Category Archives: postures

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:

IMG_1650

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.

IMG_1651

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.

IMG_1657

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.)


IMG_1658

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.

1 Comment

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.

858915_10151461620734628_1625265133_o

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!!

644286_10151501976619628_1799682046_n

Happy Sunday.

Leave a comment

Filed under cooking, dance, postures, yoga

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

Leave a comment

Filed under postures, yoga

Your Word is Your Wand

…and other teaching notes I’m deciding to jot down.

Oh, and I forgot, some Harry Potter moves.

SIDENOTE: Fascinating discoveries of putting “Harry Potter yoga” into google. Thought I’d share:

Harry Potter and the Chakras” – not accurate, but hilarious that someone tried to analyze anyways.

Harry Potter and Yoga are evil – says Catholic Church exorcist” – I would never predict those two words would be together in a news headline, never mind words from a Catholic Church exorcist…

Yoga Pants: Harry Potter Fanfiction” – A scene of romantic love between Ron and Hermione…and Hermione’s yoga pants.

So back to Your Word is Your Wand… 

It’s always important to notice the subtitles of language when teaching a yoga class. This is one thing I’ve always found so fascinating about the difference between teaching yoga and a sport – you’re also cultivating a certain mind resonance and thought processes in your students. Rather than hurtful, forceful terms, which would propagate negative language and self-views in the student’s minds, I would encourage students to be compassionate with themselves instead. Here are some examples:

pull: draw, bring, extend, lengthen

grab: take, clasp, interlace, hold, support

butt: (this may not be a bad thing, it can be kind of cute) glute, tail, seat, sitting bones, move the fleshy part of outer thigh

push, put, get, gripping, squeeze: draw in, place, retrieves, engage, contract, hug, hold, float, plant, root, press & draw

hopefully…: now we are in place, if…then…

delicious, explore, find the subtleties, gravity is supporting you, new fields to play, playtime!, it’s just yoga, dude. Spaces in between spaces. Shifting perspective. You may move into any variations you are working with. You are welcome to stay in this place if you feel comfortable. Options. Potentials. Possibilites.

Cue things closer to the center body (ARMS not hands up to the sky, raise the thigh bone)

More random teaching notes: 

BEGINNING OF CLASS: Always check for injuries and issues, connection to breathing, introduction to theme (if applicable), rolling – don’t roll over knee joint or on the lower back (if you roll on the lower back, crunch the abdominals)

– demonstrate pranayama (breathing), explain chants (what it means, spell it out)

– BREATHING CUES (on your next inhale/exhale)

Sequence Ideas

– Warrior I –> Warrior II –> Humble warrior

– Rock back and forth on heels and toes in Uttanasana

– Sun salutations without down dog

– Body scan

– Lie on stomach, let legs go left to right, then in circles, rotte ankles, feel grounded and gravity is always there for you

– Start with hands at armpits and draw fingers across chest, finish and heart and meditate

– Warrior I, straighten front leg (inhale), Warrior II, Rotate leg in, Prasarita Padottanasana, Come up with prayer hands, Warrior II, Warrior I

– Cross legged sitting – 1. cat, cow 2. side bends 3. twists (can hook arm around the side)

– Dancer, eagle, half moon, virabhadrasana

– Create a conversation with people

– Taking props/blocks with you

– Work on alignment from the ground up

– Cue the supporting leg

– Hamstring injuries can make balances difficult

– Neck injuries, be careful in bridge

– Lower back injuries should avoid apanasana *knee to chest pose

Also currently updating muladhara/root chakra exercises, check it out on the yoga page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chakra, postures, yoga

Jaw Lov[ag]es Hips

Oooof, bad title. It’s early. I also woke up at 4:30 AM dramatically smacking my face with my arms because I had just been dreaming about a massive scorpion-wasp flying right for my face.

Not a big bug fan, if you can tell.

Karma Longtin led a fantastic class at Karma Yoga Studio on Sunday, emphasizing the subtle connection between the jaw muscle (the masseter, more precisely) and the hip flexors. The masseter symphasizes with the hip flexors, as both areas carry massive amounts of emotional tension. In addition, the masseter is one of the strongest muscles in our body (in terms of scale-to-size), prodcuing 117-265 lbs of force (vs. 974.99 – an Eskimo descendent!!), while the hip flexor is the “seat of the soul”, being the muscle in charge of our walking and the first to react when we’re about to fall.

You can do jaw muscle exercises (which I’ll update on the yoga/physio page) and also manually massage out your own jaw. Here is a small doodle I did for great core activation exercises:

Meanwhile at Clover…

Going through blog posts (1870 of them!), which actually has been one of the most invaluable learning tools so far, as Ayr has been extremely transparent with the building of the company. The only thing made largely confidential are things relating to investors and workers.

Coming up with a logo: focus on the sound, color, texture, type, environmental influences it creates.

