Monday, December 20, 2010

New Year, New You

The benefit of having a late December birthday is that I embark on a new calendar year and a new age around the same time. This really encourages me to reflect on the past year and set my New Year's resolutions. I always make four of them and put them on my iGoogle homepage so I see them on a regular basis. Here is what I'm focusing on for year 30, 2011: 1. Stick to my budget, don't outgrow my student aid check. 2. Schedule a friend date once a month. 3. Get enough sleep, prioritize practice. 4. Explore my fields of interest in preparation for when I'm a practicing chiropractor...i.e., yoga therapy. It's not in the curriculum after all. I hope you set some great intentions for your upcoming year, whether you do it on your birthday or when you get a new calendar.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Local, Sustainable, AMAZING Wine

When I first moved here I was all about the local wines...hey, I'm in the Willamette Valley after all. However, recently I made the move to boxed wines for the shear sustainability and affordability of them. When those two worlds came together for me, of course I scooped up a box. Badger Mountain Pure Red is amazing. At first sip I was floored. This is quite possibly the best wine I have ever tasted...for the average price of $20 a box (that's $5 a bottle for you bottle drinkers). The sustainability does not stop with the box. Badger Mountain is a local-ish wine for me; 200 miles away in the Columbia River Valley (same watershed). They are an organic winery (Washington's first) who adds no sulfates to their wines. The box liner is BPA-free too! This wine is a winner, local or not, so check it out! What could be better than your pocketbook and the environment than this...if you're not willing to not buy wine that is. And if white wine is more your thing, don't worry, Pure Red has a sister...Pure White.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"The best homework anyone will ever give you"

My teacher training teacher, Corina Benner often would tell us this. We were assigned to practice 4 times a week. At the time, I did not find it easy and it was sometimes a struggle to fit in those practices 4x a week for 9 months. Boy was she right though. I only could dream of such homework now. Before I moved out of Philly to attend Chiropractic School I had a solid practice schedule. Most weeks I would be practicing 5-6 times a week. It was incredible; and I certainly did take it for granted. It was just simply the way things were. I made sacrifices and showed up to practice regularly. Fast forward to now. I wake up at 5:00 AM, rush around to get out the door and bike to my 7:30 class. School ends at 4:30 or 5:30 and then I'm biking home. Two days a week (on those 4:30 days) I head to the studio, unless my dog gets sick, which happened today, or some other obstacle pops up. Home practice is becoming more and more the norm, but it is not nearly as infused with juice and devotion because there is always a dog on the mat, or some other distraction...and more often than not I am easily pushing the practice back until it's just too late because there is always dishes or clothes to wash and of course, studying to do! The reality is that at best, my 5-6 practices a week has now slumped to 2-3 practices a week. I find myself making the same excuses that I used to hear from yogis all around me: I'm too busy, I'm too tired, there's just no time today. And I just hear Jill saying her simple answer to all of this, "Practice first." Perhaps that really is the key, but how? Sometimes the sutra-like answer needs some experimentation and explanation. I don't think I can embrace a 4:00 AM practice, but perhaps practicing first thing after getting home is something more manageable...well after the dog is walked of course. Studio days will continue to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays plus the occasional Saturday morning; but other days practice comes first at HOME. Saturdays and Sundays are going to be no exception and a practice will happen before breakfast. This lofty goal of mine does have some cushions...yin yoga is to be practiced 3 days and moon days are days off. I will be experimenting in the assigned time slot for the rest of this week. And officially kicking off on Saturday morning when I expect I'll be full of juice after Friday evening's Jayashree workshop! Please leave your pointers and advice for this lazy yogini and her lofty goals to get back to her beloved Philadelphia practice schedule. And if you see Corina, thank her for the best homework anyone ever gave me!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kitchen Counter Local

When people talk local foods they have many definitions: 250 miles, 100 miles, metro and surrounding countryside, maybe even their own garden. But what about in your own kitchen. What possibly could be there for you to harvest and eat? YEAST! Yes, that critical ingredient for bread and beer can be found in the air everywhere, including your own house. You too can grow your own with very minimal effort. Here is the basic gist.
  1. Make a yeast food mixture of half whole wheat and half regular flour.
  2. Take a medium bowl (large cereal bowl should do it) and add about a half-cup or so of your blend to the bowl. Add some tepid water to make a loose dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with a thin kitchen towel or some cheese cloth and let it sit for 3 days.
  4. Remove the towel and remove half. Feed your yeast another 1/2 cup of 'food', and water to make the same consistency. Cover, wait 2 days.
  5. Continue to remove half and feed and water daily. The yeast will grow and shrink predictably at some point. This is good behavior. If you forget to feed your 'yeast pet', it will forgive you if you get back into good habits again.
To use your yeast you can follow the recipe below to make some of the most delicious, complex, and filling breads I've ever eaten. A little dense, but wonderful. The recipe makes three small loaves, so I froze the other two. Bread making takes about a day, but it only requires that you be around for that day to monitor the situation periodically. Yeast pets and their breads are not nearly as demanding as dogs. Feed and water your yeast pet the night before bread day. 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 2 3/4 cups regular flour 3 cups + 1 T warm water 2 T + 1 t salt 2 T yeast
  1. Add the water to a big mixing bowl.
  2. Add in yeast and stir to dissolve. Floating yeast is good behavior, but it will work if it doesn't float.
  3. Add in the flours. Mix with hands until there is no dry flour, this is messy business.
  4. Let the dough rest for 20-40 minutes.
  5. Add in the salt and incorporate by dipping hands in water and folding the dough on top of itself until the salt dissolves into the dough.
  6. Let the dough rise 3-4 hours in a warm place, turning the dough over onto itself 12 times every half-hour.
  7. After this rising period portion the dough into 3 pieces and shape it into fat, round discs. Allow them to rise for 3-4 hours.
  8. Preheat the oven and a round casserole dish with lid to 500 degrees.
  9. Carefully flip a loaf into the preheated casserole dish, lid it, put it into oven.
  10. Turn oven down to 470 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid and bake for 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown.
  12. Remove bread to a towel to cool.
  13. Wipe out the casserole dish and repeat the baking for the other loaves...including preheating the oven and dish/lid to 500 degrees.
Enjoy your new 'yeast pet' and the lovely gifts it gives you!

