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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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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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I’m back, guys! It’s been a busy summer, mainly full of work and my usual queries to the Universe, pondering Important Matters, such as “What is it all about?”  and other Big Questions. It hasn’t all been heavy, thank Gawd!  My Yoga students are wonderful, and I’ve traveled a bit, which always lightens my psychic load. Going through my pics, I realized that there have been a lot of random, fun moments, too. Here’s a slideshow if you’re curious:

By the way, I totally captioned ALL of these pics, but the captions disappeared from a couple, including one of a cool studio space in Brooklyn and some street shots in NYC. Bummer. If I can fix this glitch, I will. If not, I think we’ll all live.

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I’ll be back soon with a fabulous Persian eggplant recipe that’s perfect for Fall, updates on my upcoming Yoga retreat in Upstate New York, and a rundown of my recent travels to Washington, D.C., and beautiful Colorado, land of Columbia blue skies, breathtaking mountains, and luscious greenery.

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This fast, fresh, and delicous avocado tabouli salad is a snap to make on the go. Take the avocado with you and mix the tabouli salad and avo together.

Hey Guys! I’ve been totally MIA, I’m well aware of this. For me, so-called “Summer Hours” involve working two jobs, so it’s not like I’ve been living a life of leisure in, say, the Caribbean. I WISH.

A random snap of morning glories in Harlem. Hmm, "Morning Glories in Harlem" sounds like the name of a play or something. Pic snapped this past weekend on a long walk.

So for days when I’m on the go, this avocado tabouli salad is a quick solution. It’s so simple, I’m not gonna even write out a full recipe. I just pack the avocado with me, keep the tabouli salad in an airtight container (after I’ve bought if from my fave Middle Eastern deli/falafel shack). When it’s time to eat, I bust out a butter knife, cut and slice the avocado, scoop it out, and mix the tabouli and avocado together. Sometimes I sprinkle with all or some of the following:

  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice

That’s it! A fast, fresh, and mostly raw meal. I’ll be posting my own tabouli recipe at some point down the line–full of parsley, mint, and a surprise secret ingredient or two, but first, let me get to the point where I can actually make tabouli again. Not gonna lie–it’s a bit of a process, and I don’t have time at the moment.

In the meantime, enjoy this energizing and filling recipe, and I’ll see you all around again soon. Xoxo!

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Hey gang. I’m back from Texas. Sorry for the dry spell here on the blog. I’ve been working my tail off in the humid, heat waved NYC. This is a busy time of year for me, so if bloggage isn’t as regular, you’ll forgive me and we all can pretend I’m keeping leisurely “summer hours,” right? Which, in a way, I suppose I AM keeping summer hours. Long hours, not leisurely hours, but whatevs. Ha!

Oh, and let me apologize upfront for the randomness of the images in this post. Beauty shots will have to wait, because I’m busy 😉

Luckily, it’s not all work. Mostly work, but not all. You might recall my “Big Fat Afghani Wedding Adventure” post from back in April, where I posted pics of the lavish buffet dinner at a wedding I attended. To be sure, it was a meal to be remembered, and I didn’t eat lightly. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?

I drafted this here post a while back and never got around to publishing it. Now I”m glad, because what better time to publish it than in summer, where there are lots of parties, but also lots of pool and beach and bikini and bathing suit time? For me, this post is especially timely, as I’ll be spending some time at the beach in the coming days.

There’s no need for a large meal to cause ongoing drama. So can we indulge a bit yet still keep on track overall? I definitely think so. It’s important to look at the big picture. One large meal doesn’t have to make or break our eating and health goals. It doesn’t have to be the start of a downward spiral!  But there are a few things we can do before, after, and during the meal to put the odds of bouncing back  in our favor.

As a Yoga teacher, I try to maintain balance, both in my eating and exercise habits. It’s also important to not be rigid–to be flexible and not such a slave to one’s own principles, as of of my friends (also a fellow Yoga teacher) likes to say.

