Get Interested in Your Yoga Practice Over and Over and Over Again…

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It’s so easy at the beginning. Your tapas is finely tuned and every pose is new, fresh and exciting. And as my yoga progresses so do the poses. With so many new exciting things happening, as I deepen my practice and begin teaching, it seems critical to stay in touch with my yoga foundation.

Taking classes is a little different now that I teach yoga. My ears prick up even more when I hear something that makes me say ‘Yes!’ That is awesome and needs to be shared with my class.

A few days days ago as I was sweating it out the teacher said, “Get interested. Find new ways to get into a familiar shape.”

‘Um- can you all pause for a quick sec? I need to write this down.’

A big smile covered my face.

Get interested. 

So I did. My koshas seemed like the best place to start. Very briefly, I’ve heard the koshas described as ‘energy lampshades’ or sheaths that cover our light. In yoga our goal is to move inward to a state of purity.

I looked at poses from the inside out and connected with my pranamaya kosha, or what I like to call my energy fascia. It’s the kosha that connects all the koshas to the body. With my breath really in tune with my body I felt like I was doing poses both as an observer and a participant.

It was cool.

Get interested.

In my head as I got into a pose I asked, ‘If I were a teacher how would I adjust this? What verbal cues would I give?’

I was surprised at how I could disappear so deep into the adjustments that I had to back off. I was almost missing my practice.

Eventually I found that sweet spot. It’s the same with students. You have to feel the space of each student. There’s a point when you make the adjustment and let a person explore the shape with their own breath. It’s like I’m the tour guide. You don’t need your tour guide yapping at you the entire trip , but you might want them to point out a spot that shouldn’t be missed.

As my own tour guide I got a little over zealous, but found balance.

I can’t say I’d practice like this daily. And truthfully if I did, eventually it wouldn’t be interesting anymore.

But flipping the script on myself was an challenge I’d do again and will continue to do.

This is yoga. And boy is it interesting….

Namasté y’all.

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Vegan Diaries – Juice Pulp

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I love juicing but do feel a little guilty about the pulp that is left behind. I don’t compost, nor do I have a garden. Seemed like such a shame to keep tossing it.

Bright idea- vegan muffins.

That carrot, green apple, ginger pulp would be a great base for muffin batter!

I added

  • 3/4 whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup silk
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons raw organic honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • lemon zest

Scooped the batter into a muffin tin and baked them in an 350° oven for 35 minutes.

They smelled delicious, but tasted meh.

Oddly enough a similar recipe exists for homemade dog treats.

Dakota wins.

This is yoga. And sometimes it goes to the dogs.

Namaste y’all.

Community Yoga

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I taught my first community class last Friday.

Amazing. Newly offered a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure how many people would show up. Two my other fellow graduates are sharing the teaching schedule.

It was a nice sized class at 10 people.

Everyone had a fairly consistent practice so we hopped in and got down with some yoga. Kicked some asana.

So. Much. Fun.

There’s something about the notion of a community class.

Pay what you can. Pay a dollar. Pay a nickel. Pay a penny. Pay with a prayer and a bow. But come yoga. Move your body. Move your mind. Move your heart.

Teaching a few donation based classes is so great for a new teacher like me. Gives me a chance to get really good and give back at the same time. The studio owner said to me, “Take classes. Teach classes.” Simple, smart powerful advice. It’s awesome to have the chance to do that.

So I take every class I can, teach every class that I can get and offer to sub for every class that I’m experienced to sub.

It’s made these first 6-8 weeks of teaching empowering. I see people smiling and sweaty after class. That’s a good sign.

This is yoga. And it’s a community.

Namaste y’all.

 

To My Yogis and Yoginis who Practice when Sick

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I had a dream last night that I was eating sandpaper. More accurately, someone was trying to shove sandpaper down my throat.

Sorta weird I guess, but this comes from the chick who dreams entire episodes of  television shows. Episodes that never actually aired- I make them up in my sleep.

So…now that we have that piece of crazy out to examine…

Sandpaper. Ugh. I was choking and there was a bright light in my face.

Sweet dreams are made of these….

I opened my eyes with my hands rubbing my neck.

Swallowed once. Ouch. Sore.

4:30am.

Trance like I pad in comfy socks to the kitchen. Must. Drink. Tea.

Oh no- what’s that I feel? Fever?

