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Back into Balance! January 9, 2013

Filed under: Ayurveda,Recipe — rejuvenateyourprana @ 1:15 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do you ever feel like over the holidays, your good habits and routines somehow get lost in the whirlwind of social events, busy schedules and overindulging? I think a lot of us can relate to this!

I found that after a couple of weeks of drinking and eating more than I’m used to and having a lot of rich foods, my digestion was feeling a bit out of whack! I was gassy, bloated and was starting to feel some familiar food cravings popping up!

So, I decided to give my digestive tract a little retreat after the holidays!

I spent just three days on a simple Kitchari diet. Kitchari (pronounced [ki-cha-ree]) is a simple East Indian recipe that is easily digested and therefore supports and rejuvenates the digestive tract. It’s a great recipe to turn to on a weekly or monthly basis or after a little over-indulging.

I cooked the Kitchari in the morning and ate it, slightly warmed, the rest of the day. I played with the basic recipe a bit and added different vegetables on different days (sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets) for variety. I drank just water and simple, herbal teas.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my digestion improved, my bloating decreased and my cravings subsided! It was a great reminder of how quickly our bodies respond when we do a few good things for them! I shared my experience and Kitchadi with a few friends and they were asking for the recipe, so here it is if you’d like to give it a try! It’s from Myra Lewin’s book, Freedom in your Relationship with Food.

Kitchadi
Basic Digestive Kitchari  
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup split mung beans
3 tablespoons ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/8 tsp asafoetida (a herb that aids in digestion, found at local East Indian markets)
1 strip kombo (like seaweed – you can get it at health food stores)
6 cups water
1/2 tsp mineral salt
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
1 tsp turmeric (fresh or powder)
1/2 tsp cardamom
2-4 cups freshly chopped veg such as carrots, greens, squash
 
Wash rice and split mung until water is clear.  Warm 1 tbsp ghee in a pan and simmer the cumin, coriander and asafoetida until you can smell them.  Add the rice, mung beans and kombu, stir together and simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Add 4 cups of water and simmer for 45 mins.  In a small pan, heat remaining ghee and add the salt, ginger root, turmeric and cardmom.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes then add to the rice and dhal with the ramining water and veggies.  Cook for 20 minutes longer or until veggies are soft.  The consistency should be soupy.  Add more water as needed.

I’ve included this recipe and another variation for ‘coconut kitchari’ under Recipes. I’d love to know if you try them and what you think! I’d also love to know what things you do to come back to balance!

 

I love you…and chocolate too! February 8, 2012

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, I’m sure you can’t help but realize that it’s almost Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of hard to miss as it’s probably one of the best marketed holidays of the year…next to Christmas! Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, this is a great time of year to think about connection. We could all use a little more love…and ahem…chocolate! So, I invite you to connect with someone special in your life through partner yoga and a few indulgent treats.

The meaning of the word yoga is literally ‘to yoke’ meaning to create connection or union. We create this connection within ourselves when we do yoga. We connect our mind and our body through breath and awareness. When we do partner yoga, we extend this connection with one another. We allow ourselves and our partner to go much deeper into a pose by supporting each other and allowing ourselves to be supported. What better way to deepen your relationship with your friend or lover and with yourself?

It’s so nurturing to feel the warmth and support of another person as we open into and through our bodies. As you practice the following poses with your partner, focus on connecting through your breath. Poses done back to back are especially powerful. You may literally feel as if that person ‘has your back’ as you feel the warmth of their body supporting you from behind.

To begin, spend some time centering yourself as you sit back to back. First, start to notice your own breath as it enters and leaves your body. Then, as you tune into your own rhythm, start to notice you partner’s breath. Notice how fast or slow it is and where you can feel it in their body. Take a few moments to start to synchronize your breath with your partner’s. This creates a connection that goes beyond the physical form of the body. You enter a space with your partner where you come into sync and are intimate with each other. Use your breath to come into and out of each pose that follows. (Thanks to Roz and Dan for the beautiful demonstrations!)

Forward and Back Bend – In this pose you will open through the chest and back as you come into a supported back bend. Sit back to back in an easy, cross-legged pose and link arms with your partner. When you have entered into a rhythmic breath together, inhale to extend through the spine and then exhale to come into the pose.

