The Vegetarian Table – Arugula Blackberry Salad

blackberry salad
Mange!

So these days my diet is mostly vegan- but I do allow myself to have cheese once in awhile. I go back and forth with the decision, but I find if I over think it, my head hurts. For now- I have cheese on occasion. I feel good about my decision not to eat meat, eggs, fish and poultry. I feel like I’m not living a deprived life and I’ve reduced my carbon footprint to boot.

I love eating this time of year. Actually I love eating every time of year. But Spring and Summer food are fresh and delicious. It takes little manipulation to make a tempting dish.

Salads are seen as the boring side of ‘diet foods’. Real men don’t eat salad and the like is chanted the world over. Fresh greens partnered with interesting fruits can make for a great starter or even a main course (gasp). I know I’m talkin’ crazy salad for dinner. But with some soup, an additional veggie or some whole grain bread it can be filling without leaving you heavy.

Lots of what I’m inspired to prepare is born out of necessity. I had arugula that I needed to eat before it went bad. Though cucumbers are my go to veggie for salads I was craving something different.

  • I grabbed some blackberries, grapefruit and shaved a bit of parmesan.
  • For the dressing I used the Oilerie lemon olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard, juice from the grapefruit and a splash of soy sauce.
  • The balsamic I use is thick and sweet. If you don’t use an age balsamic add a drizzle of honey to cut the acid.
  • You can either whisk it or throw it in the blender to emulsify.
  • I covered the arugula with the dressing
  • I added the blackberries and grapefruit
  • The salad was topped with the shaved parm and some fresh black pepper.

Easy peasy.

Namaste y’all.

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Don’t be Sorry, Be Yourself

Oneika Tree

It seems like when you get down to it when we’ve lost our peace we should go look in ego’s backyard. It’s sure to be lounging under a tree with an overfed belly and head full of worry.

A few days ago I read a great post, 3 Things Yoga Students Need to Stop Saying.

My favorite was #3- saying I’m sorry.

Students apologize. Despite constant conversations about non judgement, students (and teachers) can get caught up in ‘I’m sorry’. Which is really saying I’m not enough, I’m not worthy. Put one more way it’s all about ego.

And it’s hard not to judge sometimes. I must remind students (and myself) not to do someone else’s practice. For as many reasons as we come to our mats, we have as many different practices.

Trying to match someone else’s outside won’t mesh with your inside.

Let it go.
Simhasana-I-BKS
It’s one of the reasons I love teaching a long, slow meditative savasana.
With the eyes closed its easier to let go of judgement.
It’s easier remember how to love yourself when the gaze isn’t dialed into an external picture.
Sometimes if I’m feeling a lil off I let go of anxiety as I release a body part into the mat.
I let the back of my head melt into the mat and release any thoughts of feeling anxious. 
When my hips let go I release lurking feelings of inadequacy. 

 

By letting go of the body and the feelings I can open myself up to drift with looping thoughts or excess chatter.
Sometimes it works like a charm. Other times, it’s a struggle.
But it is always my yoga.
And that makes me feel peace.
This is yoga. Do you, yo.
Namaste y’all.
keep-calm-and-savasana-

Mind Over Madness 2013

gty_summer_solstice_yoga_times_square_front_ss_thg-130621_ssh

Summer. Summer. Summer.

This is my time. Like millions of others the world over, I celebrated the solstice. It’s a day that is filled with nostalgia and possibility.

On an island off the East Coast- thousands of yogis with mats on their backs trekked to an unexpected mecca- Times Sq.

Last year was my first time attending Mind Over Madness. It was an incredible experience. There’s something transcendent that occurs when you connect with your body and breath with thousands on Manhattan pavement. I knew at that point that yoga would be be how I lived my life, I just wasn’t sure how.

I returned to the 2013 Mind Over Madness as a Yoga Teacher. What a difference a year makes. Yesterday I did yoga again with thousands of people from every walk of life. And this time I was there with some of the amazing women I’ve met on my journey.

As expected the class was a-mazing. With my heels rooted I extended my arms up to the sky as Rodney Yee encouraged us to reach up taller, heart lifted. My eyes looked past the skyscrapers and into the cloudless blue. I could feel thousands of fingers stretching taller grasping and touching pieces of themselves – floating . The intention I set for my practice was set free, left to rise and be realized.

