Category Archives: Yoga
A couple of years ago I gave up eating rice, noodles, bread, and such carbs on a regular basis. I eat these occasionally to satisfy my taste for them. I love slurping noodles, I love the chewiness of rice, and I also love multi-grain fruit and nut breads, and yes I love a good fruit tart or pie. I don’t have to have them every day, and that’s key to keeping a LOW-CARB diet, or better yet, lifestyle. Maintain a low-carb diet and you will lose weight and keep it off. Why? Because carbs act like sponges. They absorb everything then sit in the body for a longtime because digesting carbs is a slow process. Some FAT IS GOOD for you. Everything in moderation. Some of us can digest fat better than others. We’re all made differently, and we need to take that into account. You can follow any diet suggesting high-fat and low-carbs, but in general you have to listen to your body, noticing what it’s telling you. Following a diet is not good enough. You won’t learn. You actually need to do the work and notice how different you feel when you make a change to the way you eat. You have to understand the difference and then keep tweaking until the diet is exactly what you need. For instance, I know that I cannot digest fat very well. I’m choosy about the types of fat I put in my body, and most of them are plant-based from tofu, to nuts, avocados, seeds, and olive oil, for example. On rare occasions, I’ll have fish. If you like meat, have some, just be mindful of the amount you have at any one sitting. If you are going to have carbs, enjoy them in the early part of the day and in small quantities.
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Eat well and be well
Tomorrow I fly to Austin to teach at Lake Austin Spa Resort, one of the most notable spas in the country. Lucky me, I’ve been invited to return twice a year for several years in a row now, generally during their successful Culinary Week and other times to teach other aspects of living simply and mindfully. This time I am going back for their new Breathe Week where I’ll be teaching breathing through yoga, meditation, journaling and mindful cooking practices, and how to incorporate these disciplines into daily life. I’ll be taking advantage of the grounds for inspiration, and guided by the energy of the guests to share what I know about creating a fun, clean, and balanced lifestyle.
Some of my favorite things about this place is the garden, one of the most beautifully maintained I’ve seen in this kind of setting. That executive chef Stéphane Beaucamp takes advantage of it and incorporates freshly grown produce from the spa’s own grounds, is truly one of the most wonderful aspects of staying at Lake Austin and experiencing a few days there. His 5-course menu changes all the time, and because the portions are sensible, you can taste everything and not worry about a thing. I too like to pick Thai basil, fresh peas, sweet bell peppers, and squash blossoms when cooking with the guests. The garden is completely open to all. Indeed, a friend came along one time, then sent me pictures of her very own herb garden inspired by our conversations and a leisurely walk through the spa’s garden. That’s the kind of reaction I like to see from those who visit.
There are so many activities that you’ll never get bored. I took my first lesson in sculling a few years ago and have been enjoying this elegant water sport ever since. To be on the water first thing in the morning, and gliding the peaceful lake as the fog lifts, is incredibly meditative. There’s also kayaking and paddle boarding, for those who love taking in the fresh air. Two outdoor pools, a hot tub for those chilly evenings, and indoor pools are also available. The day is filled with activities from yoga, to zumba, weight lifting and any indoor physical activity. These are just a few things you can expect, but do consult the staff for other activities on any given day. Special guest instructors from celebrity chefs to notable authors on any number of subjects are invited to mingle with guests any week of the year.
And of course there’s always the spa treatments. I happen to love my 80-minute Custom Comfort massage, booking a couple per stay, but the spa menu is extensive and worth looking into, asking the knowledgeable staff about before booking the treatment that is right for you.
Lake Austin Spa Resort is one of the places that is a home away from home. The staff is always friendly, welcoming, and accommodating, and every year they develop and offer numerous informative, valuable programs so you walk away learning every time you come. That—and the beautiful, recently renovated guest rooms—is what makes them a #1-rated spa worth exploring.
Come join me for Breathe Week, May 19 & 20. I will be teaching the following:
May 19: Metta Meditation at 8 AM; Mindful Cooking at 2PM
May 20: Ashtanga Yoga at 8 AM; Food Meditation & Journaling at 1 PM
Eat well and be well,
P.S.: here’s a little taste of what it’s like to enjoy Lake Austin Spa Resort…
A great example of this is watching the farmers at work, sowing seeds, and harvesting the first crops. I’m exciting to see the farmers markets come to life over the next few weeks. It’s been so cold and gray this winter, and I can only eat so many sweet potatoes, beets, beans and lentils. I’m looking forward to cleansing my “temple” with spring’s harvest of arugula, asparagus and artichokes, just a few delicious things that will soon appear in produce shelves and bins. Clean, refreshing greens of the season. So beautiful, flavorful, and tasty, they’re hard to pass up.
