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December 10th, 2013

Top 5 Foods To Indulge In During The Holidays

By Rosie Acosta

The key to indulging during the holidays is to enjoy the most decadent, best-textured most divinely delicious foods, be around your most favorite people and just be totally blissed out. Most of the time when we think about indulging we cringe at the thought of the impending food coma. The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily have to end on a bad note. Here are a few foods that you can indulge in without the baggage:

1. Indulge in Laughter: Being a primary food, laughing will not leave you feeling like you over did it. I mean, I've never heard anyone get up from the dinner table and say “Oh man, I really shouldn’t have laughed at that last joke there at the end.. that really put me over the edge..” I know you can’t “eat” laughter, but let me tell you.. Have you ever tried smiling when you’re not feeling well? Or when you’re not having a good time? Its pretty incredible how a little laughter can change any given situation. Being with family and friends can be very exciting or at times highly stressful, but allowing yourself to have a good time regardless of where your at will never end badly. This I can assure you.

2. Get Your Greens In: If its green, and if it’s a whole food then its fair game. Leafy greens, tasty veggies, cruciferous plants can really just make for a very indulgent meal. Sure they may not be as “fun” as pecan pie or chocolate cake but is that really true? {I digress} Cruciferous veggies {say Cruciferous out loud, it’s the best word ever} are great for detoxifying the body. Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Kale are all antioxidant-rich vegetables that aid your body’s natural detoxification system and reduce inflammation. Broccoli for example neutralizes and eliminates toxins while also delivering a healthy dose of vitamins. Broccoli is a versatile veggie so don’t be afraid to dress it with some tasty seasonings like red pepper flakes, olive oil, ghee or curry powder.

3. Enjoy The Citrus: Our citrus friends like grapefruits, oranges and mandarins pack a Sweet, tangy flavor that is fiber-rich, it helps lower cholesterol, prevent kidney stones and aids the digestive system. Adding them to an appetizer salad or just on their own can be a nice treat. Plus it’s a great way to neutralize odd flavors if you’ve been taste testing for a few minutes.. or a few hours.

4. Make Your Own Cheese: I recently got addicted to making cashew cheese. I don’t normally eat dairy but I do miss my cheese. This is a great replacement for the traditional stuff and it has awesome health benefits. Oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil, is very high in cashew nuts. Eating around an ounce of cashews per week greatly reduces the possibility of gallstones and because they are dense in energy and high in fiber, cashews make a great weight loss aid.

UpWard Frog Cashew Cheese
• 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water 2-3 hours)
• 1 lemon
• 2-3 T. Nutritional yeast
• 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt

Soak the cashews for several hours (or overnight) to soften them, drain the water off and add to a food processor or a blender with a few tablespoons of juice from the lemon. Pulse together, scraping away from the sides occasionally. Add in the yeast, salt and any herbs you would like to add.

5. Go for the Hot Chocolate: I opt for this instead of the Egg Nog. The primary ingredients of this traditional holiday delight are milk, cream, and eggs. Dairy products have been known to cause inflammation and have the potential to pack on the extra calories with or without the liquor. Homemade hot chocolate is a much better viable option, using a dairy substitute will be easier on your digestive system. Here is a yummy hot chocolate recipe you can indulge in without feeling guilty.

GO There Hot Chocolate
• 1 C Coconut Milk (Almond, Rice or Soy work also)
• 1-2 T Cacao (to taste)
• 1 T Agave or liquid sweetener of your choice (or more to taste)
• Sprinkle of Cinnamon.

Combine all ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. The blender will thicken it nicely. You can keep it raw by heating it to about 116 degrees. If you want the traditional variation you can heat as desired.

Being able to live a little and indulge a little this time of year is a real treat. This too is part of our practice, to be able to live a little instead of always abiding by rigid rules. It is a great time to be around loved ones, and to be around those who need a little love from us. Indulging in foods that make us feel good is the key. When we eat foods that don’t make us feel good we are more likely to not enjoy this precious time. So be mindful, be present, and enjoy every single second.

Go for the Hot Chocolate

December 4th, 2013

10 Old Ways To Create A New Sense Of Freedom

By Manduka Ambassador Brian Hyman

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were compiled thousands of years ago as a collection of 196 teachings about yoga. The Sutras are divided into four sections: Contemplation, Practice, Accomplishments, and Absoluteness. Within the Practice portion of this revered yogic text, the yamas and niyamas are discussed.

Yamas are moral instructions; niyamas are self-disciplines. When these 10 timeless lessons are combined and observed, a path toward inner and outer transformation is forged. When the yamas and niyamas are practiced with sincerity, illumination is the reward.

The following interpretations of the yamas and niyamas are drawn from my personal experience as a yoga teacher and student. I have practiced them to the best of my ability in all areas of my life for many years. This has been a path of spiritual progress, rather than spiritual perfection. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong way to practice these ethical precepts and personal observances.

