Monthly Archives: June 2012

Basked in Basics (of cookies, neuroimages, and vampires?)

Day 2 & 3 of Research: So I entered the lair of the meditation lab expecting another flurry of Linux. I was not disappointed. Sara and I sat side-by-side at my “new computer” (aka: lugged a desktop from one side of the building to another), and she showed me how to Indiana Jones through files and folders using code. Amazingly, I think I can admit I’m finally starting to get the hang of it (CS people, yes roll your eyes).

Because we were having issues with the data downloaded from our first 11 subjects, I ended up mainly talking to my researcher about how much I enjoyed watching Abraham Lincoln the Vampire Hunter (no seriously, it’s epic, ridiculous, and impressively logical at the same time) and what the benefits of waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out were.

I did get a sneak peak into what I was going to be playing with over the next few weeks. The programming I’m learning (called FreeSurfer) adjusts multiple brain scans so that researchers can do reliable comparisons. Everyone has different sized brains and locations of our major gyri and sulci (gyri – protusions, sulci – the valleys between the protrusions. I like to think of “sulking sulci” and how they hide from view), so major readjusting is required before any analysis can be done.

To do this, the program covers motion correction, skull stripping, and also enlarges the brain so it looks like a funky rugby ball. Check it out:


This past weekend I got the chance to go kayaking on the Charles River and bouldering/rock climbing (miserably failed at the second one). Both were awesome, but I developed some seriously immobile forearms, upper back, biceps, and chest. I think at one point I texted my friend asking for some help to be lifted off the floor of my room. So I did a little brainstorm on the best ways to stretch those muscles:

–       Thread the needle

–       L-shaped chest stretch/extended arm chest stretch on ground

–       Wrist stretches

–       Eagle (garudasana) arms

–       Cow face arms (gomukasana)

–       Starting seated with legs extended in front (dandasana) then reaching for a foot with opposite arm

–       Generally interlace fingers behind body and open up chest

–       Reverse prayer position

[check for updated images and descriptions/links of these in the yoga section]

Also made a batch of super simple, sweet peanut butter cookies for my lovely yoga teachers from my YTT. Gluten-free, vegan, and all natural. Basked in Basics:

2 cups fresh peanut butter

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ cup flaxseeds

¼ cup sucanat (or any type of natural sugar)

Mix all the ingredients together, then scoop onto wax sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25. They harden a lot once out of the oven. Crunchy texture, nutty invitations, and awesomely healthy.

 

 

 

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Pumped Up Utkatasana

A week ago my lovely roomy Reshma and I traveled far, far away (aka: took the T to the airport) to watch Foster the People perform.  Although I was upset I missed Kimbra’s set, the music was great and I was in chill mood, so I loved having my own assigned seat and space to dance like crazy in. The highlight of my night was definitely running into a storm trooper with dreadlocks.

The yoga-nerd in me sneakily stuck around during the concert, because I had a moment when I thought about how artists/bands arrange their sets similar to how a yoga teacher arranges sequences in a practice in order to create the optimal experience and leave the audience/students with a specific state of mind at the end.

FTP brought people from an excited (or, to be more nerdy, “rajastic state“) to sudden moments of stillness and calm with slow songs (“tamasic states“) and finally finished off on a positive, charged note with their most popular song, Pumped Up Kicks. And with all the ups and downs we experienced, I definitely left the stadium in an uplifted, content state (almost “sattvic” in its nature).

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Granted, I’m using the three gunas very loosely here for my own selfish purposes of making this blog a tad bit cohesive. The three gunas (click here for a brief download on the stuff) are three qualities that emerge from the very basic elements of nature – energy, matter, and consciousness. 

Coming from Harvard and also from Hong Kong, both of which are places people can work themselves to the extreme, living off of caffeine and all-nighters (throw in an occasional rage fest), I’ve noticed there is a trend for the modern day society to lean towards more rajastic tendencies. Again, this is just for those places.

In many yoga classes (especially the kick-your-assana ones), teachers like to build the rajastic qualities up by “warming up” students with intense sun salutations and standing poses. It’s important to build in the more calming poses towards the end of a practice in order to neutralize the students and bring them into a sattvic state.

