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Posts Tagged ‘Mind Body’

What's your idea of heaven on earth?

Hey Guys!

I’m busy planning my next Yoga getaway.  

Yes, I’m thrilled to be hosting another retreat.

Just this week, I met with Chef Maria, also a student of mine, to sketch out the menus. Maria has helped me in the past with the catering aspect of the Yoga retreats, and now she’s doing so in a more official capacity. I’m super psyched to have her onboard! This way I know the food prep is in excellent hands, and I can focus even more energy on teaching my awesome students.

Trust me, the menus we are planning are our very best yet. We have our basic outline, and of course will allow for what is freshest/in season/looks good in our final shopping trip before the getaway.

So where are we going? To Upstate New York. In early summer.  To spend some precious, rejuvenating time here:

Partial view of our retreat house in Upstate NY. I say "our" like we own the place. Ha! For the weekend, we rent it. One of my dreams is to someday own a retreat center of my own, perhaps some place out West.

One of the students who came to the Fall Harvest retreat I did back in early November of 2010, said that she now thinks of this spot Upstate as a “happy place,” that she returns to from time to time in her mind’s eye when day-to-day life gets to be a bit much. What’s you’re happy place?

I definitely think beautiful mountains and woods, lots of nature, flowers, and green, is happy for me. Plus beautiful rocks and clean, pure, moving water. I love beaches, too.  So Colorado but with a temperate beach in my backyard. Ha! Obviously I don’t think of such environs as my day-to-day environment. For me, they’re getaways. (For now; let’s never say never; spending more time in the mountains and on the beach is very possible).

So when I ran across this passage in a book just today, it struck me that this sounded like my Day to Day Heaven on Earth. Check it out:

Situated on the unpaved banks of the Seine in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly, La Roseraie, home to les Madrus, was names for its lush, rose-filled gardens. The property also contained a handsome grape arbor where lunch was served on sunny days. A henhouse was headquarters for two roosters named Ali and Baba, a harem’s worth of chickens,  few golden pheasants, and a score of huge Toulouse geese. In addition to this menagerie were a tame gazelle, a goat, a few angora rabbits, and an alley cat that wandered in one day and became part of the family. The villa’s interior contained thousands of books, handsome Arabian carpets, and practical American style furniture.

—From Wild At Heart, Natalie Clifford Barney’s Journey From Victorian America to the Literary Salons of Paris, by Suzanne Rodriguez. p. 147

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, maybe the birds aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it sounds like fun. Especially the tame gazelle. How cute! I want one! The rose gardens and orchards sound beautiful, especially if someone else is tending them. Ha!

For me, a happy place has plenty of comfy nooks where I can sit and read a book, nap, or lounge and gaze out to a pretty, green, quiet space. This nook at the retreat house fits the bill perfectly. .

So tell me, what’s your happy place?  It doesn’t even have to be real.

Feel free to get creative. I think visualization and letting our imaginations run free is an important part of life. It opens us up to creativity and new possibilities, so that we don’t get too closed into the “same old same old.” AKA a RUT! Hey, I’m all about routine to large degree, but shaking things up can be good, too!

A quick food note before I roll: I’ll be posting a really juicy, delicious Persian chicken kebab recipe soon (as soon as I photograph it). My dining table is always a happy place when that kebab recipe is on the menu. Talk to you all soon.

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Shiva Nataraj, a "dancer's pose" variation. Photo by Marisa Train.

Happy Friday, everyone. I’m so excited for the weekend. And not just because I just got paid. Ha ha ha!

Even though I work weekends, they have a mellow feel, yanno?  I have a hot and fresh new Yoga sequence I’m teaching in my classes, and have a couple of classes I get to take that I’m excited about.

One is a bootcamp taught by one of my mentors, Terri Walsh at her exclusive A.R.T. studio here in Manhattan.  She’s amazing. Imagine having as a mentor someone whose workouts and books you owned in college. Then getting to meet this person in person AND work with them. It’s pretty cool and slightly surreal, in that very NYC type of way.

What are you guys excited about this weekend? Taking any cool trips, classes, or anything else fun going on?

Onward to the promised tippage:

So I’m going to leave you with a motivating quote and a tip on a beautiful new cookbook a fellow blogger just published, plus a little tune-age to welcome the weekend.

