Renewing Your Spirit – 5 Ways to Do It

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

– George Eliot

There’s something about autumn that I love and loathe. As a kid I loved the crisp mornings getting excited because I knew that I’d soon be able to break out my new sweaters. Warm weather still peeks through the day and it’s cool enough at night to get a morning chill. Fall is associated with renewal and that makes sense. We can shed old ways or reconnect with our pre-summer selves. Once the kids are back in their routines and beach days are gone we begin our own version of molting.

 

Here are 5 ways that I get back to me:

1. Reconnect with my practice

September is a big fitness season. As the family calendar takes over we get back to the business of health. For some this means actually working out again (you know who you are) and for others it means switching up the routine. I’ve never run outside in cooler weather, so I’m doing a little homework.

Fall is a time when I take a look at my practice. The change in seasons wakes up different parts of my senses. My asana practice took place mostly in the evenings. Since I teach most evenings, it was scattered. But I’ve sat my butt down to plan out my practices a few weeks out at a time. Incorporating

2. Jump start healthy eating

Eat seasonally!!! Eat seasonally!!!  My cooking shifts from grilling to roasting. I swap out fresh tomatoes for squash and mushrooms. Quinoa begins to make regular appearances and what I love most of all, SOUP SEASON!!! There is nothing like a hearty soup to make me giggle like wanda the witch from Sesame Street (which is creepy and cool at the same time). Renew your love of the kitchen by pulling down the crock pot and making soup. Crowd pleasers and freezer friendly. This fall and winter you’ll see a bunch of soup recipes  so get ready.

I’m now meatless every day of the week, but before I was I started participating in Meatless Monday. I’d say it was the first thing that really helped think about my carbon footprint.

3. Read a good book

All of the best books come out in fall!!! If you are a book nerd like me, this is your time to find a stack (or queue) of things to get you through the cold winter months. Reading is great stimulation for the brain and a soothing activity. Kids who see their parents read are more likely to read themselves.

4. Make time to make time

Did you know that a 2006 study said that meditating can be better for you than sleeping? Taking even a few minutes to collect your thoughts is great for you and others. I love early morning when I walk Dakota. It allows me to set intentions for the day and reflect on where I am. Take a minute in the shower just to pause can be beneficial. I’ve actually been thinking about my time in the Catskills surrounded by silence. I’ve gotten away from finding a few quiet moments to let go. Seems like the right time to re-commit.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff…” Cliche and overused, maybe. That doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Maybe it was the heat and  (and don’t get me wrong I’m a summer kind of chick) but the little things were getting under my skin. The cool crisp air of fall allows me to exhale.

How do you welcome fall into your life?

Namaste y’all!

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Ding Dong Goes the Inversion Practice

door-bell

I zipped downstairs to an early hot power vinyasa practice with friend Jessica Ashen. She’s a yogi and founder of Spiritual Pretzels Yoga. Jessica brings donation based yoga all over Jersey City. It’s awesome and so is she. Her classes are a mix of being playful and learning how to challenge your body in new ways. Jessica teaches from a place of love that is tangible. As a result, I leave her classes lighter in the heart. I love this because that’s something I used to only get from my hot practice.

Anyway, back to this morning.

It’s great taking classes with a teacher who knows that you teach. They tend to be gently relentless about form and adjustments. I’ve been getting a bit lazy when it comes to stacking my hips over ankles in Uttasana.

No slackin’ with the stackin’ in Jessica’s class. It was what I needed.

Roll  the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes. 

Jessica made an interesting observation about me being in between my vinyasa practice and my hot practice. In hot classes the weight is back in the heels a lot.

Shifting the weight forward into my toes and engaging the low belly and feeling my heels lift,  my body yearned to go higher.

It was my brain that was talking me out of it.

Jessica mentioned Christina Sell and how I need to check out her approach to handstands. I found this video, which is fantastic. She points out that many seemingly unrelated poses connect to turning the body upside down. It’s worth the seven minutes. Check it out.

