Paula Carnegie Fehr

Yoga and its Sister Science: Ayurveda

By Paula Carnegie Fehr, YAA, Ayurveda teacher for SOYA 300 hr Upgrade.

YAA, Ayurveda teacher for SOYA 300 hr Upgrade.

It’s safe to say Yoga practice in North America has been burgeoning as our populace seeks refuge from stressful living. There is a strong drive for purpose in life and it feels like we fall short of that goal in debilitating ways. Pace of life is faster. Challenges are more complex. And the term, “First World problem” is becoming a catch phrase. Our health is becoming a major concern – not only physical, but mental. Life stressors are playing havoc with our ability to enjoy life and the urge to return to a place of balance in everyday life and in the world as a whole is becoming more pressing. This is one take on why Yoga and related practices like Ayurveda has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the West and why it is so needed at this time.

With such vast array of choices catering to the varied interests and capabilities of students, yoga can truly be practiced by everyone. As the focus widens from the exercise based experiences so prevalent today, foundational teachings of yoga are seeping into mainstream yoga studios and students are learning that yoga is more than a way to tone up and strengthen. Yoga is the means to know our true nature. The glimpses into this awareness may be only fleeting for some while others dig for deeper understanding. In their search, many are coming to hear about and incorporate Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, into their practice.

If Yoga is the means to Self-Realization, Ayurveda is the means to extend the healthy life to have more time to know the Self. Ayurveda means the Science of Longevity or the Science of Life.  It has been practiced for thousands of years and utilizes many modalities within several branches of medicine. This science is becoming known to North Americans due to the efforts of people like Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Vasant Lad, Dr. David Frawley, Dr. John Douillard – and yes, even Dr. Oz. Ironically, the origins of surgery seem to dwell in Ayurveda and its many thousand year old practices. Some of the work Dr. Oz and current day surgeons do has been described in its ancient texts.

While Yoga is now a household word, fewer people know much about Ayurveda – much less have access to its practitioners. So what is this science? Ayurveda has layers. It begins with the premise that everything is a unique blend of the basic elements of life. It uses the principles of earth, water, fire, air, and space to describe life (much like other systems including Traditional Chinese Medicine and classical medicine of Greece and Europe). When the balance of elements is kept, health and longevity ensue. When the elements go out of balance, disease develops and the higher purpose of life takes a backseat to coming back into balance. Energy is diverted into creating wellness instead of living purposefully.

The first layer of Ayurveda is simply maintaining the balance. This is done through lifestyle. Everyone can participate at this level. Once the balance is lost, another layer teaches how to detoxify and then rebuild to create homeostasis. This level requires technical training and many of its practices are banned in North America because they are deemed “invasive”. Only medical doctors are allowed to perform these techniques and very few have the interest to do so. In spite of this, some of the cleansing practices are available to be performed when taught how to do them properly. The neti pot practice is one example. If the balance of elements goes out enough and disease occurs, the next layer of Ayurveda brings in the Ayurvedic Doctor. This designation requires many years (usually 10 or more) of medical training in Ayurvedic Universities in India. While highly trained in many branches of medicine, Ayurvedic doctors do not have license to practice medicine in Canada or the US as our own medical doctors. Ayurvedic doctors use a variety of modalities including Yoga, Meditation, herbal treatments, essential oil treatments, diet, and even surgery. While not as well known or as prevalent as TCM doctors, Ayurvedic physicians are practicing in the West. They are a valuable resource for their expertise in creating health and well-being of not only body, but mind and spirit also. As the quest deepens, practitioners are becoming easier to find.

It feels like everything Yoga and Ayurveda makes its way deeper into our North American awareness with the help of celebrity, but that doesn’t detract from their value as so many are discovering. The greater challenge is fitting the principles of these life sciences into our busy everyday lives in a meaningful way. Both Yoga and Ayurveda ask us to re-evaluate how we live our lives. In this, we seem to pick and choose what we feel comfortable with doing. For many, this is enough. It serves a purpose. For others, the tip of the iceberg is only the sampler. There are many ways to explore having a longer and healthier life as we learn how to tap into our vast potential as human beings. The deeper teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda offer potential solutions to our global dilemmas should we choose to embrace them. As North Americans venture down this path, there is much to be said for living life purposefully. It takes courage to try and test these teachings to see what works and what doesn’t. As many teachers have said, “Don’t believe what I say until you experience it for yourself.” The proof is in the pudding.

