Under Construction

Hi Friends,

 

I am making some changes to my blog to make it clearer and easier to search for topics as I continue to add content.  You will still find all of my posts below or to the right as I slowly categorize them over the next few weeks <3

Endless Summer

Even though the kids are back to school and Halloween decorations are up in stores, don’t be fooled; the fall is when things really start to heat up in Los Angeles!

As a ocean-worshiper I always look forward to September and October in LA as the time when it is finally warm enough to bear playing in the ocean with out a wet-suit. I also look forward to the fall as a time to slow down and take a more fluid and gentle approach to my yoga practice in these hotter months.

Below is a short sequence to help cool and calm you as we transition into fall:

1. Cooling Breath (Sheetali Pranayama)
This one looks funny, but feels great.

coolingbreath

Find a quiet calm comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then open your mouth and curl your tongue creating a tube shape. Using your tongue as an air conditioning unit breathe in through your curled tongue and then close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. Practice 15-20 repetitions or continue until your are calmer and cooler.

2. Supta Padangusthasana II&III, (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) – Flowing version.

padang

Lie on your back. Using a yoga strap, strap around the ball of the right foot. Reach your foot up to the sky extending through the heel of the foot until you get a stretch. Then grabbing both tails of the yoga strap in your right hand turn your right leg deep in your hip socket to the right so your foot externally rotates (looking like a duck or ballerina foot ;) . On a long inhale open the leg to the right into version 2 and then as you take a relaxing exhale sweep the leg across the body into version 3. Repeat slowly on the breath (I always conjure the image of seaweed flowing back and forth). When you feel like your right leg has released tension (or it starts to get a little tingly) switch legs and repeat on the right.

 

3. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
Finding a wall, couch or bed that you can bring your legs up on, elevate your legs for 5-10 minutes. Relax and breathe deeply.

vip

4. Water Meditation
Paraphrased from the book “The Chakra Energy Plan” by Anna Selby

Prepare a bath for yourself of warm to cool water. Submerge yourself and relax completely breathing deeply. Bring your consciousness to focus on the water around you. Observe how the water washes away stress and brings in a sense of ease and calm. Extend your consciousness to visualize the great bodies of water that cover most of the planet – the lakes rivers and oceans. Visualize yourself floating supported completely by water. Enjoy visualizing and when finished gradually bring yourself back to your body and your breath.

Green

pidgeon rock

In March, we “spring forward” into all of spring’s budding possibilities and “Kiss me I’m Irish” shenanigans. We see St. Patrick’s Day decorations and flowering plants begin to sprout up, decorating our world with green.

Green is one of my favorite colors. To me it inspires a sense of grounding and feels clean and crisp. But culturally, we have much conflicting symbolism connected with the color green. Green is as eco-friendly as it is envious, vile as it is lucky, ill as it is fresh.

The fact that the color green symbolizes luck and simultaneously characterizes envy is actually a contradiction that I wrestle with in my own spiritual life. How is it that at one moment I can feel as lucky as a four-leaf clover and the next minute I forget all my blessings and become green with envy over the blessings of another?

The entire first chapter of the Yoga Sutras help us to identify mental pitfalls such as greed (aparigraha) and give us practices to help us transcend. As for eliminating envy, the yoga sutras suggest cultivating happiness for others with grace for ourselves even if it is not our initial response.

Sutra 1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil. (maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam)

If we still can’t clear up our misperceptions, the more tangible practices of physical yoga, breath work and meditation can help us untangle many of these knots and create a sense of equanimity in our hearts and minds.

Sutra 1.34: The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice. (prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama)

If all else fails and you simply can not get out of a green envy funk, the Yoga Sutras suggest practicing contrary action, or ACTING AS IF YOU WERE GRATEFUL:

Sutra 2.33 When these codes of self-regulation or restraint (yamas) and observances or practices of self-training (niyamas) are inhibited from being practiced due to perverse, unwholesome, troublesome, or deviant thoughts, principles in the opposite direction, or contrary thought should be cultivated. (vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam)

Contrary action and contrary thought are some of my MOST useful spiritual tools. Nothing cures inaction like action. Can’t get your mind off of jealousy? Write a gratitude list. Stuck in a self-centered pity party? Go volunteer to help someone in need or simply call to check on someone and ask how THEY are doing instead of getting stuck in yourself.

