Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Living Yoga

I recently came across an interview on the Yoga Journal Web site with one of my favorite yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala. The article contains some wonderful quotes from Aadil given durning one of his classes at the Boston Yoga Journal conference. Here they are:

Aadil says, the purpose of asana is "to help the body be a better vehicle for the spirit's command. Why do we practice? We practice for the exploration, discovery and fulfillment of dharma."

1. To learn if your practice is serving you, look at your life -- what is the state of your relationships? --That is, your relationship with family, with the earth, with food, etc.
2. To choose your teacher, don't look at the person's practice, look at the person's life.
3. Don't knit the ribs together during practice under any circumstances -- we want to expand the heart center, not contract it.
4. Never practice Uddiyana bandha while actively breathing -- it strains the heart. (During pranayama, it is done while holding the breath out.)
5. The best way to cultivate the rasa, or juice, in standing poses is by using the quadriceps. Bring the earth energy up into your legs using the quads, then into the pelvis, then knead that energy into your heart.
6. Don't send all of your prana, or lifeforce energy, out around you, tilt the pelvis up and send the prana into your heart.

Finally, some food for thought from Aadil: "It's a magnificent cosmic evolution which we are a part of, usually dragged kicking and screaming; but if we choose to participate, the suffering will end."

You can read the rest of the article here. You can visit Aadil's site and learn more about Purna Yoga and his teaching, here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Muffins: Gluten-Free & Delicious!

I've been doing a lot of experimenting with Gluten Free and Wheat Free baking over the last few months. Here is a recipe that I made this weekend that was a huge hit (that means not only did I like it, but my husband, Mike, LOVED it...and if Mikey likes it... 

Cranberry-Orange Muffins - Gluten-Free
2 cup Gluten-Free Baking Mix (NOW foods and Bob's both make good ones and I'm sure there are many others.)
4 Tbs Orange juice
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 tsp Orange Rind
6 Tbs Grapeseed or olive oil
4 tbsp Agave nectar or honey
1 cup cranberry sauce (see below) or dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Cranberry Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh raw Cranberries
Juice from 1/2 Orange
2 tsp agave nectar

1. Mix Cranberry Sauce ingredients and heat until berries pop.  Let it cool..
 2. Mix wet ingredients, then add dry and mix
3. Fold in Cranberry Sauce and walnuts.
4. Bake all ingredients together at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yoga in the NBA

My husband sent me this great article on Kent Katich, the Los Angeles Clippers' "yoga coach." More and more athletes and sports teams are turning to yoga to enhance their balance, flexibility, strength, prevent injuries and develop deeper inner focus and concentration. As yoginis we know nothing does all of that better then yoga and I am so glad to see more and more athletes developing a passion for practice.

Here is a little bit from the article:

The impact of yoga on players is difficult to quantify. The positive results from downward-facing dogs, half-moons and warrior poses are not the kinds of things that show up on stat sheets or box scores. But the players who train with Katich swear by him.

"Going into my 11th year in the NBA, I feel as though the work that we've been doing has allowed me to regain my youth," Davis said. "I believe if I can continue to master this art, then I can have a very long career in the NBA."

You can read the rest of the article by clicking the link below:
By Maria Burns Ortiz 
Special to ESPN Page 2

Low-Fat Tuna Salad & A Secret Weapon

So, I'm a fan of tuna salad, but I LOATH mayonnaise. Words can not explain how very much I hate it.

So, I use to always make my tuna salad with lemon juice and a couple drops of olive oil (very good I must say), but now I have discovered a new really awesome way to make it using one of my SECRET WEAPONS...

Low-Fat Greek Yogurt. Yep, it's da' bomb folks.

It's low fat, has lots of calcuim, beneficial gut bacterial and 15 grams of protein per cup, plus it has a lovely creamy texture. I grew up eating this in Saudi Arabia (where they call it Lubneh), but I never thought of putting it in tuna fish.

Without further ado here is my recipe:

1 large can of albacore tuna in spring water
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (low or non-fat)
2 celery sticks, chopped medium
1/4 onion, chopped medium
1 carrot, grated
2 Tbs raw sunflower seeds
1/8 cup chopped raw walnuts
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
fresh dill, if I have it
salt and pepper

I've also grated some zuccini into it and that is tasty. Sometimes I eat this as a sandwich, but usually I just put a 1/2 cup on a bed of fresh greens and top it off with some sprouts if I've got them.

