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My next retreat IS somewhere beachy. St. Lucia, May 12-19, 2013, to be precise.

My next retreat IS somewhere beachy. St. Lucia, May 12-19, 2013, to be precise.

Wow, it’s really happening! I’m offering a Caribbean Yoga Getaway in St. Lucia with my dear friend and fellow Yoga teacher Charlie Polanco-Ali. For so long, I’ve wanted to host a tropical Yoga vacay AND to team up with Charlie on a Yoga project. Both are happening now. Talk about the power of dreams and manifestation.

I am so very grateful. Especially after some setbacks in the later portion of 2012 that, honestly, were quite draining. After a time of darkness, a progression like this feels that much sweeter.

Lately I’ve been so busy teaching my weekly NYC classes, working on St. Lucia logistics, and being social. There’s been precious little time for recipe development. I miss it!

Ideally, I’ll have some inspiring food for you guys soon. Until then, here’s some info on the St. Lucia Yoga Getaway. Have a great weekend! Dream some tropical dreams!

Mark your calendar for May 12-19, 2013!

Ever dream of an island getaway with perfect balance of fun sun and Yoga? Dream no more! This is the nature lover’s yoga retreat.

Horseback-Riding-St-LuciaCharlie’s last St. Lucia Yoga vacation SOLD OUT! Hop onboard now to secure your spot!

Join Bria Tavakoli & Charles Polanco-Ali for an unforgettable frolic in stunning St. Lucia. We’ll share our creative, intelligent, and healing Vinyasa yoga flow in a relaxing tropical setting.

Get unplugged.  Turn off your alarm clocks and awaken to the sound of song birds.  Turn off your sound machines and TVs and be lullabyed by the sound of ocean waves and the sight of starry nights.  Inhale fresh air, sunshine and renewed energy.  Exhale frustration, aggravation and anxiety.

Banyan-VerandaThe Balenbouche Estate offers an opportunity to step back in time and experience a more natural, simple and traditional St. Lucian way of life, which is authentic and environmentally and socially sustainable.  This secluded 200-acre paradise with its diverse and colorful variety of plants, animals, trails, valleys, views, beaches and waterways, offers an opportunity to get back in touch with our natural environment and ourselves.  We have booked the entire Balenbouche Estate property exclusively for you our guests! A Caribbean cocktail to wind your day down? Cool! It’s your getaway, so make it as chill or as active as you wish. Don’t wait…. Rejuvenate!

Banyan-Cottage-Living-RoomYour Caribbean holiday includes:

  • 7 days, 6 nights accommodation at the Balenbouche Estate
  • Beautiful charming, vintage Cabana accommodations (two couples’/friends’ villas are available on a first come, first serve basis)
  • Daily Yoga practices, either on the beach, the lawn, or in the estate’s indoor Yoga barn
  • 3 Organic Meals Daily (with exception of arrival & departure days)
  • Meditation daily
  • Fun local island activities
  • Beachy time on a lush 200-acre private estate
  • Time to relax, chill, frolic, and dream
  • We have some fabulous group outings planned. Please note that guest cover their own: Airfare
    Optional Excursions (see this page for ideas)
    Spa Treatments
    Individual Car Rentals

???????????????????????????????No need to be a crazy Yoga pretzel type to rock this retreat. Child’s pose more your style? No problem. Never done Yoga? No biggie! Yoga stars, don’t worry…we have plenty of tricks and challenges up our Lulus for you to enjoy, too.

Prefer a Caribbean cocktail to wind your day down? Cool, enjoy it! It’s your getaway, so make it as chill or active as you wish.

Why Wait? Rejuvenate!

May is the PERFECT time to visit St. Lucia. It is far from both the rainy season and hurricane season. The average May temperature is a balmy 83 degrees F.

See tons of pics here.

Rates start at $1250 per person for double occupancy. Single occupancy is $1450 per person.

The last retreat Charlie ran in St. Lucia SOLD OUT. My retreats SELL OUT regularly. Sign up today to secure your spot. Don’t wait…Create…an amazing getaway for yourself and maybe someone close to you.