We all fall into less-than-fresh thinking from time to time. The key is to keep growing, keep practicing and springing forth. As we continue to cultivate clear perception and still the fluctuations of our mind, we will be able to recognize our own truths and see that in our own individual way we are more than lucky, we are complete.

Beth’s Immunity Tea

This is one of my new tactics against my annual sinus infections.

Go to your health food store and buy a small amount of each: cardamom, cinnamon stick, ginger root, turmeric root, black pepper, orange peel, cloves, astralagus root, ashwagandha, juniper berries and a box of rooibus tea for taste. Put about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of each in a tea ball or straight in a pot. Simmer 15-20 minutes – sip and enjoy taking care of your immune system this season.

EASY <3

 

tea

Love Yourself

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

love

A few days ago I was asked by a friend what the topic of my upcoming newsletter would be. “Self-Love!” I replied excitedly. My friend paused, and asked, “Shouldn’t we be focusing on loving and serving others instead of loving ourselves? Isn’t there enough self obsession in the world?”

This might be true if we were to confuse Self-love with self-obsession.

One need not be consumed with love for themselves to be self-obsessed. In fact, most people who are self-obsessed are gravely insecure. We live in a very judgmental culture. I would venture to guess that way more of us struggle with self-criticism than with self-congratulation. The truth is, we are constantly bombarded by an achievement based and materialistic culture that suggests we need to do more, buy more, and be better. This can consume our minds and obscure our true Divine Nature.

So, what I am speaking to here is not self-obsession. Nor am I suggesting you can gain healthy Self-love through pampering the physical body, or taking self-seeking actions that would harm another. Instead, I urge you to explore the practices of self-care as discussed in the Eight Limbs of the Yoga Sutras.

The Yoga Sutras define the Self as your Soul or your Divinity, your Self with a capital S! Call it Energy, call it Spirit, God, or Universal Consciousness, but when I talk about you loving yourself I am recognizing that you are a Divine Creation. If you have even the vaguest sense of a Spirit/Energy/God within you, then why wouldn’t you treat yourself with the love you would extend to That which you honored and appreciated?

The very first verses of Patanjali’s yoga sutras help illuminate this concept. We have an authentic Self with in us, but often we cannot see it. We mis-identify ourselves with our egos. We compare ourselves with others, and try to figure out if we are “good enough” based on how we measure up to some arbitrary cultural expectations.

Yoga Sutra 1.2 states that, Yoga is the practice of controlling the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind. (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah) and that once we clear out the clamor of the mind – all the mental junk – then, like a dirty mirror wiped clean, we can begin to see our True Self.

1.3 Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.
(tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam)

When we take actions toward Self-love and self-care, through the practices of meditation, asana, and the rest of the eight limbs, we are not so caught up in the mental pitfalls of competition, comparison, and self-doubt. When you love yourself, you can see that you were created perfectly imperfect just as you are. So go ahead, give yourself some love. Accept yourself as you really are and use the tools of Yoga to explore a deeper personal understanding of the Spirit within you.

Power Seed Cereal

 

This is a fast and easy breakfast I eat on the run before my morning classes. The chia seeds give the body sustained energy, and the hemp seeds are an excellent source of protein.

I make a mix of the following seeds ahead of time and store it in a jar in the fridge. I buy all the seeds from the bulk section which you can find at any WholeFoods or health food store. Basically, I add 1/4cup of the seed mix to Greek Yogurt or instant oatmeal and usually add nuts and berries to make it a full bowl. Its SO EASY AND GOOD.