Can Do!

If you are going to eat local...eventually you will want tomatoes in the winter, something sweet for your toast, and more. Luckily, you can find good quality canned and frozen foods that are local in Portland, just go to New Seasons Market or somewhere like it. However, that stuff is a little too expensive for my tiny budget. So what to do? Can it yourself. This year I have canned a lot of foods for the year ahead: 19 quarts of tomatoes, 8 quarts of beets, ~30 1/2 pints of jam of various flavors (mostly blackberry that I can pick just about anywhere in this city for free), and ~10 1/2 pints of of tuna. Maybe next year I'll add some dill pickles to my list. Canning is serious business, and if you are thinking about it I recommend you get the 'bible' of canning and follow it's instructions and recipes (for canning practically anything)...the Ball Blue book, which can be purchased on their website for just $6. You certainly don't want to poison yourself or your loved ones by improper technique. Upfront costs of canning are sort of high. You're buying a lot of produce, e.g. my two boxes of tomatoes cost around $50. You need at least two big pots, I prefer to use my pressure cooker for the jar processing, I can use it as a water bath canner as well as a pressure canner. Low acid foods and meats must be pressure canned. And you need jars and some spare lids. The good news is jars and the canner/pots will be re-used again and again so those are one-time expenses...unless you increase production next year and get more jars; you will need to get new lids next year. A jar lifter and little lid magnet stick are also great helps. When I was just doing jam I used tongs and a big pot and it worked just fine...but it was sort of dangerous. The good news is once your operation is set up, your ready to go every year. The food costs are high, but much lower than what you'd pay for the same thing in the store. I see quality local jams at farm stands for $8 a pop...and I'm spending $25 on some strawberries to make 8-10 of the same, so the savings add up to around $30-40 over the year...depending on how much you spent on the sugar and pectin. And then there's the 'love' component. I mean, there is nothing as good as raiding your own reserves, or you gram's or mom's. The love is there, and you can't eat that from any store local or otherwise. The final drawback of canning is the reason this post is a bit less optimistic than most...the time component. Being a chiropractic student not only is my financial budget tight, but so is the time availability. Every canning experience this year, besides the jam, has cut into precious weekend time. I always underestimate when to start and ultimately decide that after a luxuriously lazy morning would be best. This results in very late nights in my kitchen. Not one of my summer/fall projects did I start before noon, and not one of those nights did I get to bed before 1:30 AM. The reality is that I only got to bed then last night because my boyfriend took pity on me and helped out at the end, most nights were until 3:00AM. I'm exhausted! I know this will all pay off in the end though. It already is. I have used the tuna, the tomatoes, the jam all before now; the beets will be pickled and ready for consumption on Christmas Day. The canner is being cleaned and put away in the closet and so are the beets this Halloween. No effort is ever wasted. Here's hoping that my efforts will inspire your own, and this year will be tastier and lighter on my checking account!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Adapting to a new environment

