do one or do 108!  It is all good!  Enjoy this heart-opening practice:

In the first round, I show the first stage, bending the knees as you come out of plank down into chaturanga.  Then you rise up into cobra pose, keeping the legs on the ground.  Use the back and stomach muscles to rise up, not the hands — they are there to support you though you should be able to hold cobra without their help.  In the second round, I show the next evolutionary stage, coming down into chaturanga with straight legs and then rising up into upward dog.  Stand on the hands, shoulders away from ears, only the tops of your feet touching the ground.  Notice how the hands stay connected to the body throughout much of the practice.  I like setting a timer for 20 minutes in the morning and doing this meditative practice.  I also do this practice when I am feeling too restless for seated meditation.  Big changes are happening in my life and I am finding it very helpful to maintain this practice daily.  It stretches your entire body, grounds you, and brings you in tune with your intuition.  Rest your frontal brain to the earth in this grounding practice and feel what arises.

Have a great day, everyone, and let me know if you have any comments or questions!  

 

Happy Full Moon!

arenal full moon sunset

Happy Full Moon in Scorpio!  

The full moon is a great time to slow down, meditate, and practice “lunar” (more meditative, contemplative, and relaxing as opposed to solar, activating, and energizing) yoga.  Try out this watery, lunar practice by my beautiful teacher, Shiva Rea, to connect with your deepest essence during this potent time.  Just a few minutes of yoga can make a world of difference.  Take a few minutes tonight to just gaze at the moon and let it rejuvenate your spirit!

 

Upcoming Spartan Race Events!

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Hi guys!

This is a little off-topic, but I wanted to announce a couple of upcoming Spartan Race events.  I love anything that supports teamwork, challenging oneself, and being healthy and strong!  The Spartan Race is the global leader in obstacle racing since 2005, and has been voted the #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine.  Four levels of competitive obstacle racing allow you to tackle this challenge at the appropriate level.  Get out of your comfort zone and have fun!  Test your limits, and surprise yourself with your strength.  Transformation happens when you can face your fears and have the courage to plow through them, and this race enables you to do that.

Check out the Hawaii Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend, now open for registration!  The Spartan Race is also coming to my hometown, Boston, in August, and the Philadelphia stadium race and Tri-State NJ Super Spartan will take place in September.  There are many events to choose from, and I have a code for a free race for one of my lovely readers!  Just be the first to comment with what you’d hope to gain from this challenge and you’ve got it.

Use this link for 15% off any Spartan Race:  http://bit.ly/spartanwarrior

Thanks for stopping by!

Food for a Healthy Body & Mind – Cauliflower Rice, Walnut Meatballs, and Quinoa Pizza!

Yoga and healthy eating go perfectly together!  So today, I am going to share three very healthy, delicious, and easy recipes with you.  I absolutely love to cook and bake and I have a passion for healthy, delicious foods.  I spend a fair amount of time researching and trying out new things, so I will share some ideas from time to time.  All the recipes I’ll share will be vegan or vegetarian, and they are tested on omnivores.  I won’t include them here unless they love them, too.  You don’t need to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this stuff! 

Cauliflower Rice

You can use cauliflower as a rice substitute in any recipe or just on its own.  Even if you don’t like cauliflower, there’s a good chance you will like it this way.  I won’t give any specific required amounts for ingredients – that depends on how many people you’re feeding or whether you want to save any.  Half a head of cauliflower = two good-sized servings.  It does freeze fine, I’ve heard (though I’ve never tried because it’s delicious and I eat it right away)! 

So take some cauliflower, cut it up (or you can buy it pre-cut), put it in the food processor and pulse/chop it until it resembles the consistency of rice.  Next, in a frying pan over medium heat, add a small amount of coconut (or other) oil to coat the pan.  Optional: add some finely-chopped onions (and minced fresh garlic if desired) and sauté until clear-golden.  Add the cauliflower “rice” and stir fry for approximately 4-5 more minutes.  Add whatever spice you like – I’ve used cumin, coriander, parsley, basil, salt & pepper, fresh herbs, etc. – those or a combination are all great, and there are limitless options.  Now you’re ready to use it however you want – in another recipe or on its own!  Lasts about 5-7 days in the fridge or you can freeze it in airtight bags.

cauli rice

Walnut Meatballs 

These are amazing – definitely my favorite non-meat balls I’ve ever tried.  I’ve shared them with several meat-eaters, too, and they stand up to the test.  The texture is very much like a regular meatball, and they taste great.  You can bake them in sauce of your choosing or on their own in the oven.  They can be frozen for future meals.  I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home.  