So here are a few tips I find helpful for celebratory special occasion meal. The tips that follow are tips I’ve gleaned from nutritionist friends, research, and my own personal experience, and I share them with my clients, and now, with my readers, too.

I’m using these tips now myself, as my friends Denise and Rich are getting married and their engagement party is coming up. They’re foodies, so you know the cuisine will be excellent. An aside: Denise actually has a really hilarious website called Really Bad Dates that she hasn’t updated in a while, so I encourage everyone to go on over there and submit bunches of bad dates you’ve been on. Your tales of woe are completely anonymous, of course, I’m hoping that she’ll see some fresh new submissions and start updating the site again  (in between bouts of wedding planning and working). Her site’s a winner.

Ok, now on to the tips. Remembering that these tips are not medical advice, and that your mileage may vary. If you have any tips of your own to add, please leave a comment. I’d love to know your tips and tricks for enjoying a big meal without big misery after.

Before the Meal:

1. Cut out or at least limit bread and desserts for a few days (or at least a few hours!) ahead of the meal. Eat lots of vegetables to have a good fiber intake.

2. Daily: Drink a warm cup of filtered water with fresh lemon or lime juice as your first drink of the morning. It’s very cleansing to the digestive tract, liver, and blood. For an extra boost, add in a splash of apple cider vinegar, which can help ease bloat.

3. Consider taking a probiotic, or eating or drinking something with natural probiotics. These helpful bacteria help to ease our digestion. Probiotic sources include kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. Or you can use this vegan probiotic that I happen to like a lot.

4. The day of, eat lightly but don’t starve yourself. What works for me is a green smoothie for breakfast and a large salad with some sort of protein for lunch. For example, the day of the Afghani wedding, I had a late lunch of a spinach salad with a wedge of a vegetarian frittata as a protein source. A filling, nutritious, yet light meal.

4. To further prevent bloat: Only eat fruit on an empty stomach, and well ahead of any protein. Since fruit digests quickly–usually within 45 minutes–it’s important to time when we eat it carefully. Eating it too close to a big meal (either before OR after) can cause bloating, because the fruit gets stuck in our digestive tracts as the bigger, heavier proteins and fats digest. In other words, things get, uh, “backed up.” We start to feel bloat and perhaps constipation. Not fun!

During the Meal:

1. Scope out the buffet/menu choices ahead of time if at all possible, to get a sense of what is available, what you want to eat more of, and what you might prefer to skip.

2. Slow your roll. As in, eat slowly, putting your utensils down in between bites.

3. Use small plates if possible. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Studies have shown that we do tend to eat what’s put in front of us, and I find the small plate trick really works. I do this at home most of the time, except for big servings of salad and veggies.

4. Enjoy. Seriously, this important. If you’re going to have a lavish meal, enjoy every bite. You might even find that by tuning into each bite, you are satisfied with less food overall.

5. Enjoy not just the meal, but the company you’re with. Savor the moment. Life is short, and we have to remember that every moment is precious.

After the Meal:

1.  MOVE! Walk around and/or dance a bit (or a lot!) to stay active.

2.  Lemon Water, again. Start your next morning with warm lemon water again.

3. Probiotics again. Take another probiotic to aid digestion.

4. Drink some unsweetened cranberry juice. This will ease bloating. My double whammy trick to get a healthy dose of  both probiotics and cranberry? Cranberry kombucha.

4. Then drink a green smoothie for breakfast, but only sip it when you’re hungry. You can always make it and take it with you to enjoy once the hunger pangs hit.

5. If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. It’s okay to eat very lightly for a day or two after a large meal.

And what of these green smoothies? Well, here is one basic recipe to try:

Summer Green Smoothie with a Tropical Twist.

Ok, so if you made it to the end of this post, congrats. Got kinda long-winded there! Now go out and enjoy that summer fun!

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Plank variation. Yoga requires us to hold it together (literally!) and let go at the same time. It's a great metaphor for life. Photo by Conrad Turner, shot in Sept. 2008.

