Advanced Poses and Social Media

“The Study of asana is not about mastering the posture. It’s about using the posture to understand and transform yourself.” ~ #Gary Kraftsow

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Although I mostly post pictures of advanced postures, handstands namely and especially recently while participating in #handstandlove, my yoga practice did not begin where it is now. Yoga is a journey that can take you to many places with a proper practice and much discipline. My journey to balancing on my hands has taken me many years, guided instructions, and falls to achieve. I realize now that my posts could be misleading and even dangerous, the poses could be mistaken as the ultimate goal in an asana practice. As a yoga instructor, my passion for teaching and practicing is equal, and my intention is not to misrepresent yoga to anyone.

Yoga begins and continues with so much more than the ability to stand upside down. Yoga is the unity between the body, mind, and breath. It connects us to our inner and outer strength, helps us to be mindful on and off of our mats, and prepares us to respond rather than react to situations in our lives. As our asanas (physical poses) begin to strengthen with correct form and alignment, we can make the decision to try something new and possibly advanced. Or we can to continue to strengthen where we are now.

On Instagram and other social media outlets there’s a plethora of yogis posing in beautiful asanas and it’s easy to want to try to make these poses happen in our own bodies too. And while being inspired is great, attempting to recreate before your practice or your body is ready, can be dangerous. It’s also easy to see the picture without seeing the falls and retakes that go into getting just the right shot or angle. Trust me, there are MANY!

To avoid injury, it is essential to practice beginner and intermediate poses first, before even attempting advanced asanas. Work first on getting your alignment on point and gaining the strength that is pertinent to holding such poses (ie. if you are still struggling in your chatturanga, it’s probably not a good idea to kick up to handstand). The yoga practice is always going to be there, why rush from point A to point Z without visiting all the other letters along the way? Life is long and so to is the journey of yoga. Savor each moment and try to find just as much fulfillment and satisfaction in child’s pose as you do in the advanced poses.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being upside down and I feel really good while balancing on my hands. But holding a handstand is not the source of my joy, it does not define who I am, it does not measure my practice or my passion to teach, and it does not reflect all of my dreams or accomplishments.

I hope my pictures inspire you to commit to and further your practice, or to give yoga a try if you haven’t yet. I hope that they can make you smile. I hope you can realize that a picture is just a picture, and that it doesn’t represent the entire spectrum of my life or the years that have been dedicated to my yoga practice.

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Curried Lentil, Squash, and Apple Stew

Curried Lentil, Squash, and Apple Stew

From Chloe’s Kitchen

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SERVES 6

Infused with curry spices and chock full of wilted spinach, butternut squash, and sweet chunks of apple, this unique lentil stew is fragrant and flavorful beyond belief.

2 TBLS olive oil (or coconut oil)

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1TSP grated fresh ginger

1.5 TSP sea salt

1/5 C dried lentils

2.5 C vegetable broth

3 C peeled butternut squash (or sweet potato), 1/2″ cubes

1 large unpeeled apple, diced

5 oz baby spinach

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat, and saute` onions and carrots until almost soft. Add garlic, ginger, curry, and salt, and let cook a few more minutes until fragrant. Stir in lentils, broth, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add squash and apples, cover, and simmer for another 25 minutes, or until vegetables and lentils are tender. Uncover and stir in spinach until wilted. Add salt to taste and serve.

Observe…

When we let our minds rely on expectation rather than observation, we aren’t allowing ourselves to be truly present. Instead of anticipating things to come, marvel at what’s happening all around. Notice the clouds as they lazily drift by, changing in shape and volume. Notice the sky and how it transforms into different colors; vibrant blue, and pastel pink, and mango peel orange, and heavy grey, and thick black. Feel the wind whip through your hair and across your skin. Let the rain fall on your face, chin tilted up and mouth open, taste the raindrops upon your tongue. Feel the golden light of the sun as it blankets your body in warmth.

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Allow your heart dance with love…and let your tears fall with pain. Be generous with your smile and offer your arms to someone who needs to be touched. The smallest gestures can often leave a greatest impact. Genuinely connect with people. Though we may look different from each other, speak different languages, worship different gods, live by different beliefs and standards, we are all humans and together we are navigating the same earth. We are linked to one another by our desire to have the best possible life we can live, yet create a disconnect  through our expectation that our hopes and dreams are intrinsically individual. In this vast galaxy we are all so tiny yet undeniably complex. Our thoughts, emotions, relationships, and physical beings are intricately laced together.

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Create space and time to find quiet stillness. Observe what is happening…now.  In this moment witness the world around you and the love within your heart. As expectations of what may or may not ever be begin to fade, as compassion grows and connections strengthen, a peaceful presence will emerge. Let go of expectation. Observe, and let it go….

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Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel or in Sanskrit, Devaduuta Panna Asana, is a beautiful pose that requires grace, strength, vulnerability, and surrender. It’s a great reminder that even angels can fall. Below is a breakdown of how to safetly get into and out of this pose.

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1. Begin in mountain pose (tadasana) with arms by the sides.

2. On your inhale come into chair pose (utkatasana).  With big toes and inner thighs touching, bend at the knees, lower the hips , tailbone down eliminating the arching from the lower back, and shift the shins back to encourage the weight into the heals.

