Ayurveda for Fall

Why is pumpkin spice everywhere in the fall? Ayurveda offers us some clues. First, pumpkins are in season, so planning meals around pumpkins is a way to eat with the rhythm of nature. Pumpkins are heavy, dense, and earthy and these qualities create a good balance to the light, dry, windy qualities of autumn. Pumpkin spices have a warming characteristic in common, which is a good antidote to the cooler temperatures, but in addition, the warming spices help to improve digestion that can be sluggish or irregular this time of year.

Cinnamon is pungent, sweet, warming, and subtle. It can support the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems and can strengthen the heart. Nutmeg is warming and astringent, and supports the digestive, nervous, and reproductive systems. It is one of the best spices for increasing absorption, particularly in the small intestine. Cardamom is also warming, sweet, and an expectorant which means it can help reduce phlegm in the body. It supports the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems. So, with all of these benefits, go ahead and indulge in some pumpkin spice!

Interested to learn more? Join me and Rimmi Singh at Yoga Center of Columbia or online for the Ayurveda Immersion beginning in January. See the Events page for information and links to registration.

See you on the mat!  

-Kelly

Staying Cool in the Heat

Santosha is a practice that means mental contentment. It refers to acceptance of things as they are instead of constantly wanting something to be a different way. Sometimes this is truly a tough lesson to learn. This practice is one of the Niyamas, internal guidelines or practices to live well, listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. 1500 years ago, someone cared enough about peace of mind to write it down as a practice to be cultivated daily. I appreciate this idea because it brings home the fact that feeling content is a thing we can grow within ourselves. It doesn’t just automatically happen. Maybe sometimes it does, and that is awesome, but much of the time I have to remind myself, “Everything I need is right here, right now.” We feel discontent when our ideas about what make us happy are different from reality. Yoga teaches us that living in the present moment is the way to peace of mind. Not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past, but right here, right now.   

This summer I have been trying to live in the present while enjoying a delicious non-alcoholic bevvie. Try this yummy recipe for a cool and healthy good time.

Blackberry Cooler
5-6 fresh blackberries
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
3-4 fresh mint leaves plus a mint sprig for garnish
1 small lime, juiced plus 2 lime slices for garnish
4 ounces ginger kombucha (I like GT brand)
4 ounces sparkling mineral water

Combine berries, ginger, and mint in a tumbler and muddle for a minute to infuse the flavors. Add ice if desired. Add lime juice, ginger kombucha, and top off with mineral water. Garnish with the sprig of mint and lime slices. Enjoy!

Happy Earth Day 2021

Happy Earth Day! This is the only planet we’ve got. Earth is our home. We should treat Her like we treat our own homes, as in loving and caring for the planet in the same way we would repair the roof, gutters, or windows, keep the insides clean, and ensure the pipes work without leaking. There are many ways to contribute to the healthy functioning of our planet and here are a few suggestions for this year:

For more suggestions, you could check this website: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-tips/ and thank you for caring!

–Kelly

French Lentil Dal for Spring

Spring is getting closer. Vaccines are becoming more abundant. I am in the mood to move! To help clear out the lethargy and stagnation of wintertime, Ayurveda recommends eating more bitter greens, spring vegetables, light grains, pulses and berries.  Nature is beginning to offer an abundance of bitter greens like arugula, kale, beet greens, bok choy, dandelion, and collards.  Other vegetables that help to clear the dampness of spring include asparagus, brussels sprouts, fennel, onions, garlic, green beans, and sprouts.  Light grains, such as millet, basmati rice, and quinoa assist in the clearing of mucus and excess water in the body.  Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans, and black beans have a drying effect on the body.  Berries, once they come into season, have a cleansing effect on the liver and also help to remove excess sludge from winter. Try this yummy recipe to help you lighten up for springtime.