My next retreat might be somewhere beachy.
A belated Happy 2013, everyone. Hope the new year is treating you wonderfully. I’m popping up quickly to alert my NYC Yoga students to some exciting schedule changes.
If you practice with me in Harlem, you’re in luck. Starting this weekend two of my weekend classes are now 90 minutes.
Sundays, 8-9:30 AM at the NYSC at 145th and 8th Avenue (Note the earlier start time)
Sundays, 1:30-3 PM at the NYSC at 115th and 5th Avenue
This is so exciting! So many of my Uptown yogis have been practicing with me for years now. Longer classes mean we can spend more time working on seated postures, challenge poses, meditation, breathing techniques, restorative postures, and enjoying a longer savasana. I’m open to requests, always, so if there’s something you want to explore, let me know.
One more thing…I’m working now on finalizing my next retreat. Hint: Looks like it will involve beaches!
Have a great weekend, everyone. Here’s my current teaching sked in case you needed something to tattoo to your forehead ;-) :
Mondays, 10:30 AM at NYSC at 23rd and Park. Format:  Hatha/Slow Flow Vinyasa Yoga
Mondays, 12:15 PM at NYSC at Union Square (14th St near 5th Ave). Format: Vinyasa Yoga.
Tuesdays, 7 AM at NYSC at 145th Street. Format: Vinyasa Yoga
Tuesdays, 1:45 PM at NYSC at Grand Central.  Format: Vinyasa Yoga
Tuesdays, 7 PM at The District. Format: Open Yoga (residential, members only)
Wednesdays, 12 PM at NYSC at Mercer. Format: Vinyasa Yoga
Thursdays, 7 AM at NYSC at 145th Street. Format: Vinyasa Yoga
Thursdays, 12 PM at NYSC at 59th and Park Avenue. Format: Vinyasa Yoga
Saturdays, 12:30-2 PM at NYSC at Union Square (14th St near 5th Ave). Format: Vinyasa Yoga.
Sundays, 8:00-9:30 AM at NYSC at 145th Street. Format: Hatha/Slow Flow Vinyasa Yoga
Sundays, 1:30-3 PM at NYSC at 115th and 5th Avenue. Format: Vinyasa Yoga.

A neighborhood park in Paris (Montmartre).

My New York students may have heard that I was away for a minute. I’m back now. Missed ya’ll! London and Paris were great. It was a total blessing to get to take such a trip, and I aim to post some related pics, recipes, and randomness about my trip eventually.

I know many of you have travels of your own planned and we move deeper into the holiday season. How can we keep our Yoga practices alive during this time? My thoughts:

1. Keep things simple. A few basic poses daily, plus even a minute of meditation can make a huge difference. For example, while I was away, I did the Five Tibetan Rites  almost daily.  I also meditated briefly most days.

Pajama Yoga, anyone? Here I am on my friend’s balcony in London, keeping my Yoga practice alive.

2. Do what you can to keep the connection to your practice, and yourself, alive. Part of Yoga is flexibility and nimbleness not only of the mind, but of the body. Ditch the “all or nothing mentality.” Instead of locking into a rigid idea of what your Yoga practice “should” be, why not fully focus on a few simple poses daily while away. You can get back to your favorite teachers and lengthier classes when you return.

3. Employ technology. Podcasts, Youtube vids, DVD’s if you’re feeling very 90s. More on some great options below.

4. Know that your practice might improve if you back off a bit. This totally happens to me. For example, my heels are closer to the ground now in downward facing dog than they were before I left. Yes, I was active on my trip, but in different ways, which allowed my body to heal and change in unexpected ways.

Bise wants to know if those are the mountains out there in the distance somewhere. Why yes, they are there, kitteh!

By the way, some of my students have asked me if I have any YouTube videos of my teaching. The answer is, “Not yet. But I am indeed working on that as a long-term project.” For reals.

Meanwhile, here are some tips for Yoga you can do at home, or on travels of your own:

Baron Baptiste in bakasana (crow pose).

If you’re looking for a podcast, Baron Baptiste Power Yoga is a solid bet. I haven’t personally studied with Baron, but have practiced via his videos.  Reliably good stuff.