Paula Carnegie Fehr is a senior teacher with the Yoga Association of Alberta and has been actively studying Ayurveda since 2003 with Ayu Academy, Dr. Vasant Lad, and Dr. David Frawley. She currently lives in Red Deer and offers Ayurveda Lifestyle consultation. Her wellness education services include massage, aromatherapy, iridology, mantra and astrology. 

Virabhadrasana 1

Five Tips For a Home Yoga Practice

By Ulrike Brandner-Lauter, SOYA500, from Vienna, Austria

Students and teachers alike enjoy attending a yoga class led by a mindful and skillful teacher and for many it is the most delicious feeling of being guided and inspired. But many students are seeking guidance for the development of a solid home practice as the base for further development and as a steady point in life while traveling or working long hours. Yoga is a great way to find some moments of relaxation and nourishment. But even experienced students find it challenging to pull the poses together by themselves.

Virabhadrasana 1For the best yoga experience the combination of studio class and home practice are a great way to develop independence and self-esteem while being carefully guided by the teacher.

There may be long essays around what a home practice might look like, but I am a stronger believer of the power of simplicity – The following five points are for me equally important, so there is no ranking at all. I try to encourage my students to find step by step very individual and beneficial routine. And I encourage my teacher colleagues to offer workshops and special theme classes to give their students tools to grow and to dive into the creative and fun process of sequencing poses in order to get a self – tailored sequence plan.

What do I need? – Trying the poses and find out what feels best?

There are tons of self-study books, online programs and CDs out there, but for the very individual needs of each and every person it is important to know what you need. For a weight lifter or runner strength is not the first goal, but for an office work it is essential to build the right muscles to sit upright and healthy all day. So first step is to answer the question: “What are the postures I enjoy most and why?” This is a great way to get a more reflected and mindful practice and to learn to know your individual needs. The next question is:  “Which poses are hard for me and why?”– Please keep in mind that the challenging poses are exactly where we should work more.

Make space! – There is a place for everyone

PadottanasanaThere are two dimensions of space – time and room – both are essential for practicing yoga.

The right room? – everywhere

In some yoga classes there are so many participants that you may hardly have more space than the size of your mat. The same space is available in almost every house, even if it is between bed and wall. It doesn’t matter where the mat is placed, the intention is important. Look for space where you can leave the mat all the time, if it’s available so may serve as a reminder.

The right time? – anytime

For some people morning is perfect, for others the evening is the better choice, plan your yoga time as you plan an appointment – as it is an appointment with yourself and your body – both are so very important.

Have a plan!

Balance PoseIt is hard to make up a new plan for every practice. That’s why yoga teachers prepare their sequence in advance and why it gives us the chance to be in the moment without the brain working hard to figure out what comes next. Even though there is always a chance to go with the flow and to add on, a basic plan is essential. Taking a note book to class might be a good idea to write down favorite poses (after the class). All SOYA trained yoga teachers prepare their classes with all six important kinds of poses in them. This is a good guideline for a personal sequence too.

Sequence structure

  • Settling – Arriving at the mat
  • Warm up
  • Sun Salutations
  • 6 kind of poses:

Forward bends – Prasarita Padottanasana/Wide angle forward bend

Back bends – Bhujangasana/Cobra pose

Inversions – Adho Muka Svanasana/Downward Dog

Twists – Matsyendrasana/Twist

Balance poses – Vrksasana/ Tree pose

Side bends – Trikonasana/Triangle pose

  • Cool down
  • Savasana – at least a few minutes

Write down what comes to your mind and if you don´t know the name of pose, just describe it. Try the sequence several times and review it. The sequence is always evolving so keep your old notes as an archive of your yoga journey.

