Blog

SERIOUSLY TASTY & EASY VEGAN Mug Cake

Now I am no chef…but I can do some things with a microwave. Mug cakes are the best because sometimes…when I make a batch of baked goods…I eat a dozen cookies. So if you’re also a bit of a loner who loves to bake, single serving is the way to go! This is a seriously delicious mug cake that can be ready in a minute…not an exaggeration. It’s vegan & made with real food only, no weird commercialized healthy protein cake BS.

There’s peanut butter and there’s chocolate so what else do you need? Honestly I find this better than an actual piece of cake it is SO GOOD. YOU MUST TRY.

What you need:

  • a shallow mug or small bowl
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you can use any sugar/sweetener here, but careful with liquid sweeteners like syrups, make sure they’re completely combined)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter (any natural nut butter works, sticky stuff from Skippy doesn’t)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever non dairy milk floats your boat)
  • (Optional) 1 tsp mini choc chips (dairy free to keep it vegan or just whatever you want. Yum white chocolate is probably good here. Or be that person who prefers fruit over chocolate. I used mini chips from Enjoy Life.)

Instructions:

  • Whisk flour, sugar, & baking soda with a fork
  • Add milk then stir in nut butter (fork will combine best)
  • Microwave for 40s-1min (depending on your microwave, better to under cook than over)
  • Top with choc chips
  • ATTEMPT to wait for the chocolate to get a little melty & then enjoy 🙂

Yep, that’s it. It’s that easy.

 

Calories & Macros:

(may vary depending on your choice of sweetener, nut butter, milk, & topping)

326 cal: 18g F 29g C 9g P

not too shabby😉

Softening into Splits: A Tutorial

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

The journey with hanumanasana (aka splits pose) has been a long and bumpy one. In the beginning, a split was the cool girl at school that I hated because she was so pretty and never talked to me. Then my split was the boyfriend my parents couldn’t stand but I insisted I loved. Now hanuman is the sweet old friend I’ve made peace with. Sometimes we bicker. But every time we get lunch, we say we’ll stay in better touch.

 


So you want the SPLITS?

Full splits or hanumanasana – a beautiful, opening posture. Splits are possible in every body, but this pose takes time, consistency, and softness – it cannot be forced! I have injured myself many times forcing splits before my hamstrings were open and warm so stretch with caution and use common sense – your body has loud stopping points – respect them.

Of course splits require very open hamstrings but don’t mistake, there is a lot more going on here! Commonly overlooked in a splits practice, the HIP FLEXORS and psoas muscle  must be open here as well in order to keep the hips closed and squared forward. For many of us, this opening is more challenging as many of us sit all day, keeping the hip flexors tight. So, even if you have a lot of space in the hamstrings, you may need a lot of hip flexor work before your body is ready for a split.


Here are my favorite stretches to get into splits.

Back: clasp your fingers behind your thigh and with your breath, bend and extend your leg. Inhale to extend, flex your foot. Exhale to re-bend your leg. Continue this movement, warming up the hamstring. Don’t force the leg straight. Just slowly flow between the two.

Low Lunge: maybe place blocks under your hands to lengthen your spine. Your weight is in your front heel. DO NOT allow your heel to lift off the mat throughout this movement. Inhale to pull your heart forward, exhale as you extend your leg, shift your weight back pull the toes towards your face. Keep the hips over your back knee at that 90 degree angle – don’t sit on the back heel. Continue at your breath.

Forward Fold: hang here, opening the backs of the legs. Maybe place a block behind your heels and pull your chest towards your legs. LET THE HEAD GO – like the crown of your head will touch the mat. Place the block under your hand, bend one knee so you can get the opposite leg stick straight. Extend your arm (same side as the straight leg) up and open, stacking the shoulders to open the IT band, down the side of your leg. Repeat on opposite side.

Pyramid: Keep the spine long, maybe place blocks under your hands. Keep your front leg straight, bend into the back knee and shift your weight back just slightly. Bounce between the two.

Hero-Pigeon: Set your front leg up for hero’s pose and your back leg up for pigeon pose. Your front seat should come to the mat with your heel out to the side, don’t sit on the heel. Have your back leg straight behind you. Bring blocks underneath your hands at a high level, trying to stack your shoulders over your hips. Stay for a few breaths. This will open the opposite hip flexor. If this is uncomfortable or feeling crunchy on your low back, walk the blocks forward more and lean forward at an angle instead of directly upright. Gradually work your way back as you practice.