Yoga Today is a pretty cool site. My favorite thing about them is that they practice out in nature, with beautiful natural scenery as a backdrop. They don’t flow as much as we do in most of my classes, just FYI. They offer a free weekly class. Remember, repetition brings nuance, so you could keep things simple by doing the free class throughout the week. More info from their site:

YogaToday.com photo courtesy by Jesse Brown.

Discover a new way to do yoga. Search, stream, and download from our library of over 200 one-hour video classes –in settings that harmonize with the postures and at the level and intensity that’s best for you.

Much more than a convenient practice, Yoga Today is a growing community where you can immerse yourself in a lifestyle of health and wellbeing.

Finally, YogaGlo is a site a few of my students are into. I’ll probably be into it myself very soon. Yes, as a teacher I do my own self-practice. But sometimes you want to be led and inspired by another person :-)

Yogaglo.com offers a cool variety of classes, including restorative Yoga, which I LOVE!

More on YogaGlo:
Our goal is to offer online classes free of advertising.  You get unlimited access to YogaGlo classes with an $18/month membership, the price you would normally pay for one class.  You can experience YogaGlo classes with full screen HD or normal quality video.  You can sort archived classes according to teacher, style, level, duration and specific use. 

I hope this info inspires you to keep your Yoga practice going if you have one, and perhaps to check out some Yoga if you’re curious. It’ll be a beautiful addition to your holiday season and life. Promise!

Let me know if you have any questions, ya hear?

Calm in the Storm

Thanks, everyone, for all the check-ins during this crazy storm. My phone’s been blowin’ up with “are you okay” messages from friends and loved ones near and far, and I truly appreciate that. I am totally fine here in NYC; the storm hasn’t affected me in any bad way at all. Thankfully.

I intend to resume my normal teaching schedule tomorrow (Wednesday, October 31. Halloween!)

Follow me on The Twitter for updates on my sked.

East Coasters, stay safe out there. Sending love and light.

New Yoga photos coming soon. For now, this must suffice.

In New York City this weekend and looking for something interesting to do?

Groundbreaking Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami will be in town on Saturday, October 6, screening his 1990 film “Close-Up” at the Modern School of Film at 2 p.m..Afterwards, he’ll be discussing the film.

I have a lot of respect for Kiarostami’s work. He also directed “Ten,” one of my favorite films of all time.

From Wikipedia:

Renowned Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami. He reportedly wears dark shades not just to appear cool, but because his eyes are sensitive to light.

Close-Up (1990), narrates the story of the real-life trial of a man who impersonated film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into believing they would star in his new film. The family suspects theft as the motive for this charade, but the impersonator, Hossein Sabzian, argues that his motives were more complex. The part documentary, part staged film examines Sabzian’s moral justification for usurping Makhmalbaf’s identity, questioning his ability to sense his cultural and artistic flair.[21][22] Close-Up received praise from directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard, and Nanni Moretti[23] and was released across Europe.

Kiarostami was one of the few directors who remained in Iran after the 1979 revolution, when many of his colleagues fled to the west, and he believes that it was one of the most important decisions of his career. He has stated that his permanent base in Iran and his national identity have consolidated his ability as a filmmaker:

When you take a tree that is rooted in the ground, and transfer it from one place to another, the tree will no longer bear fruit. And if it does, the fruit will not be as good as it was in its original place. This is a rule of nature. I think if I had left my country, I would be the same as the tree.-Abbas Kiarostami[8]

Carrot Cake Cookies

Moist, cakey…like a cross between a cookie, a cake, and a muffin. Cream cheese icing optional. I found these cookies delicious without it.

Carrot cake is awesome, isn’t it? In cookie form, it’s pretty amazing, too. Especially when the cookie is moist and cakey at the same time, much like actual carrot cake. Bonus: cookies are soooo much more portable than cakes, or even cupcakes. Throw these in a picnic basket or lunch box, and you’re good to go.

At my last Yoga retreat.

I rigged up this recipe when looking to create a cookie  for my upcoming Yoga retreat. I wanted something with fall flavors and a comfort food vibe. I looked around online and found a handful carrot cake cookie recipes. With a few modifications, the cookies easily become healthier, with zero loss of flavor or texture.