A common misconception is that the yoga warm-up must be solely based on sun salutations. Actually, this is not necessarily true. There are 101.25 ways to warm up.  I’ve been led through classes that didn’t even touch a sun salutation, yet I was definitely sweating and felt my heart rate elevated after 10 minutes. One classic way to do this is to immediately jump into utkatasana, chair pose. Here’s my silly doodle for the week:

Image

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Herbing Out P3 & Loving Linux

 SHARK FINNING IS BANNED IN TAIWAN. Sweet yo. Check out more info on it at VegNews or whatever news thing your heart desires. Taiwan is the 4th largest shark-meat industry in the world after Spain (??!!! what do they eat it in? Update: okay I just checked it out, and a lot of sources are saying over 90% of Spaniards don’t realize traditional dishes have shark meet? That’s impossible. I’m not sure how much to believe but check it out here), India, and Indonesia.

Note that the fishing of sharks still happens, but the cutting of fins and throwing the bodies back into the ocean is banned. The key issue with Taiwan is whether or not bribes, weak government enforcement, or loopholes will still allow fishermen to make as much profit as possible. This is something that has always bothered me back at home (Hong Kong). Hopefully HK will learn to get rid of this stuff from Disneyland and other restaurants. I mean, chicken soup tastes the same.

Day One of Summer Lab: I love my PI (“Principal Investigator”) Sara Lazar. She made an analogy with brain scanning analysis and food today, so I automatically fell in love.

“Brains. Brains, brains, brains. Hmm where do I even begin? Gah. Well I love analogies. So yeah, brains are like cooking. We have to start with chopping the stuff up, then digest the recipe, then putting it together, then adjusting, then running it through heat, and then finally arrive with some final products.”

So that’s what I did today. I learned to pick ingredients. And by that I mean UNIX. Or even more specifically, LINUX.

This is something I never thought I would touch. Alas, the day found me.

All this computer jargon where “lp” apparently stands for print and “rm” is remove (okay, a tad more intuitive) and “mv” is replace (or delete if you’re not careful. Results in –> #)@(#$*#@)%&(#@*$ ). I sat stretching on PI’s office floor (classy lady, yes) while reading 125 pages of this book:

Afterwards, I stared stone-faced at a screen trying to figure out terminal code. I give myself a B- on how successful I was. For some reason I still couldn’t handle files when using the path name (i.e. home/kelly/creativity/research/omgaflyingalpacawantsalmondbutter)

THINGS YOU FIND @ HERBSTALK [PART THREE]

6. Ghee! Glee? Ghee!

Huh what? Murr? That’s Ghee, which is fortified butter and is infamous in the yoga world. I had always wanted to try it. The short ghee prep download is to melt the butter, get rid of the fats (the residue solids), and take what’s left behind (and run like the wind). When cooled, the filtered ghee becomes solid and fragrant. It can be used just like butter, but it’s seen as a purifying/clearifying agent and is used in detoxes. One version would be to have a week where before any food is consumed, a tablespoon of ghee is consumed and fully digested first (then increase by one spoon each day). I don’t think I’d do it anytime soon, but apparently ghee helps increase secretion of biliary lipids which reduces LDL cholesterol? Not sure how legit the studies are. 

7. Meet Awesome Superfood Chefs

Well harro. This is Frank. He owns Frank’s Finesta herb/spice company. That bowl you see a person reaching into is spirulina popcorn.

I love, love, loved talking to him and hearing about his experiences as a chef who turned into a vegan, super-food chef. He’s stopped working at restaurants and now does private cooking or focuses on promoting his spices while writing weekly recipes. Basically, his life is still consumed by food. I got to hear about how he went to Cambridge Culinary School for the basics, and then his experiences working in the kitchen. I asked him how long I should stage (work for free) in a specific kitchen (“3 months. Don’t give up too quickly.”) and also how to best make use of my time in there.

“Ask high mileage questions.” adored that response because it’s applicable to everything, really. It was what I learned in my yoga training to – to always questions your sources and ask “Why am I doing this? How does this serve my class? How was this study conducted?” In food and in the kitchen, he was referring to asking the chef: “Why are you putting the salt and pepper in first? How does dicing the onions this way make a difference? Why do you work with the dough this way?”

I bought the Spirulina Gomasio (Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion Granules^), BBQ Spice Blend (Paprika^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion^, Garlic^, Thyme^, Long Pepper^, Sassafras^, Chipotle Powder^, Bay Leaf^), and Spicy Chocolate Mix (okay yes, I live up to being a chocolate addict. What’s new?)

My favorite part at the bottom: *Wildcrafted, ^Certified Organic.

Hah, yesss.