I too am looking forward to some beautiful loose-leaf teas. I can’t wait to taste some new delicate brew and share it with friends. The ritual of preparing each fresh cup is perhaps even more of a love affair than actually sipping, though I can never turn down the liquid gold and enjoy at least a daily cup or two.
The spring also brings about change in my meditation practice. During this time of year and into summer, I celebrate life with the Metta meditation, also known as the “loving kindness” meditation—cultivating love from within, allowing any negative energy to dissolve over time, forgiving and moving forward with an open heart, embracing what’s to come and nurturing the good that is already there. I love to share this meditation with as many people as I can and it seems that once the sky clears and turns a bright baby blue, the sun comes out, the birds are back singing, and the trees are budding, people are more likely to relax and be open to this powerful meditation. Colors do matter, and while it’s a bit early still, soon the flowers will share theirs, making it easy to open our hearts and do the “work.”
Winter blues are real, so let me offer the Metta to you. Close your eyes and think good thoughts for yourself and others. Cross your legs and prop yourself up on a pillow. Lengthen your spine, but don’t stiffen. Soften your face, your shoulders, your whole body. Relax…
Take a few minutes to quiet your mind, inhaling and exhaling through the nose a few times. Then either chant slowly and softly or simply quietly in your mind, allowing yourself to pause and contemplate the meaning of each phrase before going on to the next.
“May I be safe and protected”
“May I be peaceful and happy”
“May I be healthy and strong”
“May I have ease of well-being and accept all the conditions of the world”
In the beginning, when you first start practicing this meditation, I recommend offering it only to yourself first. Do this for a few days, then when you are ready offer the Metta to someone who you feel has hurt you in the past with the intention of wishing them well as they move forward in their journey. Do this a few days or as long as necessary, until it sinks in. Then move on and offer the metta to a close friend, a family member and so on, until you offer Metta to the universe, wishing all living beings well and spreading your love. Always start the Metta meditation offering it to yourself first, then moving on and offering it to another person, visualizing them as you do. This will help the process along.
“May you be safe and protected”
“May you be peaceful and happy”
“May you be healthy and strong”
“May you have ease of well-being and accept all the conditions of the world”
A healing meditation, there is no time limit. Practice it for 5 minutes each day, then increasing the time as you start offering it to others. Be consistent in your practice, going through each step and never skipping one.
P.S. Join me at Lake Austin Spa Resort, May 19 and 20 for the Metta Meditation, yoga and mindful cooking workshop.
Fall is here. It’s colder and dryer, our bodies perhaps slightly more stiff than usual. To add to this, end-of-year holidays are just around the corner and traveling to visit family and friends is part of the routine for many. So how do you stay in shape when your body starts craving heavier foods and it becomes naturally less flexible than usual? Here are 10 tips on staying healthy while traveling.
1) Keep hydrated with water. The more you drink, the less stiff you will be. Drinking water also improves digestion and therefore helps the body get rid of toxins. The more liquid in your body, the less hungry you will be. Buy water at the airport and stay away from sugary or cream-laden beverages.
2) While you can’t get through security with bottled water, they won’t confiscate food. Pack your own travel snack. A trail mix of raw nuts and seeds mixed with dried fruit—sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, chopped apricots, for example—is always great to have on hand. A handful a day is a healthy serving. Fresh fruit such as banana or apples are also a good option. Stay away from crackers, cookies, and greasy potato or corn chips. On a flight there is little room to move around, so you won’t be burning those calories fast enough, and feeling heavy disturbs sleep or a chance at a good rest.
3) Some airport vendors will open as early at 5:00 AM, and I’ve seen people eat breakfast at that time when they probably never do. In other words, just because you’re at the airport waiting to board an early flight, doesn’t mean you should inhale breakfast first thing for fear that you’ll skip a meal. Skip the meal because you don’t need to eat an egg, bacon and cheese sandwich, especially that early in the morning!
4) Here are healthy food choices always available at the airport: fresh fruit, salads, vegetarian or grilled chicken wraps. Occasionally, sushi is available. For beverages bottled vegetable/fruit juices and water.