IMG_4934

Flying Split: Come to a half split shape. With blocks beneath your hands, walk the front leg forward and back knee back until you find a challenging place. Then, tuck your back toes and lift the back knee off of the mat. Try to keep your back leg straight. Isometrically try to pull your front heel to your back toes and your back toes to your front heel, scissoring the inner thighs together. Keep the core tight. Stay for a few breaths, continuing to walk to blocks back, trying to stack your shoulders over your hips.

IMG_4935

Supported Split: Prepare for splits, place a block to catch your front seat. Stay for a few breaths, staying upright, maybe even extend your arms up and overhead and lift your gaze. Continue squaring your hips to the top of your mat. Keep the core tight, careful not to dump your belly and arch your low back.

IMG_4936

Full Splits! Try these stretches every day for a few days, moving slowly and intentionally. Then, you’re ready to try out your full split, move slowly, listening for your body’s stopping points. 

IMG_4906

Enjoy the hanumanasana journey! 🙂


Overstretched the hamstrings?

If your hamstrings are feeling sore, tight, or even bruised after a splits practice, you may have overstretched your hamstring. To reduce pain and initiate the healing process, move in opposition. If the hamstrings are lengthened too far, it helps to shorten the muscle. We can do this by contracting the hamstring. Do some hamstring shortening exercise and rest the hamstrings for a couple of days before returning to the splits practice. Don’t stretch if you are still feeling pain. Oops, careful next time 🙂


Have an advanced posture you really want to work into?

Let me know what pose(s) you’d like a tutorial for next 🙂


Practice these movements + more!

Practice with me around the Bay Area – find me teaching near you!

Pranayama: breathing in yoga & in life

Yogis, this post is all about prana or “that which is infinitely everywhere” – the universal energy that flows within and around all of us. We’ll talk about some about prana then we’ll talk about pranayama – the 4th limb on the yogic path. Finally, I’ll give you some pranayama to take home and practice. (Including some embarrassing but hopefully helpful selfies)

Keep in mind, while an asana practice is likely to lead to body awareness and a more comfortable seat and is therefore helpful for pranayama, absolutely no physical yoga experience is required to benefit from these breathing techniques. You don’t need to be able to do a handstand, have big muscles, a flat belly, any flexibility, or fancy yoga clothes. All you need is lungs, a nose, a mouth, and one hand. Got it all? Great.

What is prana?

So “that which is infinitely everywhere”…complex topic, yeah? Prana can be translated and interpreted in many beautiful ways (life, breath, flow, universal energy, etc) but we’ve got at least one thing down for sure, without prana, there is no life. Prana is shared and infinite. We are all one, taking part of this flow. If physical or mental issues disrupt this flow, we don’t feel our best and cannot truly connect with our highest self.

To make things more tangible, consider your breath. It flows in and out of your body, filling you, gifting you life. This is prana. It is already in you, flowing continuously from within your own being. As you inhale and exhale, you are experiencing “that which is infinitely everywhere”. You are taking part in the universal flow. So cool.

There are different forms and directions of prana in our body called vayus. I won’t get into these but Google if it sparks interest.

And pranayama?

You may have heard the word yama in other yoga contexts. If not, no worries. The yamas are the first limb in the yogic path. The word yama means “constraint”. So 1 + 1 is 2 and pranayama is breath constraint. The breath is mentioned all over ancient yoga texts. As I mentioned before, disruptions in prana = not well. So the goal in pranayama as a concept is to be able to control and maintain our prana. Formentioned yoga texts depict a well person with prana within them – they have a lot of space for prana. While an unwell person has prana constantly flowing out of them – they are blocked and full of other junk, making less space. This isn’t a new concept to you. Think of how you lose your breath when you are shocked or frightened. Think of how your body relaxes when you take a deep breath in. And a slow breath out.

If you’ve been to a yoga class, you may have experienced pranayama. Maybe slowing down the breath, lengthening your exhale, maybe counting is duration, breathing in a specific way, etc. In Asana practice, we often focus on our breath to stay present and not wander off into discomfort or distractions. Breath also helps us deepen our asana practice. Notice how you feel when you inhale your way into a deep backbend: your front body extends in every direction with breath. So there are benefits of breathing in particular ways for your physical yoga practice as well as in your ordinary life.

All of this being said, pranayama is an advanced practice. It requires body awareness, patience, and consistency to further you towards your goal. If a pranayama practice is uncomfortable, if you ever feel you are gasping for breath, this may be a message from your body to practice breathing normally and focusing on the breath instead.

Let’s get into some of my favorite pranayama techniques. For each of these breath exercises, you will find a comfortable seat. This could look anyway you need, but the spine is upright. Lotus, meditation cushion, easy seat, criss cross applesauce, kneeling, hero’s pose, a chair, whatever.