French Lentil Dal

1 c French lentils soaked overnight

4 c water

1-2 Tablespoons ghee

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped

1/2 c chopped sweet onion, spring onion, or leeks

1/2-1 teaspoon turmeric powder (or 1/2 inch chopped fresh turmeric)

pinch asafoetida (also called hing, has a taste similar to garlic)

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

salt and pepper to taste

After soaking the lentils overnight, drain and add 4 c fresh water for cooking.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer for about 1 hour or until lentils are soft.

In a separate skillet, heat ghee over low-medium heat.  Add the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, ginger and onion to the ghee.  Saute until onions are transparent.

Add this mixture to the cooked lentils.

Add the turmeric, asafoetida, maple syrup, prepared mustard, salt and pepper.

Stir and let simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Enjoy with steamed or sauteed veggies and white basmati rice.

Tide Changes

We are about to reach the one-year anniversary of living with Covid19 in isolation. Normally at this time of year I would be preparing for our annual journey to India (See photos from past trips here and here) but this year is quite different. This year has seen so many changes in life, death, and lifestyle. I hope that yoga practice has brought you some comfort in this past year.

For myself there have been ups and downs. Transitioning to teaching yoga classes online was certainly challenging, but I was also able to complete an idea that had been brewing for a long time, my first online course. When the pandemic began, Wildflower Yoga started offering monthly Yoga Nidra to benefit various social justice causes. We raised a total of $8,272 last year! Our Benefit last week will add another $660 to that total. 100% of all proceeds go directly to the non-profit organizations; no funds were held back. If those were “up’s,” then a down would be that the physical space in which we were holding class is no longer available. The ups and downs are both waves in the ocean, eventually one settles and the other rises up. With yoga practice we learn to dive deep into the ocean and move beyond the surface push and pull to be able to observe life’s challenges from an objective place — with any luck, from a more harmonious place. We begin to recognize changes as different phases, different tides within the same ocean of consciousness.

My colleague, teacher, and friend Kathy Donnelly has been talking about community a lot lately and I agree with her that our community of like-minded souls is an important part of surviving the pandemic with a level head. It is great solace to me each time I see your faces in class. The effort it takes to bring peace and well-being to your own body-mind-heart really inspires me. Who knows how much longer this social distancing needs to be in place — I have always thought it should be called physical distancing, not “social” distancing — but I am thankful for each of you and for your effort to support your own good health. Let’s continue building community together by practicing together, and even on your own at home; home practice is an important part of yoga where you can really explore the poses and how they feel in your body. If I can be a small part of your yoga journey, for that I am truly thankful.

Child’s Pose Is My New BFF

As mentioned in my previous newsletter, during this pandemic I have been dealing with a different health issue, hyperparathyroidism. The surgeon had to make an incision at the base of my throat to remove the “offending gland.” With that surgery behind me, I was able to get to the task of healing. It took a week before I really felt like moving again, I even had to support my head with my hand as I would transition from sitting to lying down for example. Once I felt stronger and ready to move, I really wanted to do some yoga! Practice was slow at first, with lots of full breaths and no hurrying. It involved much stretching and breathing from a seated position. And then, Child’s Pose, Balasana. I would bring big toes together and take my knees wider, fold forward from the hips and rest my forehead on my stacked hands.

Pre-surgery, balasana was a resting pose for me, but post-surgery it became respite; in Yoga Nidra terms, it became my Inner Resource. If you know anything about fascia, you know that if there is an injury or trauma in one part of the body, it can affect the rest of the body in a three-dimensional matrix. Because my neck was intensely healing, the rest of my muscles felt compressed, pulled toward the incision like covered wagons in a circle to protect the precious humans inside. Child’s pose helped those muscles to lengthen again; the sweet release of elongating my spinal extensors was better than a hot bath. The gentle opening through hip muscles was like my body exhaling, gently easing back to a state of normalcy. These inner sensations helped to remind me that all is well and on the path to healing, it just takes time and patience.

If you are feeling out of sorts, please make time in your day for a “yoga snack” and take balasana for several deep breaths — as many as you need until you feel your nervous system settle and you return to a state of calm.

