Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Creating Space in the Big Cluttered City

Creating Space…
My dearest friend is one spritely, intelligent and compassionate shelter from any storm. She has the capacity to calm those around her and talk nearly anyone off the ledge. So why did she come home the other night only to slam her purse on the ground and cross her arms in defiant gestures of incurable frustration? Because we live in New York City and as she said, “I just can’t BREATHE in this city. There is NO personal space. It’s Infuriating. Intolerable.” She threw her arms to the sky and released an extended sigh expressing more than a hint of agitation.
She took her boots off, shook her hair out and put on some mellow music while I prepared dinner. She chirped at me from the other room about the ridiculous design of the city. The subway cars in particular. “The dimensions are so small I can barely breathe. And strangers’ limbs touching me. It’s disturbing. Really it is. Who designed this city anyway?”
Then, the jargon took over. It was as though I couldn’t help advising her to “create space” and “hold that container.” After going off on “being present” with her frustration I had to laugh at myself. But when I thought about it I could see I was offering some pretty solid advice.
I’ve often had misgivings surrounding the yoga culture jargon. Sometimes I feel as though it just creates a larger distance between myself and people I want to communicate with who might not be part of that particular subculture. People who didn’t take “Body Mind Centering” in their first year at University. In other words, most people. And while I do believe this can be true it seems to be me that if we use this verbiage rather than hide behind it the terms become alive, important and expressive.
She looked at me and laughed her little laugh but nodded in agreement. We continued to chew over the issue of stressful city living. Of course I came to the conclusion, once again, that she should find a practice that speaks to her. However, I think I’d offer that advice to anyone. Particularly people who live in the big city. It’s simple. On the mat we breathe. In our practice we embody space and find comfort in uncomfortable spaces. We quite literally practice. Practice how to be in the world.
“Taking it off the mat” often comes up when discussing yoga. It is in a situation like the one with my friend where I can truly see the real life application of that concept as valuable. So you can’t breathe on the subway? Return to the yogic breathe. People are too close for comfort? Remember the space that is the body. Step in a puddle? Breathe through it, be present with your wet sock and get home as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s not about “taking space” it’s about “making space.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Major League Yoga

Major League Yoga

            Last night I joined masses of red and white clad Phillies fans at the Ballpark to watch my hometown team slaughter the Atlanta Braves.  Up in the nosebleeds over a cheap beer my father and I stared intently at the baseball diamond, rally towels in hand.  After the fifth or sixth foul ball of the night I recalled an article I had read a few days back.  “Did you know there are 108 stitches on a baseball?” I asked my father.
            He laughed and responded with some quip about yoga and baseball.  I have to say that got my wheels turning.  I remember a few years back getting a phone call from my mother, “Lil, did you know Donovan McNabb practices yoga?  You know, the Eagle.”  In fact, I did not know that at the time but it made plenty of sense to me.  And if yoga is aiding in the agility, strength and calm of football players why shouldn’t it be a tool for baseball teams as well?
            Apparently, I am not alone in that thinking.  The practically new-born Tampa Rays, a team around only since 1998, stole the spotlight a few years back when they made it to the series to play against my precious Phillies.  And they took ‘em deep.  It was no four game sweep.  What’s more? They practice yoga.
            In 2007 the team began practicing.  Is it a coincidence that in 2008 they took the penant nearly winning the world series and beat out the evil empire that is the New York Yankees? Perhaps, but I honestly don’t think so.  Manager of the Tampa Rays Joe Maddon “believes the practice will eventually be accepted once a player has success on the field and credits part of that success to practicing yoga.” 
            Of course, skeptics abound.  Take for instance senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays and baseball legend Don “Popeye” Zimmer.  In an article reporting on the integration of yoga into the MLB’s training roster Bill Chastain writes,  “Zimmer is a baseball lifer, so it's understandable he doesn't grasp the significance of the yoga class being conducted at the Devil Rays' camp this spring. Old school baseball thinking just doesn't lend itself to embracing said practice.”
            I might ask Zimmer, given the chance, what he thinks of his teams success as informed by their adopted yoga practice.  And, further, I might ask Charlie Manuel (manager of the Phillies) why our boys haven’t been caught on the mat when they aren’t on the diamond.
            This summer Ryan Madsen, one of our late inning relief pitchers, missed eight weeks of play because after a particularly bad outing he kicked a chair with his shoes off and broke a toe.  Talk about stress levels soaring!  According to Errol Simonitsch, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins “If you can calm yourself down in the middle of those poses, you can do it in the middle of the game. That’s why, before every pitch, you’ll see me take a deep breath.
            Now, don't get me wrong. I'm proud of the phillies and I can't wait until they steal the series this year.  However, a deep breath might do those guys some good.  It is with this thought that I wish I could offer each of the players the calm of an OM run.      


