saucha: is eating this cinnamon roll an action of self-care?

I absolutely love cinnamon rolls. My mom’s are the best because they are covered in homemade caramel sauce and walnuts. McLain’s Bakery wins a close second and third place goes to Happy Valley Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. (Where I have the privilege to teach at the Awakened Heart Spiritual Development Retreat this weekend!  And I will undoubtedly eat WAY too many cinnamon rolls.)

As I introduced in my previous post, the study of the niyama saucha, invites us to continually ask the question: “Is this an action of self-care?”  

Traditionally, saucha translates as ‘cleanliness or purity.’ That may sound restrictive at first, but I believe saucha is actually about indulging in quality self-care. Saucha is meant to help us cultivate self-care by examining what we are actually putting in and on our bodies to then make conscious, loving decisions.

For example: a huge cinnamon roll slathered in decadent, tantalizing icing? Um, probably not the cleanest lunch choice. I probably won’t feel super energized and self-loving after scarfing it down. But an herbal-cinnamon hot tea and a nooner yoga class? Yes, thank you very much, I would feel very well cared-for after indulging in that choice.

I practice saucha not as a list of things I shouldn’t do (that sounds like a morality issue and makes my inner rebel want to rebel) but as a list of things I CAN DO to show my body, mind and Spirit greater tenderness and self-care. I CAN decide to avoid dairy to keep my skin glowing and my allergies under control. I CAN decide to use only paraben-free and fragrance-free products to keep my hormones balanced. I CAN decide to eat a kale salad to keep my energy up. I CAN decide to keep my office, my yoga studio and my yoga mat clean to keep me feeling healthy, energized and focused.

Again, I choose these actions not because they are inherently ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts,’ but because they invite me into greater self-care and tenderness.

As you move throughout your day, challenge yourself to pause, take a breath and ask: “Is this an action of self-care?” then proceed with tenderness.

Happy Self-Care Day,

-lisa

saucha: the one-minute rule of tidiness

I truly cannot work if my bed is not made. It the first thing I do when I come home from teaching and prepare to sit down at my computer. My ‘office’ is in my bedroom, which is great for Russell Clive because he can snuggle on my pillow and watch me type from across the room. But it’s also not great, because if my bed isn’t made, my work space feels messy, untidy and overwhelming.

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’The Happiness Project; I highly recommend it. In her experiment to generate more happiness in her life, Rubin adopted the “one-minute rule.” Which means: if it takes one minute or less to do it– do it now. File the paper, put the plate in the dishwasher, make the bed, wipe up the salt your snow boots tracked in. She found that this “one-minute rule” significantly decreased clutter, increased her sense of ease and helped her focus when it was time to work. I adopted this “one-minute rule” in January and found that it truly helped me appreciate and practice saucha (cleanliness and self-care), which is the first niyama (personal consideration) of the Yoga Philosophy.

I also adopted her “ten-minute tidy rule” (that’s the cutest name for cleaning ever invented). I often experience a moment of anxiety when I come home and my house is cluttered– instead of actually working during the workday, I feel like I’m just walking around my house putting things away. The “ten-minute tidy rule” means I take ten minutes to put the house to bed before I go to bed myself. I’m not up at midnight deep cleaning, I’m just turning off Netflix ten minutes earlier each night to tidy up my living space and practice saucha as a way of caring for myself and my belongings with greater tenderness.

Saucha asks us to look at all our little “one-minute” actions throughout the day and ask: is this an action of self-care? Does it contribute to my health and happiness?

Cleanliness is a perfect entry point to this: do you feel happier and healthier when your home is dirty and cluttered? Or do you feel happier and healthier when your home is tidy, clean and fresh? What contributes to a greater sense of ease?

This month as we study saucha, ask yourself: “How can I make this one-minute action an action of self-care?” And whatever you are doing in that one minute– showering, trimming your fingernails, cleaning the oven, organizing papers, wiping snow and sleet off dogpaws, eating a snack or rolling up your yoga mat– do it with greater tenderness and self-care.

Happy One Minute,

-lisa

“When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes.” -Yoga Sutras

alkaline enhancing Beet Smoothie (new and improved!)

Inspired by an article in my new favorite magazine, Mother Earth Living, I’ve been on a mission to alkalize my diet.  The more I learned about how food plays a key role in balancing the pH level of my body, the more I wanted to make this happen.

