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November 29th, 2012

Healthy Eating For The Holiday Season

By Manduka Ambassador Rosie Acosta

With all the holiday happenings like shopping, sending cards, planning parties and eating…one can get easily frazzled and overwhelmed. These are the moments to which overeating and overindulgence sadly takes feat. It is unfortunate that this time of year usually results in an extra pound or two. It is so easy to fall prey to all the delicious and rich holiday treats that surround us this time of year. There are many things that we can do to keep it together during this time. Below are some ways I’ve found helpful to keep it healthy during the holidays.

1. The Reality Of It All: Now is NOT the best time to try and “diet”:
That’s the truth, you know...and I know it. So instead of creating a world of anxiety for yourself just try to be conscientious about where you currently are, and where you want to be in regard to your health. Enjoy yourself; don’t fret if you decide to indulge here and there. Stay present with it all, instead of telling yourself “Ugh, I shouldn’t have eaten that…” don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead try this, “I ate it, I enjoyed it” be kind to yourself. Every moment is a new moment to try and do better next time.

2. Relieve Holiday Stress:
We all know that now is prime time for some yoga. A little stillness and a little mind silence can work wonders this time of year. If you have a regular practice or exercise regimen try to keep it up during the holidays. This is a great way to prevent any extra lbs. and perhaps work off some of that delicious pumpkin pie.

3. Don’t Focus on the Food:
Rather than focusing on the plethora of holiday treats, turn the focus on an activity. It is a great time for family, friends and community. Perhaps play a board game, make wreaths, or even a gingerbread house. These are fantastic ways to enjoy what the holidays are actually about: spending time with people who you love.

4. Overeating Quick-fix:
If you happen to overeat during a meal, go light on the next one. It takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound, and unless you ate dinner at Paula Dean’s house…one piece of pie is not going to make you gain weight. Don’t worry, but refrain from eating the entire pie.

5. Check The Menu Beforehand:
If you show up to a dinner party hungry, it is inevitable that you’re going to fill your plate to its circumferential capacity. It’s like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry, which is never a good idea. Before you begin to fill your plate, check out what is being served. Include veggies and fruits to keep your plate balanced and avoid foods that aren’t necessarily your favorite.

The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the holidays. This is one of the few times of the year when you can really enjoy all the sweet treats without feeling like you’ve fallen off the wagon. If you happen to over-indulge, be honest and loving with yourself and treat yourself with compassion . We are all entitled to live a little. Remember that a healthy lifestyle means nourishing your body and your mind with everything it needs when it needs it.

Keepin’ it Light: Organic Mexican Girl Favorite Holiday Recipe

Here is one of my favorite salads for the holidays. My Granny used to make it every year.

Ensalada De Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad)

*Vegan, *Gluten-Free, *Vegetarian and 100% Delicious!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons organic orange juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bag of mixed green salad
1 cup of spinach
2 apples, peeled and sliced
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh pineapple cubes (or canned)
2 beets, cooked and cut
1/2 cup raw almonds sliced

Directions:

1. To make dressing, whisk together olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, salt, and cilantro in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Arrange the mixed greens on the bottom of a glass bowl and layer fruit and beets over it.

To learn more about Rosie , and for more delicious recipes, go to: www.organicmexicangirl.com

November 22nd, 2012

Grace And Gratitude

By Manduka Ambassador Dana Damara

The words grace and gratitude get used so often; I often wonder if people really know what it means. To feel gratitude for your family, your friends, your job, your home, your financial success, your material possessions, your health…all those things is really easy.

But what about feeling gratitude for the things in your life that aren’t so frilly? Like your computer breaking down? At the same time that your girlfriend decides to leave you. Or how about when you lose something that is important to you like say, your favorite Manduka mat? What about your job ending? You get into a car wreck. You file for bankruptcy. How about feeling gratitude for those individuals who talk behind your back or worse, seemingly get under your skin every, single time you see them.

Can you find gratitude in those situations?

Because honestly, that’s the yoga we speak of when we talk about embodiment. It’s not about the perfect posture…it’s about embodying that grace and gratitude in times of adversity.

Life is not a sedentary event that we can plan out or remain rigid to while navigating through it. It is always changing, ever expanding and infinitely growing. And although we do create our lives in conjunction with our thoughts, we must also allow for Universal order to do its thing. It’s co-creating... all the time.