Friday, September 17, 2010

yOM kippur - The Jewish Day Of Reflection

yOM kippur – The Jewish Day of Reflection

            Each year my family gathers from whatever corner of the world we are living in, respectively, to come together at my parents’ house and celebrate Yom Kippur.  My family is very much ethnically and culturally Jewish at this point though few of us adhere to the religious aspects of Judaism.  However, like many secular Jews we do observe the “High Holy Days.”  Today is the day leading into Yom Kippur, “Erev Yom Kippur, “ and it is on this day, traditionally, that charity is given and forgiveness asked.   Tomorrow we will observe the holiday by fasting until sundown and reflecting on our actions over the past year.  Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement and repentance.  I think there is something very useful in this tradition but I feel it necessary to flesh out the meeting ground between the spiritual mentality of mindfulness and the religious tradition of repentance.
            Does it really serve us to repent? Although no human is perfect and we have all, at one point or another, inflicted pain on others (whether consciously or not) “repentance” feels weighted with guilt and thus in many ways not productive for any of our processes.
            So, clearly, I feel at least a little at odds with this religious tradition.  But, I mean to say that I observe the day for a reason.   Partially for me it is an opportunity to be with my family, all of whom I hold very dear and close to my heart.  Moreover, I appreciate an entire day dedicated to reflection.  And that’s where my practice and my religious background can meet one another.  Rather than thinking of Yom Kippur as a day of repentance I think of it as a day of reflection.  We gather the evening before to indulge in a large feast (family style of course).  We celebrate each other.  And then we spend the following 24 hours fasting in introspection.  The practice of fasting brings mental clarity.  The practice of meditating deeply on how we have impacted the world around us allows us to see how we can act going forward. 
            At the risk of sounding sacrilegious I say now that for me Yom Kippur is not the day of repentance but rather the day of reflection.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


The Raw Truth… A True Believer’s Rawesome Take on Nutrition!

My hOMegirl Tessa Manning and her partner Kevin Gratton recently opened “Oh My Goodness Foods,” a raw food store, this past July out of their home in Boise, ID.  Tessa and Kev hold regular raw potlucks open to anyone in the Boise community as well as hosting workshops on making raw chocolates at their home.  It is with gratitude, excitement and deep care for the human family that they spread their raw love.  Tessa was kind enough to answer a few questions about the logistics of eating raw and shed some light on her experience as a raw foodist.  You can visit their store online or contact them via phone to get hooked up with amazing recipes and the most conscious raw products.  Get excited about OMG! Foods.   
Oh My Goodness Foods
2118 Kerr St
Boise, ID
(208) 859 4253

LK: Why raw food? What first brought you to raw foods?
TM. I first heard about raw food about four years ago. It took a year of me hearing about it over and over to try it out for myself. I had just found out I was very allergic to dairy and was devastated about quitting cheese. I searched the internet for "vegan" dairy alternatives and tried recipes for raw ranch dressing, raw cashew cheese, raw hemp milk and raw cheesecake. I was hooked! At least half hooked, I was about 50% raw, mostly consisting of nut and seed dishes, not many greens. Two and half years went by struggling with trying to perfect my diet while occasionally relapsing and getting hooked on sugar and dairy again. Last winter by body had had it. It said, "STOP!" I got sick, all my health problems started to accumulate until I felt like a toxic blob. I picked up a copy of "Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine" by Gabriel Cousens and read it all in one sitting. I was blown away. I made the decision to go 100% raw, and not only would I do it for three whole months, the first month with NO sugar whatsoever; not even fruit. The sweetest thing I could consume was a red pepper. For the first week I went through what felt like drug withdraw with none of my precious sugar. I was miserable. But lo' and behold by week two all of my health issues went away 100%. Hmmm, there must be something to this! Raw, living food has become my lifestyle. At three months all my craving for junky or cooked food had disappeared, and I decided to go for four months. At four months I decided for six. Now I am almost at 7 months completely raw. I do not want to ever go back. I feel amazing. Not only do I have more energy, my skin shines, I have reached my ideal weight, but also my mind feels clear. Issues including PMS, feeling run down, pimples and digestive problems have all gone away! I feel in total control of my body and my health. Being alive has become that much better and brighter. All just from eating raw, living foods!