Bon Appetito! Good eating and heath to you all!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Gayatri Mantra Practice

 This gorgeous Mala is available from North Carolina mala crafters Japa Mala Beads.

One of my goals for this year was to start a formal mantra practice. I love chanting mantra and have been doing so since I was given my first mantra in Transcendental Meditation at age 5, but I have never done a formal 40 day practice. Over Thanksgiving I was in Tulsa, OK visiting family and went to one of my very favorite bookstores on the planet, Peace of Mind Bookstore. I have been going to POM since I was 15 and it is an amazing incense-filled, garden of treasure. Every time I go there I stumble upon some incredible books that end up changing my life. This time I found several including Healing Mantras  and Mantra Meditation by Thomas Ashley-Farrand.

I think these books are absolute musts for anyone looking to develop a mantra practice. Mantra Meditation comes with a CD and this is what I used to make sure I learned Gayatri Mantra with correct pronunciation. Why is this important? And why a Sanskrit mantra rather than something in my native tongue?

Sanskrit is a very ancient language based on an alphabet with very particular energetic qualities. These mantras are extremely pure and energetically focused on enlightening and tuning the mind to higher frequencies. It is critical that whatever is used as a mantra is absolutely pure because it will be repeated so many times and have a profound effect on the mind. Thomas Ashley-Farrand explains it this way in his book Mantra Meditation:

"Ultimately, when practiced repeatedly, the mantra will result in a subtle change of the state in the organism, where the organism vibrates at a rate in tune with the energy and spiritual state represented by and contained within the mantra."

He goes on to say that:
"For thousands of years, the use of genuine Sanskrit mantras and spiritual formulas has been practiced in order to work in very specific ways to reduce karma and to attune our minds, bodies and spirits to the various invisible energies that exist in the universe. Systematic work with mantras also deepens our breath and automatically increase our ability to concentrate. As the mind becomes clearer, new kinds of perceptual information appear to us as our outer awareness expands. Inner awareness also grows as our karmic struggles are burned away through the repetition of these ancient sacred formulas. We begin to see in new ways, hear in new ways and understand in new ways." 
So, you can see there are amazing benefits to beginning a mantra practice. It is not only one of the most powerful and transformational forms of meditation, but it is also one of the most accessible for most people. Repeating the mantra silently or aloud while keep count on a Mala (a string of 108 beads...check out these beauties from Japa Mala Beads made just up the road in Asheville, North Carolina) occupies the mind so much that it can be an "easier" way to start meditating when compared to other techniques such as following the breath.

I started my forty day practice with Gayatri Mantra on January 10, 2010 and it has been a really wonderful new dimension of my yoga sadhana (practice). I have not been very strict about always chanting at the same time of day; sometimes I do my 108 repetitions in the morning, sometimes in the evening and occasionally (though this is not traditional) I do them while I am crocheting or needle felting hats. Sounds strange I know, but I can do one repetition per stitch and it is incredibly peaceful and I love that all the good energy from my practice is going into the hats I make for people.

When I practice my mind usually at first runs around like a monkey going through a catalog of all my thoughts of the day or things that have been occupying my mind. As the practice progresses this changes often into images, flashes of insight, words "written on a wall" (of my mind) and a general slowing of my thought process. My breathing becomes slower and deeper and sometimes sensations or colors in my third eye point begin to appear. Often the answer to some question I have been pondering will just "pop" into my mind. Sometimes I will have a sudden insight or "knowing" about something connected to another person or some event in my life, past or present. These are all just some examples of things one can expect to experience during a mantra practice. Everyone's practice will be different and each time we practice things will be different.

The long form of Gayatri Mantra is a longer mantra and it is not necessary to practice with something that long. You can start simply by repeating "Om" or Om Mani Padme Hum (the Jewel is in the Lotus...or "all that we need is inside us." Just start with a simple mantra and be consistent. Do a 40 day practice, or simply repeated it aloud and silently as many times as you can during the day.

Please post comments and questions (or email me). I would love to hear about your mantra practice!

For a little inspiration below is a short clip of me chanting the long form of Gayatri Mantra.

Sat Nam and peace to you all.  – Teal