5) Avoid alcoholic or soft drinks during inflight service and keep caffeine (both coffee and tea) to a minimum. Be sure to rehydrate with water (see #1).
6) Plan ahead and order kosher and or vegetarian meals. These are the healthiest options on any long flight.
7) You have at least an hour if not two to kill at the airport before boarding your flight and getting into those uncomfortable seats, especially in Economy. Rather than browse the contents of a store or get on your computer, give yourself that time to stretch. A few yoga poses will go a long way.
8) Inflight exercise is possible. Walk to the back of the cabin to get the blood flowing in your legs and arms, and stretch. When seated, bring your knees up to your chest on one side then the other. Do this several times. If you can and are flexible, stretch your leg straight above your head, reaching your hands up to your feet. Do this holding the pose for 5 to 10 breaths on each side. 5 to 10 minutes of inflight exercise every hour will make a difference. On some aircrafts you can actually roll out your yoga mat. I’ve done this on the 2nd level of a 747 on more than one occasion, doing a full 30-minute yoga routine. Of course let the flight attendant know. The best time to do this is when passengers are sleeping on a long flight. Find out which aircraft you will be on and what the layout is ahead of time, so you understand what is or isn’t possible.
9) If you’re a Business or First Class traveler, even with more leg room you should still make an effort to get up and stretch too, or stay in your seat and stretch if that is preferred. The bigger seats definitely make it easier to get into more interesting yoga poses. I’ve done some fun stuff in Business class! And you too can walk to the back of the aircraft, all the way through Economy, to get the blood flowing in your limbs.
10) wear comfortable clothes so you can move and stretch easily. Unless you know you’re going straight to a business meeting as soon as you land, there is no need for you to get all dressed up to fly.
Safe, happy and healthy travels!
I woke up this morning with this thought, “Yoga is NOT easy.” I love yoga. In fact I couldn’t see a life without it. It makes me relax, forget, focus, contemplate, cry. It’s healing and that’s why it’s not easy. Facing our fears is not easy. Relaxing is not easy. Forgetting is not easy. Focussing is not easy. Contemplating is not easy. Crying is not easy. But it makes me happy too, and sometimes even makes me laugh.
I’ve been doing it for a long time. Too many years to count at this point, but since 2010 I’ve been practicing the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga method, the way it was taught by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. “Practice and all is coming,” he was famous for saying. Well I’ve been practicing. Every day! It is coming and has come in many forms. I feel it. It’s magical. I can’t really explain it. You have to be in it to believe it. It throws curve balls at you and all of the sudden it becomes unclear as to what, exactly, is coming. You experience moments of doubts, especially when you can’t get in to a certain pose and you’ve been at it for 2 years straight. Supta Kurmasana is that pose for me. I’m binding my hands behind my back. I even have my legs behind my head, but not without assistance from my teacher. I wonder who is more frustrated, me or him. “It’s all in the breathing, the opening of the chest, pushing the sternum forward…relax” he explains. In theory, I get it, but in practice opening the heart is at times very difficult. It’s emotional. I feel vulnerable. I’ve been at practice when I’ve cried uncontrollably, frustrated, sad, knowing, not knowing, confused… total break down, or perhaps break through. I have my moments. Yoga tests you… and ultimately, it’s not about the pose at all, whether you get it or not. It’s the process that’s important. Can you let go, surrender, and just be? That’s what every pose asks.
The Ashtanga I practice is taught in different stages, Primary Series, Intermediate Series, and Advance Series. After 3 or so years in Primary, I just started Intermediate and the deep back bends are turning my insides out. I’m experiencing a deep cleanse. In the last few weeks I’ve lost close to 10 pounds and my practice is 2-1/2 hours on average, but yesterday’s was 3. My quads are on fire, my hips are opening so much that the injury I had on the right side is now gone, as is the excruciating pain in my right knee… all gone. My shoulders were killing me for months, but now they feel great. They’re open and strong. My left knee is bugging me these days, but I know it’s temporary as my body is slowly but surely making adjustments to yes, open more still. And Kapotasana is going to help me get there… just as soon as I’m able to slow down and relax my breathing and soften my body… just as soon as I’m able to let go, surrender, and just be. I’ve learned that the aches and pains come and go. It’s normal. It’s life. It’s a beautiful thing.