LK: How did you and Kev start "OMG" up? What was your inspiration and what were you up against?
TM: Since raw food is a lifestyle food shopping becomes a whole new experience! Through traveling we have realized that there is a huge assortment of different raw, living foods, and the goal of Oh My Goodness is to offer the highest quality foods on the planet. Having become so passionate about raw, living foods we wanted to spread the love! Raw foods, especially super-foods, are rather expensive at health food stores so the idea popped into our minds to have a more affordable store specializing in organic, raw super-foods. We make sure that all of our prices are as affordable as they can be. It has been so fulfilling to see people come over and buy the most amazing products to put in their bodies, and improve their health.
What are we up against? We are up against a deep part of the human psyche. We see so many different stages of people’s defenses against and acceptance of changing what they eat. We have heard it takes 35 times for someone to hear something before they can bring it into their own individual consciousness. So we are working on it! 

LK: How would your respond to the controversy surrounding raw food as sustainable nutrition? Also how do you respond to doubts that a raw diet can support fully support us nutritionally?
TM: I wondered at times about eating things that come from all corners of the world, and what impact that has on our environment. Looking into these amazing companies, their ethics are through the roof. All the products are fair trade, and some companies go as far as offsetting their carbon foot print by planting trees among other things. Since this a newer thing, it will continue to get better and better. For example: growing goji berries in the U.S.

LK: Also how do you respond to doubts that a raw diet can support fully support us nutritionally especially those of us who exhibit characteristics of the windy Vata?
TM: I am of the vata dosha and always cold! Dr. Gabriel Cousens goes into these issues in depth in his book "Conscious Eating" and "Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine". There are many heating spices that I use daily to keep me warm like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. I also do a lot of raw soups that I heat on the stove to 120 degrees. That is still very warm! When I eat recipes that require the dehydrator I always take them out when they are still warm. I believe that a raw food diet can work for everyone, it just needs to be individualized to one’s body to work!

LK: What’s your favorite simple raw recipe that we can all enjoy!

TM: These were two of my first and they’re always winners…
Raw Cheese:
1 C cashews
1 TB lemon
salt to taste
(add anything else you like, red pepper makes it nacho cheese, garden spices make it herbed cheese, etc.)
*Blend until creamy

Raw Ranch:
1/4C olive oil
1/8C lemon juice
1-2TB Apple cider vinegar
1TB Agave nectar
1C water
1/2C Sunflower Seeds (soaked)
1C Hemp seeds
1tsp Garlic
1tsp Onion
3/4tsp Salt
1/4tsp Pepper
1TB Dill
1/4C Parsley (fresh, if possible)
1/8C Basil (fresh, if possible)
*Blend, and enjoy!

***Thank you, Tessa and Kev!***

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Avoid The Medicine Cabinet This Fall...