For the majority of my life I lived in Pennsylvania. I knew what was in season, and that included deer, trout, and sunfish as wild game. You could always find some venison in my freezer and I most certainly had some fish every summer. Now I live in Oregon and while some things are similar, but there are some new meats in my life. Oregon has a lot of fish. Salmon and Steelhead trout swim in our rivers here, and Dan went out for Steelhead, so we have some tasty fillets in our freezer. The fishing industry is huge in Oregon. The thing to do here in the Pacific Northwest is to can your own fish. My friend from Alaska canned 20 pounds of Coho Salmon from the Columbia River just on the border of our city last year in one weekend, and that included a fishing trip. After hearing about that feat, I decided it was time to start canning fish. I started this year with the most common, and cheapest, fish-tuna. This was truly an adventure. It started with a road trip to Astoria, OR around 100 miles from Portland. We went to a small fish shop and purchased a 18 pound tuna, already 'loined out'. The price was $2.09/lb. and the charge a $7 fee for the butchering job, which is just fine by me. Since we were there we fit in a hike along the coast at the most northern point in Oregon followed up with a dinner of fish 'n' chips at a brewpub. The canning was relatively straight-forward thanks to the Blue Book (an essential for any canner), the processing was long...1 hour and 40 minutes, plus cooling. Pressure canning is cool because when the jars come out they boil for a long time, and it's kind of fun to watch. Why eat local tuna instead of just a can of chicken-of-the-sea? Because it's better for you and the environment. Many grocery-store tuna cans can't compare to this, in fact we once purchased a local tuna can of 6 oz. for $8 (it was amazing). The cheap tuna is typically imported from south-east Asia, questionably harvested, full of mercury, and over-processed. My tuna came off the fishing boat and went right up to the fish shop I bought it at the night before. The fishermen use the fish waste from butchering as bait that they collect from the shop later. Not much shipping or waste there, besides our car, to do a hike/adventure that we would have done anyway. Fish off the coast of Oregon are caught using hook-and-line methods which is much more sustainable, and since the water temperature is perfect for pretty much only tuna, there are few other fish 'accidentally' caught. The fisheries are abundant and sustainably harvested. Health-wise, Oregon tuna are amazing. They have very low mercury levels, since the fish are on-average younger and have had fewer years of biomagnification. (Then again, we wouldn't have to worry about mercury levels of fish at all if the world could just stop burning fossil fuels, but that's a whole other post.) A huge benefit of Oregon tuna is their Omega-3 levels. They have much higher levels of this essential fatty acid than imported (leaner) tuna. Canning methods count too. Most cans of tuna you find in the grocery store are cooked before being processed. The cooking process makes them loose some of their oils and also their flavor. At the recommendation of the Oregon Albacore Commission I used the raw pack method. This method involved cutting up the tuna into jar-sized pieces, packing them into jars, adding a half-tsp. of salt, filling the extra space with boiling water, and then processing. This retains the natural fish oils and flavors. I hope this post encourages you to adapt to whatever environment you find yourself in, and preserving some local abundance in season just may come into play for you too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Eqinox Pizza

One of the best things about eating local is that you never really get tired of eating anything because you have it only for a short while. Just when I'm starting to get slightly weary of salads-and I still really had my fill-fall rolls in. It's cooler out now and I am looking for something a little more substantial. Last night I made some delicious pizza, which might be the best thing I ever put in my mouth. I added some sausage to please my meat-loving boy, but not too much and you can certainly cut it out without cutting out any of the deliciousness. Start by making your pizza dough, whichever recipe you love most. While it's rising make the topping. In a skillet start by sauteing one onion (cut into strips) in a bit of oil. Once this gets a nice brown color add in two links of sausage, one hot, one sweet, both local and sustainable pork, sliced into bite-size chunks. Chop mushrooms, I used cantrells and portabellos that the CSA delivered (first of the season!) and add them to the skillet along with a couple cloves of garlic, chopped. De-stem a bunch of chard, chop the stems and add them as well. Once the food cooks enough to be tender add the chard leaves (chopped) to the mix, lid it, and let the leaves steam. After a few minutes the chard will wilt down enough to be stirred in. After combining everything add a small pat of butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Once your crust has risen, make it into a pizza-shape, oil the crust and salt and pepper it. Arrange the topping. Shave a nice layer of Parmesan cheese all over the top (optional). Bake for about 10 minutes at 425. Obviously temperatures and times will be determined by your particular crust. Enjoy this. It's definitely worth all the love and labor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back to Basics-Ahimsa

Recently I suffered a pretty serious rib injury and my practice went on a hiatus. Further, it was the end of the school term here at Western States Chiropractic College resulting in increasing stress and decreasing sleep. Now I have a two week break from school and have healed enough to practice asana again. Over this break I'm getting back to the basics, the yamas and niyamas, one each weekday and practicing every day. Yesterday was my ahimsa day. I pulled out my philosophy workbook from teacher training to see how I felt about this yama when I focused on it for an entire week. We were asked to define ahimsa for ourselves, my entry read: I think that ahimsa should start with how you treat yourself. This means proper rest, nourishment, and stimulation. Secondly it applies to how you relate to the world: not being wasteful, making conscious choices about your day-to-day activities. Thirdly it is how you treat others, namely your actions, words, and lastly your thoughts about others. You should strive to be kind. Two actions that popped out at me from my week of reflection were these: proper nourishment, and find ways to reduce your workload so you can focus on the more important things. Non-violence toward myself has certainly been lacking lately with the end-of-term stress by staying up late, getting up early, and eating food that's not the best for me. My nourishment needed work. I set out to remedy the situation. For lunch I made a salad with beautiful summer squash, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, tomato, beets, and a hard-boiled egg...all lovingly delivered in the CSA box, besides the beets that my mom canned for me before the move to Oregon. For dinner I cooked chickpeas, black beans, and red beans (with the help of my new favorite pressure cooker, I highly recommend them) and made a chili with fresh green peppers and jalapenos and a can of tomatoes. Since this was a giant pot of will last Dan and myself through the week and I can focus on other important things. I love big pots of soup! Yesterday's practice consisted of tentative trials of a few asana here and there. Today I had my first real practice in weeks. I could hear Jill's mantra in my mind the whole time, "Practice in a way that you can still practice tomorrow." This is certainly ahimsa. So, instead of pushing my tight hips and newly healed chest, I modified. Instead of 10 surya namaskaras, there were 5 without one jump-back. I practiced the entire standing series, but only a few asana in the primary series. I listened to what my body was saying and just ended the practice right there with a nice long twist and savasana. Because apparently, there are only so many chatturangas this costosternal joint was willing to stand for today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shout out: Anna