Ask for help – offer help

For students

Pulling together a written plan may sound difficult but what about inviting yoga friends for afternoon tea and work together on sequences – more people means more ideas. Another good learning opportunity is to ask your teacher for some private classes for you and your friends for tips and alignment advice for a safe practice.

For teachers

Inquiring students are a great gift for every teacher. A workshop or workshop series to pass on insight and knowledge might be a good idea as well as semi-private classes. These are a good opportunity to talk about sequencing and help lead your students on their own yoga path. For me it is our duty as a teacher to guide our students into personal responsibility.

Enjoy it and keep going

Many students find it hard to keep their home practice going. Be kind to yourself and do it at your own pace. Sometimes there are natural breaks – if you are busy and over occupied with work at the moment make a plan when you can start your home practice again and… stick to the plan.

The home practice is meant to be relaxing, calming and healing – even if there are just a few minutes available. Just warming up and harmonizing breath with motion has a calming effect on the nervous system. Turning your cell phone off and letting family members know about your intention may help to stay focused.

Since they form the first stage of Hathayoga, asana (postures) are mentioned to begin with. Asana make one´s body and mind steady, keep one healthy and light the limbs. (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Nr. 17, Chapter I)

I wish students and teachers alike a great time with their exploration of new potentials.

UliUlrike (Uli) Brandner-Lauter is life & business coach & yoga teacher in Vienna, Austria where she also wears the hat of a business professional. She first fell in love with yoga as a young girl and was on & off the mat for 15 years till she finally stuck with  it & did her teacher training with the South Okanagan Yoga Academy (SOYA) in British Columbia (RYT 500). Ulrike (Uli) teaches Asthanga & Anusara inspired flow classes at the Feelgoodstudio in Vienna & in her hometown in Northern Austria. As a skier and mountaineer she loves to combine her passions of yoga & the outdoors. Her close connection to nature and her enthusiasm for traveling inspires her yoga practices. Through her clear & caring approach to teaching, she aims to give students tools to connect mind & body.

Warrior pose

Pain: A Story to Rewrite with Yoga

Many have experienced that yoga practices help decrease pain. Typically the answer to ‘how yoga does this’ is considered as a physiological reaction, or maybe a psychological reaction. Yet, maybe we need to consider pain from more perspectives. We share stories of students who have found their way to yoga because of pain. These stories surprise us and inspire us. We also share stories of people who have found peace, and regained movement and purpose in life through yoga. These suggest that we should consider the story of pain more broadly.

Warrior poseScientists tell us that when we feel pain, the brain has concluded that we need protection, and that we need to change our behavior. Since the pain system is a sophisticated protection system, it does so much more than create a sensation of pain. Our pains have qualities, and locations, and behaviours. They are related to changes in muscle tension, breathing, body awareness, body image, thinking, emotions, and our ability to move and interact with others. Putting this all together, we can consider that it is as if the brain has come up with a story to protect us – not just pain to protect us. The story is part of the protection. We can change the pain by changing the story. But how do we do this rewriting?

The practices of yoga provide us with the opportunity to notice if the story is playing over and over. Yoga practices allows us time to explore the story in more detail. Each time we look inward, we gain more understanding of the story. Each time we look inward we can consider the story from new points of view. And each time we look inward, we have the opportunity to rewrite the story.

Yes we can rewrite the story. And here I pause to thank my greatest teachers for my understanding of this – two of my students asked me this important question. “If pain is a story, will rewriting it change the story AND the pain?”

What story arises when you try to move in the face of pain? Does the story include changes in your breathing, your body awareness, your body image, your thinking, or emotions? And could you change the story by changing any of these body functions? Sure it might take practice, and it will definitely take persistence, but it is possible.

Let’s be perfectly clear though! This is not a story you wrote on purpose. This is a story your brain created through automatic processes to protect you. This story is real, and difficult to change.

Most pain stories include difficulties moving the body. And most include disruptions of breathing and muscle tension. For many of us when the story has continued to play for some time, it includes changes in our feelings of competence, difficulties in letting go of tension, being out of balance in life, being disconnected from our life’s purpose, or feeling less courageous than usual. These can all be part of the story created by the brain to protect us. And as such, if we direct our yoga practices towards these, we can rewrite the story.