Let us look now at these ancient guidelines as a present-day roadmap to joy, happiness, and freedom. Let us pick up these spiritual tools laid out at our feet and use them to create a gateway to peace. And let us practice these principles in all of our affairs to find balance, serenity, and overall well-being in the present moment, and especially during the upcoming holiday season.

YAMAS

1) Ahimsa – non-violence or non-harm toward all beings, animals, and nature. Ahimsa is to replace violent states of mind with contrary thoughts and actions.

2) Satya – truthfulness or authenticity. Satya is to consider how we speak to others; it is to strive for honest communication at all times. Satya is to no longer keep secrets or tell half-truths.

3) Asteya – non-stealing. Asteya is to not take what is not given, hoard objects, misappropriate affections, or misuse others’ time. It is to not borrow items for prolonged periods, use objects for divergent purposes, or enter into debt.

4) Brahmacharya – proper use of sexual energy. Brahmacharya is to be responsible within intimate relationships; to respect oneself and others. Brahmacharya is to avoid depletion of vital energy, which results in fatigue and inability to focus.

5) Aparigraha – non-greed or non-hoarding. Aparigraha is to not amass goods that are inessential for survival. Aparigraha teaches trust for the abundant nature of the universe. Aparigrahareleases attachments and encourages preservation.

NIYAMAS
1) Saucha – purity or cleanliness. Saucha is to purify the inner and outer body. Yoga and meditation are means to accomplish this objective.

2) Santosha – contentment. Santosha is to abide in a peaceful state, no longer attached to people, places, or things as sources of happiness or disillusionment. Neither success nor failure harms a contented person.

3) Tapas – inner fire. Tapas is disciplined use of energy. Tapas rids impurities from the mind and body. Tapas develops restraint and moderates craving and attachment.

4) Svadhyaya – self-study. Svadhyaya is to cultivate self-awareness. Svadhyaya is to examine individual purpose and discover the Atman, or Inner Self.

5) Isvarapranidhana – surrender to God (or the Divine in infinite forms). Isvarapranidhana is to devote time and energy toward contemplation of God (or the Divine). It is to surrender Egoic thoughts and self-will. When we become one with our Creator, fear no longer exists.

What is your experience with the yamas and niyamas? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

Sending blessings of health, love, and light from my heart to yours. Happy holidays!

Namaste.

10 Old Ways to Create a New Sense of Freedom. Blog written by Manduka Ambassador Brian Hyman.

November 28th, 2013

10 Reasons To Be Grateful For Your Yoga Family

By Manduka Ambassador, Patti Cocciolo

As the holidays creep ever closer, thoughts of family come to mind: the family you are born or adopted into, the family of friends and co-workers you choose, and maybe, a family of your own making.

This year, I’m especially grateful for my yoga family. In the wake of a move, I’ve found a new community of yogis, while managing to deepen the relationships with my yoga brothers and sisters in far-flung parts of the world. So, in honor of this feeling of gratitude, here are 10 reasons to be thankful for your own yoga family:

1. Your yoga family accepts and even encourages the wearing of stretchy pants - to any and all occasions.

2. Your yoga family uses peer pressure to get you to do things that are good for you, like reading philosophy and practicing meditation. Your yoga family wants you to eat healthier foods, get massages, do a cleanse, and see an Ayurvedic doctor. Self-care is a real and important thing to these relatives.

3. Your yoga family wants you to stay in school forever. No one asks, “Another workshop? Haven’t you finished yoga yet?”

4. Your yoga family doesn’t care what you do for a living or how much money you make. They really and truly just want you to do what makes you happy.

5. Your yoga family is all over the globe. Anyone who practices, anywhere in the world, is your soul sister/brother. Sanskrit is your common tongue.

6. Your yoga family is non-denominational. We’ve all been to several houses of yoga worship, and learned something from each place. It’s all about the journey – not necessarily which prayer book you’re using at a particular time.

7. Your yoga family notices when you get a new pedicure. They appreciate that you made the effort. (This goes for you, too, guys.)

8. Your yoga family celebrates the best you…at that very moment. They’re not remembering your awesome pincha from yesterday. They honor that you made it to class at all and that you did a wicked child’s pose – because it’s exactly what you needed at the time.

9. Your yoga family tree extends back for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. No matter your lineage, you are one in a long line of yogis descended from the most sage, most learned teachers in history. And the more you learn about them and the more you read their teachings, the more humbled you feel to be one of their descendants.

10. Your yoga family helps you to be the best person you can be, and this goes well beyond asana. They are there to support your desire to transcend the obstacles of the physical world, and connect with the divine that already resides within you. (Note to self: This one is the biggie.)

And an extra bonus? The more you see your yoga family, the better your relationships become within all those other family groups who claim you as their own. Try it out this holiday season and see what happens. The peace and calm you find on your mat? Take it with you to your in-laws’ house. It will help. I promise.

So, as the holidays come, don’t lose touch with your yoga family. You’re gonna need them. And after Thanksgiving, you really might appreciate that open policy on stretchy pants.