My carrot cake cookies don’t taste “free” of anything, but they are indeed free of many common allergens, including dairy, gluten, and, if you prefer, tree nuts. Of course there’s sugar, but a moderate amount.  There is egg in them, but you could likely leave it out and just do a flax or chia “egg.” (Leave me a comment if you try it to let us know how it goes). These cookies are packed with flavor and a beautiful texture.

Carrot Cake Cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies.

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) oat flour (simply grind 1 cup whole oats into a flour-like texture in your food processor or blender. If gluten free is a concern, get certified GF oats)
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (Yes, it’s a lot. Trust me on this).
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, at room temperature (I use Trader joe’s brand; Sunbutter brand is good, too)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light both work)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (note: these ARE a tree nut; leave out if needed. I personally prefer my cookies minus nuts, and leave them out.)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a nice, roomy mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients: oat flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and powder, salt.

3. In a second roomy mixing bowl, cream sunflower seed butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Once smooth, add egg and mix until smooth again.

4. Make a well in the wet ingredients. Gently incorporate dry ingredients, 1/3 of the mixture at a time. Fold in raisins, grated carrots, oats, and walnuts (if using).

5. Stash mix in the freezer for 10-15 minutes while you prepare  your cookies sheets. I either line mine with parchment paper, or spray them with cooking spray. One of these days I WILL get a Silpat.

6. Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to make uniform sized dough balls. (I do this by hand and spoon, and each cookie is a generous tablespoon of dough).

7. Bake cookies for 9-14 minutes, until ever so faint cracks appear on the surface. I know 9-14 minutes is quite a range, but I find that variations in altitude and ovens really do make a difference in bake times. In my NYC toaster oven, these cookies are perfect at 9-10 minutes of baking. In Colorado, I had to go closer to 14 minutes, sometimes beyond, in the “big” oven, to get the right texture.

8. Let cool slightly (or a lot, your choice, but I can never wait to try these). Enjoy!

So there you have it. An easy, creative, fall-friendly, carrot cake cookie recipe that is so delicious, you’d never know it’s friendly to many “restricted” diets and actually kinda healthy.

Question Time:

What’s your favorite fall dessert recipe?

Homemade almond milk with vanilla. I get a real kick out of using my vintage style milk bottles to bottle up this creamy drink.

My new friend Ellen, who I met in Colorado this summer, taught me how to make homemade almond milk. (I met her via Airbnb when I rented a room in her place for a few nights during a Yoga workshop weekend I was attending. We totally hit it off. She reminds me a lot of my older sister).

Once back in New York, I was out of almond milk one day and pressed for time. So I decided to give her method a whirl rather than running to the store. It couldn’t be a  simpler DIY, and it’s saving me tons of money. Goodbye to buying almond milk for $4 per half-gallon. At Costco, I can get a 3lb/9 cup bag of almonds for around $8. You can really “milk” this one bag, considering you only use a cup of almonds per batch.

Almonds are loaded with vitamin E.

As for the actual recipe: The first couple of batches I made were super rich and creamy. Pretty awesome, actually. When using this milk to make my hot cocoa…oh my LAWD. Amazing! It was foamy, almost like a cappuccino.

Because I made that maiden batch on the fly, I used unsoaked almonds. The milk was a tad grainy. Didn’t bother me, but something to consider.

If you want a thinner milk, just use more water. Soaking the almonds ahead of time will get you a smoother texture, too. I prefer something in between the super rich and super thin (I’m sure there’s a bad joke in there somewhere), so I go with about 5 to 6 cups of water to a cup of soaked almonds. Foamy, creamy, dreamy!

Homemade Almond Milk

Yield: About 8 cups. Recipe can easily be halved.

  • 1 cup of unsalted almonds (soaked overnight in water, if possible)
  • 5-7 cups of filtered water (use the smaller amount of water for a thicker milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract (optional, or use less if preferred)
  • Sweetener of choice (optional; I usually thrown in a couple of stevia packets. Other options to consider: honey, maple syrup, sugar, etc.)

1. If using soaked almonds, strain and rinse. Add all ingredients into blender, and blend, working from low speed to high. Add more liquid if needed. I let this run for a good minute (or more)  in my VitaMix.

2. Taste for sweetness and texture, and adjust and re-blend as needed.

3. Bottle and refrigerate if not using immediately.

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