Yoga allows us a safe place and gentle practices to explore our pain story. Yoga allows us to rewrite our stories – a little at a time. We can change how our breathing, and muscle tension, and mind, and heart respond to movement. And each time we do this, the story shifts away from a tragedy, towards the happy ending we desire.

NeilUpcoming workshops with Neil are May 22-24 Cranbrook, Oct 2-4 Semperviva Vancouver, Oct 23-25 Saskatoon, Oct 30 – Nov 1 – Calgary, Nov 21-23 White Rock.Neil is founder and director of Neil Pearson Physiotherapist Corporation, which operates as life is now. He works clinically in Penticton, BC and teaches internationally providing the knowledge and tools for effective pain self-management throughout physiotherapy and therapeutic yoga. Neil received the 2012 Excellence in Interprofessional Pain Education award. He has created the Pain Self-Management video series which you can find at www.lifeisnow.ca

seated breath

Can Yoga Prevent Bullying?

By Dorothy Fizzell, SOYA, IYTA, ERYT500, Early Childhood Educator

Bullying among children and teens is a serious issue. In the past, we used to say, “Oh, that’s just kids being kids”, or “It’s just part of growing up”, or “I was bullied and I’m just fine”.

There is growing recognition that bullying is not a “rite of passage” that children must endure because they are different in some way. The key to creating a bully-free environment is to make the environment a safe place for everyone.

What is bullying?  According to Olweus, 1991, an expert in bullying research, “a person is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more persons.”    There are different types of bullying, with cyberbullying being the newest type using technology.  It has been shown that the reasons children are bullied are the same reasons that people are biased, racist, and intolerant of diversity.

A study on bullying by the University of British Columbia based on 490 students, 50% male, 50% female in grades 8-10 in a BC city in the winter of 1999 showed:

64% had been bullied at school;

13% bullied other students regularly, once or more a week;

72% observed bullying at school at least once in a while.

Source: Centre for Youth Social Development UBC Faculty of Education

There are three ‘players’ in the bullying cycle – the bully, the victim and the bystanders.  It is the bystanders who have the most power to stop bullying, and if they know what is fair and unfair, and can take some action, bullying will often stop.  Bullies tend to lack empathy, like to have power over the victim, and attention from the bystanders.  Victims tend to lack self-esteem and are often not able to stand up for themselves.

An expert in anti-diversity education, Louise Derman-Sparks has developed four anti-bias goals for creating a safe, bully-free environment for all children.  These goals correlate with each of these ‘players’ in the bullying cycle.

Using Yoga to Help Prevent Bullying with the four Anti-Bias Goals

1. To enable children to develop a strong sense of self, which helps them feel good, but not superior, about self-identity. (victim) 

Yoga Technique:  Breathing -This is My Life

Repeat loudly with the movement and breath, “This Is My Life! Mine To Enjoy! And I Feel Great!!”

dorothy5

This (inhale arms in front)                                                                                                      Is (inhale a bit more)          dorothy1

 

 

 

 

Dorothy4My  (inhale arms up)                                                                                                                Life (exhale and fold)
Dorothy2

 

 

 

 

 

seated breath2. To enable children to feel comfortable with one another and with differences, which helps them develop empathy with others. (bully) 

Yoga Technique:  Partner Twist -Feeling another’s heart/breath

Sit back to back, cross-legged, reach around with right hand to touch partner’s thigh, left hand on own right knee, lift & twist, breathe.

dorothy63. To enable children to think critically and seriously about how they and others feel when encountering inequities, which helps them differentiate between fair and unfair treatment. (bystanders) 

Yoga Technique:  Balance -Tree

Root left foot into ground, keep left hip long, turn right knee to side and place foot on ankle, calf or thigh; raise hands above head and focus on balance.

4. To enable children to stand up for themselves and for others when facing unfairness and bias, which helps them take action. (bystanders) 

Yoga Technique: Grounding -Mountain & Sun Breath

Feet evenly placed under hips, toes forward, lift up through legs, back long, lift ribs, shoulders back, chin parallel to floor; hands up and inhale arms above head, turn hands, exhale hands down.