With an exhale we folded forward. I exhaled out poisonous thoughts and old useless stories in Lion’s Pose, smiling inside so much that I’m pretty sure that if I looked in a mirror an 😄would be looking back.

It was an hour that felt like a perfect eternity and like nothing at all.
Time doesn’t always seem linear. When you are able to be in a moment connected with everything as everything, that is all that counts.

In yoga we talk a lot about being blessed or feeling blessed. There is no other way to describe the immense gratitude that washed over me yesterday.

I also to continue to be humbled and filled with love by the support of my family and friends. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to keep this journey going.

I can’t wait until 2014, but for now I will live completely in this moment.

Happy summer solstice.

Namaste y’all.

me and fellow yogi Kathleen Kraft
me and fellow yogi Kathleen Kraft
Me and Mary waiting in line
Me and Mary waiting in line
Nicole smiling because she was in the front row!
Nicole smiling because she was in the front row!
Mind Over Madness Baby
Mind Over Madness Baby

African warriors, dancers and cobras

Do you know about the Africa Yoga Project? If not, please go right now and check them out!

Namaste y’all.

Yoga & Joyful Living

Sometimes you come across ideas worth sharing. This is one of them.

Thanks to the Africa Yoga Project over 250,000 Kenyans a year get to practise postures that can not only transform your body, but your mind. The project’s 52 teachers roll out their mats everywhere – yes, really. Everywhere. In prisons, schools or special need centres. They also teach members of HIV support groups, pupils at deaf schools and travel to rural villages.

So why is the language of yoga universal?

Because yoga’s language is the language of universal postures which speak to all of us, touch this very special, sacred space within us. No matter if we’re clad in Lululemon practising in NY or in a wonderful red traditional dress performing side plank in Kenya. But then, words are just words, and nothing illustrates the project’s impact better than – exactly, photos.

(All images…

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Adventures in Yoga- Necessity is a Mutha

 

Wild Thing

“The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.” 
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

“Necessity is a Mutha”

– A. Mays

 

These words of wisdom were spoken to me yesterday. Chatting with Dad Dude (that’s how he shows up in my phone) I mentioned that necessity was the mother of intention. I thought I was so clever. Ever the wordsmith.

Without missing a beat he says, “Necessity is a mutha”.

Gotta be quick in the Mays family. Quips are flipped, stripped and dipped.

Yet, there’s always a point to be made. Alas, I will get to mine.

A few weeks back I mentioned that I had been holding on a bit tightly to my practice.

Wait. That’s not quite right.

I actually talked about my issues with over correcting my own practice.

Accuracy. Sigh. It’s not always important but in this case, it’s necessary.

Because I am me, I obsessed about this. I focused on trying to have fun.

Who does that? Who has to focus on fun?

Me apparently…And not successfully.

While I stopped adjusting myself every five seconds, I wasn’t relaxed.

Until today.

The 10am class was a bunch of regulars. There was lots of room (in a NYC yoga studio, this is a glorious luxury) and the vibe was focused but somehow chill. With one of my favorite teachers leading and me feeling mellow, I set an intention to let go of the stuff I didn’t need. Necessity isn’t just the mother of invention. Sometimes we get to a point when when the only choice left is the best one.

Bam. 

I let go. Relaxed. Breathed. Exhaled. Shook it loose. Set it free. Put it down.

You feel me?

It wasn’t about fun. I was too caught up. I do that. It’s dangerous. It’s why I started yoga in the first place.

Eventually we come full circle, back to the place we started. And (if we are smarter) we do what makes sense.

As I started to move I got out of my head and into my yoga.

Ahhhh

I could feel it.

I could see it.

I could be it.

It felt so good.

It felt like home.

I’m back.

 

This is yoga and you can always come home again.

Namaste y’all.

 

Vegan Diaries – The Perfect Bite

guac cucumber
One bite of guacamole love

Hunger not necessity is the mother of invention. Home from yoga (and starving), I was jonesing for a tasty snack but it was late. On the counter I spied an avocado that was dangerously close to getting overripe. Nacho chips and guacamole sounded good. Nacho chips covered in cheese topped with guacamole and sour cream sounded better.