 

chia1

Power Seed Mix:

2 Cups Chia Seeds
2 Cups Hemp Seeds
1 Cup Buckwheat Groats
1 Cup Ground Flax Seeds

 

 

You may notice that in the photo there is a second jar. The smaller ball jar pictured contains the flax seed. I grind the flax seeds in an old coffee grinder because the body can absorb more nutrition from the flax seeds when they are ground. The reason I keep them separate from the rest of the mix is that flax seeds will go rancid quickly once ground. Click here for more on storing and using seeds.

 

When I add the mix to oatmeal I usually add a little more water to the oatmeal, as chia seeds are hydrophilic and will absorb some of the water. You can use quick oats or traditional oatmeal, whatever method you prefer.

That is pretty much it! It is easy, delicious and a great start to your morning.

 

chia2

 

Top 8 Reasons To Practice Yoga

#1 – Connect with others.  Yoga builds a sense of community, co-opportunity and collaboration as you meet and share your journey with others.

#2 – Connect with yourself. A yoga practice allows you to set aside some “you time”. Practice provides an opportunity to regulate your energy, emotions, intuition, and overall state of mind/soul/spirit.

#3 – Maintain a healthy happy state of physical well being.  Hatha yoga builds strength, flexibility, balance and prepares the body for the demands of everyday life. We all know physical exercise is good for us, and a spoon full of Asana makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way!

#4 – Breathe deeply.  Breath practices help to build present moment awareness of the life force within you and the spirit that surrounds you. Plus, breath work helps to strengthen the respiratory system, and regulate the nervous system.

#5 – Practice detachment. Modern life can be so full of unwanted stimuli, it can be difficult to sort out which elements are actually worthy of our attention. Our yoga practice demands present moment attention, and as we practice this attentiveness we learn to let go of the past, weed out distraction, and detach from the future (which doesn’t even exist ;) .

#6 – Learn to concentrate. Once we become well versed at detachment, it becomes easier to focus on the aspects of life that do matter to us. As we learn to concentrate, our mind sills and we find we have more time for study of self and study of Forces outside ourselves.

#7 – Meditation. The benefits of meditation are well documented. There are many techniques and paths towards meditation. Experiment and find a meditation practice that works for you and reap the benefits in your body, mind, and Spirit.

# 8 – Open to Bliss. Allow yourself to investigate what Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe as freedom through surrender to God. Surrender yourself to a belief, a hope, and investigate the power of faith: faith in the effects of your yoga practice and faith in a Power greater than yourself.

Handstands in Paradise AKA: God is Good.

Embrace each of your senses in turn
Seeing as being touched by light
Hearing as immersion in an ocean of sound
Tasting as enlightening
Smelling as knowing
Touching as electrifying
Follow the subtle pulsations
Into the spaciousness of the heart
Intimate with the unknowable
-The Radience Sutras #9
as translated by Lorin Roache

Over the past four years I have been making a concerted effort to re-define my understanding of God. Not an easy task as old ideas and sanskara run deep.

As I child I was very interested in religion and took it upon myself to walk to church and get to know Spirit. I loved Spirit! I remember reading the Psalms of David in my little pink Precious Moments Bible and mulling over “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1)

But somewhere along the way I started to develop a strange understanding of god. As I transitioned into adulthood and maturity, I somehow failed to grow in spiritual maturity. I came to know the god of my youth as a god of trials, and when I fell ill with Lupus and RA I came to believe that I must have these diseases because either, a)I did something wrong and deserved these trials, or, b) that god was using these diseases to “teach me a lesson”

These false ideas stayed with me throughout my 20′s. God was to be feared and suspected with a new “lesson” to  anticipate around each corner. Prayers became selfish bargaining sessions begging for an easy way out. I was simply incapable of seeing the Good and the Blessing in life because of this strange fear of god.

Letting go of these false beliefs has been very difficult. Basically, I had to get into enough spiritual pain to admit that my views just weren’t working.

With the help of yoga philosophy, 12-step programs, and amazing mentors, I have been SLOWLY turning over my ideas and am becoming open enough to accept the possibility that GOD IS GOOD.

Fast forward, and today the Shakti is SO BRIGHT I gotta wear shades! No longer do I believe that pain is the only touchstone of spiritual growth, No longer do I feel that God puts obstacles in my path as my only means of spiritual growth. What about love? What about selfless service, what about devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace? Can I not be taught just as profound of lessons through blessing as I can through trial?