Avoid The Medicine Cabinet By Stocking your Kitchen Cabinet This Fall

            Look, no matter how frequently your neti pot is in rotation we’re all susceptible to the autumnal sniffles of the common cold.  In order to avoid defaulting to your medicine cabinet it is key to have a properly stocked kitchen cabinet.  Prevention is the name of the game, folks.  It doesn’t take make much and it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive either.
            Okay, this might be blasphemous, but truth be told you don’t need tea.   We all enjoy it and that’s great but, invest in some fresh ginger (which stores best in the freezer, actually).  Starting the morning off by steeping grated ginger in hot water and squeezing some lemon juice in it goes a long way.  And what’s more, the concoction is not a diuretic like most teas are so you won’t suffer from dehydration which puts our bodies at risk often without us knowing it.
                        Oregano oil.  Amazing.  Pick it up at a local natural foods store and, along with your ginger brew in the morning take a few drops orally.  Oil of oregano is attributed with characteristics including antibiotic properties, powerful anti-parasitic properties, natural antihistamine and antiviral.  And the best thing about this substance? Your body is not going to build a tolerance to its efficacy as you would with pharmaceutical antibiotics.
Let’s not forget about vitamin C either.   However, instead of chugging 8 oz of pasteurized (deadened) orange juice have a grapefruit or an orange before brekky and you’ll be set.
Avoid dairy.  I know, people love cheese.  But it only increases unnecessary mucus production in the body.  Keep it moderate, and, if you have to get your dairy fix try goat dairy as it ‘s much easier to digest in our one-stomached system than cow dairy and thus does not ignite the creation of mucus in the sinuses and throat the way cow dairy does
            So, you’ve taken the necessary precautions and you still get the sniffles? It’s okay.  My preferred remedy, and all my school teacher friends swear by it, is “kick-ass immune” which you can get at the natural food store and take orally.
            Beware of homeopathy.   Although it is a popular route to take towards curing ailments in new-age culture there is very little research to show that homeopathic cures are actually effective.  It might just be a waste of your money and time. As E. Ernst of the University of Exeter writes, “…there was no condition which responds convincingly better to homeopathic treatment than to placebo or other control interventions. Similarly, there was no homeopathic remedy that was demonstrated to yield clinical effects that are convincingly different from placebo.”[1]
            That said I think for myself, if I get a cold this fall, I’m going for the kick-ass immune and heavy dose of some kava extract.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12492603

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bro-Dudes Can Practice Yoga, Too!

Bro-Dudes Can Practice Yoga, Too!

            Alright, let’s get off the spiritual high horse for just a minute.  Just because they aren’t rallying for the left while drinking kombucha and reading texts published by Shambhala Publications with one eye while checking the Huffington Post with the other (or maybe, come to think of it, they are) it doesn’t mean a bro-dude has to embody the spiritually devoid stereo-type I’m sure plenty of us in “yoga-culture” feed into. 
As it turns out just because you’re a bro-dude it doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga.  What do I mean by “bro-dude?”  As my friend Eric Leven writes, “A "bro" is your quintessential all American frat boy. You know the guy, (they pretty much all live in Murray Hill and get drinks at Tonic bar/lounge) button-down shirts, works in financial, loves to talk about his frat days and how much he'd drink, get stoned, get laid and listen to heady music (Grateful Dead, Phish, Bob Marley.) These are the characteristics which make up a true bro.” Let me be honest.  I’ve often caught myself looking down on these frat-kids and investment bankers from high up on the cushion. Having lived in Boulder, CO for roughly six years I was surrounded by fraternities and snowboarders.  I don’t generally think of myself as the type to judge, however, I’m now realizing that my time spent there involved a lot of time learning how to judge.
So I was surprised when I came across an article on the NPR website titled “From Togas to Yoga: Fraternities Try to Alter Image.” Chana Joffe-Walt writes, “Over at George Washington University's Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, the brothers are on the basement floor, concentrating on their breathing. That's right: The frat boys are doing yoga. They are sweaty, red-faced, earnest and incredibly inflexible.  But the downward dog, the talk about manly virtue, it's all almost too much. Where's the fun?”[1]
So they’re practicing.  Why, then, ask “Where’s the fun?” Perhaps it’s not the “bro-dudes” creating the image of binge drinking with a touch of elitist snobbery set to the tune of a Jack Johnson song.  Rather, maybe the spiritual academic community should soften a little more and take a look at our own spiritual elitism.  Svadhyaya , or self study, is something we are taught to practice not so we can judge others but so that in releasing judgments upon ourselves we can in turn do the same for all of those around us.
So come on down, bro-dudes, and bring your sick tunes with you.  Let’s practice!

'Tis the Season to be Vata...

‘Tis the Season to Be Vata!

            As the summer comes to an end the air is pierced with a brisk autumn freshness.  Along with the seasonal changes of leaves turning vibrant reds and yellows and the need to layer and (dare I say it?) bust out a light jacket the fiery Pitta energy of hot summer gives way to the cool windy Vata disposition of fall.   So how do we deal with this doshic change? It’s time to put away our fruit salads and raw leafy greens and embrace a more Vata-pacifying diet. 
            As someone who is entirely Vata all year round I find this change of seasons invigorating and, also, demanding.  But have no fear! It’s the time of year when a pocketful of easy-to-prepare warming recipes can bring our constitutions into balance and even inspire the sociable Vata energy to host a delicious dinner party or romantic meal for two.
            I’m including here a few simple recipes to cut the chill and warm the belly in a macrobiotic vegan fashion that will have even the most dedicated of omnivores drooling.  Simply follow the instructions and enjoy!

