Thursday Yoga- Taking Chances

chances

I realized lately that I’ve been playing it little safe out of fear. A few weeks ago during yoga nidra I was overcome by a feeling the need to serve. Service as a way of life. In the next moment I had a sense of panic. How could I possibly do this responsibly, passionately and in a way that wouldn’t mean taking a vow of poverty? After some meditation and conversations with practical and successful friends whose opinions I value, I realized that I needed to look at things from a new perspective.

This meant trusting my instincts more and pushing through doubt.

Life is changing. Fast. Faster than I thought it would, but I’m ready. I’m excited, pumped and a little nervous. By taking conscious steps and chances, I’m creating the life I want.

It is surprising. And in other ways it feels as if this is what was going to happen all along. I just needed to find my way.

If you are looking to a take a risk, I hope you have the courage, wisdom and passion to do so.

It’s worth it.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free.

Namaste y’all.

Wednesday Yoga- Things Change

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As the year comes to an end I’m astonished at how much has changed. I’ve transitioned to teaching yoga therapy, discovered a deep and passionate calling to teach meditation and realized that being a yoga teacher isn’t something I want to do, it’s what I am supposed to do. And yet, these discoveries didn’t jump out and slap me in the face. Day-by-day, week-by-week I plugged away and listened to my voice and made some practical choices. Let’s be real, I also jumped off a few cliffs without a net.

I’m where I’m supposed to be.  And happy. Happy with what I doing for a living. I’m feeling peaceful in my personal life. And lastly, I understand that while a plan is critical, I also need a little bit of faith. When I stay in the present I can hear myself and trust my instincts.

Mindfulness is my roadmap and breathing is my vehicle.

Inhale. Exhale. Stay present.

Namaste y’all.

Meatless Monday! (Kale Pesto with Pasta!)

winter pesto

Official Meatless Monday Blogger

Happy Meatless Monday!! This is a recipe that I discovered last year and thought it was just right for Meatless Monday!!!

I love pesto. What’s not to love basil, cheese, olive oil? Seriously- it’s good stuff. There is nothing like fresh basil in the summer. Yum-mo. But its winter. I try to eat seasonally. By that I mean, I look to buy food that are fresh that season. Enter my new best friend kale. Kale can be grown well into winter. This makes it an ideal veggie for so many reasons. Aside from its many nutritional benefits it makes a wonderful pesto! It doesn’t taste like its basil counterpart, but it is as equally delicious.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 5 cloves garlic (you can use less, I love garlic and you never know when a vampire might show up)
  • 1/4- 1/2 c parmesan cheese (Vegan? Skip the cheese, please)
  • 1/4 c (more or less) olive oil
  • 1/4 c warm/hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 c pine nuts (or walnuts, pine nuts can be pricey)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preparation

1. Be sure to rinse your kale thoroughly, as dirt and sand loves to hide in those curly crevices. Rinse the leaves first, de-stem and chop, rinse again in a colander.
2. Removing the stem is simple. Grip the outer stem at the bottom with 2 fingers and slide them up, taking the leaf off. This seems to be the fastest way, as long as it is healthy kale with strong stems.
3. Some recipes call to steam the kale first before blending. I don’t and I’ll tell you why. More than likely I will be using this with some kind of heat (pasta, roasting in the oven on potatoes etc) so I don’t think it’s necessary. I also like the taste of raw kale. If you don’t, steam the kale quickly (and I mean quickly for about 15 seconds). But I suggest raw.
4. Put the kale, garlic and cheese in the food processor. Add the lemon juice. Turn on the food processor and slowly drizzle in the oil. If the pesto is too thick, use a bit of the hot water. I use the water instead of adding more oil to cut back on fat.
5. Let the food processor, well process until it’s that lovely pesto, pasty consistency.
Voila.

Once this was made I stored it in a Tupperware container. To preserve pesto pour a small amount of olive oil on top (optional- I didn’t as I don’t anticipate it will make it very long).

