2012
Posted on March 16th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Foodie Friday: Moroccan Nights

What do you do when you invite 10 people over for dinner and only have eight dining room chairs? Well, when you’re eating Moroccan cuisine, why not do what the Moroccans do: Get cozy on cushions. Granted, most Moroccans use low tables with their cushions, but after 30 seconds of near panic, I decided to throw a blanket and a tablecloth on the floor, along with an abundance of pillows, and call it part of the dinner theme!

Although my daily diet is relatively simple (I’m a rice with dahl fan), I love taking the time to explore the flavors and cooking styles of various cultures. When my daughters surprised me at Christmas with the gift of a beautiful copper couscousiere (a large double boiler–type pot used specifically for steaming couscous) I knew that a Moroccan dinner party was in my future.

I’ve seen pictures of couscousieres before—the copper ones are especially beautiful—but I never really understood the point; I had always just boiled water, let the couscous soak it up, and called it a day. Why use a special pot that requires you to steam the couscous multiple times? All I can tell you is that this couscous is unlike any you’ve ever tasted! I looked up several recipes before I was truly convinced that the way to use one of these things was to mix the couscous with water and a bit of olive oil and steam it for 15 minutes, then remove and fluff it, add more water, and steam again—then repeat the entire process! The difference? Incredibly light and fluffy couscous. The couscous itself actually had a flavor even before I added almonds, cinnamon, and dried fruit. I’m sold—thank you, girls!

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Posted on March 15th, 2012 by in Yoga

Reinvigorating a Pranayama Home Practice

Need a refresher course in establishing, or reestablishing, a pranayama routine at home? Here are some practical approaches for planning a regular routine and taking this self-nurturing, transformative practice into you daily life.

Begin by creating safe and sacred space for your pranayama practice. Choose a private place free from interruption and distraction, with good air circulation. If possible, find a spot void of electronics. In good weather, consider an outdoor location (this is my favorite and most frequent choice for my personal pranayama practice). Make it welcoming. Beautify your space with bits of inspiration (fresh flowers, mala beads, statues, photos of loved ones or teachers, sentimental objects, favorite quotes). Have fresh water, tissues, and a journal handy.

Choose a time to practice daily. Pranayama is best done in the early morning and on an empty stomach, but gentle techniques-like dirgha, ujjayi, and nadi shodhana-can be practiced just about any time of day. Consistency is more important than duration, so choose the most viable time to delve into the enlivening rhythm of your home practice.

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Posted on March 14th, 2012 by in Meditation, Yoga

Everyday Yogi: Subway Meditation

A visiting friend riding with me on a New York City subway said, “Wow, I didn’t realize so many people here had a meditation practice.” I looked around and laughed, hard. Indeed, we could have been surrounded by meditating monks using a variety of techniques. Some stared into the middle distance, others had an eyes-shut, chin-down approach, and some riders were fixed on a small gadget, jaws dangling.

Alright, so maybe they were doing the opposite of meditation–checking out so they could be anywhere other than crowded public transportation. Been there. A lot. Eco-friendly as they may be, trains, planes, and buses are simply not where most of us choose to be. Pretty much everyone in transit has a psychic bumper sticker that reads: I’d Rather Be… Absolutely Anywhere Else. This, of course, is what makes these interim spots, these transitional moments, perfect places to practice being present. (Say that six times fast!)

I’ve heard some yoga teachers talk about the importance of these over-looked transitional moments on the mat. Our minds are so focused on lining up the pose just right, breathing with movement, holding, watching our minds, etc. but when it’s time to switch postures we often drop it all—our gaze, our breath, our attuned awareness. That’s why, anecdotally, most yoga injuries happen while we’re shifting from one asana to the next.

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Posted on March 13th, 2012 by in Conscious Living

Awakening

Is there a potential transformation possible for us all? When you are experiencing a sense of awakening, such an idea makes sense. When you are not, it is a strange thing to hear. Aren’t I already “awake”?

I was in my mid-20s when I first heard about “waking up”. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but it implied that there was a way of living that was more conscious, more aware, and that allowed you to see things as they truly are.

My Zen Buddhism meditation teacher suggested the goal was to “wake up to your true nature”. This implied that I was somehow asleep. I began to notice similar metaphors in writing and poetry that stated we were in “in prison”, able to “be reborn” and that there is a possibility to shift “from fragmentation to wholeness.”