No. way.

Vitamin C. Zicam. Green tea. Garlic pills. I was moving full steam to stop this thing in its tracks.

(I was moving as a snail’s pace, as it was 4:30, but you’re gettin’ my drift)

The guilty party? My hot yoga studio if I had to guess- there were a few sick people in class the day before. You could hear them cough during pranayama deep breathing.

Coughing up into the air and not into an elbow. That, mixed with pools of sweat and open pores- I was a human petrie dish. Come on in germs!

Listen- keeping it real- I practice when I’m sick. And since I’ve made this transition to teaching yoga- short of a house sitting on my chest Wizard of Oz style, I’m showing up for class. Period.

But there are precautions I think everyone should take if they head to the studio less than 100%.

You should stay home if you can. A sick body needs time to heal. But realistically, 30 day challengers, yoga warriors and teachers show up.

I wish we could agree on a Yogis Code of Conduct for illness:

  • Thou shalt not cough into the air, hot room or cold
  • Thou shalt wash my hands and use hand sanitizer before touching anything or anyone
  • Thou shalt cough into the crook of my elbow if I must cough
  • Thou shalt tell my teacher if I am sick, this way my teacher will not touch me and transfer germs onto my fellows yogis
  • Thou shalt tell my class if I am sick (teachers) and not make hands-on adjustments

Life must go on even when we aren’t feeling up to it- but as good yogis let’s try and do our best to keep our fellow passengers safe.

This is yoga. And sometimes it gets the cooties.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – Spring Rolls

File this post under delicious experiments. I thought I’d play with making spring rolls. It’s not as easy as I thought, but not that hard to master. These were SO GOOD! So good I wanted to slap myself, but I didn’t because I was eating.

Ingredients

  • Cabbage shredded
  • Noodles cooked (use rice, soba or whatever suits you)
  • Carrots shedded
  • Cucumber thinly sliced
  • Onion thinly sliced
  • Garlic minced
  • Cilantro chopped
  • Ginger grated
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame oil for sauteing
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar (or white wine)

Peanut Sauce

  • 1 T peanut butter ( I used organic and natural)
  • 1/2 T Tamari (or plum sauce or duck sauce) Even though some use soy and Tamari interchangeably- Tamari is richer and has a little sweetness. If you are using peanut butter that is sweetened, go ahead and grab the soy.
  • 1 splash rice wine vinegar
  • 1 squeeze sriracha (optional)
  • Sesame oil
  • Hot water

Roll Preparation

  1. Honestly most of the ‘cooking’ is chopping
  2. Once everything is chopped diced and sliced
  3. Cook your noodles and set aside
  4. Heat a skillet to saute garlic, onions, cabbage, cilantro and ginger
  5. Add soy sauce and white wine
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat
Peanut Sauce Preparation
  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl
  2. It will take about a minute to get everything to combine
  3. Add warm water slowly to get sauce to your preferred consistency

Rolling the roll 

  1. Don’t stuff the roll. It will be more tasty but clumsy and messy. You can ask me how I know, but it seems fairly obvious. These are the sacrifices I make for a&o. It’s worth it.
  2. Make the stuffing look pretty as the wrapper is see through and you don’t want all you sloppiness out there. Unless you do, then that’s your business- I won’t judge
  3. Add a little of the peanut sauce (This is better than using it as a dipping sauce, you’ll eat less and it’s less messy.
  4. Fold over the bottom part of the rice paper wrapper
  5. Fold over the left side of wrapper
  6. Tightly and firmly (but gently) roll stuffing and the wrapper

These were SO GOOD! So good I wanted to slap myself, but I didn’t because I was eating. I think I’ll try shrimp next time. I know I mentioned this all at the beginning of the post- but because they were so good, I thought the information was worth repeating.

Vegan Diaries – A Slip (Kefir? Don’t Even Know Her!)

It was the swirl that got me...
It was the swirl that got me…

I caved on my vegan journey and was punished.

Spanked. Slapped and humilated.

And then I felt dumb.

I was at Hudson Market. It’s a local grocery that sells organic peanut butter for 20 bucks and le creuset cookware. For real- le creuset cookware at a grocery store. *eye roll*

So why was I there? The veggies are just as reasonably priced as they are at the big grocery store.

I think that’s pretty cool. So while I won’t spend 5 dollars on triple recycled paper towels, it’s a great for veggies.