As one partner bends forward, the other partner allows themselves to be supported as they come into a back bend. Spend a few breaths here as you allow yourselves to go deeper into the pose. Inhale to slowly come out of the pose and then repeat it with your partner.

Back to Back Twist – Begin sitting back to back in an easy cross-legged position. Each person then reaches their right hand back to take a hold of their partner’s left knee. Your left hand can come to your own right knee to facilitate the twist. Inhale to lengthen through the spine and then exhale to twist to the right. Continue to use your breath to extend through the spine and releasing deeper into the twist on an exhale. Exhale to release back to the center and then repeat it on the other side. When you are finished your practice, you can turn and offer each other a “Namaste” which literally means “I bow to you” acknowledging your appreciation of that person in your life.

If you’re a little hungy after all that yoga and you’d like to indulge in some mouth-watering recipes to enjoy with your loved one, read on to discover a delicious Chocoate Pot-de-Creme or some Healthy Turtle BonBons. And of course, keep posted for our upcoming Partner Workshop through Rejuvenate Your Prana!

Namaste to you on Valentine’s Day!

 

Oh the weather outside is frightful January 19, 2012

“…but the fire is so delightful”

I can’t quite sing “let it snow, let it snow” at the top of my lungs with the same holiday zeal anymore. We were blessed with embarrassingly beautiful, mild weather in Edmonton over Christmas and the New Year – then boom! The beginning of this week saw temperatures plummet into the minus mid-thirties and forties. It’s the type of cold that makes your skin feel like it’s being pricked with thousands of tiny pins. It’s almost mind-numbing in that you are reduced to one thought and sole mission when you step outside – how to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time possible.

Unfortunately, my old ’96 Toyota Corolla has become a casualty at the hands of winter. She’s been sitting outside the house, covered in snow and refuses to respond. I’ve tried everything to give her a boost but alas, she remains icy and cold like a scorned woman who’s angry with me for neglecting her (which I did, in a way, because I left her outside with less than a quarter tank of gas!). Luckily, my sweet little sister was generous enough to lend me her car for work. Then it’s straight home and into warm socks and sweaters for the night.

Being trapped indoors does lend itself to resourcefulness though. As much as I would love to zip out and get a warm drink, the general consensus in our house seems to be, “Who the ‘bleep-bleep’ wants to go out in this weather?!” Well, I won’t argue with that. So tonight, I decided to revisit a favourite drink of mine that I discovered last winter. It’s a green tea hot chocolate that I made by accident as I was trying to create something else. I’m sure there are other versions of this drink out there; what I like about this one is that it’s dairy free but still oh-so-creamy. I can’t help but smile after every sip.

Vegan Green Tea Hot Chocolate:

Ingredients:
– Chocolate almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened – if you are limiting your sugar intake, opt for the unsweetened version and add your own natural sweetener, such as honey or agave, as desired)
– Your favourite green tea
– Matcha green tea powder for sprinkling on top (optional)

Directions:
Bring one cup of chocolate almond milk to a low boil. Steep green tea leaves into the almond milk for several minutes until desired strength. Ladle into your favourite “I’m having a relaxing night in” mug and sprinkle Matcha green tea powder on top. Slip under your favourite blanket on the couch and enjoy.

Despite the cold weather, we are looking forward to a good turnout for our Vata Workshop this Saturday. We will be working off the winter chill in Alanna’s yoga class and fuelling our bodies afterwards with a home cooked meal made by me. In the spirit of spreading warmth, Rejuvenate Your Prana will look forward to donating a percentage of the proceeds from Saturday’s workshop to Hope Mission in Edmonton to support their efforts to provide meals and a warm bed for those in need in our city.

Thanks for stopping by and please leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you! Namaste.

 

Vata – you say Whata? January 6, 2012

I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t like the winter that much. It’s cold, it’s dry and it’s dark. I’d much rather be on the beach but I think the closest I’ll get to that here is a steam room at the local gym! In the winter, my skin gets dry, I’m constantly trying to warm up and I just want to soak in every bit of sunlight we get. Although most people tend to feel these symptoms in the winter months, some do more than others. Why is this?