1. Yoga and Fitness Tip:

“Reaffirm your strength. Your body can do amazing things, no matter what shape you’re in. Throughout your practice, treat it with care and, rather than fixate on its limitations, pause to thank your body for functioning so well.” –Yoga Journal


Pretty motivating, right? I often find that we’re so much stronger than we realize. If we work intelligently and with strong, focused intention, we can achieve so much. And do so safely, which is vitally important. As I often tell my students, we are so incredibly blessed to be healthy enough to even have a Yoga or fitness practice. And it IS a practice, not a performance or competition.

Increased awareness of how we align our bodies and move our breath will lead to an increased awareness of where we place, align, and move our energies in our lives.

2. Food Tip: Cookbook Giveaway via Ivy’s blog:


Enter to win this awesome cookbook at http://kopiaste.org/

If you haven’t checked out Ivy’s blog and cookbook yet, you really should. I’ll admit than I’m new to her blog myself, but am so excited to have discovered it. She just published a cookbook, something I plan to do someday myself. So she’s already a hero in my book. Her book looks beautiful! She’s running a giveaway of it, so do click on over and enter.

Ok, final tip:

3. Music Tip:

A couple of tunes I’m soooo into.

One is by a cat named Gordon Voidwell. I ran across his music a while back and have become a regular at his shows. In fact, he played one last night at Lincoln Center that I got to attend. Fun!

To me, his tunes sound like a cross between old school funk like Parliament, catchy, intelligent Blondie-esque pop, and a dash of Prince and Outkasst thrown in. Even that description doesn’t begin to describe it adequately, so have a listen to his single, “Ivy League Circus” and see what you think:

Warning, it’s peppy and bouncy, and you might just be motivated to dance your way into the weekend:

If that’s not peppy enough for you, I’m very into this track “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. It’s kinda kitschy, but hey, I’m cool with kitsch. Kinda live for it, actually ;-)

Don’t think they have an original video for it yet, but put this on in the background and enjoy. Have a fabulous weekend!

 

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Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng (Cuz I'm feelin' too lazy to snap my own pic of my sprouts from the farmer's market).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope anyone who’s celebrating is having a most excellent time. And if not, at least excellent food ;-)

What am I grateful for this year? For starters, for taking the year off from being Head Biyatch in Charge in the Kitchen. That’s right, I’m putting up my mitts and saving the cute Anthropologie apron for some other holiday, because I’m officially not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I think the technical term for how I feel about this is: “Wooo hooo!”

To put this into context, this is a major departure for me. I’ve been in charge of Thanksgiving for several years now. Don’t get me wrong; typically, I loved every second of it. Sure, there were stressful moments. (Sourcing organic, free range turkeys can be a bit of a hunt, and prepping and cooking everything takes some planning and coordination).  Yet overall, I was totally into it. Fast forward to this year. For many reasons, both big and small, I strongly felt that I needed a rest from Hostess With the Mostess duties. When I expressed this sentiment to my friend Khat, she promptly invited me to celebrate the holiday with her family in Long Island. Score!

Khat, left, and me, right, at her brother's wedding, April 2010.

Yes, this is the same sweet friend who invites me to dinner on random nights, and whose brother’s traditional Afghan wedding I attended earlier this year.

Speaking of tradition, there will be traditional Thanksgiving foods, including a turkey. But there will also be delicacies prepared in the Afghan manner, such as leg of lamb, many rice dishes, and elaborate desserts. I can’t freakin’ wait! I’m contributing a dish of Brussels Sprouts with pomegranate molasses, vanilla almond butter, and a garnish of pomegranate seeds. It’s based on this Bobby Flay recipe. I think it will be a nice little pop of green and red to add to the table, and it will meld well with the other flavors.

So I’m off for a pre-dinner power walk, then ramping up to roll out.