Winter Inspiration

Winter is a time for rest, rejuvenation, and renewal. You may or may not agree with me, but I love the snow. Especially when I do not have to go anywhere, the snow just blankets the earth with quiet and to see the sparkle of the snowflakes reflecting the sun once the storm has passed, it just makes me want to exhale fully into a state of joyous relaxation. We may not get that lucky this year to see a beautiful snowfall, but I’m still hoping.

Here’s an idea — I hope that even during these cold temperatures you have been able to at least get outdoors to take some walks. Along your way, choose a spot that you can return to each day or each week to simply stop for a moment and view; take in your surroundings. When you return to the same spot over a period of time, you can really observe the changes in nature, from winter’s stark barrenness — there is a beauty to the stillness — to the first buds of the spring time. Your “viewing spot” can help you observe the transition from the hibernation of inner life to a vibrant outer life as spring shows its signs of approaching. We’ve still months to go, but taking time to observe the here and now in each moment can be a great practice in present moment awareness and even in cultivating gratitude regarding the gifts and things we have to celebrate. Keeping some sort of daily routine, be it regular walks, a time for reading, or yoga practice, can be a rejuvenating habit that supports you for years to come.

Quiet Celebration for Fall

Mmm. Fall is here and I usually greet it with a little apprehension because I know that winter will follow. The funny thing is, September is probably the most beautiful weather-wise and October brings the brilliant leaf color as the trees succumb to the changes. There is plenty to celebrate in nature even if our ‘leaders’ might seem to be failing us right now. Life seems to be a continual balance between making effort to change what I do not want and letting go of the need to be in control of things to get what I do want.

Yoga teaches that very thing. We need to make effort to express ourselves through a yoga posture, but at the same time, we need to allow for things to unfold in their own time. If we want to do a handstand or hold Warrior III with elegance for example, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice. If we want to touch our toes with ease, we must put forth the effort. Sthiram sukham asanam, a yoga posture is steady and comfortable, Patanjali says in Yoga Sutra 2:46, but that is not generally true at first; we must put forth the effort.

Global Yoga Therapy Day

Today is Global Yoga Therapy Day!

Yoga Therapy uses yogic techniques — yoga postures, breath work, meditation, mantra, mudra — to support a wholistic approach to life, good health, and mental and emotional prosperity. In honor of Global Yoga Therapy Day, I created a video about coping with the global (and local) crises and anxieties of the moment. Enjoy!

Click here to view this short video.

India 2020 – Short and Sweet

Our annual India Retreat was interesting this year, special thanks to Coronavirus. The day before we left, we knew it would be a challenge because Emirates had already canceled our return flight due to the lack of passengers. We were some of the last people allowed in to the country and thank goodness we were able to get out in time as well.

We made the most of what we had. Rimmi led our first yoga practice at the Taj Hotel in Delhi, beginning with a loving-kindness meditation that we sent out into the world for the upliftment of all beings and closing with a quote from Swami Vivekananda:

Give me understanding 
Teach me patience & acceptance 
Help me remember that whatever happened in the past 
happened for the best 
And whatever is happening now is also happening for the best.  
I came with nothing 
And I will leave with nothing. 
What belonged to someone else yesterday is mine today 
But what is mine today will belong to someone else tomorrow 
In this ever-changing world help me see your unchanging principle 
Which is that true happiness and peace come from the simple understanding that we are all connected and that we all come from the same source. 

We saw the Taj Mahal with a very small crowd of people. We visited the Ahaneri Step Well on the way to Jaipur and we got to spend some time in Jaipur — meditating, doing yoga, and visiting.

Udaipur and Rishikesh will have to wait for next time.

There are many things I love about India that keep me coming back, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the warm and friendly people. But one of the things I like best is, it seems like everywhere you look there is something to bring you back to Consciousness — like the random sign in Delhi, or the monkey feasting, or the kids laughing. They all become a reminder that we are all part of one big human family, no matter where we live.

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