Winter is the season in which the Vata Dosha is most dominant. So, what is Vata you ask? Well, let’s back up and start with Ayurveda, the ancient East-Indian science of health, literally meaning “complete knowledge for a long life”. Sounds like a pretty good thing to me! According to Ayurveda, there are three main energies or doshas: Vata (Air-Space), Pitta (Fire-Water), and Kapha (Water-Earth). Each of these doshas can dominate our particular body-mind type, the time of day and even the time of year! In the Fall to mid-winter, the Vata dosha dominates because of its characteristics: cold, moving, quick, dry and rough.
Some people have a lot of Vata in their constitution (or mind-body type). When they are balanced, they tend to be creative, vital and have a great sense of health and well-being. However, when out of balance, Vata types tend to be plagued by worry, insomnia, dry skin, constipation and difficulty focusing. Ughhh! Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Well, if they do and they tend to get worse in the Fall or Winter, you may have a lot of Vata in your constitution!

Vata is sometimes referred to as the ‘king of the doshas’ because it drives the workings of the other doshas. You can imagine it like a fan that feeds the balance or imbalance of the other doshas. It’s responsible for all the movement in our bodies and without it the other doshas cannot move. In Ayurvedic medicine, like increases like and opposites increase balance. Therefore, when the cool, dry weather of fall and winter is here and Vata is strong in the environment, the Vata in our constitution has a greater chance of going out of balance. However, the great thing thing about Vata is that although it tends to go out of balance easily, it also can quickly return to balance. Like the wind, it can simply change directions! So, how do we put things back in balance after they’re thrown off course?

Bringing things back together is a matter of using opposites to create balance. To counteract cold, chilly weather, indulge in lots of warm drinks. I suggest boiling up a cup of steamy ginger tea with fresh, grated ginger, lemon and honey! Ginger, nutmeg and cardamom are spices that are good for warming the body and counteracting an imbalance in Vata. So, go ahead and make some mulled cider, it’s good for your Vata! Eating lots of warm, cooked foods including root veggies is also a good thing to include on the menu in the winter. Who doesn’t love a hearty stew when it’s cold outside?

You can also allow yourself to indulge in warm baths, showers or steam rooms. They’re great for warmth and humidity which is lacking when it is so dry! Getting lots of rest and avoiding overstimulation is also a great way to bring Vata back into balance. Spending time reading, meditating, relaxing by the fire or candle light is very calming to an over-stimulated mind (which Vatas tend to come by naturally!). To counteract dry skin, oil massage is a good idea. In Ayurveda, Abhyanga, or self massage with sesame oil or other oils is believed to be good for health in general.

So, I think that creating balance this time of year comes down to this: Follow your instincts and indulge yourself in things that you wouldn’t normally do during the rest of the year. How will you allow yourself to be ‘pampered’? What kinds of things will you do to feel good and make your Vata happy? We’d love to know!

If you’d like to find out what your dosha is, here are two helpful sites which you can take a quiz on: What’s your Dosha and Doshaquiz.

If you’d like to learn more about doshas and how to create balance and vitality through yoga and delicious culinary creations, check out our upcoming Vata Workshop on January 21st, 2012!

 

…3, 2, 1 Happy New Year! December 31, 2011

2012 is swiftly approaching and since I am a glutton for punishment, I usually like to review my New Year Resolutions from last year to measure my progress. Oh, right – um, save money, lose weight, eat less junk and exercise. Oops! Forgot about those ones!

To borrow words from one of my favourite writers, Robert E. Howells, “New Year Resolutions are sewn with the seeds of their own demise. Why bother?” I know we’ve all been there. But Mr. Howells suggests that although goals are important, right now we should focus on…well, right now. My interpretation is that somewhere between penny pinching and spending my money with reckless fervour, or swearing to go on a no-carb diet to living on ice cream and bagels, or whatever dichotomies prevail in your own life, there exists a peaceful balance. Just as somewhere between mourning the goals we could’ve or should’ve achieved four years ago and the ambitions we could or should accomplish next year, there is simply “right now”. I think, at least for me, the real resolution is discovering the “balance”, the “right now”, the “today”, the “this moment” and loving it, imperfections and all.