My old friend Anna in San Francisco finally got her act together and joined a CSA. Check out her blog post about her first delivery ever. Where ever you are google CSA and your town, you might be pleasantly surprised by how convenient and wonderful fresh local produce can be.

10 Things...take 3

As I have been inspired by both Jill and Amanda, here are the 10 things that are really making my day as of late:
  1. Finished with classes for the quarter, finals week will land me 1/6 of the way to becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic.
  2. A perfectly placed moon day the weekend before finals.
  3. Dan and I are adding to our 'family'...we're getting a puppy this weekend.
  4. My parents will be visiting for a few days over break; I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving.
  5. The kind people that surround and inspire me...including my professors and classmates.
  6. Using this upcoming break (2 weeks long) to really dive in head-first into practice with no other obligations (besides #4, a three day break). I want to establish a stronger practice habit (6 days a week) so I'm more prone to practice at home when I need to this upcoming quarter.
  7. Resolving my issue with killing slugs in my garden. I struggled with this as they weren't doing anything but eating...until it killed a pea plant. As the Gita teaches us, sometimes action needs to be taken. However, if I find a banana slug I won't harm it; I'll just move it into my neighbors yard full of weeds. It's a native after all, and doesn't actually eat living plants!
  8. Summer is forcasted to finally begin tomorrow. And we deserve it with all the rain and cold.
  9. Pulling out the summer clothes and packing up the winter ones.
  10. Looking forward so much to the first signs of Oregon strawberries...and the few plants in my small garden putting out fruit. I can't wait to harvest food other than herbs that I grew myself.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kathy Cooper, Practice 4...staying open while getting stronger

Kathy has been really focusing her adjustments with me on opening my shoulders. This has been demonstrated in bound poses, downward dog, and parasarita padotanasana C particularly. At the same time I'm striving to strengthen my shoulders and upper arms with bakasana and reforming my bad alignment issues in up/down dog and chaturanga...not to mention working on those adjustive skills at chiropractic school. All of this focus on strengthening and opening really plays the opposites. The dance around the point, isn't that yoga...the balance between shiva and shakti? At any rate, this continues to help open up the tension at the root of my neck and help those muscles finally let go after months of being in spasm. As I approach my last Kathy Cooper practice on Friday evening I am realizing that this month has done much to intensify my practice. My practices are sweatier, more energetic, and much, much more focused whether this teacher is there or not. Even though I haven't added any new postures, my understanding and curiosity has grown for each in my practice. I find that my practice times are expanding to longer sessions. A point about this practice of Ashtanga yoga and how it has changed me since I picked it up in January. At my first day Casey mentioned that this practice teaches you to align yourself with the natural cycles in the world around you. He mentioned that this isn't something you force yourself into, it just happens and asked me to just observe if that was true for me. It's becoming very true from the simple waking with the sun and getting sleepy as it sets to noticing diet and balance changes with the moon cycle. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kathy Cooper Practice 3: Standing on my own two feet

Today I realized that I don't use my feet as much as I should. My arches are constantly collapsing all over the place and my balance on my feet is terrible! Today's practice was about standing firmly on my feet. Kathy seemed able to align my body in such a way in many of the standing poses that I had to firmly plant my feet in order to hold myself up. I am reminded of the fact that Jill would always point out that the bhandas are energetic directions, not a particular muscular contraction. I was certainly engaging uddiana bhanda and even moola bhanda in my standing series. This paid off in the standing balances...however, by that point I had been SO active in my feet that from ankles to foot to root of the toes, they were getting quite tired. In an unrelated point, I'm healing myself through yoga. My elbows have become a pain in my neck, quite literally. I have developed extreme tension in my levator scapulae and posterior scalenes. No amount of chiropractic manipulation or soft tissue work seems to have worked for months. But guess what, it was pointed out to me recently that my elbows hyper-extend consistently through my practice. Down and up dogs are big culprits here. I'm not using my musculature to hold myself up here, instead I rely on the bony supports and/or my ligaments. Clearly, without correction, this could become a problem in the elbow joint. However, it also puts me in a position where my shoulders close in on the front side of my body. Sitting all day in lecture does nothing but enforce now my natural posture is with my shoulders in front of my body with my palms facing back. Since I started consciously putting a slight bend in my elbows during practice I've noticed and ability to pull the shoulders back during lecture. This new way of practice is strengthening muscles that I couldn't ever figure out before. My utkatasana has improved because I can really access the neccessary inward-spiraling of the arms as I'm developing the strength/flexiblity to move that way. And today I realized that when I continue the slight bend in the elbow theme while in bridge, it opens up all the tight spots in my neck. Bridge is so powerfully important at this point in my life, that I'm temporarily dropping ALL practice of upward-facing bow. I just don't get the same, very necessary, benefit from that. This experience is just sitting here to reinforce that what we might view as the 'easy version' is really something all it's never let go of those 'simple' asanas; they are more powerful than you might first realize.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kathy Cooper Experience, Practice 2: finding the space in asana

