Archives for the month of: March, 2010

So last Friday my friend Ashley and I decided to have dinner together before heading out to a friends birthday celebration. It was last minute, so I whipped together a ‘Do-it-Yourself’ Greens Bowl (click for photos) with quinoa, beets, shredded carrot, sunflower sprouts and steamed kale, spinach and asparagus. It was surprisingly tasty, as I had whipped it up while talking to my mom on the phone and trying to decide what to wear later that evening.

However, the most important part of the meal was the desert. As Ashley is vegan, I decided to make a batch of Raw Vegan Brownies (click for photos) I had made only once before. I found the recipe online while perusing new recipes one afternoon. They taste fabulous and are a very healthy alternative…still, by no means non-fattening and VERY sweet.

This is the original recipe:

Brownie Base:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates
1/4 cup raw cocoa powder

Icing:
2 avocados
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup cocoa power
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash salt
dash cinnamon

With my past experience with this recipe, I discovered a few key things. 1 cup of dates MUST BE MEDJOOL DATES, or the brownie base will not combine together. I have discovered, that in order to bulk up the recipe, I will use a cup of regular dates, and a cup of medjool. As well, using 2 avocados for the icing is WAY TOO MUCH. You would typically only need 1/2 to 1 avocado.

Now, we get into my dilemma. I had purchased a couple avocados earlier in the week, but by Friday, they were still hard. What was I going to do? Ashley was heading over to my place in about an hour, and by this point, I still had to make dinner. My eyes landed on a lonely banana on top of my fridge. This was oh so simple revised recipe which received many rants and raves:

Brownie Base:
1 cup cooking dates
1 cup medjool dates
1/4 cup cocoa power
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup shredded raw coconut

Icing:
1 banana (mashed)
1 tbsp agave nectar or raw honey
2 tbsp cocoa power
2 tsp coconut oil
dash of cinnamon

The best thing about this recipe is that you can add or subtract ingredients as you like. In this case, if you do happen to have a RIPE AVOCADO handy, it would work just perfectly. However, I do have to admit that the unexpected banana flavour was wonderful!

On a side note, I found a fortune cookie on the sidewalk while I was walking home. I didn’t eat it obviously, but cracked it open when I got in the door. With gratitude to Wings (also the manufacturer of those little soy sauce and plum sauce packets), I received the following message… “Your sparkling eyes sends healing light on those you meet” If only it were that easy…I would heal the world one shining gaze at a time!

 

So I have been putting off writing about India… Why? I had the third week of March off school for March Break, so other than my obligatory work schedule, I did my best to relax and have some fun; visiting family (including my new Nephew Rannon (picture below) and my friend Kiley’s baby, Harlowe)Ashley and Rannon

enjoying the beautiful weather we had that week, picking up some much needed yoga classes AND a fantastic finish with a ‘Coffee House’ event hosted by some fabulous friends of mine. All the fun ended early Sunday morning, waking up with a head cold and a full day of work ahead of me…not to mention having to study up a storm for my Herbal Medicine class. Would you like to know all 42 (+/-) Herbal Actions with examples? I could most likely tell you. On that note, I must mention a few of my favourite herbs:

  • False Unicorn Root AND True Unicorn Root…apparently they’re endangered…I’m assuming Unicorns are too.
  • Turkey Rhubarb…what a combination!?
  • Pill Bearing Spurge…it just sounds like it would do something evil and sinister.

Continuing on the subject of Herbal Medicine, I have an assignment due next Wednesday which entails putting together a complete herbal regimen for 3 case studies. The first two I am okay with…the third however I am having some issues with. I am putting this out there for suggestions from anyone who may have some creative solutions.

Here goes…

I am camping and a friends, one of which slices his leg with an axe while chopping wood. We manage to stop the bleeding with pressure, but we have no first aid kit and we have no signal on our cell phones. What do we do? Is this a trick question? Do I really spend the time to go foraging for herbs, when we could very well be heading back to civilization and a hospital? Thoughts anyone? What would you do?

I will let you know what my final solution was for this case study once I get down to it. I am trying to find which herbs grow wild within Ontario which would be beneficial for such a situation.

