Category Archives: yoga

Upwards

IMG_1653Urdhva Danurasana. Also known as the friendly, charming upward facing bow or wheel pose. It’s the pose which I secretly dread but also secretly hope to attempt each class.

My biggest issues coming into this pose are the tightness across my chest, tightness of my hip flexors, and as a result, my lower back compression. It takes several attempts for me to lengthen my spine. There are some times when my body isn’t sufficiently open enough to do the pose properly, so I usually surrender back to bridge pose.

The tricks of the trade? Subtle things like pressing the inner edges of the hands to rotate the triceps inward, activating the serratus anterior (our trapezius is usually over-developed and compensates for it), and rolling the outer thighs slightly inwards to narrow the hips.

Other things to note: move the back ribs and shoulder blades in while bringing the chest and arms forwards.

Variations:

Once you’re up there, in addition to an expansion of the chest and potential crying  (one of my teachers told me she’d cry every time she did upwards bow because it would stimulate certain points of her nervous system), you get a totally awesome view of the world. Kind of like this:

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I was in Chicago the past week doing job interviews (more on that in a later post) and took a stroll downtown (longer than I expected, as my phone clock did not automatically change timezones, so I showed up way early to my interview. Thank God it was East Coast not West Coast time.) Honestly, I got pretty bored of downtown. It was like SF downtown or NYC or HK downtown – after a while they all kind of look the same. My architectural expertise isn’t finely tuned enough in order for me to appreciate the structures. Sorry Dad, I failed.

But I did see The Bean at Millenium Park. I know it’s pretty touristy, but I was thrilled to unexpectedly come across it. It’s such a creative creature with an amazingly simple concept.

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Fine points of mind.

So here’s my little note scribble for the day, hopefully you can take a little something from this:

urdhvadanurasana

Daily Nutritional Facts:

Vegan Quinoa Chili: I came across this fast-food joint downtown called “Protein Bar”. It was a bizzare, intriguing concept. The mindset of the bar was obviously health-centric. Granted, I have a couple things to say regarding the over-proteinizing we have going on in our culture. But I’ll keep my mouth shut. The store featured a lot of the typical health-nut stuff: quinoa, greek yoghurt, kombucha, kale, avocado… stuff you would expect from a vegetarian or even vegan cafe. But then chicken was thrown in. For some reason chicken passed the healthy/non-healthy test and came out gloating.

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Not sure why, but was pretty taken aback with the additional animal product. It was like they were almost going for the home run with the vegetarian philosophy (a la Clover) but stopped short. I tried the vegan chili with quinoa, avocado, and the fake cheese (I feel weird about fake cheese. I tried many brands before and the only one I was down with was this mozzarella made from almonds. Other than that it’s a no go. Give me my brie back. No I don’t want Brittany back, bitch.)


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Calling it a day. Yoga from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR if you want to come hang out!

Today’s Playlist includes: Local Natives, checkit.

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Filed under Clover, food, health, postures, yoga

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:

Preparatory-Lord-Shiva’s-pose-Saral-Natarajasana

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.

natarajasana

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.

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Syrup:
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

Baklava:
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!!

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Happy Sunday.

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Now do the horse…

Last weekend I experienced my first excess of “Obba Gangnam Style”, dance included. Not that I’m complaining (KOREANPRIDE).

Sorry, I meant this link.

Or Hasty Pudding’s version.

Completely coincidentally, I drew this up a couple weeks ago when I was trying to find out more about Horse pose. Turns out the actual yoga horse pose achieves things on a muscular level that can be done in much safer poses. What I understood to be horse pose was actually horse stance, a fundamental stance done in martial arts such as TaiQi and QiGong.

“Like you’re riding an invisible horse.” – PSY

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Back to School Sickness

Well it’s only week 2 of school and I’m down sick. Success.

Ugh. I think this has happened pretty much every year. So I took the time to look up acupressure points and yoga poses that could help out with my symptoms. The one that really surprised me was the acupressure points on the outer upper tip of the shoulder blades (B36, called Bearing Support). I pressed these points for a while then massage out my shoulders/neck/upper back as best as I could…and then remembered to swallow. Wait, what? My insanely painful sore throat was completely gone. And hasn’t come back since.

God I love this stuff.

Acupressure Points for Cold and Flu

Yoga Poses for a Cold

More Yoga Poses for Cold and Flu

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Amateurism and Imperfection

A couple weeks ago Kara put on a Boston Youth Leadership Conference and asked me to speak once again. I agreed to and developed a hybrid presentation based off of my PRISE and Chinese Leadership presentations. Lucky for me, this time it was in English so no opportunities to butcher any languages (unless I did without realizing. Oops.)

My brainstorming at Radcliffe Yard.

I quickly went through my little swimming saga, then dove into creativity and its implicit and explicit theories. My favorite part was the interactive portion: a quick divergent thinking task asking the kids to draw something with a little squiggle; a smell/taste experience which required them to draw the sensations; and finally an activity that sets up one’s mind to think more openly – visually focus on an object but then allow your attention to diffuse into the peripheral part of your vision. This translates into a metaphor for your body which puts your mind in a state of divergent thinking.

I was so pumped after giving the talk, especially since most kids stayed awake during the entirety of the presentation (I did make them do a inner visualization about the feeling of disappointment, and I may have lost a few soldiers there).

If you want to see my powerpoint, click here: Creativity and How to Think Differently

Right before giving my 90 minute (was originally supposed to be 45. Don’t worry Kara gave me permission) presentation, I held this mudra for about a minute, and also told myself: “I bow to imperfection.” Things I wish I had learned as a kid. Be imperfect, wait, what? You’re kidding.

On the new domain: I had an interesting little chat with my Dad the other day. As I moved to choosing my domain for this website (neurocholatier.com? thechocolate-apprentice.com? thechocoapprentice.com? I’m bummed that this person took x5 different ways to write my blog title) he asked me why I didn’t switch from being an apprentice to a chocolatier.

Well, it’s because I will always be an amateur.

One of the best conversations I’ve had in the past month was with a friend who I met last summer in San Francisco (who just dropped everything in his life to go sail the world. Pumped for him.) Among many things, one of the things we discussed is what he wanted in life (one of those casual ten things lists – said it took him 2 minutes. It’s taking me more than 2 weeks). And one of my favorites was that he will always be an amateur in music. He’s an amazing, talented jazz pianist but he chose to always be an amateur, never an expert. I liked that attitude.

While working at Clover, I learned that everyone wears blue aprons. Head Chef Rolando came up with the idea – blue is reserved for the apprentices in the kitchen. As with Clover, all employees, including the experienced chefs are all apprentices for life. I love this concept embodying humility and this passion for learning. Something I would love to cultivate in other areas of my life too.

So back to Kyle (friend) – it made me think of the question: what will I always be an apprentice in?

I threw that discussion back to my Dad. Thus, I am always the chocolate apprentice.

Ok yes that would be me trying to sign off with my beautiful blue Clover apron and uttrabodhi mudra…and being late to class.

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Happiness is good health …

Happiness is good health and a bad memory.

— Ingrid Bergman

With what’s going on in my life, this made me chuckle 🙂

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August 25, 2012 · 5:05 pm

Our capacity to draw happiness from aesthetic objects or material
goods in fact seems critically dependent on our first satisfying a
more important range of emotional or psychological needs, among them
the need for understanding, for love, expression and respect.

— Alain De Botton

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