 

Now what to do with the pesto?! The options are endless. Do not grab a spoon and eat this from the container (though you will be tempted).

 

This pesto works will with:

  • Bread as a first course or snack (a warm baguette)
  • On pasta (pictured)
  • Roasted veggies
  • Sandwiches
  • Frittatas

 

Do you have any favorite pesto recipes? Let me know, I’m always looking to collect some.

Namaste y’all.

 

Friday Yoga

Yogi Bhajan

I love this quote but it can be challenging, especially if you haven’t made it a habit to of listening to yourself. I don’t mean listening with your ego-centered thoughts to an ego-centered mind. With practice you begin to hear the whisper of something deep and lasting; the wisdom of your spirit.

I have found that by practicing mediation my inner voice is strong and sonorous. It says things that I never heard because I was too busy looking outside of myself.

Be still, it says.

Trust yourself, it says.

Be strong, it says.

Be vulnerable, it says.

Serve, it says.

Serve, it says.

Love, it says.

There are times that I still get distracted and feel lost. When those times arise, I come back to what I know about my best self. This gets back in touch with my center.

 

Namaste y’all.

Rikers Island Yoga (Teaching in Prison)

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We are all prisoners, undergoing a life sentence, imprisoned by our own minds. We are all seeking parole, being hostages of our own anger, fear, desire… it is a thin line that separates us from these people, who stare at us from inside this cage. The same things that do not go beyond the threshold of our thoughts, have crossed, in their case, the threshold of action. But still, we are alike.

- From Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

Well, they must have done something to be in prison… 

I think it’s ridiculous that inmates get yoga. 

Why do you come here? 

These (and more) are the negative things people have said to me about teaching yoga at Rikers. I write about teaching in prison every other week to honor those I believe are the forgotten. Our society is built on the idea that only the ‘good’ deserve ‘good’ things and ‘bad’ people are expendable.  It implies that were are the things that we do.

I do not think that we are.

We are more that the stuff we buy, the jobs we do, we are more than the people we choose to be with and the choices we make. Because someone made bad choices in the past does not mean that she shouldn’t have a chance at a preparing for a better future.

I’m not okay with throwing people away. I’m not okay with a woman being overwhelmed with gratitude because I  looked her in the eye and said, ‘Good morning.’ When it comes to jail I believe that the system is broken. I’m not talking just Rikers. I mean lots the institution of detention. Punishment without programming and plan for re-entry (and the follow-up after re-entry) is a recipe for recidivism. And reform at Rikers is said to be underway. I have seen some changes. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Sorry, I don’t mean to preach.  It gets under my skin.

I know. Yoga teacher heal thyself and all that. My passion is a gift and a curse.

Moving on.

As my mom says, “It’s Tuesday so it must mean Rikers.” So our story begins.

I could hear the rain pouring down and pulled myself out of bed. Soaked like a wet dog on the PATH train I hoped that the weather and my now clingy sweats weren’t an omen.

While the prison seemed to creak under the weight of the rain, classes were a different story. After spending time in Building 16 I taught my first class to the women in 3SA. The dorm holds sentenced women. Last week, I dropped by to see if they were really interested in having class. Apparently, a few of them stopped by a counselor’s office on Monday asking about yoga, just to make sure I wasn’t full of bs.

Eight women came to their mats. The energy was definitely more calm than the women in detainee areas. There wasn’t that frenetic, anxious energy. Women who are sentenced know how long they are there. We were able to sit and talk about what classes could look like. Lots of times pre-trial women are distracted, and with good reason. Some of them are new to this situation and most don’t know what is going on with their cases. They are learning how to survive in this environment and are scared.

Because it’s prison.