Dorothy4Dorothy3Introducing yoga to children can help increase confidence and self-esteem ( the victim); it can assist with developing empathy and compassion for others (the bully), and it can allow children the time, focus and permission to develop problem-solving skills and to feel sure enough in making decisions to take action against biased behaviour (the bystanders).

These four yoga techniques can help with each of the four anti-bias goals, allowing environments to be safe for all children, so differences can be celebrated.  Yoga teachers can be creative in using other yoga asana and breathing techniques to fit into these anti-bias goals.

Creating a safe, positive environment for everyone decreases the opportunities for bullying to take place, and yoga is one tool to use to accomplish this.

Dorothy Fizzell is a lead trainer for the SOYA 200hr yoga teacher training in the Vancouver area.

Vrksasana

Vrksasana or the Tree Pose

Balance – The Art of Being Present: 

Submitted by Cindy Szekely, of Intuit Yoga, Mackenzie, BC. Cindy is a SOYA Lead Trainer for the SOYA Teacher Training program. 

Vrksasana and other balance poses help to build focus and increase our ability to concentrate.  This requires the ability to stay in the present moment, not allowing the mind to run wild with thoughts of “Will this pose ever end?” or “oh here I go, I’m going to do a face plant.”  The next time you are in a yoga class and find yourself moving into a balance pose notice if you feel positive or if you are filled with some sort of anxiety.  Once in the pose notice your thoughts and what happens when the mind wanders. Chances are once your mind starts to wander you will no longer be able to balance.  Focus has been lost and the present moment eludes you.

So how then can you work on being fully present in your balance poses?  Listen to the cues directing you to find an external focal point on the floor or wall.  Remember, not a person or anything that moves.  Then take a moment to find your breath.  It truly is a valuable tool.  As a yoga teacher I have found it’s really common for students to hold their breath during balance poses.  Somehow, holding the breath helps you to feel you will make it through to the end of the poses without falling out. Just the opposite is true.  Find your breath, then find a slow steady rhythm, focus on the inhale and exhale and see what happens during your balance poses.  Once you find your breath you may be able to ground more fully, and find a place of ease and stability in that is in the present moment.

Vrksasana/Tree Pose

VrksasanaHow To:

Standing tall in tadasana.   Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keeping the inner foot firm to the floor, and bend your right knee. Externally rotate the right knee and draw your right foot up and place the sole against the spot on your left leg, it may be the ankle, calf, inner thigh depending on your range of motion.

Rest your hands on the top rim of your pelvis. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, with the top rim parallel to the floor.

Bring your hands together at the heart in Anjali mudra.   Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor about 4 or 5 feet away.  Breathe, be present, and just notice how your balance pose feels.

Stay for as long as you are comfortable. Step back to Tadasana with an exhalation and repeat for the same length of time with the legs reverse.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens thighs, calves, ankles, and spine
  • Stretches the groins and inner thighs, chest and shoulders
  • Improves sense of balance
  • Builds focus, concentration

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • High blood pressure: Don’t raise arms overhead

Modifications and Props

  • Support yourself with at the wall if you feel unsteady in this pose

 

handstand

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

kamala upside down - newby Kamala Wilkie, ERYT500, Lead Trainer for SOYA Yoga Teacher Trainings in the Okanagan area.

My 4yr old nephew is scared of cats but is simultaneously drawn to playing with them. I’ve watched him slowly walk up to a ready cat, toy in hand, eyes popping out of his head at the excitement of being within proximity to a part of life he really wants to participate with and then the cat gets up to meet him and he runs away squealing.  One pivotal day while visiting a cat, he stood at his comfort edge, face to face with him, and whispered, “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.”

This is often the initial and necessary ingredient in a relationship with Handstand. This inversion requires the heart and commitment of an explorer coupled with a child’s sense of play.

Some strength prep

-Long held Downward Dogs including a leg lift variation. This is a great place to get familiar with your hand & shoulder alignment & start to build shoulder strength.

-Plank (or Plank on your knees) will build shoulder strength while working the same hand and shoulder alignment you’ll need Handstand.