My second Kathy Cooper practice this month was Monday evening. The bus was right on schedule that day and I for once arrived on time! On days I'm lucky like that I get to enjoy the chant. She slowed it down a bit, which I liked a lot. This was a good practice for me. My mind was calm and focused for the majority of the practice despite the full room or the plant that I encountered with my fingertips. I continue to be impressed with the information that Kathy can convey verbally and physically. She can find space in not only the 'complex' asanas, but for some reason, she found a ton of space in my triangle that I didn't know I had access too. Mostly what I learned this practice is how to rest within each asana. I used to say quite often in my classes that the point of asana practice is to see if you can breathe complete, smooth breaths in each asana. However, after this practice I would add to that: can you find ease and expansion in each asana too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kathy Cooper: Practice 1; OR Yoga-the good, the bad, and the 'it doesn't resonate'

This month at my yoga studio, Kathy Cooper is teaching. I plan to blog about the five classes I'm signed up for with her throughout the 'Kathy Cooper Experience'. Tuesdays I practice twice, once at our school's yoga club (new teacher every week) and again at the studio. Yoga club is a unique yoga experience, as we have a smattering of teachers picked and handed down quarter to quarter. This week we had what I must say was flat-out BAD yoga. How do you know bad yoga? When the teacher unrolls their mat and forgets to teach to the students completely. This 'teacher' proceeded to 'teach' a (potentially harmful in my opinion) series of asana that she did not describe 'what part goes where', give them the correct names, and barely gave breath cues. The worst part perhaps was when from revolved extended side angle we were instructed to 'now exhale and fall into my favorite pose and try not to pull your hamstrings'. That was the only instruction...and the pose after I turned to look at her was Hanumanasana completely folded forward! This was bad yoga, in my opinion. After class, she was proud to announce that she had no teacher training...and it showed. Yoga club does offered a varied experience, but not all of it is bad yoga. For example, one teacher came, who clearly understood the point, but was very nontraditional, mixing many calisthenics with asana, but matched it all with breath and was able to teach a lot of philosophy. I like my yoga with a heavy dose of tradition, so he didn't resonate...but he had some good yoga going. GOOD YOGA happened much later in the day at the sweet Mysore studio. This was my first practice with Kathy Cooper. As soon as I entered the studio it was heavy with breath. There was no need for the heater tonight because the place was warm with prana flowing everywhere. A great way to start practice is to arrive to a packed energetic studio. I received two adjustments from Kathy that were super informative. Like Jill Manning, she knows each asana like it were her dearest, oldest friend. Both adjustments came with pointers and small movement that opened up things in a big way. The first in downward dog amped up the energy, the second in Marichyasana C gave me so much more room for breath. As I was preparing to leave she came over to say good-bye and there was something so Manorma-like about the way she interacts with you...and if you know Manorma, maybe you know that feeling that I can't describe in any other way. Good yoga, that resonates with you leaves you feeling light and springy...and makes the world a more beautiful place. I hope that motivates everyone to find the good yoga that works for them no matter what it is and run with it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

If I haven't said it before, I love my CSA, Hood River Organics. The more I talk about local foods, I realized just how many people still don't know the joys of a CSA. My boyfriend and I signed up for a half-share of the family omnivore box. This means that every other week we receive a box filled with various local, organic goodies. Check out this week's box above!
This time we got: Portabella and cremini mushrooms (we almost always get these), Fuji apples, microgreens, two bunches of kale raab, baby white turnips, yukon gold potatoes, baby spinach, red and purple radishes, two bunches of bok choy, two loaves of bread, a dozen eggs, and a half pound chunk of colby cheese.
Since we only subscribe to a half share we try and eat the most perishable items, like the microgreens in the first week and save the more hearty things for the second. Eating from a CSA box has the great benefit of forcing you to try new things...and getting a plethora of different foods into your diet, which is so important in life in order to get all of those valuable phytochemicals.
Because each delivery is different, and you don't know what to expect until the food shows up on your doorstep, it keeps your diet flexible and your cooking very 'in the present'. Yoga is everywhere!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Savasana, शवासन

