The Pebble In Your Shoe

You know that little ache in your body? The one you have learned to live with and work around in your yoga practice and in other physical activities, that thing you just manage to deal with or rather choose to forget about in your life? Yeah, that one. We all have them; it’s part of being in a body. But do you know what? You don’t have to live with it anymore.

Those little tweaks and aches are messages telling your body that something is out of alignment. Perhaps you are stronger in one area and weaker in another.  Maybe you have an old accident or injury, or perhaps even an emotional trauma about which you may have forgotten; a trauma that is still having a residual effect on your body, like when you fell off your bike as a child or your first heartbreak. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that we are asymmetrical beings and we all favor one side versus the other. I know those little ‘workarounds’ all too well. I’ve had a few of them myself and you know what I’ve found? When you clear them, something shifts, a big expansion occurs – Like clouds parting and the sun coming out (cue the harps playing). I know it sounds corny but it’s not far from the truth.

Here’s what I mean: Imagine you are walking down the road and there is a little pebble in your shoe. It’s not too bad so you keep on walking. It’s irritating you but not enough to stop and take off your shoe and empty it out. This activates your nervous system and your entire body begins to compensate for it. Just like the operating system on your computer tells the printer to print or a disc to play, your muscles do what the nervous system tells them to do. That pebble in your shoe becomes the norm: Your whole body organizes around it and adapts; that is the way it recovers.

When you finally take the time to remove the pebble from your shoe greater ease comes over your whole being: the light is brighter, your vision is clearer, and your nervous system relaxes. It’s like updating your operating system. In my experience this can be quite profound.

So how do you get that darn pebble out of your shoe? I am a firm believer in the power of yoga and regular bodywork. Healthy biomechanics in your yoga practice, along with the willingness to take the time to learn alignment and shift how you are using your body in your yoga and in life, is the first step.

In addition, a skilled body worker can assist you in making lasting changes so that the architecture of your structure is supported and aligned. With the help of a body worker, you may in fact discover that the spot where you feel the pain might not actually be the origin of the pain. The root cause of the pain may very well be in another part of your body that is related to and interlinked with the painful spot in a way you might not even imagine.

The benefits of healthy biomechanics and regular bodywork are tremendous: not only will you experience more ease in your body and in your life, but also it is likely that your overall health and well-being will improve. I don’t mean to imply that all your problems will go away, but in my experience when I feel good, I am better equipped to deal with what arises in my life and I am therefore happier overall.

So here’s where you can start: My good friend and respected colleague, Mike Lane, and I are teaching a workshop about how to get that pesky pebble out of your shoe! This workshop is designed for anyone with a body to learn to help themselves when these troublesome moments arise: you sleep funny and your neck has a crick, you pick up something heavy and your lower back goes out, you go on a hike and your knee hurts the next day. We will show you how to work with these therapeutic concerns and many more. And for those of you that are yoga teachers yourselves, this workshop will help you to better assist your students and private clients.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali

 

Mobilize Your Body: Functional Anatomy
and Yoga Therapy for Yoga Practitioners

September 8-9
9:30am-5:30pm
Yoga Tree Mission

http://bit.ly/StaceyMikeFunctionalAnatomySept8Mission

 

Living Vibrantly: We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

Happy New Year!  I hope your first week of 2012 is off to a great start.

Personally, I am feeling very optimistic about this year.  Yes, it’s true, our world is not in the best shape and these next several months will determine a lot about where we are headed.  While this is scary, I see it as a great opportunity. I am optimistic because in my world I see people everywhere waking up.  Great beings are consciously deciding to live in greater alignment with spirit, whatever that may mean to them.  The old ways of being simply will not work in our current times.

Inspired by the awakening I am seeing around me, and remembering that we need new ways of being, my theme for the year is LIVE VIBRANTLY!. Your nature is vibrant.  The life force energy pulsing within you is vibrant.  The question is: do you have a means to access your vibrancy?

Yes, our asana practice is one of the ways to access that vibrancy, but asana alone is not enough anymore.  As your awareness increases – which is one of the fruits of the physical practice – you must make choices in all areas of your life that serve and support you.  Vibrancy must be lived.  When your entire being is radiant, your every word, your every action reflects and offers that radiance.  We must consider how we are showing up in our relationships, in our jobs, and the way we treat the planet.  You are an extension of the earth and all beings that live here. When you tend to yourself, you tend to the collective.