That’s not where this party is headed so sorry in advance. But I did discover something  tasty, refreshing and satisfying using guacamole. A guacamole amuse bouche.

Traditionally an amuse bouche is one bite appetizer served with wine and is comprised of specific elements to complement the wine. The phrase translates to ‘mouth amuser’. I say it translates to ‘fun for my mouth because it’s tasty’ or ‘the perfect bite’ or ‘one bite of love’. A sufficient picture I think is painted.

But what makes up a perfect bite? The door was open at the fridge and I’m looking for inspiration. Dakota in her furry cuteness walks over to see what’s up. Once she realizes that there is nothing for her- she’s out. I pulled out a cucumber and bell pepper that needed to be used. Not nachos to be sure but I remain focused on my snack mission.

Presto! Guacamole with veggies.

I wasn’t moved. I said it again this time with feeling.

Guacamole with veggies!!  Nada. Veggies are a poor replacement for nacho chips. But I really wanted guacamole. Aha. Brain storm.

I roasted the pepper on my stove top. (If you don’t feel like roasting your own pepper the kind in the jar will do but I prefer the freshly roasted flavor.) Simply put the burner on medium and plop the pepper on top. As long as the pepper doesn’t touch the flame it’s fine. Check it every 2 minutes and rotate. As soon as the skin is blackened place the pepper in an ice bath for 3 minutes. Remove the skin.

I put the pepper on a white towel to dry and made the guac.

Aside from being one of the best foods on the planet avocados have quite a few benefits. Avocados have anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory properties, contain lutein which is great for eye health, are high in oleic acid which has been shown to assist in preventing breast cancer and is a vitamin e powerhouse. I had now convinced myself that if I didn’t eat this guacamole I was somehow putting myself and the planet at risk. My urgency grew.

Traditional guacamole doesn’t have a ton of ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Juice from one lime for each avocado used
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red onion for each avocado used
  • 1/2 tomato for each avocado used
  • Finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic mashed and minced
  • 1 serrano chile chopped (careful and don’t put your hands in your eyes)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Take care not to mix the ingredients too much. There should still be some chunks of avocado. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to stop oxidation if you’re not using right away.

Then assemble your perfect amuse bouche:

  • Slice cucumbers into bite-sized pieces
  • Slice roasted red pepper in small pieces and place on top of the cucumber
  • Add a dollop of the guacamole

You are done. *

* If you’re entertaining and would like an even more grown-up version marinate the cucumber in some high quality tequila and lime juice before topping with the peppers amd guacamole. Or you can marinate the peppers in vodka for flavor. (You don’t have to be entertaining…)

Namaste y’all!

Adventures in Yoga – Silent Retreat (Final Thoughts)

Catskills

When the mind is clear of all noise and self talk, this is when solutions are revealed, artists are inspired, paradigms are shifted.
Stephen J. Kochan 

We entered back into the world of speaking as gently as we left it, with quiet words and a yoga practice.

After we made a circle to share a bit about our experiences. It was lovely. Clearly the weekend meant a lot for the entire group. It was a quite a weekend. Lots of yoga, an intense hike, a sweat ceremony, more yoga all the while drinking nothing but lemon cleanse juice with cayenne pepper.

Tough stuff.

We packed up and lots of us chatted, not urgently but intentionally. Words weren’t wasted.

And finally, we headed back home.

I want to tell you about a huge awakening. Regale you with tales of conversations with my spirit animal in the woods as I was covered in mud. Faint from hunger but strong as a warrior.

Yeah, um- that didn’t happen. Prior to the retreat I think I was half expecting something dramatic. Wondering if this would be some strange tipping point for me- I would fall into the yoga abyss never to return.

Nope.

Here I am. Writing to you.

But seriously- I didn’t walk away empty-handed.

In the quiet I realized that I worked hard over the past year and a half to find my version of happiness.

Guess what?

I found it.

I’ve lived most of my life yappin’ away. I lived a lot of my life looking. Seeking. Yelling even.

In the quiet it turns out- happiness and peace were here all along.

Truth be told- the other half of me suspected that I might discover this in a weekend of quiet.