Sitali

Sitali is a favorite pranayama of mine, especially as I am living on the Equator and sweating my a$$ off every day. Because, sitali is a cooling, refreshing breath. Sita means cool. I love sitali on a hot day, during a rest in a hot yoga class or intense yoga practice, sometimes I even practice this breath between sets at the gym…because that is me. It would also be good to cool down from a stressful situation or argument.

Come to your seat. In Sitali breath, we will curl the edges of the tongue to form a tongue tube. Inhale through the tongue tube for as long as you can. Inhaling over your moist tongue will cool your throat. Before you exhale, draw the tongue back against the palate as far as possible to keep it moist. (Do people still have an issue with the word moist? Lmk) then exhale out the mouth or the nose slowly with control (I prefer mouth). See my photo. If you cannot roll your tongue into a tongue tube, don’t fret! You can get the same cooling effect by parting the lips and teeth, placing the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and inhaling through the mouth, allowing air to flow over the tongue. Yes, this breath should make a little noise.

Kapalabhati

You don’t have to pronounce it correctly to get the benefits. This is a goodie. Kapalabhati is an intense cleansing breath. Kapala means skull. Bhati means bringing light. So this pranayama technique is often referred to as “Skull Shining breath”. If you feel full of mucus, this will clean you right up. It’s good for if you feel ill but it is also preventative and great for your immune system. Beyond the physical, practice this breath when you are looking for intense changes or cleanups of life. This breath makes me feel lighter, stronger, capable and confident.

I find this breathing technique quite difficult so don’t fret about getting it right right away. The breath will be rapid and shallow. We will use our lungs like a pump. Come to a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and turn them upwards, like you’re trying to see your 3rd eye. Focus here. Seal your lips. Inhale through the nose 1/3 of capacity. Exhale forcefully through the nose. In this breath, we exhale with so much force that the inhale comes natural – push so much air out in such little time that you inhale very quickly after. It may be helpful to place a hand on your belly and feel the rapid motion of your breath.

Practice this breath with caution as it could cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You also may want to avoid this pranayama after meals as the sharp exhale may restrict your stomach. Be sure to take breaks and breath normally. I aim to breath rapidly for 40s-1min at a time before breathing normally and repeating but it is important to listen to your body and never constrict prana.

Nadi Sodhana

The best for last – this may be my favorite pranayama. I practice this every day, usually twice a day. Nadi means “passage” of which energy flows and sodhana means “cleansing”. This breathing technique brings a calming, balancing energy. I encourage you to try this one out before bed, before a yin yoga practice, before meditation, when you’re stressed or feeling out of wack, etc.

Find your seat. To practice, we will use our right hand to open and close our nostrils as we inhale and exhale. Find a comfortable seat. Rest your left hand where it is comfortable, you can use a mudra here or not. Bring your right hand towards your face. See photo. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead, between your brows. Slight pressure. With your thumb, block (partially or fully, up to you & your sinuses today) your right nostril. Inhale with your left nostril. Retain the breath at the top for as long as comfortable (maybe not at all). While retaining, use your ring finger to block the left nostril. Unblock the right. Exhale through the right nostril. Keep left blocked and right unblocked. Inhale through the right, retain, switch, exhale through the left. Inhale left, retain, switch, exhale right. Inhale right, retain, switch, exhale left. And so on. We switch nostrils at the top of each inhale. & yes that is some fresh ink on my finger #teamtatted (I’m joking) (but it is ink. My pen leaked into my bag pity me)

If you find the hand position uncomfortable or restrictive, use the surfers hand instead. Thumb blocks right, pinky blocks left. See picture. Hang freaking ten.

Repeat for as long as comfortable. I usually practice nadi sodhana for 2 – 5 min.

Enjoy the prana 😘

If you have favorite pranayama techniques, leave them in the comments!

Restorative Yoga: where the party is at

Today we’re talking about restorative yoga. What it is, why it’s so important (& challenging), what its done for my practice, how it has affected my teaching, and of course a restorative practice to try out. 

Many of my regular yogis know my love for restorative yoga. It is a truly unique and important practice. Contrary to this post’s featured image, restorative yoga is not about splits. It’s not about strength. Unlike yin yoga, power, or vinyasa styles, in restorative, there is little to no muscle engagement. Instead, yogis are fully supported by props and/or the Earth itself. In an ideal world, all students will have blankets, bolsters, blocks, sandbags, eye pillows, and whatever props you can think of but a restorative yoga practice requires nothing. (See my post all about props to hear my thoughts on this and check out my prop collection.) In restorative, yogis move slowly and rarely. In a 60 minute restorative yoga class, the teacher may get you into 6 poses or less. Yogis will hold these poses for a way longer time than those in a vinyasa style class, most of my classes will hold poses for 8-12 minutes. Don’t let this scare you away, chair is not a restorative yoga pose! Most shapes are reclined, some seated. Many people misinterpret restorative yoga as “gentle” yoga or even a beginners yoga. While beginners can most definitely benefit from restorative, I personally find it one of the most challenging types of yoga. 