The Menu: (serves 4)
Spicy Pureed Yam and Acorn Squash Soup
Brown Rice and Sprouted Bean Pilaf
Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
Baked Tofu
Sundried Tomato Tahini Sauce
Baked Sweet Balsamic Apple Dessert

Spicy Pureed Yam and Acorn Squash Soup
-4 yams (peeled & diced)
-1 acorn squash (halved & save seeds)
-3 cloves garlic
-1 chili pepper
-4 tlbs canola oil
-2 tlbs unrefined sesame oil
-Himalayan Salt
-Fresh Ground Pepper
-One whole yellow onion (diced)
-4 cups water

Set the oven to 400. Place the yams, halved acorn squash, chili pepper and peeled whole garlic in a metal baking dish after lightly covering them in canola oil.  Sprinkle cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper into the squash.  Cover in tinfoil and bake until soft.
Rinse the acorn squash seeds and create a pocket with tinfoil.  Drizzle sesame oil on the seeds and sprinkle with cayenne, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake until brown.
Toss the diced onion with remaining canola oil and set to simmer in a covered pan.  Cook on low until the onion has caramelized.
While the yams etc. are still baking combine the water and caramelized onion in a food processor and blend.
Remove the yams, squash, garlic and chili pepper from the oven.  Remove the skin from the squash and dice the pepper.  In small increments add the vegetables to the onion broth in the food processor until blended to desired soup consistency.
To serve ladle the soup into a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil, top with toasted seeds and enjoy! (You’ll probably have extra but just store it in a zip lock in the freezer!)

Brown Rice and Mung Bean Pilaf
-1/2 cup brown rice
-1/2 cup mung beans
-1/2 cup lentils
-2 hearts of celery  (diced)
-1/4 cup goji berries
-2 tlbs sesame oil
-salt to taste
-pepper to taste

Combine brown rice with one cup of water in a pot cover and boil until water has absorbed.  Remove from head and toss the diced celery and goji berries in with the brown rice.  Cover and let the heat soften the celery and the gojis.
I like to use the “truRoots” sprouted green lentils and sprouted mung beans although any will do.  If you must go the canned route go for it but soaking the beans is my preferred method. Whichever method you choose boil until soft and drain.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with salt, pepper and sesame oil.

Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
-I large turnip (diced)
-I bunch carrots (diced)
-3 nicely sized golden beets (peeled and diced)
-2 cups brussel sprouts (halved)
-2 tlbs sesame oil
-2 tlbs balsamic vinegar

Combine the ingredients in mixing bowl and toss until lightly covered in oil.  Transfer to a backing dish.  Cover with tinfoil.   Cook at 400 until desired softness/golden brown edges.

Baked Tofu
I brick firm tofu
-2tlbs Soy sauce
-2tlbs Canola oil

Remove tofu from packaging and press water out using two large paper bags.  Drain as much as possible.  Cut the tofu into four triangles by halving its width and cutting diagonally across the resulting rectangles.  Marinate in soy sauce.  Place in baking pan after covering lightly in oil . Cover with tinfoil and cook until brown on the bottom. Flip and replace until equally browned on both sides.

The Sauce:
-1/2 cup raw tahini
-1/4 cup water
-juice from ½ a large lemon
-splash of soy sauce to taste

Combine the ingredients in your food processor until consistency is creamy adding the water slowly and stopping when necessary.  Flavor to taste with the soy sauce.

To Serve:
Scoop pilaf into the bottom of a bowl.  Top with 1 piece tofu and a scoop of vegetables.  Pour the sauce on top.  Serve with a side of the squash soup.

Dessert: (cook while you’re eating dinner)
-2 apples (cored/halved)
-sesame oil
-2 tlbs  raw honey
-balsamic to drizzle

Toss the apples with oil and cinnamon. Place in baking dish and drizzle with balsamic.  Cover with tinfoil and back in oven at 400 until soft and golden brown.
Remove from oven, scoop a bit of honey in the halved apples and replace cover. Let cool slightly.  Serve and enjoy.


                                                                                                -Lily Kardon