Maintaining a balance pH level is, apparently, not easy. The toxins we encounter daily through air borne pollution and the acidic toxins we ingest tip the scale toward acidity.  On the pH scale, 0 is extremely acidic, 7.0 is totally neutral and 14 is totally alkalized.  Our bodies, born with a neutral 7.0 reading, have mechanisms in place to ensure that our blood remains slightly alkaline for optimal health.  However, as we eat acidic foods (unfortunately, these are the delicious ones on the Standard American Diet like sugar, dairy, and processed grains) important nutrients like calcium and magnesium are leached from cells in order to bring balance back to the blood stream.  This can leave us tired and sore.  Think: the ‘lactic acid’ build up you’ve heard about that makes your muscles sore after running.  Or, for you and for myself: sore after yoga.  (No, Thank you!  Read my tips for recovery to reduce soreness here.)

Not to mention, maintaining an acidic state in the blood level kicks in our body’s natural ability to combat this acid by storing sugar in fat cells.  Many health professionals think that maintaining the optimal pH balance is the key to losing weight.  For more information, check out Michelle Schoffro Cook’s book 60 seconds to Slim. 

What’s the easiest way to alkalize your body back into optimal health (and hopefully reduce muscle soreness)?  Green and Yellow: Veggies and Lemons.   

smoothi pic 1

To make it easy on myself and on you, I’ve re-invented my favorite beet smoothie recipe this summer.  I’ve cut out the extra sugars by eliminating apple juice and orange juice.  I’ve added an extra veggie or two.  And most importantly: concentrated on adding alkalizing foods: sour cherries, lemons and limes.  Introducing, Lisa’s totally liver cleansing, red blood cell oxygenating, alkaline enhancing Wonder Beet Smoothie!  (Please note: this is not a juice.  It is full of fiber and will feel like you are eating a delicious salad.)

smoothie finished

Ingredients:

  • 1 green zucchini, cut into pieces
  • 2 small beets, cut into pieces
  • 6 large rainbow chard leaves, stemmed (or 2 Cups other leafy green vegetables)
  • ½ C organic tart cherry juice
  • 1 C cold water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lime

Add ingredients to Blender in this order.  Blend on low for a few minutes, adding more water if needed.  Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.  (Turn the blender down if the smoothie starts to froth.)

Yield: 4 8 oz smoothies.  For best results, enjoy this treat COLD.  I keep mine in the freezer overnight and then let it thaw in the kitchen sink in the morning so it’s ready for lunch.

For more smoothie recipes, check out my article from 2014: summer smoothies galore.

Enjoy! -lisa

 

Lucky St. Patrick’s Day Smoothie, Green Smoothie Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

smoothie in mugSo… do you need to detox after your St. Patrick’s Day Pint?  (I’m pretty sure everyone and their mom… except for me and my mom… were at the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Westport this year.  Traffic was horrendous!)  We’ve been blessed with sunshine and warm spring weather this year, so it’s time to celebrate the season with something yummy and green!

Here’s my new and improved Special St. Patrick’s Day Green Smoothie recipe.  (Highly recommended for detoxing if you had one too many pints of something else on St. Patty’s Day.)

green st partricks smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Juice from 1/2 Lime
  • 3 Celery Stalks  (cut into pieces)
  • 1/2 Cup Honeydew Melon Pieces
  • 4 Cups Spinach
  • 12 oz Coconut Water

Method:

Nothing to it!  Throw the greens into the blender (I use my Vittamix for smoothies and juices), followed by celery, melon, spinach and lime juice.  Pour in 12 oz coconut water, blend on high for a minute.  Pour into a frosty mug and enjoy!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

-lisa

If you have extra celery, try my yummy pear-and-celery slaw recipe.

 

sugar-free pumpkin power bars (vegan! gluten-free! deliciousrecipe!)

sugar-free pumpkin power bars: recipe

It’s autumn again!  Time for everything cozy and pumpkin flavored.  Last fall I was really into vegan/gluten free baking (see this recipe for vegan pumpkin bread) and THIS year, I’m totally into sugar-free baked goods.   Pumpkin flavored baked goods are my favorite, I honestly can’t get enough.  After a few fun attempts (read: crumbly failures) at making my own power bars, I’ve finally perfected this recipe.  Cut them into small squares– you will want to eat a dozen.  :)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 1/2 can Pumpkin (about 120 g)
  • 1 C Almond Flour
  • 1 C Oat Flour
  • 1/4 C ground flax seed mixed with 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 C Raw Rolled Oats
  • 1/8 C Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Golden Raisins
photo (8)

sugar free AND gluten free AND full of protein.

 

Procedure

Grease 9 x13 inch baking pan with grapeseed oil. Set aside.

Peel ripe banana and mush with a fork (or use a food processor.)  In a large bowl.