3.  With hands together at the heart (anjali mudra) twist to the right on the exhale breath, hooking theleft elbow to the outside of the right thigh, coming into side prayer twist  or chair pose twist (parivrtta utkatasana).

4. Wiggle left arm as far down the right thigh as possible, deepening the twist. Bring the knees in line with one another, press the right palm into the left, roll the right shoulder back. Extend your heart away from your chest and lean the upper body back. Hold for 3-5 breathes.

5. Staying in the twist, place both hands on the mat shoulder distance apart, fingertips pointing away from the right thigh.

6. Bend the elbows to create a shelf , bring the elbows directly on top of the wrists, and lean forward and begin to lift the shins up parallel to the mat, coming into side crow pose (parsva bakasana). Keep the inner thighs squeezing in and the inner elbows firming in towards one another

7. From side crow pose turn gaze toward the bent knees and slowly lower the right temple onto the mat . The right shoulder will decend for the mat but will not touch.

8. Hinge the hips and reach the left toes up towards the ceiling, sending the energy and strength up the leg and through the toes. The bottom, or right toes, will reach up for the ceiling. Keep the right knee bent when rolling from the outer to the top of the right thig. Hinge until both feet are reaching up, left leg stays straight and right knee remains bent.

9. If possible hold for 3-8 deep breathes.

10. Lower and bend left knee, roll back onto the outer right thing, bring shins parallel to the mat.

11. Lift right temple off the mat, returning to side crow.

12. Set the feet down, come back into chair pose twist.

13. Untwist, bring the hands back to the heart  in chair pose.

14. Straighten the legs, release the arms to the side.

15. Repeat on other side.

Spicy Vegan Chili

Spicy Vegan Chili

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1 large onion (diced)

5  celery sticks (diced)

2 carrots (diced)

3 garlic cloves (minced

15 oz black beans (cooked or can)

15 oz kidney beans (cooked or can)

15 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)

2tbls tomato paste

1 ear of corn (or a small can)

2 tsp himalayan sea salt

2 tsp ground black pepper

3 tbls cumin

3 tbls chili powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbls coconut oil

Sautee onions, celery, and carrots until soft in oil. Add garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder for another minute. Add mixure to a crock pot with beans tomato paste, and tomatoes. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Add corn and season to taste with salt/pepper, cook 15 more minutes. Garnish with chopped olives and scallion onions (optional vegan sour cream). Serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Going Vegan

People often comment on my pictures on Instagram about my diet and what I eat. About a year and a half ago I decided to give up meat and dairy and to follow a vegan diet. I wasn’t the kind of person who made a gradual change, the kind that would first give up meat, and then cheese, and then…ice cream….what, no ice cream?! I made the decision to go from someone whose staple ingredient in every meal was cheese, and whose love for ice cream was so strong no evening was complete (or satisfying) without it, to overnight swearing off meat, cheese, dairy, and all animal by products.  So why, you might ask, would I change my diet so drastically and give up some of my favorite foods? And the answer is not simple or concrete, but the reasons are many.

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The first reason came from ahimsa, meaning non-violence, and is the first of the yamas or ethical values in the eight limb path of yoga philosophy. I felt that I wasn’t being true to myself or to my yoga practice as I so blatantly violated one of the yamas. Another reason I felt compelled to become a vegan is because according to the blood type diet that encourages eating right for your blood type (I’m blood type A+), meat and dairy are not beneficial to my physical and spiritual wellbeing. The last reason is largely tied to the first, and has to do with how inhumane and disgusting the meat industry is in the United States. I watched too many movies (Food, Inc…..yuck) and youtube clips of factory farms to choke down chicken wings or hamburgers in ignorant bliss. I was no long ignorant and eating meat was anything but blissful. I’m a believer that the food we eat should nourish our bodies, but should also bring us pleasure and passion. I want to reiterate that this was a personal choice to change an eating habit that was affecting my practice. I certainly don’t expect every person who practices yoga to stop eating meat, or that you’re not a true yogi if you enjoy eating Parmesan. I especially don’t believe that guilt should in any way result from what we eat. I will neverjudge what other people eat or believe about food, and would hope that others would allow me to eat how I please also without passing judgement. Eat what you want, but ENJOY it! I am not a strict vegan, some days I crave fish, so I eat it. Sometimes I want a cookie made with eggs and butter, and trust me, there’s no hand quicker than mine in the cookie jar. Being vegan is a guideline that I live by day to day, but I never prohibit myself from trying something that I really want.

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Craving cheese was the greatest mental challenge I had to overcome when I made to switch to being vegan.  Surprisingly,  after a few months I soon found that I no longer craved it. I started to feel lighter in my body, mind, and in my yoga practice. I now have more energy, better sleep patterns, and perfect blood pressure. I experiment with my food, create delicious alternatives to meats and dairy (think mushrooms, nuts, and coconut cream and oil), and shamelessly depend on my go-to vegan cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli for mouthwatering recipes. I also  gather incredible vegan recipes from PinterestFood 52, and from friends and family. I hope you enjoy some of the recipes I post here, or at least become mindful that there are healthy, nutritious alternative to meat and animal byproducts that are heavenly to taste.

thai peanut butter cups