As yogis we can be a bridge to all of humanity. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  It’s up to us to step into living vibrantly: for ourselves, for our community, and for our planet!

In the spirit of this year’s theme to LIVE VIBRANTLY, I’ll be posting more tips over the upcoming weeks and months on how to live our yoga and access the vibrancy that is our true nature.

Radiant Earth

A Little Help From Our Friends

Our bodies tell the stories of our life.  Layers and layers of tension build up from all of our life experiences, physical injuries, emotional traumas, and simply from the way the modern world asks us to use our bodies.  When any part of the body is misaligned or restricted due to injury, posture, or emotional distress, the nervous system is agitated and communication within the entire body is disrupted. Though health and vitality is our inherent nature and the body will always seek well-being the best it can, many times the compensation is not optimal and will cause stress on your entire system.

Sure an alignment based yoga such as Anusara® can help us to create healthy habits in our body.  A regular yoga practice will shed much of the surface tension our body holds while creating more awareness. However, if there is a biomechanical misalignment, even the way you do your yoga practice can continue to create dysfunction.Massage Table

In my opinion, bodywork is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.   I am a firm believer in getting a little help from a team of highly trained, skillful, and intuitive body workers.  I am not talking about a spa massage, which can be nice sometimes, I am talking about work that will help you to unwind unhelpful patterns, increase your range of motion, and guide your body to find it’s own natural rhythm of ease and freedom.  As yogis that is precisely what we are seeking to do, so why not treat yourself to something that will enhance your efforts and give you more access to your practice?

An experienced bodyworker will be able to see and feel into your body and tailor the session to your specific needs helping to make permanent shifts in your body mind.  Each time you are on their table the session will be a bit different based on what presents itself.

Here are some of my favorite bodyworkers in San Francisco!

Mike and Jennifer Lane mobilize the joints and soft tissue optimizing range of motion, function, and balance through the Hendrickson Method. They both have a deep appreciation for the yoga practice and understand the body as a dynamic interconnected system.
www.mobilizethebody.com
mobilizethebody@gmail.com

Leni Mostaghim brings the insight gained from a devoted practice of Anusara yoga, as well as from over 10 years work as a certified Pilates instructor, to every session.  By interweaving Cranial Sacral work with the basic concepts and techniques of Ortho-Bionomy and honoring the body’s inherent wisdom, Leni’s work resolves injury and trauma and facilitates greater ease and connectivity, and is profoundly restorative for the central nervous system.  You can email Leni to inquire and book a session: integrative.healing@yahoo.com

Mark Haviland takes you on an adventure to unearth the kinks that limit the flow of chi in your body. His eclectic style is attuned to your needs and is a co-creative dance that can catapult ones healing journey exponentially and expeditiously.
Beyond Bodywork
http://www.yelp.com/biz/beyond-bodywork-san-francisco
https://www.facebook.com/BeyondBodywork

Katie Sutherland has trained in a wide range of modalities including neuromuscular therapy, craniosacral therapy, deep tissue & shiatsu which allows her to custom-tailor each session based on your needs. Her work brings awareness and openness to areas of tightness which can help you experience new places in your asanas that you may not have reached as quickly on your own. www.katiesutherland.com

In addition, if you have a specific injury it is also helpful to do a private yoga session with a qualified teacher trained in therapeutics.  This will help you to shed the light on your habits and patterns and teach ways to take care of yourself. Any Certified Anusara® yoga teacher will be able to see your habits and guide you to create balance. Check my website for more information on private yoga sessions. 

A Nourishing Meal

This meal is great on it’s own or makes an excellent base for your favorite protein.  It’s actually delicious anytime of the day!

Disclaimer:  I am not one who follows a recipe and I am not a chef or a writer of recipes.  When I cook I do a lot of improvising and “eye-balling”, I did my best here to communicate what I do!

Put  1 1/2 cups of Quinoa in the rice cooker with a box of vegetable broth and assorted seaweed. Turn on to cook.

Wash and chop your favorite cooking greens such as kale or chard.

Add 1 tablespoon of chick pea miso to 1 cup of boiling water, 1 tablespoon of tamari, 1 teaspoon of Ume Plum Vinegar (you can use Rice Wine Vinegar instead). Stir well to dissolve the miso.