Handstand (wall kick up)

Move your mat to a wall so a short edge is next to it. Take all fours while facing the wall. Place your hands a few inches from the wall and outer shoulder width apart. Insure your wrist creases are parallel with the short edge of your mat. Root the mounds of your index fingers and energetically hug your hands and forearms toward each other (without moving them).  With an exhale melt your chest toward the floor so your upper arm bones plug more deeply into your shoulder sockets.

  1. Kamala Vienna_handstandsKeep your shoulders stacked over your wrists, gaze between your wrists and lift your knees off the floor.
  2. Step your right foot (or dominant foot) halfway up your mat and keep your right knee bent as your spring leg.
  3. Extend your left leg straight back dynamically in the air. Avoid ever bending this knee for energy efficiency.
  4. Use your right spring-loaded leg to initiate the kick up action while keeping the left leg poker straight. Practice this kick up action a few times, and then switch legs. This is a great place to work for a while until you gain the momentum that will bring your hips vertically over your shoulders.
  5. If your left foot or leg finds the wall above you, bring your right spring leg up to meet it and strongly hug your legs together.
  6. From the space between your shoulder blades, press down though your hands while energetically reaching towards the ceiling with your legs and mounds of the big toes.
  7. When it’s time, return your feet and knees to the floor and rest back into Child’s Pose.

Take your time with the set up and actions and continue to breathe freely throughout.

Elation and empowerment are common side effects of this strong yet playful pose.  Handstand is an active participation with life, in the same way my 4year old nephew gathered the courage to do something that required him to step up and explore his edges of comfort.  This exploration of edges is the place where growth and self knowledge happen. It’s a place full of possibility & mystery and worthy of revisiting on a regular basis.

 Kamala - CopyKamala Nitya is the owner of Purple Lotus Yoga Studio in Penticton BC. She is a Lead Trainer for the South Okanagan Yoga Academy RYT200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program with a passion for Anusara Yoga. She will be leading two 200 Hour teacher training programs in the Okanagan this month; a 16 day Immersion and a 4 month extended training. Visit https://soyayoga.com/yoga-teacher-training/ for more information.

 

uttanasana

Uttanasana

Submitted by Jeff Lutes, SOYA, ERYT500. Photo of Carla Wainwright in Uttanasana. 

This is one of my favourite poses.  It is simple yet provides for an amazing opportunity for self exploration.  Uttanasana is a great pose to explore the polarity between active and passive energy.  It has many modifications that are important to know and understand so everyone can do it.  This pose is both a forward bend and an inversion. It is quite often my second pose in my standing poses.

uttanasanaFrom Tadasana where I create symmetrical alignment we move into Uttanasana where I take the opportunity over several minutes and breaths to find what I have within me for my practice.  Here are a few pointers for exploring this pose:

  • Stand in Tadasana.  Feet are parallel to the long edges of the mat, hip distance apart, weight evenly distributed from the heel to ball of the foot.  Wiggle the toes.  Engage quadriceps.  On the wave of the breath extend the crown of the head to the sky, and soften the shoulder blades.
  • Place thumbs in the groin crease.  Inhale, then exhale and bend where your thumbs are.  Keep your feet grounded and legs active; extend forward, not down, yet.  Place your hands either above or below your knees and stay here.  This is Ardha Uttanasana, half forward fold.  Lengthen the spine from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head.  Bend your knees if you experience discomfort in the low back, hamstrings or back of the knees.
  • As you inhale engage core strength, energize the quadriceps and lengthen.  As you exhale tilt the pelvis forward and release deeply into the pose.   Find a comfortable and spacious place to pause.  Feel the crown of the head release to the force of gravity.
  • When it strikes you find greater depth.  Explore within the pose.  You will be surprised what you find.   Alternate between active energy-creating space, and passive energy-floating within the space you create.  Breathe.  Deep inhalations.  Smooth exhalations.
  • To come back to Tadasana soften the knees as much as required to slide the hands up the legs above the knees.  With the palms securely placed above the knees straighten the arms and spine.  With a neutral spine energize into the feet and come to a standing position.