These days, I come to that place of balance by revelling in therapeutic cooking. There’s nothing like preparing great food that can simultaneously draw out the methodical mad chemist and the free chaotic artist in me. At any given moment, I am the child licking cake batter off the spatula, or the teenager cooking dinner for her boyfriend for the first time, or the woman carrying out a labour of love for her family. This is my place of balance and of “here and now”. What’s yours?

While we’re on the subject of cooking, I’m still on my chocolate train (yup, gonna ride this one ‘til the wheels fall off! Then it’s straight broccoli and celery for 2012!) Oh right, no more extremes – I forgot! Here is the latest recipe, “Passion Pot de Creme” from our Rejuvenate Your Prana Kitchen (an egg-free, no bake version with cashew cream). Simple and delicious – just the way we should aim for our lives to be in the New Year.

Photo courtesy of Martin Phung

Recipe:
For the chocolate pot de crème:
8 oz. of good quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate chips – use your favorite kind)
2 tsp of orange zest (other options: ground coffee, cinnamon, etc.)
1 C of plain almond milk
½ C finely ground almond
1 tsp of vanilla extract

For the cashew cream:
1 C raw cashews (soaked in water for 30 minutes)
3 oz dates (soaked in water for 30 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Water as needed (use soaking water from the dates)

Directions:
1. For the pot de crème: melt chocolate in heat proof bowl (e.g. I placed the bowl in a shallow pan filled with water to create a double broiler)
2. Mix orange zest in melted chocolate. Remove from heat.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the almond milk, vanilla and ground almonds. Pour mixture into melted chocolate and whisk until evenly blended.
4. Pour into 4 small ramekins. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The pot de crème should be thick and rich like pudding after refrigeration.
5. Make the cashew cream: Drain water from cashews and place in a blender, add with dates and the soaking water and the vanilla (the amount of water added should be just enough to cover the solids). Taste and add more sweetener if desired (remember that the chocolate will be quite sweet so the cashew cream should have a milder taste).
6. To assemble: Dollop cashew cream on top of chilled chocolate.
7. Garnish with berries or chocolate shavings and serve chilled.
8. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you’d like to get some of Alanna’s tips on centering and finding balance through Yoga, you can read her post on December 30th over at The Edmonton Tourist (a blog by our friend Robyn, which is thoughtfully composed with healthy doses of real life and humour).
Happy New Year from Rejuvenate your Prana! If you are in the Edmonton area, be sure to check out our upcoming workshops in 2012, where we will be providing “wellness escapes” from everyday busy life through yoga and nourishing foods. Namaste.

 

Who Wants Chocolate? December 18, 2011

Filed under: Chocolate,Fair Trade,Vata — rejuvenateyourprana @ 11:51 pm

I once saw a quote that read, “Chocolate is not a substitute for love. Love is a substitute for chocolate”. Sometimes I feel this to be absurdly true. I confess – there have been times in my life when things seem completely out of whack and I just want to – need to – nibble on (no, devour) something chocolaty, with a vengeance, like there’s no tomorrow, until the world makes sense again. Okay, that didn’t sound like the insane ramblings of a chocoholic, did it?

Well, if I am a chocoholic, then I can only describe my experience on Tuesday night at Yoga for Today as therapy. I attended a workshop with one of Edmonton’s (healthy) chocolate gurus, Victoria Laine. A holistic nutrition educator and yogi, her new book (and Tuesday night’s workshop) is aptly titled Health By Chocolate. Between offerings of chocolate pecan pie and pudding, Victoria treated us to recipe demonstrations and reflective anecdotes from her journey of yoga teaching, nutrition counselling and chocolatier-ing. Victoria’s book covers some of the health benefits of chocolate and includes recipes to satisfy even your most sinful chocolaty yearnings for every meal of the day. So there you go – guilt be gone! I joke, of course. The treats we sampled last night were all made using fair-trade, dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao*) and whole foods like dates, banana and nuts. When the chocolate was prepared with “clean” ingredients, I was amply satisfied with a small amount and was much more successful at moderating my intake, thankfully!