When the quinoa is finished stir in the greens and the miso mixture. The greens will steam in the hot quinoa. Top with sesame oil.

Now you have a delicious base to eat on it’s own or for any protein.
Two of my favorite ways to each this are:
1. Poached eggs and avocado
2.  Smoked salmon, avocado and pickled ginger.

Sometimes I add pumpkin seeds or shiitake mushrooms to the rice cooker, I invite you to be creative!  I also love to top it off with Gomasio.

A Good Meal

 

A New Take on New Year’s Resolutions

How many times have you made new year’s resolutions only to abandon them a few weeks into January?  You are not alone, 25% of resolutions last two weeks and after six months less than half the people have kept their promises.

This year why not try a different approach?

Reflect on the past year and make a list of all the major events in your life.  Your successes, your challenges, the lessons learned from difficult situations, the things that are working in your life, the things that aren’t…

Then highlight the things you want more of.  For example, if you are proud of yourself for  going to yoga once a week this year, start a second list and write that along with how you have benefited from your practice.  This is something you want more of.  Perhaps you will make it twice a week this year! If you got a raise or a promotion at work for a job well done, write about your success, you, of course want more of that!

If you had a relationship challenge this year note the attitudes and behaviors that caused the problem.  Then on the second list write about the lessons learned from the difficult situation. Perhaps a health problem prompted you to change your diet or your lifestyle to heal. You get the idea…

Now you have a list of what you have already achieved, what is working in your life, what you want more of, rather than a list of unattainable goals.  The attitude you start with plays a part in determining where you are headed!  Start 2012 with a list of how great your life is and be the creator of an even more fantastic year!

If you do have a big goal you really want to reach, be realistic.  I suggest writing your goal down with many small, clear actions toward achieving it, don’t expect an all at once transformation.

Happy 2012!

2012 New Year Wishes on Sea

Feeling Tired? Try This Supine Yoga Sequence

Supine poses or yoga postures done lying on your back are a great way to release stress and increase flexibility in your hips and hamstrings.  Opening the pelvic region of the body promotes the release of the downward flowing energy.  When this energy is stuck it can contribute to anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, and even fertility challenges for women. Use this short sequence to restore and ground yourself anytime of the day.

Supta Padangustasana – (Reclining Big Toe Pose)  photo –  3 variations
1. leg up, 2.leg to the side, 3. leg across the body as a twist. The main action is to press your thigh bone toward the back of your leg and maintain the natural curve in your lower back. It does not matter how close your leg is to your chest!  Use your hands on the back of your thigh or use a belt around your foot. Hold from 10 breaths or up to 1-2 minutes per variation.

Suchirandrasana – (Eye of the Needle) – see photo below – Flex the feet and spread the 4th and 5th toes to engage the muscles on the outer shins and protect the knees.  As in the pose above, the main action is to press the thigh bone toward the back of your leg and maintain the natural curve of your lower back.

Ananda Balasana – (Blissful Child) – photo – start with one leg at a time.  You can straighten the bottom leg or  bend the knee with the foot on the floor.  Engage the muscles of the legs and pull down on your foot like you are trying to bring your knee to the floor.  Keeping that, from the core of your pelvis push back up though your foot.  Once you do each side on it’s own then try both legs at the same time as pictured.

Supta Baddhakonasana – (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) – photo – There are many different ways to prop yourself in this pose.  Be sure to put a prop your under your shins to support your knees and hips.  For more open hips you can lay without support.  You may also want to support your spine with a bolster or a blanket. Stay 5-20 minutes.

BASICS_211_MOD1

Suchirandrasana - Courtesy of Yoga Journal

What’s In Your Bathroom?

Many of us have already made the switch to organic foods to avoid pesticides and other harmful toxins.  But do you realize your skin is the largest organ in your body?  The skin absorbs everything around you and literally “eats” the products you use on it?

Do you know what’s in your bathroom?  Most soaps, cleansers, cosmetics and even toothpaste is made with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which is disguised under 150 different names.  SLS is a de-greaser used to clean car engines, garage floors, and other greasy surfaces. How has this known carcinogen found it’s way into our self care products? Well because it makes them bubble up and it is extremely cheap.

