Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Being Wrong Feels So Right

Yoga Costa Rica

I was wr- wr- wr- wrong about something.

Clearly this yoga ish works because despite the false starts, in the past the word wrong was the ‘he who shall not be named’ of my vocabulary.

Back up, back up!
In the not so distant past, it (this notion of wrong) wasn’t even a thought.
There was what I knew to be true. That’s it.
I know- what a maroon.
Enough of my silly past- the point of the story is far more interesting than my arrival at said point..
How or why one starts yoga doesn’t matter to me.
Let that marinate.
Let me explain, of course I care why someone decides to come their mat. The catalyst matters to the extent that I shape a class or a program for private clients.
As a teacher and yogi it’s my job show them a path that helps connect body, breath and individual goals.
I think I wanted students to arrive at their mats with grand plans of a seeking higher awareness. This was a secret I kept to myself until I realized yesterday that it’s unfair to impose such expectations on anyone. What the hell Neik? You know better… I came back to my mat for good because someone broke my heart. No grand shit there. Pretty cliche actually.
This is a little icky to admit, but isn’t that the point of yoga- to share what makes me feel awkward and dorky so I can embrace it?
This acknowledgment is my connection to the world I suppose. This is how I breathe.
Learning to breathe is a funny thing. If you have been living life with stifled, ragged breathing learning how to exhale can be revolutionary. It can change your way of thinking.
It can also make you face some shit. That’s the dirty, happy secret about body and breath. Once you learn how to do it, all sorts of truths can rise to the surface, some good, some not so much.
No such thing as a little bit of freedom- you are free or you are not.
Not everyone wants to sit with that on their mat.
That’s cool.
Really it is.
If a student discovers that they are a fellow traveler, a seeker if you will- she/he will ask questions and it will be apparent.
Some people just want to relax.
Some people want to learn how to touch their toes.
Some people want to learn how to sit up straighter.
It’s all good.
It’s not my job to judge. It’s my job to teach, love and grow.
Most days I feel like two steps forward, two steps back.
Today, I can flip that.
Ha! It’s a good moment. I’m going to enjoy it.
This is yoga and it loves me even when I am dead wrong. Word.
Namaste y’all.
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What I Learned from 108 Days of Yoga

magiczone

Here is a list of the things I had done for more than 108 days in a row:

1. Smoke
2. Quit smoking
3. Breathe
4. Eat
5. Sleep

It’s not a very impressive list.

I didn’t intend to do 108 days of yoga. It was something that I had planned for later in the year. But we never get to plan our greatest lessons.

After doing 45 days of hot and vinyasa I decided to keep going. So overwhelming was the thought, I wasn’t ready to get into the details. It was more personal than I anticipated.

Now that I’m done and have taken some time to reflect, I may have learned a little somethin’.

1. Flexibility

I’m a reformed partially reformed control freak. When things go as I plan, I’m okay. When I expect things to go awry, I’m also okay. But when things go okay and I expect awry, I’ve been known to fuck bring unnecessary chaos where it wasn’t needed. When things go awry and I expect okay I can also get a bit stubborn. While my body is flexy, not all of me is always so willing to stretch.

Work in progress…

I got sick during my 108 days. Panic set in- all I could think of was missing a practice. Fortunately, I’m not all crazy, so there was a side of me that said chill out.

What is yoga anyway? It’s a uniting of body and breath. Maybe your yoga is to do a few restorative poses that foster healing instead of going balls to the wall in 105° heat. This thought didn’t come until after I had practiced two days with no voice in the heat, but like I said I’m a work on progress.

Change happens- it’s the one thing I can count on. 108 days taught me that I can always breathe through it.

Learning to breathe cultivated my flexibility more than any asana.

2. Commitment/Trust

I may or may not be known to twitch just a smidge when it comes to commitment. We all have out shit. This is mine.

But when you show up every single day for 108 days, you learn to trust the process. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen at the end.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe everything.