It’s nice sometimes to confirm exactly what you suspect.

You. Are. Exactly. Where. You. Should. Be.

Rock on.

It feels good.

Sssh.

Namaste y’all.

IMG_1197

Adventures in Yoga (Part Two)- Love, Sweat and Tears…The Sweat Lodge Ceremony

Do-one-thing-every-day-that-scares-you.

You are coming
You are coming among us.
We have everything prepared for you
and we are waiting.

– From  The Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge: History and Contemporary Practice

My silent retreat in the Catskills was proving to be an amazing experience.

There was much to be learned when I shut my mouth. I think my biggest revelation was that not everything had to be fixed.

Being in the quiet with my thoughts helped me see that I was talking the talk of being happy but maybe there was a piece of me that was still insecure about my recent life choices.

If a steep (a steep a**) hike could help me be more at peace with every piece of me, what would a sweat lodge ceremony bring?

The night before we attended a Q&A with the leaders of the sweat. Both Sarah and Salvador followed the Lakota tradition of the sweat ceremony.

The sweat ritual would take place in a traditional inipi- it was a structure that had an igloo shape. Inside we would assemble in a circle around the stones that had been heated in a fire right outside of the inipi.

The Lakota see the inside of the inipi as a representation of the inside of Mother Earth’s womb. There are other interpretations but the idea is to cleanse and purify the soul.

sweat_lodge_22

You may be thinking sweat ceremony? Didn’t people die in a sweat ceremony?

I can’t speak about that experience, but I can say I felt really safe and comfortable with Sarah and Salvador.

They explained:

  • We would be dressed modesty (no nudity)
  • The ceremony consisted of four doors
  • The first door we were to let go of what was holding us back (fear, shame, guilt, past hurts, etc)
  • The second door we would focus on what we wanted to have
  • The third door was the pipe ceremony- no drugs. Salvador made it pretty clear that the pitch black, heat, steam and your own mind was plenty to deal with- drugs are not necessary.
  • The fourth door we show our gratitude

After each ’round’ or door, the door would physically open. So, you’re not sitting in the dark heat the entire time.

If it ever got too hot you could ask for the door to leave.

Yeah, yeah you’re saying.

We entered the inipi on all fours and said “Mitakuye. Oyasin”

Salvador asked if anyone was scared- I broke my silence to squeak, ‘ A little.’

He handed me some cedar to sprinkle on the first seven stones that were brought into the inipi. The stones are carefully chosen and are important to the Lakota because of all that they have seen.

After the rest of the stones were brought in the door closed it was dark and Salvador said, ‘It’s gonna be a ride!’

We all laughed- because we were thinking- uh-oh.

But Oneika, what was it like?

In a word- hot. How hot? Not sure- hotter than hot yoga- not so hot that my insides cooked.

In one more word- it was dark. Can’t see your hand on front of your face dark.

It was hot. And I was uncomfortable. I cried. Not a lot.

But enough.

And then I smiled. I hummed along with the songs.

Sharing the darkness with 15 other people and connecting with what they were feeling was a powerful and intimate experience.

It’s a very individual and personal experience.

On Sunday when we entered back into speaking we swapped a couple of experiences. I felt like the fourth door was the the hottest- almost about to call for the door hot.

Some other folks swore that the second door was unbearable. Which I thought was an otherworldly groove. So…

At times my hair was too hot to touch.

I laid down (which is hilarious to imagine because there isn’t much room and it’s pitch black) at one point to touch a space of cold dirt.

It. Felt. Awesome.

I didn’t see a wolf or feel a need to go on a vision quest. I’m not being funny (well maybe a little) but I did leave (on all fours, out of respect- and because I was exhausted) feeling peaceful.

I’m not here to recommend or dissuade anyone from participating in a sweat ceremony.

I think spiritual journeys are a very personal decision. This worked for me.

My hot yoga practice is also pretty intense so I think that may have also helped me deal with the heat element.

But as we shared stories we all got out of it what we needed.

And that seems like it is more than enough.

I’m grateful for the safe and transformative experience that Sarah and Salvador gave me.

Namaste y’all

Stay tuned for the last post on the retreat tomorrow!