Some of you also may notice that my ‘tone’ of writing has changed in this post. I do admit that I typically have a fairly serious outlook on life and have a tendency towards sometimes too much self-analysis. I am working on lightening up from time to time, remembering to laugh and giving thanks to the people in my life that add a little bit more joy and spontaneity.

Ashleys

I give thanks to those friends, old and new which make me howl with laughter and can still love and appreciate my serious intensity.

Now…back to that India story…

As I’m venturing into the world of blogging with a new excitement and focus, I happened to stumble upon my old blog, Distant Voyager . I had set it up prior to my (what was supposed to be) my year-long journey around the world. It’s interesting to look back at my first post prior to leaving on my trip discussing where I was at that point in time, and my reasons for venturing off into the unknown world. Please take a peak using the link above.

My statement, “I will learn things that no book could ever teach, about life, about cultures, about faith. I don’t believe anyone can travel the world for a year, and not be changed…in what way is up to them.”, is so true about travel. When you leave your comfort zone of your familiar life you are challenged to accept cultural differences and customs, sometimes learn the basics of another language, or become more open to new experiences and people. The challenge however, is to hold on to those lessons or broadened perceptions once you return to your usual life. It is so easy to become too busy to experience new things or meet new people. I find when you are surrounded by the familiar settings and people, you forget to pay attention…while I was travelling, I did my best to soak up ever bit of scenery, every experience…every day was a new journey…

In 2007 I spent 1 week in Orgiva, Spain. It is a beautiful little town in the Alpuharras Region; a place I consider to be heaven on earth. It’s a very small town with a charming local market of mostly fruit, hand crafted jewelery and sometimes raw-food treats, but most importantly, the area is rich with a rustic charm. I spent my days amidst a 300 year old olive grove, visited a Tibetan monastery in the Alpuharras Mountains, soaked in the beautiful energy of a morning Reiki circle as the sun nourished my spirit. This was the trip that began the desire, the urgency to take a longer extended trip than what I had previously experienced.

Here are a few select photos from my initial journey to Orgiva for my Reiki Retreat:

 

When I’m surrounded by nature and beautiful landscapes, I feel so much more content to live a simpler life. I feel grounded, settled, and in true appreciation of what mother nature has provided…

I yearned to return to this haven, and in the late spring of 2008, (two weeks after having my appendix removed), I left my job and responsibilities behind and headed to the UK for the first leg of the trip…

I was blessed with rainbows too large to fit into one shot, waterfalls and breath-taking vistas. I find the higher the vantage point, the more insignificant your life seems. You realize how unimportant your worries and struggles are – you can just release them into the wind. Our lives and struggles, are so impermanent but the formations which mother nature has created will exist beyond many of our lifetimes. Somehow I find that humbling and comforting…

As I am writing this, I am getting a clearer idea as to WHY. I am looking back and finding more reasons to be grateful for these opportunities and experiences. Sometimes they seem like only a small fragment of a vast collection of memories, but they were some of the most life enriching and beautiful. I am truly thankful for these experiences and where they have led me…

For the next leg of my trip, it was on to INDIA! A place of transformation and changed plans!

To be continued…

It’s true that Yoga has become quite a popular activity in North America. I will refrain from using the term ‘fad’, as that is something which comes into popularity quickly, and leaves just as readily, but the yoga culture shows no signs of going anywhere. It is also apparent that there are many companies who have cashed in on the yoga following, with yoga clothing (I must make mention of yoga jeans…not sure how I feel about that idea yet), pricey yoga mats and towels, yoga props and the list goes on and on… Despite all this, the popularity of yoga makes me happy, knowing that people are becoming more aware of their health and fitness, and perhaps in time creating a greater mind, body and spirit connection.

For those that are interested in getting into yoga, I suggest doing some research on the studio and/or teacher to ensure they have a credible background and training…especially in Toronto, where there is a yoga studio or two or three in every neighbourhood. One of the best options is to purchase a Passport to Prana, which costs about $30 and allows you to attend one class at any participating studios in Toronto before the yearly expiry date. If you’re willing to do some trekking around the city (and possibly explore a new neighbourhood at the same time), this is one of the most cost-effective ways to satisfy that yoga craving!