My recent vacation to The Bahamas really sealed in this new assumption. Maybe, just maybe, God is beauty. Maybe God is love,  selfless service, devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace. This is God. And yes, there is a lot of MYSTERY… maybe God is all the Confusion too, that is all part of the messy Mystery, but as long as I keep my eyes off of myself, and on the blessings of creation, hopefully I can keep seeing the Good and ENJOY my life. After all, I am in remission from my R.A. I am safe, sober, sound and doing handstands in paradise.

Raw, Vegan, Salted Almond Chocolate Truffles

Before taking a raw “cooking” course, I had this perception that preparing raw food would be difficult, timely or tedious. Turns out, it is totally fast and easy (just think, there is only prep time, no COOKING time!).

I remember it was about a year ago that a client gave me the book The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. Although I had every confidence in the healthy benefits of raw food, and was very interested in it, I just couldn’t find my way toward preparation of any of the recipes.

Thank Goodness the wheels of progress turn, and everything happens as it is supposed to, because now after three easy days with the guidance of a Raw Food Teacher, I am preparing raw meals each day, and experimenting with new fun variations.

My first experimentation with what I was taught is with raw chocolate. Earlier in the week my husband had purchased a chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt. This flavor combination may sound strange, but the sea salt paired with the almonds is a convergent taste bud delight! I decided that this combination would be delicious with the dark flavor of the raw cacao truffles, so: voila!!!

Raw, Vegan, Salted Almond Chocolate Truffles

Here is how it is done:

(Base recipe care of Grace Van Berkum)

Ingredients:

(All ingredients can be found at your local health food store, and when possible smaller amounts can be bought in the bulk section to save money)

1/2 cup raw organic almonds

1/2 cup organic raw cacao powder

1 Teaspoon raw organic coconut oil or coconut butter (the butter has more flesh, so you may have to use more)

1&1/2 Tbsp (or more to taste) raw organic sweeter: honey, agave, maple syrup etc.

2 Tbsp warm purified water

1/4 Teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt

OPTIONAL:

I also added 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon flax, and some of my favorite greens powder.

Directions:

-In a food processor or bullet chopper, chop raw almonds to desired size.

-In a bowl or food processor combine all other items EXCEPT sea salt and almonds. Coconut butter or oil may need to be heated or left in the sun for a moment to warm.

-Combine almonds and chocolate mix

-Powder hands with some extra cacao powder and roll mixture into little balls (makes about 12, for more simply double the recipe)

-Lightly sprinkle sea salt (and/or additional greens powder) on to top of truffle

-Store in fridge or freezer until hardened

Optional:

-Before cooling, try rolling the balls in coconut, sesame seeds, grated orange rind, finely chopped almonds, stick in one large almond, or try anything else that sounds good!

Why Raw Chocolate?

All the great benefits of chocolate are mostly cooked and processed out by the time you buy a chocolate bar at the store. Here are just some benefits:

Serotonin!

Antioxidants: (oligomeric procynanidins, resveratrol and the polyphenols: catechin and epicatechin)

Iron

Magnesium (Great for PMS!)

Phenethylamine (PEA: the LOVE neurotransmitter)

Omega 6 fatty acids

Tryptophan

And Much More!

Raw Abundance

I just got back from a blissful trip to the Bahamas where I visited the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and took a course on raw food preparation. We prepared many beautiful recipes, learned the power of raw super foods, how the enzymes in raw food bless your body, and explored raw food techniques such as sprouting.

I will be writing more posts soon documenting my adventures in sprouting, dehydrating, processing and assembling, and I can’t wait to bring some of my creations to class to share <3.

Like these Raw Chocolate Power Balls:

And everyone loves raw banana pudding (even The Gods):

My Teacher Grace Van Berkum making raw applesauce. Check out her website for more info on class offerings and retreats: http://www.gracevanberkum.com/

A wonderful and blessed experience!!!! <3 <3 <3