So what is wrong with SLS?  For starters, it is very drying to the skin, a known irritant, but more importantly it cannot be metabolized by your liver and studies have shown that trace amounts stay in your liver, lungs, heart, brain.  SLS has been linked to many health problems including cancer.  SLS and many other cheap, synthetic toxins are in your everyday products throughout your bathroom.

I challenge you to convert your bathroom.  Get rid of all products containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and other petroleum based additives. Switch to organics.

My favorite skincare line is Pangea Organics. Pangea Ecocentric Bodycare products and the company itself is healthy through and through.

ALWAYS • nurturing  • handcrafted  • organic & fair trade  • cruelty-free

NEVER • petroleum-based ingredients  • sulfates or detergents  • synthetic preservatives  • artificial colors or fragrances

There’s lots of information on Pangea’s site about them and their products.  You an order online or find them at Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods Market, and Scarlet Sage in San Francisco.

Another great line is 100% Pure – you could literally eat any of the products they are so natural!  Why wouldn’t you only use something you would eat on your skin?

If you suffer from dry skin and are wondering what to do, check out my previous post, The Magic of Oil.

Let us know if you use any other natural, organic lines you like on my Facebook Page.

Organics

Building Community Through Food

Jordan Schachter has been building community through food in San Francisco since 2005.   Through his business, Jordan’s Kitchen, he offers the yoga of food!  In group cooking classes even the cooking challenged are empowered!   He always uses fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients and supports local farmers and producers.  You can join one of Jordan’s scheduled cooking classes or book one for your next private event.  The only better way than yoga asana to bond with friends, new and old, is definitely over food!

Jordan will be offering two different classes this January, Winter’s Bounty and Comfort Food.  He has been kind enough to share a few of his recipes with us this week.

As always, I’d love to hear from you on my Facebook Page.  Let us know if you find your inner chef!

Still need that last minute gift?  Consider a gift certificate for one of Jordan’s cooking classes.

Miso bowl with Udon Noodles and Wild Salmon (optional)


12 cups waterMiso bowl with Udon Noodles and Wild Salmon
½ ounce dried dulse
1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
8 ounces Udon noodles, cooked
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 two-inch long daikon radish, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 cup shitake mushrooms, stems removed and julienned
½ cup green onion, thinly sliced
1 baby bok choy, sliced horizontally into quarter inch pieces
Heaping ½ cup miso paste of choice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon chili paste
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
6 pieces wild salmon, 3-4 ounces each  (optional)

In a large pot, combine the water, dulse and ginger and bring to a simmer. Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are tender, about ten minutes. Add the daikon radish and the bok choy and cook for an additional two minutes or so, until softened. Remove two cups of the broth to a bowl and whisk in the miso paste until it is fully emulsifed. Return the miso mixture to the pot with the vegetables and add the fish sauce, soy sauce and chili paste. Stir to combine.

Preheat the broiler and place the pieces of salmon on a sheet tray. Season lightly with salt and broil until just cooked through, about five minutes depending upon its thickness. Remove and set aside.

Divide the udon noodles into soup bowls and then ladle enough broth and vegetables into each bowl. Garnish each with green onions and toasted sesame seeds and top with a piece of salmon. Serves six.

 

Three Beet Salad with Oranges and Pistachio:

2-3 pounds beets, red, gold and Chiogga (rinsed)Three Beet Salad with Oranges and Pistachio
12-14 thyme sprigs
Peel of three oranges
3 oranges, segmented
¼ cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
3 cups orange juice, fresh squeezed
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely diced
½ to ¾ cup canola oil
8 handfuls wild arugula
Few sprigs mint, leaves only torn
Extra virgin olive oil

 

Preheat your oven to 450F. Place the beets on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with two thyme sprigs and a few slices of orange peel and wrap tightly with the foil. Roast in the oven until beets are tender, about one hour. Remove the beets and when cool enough to handle, peel. Discard the orange peel and the thyme. Slice the beets into pieces, keeping each color beet separate and set aside.

While the beets are cooking, pour the orange juice into a small saucepan and over medium heat reduce by half. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Add the diced shallot and rice wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in canola oil to make your orange vinaigrette.

Pour a third of the vinaigrette over your three kinds of beets and allow them to marinate as time permits. The beets will taste best if you allow them to sit overnight.