[[[still to be continued. Sorry folks]] 

DAILY NUTRITION FACTS

Made myself a beautiful Golden Beet Salad with Blackberry-Mint Dressing

CLICK HERE FOR NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ON BEETS. OMNOMNOM

Ingredients: 4 medium sized golden beets, half a small box of blackberries, about 10-15 mint leaves, olive oil, basalmic vinegar

0) [Taken from How to Break an Egg. I am not this experienced. Bow down to me anyways?] Buy beets with smooth skins and tails that aren’t too shaggy. If they’re too light for their size, they probably weren’t stored properly. If they still have their greens, trim them off before storing and don’t was them, since moisture = 😦

1) I was personally worried that the beets would go bad (actually they last up to 12 days!), but apparently just cutting off the awkward sprouts solved the deal. So I threw these kids into a pot of boiling water and lowered the heat down to a simmer and waited about an hour and a half. The skins slipped off nice and sleak. It’s hard to overcook beets apparently.

2) Then you go chop-chop-chop. I made mine look like little sunrises. Sun salutations anyone?

3) Cut up the berries and tear up the mint. Place gracefully into a blender if possible. Then add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a few dashes of balsamic vinaigrette. Or you can change the ratio however you want. Blend it up.

4) Stir together, create weird mosaic designs, or just throw it into a bowl, and enjoy!

YOGA BY THE RIVER:

At 7:30 – 8:30 AM Thursday: moderate intensity Vinyasa flow

RESOURCE UPDATES:

Food – linked more recipes from my old blog

Yoga – added some acupressure and mudra resources, as well as resources for people who are prone to “shin splints” (HAH ME!)

Creativity – started linking blogposts on Shelley Carson’s 7 Neuromodes of Creativity, added a few AWESOME TedTalks, and added Roy Horan’s “Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation”

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Getting Spatial D on with Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Balances are pretty awesome poses. There’s a lot we can learn from them and they remind us how remarkable our evolutionary adaptation of bipedalism is (hey Dan Lieberman & SLS16).  Imagine moving from four points of contact to two points. I mean, what mammals truly only have two? Kangaroos cheat and get three points (their tail) and I can only really think of birds (which aren’t mammals…right). Talking bear maybe?

As a result, we’ve developed three sweet systems to establish our balance (most of us think we’ve got only 5 senses, but in actuality, we’ve got at least seven. Don’t worry I was surprised too):

1) The visual system

2) The vestibular system: works with the inner ear to tell us where our head is in space – you can test this out by holding your finger in front of you and moving your head back and forth while keeping focus on the finger. The finger remains clear because the vestibular system maintained awareness about your head’s position while sending information about the finger. Then try keeping your head still and move your finger back and forth while keeping your head still and moving your eyes only. This induces motion sickness and blurriness because your vestibular and visual perceptions don’t match up. Also, when you do flips or spin around a lot then suddenly stop, the fluid in your vestibular system is still flowing in the direction you were moving in, which is why you feel dizzy and fall flat on your face when you play a game of drunk dizzybat.

3) The proprioceptive system: composed of the sensory nervous system that sends information about the lengths of muscles and tendons in the body back to the central nervous system to allow the brain to understand where the body is in space.

An article in The Scientific American on the Aviator’s Dilemma speaks to the most common cause of fatality (80% !!) in the air force: “spatial D“. “Spatial Disorientation” is when there is sensory degradation and perceptual illusions, thus throwing the pilot out of balance. An example of this would be when pilots are flying in almost complete darkness due to oil explosions and have to learn to untrust their senses. The three senses are in conflict with one another. In this example, the visual compromised and if the pilot is spinning the vestibular is also compromised too.

So back to balances. I’m introducing one of my favorite poses in yoga, Tree Pose. Also known as Vrksasana. You can check here for a compilation of poses and information (I’ll keep slowly adding to my library of knowledge). Here is my doodle explaining the pose (ideally you want to start standing in Tadasana/Mountain Pose then lift one leg up and then go into any variation you feel like. You can mix in other balances if you want or just come back to standing.) This pose is incredible for developing your sense of balance (via the three systems) and also retraining your muscle & neuron firing patterns. And developing your core. And extending your spine. I could go on forever. Plus, you’re a tree. When do you ever get to be a tree?

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More Pilot-related challenges needed?

1. Close your eyes. See what happens, play.You’re flying in the dark.

2. Turn your neck side to side. Then hold a finger out in front of you and play with keeping the head still but following the finger here. Vestibular system time!

3. Sway your arms back and forth if they’re extended above you. Can you stay balanced and grounded?

4. Go play a flying game (Scientific American recommends the helicopter copter) game Apache on your Xbox with your eyes closed

Jayjayyogis doing some vrksasanas by the river.