Everyone have a great holiday. I’ll leave you with a (partial) list of some of the many people, places, and things I’m extremely thankful for:

  • My health
  • Family and friends (a truly amazing assortment of people are in my life)
  • My readers/bloggies/Twitter friends (you guys rock and are just so fun, talented, and amazing)
  • My Yoga students (the best, seriously!)
  • My Yoga teachers, past and present
  • Being an omnivore with no serious food allergies
  • Books, magazines, etc
  • Hot chocolate (Actually, chocolate of ANY kind)
  • My cat (he’s on my lap now. What a sweet and funny boy he is)
  • Yoga
  • Nature
  • Freedom
  • Having a roof over my head
  • Thanksgiving (one of my fave holidays; it’s not religious; anyone can “play”)
  • Food, especially veggies
  • Green smoothies
  • My naturopathic/Ayurvedic doctor (a Godsend!)
  • That I got to go to the U.S. Open (tennis) again this year
  • Music
  • That both of the Yoga retreats I hosted this year went well
  • That I got to teach a class at Lululemon this year
  • Some fun travel this year to places I’d never been
  • Inner peace and serenity, when I find it. It’s always there. We just have to be open to tapping into it.

Much light, peace, and happiness to you all this Thanksgiving,
Bria

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Come join me at Lululemon near Lincoln Square, New York City, this Sunday, November 21. I'll be teaching a FREE class there at 8PM.

It seems like just yesterday that I was a newbie Yoga instructor, longing to be one of those instructors invited to teach an in-store class at Lululemon Athletica. (Maker and seller of the fabulous, durable, and bootylicious Yoga pants, among other athletic apparel items I lust after). Around the same time as my longings, a friend and fellow instructor applied to work there. She didn’t get the gig, but a couple of years later, she was invited to teach at Lulu. Talk about things coming a full circle, right? It just shows that we are often exactly where we need to be. Now it’s my turn to give a class at Lulu, and I’m so very thrilled that NYSC and Lululemon have offered me this opportunity!

I’ll be at the Lululemon near Lincoln Square THIS Sunday, November 21, at 8 p.m., teaching a one hour open level Vinyasa Yoga class. The class is all levels, so no, you do not have to be able to, or even aspire to do the pigeon pose variation I’m doing in the pic. ;-)

Lululemon Lincoln Square

1928 Broadway near West 64th Street

Class time from 8-9 p.m. on Sunday, November 21.

So my New Yorker readers who are curious about my class and style, or my students and other peeps who just wanna come out and represent, please do come on by. Yoga mats are provided, so lack of mattage can’t deter you ;-) . And if you stop by, come say hello after the sesh. It’s always fab to meet people in person and their feedback on Yoga.

More event  details here.

Everyone have a fabulous weekend!

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Vegan and gluten free granola bars are packed with taste and nutrition.

Sometimes I’m running around town with little time for a proper meal. At these moments, it’s key to have a nutritious, protein-packed, and not-too-sweet snack to keep me rockin’ (and posing, for that matter). Granola bars from the bodega are alright in a pinch, but I’ve become leery of the ingredient list of certain brands. Too many processed unpronounceables! Others bars  are too darn crispy for my taste. You see, I want something with a chewy, almost cookie-like texture, but a better nutritional profile. Not that I’m obsessing over fat grams here (hell no–these bars have plenty of good fat, I’ll admit). It’s just that sometimes I’d rather not spend my afternoon in the throes of a blood sugar crash. Dig? Okay, time to customize.

Today’s granola bars fit the bill. They’re gluten-free, vegan (if you make with something other than honey), and free of peanuts. They’re based on this recipe by Giada de Laurentiis. Of course, me being me, the recipe was only a jumping off point.  Serious tweakage ensued!

How much do you guys tweak recipes? Me, I do it all the time. Certain things I don’t tweak as much, like baked goods. Well, I guess technically these are baked goods, but I’m talking more along the lines of breads, cakes, etc.  Those I generally won’t tweak , at least the first time around ;-)

Portable goodness.

In tweaking this recipe. . .I 86-ed the dairy (butter), replacing it with coconut oil. The egg got cut out; in its place? Ground flax paste. The peanut butter next got the boot; I used almond butter instead. I cut back a bit on the honey and in its place,  added in a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin butter to give the bars a hint of fall flavor. Instead of chocolate chips, I kept the fall motif going with cranberries and raisins. The result? Tasty, filling, not-to-sweet and definitely something you’ll want to portion out. Otherwise, you might eat more than just one bar!

Make a couple of batches of them on a Sunday night, and have them to snack on all week. The texture is somewhere between a chewy cookie and a traditional crunchy granola bar. Cut them into bar shapes, wrap them in foil or plastic, and you’re really to roll.