And when we stumble, or when life seemingly pushes us into our shit, grace reminds us that it’s pushing us there for a reason. And if the s@#t stinks, most likely that means that the reason is beyond our knowledge or understanding. Grace holds space for gratitude beyond our understanding. We breathe it in and allow it to just BE what it IS in THAT moment.

As we trod through those difficult times, we can do so kicking and screaming, slinging shit and mud, blaming others and playing the victim role or we can feel gratitude and allow grace to step up and bring it all in. When we truly embody grace and gratitude it’s like the Red Sea parts… that breath makes way for clarity, vision and an acceptance of what is… truly what is. Not what WE THINK it should be.

The next time you find yourself facing adversity, breathe it in. What can you learn right then? Where is the light? That one breath in time will bring grace rushing to you.

November 15th, 2012

What Brings You To The Mat..

By Manduka Ambassador Jessica Lesley

After a recent "yoga rebellion", where my frustration with the extreme focus on asana kept me out of classes for a few months, I developed a renewed commitment to the other seven limbs of the practice.

This rebellion came at a time where I was seeing blog posts and articles detailing the potential injuries involved with asana, and reading the comments from angry yoga practitioners - and teachers. Most of the postures in question were inversions and arm balances, the ones that make for awesome photo shoots, "oooh and ahhh" worthy magazine covers, and a boat load of "likes" on instagram. While I do not feel that the magazines or websites with yogis in pretzel like states of inversions have ill intentions, it made me wonder why are these poses are so important to us in the first place?

I took my first yoga class in a desperate attempt to end my daily panic attacks, to have some quiet time during a time of loss in my family, and also to make peace with my body image issues. In those early classes, I was not this honest with myself let alone anyone else. It was easy to say, "I'm going to yoga to be more flexible". I could avoid the reaction to speaking my truth and saying "I'm going to yoga because I am terrified of my own thoughts and am in need of peace".

To be honest, at one point in my practice, I bought into the idea that an "advanced" practice consisted of jumping back to chaturunga or effortlessly floating up into handstand in the center of the room. These movements require much focus and strength, but wasn't I already demonstrating those qualities in chair pose or by sticking to my mediation practice twice a day? The feeling of wanting to recreate postures I’d seen on magazine covers came to an end upon learning that many of my favorite cover yogis had regular chiropractic appointments or were nursing injured shoulders and bulging discs.. It was not a moment of judgement but more of a wake up call that there is more to this practice than posing.

After my initial 200 teacher training (which primarily covered asana with a bit of philosopy and chakra talk thrown in), I went on to study with Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up®. My training with Jill focused on how to "live better in your own body". We broke down postures step by step to truly understand what goes into proper alignment and more importantly safely doing a pose. There was also a significant amount of time spent on how the nervous system functions, and on how the way we breathe can impact stress and anxiety. This has made it very difficult to focus on the poses I once loved or aspired to "perfect" and allowed me to let go of certain postures that are not meant for my body (non-attachment or Vairagya is a wonderful addition to any practice).

A recent post by Glenn Black put what I have been feeling into words.

"It’s not that Black doesn’t believe in the power of asana (for those few whose bodies have been properly prepared). Rather, he’s revolted by the way asana has been adulterated and overtaken the meaning of yoga today. “If you want to really develop in yoga, you’ve got to get past the insignificance of asana and really develop the mind.”

I too believe in the power of asana. I also know that asana alone is not what stopped the anxiety, or helped me move past old hurt and insecurities. This practice can have profound changes in the lives of many people, but our fascination with asana masquerading as yoga can be intimidating. Yoga helped me to slow down, to honor the body I have today, not the one I will have after a few more years of practice and working out. Taking my studies beyond asana helped to dive deeper into personal traumas and find peace. This inner awareness both on an anatomical and emotional level is why I ended the rebellion and got back on my mat.

Jessica is a Los Angeles based Yoga and Yoga Tune Up® . Yoga Tune Up® Instructor. You can find out more about her on her website www.jessicalesley.com.

November 8th, 2012

The Universal Language Of Yoga

By Manduka Ambassador Chip Fieberg

Teaching AcroYoga and Slackline Yoga at the 2012 Korea Yoga Conference in Seoul, Korea was an unforgettable experience that was both educational and thrilling. Since our workshops consisted primarily of Korean students, some of whom did not speak any English, the first thing we had to get used to was working with a translator.