Another thing I love is their food development meetings. We got to taste test a lot of up and coming menu items, as well as analyze how the day’s Chickpea plate was (Pickled veggies + salad + chickpeas + hummus).

One thing I loved that we tried was the lovage soda. It tasted almost like celery juice, with a little more intensity. It sounds strange, but it was actually very refreshing.

My taste drawing:

Lovage: has a slight taste of anise and also reminiscent of caraway (thus pairs well with things from Sauvigon Blanc, fennel, mint, basil, tarragon, etc.) It is rich is thymol and carvacrol, an essential oil of thyme, ajowan, sage, basil, rosemary, and mint.

Here are some excerpts from an awesome book called Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook:

Daily Nutritional Facts

Tried Peace O’ Pie, the local vegan pizza company, for the first time with my partner in crime Kara! We ordered the The Fresh: pesto (but it came with tomato sauce instead. Dissapointment 😦 ), broccoli, onion, and roasted garlic; as well as The Buffalo Chicken: tongue zapping buffalo sauce (as they claim – didn’t really taste it much), onions, and spicy soy strips. Conclusion? Decently good. The vegan part wasn’t so much the issue, but the pizza dough was pretty dissappointing (I’m also a fan of crispy flatbread, so a little biased. But it was very bland) and the flavors were underwhelming, although the spicy soy strips were delicious!

Last night made Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with my friend Alice, as we were inspired to do so my Harvard graduate Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Definitely not gluten or vegan friendly, but was such an interesting concept (and I’ve never made shortbread either!) that I was dying to try. I loved the savory kick to it and am planning to try it again…vegan?! Does shortbread even work vegan? To be continued… I also threw on some cinnamon for a few bites and found the rosemary + cinnamon surprisingly pleasant.

Also, spot the unicorn in the photo. Winner may get the unicorn I adopted (named Blue) on my night out.

Recipe coming soon.

Also last shout out to: Nutmeg & eggs. I’ve done paprika before, but nutmeg? Who knew a pinch would be such an interesting twist. Becomes more like dessert than savory breakfast!

Leave a comment

Filed under adventures, anatomy, food, health, ingredients, postures, recipes, yoga

David Chang: Vegetarian Korean Dishes

This is a short one…

Korean nuns + yogic sun salutations + 26 banchan 반찬 + humbled pork-celebrity chef = joy…Did a random google search on Korean vegan food and came across this article, and now have decided summer goal #1 = making a full on veggie/vegan Korean meal.

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/david-chang-vegetarian-korean-dishes

Here’s some random fun yoga flows that I learned this week and wanted to share so you can experiment:

Speaking of experiments…I’m reading up on mindfulness meditation by reading the most foundational book on it by Jon Kabat-Zinn, written in 1990 (“Full Catastrophe Living”). He speaks of how our minds and bodies are vehicles for experiments, and how approaching mindfulness meditation should be like an experiment. I love that philosophy because it’s in line with my experiences in neuroscience, in cooking, in yoga (the yogis who sat around for years testing out poses/mudras/chants), now Clover Fast Foods, where I’m interning. They like to call their restaurants/food trucks more of a Food Lab, inspired by Ayr Muir (founder) and his scientific/engineering background. Experiments are awesome. So don’t follow a strict yoga schedule and sequence all the time – experiment, mess around, break out of the routine and suddenly go into a ragey dance mode. It’s all yoga, really. [check sources where I’m slowlyyyyyyy updating on mindfulness.]

Mindfulness Meditation #1: Breathing for 3 minutes

To experience the pull of the thinking mind try this experiment. Close your eyes, sit upright, and become aware of your breathing. Don’t worry about how you are breathing but instead let it happen and be aware of it, feeling how it feels, objectively witnessing it as it flows in and out. You can notice how the air feels through your nostrils, or going down your windpipe, or where your body inflates/deflates.

If you start thinking about how bored you are or if you start thinking about what you should really be doing, let the thought/feeling be there and note to yourself what thought/judgement you just had. It’s kind of like keeping a mini diary. Then simply let go of it and bring your attention back to your breathing. Finish after three minutes and reflect on how much your mind wandered or not. Most important: no hating on yourself! It’s just a fun experiment you can practice everyday.

Sad news: no more Sandrine’s. I miss the group dearly, but I decided that I wasn’t interested in working with meat at this time. But I’m definitely not sick of work in the kitchen and learning more about cooking, tasting, and techniques. According to my friend, the onions I diced for our Indian dinner were pro (cut onion in half, then slice parallel but don’t go all the way, cut the onion half into two layers but don’t go all the way either, and then finally chop chop chop perpendicular to the first cuts). I owe my new skillset to Sandrine’s super sweet chef Carlos, who I don’t have a photo of, but looks so similar to Iron Man (but older a la George Clooney) that I think I’ll just use his photo instead. Hope he doesn’t mind.

1 Comment

Filed under Mindfulness, postures, science, yoga

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).

Image

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

Leave a comment

Filed under postures, yoga