Regardless, I wanted to see it through. On the days that I really didn’t want to go, I learned the most. There were also days that when I hit my mat and felt like a rock star, only to be humbled, a crumbled sweaty mess.

But fall down seven times, stand up 8.

3. Peace

Say hey, doing 108 days of yoga is a row is hard. But, I did it. The act of practicing daily became meditative, down to the way that I prepared my yoga bag the night before. There was a sense of calm that I took with me once I left my mat.
I think I’m most grateful for this.

I realize that while coming to my mat each day is pretty much given- what will happen in that moment is unknown. That is a little scary. And a lot of fun. But no matter what, I can be with whatever happens.

This is yoga for 108 days and beyond.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – Black Bean Burgers

I won’t sit here and pretend that a ‘burger’ made from black beans, asparagus and other goodies is the same as a burger made from beef.

It’s not.

It bears no resemblance to a Kobe hamburger. That said, this veggie burger is frackin’ spectacular. Just because one doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean that one should not enjoy the feeling of eating a juicy sandwich. At least this one writing doesn’t believe such nonsense.

I like burgers. I like the idea of food that I can hold with my hands. And if you are like me, you do too! Store bought veggie patties have tons of sodium and all sorts of ‘gums’ to give the patty shape. Feeling ambitious and a little cocky, I decided to give it a go.

You can thank me after you finish eating. Chewing while your mouth is full is rude. We may be greedy sandwich eaters who eat with their hands, but we do have manners for heaven’s sake.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 medium burgers or 4-6 large ones)

  • 2 cans black beans
  • Small bunch of asparagus
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 1 C bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T red pepper flakes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 C mushrooms
  • 1 haberno or jalapeno (optional)

This recipe couldn’t be easier

  1. Add all ingredients except 1 can of beans, oil and  in the food processor
  2. Pulse all ingredients until combined
  3. Slowly drizzle oil
  4. Transfer burger mixture into a bowl and mix in the second can of beans
  5. Gently form patties
  6. Cook patties in a non-stick pan with olive oil or on a foil lined grill
  7. Patties should be cooked for 5 minutes on each side (gently flip)

I had my burger with a salad and topped with heirloom tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, onions and mustard

Some other great toppings:

  • Avocados
  • Sliced apple or pear
  • Cucumber

Enjoy!!!

3 Ways to Make Sure the Vegetarians and Vegans (in your life) Are Happy on Memorial Day!!!

Picture this…

FADE IN: Memorial Day. The grill is fired up and ready to go. Furniture is cleaned, the ritual trip to Costco made, burgers are stacked, drinks are flowing at the bar and music is bumpin’. Everyone is eating, drinking, dancing and bringing in the summer just as imagined. Standing back you slowly nod with confidence.  The inside voice says, “I am. One. Amazing. Host.” As you are about to seal that pat on the back with a sip of the signature cocktail (you brilliantly thought up)- hold it.

Freeze the shot.

What’s that in the corner of the backyard? It looks like a person holding a plate full of nothing but potato salad and cole slaw. You may not have known it, but this kind of person can sneak by you when collecting RSVPs. Oh sure they may look familiar. Like someone you know, but not…

It’s a vegetarian.

Vegetarians. Gasp! Yes they can be anywhere, and they don’t always say something about their dietary needs. How did this happen?! Why weren’t you notified? A party is only successful if everyone is happy. Now what?

And, scene.

Don’t worry. This doesn’t have to be a premonition. Consider it the Ghost of BBQ Future.

Many people are making the transition to eating less meat. It may not seem easy during grilling season but don’t worry, we’ll make sure that every last guest knows who rocks Memorial Day.

1. Grilled vegetables. Now we’re not just talking about onions for burgers. Slice eggplant and drizzle it with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and  lemon juice grill for six minutes on each side. Grilled tomatoes with basil and Parmesan cheese is another great option. Have sliced and ready, zucchini, peppers, large portobello mushrooms and big chunks of vidalia onions, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar they make GREAT sandwich fixin’s. Instead of regular mayo make an aioli by mixing mayo and minced garlic. Roasted Eggplant and Tomatillo Dip is a fab addition to any sandwich or tortilla chip!