Stir in all ingredients, adding the rolled oats last.  You may need to adjust the quantity of oats according to how dry or moist your batter is.  Batter should be thick, easily turned over with a rubber scraper.

Using a rubber scraper or wax paper on your hand, press batter into baking pan.  Thick or thin– that’s up to you.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes.  (I don’t pre-heat my oven because I try to save energy and electricity.  You can read about this in my April Aparigraha Challenge: Save your Energy.)  Cut into small squares.  Yield: approx 24. Enjoy!

Make them this weekend and enjoy with your morning tea!  They are a great ‘pick me up’ on your way out the door to your evening yoga class.

Enjoy!

-lisa

mushroom and walnut stuffed bell peppers: vegan goodness.

mushroom and walnut stuffed bell peppers: vegan goodness.

Last March my Ironman made these delicious mushroom and walnut ‘meatballs’ to go with a spaghetti squash dinner.  Three months later we were still talking about them. stuffed peppers

Oh holy cow they were insanely delicious.  I set out on a mission: how else could I enjoy the earthy combination of mushrooms (high in vitamin D) and walnuts (high in protein and folic acid, which you can learn about here) in new dishes?

Well, thanks to the trusty VitaMixx, I found it! Vegan Mushroom and Walnut Stuffed Bell Peppers– Mediterranean Night: here we come!

Ingredients:

  • 8 button mushrooms, washed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp homemade hummus,  check out my recipes here
  • 2 handfuls fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced in half
  • drizzle of grapeseed oil

Combine first 5 ingredients and blend on low until a paste forms.

Slice bell peppers in half and clean out the seeds  (If you slice them top to bottom, they dads-stuffed-bell-peppers-1hold more stuffing!)

Spoon stuffing into pepper boats, place in an oven safe glass platter.  Drizzle the tops of each pepper with grapeseed oil.

Put in the oven at 350 F and bake for about 35-45 minutes.

Serve with fresh veggies and hummus, and a Greek salad… on your back porch… in the summertime.  Yes, it’s a charmed life.

Let me know how it tastes. Enjoy!

-lisa

Aparigraha April Challenge #5: Shop Smarter.

To test my aparigraha skills and move toward my challenge of a Reduced-Waste Home, I spent an afternoon in a large grocery store chain (with a bulk ‘Health Food’ section) and tried to do 3 weeks’ worth of shopping without buying anything that would be considered disposable.  (This includes recycling.)  My expert opinion: nearly impossible.  There are hidden traps EVERYWHERE.  I mean, even the bulk food section (I brought my own bags, one point for me) still printed labels for each bag, gave away twist ties, and required one-time use disposable plastic gloves (negative points for me).  Good God.  I should have just bought ONE pre-packaged bag of black beans instead of wasting all these extras.  Oh, and toiletries?  I have no idea how to buy conditioner that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle.  There are about a trillion Nature’s Conditioner recipes out there, but I prefer to eat avocados, not put them on my head.  Needless to say, it was tough.

This week’s challenge is about shopping smarter, because we know that we vote with our money.  Where you purchase items and how you purchase items tells the producer where your heart is and your loyalties lie.  Every penny is a vote for a more sustainable, ahimsa filled lifestyle.  But it’s not always easy.  So just remember my advice from Aparigraha 101: be patient and be kind to yourself.  Take this with a grain of salt and a sense of humor… (like you did during your first Vinyasa Level 2/3 class with me at Westport Yoga).

Aparigraha April Challenge #5: Shop Smarter.

1. BYOC.  Bring Your Own Container.  As in, bring your own fruit and veggie bags, or don’t use any at all.  No one ever said that your lemons need their own dinky plastic bag.  They can sit in your cart.  They can, heaven forbid, touch your other fruit.  If you DO need to bag your veggies (sometimes broccoli heads are wet from the ‘stay-fresh’ misters used in the produce aisle) then bring your own.  *Helpful Hint: If you do need to use one that is provided for you, be mindful to re-use that bag.  Do not tie the bag into a knot at the top, because it’s usually so thin that the plastic tear.  Also beware when buying in bulk—the barcode sticker that prints out after you weigh your items is, well, very sticky.  After emptying a bag of garbonzo beans into a glass container at home I tried to remove the sticker in order to re-use the bag.  “Wait!,” I thought.  “If I fill this bag up with pears next time I go to the store, the clerk will be confused that I’ve labeled my pears as garbonzo beans.”  Taking off the sticker tore a giant hole in the thin plastic bag.  Unusable.  Even for doggie-poop.  (Actually, especially for doggie poop.  Holes in poop bags = the worst.)