Caution:  Lower Back, Hyperextension of knees, blood pressure.

Modifications:  Bend knees for low back and knees.  Keep upper body level to ensure that the heart does not go below the head for blood pressure issues.  This pose can also be done with a chair, sitting and folding forward over the thighs.

Benefits:  Lengthens and creates room in spine.  Massages abdomen.  Stretches hamstrings.  Allows for introspection.

Gluten free bread

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

Created by Sarah Britton (her blog is My New Roots). Submitted by Mugs McConnell. 

When I was visiting SOYA Teacher Heather Thomas in Ft McMurray this fall, she shared this amazing bread with me. In fact, she made me make it so I would really know how to do it. This bread is incredibly delicious, heavy like those wonderful European loaves, and totally gluten free! 

There are a couple of tricks to its success:

  •  A silicone loaf pan makes it really easy to take out of the pan partway through the baking. If you don’t have one, then line the pan with wax paper or a silicone dehydrator sheet.
  •  To continue baking it on the rack I put it on a cooling rack in the oven for ease of taking it out.
  •  The “dough” MUST sit at least 2 hours before baking, or longer.
  •  And you MUST let it cool before slicing it. Once it is sliced I freeze some of it and just eat one piece at a time (it is very filling).
  •  It is delicious toasted! 

THIS recipe makes one small loaf, but I actually double the recipe – the bread doesn’t rise in the pan so you can fill it right up to make a nice big loaf.   

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together:

1 cup sunflower seeds (or a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds)

1 cup raisins or craisins (optional)
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup hazelnuts or almonds (I soak them first and chop them so the cut easier when I slice the bread)
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee, melted
2 cups water

In a bowl combine all dry ingredients. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a separate bowl. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick, adding 1-2 teaspoons water if dough is too thick to stir. Press into the loaf pan so all the corners are filled, smooth top and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Bake bread for 20-30 minutes, then remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down, directly on a rack (or a cooling rack), and bake for another 30-40 minutes (it should sound hollow when tapped). Let cool completely before slicing (even leave overnight, then it is easier to slice).

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days or slice and freeze.

Gluten free bread

supta baddha konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana for Sleep and Deep Relaxation

supta baddha konasanaOver 40% of Canadians suffer from sleep disorders and high stress levels. A recent Harvard study concluded that by practicing just 30—45 minutes of yoga a day, people fell asleep 30% faster and reduced their nighttime waking by 35%.

Restorative yoga is one style of yoga that helps you relax and let go of the daily stresses. Here is one yoga pose that may help you to sleep and relax: Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle).

How to get into the pose:

Start kneeling on your mat. To support sensitive ankles, place a blanket on top of your mat. Place one bolsters vertically on the top end of your mat. Add a folded blanket on top that will support your head (centerline of your chin should stay slightly below the centerline of your forehead). Keep 2 bricks close. Recline back onto the bolster, keep it close to your lumbar spine and keep your buttocks grounded on the floor. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow the knees to split out, grab the bricks nearby to slide them underneath the outside of your thighs for support.

Optional, feel free to support the arms as well, another pillow or rolled up blanket will bring release. Eye bag for your eyes will regulate the pressure in your head.

Hold for 5 minutes. To release the pose inhale the knees up and let them fall together with your feet mat width apart (tenting your legs). Rest for a moment to adjust and breathe. When you feel ready, roll sideways off the bolster into a fetal position, head resting on the bottom arm. Stay for a few breaths again to give the nervous system time to adjust.

Pranayama:

Once in the posture, check in with the length of the inhalation, natural rhythm of the breath. Then, without a lot of effort, allow the length of the exhalation to be 2 counts longer than the inhalation. Sense how the body is being moved by the breath.

Benefits:

Stimulates Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest); calms anxiety; calms a scattered mind; soothes and comforts; reduces stress; relaxation response; promotes the feeling of releasing emotions (chest and pelvis are our emotional centres); supports digestion; gently opens the front side of the body, pelvis, belly, shoulders, throat and chest.