To assemble the salad, place the arugula in a bowl with the mint and the orange segments and lightly coat with olive oil and salt. Plate and then add a few spoonfuls of marinated beets. Sprinkle the plate with a few chopped pistachios and serve. Serves eight

 

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage

2 small butternut squashes, halved lengthwise and seeds removed      Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing squash
1½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
½  teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
Pinch ground cinnamon
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese, optional
8 fried sage leaves

Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly rub the flesh of one squash with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Bake, flesh side down until cooked through and nicely browned, about forty-five minutes. Let cool slightly, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash.

Peel and dice the neck of the other squash into quarter inch pieces. You need one and a half cups. Steam the diced squash until just cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a saucepan bring your vegetable stock to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat another saucepan over medium heat. Add four tablespoons of olive oil and when hot add your onion, sage and thyme. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and sweat the onions and herbs over medium heat for until softened, about five minutes. Add your rice and mix well to combine. Allow the rice to toast in the pan for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Begin to add your hot stock to the rice one cup at a time, maintaining a simmer. Do not add more liquid until the previous cup of stock has evaporated. Repeat this, stirring often until the rice is just finished cooking.

Remove risotto from the heat and add your diced squash and the mashed squash. Stir in the butter and once it has melted begin to fold in your Pecorino cheese if using Season to taste and finish with crumbled fried sage leaves. Serves six to eight.

Just Put Your Legs Up the Wall!

Feeling tired?  Getting sick?  Holiday blues?   You name it, Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose is sure to help with whatever ails you!  This restorative pose should be in every modern day earth dweller’s survival kit.  Seriously… if you went for a hike and your legs are tired, just put your legs up the wall.  If your feeling run down and on the brink of getting sick, just put your legs up the wall.  If your body is ready to relax but your day is not over, take 5-15 minutes and just put your legs up the wall.  This pose may even help headaches, mild depression and anxiety, stress, lower back tension… the list goes on!  It’s a restorative so it calms your nervous system.  It’s an inversion so it helps circulate blood and lymph and reverses the affects of gravity.  Why not give it a try and see for yourself?

1.  You can rest your pelvis on the floor, but it’s a nice addition to elevate the pelvis with a bolster or blankets.

2. Sit with one side toward the wall with your knees bent. Swing around to bring your bottom against the wall, torso on the floor and legs up.  If your hamstrings are tight, move your bottom further away from the wall.  If you are using a bolster or a blanket have it already placed at the wall.

3. Press your elbows into the floor and use your shoulder blades to lift your chest slightly.  Make sure your neck maintains its natural curve.

4. Rest your arms by your sides palms up.  If you have an eye pillow it’s a nice addition.

5.  Stay in the pose for 5-15 minutes. Breathe slowly and deeply allowing your body to settle and release tension.

6.  To come out, roll to your right side.  Stay in a fetal position for a few moments or even roll all the way over into child’s pose.  Wait for your blood pressure to regulate and your body to settle.

Legs Up Wall

Photo source: Yoga Journal

The Magic of Oil

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic treatment you can do for yourself.  Like food for your skin, warm oil (sesame, sunflower or coconut) massaged into your body relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the mind and body while lubricating the joints and making the skin soft and supple. This is traditionally performed in the morning to get your circulation moving and remove the toxins that accumulate during the night.  However you can also try it in the evening to promote restful sleep.

In Sanskrit the word sneha means both “oil” and “love”, Abhyanga is like saturating yourself with love!   Let the oil soak in for up to 15 minutes to penetrate the subtle channels, then take a hot bath or shower.

The benefits are numerous and include; soft, supple, beautiful skin, tones the muscles, lubricates the joints, slows down aging, nourishes the body, promotes restful sleep, stimulates the systems of the body, enhances circulation, calms the nervous system, increases immunity…

A nice wintertime habit is to massage warm sesame oil into your feet before bedtime.  Wear  a pair of natural fiber socks at least until you won’t get oil all over your sheets.  This is also an excellent practice before getting on a plane at any time of the year.

In addition, if you find yourself dry from the heater always running, anoint your nostrils and ears with sesame oil.

Be sure to use cold pressed organic oil.

After about a week see if you notice any differences.  I’d love to hear about them! Please share on my Facebook Page.

Olive Oil