Luckily, we had some practice with how this works during the two weeks prior while assisting Ana Forrest's Advanced Teacher Training at Seoul's Forrest Yoga Studio. We learned that to achieve optimum translations, phrases need to be succinct and free of excessive adjectives. This showed us how little information needs to be actually spoken to convey effective instructions. We also found we had more time to think about our next cues, a luxury only afforded by waiting for a translator finish speaking.

Korean students are extremely polite, enthusiastic, and attentive proving how enriching it can be teaching in a new culture. Despite language barriers we did not have to repeat instructions. People payed very close attention and absorbed concepts easily. We enjoyed their love for taking video and photos during the workshops and at the end of every session, we had a line up of students eager to get their picture taken with us.

The Korean yogis surprised us with which skills they picked up the fastest. We are generally able to advance our material much quicker in AcroYoga classes, than with Slackline Yoga. This was the opposite for the Korean students. Because their culture isn't used to touching each other as much as westerners, there was a lot of giggling and goofing around in the AcroYoga workshops. Once we adapted our lesson plan accordingly, we broke down social barriers and the students had a lot of fun. In the Slackline Yoga workshops, the students advanced very fast and by the end we had most of them doing Warrior poses on the slackline- very impressive indeed!

Teaching on the opposite side of the planet was truly a cherished experience and enriched our lives in a meaningful way. While visiting a country as a tourist can be very enjoyable, immersing yourself in the culture and making close connections with the people who live there through teaching is a profound experience. We are very grateful for our time spent with all our new students and friends, and hope to return very soon.

November 1st, 2012

Silence In The Storm

By Caleb Asch

Enlightenment hit me this morning while I was walking the dog. It wasn’t a dramatic thing. I didn’t stop drinking my coffee or walking the dog. It was a quiet realization that I had stopped my compulsive, repetitive, and incessantly negative thoughts.

Let me back up. I woke up having overslept so I couldn’t do my sitting practice, and while I wasn’t late, if I didn’t get sidetracked by anything I could get to the morning yoga class that I teach – on time. I noticed while in the shower how irritated I was with everything; I wasn’t getting what I wanted pretty much everywhere in my life. I was listening to my imaginary story about how I was being screwed over by everybody, and furthermore how they would continue to screw me over until I gave them my ultimatum and walked out! Oh what I would say to these people! Who do they think they are anyway! I could even hear my father’s voice in my head yelling, (he’s ALWAYS yelling) “THESE @#$%@ JUST WON’T LET US LIVE!!!”

So by the time I had gotten through the shower, shave, brushing my teeth, putting on my clothes, kissing my wife and daughter, pouring my coffee, and last but not least, walking the dog, I had a pretty good head of steam going. (Now I know where that expression comes from) I would master my domain by sheer domination. I am the Shadow Warrior! (my signature pose) I would lay to waste any fool that was stupid enough to happen into my way. Oh, and why is the Chihuahua sniffing around too much and peeing too little? Doesn’t he get that I have somewhere I have to be? C’mon, c’mon Melvin let’s get cracking here. I have students to decimate, c’mon get the lead out!

Finally the noise in my head got so loud and had so much momentum that I could step back a little and witness it. So simple a thing to do. So elegant. I am so grateful. The moment I could simple observe my thoughts like they were some body else’s they stopped! I couldn’t not see how self-righteous and angry they were. How self – perpetuating and at war with reality they were. How much of the time I live in that mind set. Blaming everyone and everything else for what’s not working in my life. It’s no wonder I feel like a victim most of the time. That’s the quality of conversation that’s going on in my head!

This morning I witnessed the noise and it dissolved. The noise just ceased. Peace. Freedom. How much easier it is to see just how much I have to be thankful for when it’s quiet. How shimmering blessed this life really is. How I am the source of my experience and no one else. How friendly and totally supporting this reality is.

This moment was brilliant and fleeting. The nature of experience is instantaneous. A pristine moment of now. The trap is to try to re-create it or live it again. To live in the past. Now that I’ve had an experience I know that it’s possible for me. Up until now I had only read about it. (And secretly coveted it) The pitfall here would be to grasp onto and identify with the past, which doesn’t exist and guarantees failure of ever having similar experiences.

Now my practice is to stay “the vigilant guardian of my inner space”. To cultivate and maintain the witness consciousness, and to trust the same process that led me to that moment to begin with.