We did handstand practice again the wall and it felt great. Jessica showed me an exercise that Christina Sell uses called Ding Dong.  As you kick up you alternate tapping feet on the wall. I sort of powered through that and felt good.  Inside my active mind, I thought back to my earlier fold and rolling the weight forward so one day can lift into handstand.

One day I can do it, I thought.

And then…we moved onto practicing Pincha Mayurasana against the wall. It was horrible.   hard.

Oh hello Ego, I didn’t see you sneak into class behind me. Seriously? It’s early, I thought you’d be upstairs asleep with Dakota, or getting coffee down the block waiting to pounce on me later riding my bike to class.

Form matters. It was tough activating my triceps, pushing down and engaging my abs. Sure she could have had me just kick up and play, but there is something to be said for doing it right.

Ugh. Hard work.

“Perfect we have something to work on next time!”, she said.

Groan is what I did.

“Be excited! It’s a new adventure!”

Damn if she wasn’t right. It is a new adventure. Something else I get to explore.

I left with a lighter heart, ready to open the door to the unexpected.

Better still, I reconnected with the foundation of yoga, uniting body and breath.

Yoga keeps reminding me that I can go home again (and again) and that more importantly, I must.

Yoga sweet yoga.

Namaste y’all.

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Vegan Diaries- Building a Pantry

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A delicious, nutritious meal is easy to prepare on the day you come home from the grocery store. But as the food dwindles, the urge to order take-out or grab unhealthy frozen pizza grows. Unplanned meals are a way of life. You may not have a personal chef, but with the right pantry you can have great meals that are good for you at a moment’s notice! Great recipes start with a few key ingredients that you can pick up weekly. The secret is adding those ingredients with items already on hand.

A well-stocked pantry isn’t only conducive to a slimmer waist, but it helps fatten the wallet. Over time having supplies becomes more cost-effective. Also, you aren’t racking up extra dollars in the grocery column of your budget!

Feeling a little anxious because your cabinets are bare? Stocking a pantry doesn’t have to done all at once. Make a plan. Give yourself 8-12 weeks to get your pantry in shape. You can spread out the shopping accordingly.

You’d be surprised at how little you need to spend on groceries!

I realized how big a role my pantry plays in my cooking since cutting down my food budget to $5 per day.

Particularly if you live in an area that doesn’t have a ton of markets, a pantry that is properly stocked with things you’ll actually use can

15 items that will get your pantry off to a great start:

  1. Olive oil makes the difference in a recipe as well as adding good fats and antioxidants in your diet
  2. Whole grain pastas have come a long way in the taste department and cook in minutes
  3. Stocks aren’t necessary as a group, but keep at least one on hand- (I LOVE Manischewitz vegetable broth)
  4. Brown rice or whatever healthy grain appeals to you  (barley, bulghur, couscous, quinoa)
  5. Beans, beans and more beans (I keep dried) chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, pinto and black eye peas are currently in mine. They are perfect for soups.
  6. Lettuce like spring greens are appealing because they stay fresh and make any salad a bit more special, but romaine works just as well. And I found some iceberg for .99. Go with what’s on sale and seasonal.
  7. Vinegar like balsamic can be used in everything from salad dressing to roasted veggies
  8. Dijon mustard can be used as part of a marinade or salad dressing in an instant
  9. 1 or two  seasonal vegetables that keep well (With fall coming on the east coast- it’s all about pumpkin and acorn squash baby- cheap and good.)
  10. Canned tomatoes can be used for sauces, on tortillas etc…
  11. Frozen spinach or kale can be added to rice and pasta for an easy meal
  12. Onions are a quick (and cheap) easy way to add flavor without a ton of calories
  13. Garlic that is fresh jazzes up any recipe from salad to fish to grilled veggies
  14. Dried spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, kosher salt and pepper are critical. You can also add cumin, cayenne and tarragon if the basics are reside in your spice cabinet. Shopping at ethnic grocery stores can help you find good quality spices at very reasonable prices. Buying spices whole also last longer and retain flavor.

Bonus points for:

dried fruits and nuts, firm tofu, tortillas

 

Are there pantry items you can’t live without? Please tell me in the comment section! I’m always looking for new additions!

Namaste y’all!