2. Grilled fruit. This sounds strangely amazing doesn’t it? That’s because it is, my friend it is. Grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in fruit- what a treat. Try apples, peaches, mangoes and pineapples!

3. Salads. Sometimes BBQ salads are more of an afterthought. You get the distinct feeling that lettuce was thrown in a bowl because it seems terrible as adults not to have something green on the table. Chances are it is just lettuce in a bowl with some bottled dressing on the side. Don’t be that guy. You can leave the lettuce for the burgers and make a few hearty salads that are budget friendly, simple to make and delicious. One crowd favorite is Cucumber Tomato Salad. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and voila! If you want extra credit add some fresh mozzarella.

Fresh salsas can make a person who eats veggies very happy. We suggest Mango/Cucumber! Mango, cucumber, cilantro, onion, salt, pepper, lime juice in a food processor and presto chango your tropical of chips with dip is ready.

These tips should ensure that no one goes hungry this weekend! Have fun!

Adventures in Yoga – Over Correction Reflection

toes:fingers

My chitta vritti or mindstuff has been getting in the way of my yoga.

My asana practice is a microcosm of what’s going on off the mat.

A few weeks ago while taking class, my teacher told me to relax- more feeling, less thinking.

I wonder if this happens to other new teachers… I’m spending lots of time teaching giving adjustments, living in teaching mode has started to takeover my entire practice.

Don’t get me wrong, being our own best teachers is necessary, we grow in our practice because we learn how to find a deeper expression of a posture using our breath. As my body awareness expands both in depth and breadth, I can tweak a previously unfamiliar muscle or make a minute correction.

It’s awesome.

There is of course a downside.

Anything strength overused becomes a weakness.

Over correction can result in a pose becoming distorted. You could even hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. As you start to get more flexible this is even more an issue.

It may come as no surprise then to know that as I work on my business plan I may need to step back a bit, take a breath and remember the satisfaction that comes from building something. It doesn’t have to be all about furrowed eyebrows and punishing myself until 2am. Every thing takes time, I can’t rush to the next thing if I haven’t finished what I’m supposed to in this moment. Additionally, I don’t have to work on a particular aspect of my plan until it’s almost unrecognizable.

Be in the moment, make adjustments be keep it moving.

I’ve said this about myself before- but it’s worth repeating. Sometimes when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And you know what else happens when you over correct? You lose joy. You lose balance.

Yoga is the union of body and breath.

Sometimes I need to remember that. What I seek isn’t in the best expression of a pose.

It’s what’s inside.

It’s what I do after my asana practice is over.

This is what I love about my yoga. My practice tells me when life and not just a posture is out of whack.

Should I be a bit more self-aware. Yeah, but I’m not. Sue me. I’ll get there one day, or maybe not. But every experience brings me closer to enlightenment.

This is yoga and I stand less corrected.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – Raspberry Sorbet

one ingredient sorbet

Raspberry sorbet. The kind you can’t find in a second hand store.

Raspberry sorbet, if it were warm I wouldn’t eat much more.

Raspberry sorbet. I think I love her.

This is one or two ingredient sorbet.

Seriously folks, it don’t get any easier than this.

1. Freeze raspberries
2. Add to food processor
3. Eat

In all fairness you may have to scrape the sides a few times. But it doesn’t get much easier than this.

My favorites:
Grapefruit
Mango
Raspberry

If you are dying for a bit more sweetness, add a little agave before number 2.
Number 3 stays the same.

This is yoga- funky and frozen.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Who Are My Students?

You know what? There’s something that isn’t discussed that I didn’t really hear until after I started teaching. 

It’s been my biggest lesson so far. I’m sorry that I haven’t talked about it earlier.

As a new teacher you teach people who are new to yoga.

Yeah, and you say?

Check it.