I have often been asked about what yoga DVDs are good or what I can recommend in that regard. I can honestly say I’m not so familiar with the plethora of yoga and pilates DVDs which are out there. Most of the feedback that I do get from those who use them at home is that they tire of them very quickly. I have a few suggestions to remedy this…

1. My Yoga Online: This site does require a monthly membership fee in order to do more than sample the videos, but for those that wish to practice and learn in the comfort of their own homes, this site will provide hours, days, weeks of yoga! There are yoga classes of all levels, pilates, meditation, vidoes on healthy living and so much more…Plus the instructors are typically well-known within the yoga community. You can even download classes to your ipod for classes on the go! 

2. Downward Dog: Most people in Toronto interested in yoga have come across or at least heard of Downward Dog. It is the home of Ashtanga Yoga in Toronto AND as I now consider this my second home since completing my training with Ron Reid and Diane Bruni, the founders of the studio. Both have been practicing for close to 30 years! They have since began to post many workshops and classes online. The workshops or ‘Yoga Labs’ are great for anyone looking to further their practice and learn to deepen postures or open hips etc. Explore and enjoy!

3. Padmani: All I can say is she is lovely. I attended her classes while she was teaching in Toronto, combining both Jivamukti and Ashtanga Yoga. Her teaching style is intelligent, articulate and challenging, but her gentle presence and soothing voice makes you feel as if you are floating away on a yoga cloud. Best of all….she has podcasts on her website! As long as you are familiar with the asana practice, you can allow her to guide you through an intelligent practice at home or wherever you choose! I can honestly say, quite a few of her podcasts are on my ipod just for that very reason!!

Lastly, many studios do have student discounts (yes, you actually have to be a student), or karma classes. The karma classes are typically free or a $5 donation and taught by graduates of teacher training programs who are looking to gain experience and exposure….its a win-win situation!

With spring quickly aproaching, I encourage anyone who has not done so already to get out there and check out a class or two, or perhaps challenge yourself to a yoga class in the comfort of your own home!

Enjoy and Namaste…

I believe there is a peaceful warrior which resides within each one of us – One of strength, one of compassion to ourselves and others, a place where we can express our ‘Satvic’ nature or true nature. I have been reading through some of my course notes on Chakras and I found some relevent information which relates to this idea. Here are two key points of relevance…

A fearless yet tender-hearted person who is in balance with both masculine and feminine energies – with both strength and tenderness, wisdom and compassion.

Virabhadranana II - Warrior II

The warrior is one who knows the depths of their own heart and feels the pain of all beings – no feelings are rejected, denied or abused.

There is so much pressure to deny feelings, whether influenced by our families, social group or even culture. The ego, or sacral chakra will begin to compensate for vulnerability, beginning to create more power and protection. This is where we create resistance. Yet, when we surrender to our feelings without judgement, and they are acknowledged and expressed, one becomes stronger, not weaker. It is our challenge to open our hearts, accept our feelings and be fearless in our own compassion. Knowing, feeling and expressing our emotion is good for our health. Our bodies will begin to store any unexpressed emotion (in the liver, pancreas, GI tract etc.) creating discomfort and eventually dis-ease.

In the asana practice, there is a unity between forward bends and back bends, with intent to create a balance of the pranic and apanic flow of the energetic body and equalizing the physical body – the spine being the pillar of support and strength. I’ve since stumbled upon some information to bring a greater light to this idea (Thank you Psychology of Disease!!).

There is often guidance in the physical practice to lift the chest, opening the sternum and therefore opening the heart centre. This is our connection to our passion, forgiveness and love. As we lift our arms, reaching through the hands and fingers, this is the most outward expression of our heart energy, sending out love and compassion. In connection to that, the abdominal muscles are required to either release or contract as is necessary, creating a balance between vulnerability or protection and strength or power.  

The back of the body can be interpreted as the opposite to what was stated above. In forward bends, we are beginning to close off the chest and abdomen, exposing the back line of the body. This is where we find storage of negative emotions, such as fear, anger, pain of the past, guilt, shame, indecision and resentment. This is where we can go inside our emotional selves, feel and connect to these emotions. Here we can create awareness without judgement and we can begin to release these emotions as we exhale each breath.