Alright so it’s not a class of deep stretching, strong breath work, strengthening, or anything you might be used to in other yoga classes…why do we do it? This is my favorite question to answer. Restorative yoga is about REST. How often do you rest? And what does rest look like to you? In our culture, we are often running around all day like headless chickens and then expected to settle down and get 6-8 hours of sleep, and most of us find that impossible. As I’m sure you’ve all experienced, it’s very difficult to sleep without proper rest. Our bodies are so tired yet so restless we cannot seem to settle at night. It’s a viscious cycle of lack of proper rest and then lack of sleep. Conscious rest can change everything. Being awake, relaxed, with no pressure to fall asleep or get things done. I’m sure you have experienced the feeling of not being able to sleep at night, knowing you need sleep but thinking of all the things you could be getting done instead. 

Beyond rest, restorative yoga is about receiving instead of giving. I mentioned restorative yoga utlizies props and the Earth to receive support, to feel grounded, held, safe. How often do you turn off giving mode and turn on taking mode? To be able to give, we must be able to ask for and then take what we need. We must allow life to happen to us instead of constantly fighting it, building expectations, and feeding our false sense of control. You know the warnings for rip currents at the coast? To swim in parallel instead of fighting the current? Same goes for restorative yoga. Sitting still is an extremely difficult task for many, myself included. Right when I settle in seems to be when I feel the need to fix my shirt or hair or when I suddenly have an itch that must be attended to, etc. In restorative, we are invited to feel those urges and breath with them instead of acting upon them. Allowing ourself to be uncomfortable in stillness but not take the steps to escape it. This is why, unlike yin (in which yogis get into poses that keep them on their edge of discomfort to achieve a meditative state), we want to be as comfortable as possible in restorative yoga poses. I tell my students right when we get into a new pose, fix what’s “wrong”, take the time to “fix”, then let go. Let wherever we find ourself be just the right place. There is no right or wrong alignment in restorative. 

This mindset, of taking instead of giving, of resting is counterculture. There is nothing we are working towards, no goal. For many in our goal-oriented society, this idea is inconceivable. There is only the present feeling and the only task is to be present with that feeling.

“Restorative yoga brings ease.”

So how has yoga shifted my own practice? Of course it has slowed it down. I replaced a strong vinyasa style practice with a restorative one. But beyond that, it has been incredibly healing to my body and mind. I have shared before how I used to always think of yoga – a workout, a time to push and pull on my body to achieve a goal. Now, yoga is a healing practice and conversation with my body. Sure there are still goals occasionally and there is definitely a push and pull. But with that there is an understanding of where I am instead of just a focus on where I want to be. And, the main selling point I use to try to get some of my students from power yoga into restorative is ever since I have started practicing restorative, more “advanced” postures come easier to me. I injure myself less. Restorative yoga brings ease.

An example, I wanted splits desperately. Why? I don’t know – no good reason, only bad reasons. But I practiced and practiced and never felt comfortable in a split. For almost a year. Then I just said, screw it. Splits aren’t for me I give up I can’t practice them enough to ever hold a split. I didn’t do my usual splits routine for months. During this time I was doing restorative yoga 3-4x per week. Then one day out of nowhere, I found myself in a split, a full 8 breaths with all the ease in the world. The same happened for me and many inverted postures, which used to be clouded by fear for me.

After discovering restorative yoga, I clearly changed as a student but I also unknowingly changed as a teacher. I didn’t even realize – one of my regular yogis pointed it out. I shifted from pushing my yoga students to holding them. At this point, I wasn’t even teaching gentle classes, definitely not restorative. I thought I could never reach slower paced, quiet classes. But suddenly, even in a power yoga class in which they moved quickly, got into “advanced” poses, worked towards a peak, etc, I was holding space for healing instead of space for exercising. My voice, my cues, my assists and adjustments all softened. This has been the most meaningful evolution of myself as a yoga teacher yet. This allowed me to fall deeper in love with teaching (I didn’t think that was possible).