I’m glad Victoria discussed the topic of fair-trade chocolate, since one of my goals lately has been to cultivate a greater sense of connectivity with my food. In the midst of savouring our chocolate treats, I was soberly reminded that chocolate has always had its dark side, with slavery and child labour widespread throughout cacao farming history and still exists today to a larger extent than I’d like to imagine. Until recently, I had never given much thought to the fact that the chocolate I eat when I’m sad, inhale when I’m stressed, polish off “just because it’s there”, was once a simple cacao bean collected by hand by someone, maybe a child, who may never taste the final product that I get to enjoy whenever I want.

One of the challenges with cacao farming is the prevalence of pests and diseases that threaten to destroy the crops, leaving farmers with limited resources and choices. Cheap or free labour is the order of the day when one’s livelihood is in jeopardy. Enter the children, working long hours in oppressive heat and suffering injuries from machetes (used to open cacao pods to harvest the beans) and pesticide exposure. Hmm…chocolate tastes a little more on the bitter side when scrutinized in that light. But I digress a little more than intended. There is fair-trade chocolate and organizations like the World Cocoa Foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of cacao farmers. If you are a chocolate lover like me, I do encourage you to visit their website and learn more about what you are eating. Food is one of the threads that bind us to one another, giving us a common ground that transcends vast distances and cultural differences between us, while nurturing not only our bodies but also our human diversity and creativity. For me, food is one of the great love languages.

However, personal sentiment aside, I will just add that Victoria tied the Health By Chocolate workshop together with what she called a “chocolate meditation”. For those of you who are well versed in the practice of meditation, I wonder if slowly melting a delicious piece of dark chocolate at the same time would enhance or distract from your experience. Personally, I’ve never been skilled at quieting my mind and have a healthy envy toward those who can. And I certainly haven’t attempted lately to let chocolate melt in my mouth as slowly as possible, allowing myself to truly savour it at length. I loved the “chocolate meditation” for reminding me of my goal to be more connected with food and to practice eating mindfully. In other words, “Ommmmm, chocolate”.

I’ve included Victoria’s recipe for “Healthy Chocolate Turtles”- these are impressively close to the commercial kind (but better). Eat, enjoy, share, connect, support fair-trade, meditate and stay healthy!

Oh, ahem, and to be completely self-serving here, if you are craving some home made chocolate gelato, consider signing up for our next Vata workshop on January 21, 2011. Namaste.

Healthy Turtle Bonbons (Taken from Health by Chocolate by Victoria Laine):
Makes 12 turtle bonbons:
12 whole medjool dates
12 whole pecans or walnuts
¾ C dark chocolate chips
Lin a tray or flat plate with waxed or parchment paper or plastic wrap.
With your fingers, remove pit from each date, and replace it with a nut. Gently squeeze the date closed around the nut. Melt chocolate [e.g. in a double broiler or glass bowl set over a pan filled with several inches of water, placed over low heat].
Roll each stuffed date in chocolate using a fork or tongs.
Place individual treats on the prepared tray so they don’t touch, and allow to cool and set on the counter or, if the room is warm, in the fridge.
When the coating has hardened, serve on a glass or decorative plate or individual small baking cups or candy holders.

 

Dark and sexy November 18, 2011

Filed under: Chocolate,Vata — rejuvenateyourprana @ 2:51 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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No, I don’t mean the snow globe situation that we are currently living in. The days may be darker, but there’s nothing sexy about running to your car in clunky boots with snow melting on your glasses and your keys stuck to your fingers – maybe that’s just me. Oh well, welcome to the Vata Season!

No, what I’m referring to is the oh-so-good-I-need-more vegan callebaut chocolate gelato served at our recent Rejuvenate Your Prana Workshop. Sweet dark chocolate meets spicy Saigon cinnamon – now that’s sexy. A room full of vibrant women taking control of their health through yoga – also sexy. Follow that with a home-cooked three- course vegetarian meal and the weekend is complete. At least the hope is that everyone went home a little more rejuvenated and refreshed from a great workout and quality time with friends.

I can’t wait until our next Vata workshop in January. Until then, check the site often for updates. Alanna and I are planning on posting yoga poses and recipes for your for Prana-rejuvenating enjoyment. So keep your yoga mat and an apron handy! Namaste!

 

 
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