Precautions:

Avoid this pose if you suffer from a shoulder or hip injury. If you have a groin or knee injury you should perform this pose with a yoga blanket placed under your outer thigh to provide support. You should also avoid this pose postpartum. Refrain from practicing this pose till the pelvic area muscles, which get loose after child birth, come back to their pre-pregnancy tightness.

Nicole Schulz is leading a OneDay Retreat on Sleep and Deep Relaxation on Saturday, December 6th at Red Deer Hot Yoga. Students will look at the definition of sleep and the types, conditions and causes of sleep disorders. You will learn how yoga can be a powerful tool to improve your sleep and well-being and help you find deep relaxation! This retreat will focus on customized specific physical postures (asanas), relaxing breath work (pranayama), mind calming practices (iRest® Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra) and dietary recommendations. There will be a wonderful guest speaker: Abrah Arenson, author of the recently published book “The Herbal Apprentice” will share her knowledge about herbs that help to induce sleep and deep relaxation. Bring your beautiful self, eye bag and your own pillow.
For rates, registration & questions please check www.nicole-yoga.com!

Retreat Yourself

Gita

From the Gita to the Grail

 

Until I started reading this book I didn’t realize how much my culture has influenced the way I think. I mean I knew it influenced me, but the book opened my eyes a little wider with regards to this. It isn’t just my culture that influences the way I think, but also the cultures I have adopted during my lifetime.

I will try to shed some light on what I mean.  In a society influenced by Christianity, I grew up knowing the story of Adam and Eve. The myth is that Adam was lonely so God created Eve from Adam’s side near his heart. Symbolically this implies women are second to man and more emotional than intellectual (she came from the area near Adam’s heart, not his head). And our society still reflects this belief in many of its behaviours.

In a Babylonian story of creation there was only water in the beginning… waters on the land and salty waters of the ocean. The sweet waters of land were male and they merged with the salty waters of woman in the ocean and from this mixing together, life was created within her. The soil from the land was made fertile through sacrifice and hard effort from the gods. Through the blood of sacrifice of a god, man was brought to life, but this life is only to serve the gods. Growing up with this as a basis for belief leads one to understand their purpose in life is service to a higher power, or to those more powerful than himself.

The myths in Bernie Clark’s book are far more detailed than what I have stated above, and after each myth is an explanation of how the myth leads one to their belief system. It soon becomes apparent how malleable our beliefs can be!

The book takes a look at how myths affect us in our cosmological function, sociological function, psychological function and mystical function. The myths in these sections unveil how our beliefs guide us in how we live and interact with each other, how we view the spirit, what boundaries we live by (such as the ten commandments or the yamas and niyamas), how we love one another, our attitudes toward life and its struggles, and so on. Lastly we are given guidance on how we can transcend the boundaries created through our beliefs.

It is a magical journey of stories that are sometimes very light-hearted and other times quite poignant and troubling. For me, the book gave me so much appreciation for all matter and species and their role in our amazing universe. It gave me a much deeper insight to the vast array of beliefs and where they came from while at the same time showed me how similar we all are with our search for our purpose in life.  Bernie Clark sums up very nicely where this book can take you.

“These myths are maps to our inner landscapes. These myths are models of the way we are supposed to behave. We all have our own maps, our own myths by which we live our lives. …A clue to your map can be found any time you find yourself thinking about the way things or other people, or even yourself, should be. The idea of should is based upon a map you hold internally; the map defines the way life is supposed to be. …It is easier to blame the outside world for not meeting our expectations of it than to go inward and find the flaws in our own map.

To explore a dark territory requires a light, and the light we use to explore the darkness of our deep, inner realms is the light of consciousness. … Be prepared to be shocked or pleasantly surprised – in either case, what you will find will be unexpected.”

This book is a great read that gives you a choice in how you live your life. Take your time in reading it while you discover why Siva dances on a dwarf, or Vishnu sleeps on an endless snake. See how your attitudes spark and change as you grasp a deeper understanding of the Eastern lifestyle as compared to ours in the West. I hope you enjoy the journey thoroughly!

From the Gita to the Grail: Exploring Yoga Stories & Western Myths by Bernie Clark is published by Blue River Press. ISBN 9 781935 628316