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Posted on March 12th, 2012 by in Outside Our Walls

Yoga Goes to High School

I’m waiting in the yoga classroom of a western Massachusetts high school—the site of one of the Yoga in the Schools projects being developed and scientifically evaluated by Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living. The room is decorated in vibrant student-painted murals and yoga posters, transforming the windowless space, which was once the detention room, into a bright area for mindful movement and self-inquiry. The bell rings and instead of desks and chairs, students filter into a circular arrangement of yoga mats. With upbeat melodies humming in the background, bags and shoes are left at the door. One student, who three weeks earlier came to class with snacks and a cell phone in hand, greets me today with a smile and goes sit on his mat, looking receptive. I assist the instructor by inviting the rest of the group to find a comfortable seat. We’re ready to begin.

It’s no revelation that adolescents today are stressed. Naturally, in a time of physical and psychosocial transformation, teens face the tasks of identity development and belonging—while managing a cascade of hormonal changes. For many, the teenage years can feel like a minefield, finding the precarious balance between standing out and fitting in, trying on values and dealing with the accompanying emotions. The demands of academic and extracurricular achievement, along with decisions about whether and how to get to college, weigh as well. It’s a heavy toll! And that’s assuming there’s stability at home. Knowing that lifelong patterns take root in adolescence, yogic wisdom offers support. Tools to manage life’s challenges and practice self-compassion are at the heart of what’s available.

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Posted on March 11th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Moment of Quiet

Every Sunday, you’ll find a space to enjoy guided meditation, a piece of music, an enticing image, or video that inspires calm.

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Posted on March 10th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Turning Point Q&A: Andrea Beaman

Many of us have watershed moments in our lives, when everything changes. For holistic health coach and natural-foods chef Andrea Beaman, that moment came when she witnessed her mother undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I teach people how to achieve vibrant health through diet and lifestyle choices.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A Witnessing the devastating effects of chemotherapy and radiation on my mother’s breast cancer. The destruction of her body planted the idea in me that there was something terribly amiss with our modern treatments of disease. Five years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with incurable thyroid disease. I refused the treatment recommended and instead improved my diet, lifestyle, and consciousness. It took time and patience, but my condition healed. Since that time, I’ve been teaching others how to naturally heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions.

Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on March 9th, 2012 by in Nutrition

The Healing Power of Food – Lessening FODMAPs Load May Spell IBS Relief

Kripalu Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN shares her wisdom on all things food-related in this series focusing on nutrition and healthy digestion. FODMAPs sounds like it might be the latest automobile GPS navigation system or weather radar detection unit. Instead, FODMAPS is a therapeutic eating plan that has been gaining ground as an effective protocol to help people who are suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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Posted on March 8th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

Occupy Yourself

I’m beside myself with worry.

I can see my mother standing at the kitchen sink in our childhood house, her hands immersed in soapsuds, proclaiming this. It was a phrase she used a lot when I was young. How confusing to my childhood brain! There she was, standing in front of me, clearly only one mother, not two. How could she be—beside herself?

I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot these days, which, according to the Dictionary of Word Origins by Jordan Almond, was used “because the ancients believed that soul and body could part and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself”.”

Living yoga off the mat seems to be the ultimate coming together of self—the unity, the yoking of body, mind, and spirit—the antithesis of being “beside one’s self.” My mother was speaking her 1950s understanding of how to cope with stress and with feelings. Hers is the model that I learned, the model that today brings me suffering. As 2012 unfolds, I am committed to practicing the ancient and ultimately relevant model of unity consciousness, a powerful and effective way to cope with life. As I come into awareness of what is, as I relax around it, transformation occurs.

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Posted on March 7th, 2012 by in Yoga

Yoga in the Olympics?

When I started practicing Kripalu Yoga around 19 years ago, the main lessons I got were: “Accept yourself, exactly as you are today,” “Don’t compare,” and “Don’t judge—yourself or others.” Those were all messages I desperately needed to hear that deeply planted seeds of healing in me.

The growing movement to make yoga an Olympic sport pretty much blows every one of those sacred tenets to the moon. I don’t mean to jump on the whole yoga-competitions-are-evil caravan—it’s crowded enough—but after witnessing my first live yoga competition the other night I am all a-shudder and need to process.

Just walking in the door to “see” yoga at a theater in midtown Manhattan for the 2012 United States Yoga Asana Championship New York Regional edition last Friday night was odd enough. As a yoga junkie, though, I was curious—what exactly happens at a yoga competition? Who’s got the loudest ujayyi? Who can fidget least in Savasana? Who can keep their bottom ribs arced in Triangle? Those are things I’d want to strive for, at least, since I’ve been told so many times, in so many styles of classes: “Yoga is not about how close you can get your foot to your head” and “Yoga is about moving with the breath” and “Yoga is about dipping deep inside to the place beyond places, where everything,” as my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Trainer Devarshi says, is “eternal, infinite, and whole.”

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