Category Archives: dance

Dancing Baklava

Okay I’m not proud of the title to this post. But I haven’t written since last semester so I’m just warming up. Speaking of things I haven’t done since last semester – I took a little hiatus from teaching as I was paranoid about my knee injury and now I’m teaching today for the first time from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR. It’ll be rough around the edges but I’m pumped to get back into it.

Today I’m hoping to explore Natarajasana, also known as dancer pose. Strangely enough, none of my yoga books talk about this pose so I’m a little skeptical about how traditional this pose is. The one thing I know is it’s challenging for beginners to accept is how they look in this pose. Usually we want to look like this:

When it’s great to look like this:


But really, none of that is important. What’s important is the long lower back, open chest, and thigh stretch. If you feel those things working, then great. I definitely don’t look like the first picture, so you don’t have to either. Fears abated? It’s all about, santosha (contentment): enjoying here not there.


Meanwhile, I created one of my favorite dishes a couple weeks ago. The friendly, exotic, heartwarming pistachio baklava. I borrowed the recipe from this website with a few tweaks.


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

1/4 cup rosewater

1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

12 ounces raw unsalted, untoasted pistachios
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, and cooled slightly
1 pound frozen phyllo, thawed

cardamom and cinnamon to taste

To prepare the sugar syrup, combine sugar, water, rosewater,  honey, lemon juice and cinnamon in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium-high heat. After everything dissolves, move to a small glass bowl and set aside to cool while making the baklava. (Apparently you can do this 4 days ahead of time and just leave it).

For the nut filling, pulse the pistachios in the food processor until very finely chopped (coarse sand!). Add the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and pinch of salt and toss to combine or grind a little more. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the ground nuts to be used later as a garnish on the finished baklava.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Hopefully your phyllo dough will be 13″x9″, but if not, cut it so it fits your baking dish. TRUE FACT: Phyllo dough is insane to work with. It’s highly breakable so be wary of handling the phyllo dough. If it breaks, fear not, you can still make disjointed layers that look artisanal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying and cracking. Brush a 13 by 9-inch glass baking pan with some of the melted butter.

For assembly of the layers, it’s important to note here that you should save the best-fitting, most intact sheets for the top and bottom layers of the baklava. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking pan, and brush the sheet until completely coated in melted butter. Repeat with 7 more well intact phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, until you have 8 phyllo sheets stacked on each other.

Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the nuts over the 8 phyllo layers. Cover the nut layer with a phyllo sheet, and dab butter all over it (if you try brushing it on, the phyllo will slip all over the place). Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, for a total of 6 phyllo sheets on top of the nut layer. Repeat the layering process with another 1 cup of the ground nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo and butter, and the last 1 cup of nuts. Finish off the layering with 8 to 10 sheets of good, intact phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter except for the final top sheet. Use the palm of your hands to press down on the layers, starting at the center and pressing outwards to remove any air bubbles. Then, drizzle 4 tablespoons of butter over the top layer and brush to cover completely. (so I actually didn’t have as many layers as this paragraph suggest, but just go by ear and figure out how you can evenly stack your phyllo dough layers and salvage the pistachio blend).

Using a good, sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds—I found it easiest to make one long cut from one corner of the pan to the other and then making parallel diagonal cuts every couple inches on either side. I then repeated this on the other side of the baklava, to make complete diamonds.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 50 minutes to an hour. Once removed from the oven, immediately pour all of the reserved syrup over all of the cuts lines and then over the surface of the baklava. Garnish each piece of baklava with a sprinkling of the reserved ground pistachios. Cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours. (I didn’t actually end up doing the whole 8 hours because my friends mauled it, but it still tasted amazing. So I’m curious to see what happens after 8 hours). Apparently stores for a couple weeks!!


Happy Sunday.

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Filed under cooking, dance, postures, yoga

ferris bueller had his day off, here’s mine

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –  Ambrose Redmoon (who by the way, is super anonymous. 10 bucks for someone who can figure out who he is.)

During my last swim meet ever, I remember telling one of my friends about my favorite quote, except I changed it up a little (thanks to my excellent memory): “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is when you face fear and smile at it, because you realize there’s something much more important you need to do.” My way of nicely saying stop overthinking and grow a pair.


I was debating yesterday whether to go to this Zumba class down the street. 6:30 was slowly approaching, and I kept thinking of excuses not to go. But seriously – no work, no school. It’s about time I start doing things outside my comfort zone. I mean, that’s what this summer is all about, right?

So finally I had the guts to head over. Upon entering the 24-hour fitness club, I saw a long line trailing from the ellipticals all the way down the stairs. First thought: “Mice on wheels. People really need to get out more and run.” That was until I realized that the line was actually for Zumba, not for the machines. Okay, you guys are forgiven.

Zumba = seriously one of the best ideas ever. I love going to clubs and dancing like it’s May 21, which makes this the perfect form of exercise.  I’m not the best dancer, especially when it actually comes to coordinated dance moves, but being in a room with busty old women, flamboyantly gay men, and an assortment of other young people enthusiastically pumping it out to some tunes is seriously fun. You woop, you smile, you roll your r’s, and you sweat a ton. It’s a party. Who cares if you can’t actually do any of the moves.There isn’t any time to pay attention to the fear of looking like a fool because you’re too giddy from trying to figure out what to do.

You can laugh, but this vs. swimming endless laps in a pool? Incomparable. Thus begins my attempt of developing some form of physical coordination on land.

I followed that up with some Yin Yoga at the Yoga Garden, which has a completely different energy level. Most people are familiar with Vinyasa yoga or some other Yang style yoga that is full of movement and energy. Yin is somewhat restorative and is deceptively simple. It consists of a series of stretching poses held for 3-5 minutes and is all about simply being.You are not meant to push yourself, but instead allow your body to naturally melt into the pose, which opens up your connective tissues. This can cause emotional reactions, which for some people can be overwhelming. At times I was fidgety because I was bored, while other times I was surprised by the thoughts and reactions the poses caused.

Although psychiatrists like to recommend people with addictions to do Yin yoga, it has to be approached with caution. The teacher has to keep an eye on the student to make sure he/she understands that coming out of the pose is allowed if the rising emotions or memories become too intense. That’s when he/she has to have the courage to respect their body and step back from the exercise.

It seems contradictory, but you actually get to stare fear down during Yin Yoga. It’s kind of awesome. Sometimes a fearful or worrying thought would begin to develop in my mind, but then I realized that it’s all just up in there. You can actually detach yourself from that thought and observe it from a distance. You aren’t emotionally bound to it anymore.

I can already hear people saying “Whaaa?” (Cantonese accent included). Okay, we can get a bit scientific. People who do yoga and/or meditation on a consistent basis in comparison to controls have been shown to have decreased left amygdala activation through fMRI studies. Buddhist monks can actually control blood flow to the area through compassion meditation.

The amygdala is one of my fave brain parts (yes, it’s possible to have a favorite brain part). It’s involved with fear conditioning, and patients with social phobia, borderline personality disorder, and depression all have higher activity in the left amygdala. Notice any connections? Psychiatrists have started to recommend yoga/meditation as treatment for a lot of psychological disorders. For more friendly reading on the delicious subject of fear, I recommend reading Srini Pillay’s Life Unlocked. There’s also more to be said on amygdala volume and its correlations, but that’s for another time.

So that was a solely mind-body day. DELICIOUSNESS RETURNS TOMORROW.

Daily Nutrition Report

Nothing noteworthy. I did miss breakfast thanks to a 2pm wakeup.

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Filed under dance, neuroscience, spiritual