It was late and I was loosey goosey from a hot class- I wasn’t hungry but I was on a post yoga high.

You know that juicy mellow ride that comes from a great practice?

Anyhoo I’m chillin’ listening to Jill Scott‘s ‘Do You Remember’…

Walking past the freezer section with Jill’s raspy voice in my ears, a yoga high and a glimpse of dairy? Well I slipped.

*Jill Scott voice* And I don’t even really like ice cream like that!

So I see Kefir- at first I thought it said Kaffir and almost started a riot. Once calm I grab a pint- creamy and tangy….

Gross, yet I am intrigued…Damn endorphins.

I should have walked away or picked up some Skinny Cow ice cream bars and been done with it…

Chasin’ that dairy dragon. I tried to rationalize, after all it wasn’t ice cream… (I’ll get the filtered Camels instead of the unfiltered, trying to keep my lungs clean and all).

Showered, clean and cozy at home I pulled out the Kefir.

I sniffed it. Smelled good. Sniffed and sniffed and sniffed again and then…

Brought the spoon to my lips and. Gag. (Disclaimer- I am a very adventurous eater)

I made a face like I did when I was five  and forced to eat liver “This is yuuuuuuuuucky”. This was not the frozen yogurt that usually tasted so good.

And because my foolishness knows no bounds, I try it again. Because, maybe my taste buds were off.

They weren’t.

What a waste. I don’t even know what to use it for and I can’t give it away. I like my enemies too much for that.

My ass is back on the vegan wagon.

Sorry I strayed.

This is yoga. A karma will get you like Keyser Söze.

Namaste y’all…

What’s Needling Me? Acupuncture Adventures

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The thought of acupuncture scared me, but becoming a yoga teacher has opened me up to the idea of alternative medicine. This is mostly because I am doing more yoga than I have ever done in my life. When I wake sore I wonder if it’s from too much yoga or if my qi is out of whack.

I did a little homework and figured out the best teacher is experience. With an appointment made I waited for the needles.

Acupuncture wasn’t what I expected. After a consultation about my health I was told to undress. The acupuncturist said that  I could expect to feel warm on certain parts of my body. The whole process of of the needles took about 5 -10 minutes. She centered the needles around my neck, specifically my left trap because it’s been giving me some pains. Needles were also placed at my ankles and wrists. Inserting the needles felt like tiny pin pricks.

And quietly she left. Laying face down I felt…oddly splendid. My eyes were closed and it felt like the world went a little darker. Within about a minute or so I felt warmth radiating in the center of my back, neck and shoulders. It reminded me of laying out in the sun. After a quick check-in to make sure that I wasn’t too hot, once again I floated back to the sunlight.

30 minutes later I emerged feeling mellow, balanced and relaxed. It was suggested that I come back for weekly sessions to get the best benefits. I wasn’t that sold but I glided off to 2+ hours of hot yoga.

Looking back, I can’t say whether it was a good or bad idea to got straight to yoga after the acupuncture. After my first 90 minute class I thought I’d be spent.

I wasn’t. The second class was downright delightful.

Seriously. Seriously. Seriously.

I don’t know if it was the endorphins or the acupuncture. I’ve never done 2+ hours of hot yoga before nor had acupuncture.

I’ll be doing both again but not back-to-back. I think I may want to enjoy the relaxing mellow vibe of post acupuncture.

This is yoga. And when it needles me, it still feels good.

Namaste y’all.

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)

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My spirit takes a journey

My spirit takes a flight

Could not have risen otherwise

And I am not running

I’m choosing

Running is not a choice from the breaking

Breaking is freeing

Broken is freedom

I am not broken

I am free

– Alike from the movie ‘Pariah’

Hellbent, Benjamin Lorr’s book about a regular dude who becomes obsessed with Bikram, both the yoga and the man and writes a journalistic account of the Bikram world. There’s a quote from the movie Pariah that begins one of the chapters.

I am now crushing on Benjamin Lorr.

So savvy to quote a brilliant and understated film about the coming of age of a Black lesbian teenager in Brooklyn.

The journey of healing so many attribute to hot yoga and the parallels with Alike’s journey to self was enough to make me giggle and tap my feet as I read my nook on the PATH train to my own hot yoga class.