Daily Nutritional Facts

Made myself a vegan quesadilla with my little sis Anisa! Used chorizo seitan, kale, avocado, salsa, some rosemary garlic powder, and rice American cheese. I was worried the rice cheese wouldn’t melt because it’s made of rice but it totally did!

RECIPE: RENDERED RAW COOKIES

I based it off of this recipe and what I learned is you can totally change all the ratios to your liking (the texture and taste at that exact moment is what you’ll get anyways!) and change up the ingredients a LOT. That’s the beauty of it. The key point is to refrigerate for 30-40 minutes, and then you can take it around with you and make new friends! (or just please the ones you have already) The other main point is dates. So crucial to manifestation of these deadly delicious cookies. Filled with awesome minerals and vitamins, acting as a laxative (FIBER!) and a sleep-inducer, and also embodies antioxidants known as tannins that are anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, and anti-hemorrhagic.

Ingredients (that I used once and is not really exact): 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4-1/2 cup cocoa powder, 8-10 dates, 1-2 tablespoons of honey, vegan dark chocolate chips, 1/3 cup coconut flakes, dash of water if needed (keep leftover date water), 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter if you want a nuttier flavor

1. Soak the dates for 15-20 minutes in water

2. Use a food processor to grind up the nuts and seeds (these can be super varied) into a powder.

3. If you have a strong food processor, mix in all the other ingredients as well in parts (except the nuts), blending it all into a smooth “dough”. Personally, I don’t have a great blender so I only make the nut/seed powder and hand mix the rest of the ingredients.

4. Throw in the chips and mix. Add whatever else you feel like.

5. Shape into whatever shapes you desire and place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

NOTICE: At 8 AM tomorrow my friend and I will be leading a yoga/meditation class together at 8 AM in Cambridge Commons (if you’re scared of getting lost, email me at kshimrob@gmail.com and I’ll give you my number) Yoga by the River: I will also offer a more flowing, faster paced Vinyasa flow class at 5:30 PM. Mats, towels, grass are all okay! Meeting outside Winthrop house on the street at 5:20 and will walk over to set up by the river at 5:25. Check here for schedule.

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Herbing Out P2 with a side of dragons

I had a sweet dose of home last Sunday thanks to the annual Boston Dragon Boat Festival (the oldest in the US! Alas, Boston has the oldest Chinatown. Who knew?) that was held by the Charles River. I got some sun, lion dancing, and front seats to watch attempts at dragon boat racing (“We’d kill ’em” to quote a crew athlete).

 

Dragon Boat @ Cambridge

Dragon Boat @ Home

 Bachelorette dragon boat IN Hong Kong (also the episode where she decides she doesn’t want any of the 8 guys because the guy she was supposed to marry from the previous season decided he wanted to get back with her)

So continuing on Herbstalk, other things that you get to see/do…

5. Herb Walk

This was awesome. I didn’t realize by simply walking around the parameter of a building, I could spot about 10 different plants that could help me out in life. Granted, fertilizer/pesticides/road ickyness in general may have gotten their say in how the plants are actually doing, but it’s still fascinating. Here are a few:

Chewing carrot seeds acts as a contraceptive by acting on the pituitary gland (hormone controlling part of brain).

Lily of the valley regulates blood pressure.

This is either goldenrod or primrose, and it’s great for cat allergies. This poor guy is usually mistaken to be the culprit for allergies, but it’s really ragweed, which is wind pollenated. Also awesome for SAD.

Violet leaves: bronchitis, cancer, sluggishness (tamasic nature), stimulates lymph system

Plantago major (above) and lanceolata (below). Also known as plantain (NOT like the banana kind). These guys grow anywhere people walk, giving it the charming name “white man’s footprint” (makes me wonder about the rest of us). If you rub it the oil soothes mosquito bites as it draws out poisons. Also helps dry sinuses, digestion, stomach ulcers, and can even be used to cool down injuries. I may have taken some and put it on my tweaked achilles.

Our favorite dandelion! You can use the whole plant. Roots – liver, also a diuretic. 

So I’m stopping there as the list goes on forever and it gets a bit aggressive all at once. But you can see how there are countless numbers of natural herbs and foods that can help fine tune the body and mind. My favorite part was in the end when she said we should only take 30% of the plant, allowing the rest to regrow. Try taking 30% of what you think you want at a buffet. For reals.