I have a shirt that reads 'I'm just here for savasana'...and I always mean it. The first day of teacher training I'll never forget that this was the 'favorite asana' choice for both Patrick and myself. I am of the opinion that this is the most important asana for many, many reasons. For me it is the point of asana practice, the silence of the practice's OM cycle. This is where everything comes together. I once had a teacher describe asana practice in the following manner, and it has stuck with me through the years: The first part of practice is to tire the body, the second to tire the mind, and all of this work leads to savasana-a time to rest the body and mind and connect with the universal. Savasana to me is important for all 5 of our koshas: annamayakosha needs rest to recuperate after physical stresses. As a chiropractic student, I can fully appreciate that the intervertebral discs loose fluid into the vertebral bodies as we go through our day as they are subjected to stresses; asana practice results in even more stresses and therefore, lying on the floor allows the spine to return to 'neutral'. The pranamayakosha takes rest in allowing the body to return to natural rhythms with no stresses or control, you drop the ujayii breath and your heart rate can slow to a resting state. Manomayakosha can drop everything, unlike in meditation there is no need to call it back from wandering as long as you don't force it to stick to a point. The mind can drift freely here and rest in the present. Vijnanamayakosha is also given the opportunity to take rest. In savasana the Anandamayakosha is leading the way. You feel limitless and content! Of course, as a rule I always practice a decent savasana at the end of asana practice. But it is easy to let all of this 'theory' be forgotten and/or unappreciated with regular practice. Today I did NOT get a chance to practice savasana after yoga club practice because I had to skip out of class early in order to get our lovely teachers paychecks approved. My thinking was that I would be able to slip in a savasana after the meeting, however it ran later than expected and I had to run to class for three more hours! Not practicing savasana after practice left me in a terrible state! I felt as if I hadn't slept in days and had been guzzling coffee like mad. Hopefully, you don't know that drained yet really awake feeling. As soon as I was home, I hit the floor and took a very indulgent savasana. Following that 15 minutes I once again felt grounded and fresh. Mr. Iyengar notes that savasana is the most difficult posture. He likens it to a shedding of the ego, taking a rest from all of the labels and to-do lists that we carry around with us always. He states that while in savasana you have the opportunity to experience formlessness and timelessness. And since this is so hard, we get to lie down while we practice this!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring has sprung!

You can always tell that the season has changed when your local produce changes. Here in Oregon, spring has sprung. For months the CSA box from Hood River Organics has been full of lots of root veggies and some braising greens. Today a big change happened! Today's box contained:
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 1 block of farmhouse hard cheese
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 8 fuji apples
  • 8 Bosc pears
  • 11 new potatoes
  • 3 lb bag of mushrooms (mix of portabello and cremini)
  • Kale Rabe
  • big bunch of Kale Rabe
  • GIANT bag of arugula
  • big bunch of baby bok choy
  • Box of micro greens mix complete with edible flowers
I can't wait to switch my diet over from a staple of root roasts to a staple of salads! Eating locally is not only good for your health and the environment, but as you can see, you get put on a built-in diet around this time of year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Working with what you have, सन्तोष

While in Philly I was part of a buying club called Philly Winter Harvest. It was great! I got all local food, and I got to pick what I wanted on-line. However, now that I'm in Portland, I've joined a CSA (Hood River Organics). This is a fantastic CSA delivering veggies, bread, eggs, and cheese to my door. Most of our food comes from the delivered box. The 'problem' with the CSA is that you don't get to pick what veggies come to you. You get what the farms have to offer. This has led to pleasant surprises, like sunchokes, which are great. Unfortunately, it also brought turnips in a recent box. I hate turnips. I avoided them in the fridge drawer for weeks, but I hate waste and finally broke down and consulted my cookbooks. A note I had made next to a simple preparation spelled it out for me: 10/09-This taught me how much a HATE turnips. They taste like raw cabbage. Perhaps dressed with something sweet and tangy they could be good, kind of like coleslaw. This sent me searching in little used books, including a German cookbook in my possession, that gave me exactly what my earlier observation suggested. Although this might have not been exactly the healthiest way to consume turnips, I ate them and actually enjoyed the vitamin C-rich (who says you need citrus, where is that coming from?)vegetable with this recipe: Weisse Ruben 2 pounds small white turnips 3 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons sugar 1-2 cups stock or water salt 1 tablespoon butter +1 tablespoon flour, blended together Wash and peel the turnips and cut into round slices. Melt butter and stir in sugar; saute over low heat until sugar turns a rich caramel color; do not let it burn or blacken. Add turnip slices cover and braise 5 minutes. Add stock and a little salt. Cover and braise 30-40 minutes, until tender. Bind the sauce by adding the butter-flour concoction in lumps. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minute until sauce is smooth and thick. My new comment: 3/09-the ONLY way to eat turnips, creamy & delicious Another situation that has me working with what I've got is the fact that I owe the yoga studio money the next time I show up, and I'm broke until I get my next financial aid check (aw, the life of a student). This is forcing home practice on me, despite my desire to hit up the 7 AM practice every morning during spring break, I just can't afford it. Home practice is nice, but I really miss the studio for the shared energy and breath, the motivation to practice the whole way through, the security that comes with knowing if you get lost, the teacher will tell you what comes next in the series. The benefit is that I'm getting to experiment more. Working a little more with asana that aren't so easy, having some yin practice pre-Mysore, and adding some nice juicy twists right before savasana. I'll be back at the studio when I have the ability to hand over a $95 check, but for now I'll just practice santosha at home...turnips and all.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ahimsa/Love practices of their own accord