Vegan Granola Bars with a Hint of Pumpkin

Ingredients

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax paste (ground flax seeds mixed with water to form a paste with a texture similar to a beaten egg).
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey ( for 100% vegan option, you could use molasses, agave, or maple syrup)
  • 2 Tablespoons pumpkin butter (I used Trader Joe’s brand; love that stuff!)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (If gluten free is a concern, make sure you purchase certified gluten free oats)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Spray an 8 by 8-inch nonstick baking pan with vegetable cooking spray.

3. To a medium bowl, stir together flax paste, almond butter, brown sugar, pumpkin butter, and honey. Add the melted coconut oil, oats and almonds. Stir to combine, then add the raisins and cranberries

4.Spread mixture into the prepared baking pan, pressing lightly to form an even layer. Bake until the edge of the mixture begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1 hour. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares and serve.

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At the Masker Orchards in Warwick, New York.

Hello again! I’ve been busy lately with work, specifically with my Yoga retreat that I hosted in Upstate New York this past weekend.  It was fabulous. I couldn’t have ask for a more fun, caring, and open-minded group of people. From the moment everyone walked in, we all just clicked. It was synergy at its finest!

Like one of the participants, Maria, said, it’s so fascinating to meet new people and see how they’ve chosen to write the books of their lives. Here’s a look at some of our weekend:

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The retreat was better than I could’ve ever dreamed. But none of this would’ve been possible if my Yoga mentor and founder of Yoga4Soul,  Jojo Tyler, hadn’t shown me the ropes on running retreats a few months back. He also clued me into this spot we used as our retreat house, the Grail. Big thanks to you, Jojo. We miss you! Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

Back soon with some recipes.  In the meantime, the stew recipe pictured above can be found here.

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Hot cocoa with some chai spices thrown in . . .a joyful morning delight.


In my world, few things make a morning more tolerable, maybe even a tad joyful, than a steaming cup of homemade hot cocoa. I actually somewhat look forward to the cold winter mornings for this very reason. Perhaps this means I need to investigate the possibility of getting a life, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with being amused by the smaller, simpler pleasures, right?

Community garden in Harlem that I spotted on a recent walk. Sadly, this sliver of property, sandwiched in between brownstones, is for sale. I wish it could stay as it is–a wonderful seasonal space.

It’s fun to play around with the flavorings of hot chocolate. Like my Persian Hot Chocolate–dark chocolate infused with cardamom and saffron. Here are my tips on how to make the perfect cup:

  • Always use the highest quality cocoa powder (or nibs, or whatever) you can find. Droste’s is a good brand that costs a bit more, but I find worth it.
  • Go with unsweetened if possible. Just try it! Dark and unsweetened is my personal favorite. You can always add sweetness to your taste. Who knows, you may come to love, as I sometimes do, a cup of unsweetened hot cocoa.
  • Use milk for a rich and creamy taste, but definitely consider dairy alternatives. Some of my favorite hot chocolate “base” milks are coconut milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, and rice milk.
  • Have fun and get creative flavoring your drink. Take a hint from coffeehouses. Mint mocha? Mint hot chocolate!  Hazelnut flavoring? Hazelnut hot choc. Chai Latte? How about a Chocolate Chai Latte? In fact, let’s do that now:

Hot Chocolate Chai Latte

For one serving:

  • 8 ounces milk of choice
  • 2 generous Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 Chai tea teabag OR a quarter-sized chunk of fresh ginger, a few black peppercorns, and a cinnamon stick (or a teaspoon of cinnamon powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Sweetener of choice (stevia, sugar, etc)

Directions:
1. Warm a non-reactive sauce pan under low heat. Add in chocolate and lightly “toast” for 20-30 seconds over low heat to bring out the flavors.

2. Add in one-third of the milk and whisk until chocolate is lump-free and well-dissolved into the milk.

3. Add in the rest of the milk and whisk again. If using the teabag, add it in now. Or, add in the fresh ginger, peppercorns, and cinnamon. This allows the spicy flavors to infuse.

4. Do not boil, but cook on low heat until the edges of the milk start to bubble.

5.  Stir in vanilla (if using) and remove from heat. Pour into serving cup of choice.

6.  If using sweetener, sweeten to taste and enjoy!

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