2. Buy in Bulk.  Reducing food packaging can have an exponentially positive impact on the environment.  In America, 80 million tons of food packaging enter landfills every year (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich).  At the grocery store, challenge yourself avoid buying anything in a plastic package.  Use the bulk item section to buy dry goods (you can even use your own bags from home to when purchasing, see above).  At home: store your nuts, beans, lentils in glass containers.  (Even treats like yogurt covered pretzels can be purchased out-of-the bag).  Don’t want to purchase a matching set of glass canisters?  (Good. That’s probably not aparigraha, anyway.)  Didn’t inherit 3 giant boxes of Ball canning jars from your grandma this winter?  Well… Have you ever purchased apple sauce?  Almond butter?  Cherry juice?  All of these things come in glass jars.  Eat/drink the jar empty, put it in the dishwasher, and then fill it right back up.  Easy.

3. Become obsessed with Re-usable Totes.  Even for Target runs.  We are totally used to bringing our own canvas bags to Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores, but you can put other things in those bags, too.  Like, um, every-thing.  Take your bags into CVS, Walgreens, Target, etc.  If you MUST have your items bagged in plastic bags, reuse them as: trash bin liners, doggie bags, packing padding for mailing gifts to your Mimi in California, etc.  Do your part to reduce the 30 million plastic bags that end up as litter each year worldwide (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich).

4. Refuse a receipt.  If you forgo printed credit card receipts for the rest of your life… you’ve just saved thousands of miles of bleached tickertape.  And probably a few trees.

5. Clean your hands.  Take your own hand sanitizer spray to the grocery store.  Avoid the extra trash created by using the complimentary wet wipes offered to clean the handles of the shopping cart.  My all-time favorite hand sanitizer is Clean Well Natural Hand Sanitizer.  1 full oz (a tiny bottle) is 225+ sprays of citrus-smelling cleanliness.

These may seem like small steps.  They are.  But if everyone takes one small step, then we are all walking together.  This Challenge will really test you: next time you go shopping, train your eye to survey all the disposables in the store.  Ask yourself: ‘Why would I pay for something, just to throw it away?’  Then, walk away.

Let me know how it goes,

-lisa

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2:  Turn it Off.

If we are working from the framework of aparigraha as “trusting that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life, because life is already dear”, then we do not need to hoard the world’s most precious resources. 

These resources are buzzwords in environmental conservationist conversations. ‘Going green’ means using less resources like petroleum, water, and electricity.  And ‘going green’ is a natural extension of your yoga: realizing our innate connection to all living beings, including the Earth, compels us to live an ahimsa (non-harming) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) lifestyle.

Put simply: please stop hoarding the natural, or unnaturally and disastrously produced, precious resources.  We only have one Earth.

“What if our religion was each other,

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and ocean

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being.”

– Ganga White.

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Wisdom in this case means seeing the intimate connection between honoring Earth’s resources and our yoga lifestyle. Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources is not yoga.  Overconsumption can be extremely disastrous (think landslides on over-logged hillsides and severe storms spawned by changing weather patterns and global warming) and even extremely violent (think communities of the Mexican desert who are downstream of the Colorado River and are limited to a trickle of water thanks to the massive hydroelectric dams providing electricity to Las Vegas).

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the popular lists of ‘Do This! to Go Green.’  I checked out over fifteen books from the library about this.  My book bag included a book titled something like ‘1,001 ways to Be More Eco-Friendly.’  (Are you kidding me?! One thousand and one things I need to do?!  Every day?!  No wonder people throw up their hands and say: ‘To hell with this environmentalist crap.  I’m just going to live my life.’ I was overwhelmed by page six!)

So, never fear, dear readers.  I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and distilled 3 resource saving techniques to recommend.  I’ve tried them all and they seem… manageable.  Took a little getting used to, but I gave it a good shot, and I think you should too.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

1.    Unplug everything.  David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, thinks I could save $94.00 a year on my electric bills by unplugging everything in my house.  He also thinks I can reduce my home’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,430 pounds a year.  I wasn’t not sure about this.  But, because I rent a house (therefore I will not buy an Energy Star dishwashing machine, or replace my refrigerator with a highly efficient model) I had to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard of phantom energy by now: even when your appliances are turned off, they continue to suck energy out of the socket, accounting for 27 million tons of CO2 emissions a year in the United States.  Your phantom load is also known as your Stand By or Idle current, and can total up to 15% of your monthly electric bill.  That sounds alarming and outrageous.  I really thought I was good about unplugging things when I left the house: my two space heaters, my standing lamps, my straightening iron, etc.  These are all double-checks before walking out the door.  But what about when I’m sleeping?  I can’t believe I never thought of this: electronics do not need to be plugged in at night.  Unplug everything when not in use, you say?  Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:

Worked:

  • Electric kettle.  Unplug unless you are, literally, boiling water for a hot drink.  Also, do not fill the kettle (stove top or electric).  Only boil as much as you need for the drinks you are about to enjoy.  This can be a huge energy saver.
  • Phone Charger.  Like most of you, even though I know that small electronics use up an exorbitant amount of electricity, I will not give up my iPhone.  But for God’s sake, do not leave your phone charger plugged in the wall when your phone is in your purse.  What are you charging?  (Just your wallet.)  This one is easy.  Every time you remove your phone from the charger, take the charge out of the wall socket.
  • Computer.  A few times, I’ve closed my laptop (idle, schmidle) and plugged it in to charge.  And then left it charging overnight.  This seems like overkill.  Now I check every night to make sure nothing at my desk is plugged in, including my small desk lamp.  Most Green Guides suggest a power strip that can be turned “off” with one switch, controlling your electronics.  You don’t need your internet wireless router on all night either!

Didn’t work:

  • Dishwasher.  This is a huge, energy-sucking, appliance.  And I turn it on once a week (usually less, mine is terrible so I end up hand-washing anyway).  Is it draining energy the other six days a week when it’s empty and idle?  Actually. Yes.  But I couldn’t manage to unplug it… It’s behind the cupboard with Russell’s dog food and dog treats. It was an ordeal just to look for the plug/socket combo.  I’m not going to do this every time I want to wash my dishes.  #fail
  • Clothes Dryer.  Same thing as the dishwasher.  My small storage/ laundry room is packed too nicely for me to move the dryer away from the wall to unplug it.  It’s just too heavy.  But there are loads of other energy-saving tips I learned about drying clothes: choose the Air Dry setting because it uses less energy to heat the dryer, hang-dry all delicates, and always use the ‘less dry’ setting.  #50%fail

Here are some phantom energy vampires to look for in your house:

Window A/C units, air humidifiers, air purifiers (which don’t need to be on when you aren’t home to breathe.  Better yet: buy a plant), your massive TV (no one should be watching it while you are sleeping.  Unplug it.), your DVD/Blue Ray player, your Xbox, your wireless router, your coffee pot, your microwave (that one is obvious: you can nuke something in your microwave in less than four minutes… why is it plugged in the other 23 hours and 56 minutes of the day?), your blowdryer, your curling iron, your bathroom fan, your electric toothbrush holder, your electric shaver.  It may seem like a lot.  That’s because it is.  Stop hoardingStart Unplugging.

 2Cook smart. I learned about a bajillion things from the book How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint, by Jane Yarrow, about how to conserve energy in my kitchen.  I usually bake 2 or 3 things at once when I’m using the oven to save energy, but here are other tips I tried (that worked!) to use less energy:

  • Size your pots and pans.  Use a pot that fits the stove-top heating unit.   Yarrow says that choosing the right size pan and keeping the lid on for most of the cooking process can reduce energy use by up to 90%.  I realized how often I let my veggies cook and my beans warm up without a lid on the pot.  Easy fix.
  • Don’t preheat your oven.  What a huge waste of energy to cook nothing.  Unless you are baking a soufflé or a pastry/goodie, you don’t need to pre-heat your oven.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the cooking time, either.  The food will heat up as the oven heats up.
  • Turn off the oven four minutes before the cook-time ends.  The food will continue to cook through residual heat. 

3. Chill out.  Fridges and freezers account for about a quarter of domestic electric consumption (Yarrow).  I’m not great at fractions (sorry, Dad, your tutoring helped me get good math grades, but I still don’t really get them), but that seems like a lot.   I’m not ready to forgo a fridge (this podcast about the No Fridge Movement is awesome, by the way) so I better look for ways to make it more efficient.

  • Check your Temperature.  Fridges don’t need to be colder than 37-41°F.  My fridge doesn’t have a thermometer… it just as a dial that says ‘colder’ and ‘warmer.’  I guessed and put the dial in the middle.  Guess what?  Nothing rotted.  Turn your fridge down.
  • Spring Clean.  Dust the coils at the back of your fridge and increase its efficiency by 30%.
  • Organize.  Lots of cold air escapes when the door is open.  Keeping your fridge organized makes it easy for you to grab what you need quickly and seal it back shut.

Ok, friends, that’s only 3 challenges, but each of them has a few parts.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.  (I bet you can find at least 6 things in your house to unplug.)  Happy Saving.

-lisa

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA