Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eat your greens!

Spring time is the perfect time to eat more greens.  Here's a really delicious and easy to make salad using Lacinato (aka Dino) Kale.  I learned this technique from Ed Brown during his visit to Columbus last year. 

Finely chop the kale (stems and all) and put in a bowl (you'll need room to manuever so make it a big big bowl).  You'll be tasting as you go.  Toss in some salt (not too can add more as you taste) and start squeezing the kale with your hands.  The salt will help the bring out the moisture from the leaves as they soften and turn a lovely emerald green.  Taste.  From here anything goes.  Just add and squeeze and taste until it's just right for you. 

Things you could add:
dried pepper or a little cayenne

A friend of Ed's calls this squeezing technique "hand frying".  Once you're done with that part and the taste is to your satisfaction you can stir in other stuff like:

sunflower seeds
dried fruit
fresh fruit

I love this salad so much I'll squeeze up a bunch for lunch!

ps:  you can use regular kale too but you'll have to remove the stems before finely chopping the leaves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Under the weather

I woke up this morning feeling under the weather.  Grey skies, felt heavy.  I was feeling frustration, and something else, sadness maybe? I felt a kind of bewilderment leftover from yesterday.  Nothing stays the same. Impermanence.

But then what to do on my yoga mat this morning?  I just stepped into my practice.  Nothing I've been doing felt appealing or appropriate.  I've been feeling my way into lovely backbending, upper body opening postures.  Today...I didn't even want to stand up.  All I wanted was to fold forward and to have something catch me.  So I dragged my meditation cushion over so my forhead could rest against its softness.  It's not one of those sort of firm cushions.  It's filled with buckwheat hulls that get more mushy and pliable over time.  I  did forward bends, soft, easy forward bends.
I soothed and supported.  It was short.  It was not effortful in anyway.  I was not fixing.  I just gave in to what was arising in my attention.  Sometimes I say in class, that doing a mild supported backbend can be nice if you're feeling blue.  True.  But sometimes it's nice to just cradle and care for yourself, not wallowing, just being with things.  Letting them clarify if they want to...or not.

Then I just sat a few minutes with some pranayama and meditation with the sound of the rain...and Samputa mudra  said to remind us of the treasures we have within.  And for today...that was enough.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Small things

I was reading Verlyn Klinkenborg's piece "Sometimes the Smallest Things" in the New York Times this morning.  I've been reminded several times lately how important it is to keep looking, keep seeing, keep being curious, keep questioning.  A little quote I was sent recently illustrated this by pointing out that it was only about 100 years ago that someone thought up having left and right shoes. What a relief that must have been to a lot of people.

Yoga refers to samskara, a Sanskrit word meaning impression left by a previous thought or action; latent tendency.  These impressions, repeated become so deep that they become habit, which means we no longer see these actions as choices.  If we don't see that there is choice, there is no choice. 

So dance with life fully....mindfully.  Maybe we'll discover we don't have two left feet!

Theorists and experimentalists

More than 20 years ago, I worked as an administrative assistant at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara.  I loved working there.  It was the first job in my working life where I was actually excited to go to work each day (for accuracy, I should inject "most of the time").  I loved being around people who were curious and intelligent and coming up with new ideas about the way things are in the world.  I didn't come into contact much with the experimentalists. They were the ones who took the theory and brought it into application. 

With that background I realize all these years later that, as a yoga teacher, I am more of the experimentalist variety.  I still love those theorists, now yogis instead of physicists.  But my practice, my art, is to pick up those innovations and play with them, study them, and let them evolve until they apply to my life, my practice, my teaching.  What a wonderful and exhilarating partnership.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pain relief

I'm reading "Yoga for Pain Relief" by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.  Kelly teaches yoga, meditation and psychology at Stanford University.  I first came in contact with her through Erich Schiffmann's discussion board years ago.  She's written an informative and helpful book for people dealing with chronic pain.  She begins with a chapter on the science behind chronic pain, which I found to be enlightening.  Then she introduces the reader to yoga and how it can help to "calm your mind and heal your chronic pain".

Kelly writes, "While neuroscience, psychology, and medicine are getting better at explaining why and how pain persists, they do not yet have satisfying solutions.  Pain medications fail over the long term more often than not.  Pain management programs often focus on coping with pain rather than transforming the pain experience."

"That is where yoga comes in.  The yoga tradition has evolved as a system to end unnecessary suffering.  This promise was described as far back as two thousand years ago in the Yoga Sutras, one of the first guides to the purpose and practice of yoga."

"Yoga philosophy offers hope for freedom from suffering, and its practices provide the tools for healing."

The book includes breath awareness practices, gentle yoga, meditation, all geared to those who suffer chronic pain.  I've already recommended it to several students who live with pain on a daily basis.  It's a gem.