We sat with our mats making a large circle. One woman sitting at the table asked if she could watch. Instead, we invited her to come sit even if she didn’t want to move. “I just want to be a part of what’s happening here,” she said. Another woman stated that with the TV on in the background, it would be hard to concentrate.  Nearby, people were intensely watching a movie. Honestly, compared to other floors it was so low that I didn’t even notice it. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what was on. I asked Rachel(not her real name)  if she would be okay about thinking of the TV and all the noise around us as background and white noise. Someone else pointed out that it would help them learn to be still when it’s crazy. And still another said that we would get so focused on class that it wouldn’t matter.

‘This is going to be awesome’, I thought.

We began class with an awareness practice. I watched as everyone started to breathe into the moment. I don’t mean this in some woo-woo way. The witness practice as we call in cancer therapy training allows someone to bring moment to moment awareness to internal and external actions. Much of my cancer and chronic illness training is useful in this environment.

Our focus: being more than the body. Every movement was about the breath and allowing things to be how they are supposed to be in the moment. Building on this sense of living in the present we glided into one restorative pose and then guided meditation. Lunch was wheeled in as we were wrapped up. We formally closed class wishing each other peace and peace for everyone.

I’m hopeful for what we will learn from each other.

So when I ask myself why I do this I answer, how can I not? I live in the world. We all have different ways that we serve other humans. This is mine.

People in prison need consistent programming and  mind/body activities like yoga. From Us News Blog:

The focus of our prison system should be to improve society, not make it worse. As such, we should rededicate ourselves to reducing recidivism, and implementing the evidence-based policies that do so, such as increasing educational and vocational investment in prisoners.

And listen. I’m not a fool. I don’t waltz into Rikers chanting Om and teaching from a rose colored yoga mat. That’s not me. It’s also not my issue to deal with what people did.

I teach yoga and meditation so women find that place inside that lets them see who they are outside of all the stuff people say they are. Those powerful labels that can shape a life when we don’t pay attention. Powerful labels can shape a life when you’ve spent most of your life living in a situation that was ‘survival-centric’. Eventually those labels of what the external says is so becomes what is known.

I teach yoga and meditation so women get a moment to breathe into their spirit and say, I am a person. I am worthy of attention. I am worthy of love and being loved.

Namaste y’all.

If you would like to learn more about Liberation Prison Yoga click here

If you haven’t seen Doing Time, Doing Vipassana you can check it out below.

Meatless Monday – Easy Peasy Pasta

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From the guardian:

Curbing the world’s huge and increasing appetite for meat is essential to avoid devastating climate change, according to a new report. But governments and green campaigners are doing nothing to tackle the issue due to fears of a consumer backlash, warns the analysis from the thinktank Chatham House.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.

“Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption, but the world is doing very little,” said Rob Bailey, the report’s lead author. “A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector. There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.”

 

I’m not the government and I certainly am not interested in telling you what to heat. But….if you are interested in finding an alternative to meat even one day out of the week, keep reading!

Pasta is an easy meal and fresh pasta cooks up faster than dry and has a fresh taste! To create the meal in the photo I roasted some veggies and sautéed a few more, tossed the whole thing with lemon, olive oil et voila!

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

  • Cherry tomatoes (2 pints, sliced in half)
  • Eggplant (cubed)
  • Garlic (1/2 bulb, unpeeled)
  • Fresh spinach (one bunch, chopped)
  • Red onion (thinly sliced)
  • Fresh oregano
  • Basil (two teaspoons, dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon (one whole, juiced)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh pasta for 4-6 people

Directions

  1. Toss tomatoes and eggplant with olive oil, basil, salt, pepper and place in roasting pan. place garlic in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil until covered.
  2. Roast in preheated 375º oven and roast for 25-35 minutes.
  3. While veggies are roasting prepare pasta water. Remember fresh pasta takes only a few minutes to cook. Also sauté spinach and onions in a pan with olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. When the veggies are finished remove them and place them on a large serving platter.
  5. Cook the pasta, drain and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh oregano and black pepper.
  6. Serve immediately!!

Mange!!

Namaste y’all.