Chalkboard Yoga, Fresh Starts and All That.

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You don’t have to wait for the New Year for a fresh start.

Amanda McDonald, yoga teacher wrote a status update that made high five my Mac.

Why are we so resistant to just solving problems, instead of procrastinating and worrying? You have the skills to fix it. Get out there!

And I thought of the clip from Vanilla Sky when Penelope Cruz says that ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.’

What are you doing this minute? Are you at peace? Do you want to be?

Don’t worry if you missed the last minute because another one is right here. And here. And here. And here.

Namaste y’all.

Here’s to the week.

Adventures in Yoga- When Writing and Yoga Collide

writing yoga

However, a few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Kathleen Kraft- poet and yogi.

Kathleen hosted a workshop where we were able to spend time connecting body, breath and words.

I can’t tell you how many times that I have been moving through my asana practice and I have wanted to jot down a thought or feeling.

While this may speak to some of my other issues of staying present I’d prefer to focus on the workshop.

This gave me the chance to do just that.

We moved through a sequence and were then given a prompt. Using the prompt wasn’t mandatory but it did offer a jumping off point.

Some of the thoughts I wrote down were hokey or obvious, but it did help me unblock quite a bit.

Here’s a snippet of one that I tweaked a bit.

 

Swan Dive

Into something new
it’s what I do
Inhaling a memory
Exhaling a dream

No stopping and starting
during asana practice.

Life passing me
Off my mat
Exhaling down, arms spread wide

I catch the tail end of my latest…
Whatever.

Inhaling, reaching up
Looking up stretching

I feel safe from me
On my mat

Vinyasa flow
Moving up and down
But never out

Always here
In the now.

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This workshop was a wonderful way to explore another part of my yoga.

I take different kinds of classes for various reasons.

Hot yoga is my support group.

Vinyasa feeds my soul.

Structural yoga feeds my mind which in turn feeds my soul.

And my asana practice helps me live a fulfilled and productive life off my mat.

Being able to combine my asana practice and reflect in the moment was a unique experience. It’s one that I’ll definitely do again.

It left me feeling stretched and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga- Progress at a Snail’s Place

yoga journey

I don’t love practicing in the morning. This means of course that I learn big lessons. I think this is what happens when you don’t move mindfully or meet life with resistance.

During the commuter crush hour people move faster that they need to. I can’t help but wonder if it’s really being in a rush?

Ego disguised as I’m so busy feels more honest.

An older woman was slowly walking down the steps. Her cane was wobbly but she was steady. A guy next to me kept trying to move past her. As I retell the story I want to use an adjective describe his actions and movements but that would really only be my perception of what I thought he was doing and not what he was actually doing.

I was slightly annoyed. Okay I was very annoyed. Annoyed because I was frustrated at breaking my flow and having to slow down. So it made sense to transfer that feeling than to acknowledge it in myself.

Self-awareness is a bitch, yo.

As I consciously  turned on being mindful, the more annoyed I became with my walk to the studio.

No one seemed to be paying attention to anything. A guy on a bike screamed at a cab driver. A woman rolled her eyes at a mom pushing a stroller in the middle of the sidewalk.

And everyone turned to glare at the tourists in the middle of the street.

I exhale at the studio and see one of my favorite teachers! Phew.

But she’s taking class, not teaching.

Shit. I can’t win for losing at it’s not even noon.

B, a teacher I’ve only had once before focused on slowing down every movement.

At the very start of class this started.

I wish I could make this stuff up.

As I looked up at the ceiling I said to myself, ‘Okay Universe I get it. Slow down. You made your point. Can we move on now and get to the next thing?’

And so the rest of class went.

Time didn’t just slow, it stopped.

It was one of the most thorough classes I have ever taken.

And with good reason.

I realize every day that I know less and less.

It’s humbling.

It’s frustrating.

It’s exciting.

It’s reality.

With eyes and judgement looking out instead of in, I’m part of the problem and not the solution.

Eyes open, heart open.

Mouth shut.

Namaste y’all.

Relocation Frustration aka Moving Yoga

moving truck backs

I had this plan that I would smoothly transition from my old place to my new place.