I generally have a pretty solid Mysore practice schedule: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and sometimes Friday too. Things have sort of fallen apart in the past few days though. To say last week was rough on me is an understatement, chiropractic school really took its toll. Last Wednesday we did knee palpations on each other and after school I went to practice as usual. Unfortunately, all that poking around in the joint space showed up as I reached Marichyasana B. My knees were not feeling it, sharp pains in the front of the knee. I was not about to just take savasana then, but I did skip the rest of the Padmasana-like asanas in my practice and only took one breath in Bakasana. A super long savasana was necessitated and ice later that night too. I took the rest of the week off as a preventative measure as things were still a little tweaky. As Jill always reminds, practice in a way that lets you practice tomorrow. Saturday I intended to return to the studio, but three tests, two in super tough anatomy completely drained my energy reserves and I slept through the 6:00 alarm well into practice time. Today I was ready to get back on track, healed and rested. Much to my dismay, ahimsa reared her head again today. I traveled to school mat and clothes in hand looking forward to a fresh start this week until my wonderful boyfriend needed help. My sweetie just got a new job working as an assistant gardener in the West Hills, but he seriously needs rain gear. He had ordered a waterproof suit to pick up on Saturday, but it hadn't arrived. Last week was sunny and so was today, but the showers return to the rain forest tomorrow. Today the store called him and announced that his suit had arrived! Unfortunately they close at 6 and there was no way for him to get it. In an act of love, I gave up practice this day too in order to keep my boy dry and healthy tomorrow. I picked the suit up after school instead of heading to the studio. Pray that nothing stops me from getting to yoga club tomorrow, no rough palpations on Wednesday, and all in all practice is back on track!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Surprising sources of Local Food in Portland

Since I've relocated to Portland, I still don't feel quite yet like this is my home, I've found two unlikely places for local food...and it got me to wondering why we DIDN'T have this in Philly? Surprising local food source #1: The school cafeteria That's right, the cafeteria at Western States Chiropractic College serves healthy, mostly local foods. This makes catching the 6:22 AM bus daily a little easier when the tupperware for my lunch isn't clean. Oh, and the food is fantastic, I'd pay a lot more for it. Matt, the cafeteria guy has real talent. His food is simple, but really good. It reminds me of things I would cook at home. He could open up a restaurant and I'd rather eat there any day than the over-hyped restaurant in my neighborhood. Surprising local food source #2: Burgerville Burgerville is a fast food restaurant that serves local food! They serve all local ingredients. (Local as in NW, but still pretty awesome for fast food.) I went once, they had three different vegetarian burgers, some fish burgers, and beef burgers. I think chicken too. According to their signs it seems that they also change their menu with the seasons. Although this makes me feel a little better about a quick burger and fries, the food must be pretty salty because it left me craving water like mad the rest of the day. Oh well, what do you expect from fast food? I hope that these examples can inspire others in other cities and cafeterias to make a change...all things are possible!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Long time no blog

It has been a VERY long time since I posted, nearly a month! This is mainly to do with my trying to keep my head above water in chiropractic school here in Portland. Now a quick update with a promise of a 'real' post this weekend. Practice: I love Mysore practice. There is something so comforting about the self-dictated rhythm. Mondays are my long lecture days (7:30-4:30 in a chair in a dark room) and then I head to the studio. Every Monday I feel sick and stagnant but I force myself to stay on the bus past my home stop to the studio with the promise that if the 2 block walk doesn't make me feel better I can go home instead. This bribe gets me to the door, where I always need to go in just to use the bathroom I tell myself. Once I walk near the door of the studio however something about the energy inside draws me and I change and go practice. Those days are always long practices as my energy starts out low and my pace is slow. Wednesdays I'm there too, but it's much easier. Saturday mornings are my favorite. The studio is flooded with light instead of dimly lit and freshly awakened I'm breathing and moving much faster. My energy is up and I practice harder. These signs however are not how I tell if I've had a good practice or not. I have always known a good practice by it's savasana. This point continues, a good savasana is restful and deeply connected. But most of all the mind chatter is silent and content to rest along with the body. That incessant mind chatter! This is another reason my morning practice is best. After school all my mind does is run! I get lost in the breath and sequence because stuff keeps cluttering my mind other than practice! Food: I continue to search out local food and have some nice things to say about Portland, but for now, suffice it to say that my FIRST CSA shipment arrived today from Hood River Organics and I'm hungry so I'm going to go open it up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What I did on my day off from school