Ingredients:

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 T minced fresh parsley (or any herb)

1 ½ tsp. seasoning (I mix it up, but most recently used a combination of coriander, white pepper, sage, basil, and oregano)

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup of breadcrumbs

¼ cup of flaxseed meal (if you don’t have this, just use more breadcrumbs, or finely crushed reduced sodium saltines as the original recipe suggests)

¾ cup ground walnuts (I chop them up with a knife; you can use a food processor or coffee grinder, too)

¾ cup nutritional yeast (find this in Whole Foods’ bulk section or Bob’s Red Mill and Bragg have packaged versions – this can be a great cheese alternative)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients.  Next, stir in the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, walnuts, and nutritional yeast.  Coat hands with cooking spray and form 1-inch balls.  Either spray baking pan or put meatballs in a casserole dish with one approximately 25-ounce jar of sauce (or homemade, even better).  I used Trader Joe’s Arrabiata Sauce – but don’t limit it to Italian-style sauces – the original recipe uses apricot BBQ sauce.  So many options!  It can also be nice to bake them separately from the sauce so you can use them later in other recipes/sauces.  Recipe yields approximately 32 meatballs.  

walnut balls * Photograph from tasteofhome.com

 

Here’s another awesome recipe that I love and find indispensable.  Make sure to check out the rest of the Henry Happened blog, too.  It’s an excellent resource! 

Quinoa Pizza Crust

I am so thankful I found this recipe!  It is simple and delicious, filling and satisfying in every way.  I never thought I could do pizza without cheese (or sauce, for that matter), but this recipe is awesome and you really don’t need either.  That being said, you could also use the crust for any pizza of your own creation!  It doesn’t fall apart; it has a consistency similar to “regular” pizza in that you can pick it up with your hands, unlike some pizza crust substitutes that fall apart and must be eaten with a fork.  I have also made the crust on its own and then cut it up and used it as bread, to top with hummus or other sauces, or as a side to a meal or a salad.  It is very versatile!  It’s also full of protein.  

 

Eating whole, plant-based foods can treat and prevent a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.  It can be difficult at first to accept the fact that the American diet many of us have been raised on isn’t all that healthy.  Making changes can be challenging, but once you start to discover new flavors and foods and begin to feel a whole lot better it is hard to go back! 

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do, and I would love any feedback – what you thought when you tried these recipes, any great healthy food blogs/websites you want to share, or other recipes of your own!  

Cooking can be very meditative and knowing you are feeding yourself healthy, delicious foods is very nourishing mentally, emotionally, and physically!  Enjoy experimenting!

 

Yoga is About Balance

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Tree Pose on Beach Log

“Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures: it is our home.”

Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga

8 Ways to Develop a Home Yoga Practice

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Yoga can transform your life if you let it become a daily part of your lifestyle.  Here are some ideas to develop your own home practice:

  • Doesn’t need to be very long – 20 minutes/day is fine
  • Doesn’t always need to be asana (posture) practice – seated or walking meditation is also very powerful.  Also take time to study yogic texts, online resources, do art, write in a journal, or anything else that brings your inner essence out and is nourishing to you.  Practice flow activities; practice mindfulness.
  • Try sun salutations – 3, 6, 9, 12 of them, etc. – play around with variations to keep it interesting (Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, Dancing Warrior, etc.)
  • Choose one pose each week (or month, depending on difficulty) to work on/incorporate into your practice
  • Have a dedicated spot for your yoga/meditation.  Tell others in your household what you are doing so you won’t be interrupted.
  • Do yoga together with others in your household!
  • Practice awareness of your body’s current state and choose where to go from there … maybe relaxing moon salutations are more appropriate than activating sun salutations sometimes … feel what your body needs and proceed accordingly – do you need relaxation or stimulation?  Do you need to open your hips or stretch your quads?  Where are you holding tension?  What poses will support its release?  Let your intuition guide you.
  • Try a DVD – there are so many.  My teacher, Shiva Rea, has some great DVDs with practices you can customize to be as short or long (and as challenging or restorative) as you want.  

Have fun with it – yoga is not just another exercise routine that you grudgingly force yourself to do.  Yoga is a beautiful way of living, which allows you to become your best self!  Do you have any other suggestions?  Feel free to comment or ask questions.  Have a great day!

Something to meditate on…

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Through yogic practices, can we recognize as our true nature, the unchanging Self that experiences or – more appropriately, perhaps – witnesses our ever-changing emotions/conditions of being?  Accepting that this Self exists permanently, shining beneath all of our ephemeral states, our higher intelligence can remain steady in times of difficulty and not get carried away with or grasp for pleasure, knowing that all of these cognitions are impermanent.  The Self alone remains unfazed as pure consciousness.  Awareness of this Self brings peace.

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