As we begin to find balance and stability in our physical bodies, we also begin to balance the emotions between positive and negative emotions. Eventually we can move towards a place where we do not judge feeling or emotion as good or bad, remaing stable, grounded, intrinsically in touch with our innermost selves. As life always has its ups and downs, we can strive to connect to the median line, not getting swept away by the emotional turmoil or external chaos.

Connecting to and exploring these ideas keep my passion for yoga ignited. Sometimes when my practice becomes wholly focused on the physical, I can lose that spark. I know that yoga is continuing to challenge and heal my body physically, but being able to remember, and connect to my practice energetically and spiritually, brings me a greater sense of understanding my true nature and perhaps my inner warrior…

How can you connect to these ideas in your own life, or perhaps yoga or meditation practice? Is there any emotion that you are holding on to in your life that isn’t serving you? Can you allow yourself to become a bit more vulnerable and move towards compassion? How are you compassionate towards others? Most importantly, are you compassionate towards yourself?

Blessings on this beautiful sunny day! Peace, peace, peace…

Ahhh…Santosha. One of my favourite Sanskrit words, which combines very nicely with ‘Shanti’, meaning Peace. I can almost feel the release of stress when I say it in my head, or whisper it under my breath. Santosha, meaning ‘contentment’, applies beautifully to both life and the asana or yoga practice. I think we can all benefit from being a little bit more content with where we are in life; financially, physically, location wise etc.

I don’t wish to create too much complication with this blog, discussing Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or all of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Perhaps in time I will, but the reason why I am wishing to stick with a simple word today is like I said; because it is easily digestible and because I’m feeling like I am requiring a little bit more contentment or Santosha in my life at the moment.

Why you ask? In the last few months I’ve decided to go back to school for Holistic Nutrition. It’s Amazing! One of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I am blessed to be with like-minded classmates and excellent teachers which have inspired me thus far on the subjects of Nutrition and the Environment, Fundamentals, Psychology of Disease, and Ayurveda…with more to come! However, along with this decision comes classes, studying, attempts at holding down multiple jobs and little time for my own life and yoga practice. My task at the moment is to find a bit of contentment amidst the chaos. I have to remember that this is the process to get me to the next stage in my life. It is easy to pinpoint the times when we are not content, as we have the tendency to look too far a head or perhaps look too far in the past, looking for memories when we were content, or ways in which we imagine ourselves to be content in the future.

This is all too relevent as we are within the first few days of March and I’m feeling a bit antsy. The weather is still a bit chilly here in Toronto, but the sunshine is proving to lighten our spirits a little bit. Still, my mind drifts back to last year when I was in Mexico for the month of March (and most of April), completing my Yoga Teacher Training Program. The days were filled with an early morning meditation practice, asana practice, anatomy classes and workshops, yoga philosophy and of course as much sand and sunshine as we could get our hands on. 

"Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodha"

So as life gets a bit too hectic here at this time, I struggle to keep focused on the moment, on the tast at hand. Instead my mind drifts back to a time when perhaps I was more content, in a pleace where it was easier to be in the moent… with my feet in the warm sand, chanting ‘Om’ along with the ocean waves and soaking in the gorgeous hot sun. I am working on accepting that this year I am not able to travel to a place which warmed my heart, but try and bring that love, excitement and warmth here and incorporate it into my daily life. Finding Santosha allows for a letting go of fears, anxieties, worries and a deep and beautiful grounding into the present moment…here and now

Who am I? I’m still trying to find that out myself. Perhaps I’m a bit of a wanderer, a restless soul trying to find my grounding along the path of life. My journey has taken me to many places and locations, always searching for guidance, answers and inspiration. Currently my path is dedicated to Ashtanga Yoga, Usui Reiki, and most recently Holistic Nutrition. This blog is about my own journey and learning to appreciate the process of growth and overcoming of obstacles, thus gradually unfolding all the layers of the sacred lotus. I hope to inspire and share some insight as I learn, stumble, and hopefully find some comic relief throughout the human experience of this life.

Namaste