[[to be continued]]

Daily Nutrition Facts

I also got to taste some awesome Korean tofu 만두 (“mandoo” – Korean for dumpling). It had sweet potato noodles, carrots, chives, mushrooms, tofu, and a dash of ginger. Fabulous, vegan, and I’m hoping to replicate in my own time. (Summer Project 1: vegan Korean food! Did you hear that the owner of Kogi BBQ food truck – the LA Korean Mexican-Korean fusion food truck – is going vegetarian? Not sure if he’s just purely leaving the industry though or will attempt to change his truck. I really believe he can. Have faith in Seitan, please sir, please.)

Also adopted a Kombucha baby from my yoga friend Natalie! 

What is Kombucha? To quote Wikipedia, oh ye faithful source of englightenment:

“The kombucha culture is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, comprising Acetobacter (a genus of acetic acid bacteria) and one or more yeasts. These form a zoogleal mat. In Chinese, this microbial culture is called koubo (Chinese: 酵母; literally “yeast mother”).”

Health benefits: detoxification, cancer prevention (full of anti-oxidants), liver health promotion, treats arthritis (hyaluronic acid helps aid with preservation of cartilage), aids digestion, helps with depression,  etc. etc.

FUN FACT: Reagan drank Kombucha in 1987 when he had cancer because he heard of the health benefits. 

To make a “home”, you brew tea, stir in a cup of sugar, and cool it down to room temperature. Fill up a massive jar (1 gallon) with the mixture, water, and because I adopted my baby (a girl, I’ve decided), I get liquid from the previous home. Now the jar with my kombucha momma is chilling in my room. I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress.

And out.

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Herbing Out P1

So I’m in the middle of a sick yoga teacher training certification at Karma Yoga Studio and yesterday we covered superfoods and superherbs. Basically, the main idea is that these are foods high in prana/energy. Or in less esoteric terms, full of juicy nutrients, life, and are at the bottom of the food chain. It’s mother nature’s way of taking care of us.

These are things like fresh & raw veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, mushrooms…you get the idea. It’s simple. And so healthy. And it’s the optimal way of living as it helps establish you at a healthy weight, maintain a strong immune system, and live longer (if done in moderation a la The Middle Way).

Luckily for us, Boston was hosting its first ever Herbstalk . I was so bummed I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing since I had to head back to work at Sandrine’s (the French bistro I apprentice at. Or intern. Or whatever.) But I got a lot out of the whole thing and the atmosphere was so vibrant. It was so energizing to see how many people were actually there and eager to learn about what the world has to offer. And she’s got a ton.

So what do you get to do at a Herbalicious gathering? Well, here are some available options (to continue in later posts).

1. Drawing on the sidewalk. Being eight as wait for your savory BBQ Seitan sandwich from Clover Food Truck is always a great remedy for getting over a night out.

Amanda getting her fix of chalk art.

My eating wave.

2. See a yellow jeep (please refer to my bio to understand why this is important)

3. Be intrigued by the idea of Broga (I promise you I will attend a class and report back)

4. Discover that you can dye silk scarves with food. OMGTHEFOODIEINMEISGOINGCRAYCRAYRIGHTNOWANDCAN’THANDLEIT

That’s M. She’s from Alaska. And she dyes her silk scarves with everything from beets to cabbage to lemons to grapes to flowers. The $$ is donated to different bee cooperatives and local food sources. New hobby? Potentially. If you want to see how click here.


Welcoming a new member to my family – RED ONION

[[[[to be continued]]]

Daily Nutrition Report

I got way too excited by cauliflower that looked like the brain cortex. Neuronerdiness to the rescue. (FYI, roasted cauliflower with only oil, salt & pepper sprinkled on it is phenomenal. Chef Carlos reckoned the scallops weren’t selling as well because they were only being offered with the cauliflower than with starch. Usually the dish comes with mashed potatoes.)

I also got to meet these awesome kids today. They’re called Fiddleheads. I thought originally that Enrique was saying fetal heads. I heard very, very wrong (though it works, right? Kinda?) When sauteed with onions and garlic, it tastes delicious, with half its texture like spinach, and the other like a green bean. Their light taste is a cross between okra and a green bean. Full of omega-3, omega-6, antioxidants, and potassium, these guys are only available to be harvested during the spring/early summer.

Deciding still whether or not to stay with them. Will elaborate in another post.

And boo, Celtics lost the final game. I know I’m incompetent when it comes to sports knowledge and my enthusiasm for watching sports is about the same level as my enthusiasm to run a marathon (random fact: every marathon run will do permanent damage to your heart), but I’m in Boston. And being foreign let’s me have no real affiliation.

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