I practiced yoga off and on for more than a decade before I did YTT. In the year and a half before I was brave enough to do it, I was practicing several days a week. Then I spent YTT with women who had advanced practices. I started practice at least once a day. Progress in my practice was exponential. I don’t just mean on my mat either. My approach the the entire world was underlined with a broader sense of compassion.

To say that I was livin’ the dream is a gross understatement.

Cool right? I know. I had managed to cultivate a pretty bad ass existence.

Throughout the process our primary teacher told us that we’d be teaching new students and that would mean that we would have to focus on the basics. I heard her, but didn’t listen.

Isn’t always the damn case?

Most of the people I teach have new or newish practices.

It’s my job to help them find the best expression of a pose.

My job break down the connection of body and breath in a way that is accessible, challenging, peaceful and hopefully lots of fun.

Many people I see are just getting started or coming back to their mats after a hiatus. It can be intimidating and scary.

It’s critical that I remember that not everyone has a keen sense of body awareness.

Not everyone knows what the quadricep is or where it’s located.

When you say connect with your breath- you have to explain what that means.

It’s the reality of teaching new folks. And that’s cool. When I’m ready to headstand I will. Right now, I’m learning how to be a beginning teacher who has students who love learning about yoga.

The Answer Man is a fun little film about a curmudgeon self-help guru who learns to love the people he inspired. The woman he begins to date gives him (and me) sage advice:

  1. Don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t trade places with.
  2. Try not to say things that you can’t take back.
  3. Something is what it is, so it can’t be something else.

Number 3 is my mantra.

Modifications, encouragement, space to breathe and a soft place to fall is my job for my students.

I let them know that their best pose in a moment is the very best that there is.

class

 

Not comparing today to yesterday. Not worrying about tomorrow.

I show them how to feel from the inside out and outside in. And it all takes place in the now.

I smile at the thought.

It’s a blessing that this is my new career.

As my own practice grows my students will grow and my style will evolve.

It’s what is. It’s pretty incredible. You can set the tone for someone deciding whether or not to continue with yoga.

It’s a big responsibility. One I do not take lightly.

I keep my sequences simple but interesting, I give lots of modifications. I celebrate. And I make adjustments to my class if it seems too challenging or if a class seems ready for something more.

Life. Is. Good.

This is yoga and it’s for everyone.

Namaste y’all.

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Vegan Diaries – Five Minute Gazpacho

five minute gazpacho , inspired recipes, a&o inspired recipes, natural hair living, yoga

Oh how I love warm weather!

Aside from it being the season of my birth (what what could possibly be wrong with it), it’s the time of longer days, fresh foods and spring fever.

This means I need to be outside and not inside cooking. Five-Minute Gazpacho is an inspired recipe born out of necessity, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.

I love to practice at night. By the time I get home it’s too late to eat a big dinner but after doing yoga in a room that is 105 degrees, I’m kinda hungry.

Weird but true. I’m not going to change my routine, so adjustments had to be made. Because I’m up late writing, I figure I can have a light meal but it should be fruits or veggies. And since it’s late I need to be able to make it quickly, preferably in one pot. Preferably without a pot.

But salads can get old.

Ya dig?

And then, a brainstorm (cue lightning and thunder) GAZPACHO! Now, technically you have to stew the tomatoes yourself and then chill them etc, etc. This is too much. I wanted quick refreshing and easy. The result?

Stupendous.

Serve some at your next brunch and don’t tell anyone that it only took five minutes.

Unless of course they too read Oneika’s Yoga Life, then the jig is up.

Sorry and you’re welcome.

 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Small handful cilantro
  • pinch flaked sea salt (I like Maldon)
  • generous helping black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2  fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine (white grape juice with no sugar added can be substituted for wine)
  • 1/2 Cento San Marzano Certified Peeled Tomatoes
Place items in a blender and blend baby!!
Blend for 30 seconds or until all ingredients are combined.
Serve with crusty bread or salad!
Go now, impress your friends. Go!
Really, go…I’d love to chat more but I have more work to do and then class.
xOx
This is yoga in five minutes.
Namaste y’all.