The issue of letting go came up in Yoga the other day. Letting go is so freeing, but so many times, we’re simply not ready to let go. Our bodies hold onto things, and letting go completely isn’t always the best or most feasible option in a given moment. This can happen with our minds and with our emotional states as well.  In other words, choosing to let go (or not) is much more than simply a bodily issue.

And heaven knows, this difficulty letting go happens so much in relationships, jobs, and many other areas of our lives. Sometimes letting go has to be done in stages if it’s to be done at all. Sometimes life pulls the rug out from under us, so to speak. I’ve certainly had situations where the Universe did the letting go for me because I wasn’t ready to let go on my own volition.

Kapotasana, pigeon pose variation.

So I said to my students, if letting go and taking that leap of faith seems like too much, why not just loosen our grip a little bit? Ease up on our muscles and joints and bones a tiny bit. We can do that on the Yoga mat, in the gym, when exercising outdoors. On another level: Go a little easier on that person you love but who gets on your last nerve more often than you’d like to admit. Most of all, let’s all try to ease up on ourselves. Just a bit to start.

Because the relationship and energies we create with and within ourselves have a huge impact on how we relate to the world around us and to others.

By easing up just a touch, we make space and room energetically for fresh, healing energies to flood into our lives. Into our bodies, into our hearts, souls, and our minds.

It’s a radical concept, I know. But I’ve been practicing it myself lately and feeling more at ease. Maybe you can try it too and see what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Sometimes nothing bad happens, but we’d never know if we didn’t ease into a slightly less comfortable moment.  Like one of my teachers says, “See what’s on the other side of the pain and discomfort.”

Loosen that grip. Step out on faith. Let go, if only in stages.

Shanti!

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One pot lentil stew with chickpeas, spinach, carrots. My retreat Yogis loved it. It's easy to fix, and it tastes better after a day.

Today’s recipe is one of the very first I got good at cooking, back in my teendom days.  It’s simple, flavorful, and packed full of fiber, protein, iron, and B-vitamins, to name just a few. We’ve had some unseasonably cool days here recently, and settling down in the evening with a big bowl of this stew is oh-so-comforting.

My sister, Mona, left, and I head out for a day of sightseeing and Yoga, with lentil and chickpea stew waiting for us at home upon our return.

Good news: this dish tastes better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two. Love that! This stew was a big hit at the recent Yoga retreat I hosted, and I promised to post the recipe. I also promised my college student sis, Mona, that I’d post this so she can make it up ahead of time and have it on hand for her busy weeks of school and work. So here goes:

One Pot Lentil Stew and Chickpea Stew

Ingredients:

Olive oil

1 medium onion

2 large carrots

3-5 large garlic cloves

3 teaspoons each of cardamom and coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 scant teaspoon cumin

1 scant teaspoon allspice

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

1 ½ cups lentils (brown or yellow preferred)

4-5 cups filtered water

1 28 ounce can of peeled, whole tomatoes

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

14-16 ounces cooked chickpeas (either canned or pre-cooked)

2 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

1.       Heat olive oil over a low flame in a large soup pot. As the oil heats, peel and chop the onions and carrots.

2.       Raise the heat of the pan to medium. Add the onions and carrots and stir well to begin cooking them. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until softened.

3.       Lower the flame to low. Add the garlic and spices and stir well. When the spices’ aroma begins to bloom (in about 30-60 seconds), remove the pan from heat immediately and turn off the heat. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute more.

4.       Add the lentils, canned tomatoes, cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and water to the pot. Break up the tomatoes and stir everything together really well.

5.       Return pot to burner, and bring to a boil. Once stew is boiling, drop the flame down to low and cook for 20-30 minutes more, or until both carrots and lentils are tender.

6.       Add the pre-cooked chickpeas. (If using canned, be sure to strain the liquid and rinse the chickpeas).

7.       To finish, turn off the flame and add the spinach. The residual heat will wilt the spinach, leaving it a bright green color without overcooking it.

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