Last year, I even began teaching my own restorative class, in which most of my students were completely new to restorative yoga. I found teaching this class so difficult at first. How much do I say? How much silence do I give? How much alignment cuing do I do? Should I assist? Should I try to adjust? At the studio I practice, there is a restorative teacher (Barbara Vosk, for all you Raleigh yogis – she’s magic. And teaches at Bliss Body Yoga.) who seemed to get everything right. I (mostly) joked I wanted to be her when I grow up. I never thought I could lead a restorative class after spending so much time in hers. But I felt the practice was so important, I needed to share and the place I was teaching did not offer a restorative class so I took it on. One day, one of my regular yogis came to me after restorative class and said “I imagine this class isn’t the most fun for you to teach, but I’m really glad you do.” After that, it came with ease. And it was fun.

Restorative Yoga for You

Restorative yoga can bring you more and better quality sleep, less stress, less injuries, and ease in most and mind.

So here is a go-to, quick restorative practice for you from your home. Move from pose to pose slowly with as little muscles engagement as possible. Keep the eyelids heavy. Between each pose, allow yourself to find any movement that feels good.

  • Reclined butterfly. Grab a cushion from the couch and place it at your tailbone, lie back onto the cushion – make sure you’re fully supported. You might need 2 cushions depending on the length of your torso. For a less intense backbend, prop the cushion up on another or even a couple of books to create a slope and recline on that. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall to either side. Support your knees and thighs with 2 more smaller cushions or pillows. Stay here for 10-12 min, focusing on your breath.
  • Supported twist. If your cushion is sloped, remove other props so it is flat. Place your right hip right in front of the cushion and bend then stack your knees. Maybe place another cushion between the lower legs. Frame the cushion with your hands and lower your belly onto the cushion. For more intensity, rest on your left cheek. Stay for 8-10 minutes. Then repeat this, with the left hip.
  • Mountain brook. Lie flat and place the cushion beneath the natural bend in your knees. Depending on the size of your cushion, you may need 2. Also, depending on the length of your legs and cushion, this may take your feet off the ground. If this occurs, place feet on 2 large books so that the heels are grounded. If you have rocks, stones, or crystals, place them in each palm and allow your arms to fall naturally by your sides. If you want, support your head with a very small pillow, ensuring your shoulder blades stay grounded and your neck stays as long as possible. Stay here for 10-12 min.
  • If you’d like, you can end in Mountain Brook or take a traditional savasana, flat on your back without cushions.

I hope restorative yoga brings you peace and rest. Don’t be discouraged if your first (few) experience is difficult or frustrating, just trust the journey and allow yourself to take. There is nothing to give. There is nothing to do right or wrong.

Enjoy.

I wrote a poem and here it is.

OK, I wrote a poem. I’m unfamiliar with this art but I am staying with this vulnerability, I am leaning into this. Remember when we were kids and we all wrote poems? We painted, we acted, we sung, we wrote songs, we wrote short stories, and we fell in love with our work. I wrote this poem a month ago I don’t even know why I did and have kept it in my notebook, haven’t even looked at it again. Because many of us, now all grown up and filed down by life, deny our natural desire, NEED, to create. We are all creators. We all want to work and make things but somewhere in our life’s education, we were told we only create may one thing. The rest is for someone else. Well, that is BS. We are all poets, singers, songwriters, playwrites, painters, sketchers, fashion designers, architects, we’re the actor, the director, the visionary. 

Last night, I was sitting in the airport with my headphones in, scrolling through whatever sh** I apparently needed to see and then a young girl tapped on my shoulder. In Spanish, she informed me she was now putting on her ballet and I could watch. I thanked her, I took out my music, and I watched this girl dance her absolute heart out for a full 7-10 minutes with no music. This was no random dance, there was a plot, a story. There was drama. A lot of thought went into her movements. Now I will admit, this was the first ballet I have ever attended, but it was easily the best ballet I’ve ever seen.  I applauded and complimented but she was very indifferent about how I felt about her ballet. She did not need me to be proud of her work or tell her to continue. She walked back to her corner of the international arrivals gate and created a new ballet. It was not about the performance, it was about the work. It was not for me, it was for her. 

So same.

No title because I have no idea how to title a poem that’s too far for me. 

There is something romantic about an expert at work. At play.

I watch him watch.

He is looking for something specific.

The amateur longs to see what he recognizes like family.

He watches so patiently

So accepting

Almost indifferent but not quite.

There is longing but it is aged.

It has matured.

He knows only a child wants what is not being given.

He knows his is a sport of receiving.

He has surrendered control

and even the desire for control.

He only wants what is being offered freely.

With a lack of disappointment, he turns.

He has something better to do

But he’ll be back.