I sat on my mat feeling so ready and sure. Reading Hellbent on the train had me stoked to be in the hot room!!!

My bag had been packed to perfection(bag packing for hot yoga is crucial). My water bottle was solid ice. My post class  clothes were in a separate bag.

Couldn’t be more ready. The lights were still off and I looked at myself in the mirror. Suddenly my sukasana felt wobbly. No longer was I easy in my seat.

A lump rose in my throat.

What was I doing taking a class? Had I really decided to make this change and teach yoga? And write? And figure out a strategy to make all of this into a living? Serving the world with yoga? 

The craziness in my head continued….

Panic. Why was I thinking about this now? How did all of those thoughts rush through my head in 20 seconds?

I took to my back to exhale. Class started- and it was a hot, brutal freaking mess. Poses seemed to go on for hours.

But I kept looking at myself in the mirror. This mirror aspect of hot yoga really irks some folks. They say it’s narcissistic. I think it depends on the person. Yoga is what you make of it, no?

Sometimes, I need to square off with my sweaty reflection.

Sometimes I need to look at myself and say, cut the shit Oneika. You. Have. Got. This. So. Suck. It. Up.

I plodded on…One of my favorite teachers adjusted my Rabbit pose. I knew I looked pretty broken throughout class. She was gentle with the adjustment. My legs are long and I am flexible in my back and neck, but I rely on my leg length to get into the pose.

That’s not how yoga works. Yoga is about using strength but finding new ways to reach the final expression of a pose…

Once that is done, you find new ways to grow.

She told me to relax my shoulders – I did. She told me to lift my hips, but my shoulders hunched up. Relaxed my shoulders but my hips dropped. She couldn’t see my face but I think she could feel my frustration and fear.

‘That’s okay, next time’, she said.

I exhaled. Next time. There is a next time.

I didn’t like my life before because I felt broken. Sometimes in class I feel like I’m breaking…because I am free.

I got home and pulled out my plan. The time has come to readjust. I want and need new things.

Change. It’s familiar and scary at the same time.

I always feel this way jumping off the diving board, that tickle of excitement in my stomach and a big bounce- afraid for a second….flying up…

But then I remember, I am an excellent swimmer.

This is yoga. And I am free.

Namaste y’all. 

Vegan Diaries – Comfort Food Lightened Up

Comfort Food Lightened Up

I’m not a winter person in the least. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do love snow fall and I’m happy to romp around with my dog for about 3 minutes after a storm. Then it’s a wrap. However, there are some perks to the season. I swoon over warm comfort food. And while for some, we can enjoy things in moderation- too much of anything is not good for you.

I’ve become inspired to stay fit year round and not just when it suits me. After many attempts I quit smoking and embraced a new life with yoga (Namaste). My diet also changed dramatically. Alas, sometimes, I still crave some of the goodies from my past life- mashed potatoes especially. Determined not to fall back into old patterns- I searched for an alternative. And I found one- roasting! Roasting vegetables satisfies that ‘bad food itch’ without breaking the calorie bank.

You can use any kind of local and seasonal veggies. I added green beans 15 minutes in. I like them a little crisp.

Tip for roasting veggies:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with foil, and coat the foil with canola or olive oil cooking spray. Cut your vegetables into small chunks or hearty bite-sized pieces. (I like different shapes- but keep the thickness the same to keep cook time simple)
  • Add vegetables in a single layer to the foil-lined pan and spray the top with cooking spray or drizzle with a bit of canola or olive oil (use no more than a teaspoon of oil for every cup of vegetables). If you use oil, toss the veggies about on the pan to coat as much of them with oil as possible.
  • Sprinkle on any desired seasonings, such as rosemary or basil, parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper. Coat the tops of your veggies again with canola or olive oil cooking spray, if desired, especially if you didn’t drizzle with oil in Step 2.

Bake until veggies are lightly browned in areas, and tender. If your vegetables look like they are starting to dry out during the roasting period, drizzle some broth, apple juice, or low-fat Italian dressing or vinaigrette over the top. Different vegetables require different cooking times. Check your roasted vegetables after 25-30 minutes (this is probably the halfway point), turn them over with a spatula, then cook until they’re tender and nicely browned around some of the edges (about 25-30 minutes more.)

Serve as a main dish with a salad of spring greens. If a meal is complete without some meat- it also makes a great side with roasted chicken and salad.