November 26th, 2013

5 Yogi Tips For Staying Healthy During The Holidays

By Manduka Ambassador, Rosie Acosta

Tis the season of delicious food and amazing people! This is by far one of my favorite times of the year. I do find it a bit of a challenge to keep it together during this time of year. It’s hard not to go overboard on all the glorious food that is readily available. I try to keep a very wholesome eating regimen for the most part, however I take full advantage of the special holiday foods that anywhere in sight. Yes…I have fallen prey to the “food coma” on more than a few occasions.

This is the best time of year to practice good eating habits, and a little self-care in action. I love reading my fellow Manduka Ambassador blogs about Gratitude and how this affects their lives. I find it to be the best time of year to be grateful for everything around us. It is way to easy to fall into the rabbit hole of “Holiday Stress”. That being said, I wanted to share a few tips that help me stay healthy during this time of year:

1. MOVE YOUR BODY: We all know that now is prime time to keep it moving. Taking a yoga class, going for a bike ride or a run can be a great way to take your mind off the stress that comes with overeating or your “holiday duties”. This is such a huge thing for me to be able to release any stress or tension, it makes it a little easier to eat the good stuff as opposed to the vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcakes {this works 70% of the time}.

2. SLOW YOUR ROLL: When you eat, its best to remember to SLOW DOWN. I used to feel so sad when I was done because I felt like I didn’t even get to taste my meal? I have learned to slow down. Take a few breaths between bites, and remember that your food is not going anywhere. Portion control is also key during a Thanksgiving Day feast. Plus, you can enjoy a wider variety if you serve yourself smaller portions.

3. BYOD: Because of my food allergies, it is challenging for me to go visit friends and family during this time. I do NOT want to be the person inquiring AT the dinner table what specific ingredients they used to make a very thoughtful meal, as I examine the dish thoroughly {which I have done in the past} Instead, I opt to build my own dish that I know I can eat. Plus, it’s also a way for me to bring something to the table.

4. ENJOY: What is the point of this traditional feast if you can’t enjoy yourself? I know that for myself there have been times when the inner critic gets a little loud when I’ve surpassed the ‘indulge’ phase. The truth is, it happens. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. Stay positive and just allow yourself to enjoy your meal. One or two pieces of pie isn’t the end of the world. It is a perfect time to practice Ahimsa (non-violence), and remember you are a sacred living being ☺.

5. GRATITUDE: Having gratitude is a particularly amazing experience for a yogi. We live our lives to find joy in everything we do and with every person in our lives. What a great way to show our appreciation for just BEING. Give thanks to everything and everyone around you.

I wish you all the best Holiday Season, with love… Rosie

November 21st, 2013

On Gratitude

By Manduka Ambassador, Brian Hyman

“Thankfulness is the soul of beneficence.” – Rumi

My favorite way to express gratitude is to recite a gratitude list each evening before I go to sleep. I begin by thanking the universe or God for allowing me one more day to be a son, brother, friend, student, and teacher. Next, I give thanks for my senses, which may sound something like this:

I express gratitude for my eyes. Thank you for green trees, pink flowers, and brown mountains. Thank you for blue skies, white clouds, and red earth. Thank you for smiles on the faces of those I meet.

I express gratitude for my ears. Thank you for birds singing and children laughing. Thank you for dogs barking and hummingbirds buzzing. Thank you for ocean waves kissing the shoreline.

I express gratitude for my nose. Thank you for the smells of flowers, coffee, and chocolate. Thank you for my breath.

I express gratitude for my mouth. Thank you for the opportunities to eat, speak, and smile. Thank you for the ability to chant, sing, and teach.

I express gratitude for my skin. Thank you for the sensations of warmth when being embraced by friends. Thank you for the heat of the sun upon my face and shoulders.

I then give thanks for all things that brighten my day, like when my three year-old niece says, “I love you, Uncle Bwyaan!”; thanks for things that make me think about life in a different way; thanks for people who challenge me to grow spiritually; thanks for my yoga practice; thanks for my mother, a guardian angel; thanks for foods that sustain me; thanks for second (and third, and fourth…) chances; thanks for the power of forgiveness; and thanks for the wind, sun, stars, moon, and animals that I observe with wonder.

I give thanks until I come to the present moment, lying in bed. I finish the list by giving thanks for one more day that I was able to share experience, strength, and hope with others. Then I turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Gratitude – alongside yoga, prayer, and meditation – is an integral part of my daily spiritual practice. Gratitude helps me be less selfish and more selfless; less self-centered and more other-centered; less scattered and more grounded. Gratitude teaches me deep lessons about humility, integrity, and interconnectedness.

A list is one of many ways to explore gratitude. Other suggestions include offering a smile to a stranger; saying hello to someone who seems sad; cleaning trash at the beach; writing a letter of appreciation to a favorite author or teacher; and sending a card or flowers to someone who seems lonely.

Also, you can thank yourself each day for being an amazing mother or father; a terrific employee or employer; and a generous friend or lover.

How does gratitude play a role in your life? Share your “attitude of gratitude” below in the comments section, we would love to hear from you! Namaste.