Ha. Cue raucous laugh track.

My move was more than just a new place to sleep. It was symbolic of a new life. Though I’ve been teaching yoga and working on a business plan to be a yoga entrepreneur, the new home would make it official.

At least it would feel that way. I began this blog to document my new start, and this relocation seemed like just that.

In my head everything was timed like clockwork.  The movers would come- I’d cheerfully direct them! They’d laugh. I’d laugh- we’d do a few yoga moves in my empty living room. After namastes all around they would declare that this was the most tranquil move they ever did.

Ah- but life had other plans. It was a mess.

A bloody diasaster. And not in a cute British accent way. I’m talking real f@cking horror show. At least it felt like that in the moment. I could hear people screaming out like the aliens had arrived. Flames were shooting up from manholes, the masses were running for cover declaring that this was indeed the end of the world.

Well, that’s what it felt like.

The whole delay was a few hours. It felt much longer, mostly because of me and the gravity I gave the situation.

We all do that I guess, make things more important than they are. A minor impasse is distorted to mountain-sized road block.

This happens with poses. A point of resistance becomes a place where push happens. A more effective response is to breathe. This allows for release. I can feel it now even as I type- I feel a space where it seems like I can’t get deeper and after a few deep breathes my entire body falls into place.

On my mat I know this is how it works.

Off my mat, I need reminders.

I didn’t deal as effectively as I would have liked.

As I watched my things file out of the old space, I was happy.

After every storm the sun comes out. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass etc… etc..

More importantly though, I realize now that nothing is that critical. Because in comparison with the age of the universe, we are only here for a second.

And I, just like the stress that seemed so finite and so lasting is temporary.

My next part of the chapter awaits.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga – Trust Me and Surrender

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I talk a lot about  the idea of letting go.

And the truth is I really mean what I say, but saying it over and over again can sound at best repetitive and at worst, disingenuous.

It got me to thinking- what do I really mean when I say let go? Do I mean that or am I trying to say something else?

Hmmm….

Let go…

At first, I think I meant letting go of control.

Last week, I found my deepest expression of ustrasana.

Oddly enough it was on a day that I didn’t feel particularly inspired to practice. In fact, I had to really slap myself around to get motivated.

I had spent a few days out of town and was beat. Every step toward the studio made me feel more put out than the previous one. I was rolling my eyes at myself (useless really…who loses when that happens? Silly rabbit) as I swiped my card to get on the train.

With headphones on and Esthero blaring the two sides of myself battled.

Can’t move on
But I can’t go home
And I’m not so strong
But I make my way
To the place I know
Inside my heart
Where I used to go
To get brave and
I don’t wanna be lost anymore

Hurumph. I’m tired. (Just shut up and go to class. You’ll be so happy when you get there)

Who needs class? Not me. (Yes you do, when you don’t want to go is when you most need your mat) 

Alas, the smarter side of me won. I got to class.

When I sat on my mat in the darkness I realized I had no fight in me. Maybe it was being tired from travel. Maybe it was lack of sleep. But I was able to turn myself over to my practice.

It was in a word, magnificent.

And while I found my new expression of ustrasana, I was more elated about my discovery.

It’s not about control. It’s about trust. 

I surrendered my body and breath to the pose. I didn’t let go with a ‘what if’ I can’t do it. With my chest lifted and hips moving slightly forward I bent backwards. There was no worry about whether I could. There wasn’t baggage about the last time I tried. Maybe it was because my brain was fried I wasn’t screwing around in my head.

There is a difference between letting go and complete surrender. Well there is for me.

The act of letting go doesn’t implies trust but doesn’t require it.

I can let go and stay in my skeptical shoes, but when I surrender it means that I’m turning myself over.

And that’s where trust comes in.

I’ll just say it- this is a big deal for me. The whys of this story aren’t as interesting as the now.

Yoga builds trust. It builds trust between your body and breath. Each complimenting each other working in unison to create harmony.

Yoga builds trust between me and the world. With a better breath my heart expands and with that I let more and more in.

This is yoga, and I surrender.

Namaste y’all.

oneika stripes