Today I had off from school. I promised my honey that I'd spend the entire day with him, so I caught the 6:24 bus to the 7 AM Mysore practice. It was much better practicing at this timeslot. The studio has skylights. When we started it was dark and lit by candles as the sun rose (after my sun salutes, perfect timing) the room started to light up, it was beautiful. Although I can 'do' almost all of these asana, thanks mostly to Jill weaving them into her vinyasa classes, it's so hard to remember the ORDER. The teacher is sweet, and I don't know how he does it. Keeping track of all the students in a class when they're all in the same asana is a lot at times; but Casey keeps track of everyone in their own place. Add to that the new people that pop in (2 brand new beginners today) which require more work (including me at my second studio practice) and you have tons going on. I'm thoroughly enjoying this learning process. I love the individuality of it, the way you can dive into your own breath. A great rule at this studio that keeps you practicing: new students cannot come to the weekend practices unless they show up on two weekdays. After the first month things loosen up, but I think it's great; and I think I'll let myself forget that the rule only applies to beginners. Now I find myself switching gears from student to teacher in the first time since leaving dear Philly. I'm teaching the yoga club class tomorrow at school. Then next Saturday morning I'm back at Yoga Space subbing. Thanks to facebook, I see the TTs are writing their class plans right along with me. Maybe I can ride that energy; I feel a little rusty with a month and a half off.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 1 of Mysore

Tonight after class I boarded the bus and went to my first Mysore class. This really started last night as I had to pack my clothes and mat and get bus directions to/from. The hardest part of practice is showing up...and especially when you need to race out at the last word of Anatomy lecture and go USE your muscles instead of learning their names. The teacher's name is Casey. He is very sweet and explained everything wonderfully. I really like this practice of counting your breaths. I must admit that I occasionally would loose count and likely stayed in asana ~7 breaths or so instead of the prescribed 5. I learned a lot and wrote down the sequence when I got home so I could remember how to practice this. Casey recommended not coming this weekend as those are the busy days (obviously). He would like me to come in at least twice during the weeks and if I do that, then he thinks it would be okay to come in on the weekends. Anyone in Chiropractic school should do this practice! It's very soothing to move at your own pace, whatever it is at that moment. Casey gave me a written copy of the chant and it's translation to learn from. I'm heading back on Monday after class, hopefully with some of this practice cemented.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A new practice

Long days at chiropractic school, far from yoga studios and bus-bound has me re-thinking my ability to practice in a group on a regular practice like my Philly life allowed. This week had only home practices. And they were VERY necessary after sitting all day in lectures. Home practice might be the most fitting in this new life of mine as my body cries out for very specific postures. I have never really CRAVED revolved triangle or handstand, but this week I was. If I had gone to a class and NOT got what I wanted, I would have been severely disappointed. Never-the-less, studio practice builds heat and builds more of a dream for me, so it is I miss having yogi friends to hang out with, which requires more practice at a studio. This week, thanks to my financial aid check coming in I am going to start practicing Ashtanga yoga at a Mysore studio, scary but I think I need it, rhythm and breath are all I want these days. The week after next begins yoga club at school. This will be refreshing as it occurs on my longest day, the one I'm too tired to practice when I get home. Unfortunately, I think my teaching skills may have to go a little lax. School is intense. Much to do. Teaching more than occasionally may require that I sacrifice practice, and that is just NOT okay in my book; in fact it makes you a terrible teacher. Chances are I will teach at yoga club once a quarter and dive into practice. My teaching skills will likely be revived AFTER graduation for a more regular class or three. After all the bigger picture of being a teacher is leading by example. Putting practice as a priority is key. My study break today involves a restorational yoga class at my current favorite studio in Portland. Much needed after this week of swallowing a lot of information and opening up a cadaver for the first time. Trying to remember that this is only the annamayakosha and not a complete person helped immensely with that experience. And yes, fascia as it turns out, is crazy! It's everywhere, a rainbow of different colors, a wide variety of textures, and there is much more of it than you can possibly imagine. It's everything you hear about in yin and more.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Arms & Legs

I've always had funky angled joints, which Patrick found confusing when he adjusted me during TT. During my first class at The Yoga Space, Michele pointed out to me that the hyperextension that I'm expressing in my elbows in downward dog was something that could injure my shoulder joints at some point. She advised to practice having a slight bend in my arm, which actually would be 'straight'. Thinking this was wise advice, I adopted this. But this morning I noticed my knees hyperextend just standing! So I experimented with a slight bend, but then my knees don't line up over my ankles, lifting my foot arches remedied this. All of this leg action actually had me bending slightly forward, so I straightened myself out...which I really felt in my psoas. It's all connected. I practiced this new stance and a new way of walking all day. This afternoon I went to practice at The Yoga Space. Since my Tadasana is completely transformed, everything was different as you might imagine. This effect was expected in all the standing poses and in downward dog. When standing balances seemed more natural (but still super hard) I wasn't surprised. However, I never thought that re-teaching yourself to stand on your feet would help with turning yourself up-side down! I went up into forearm stand like I did it everyday, and I've never made it to the wall. When the variation to practice a scorpion was offered, I took it like I've practiced it a hundred times before. This is all crazy for me as inversions are my biggest challenge. I attribute this to two things: teaching my muscles how to support my body rather than my skeleton and perhaps with uprooting my life and dealing with many uncomfortable situations on this journey I've somehow become more comfortable with turning myself upside down. Happy 2010!