By Alex Pogeler
You would be hard-pressed to find a more contentious topic in America right now than the future of our health care system. The current debate is extremely polarizing with lots of emotion and very little rational discussion. Regardless of one’s politics I think we can all agree that medical care is expensive and that we as a nation could be much healthier.
From my perspective there are two types of medical insurance. The first kind is what we typically think of as coverage, we get it from an insurance company and it helps to cover the cost of doctor’s visits, medication, or hospital services. The second kind of health insurance is that which we create ourselves via our lifestyle choices. Those who make good choices in this regard by doing things like exercising and maintaining a proper diet tend to be less reliant on the traditional form of insurance. Conversely, those who chose to eat fast-food at every meal, neglect to exercise and lead an overall sedentary lifestyle are much more likely to have to have health problems. Such people are probably going to require more medical care and will have to rely more heavily on traditional health insurance.
Much of the current debate revolves around the expansion of traditional health insurance to greater numbers of people. While that is a laudable goal, it does little to encourage healthy behavior in the first place. Expanding health coverage makes it easier for people to get treatment once they get sick but it does not necessarily make them healthier individuals. Perhaps the question isn’t “how do we insure more people?” Maybe the question is “how do we promote and encourage the kind of healthy behavior that will make people less reliant on insurance to begin with?”
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a politician and I am definitely not an expert on insurance. I do however have some experience with Yoga and I know the impact it has had on my personal mental and physical well-being. Practicing Yoga has become the single biggest determinant in my own personal health in recent years. For me it is like night and day as far as how I feel with Yoga in my life compared to how I felt when it was absent. I now get sick less frequently and when I do get sick I heal that much faster. Health issues I had been dealing with for years have abated. I fell less stressed out and my mental outlook is much more positive. Those are just some of the benefits I have reaped from my practice and they are all the evidence I need to conclude that I am a much healthier individual with Yoga.
Based on my own personal experience, I am of the belief that others could benefit from Yoga in a similar manner. I also think that if more people practiced Yoga in this country our overall medical costs would decrease significantly. We would have a healthier populace that would require fewer trips to the doctor and less medication. There would be less need for a huge insurance industry because people wouldn’t require as much medical care to begin with.
The tragedy is that anyone with a proposal for government-subsidized Yoga would be derided as a socialist nutcase. Even if such legislation were to pass through congress, in light of recent events it’s questionable if our elected officials could pull off its implementation. It’s a shame because I think such a measure could have a huge transformational impact on the health care of this country. It would also provide a great opportunity to address some of economic and geographic disparities inherent in our current health care system. Furthermore it would not be particularly expensive when compared to the overall cost of health care reform.
Hypothetically speaking let’s say that I have access to the Federal budget and the green light to expand Yoga in America. I would order the construction of Yoga studios in the poorest and most-neglected neighborhoods in America. Not only would this improve accessibility, it would provide a ton of much-needed construction jobs. Once these Yoga studios are up and running they could offer reduced rates or complimentary classes to anyone who wants to try it out. We could provide grants to individuals who want to learn to teach Yoga. In exchange for the grants those people would agree to teach and serve for a period of time at studios in disadvantaged areas. Not only would we have more teachers, we would be providing careers for people who might otherwise be unemployed or involved in criminal activity. I can envision how this process could repeat itself over and over in different neighborhoods and create a self-sustaining movement that brings Yoga to the masses. Maybe this could be the catalyst that transforms health care in America and creates a better and more productive society? It’s an interesting proposition with tremendous potential. Too bad this kind of conversation is not a part of the overall dialogue on health care reform in America.
Brownie: Follow the instructions for your favorite gluten free brownie mix. We used Arrowhead Mills and it was yummy.
Banana Ice Cream: 1 very ripe banana sliced and frozen in the freezer. Place frozen banana pieces in a food processor and optional vanilla bean and blend until it balls up like real ice cream.
Coconut Cream: Turn a can of coconut milk upside down and open. Pour out the very liquidy top layer and scoop the bottom layer into a bowl. Add 1 tbs of honey and 1 tsp of vanilla. Whisk until the consistency of melted ice cream.
Put the Brownie and Ice cream side by side and pour the coconut cream on top of both. Enjoy!!!
This is the perfect salad to satiate you this fall! Filling, spicey, sweet, hearty, and savory, this unique blend of ingredients is amazingness in your mouth with seasonal ingredients that help keep you healthy this Holiday Season.
Salad: One head of romaine lettuce, 1 pear cubed, 1 persimmon cubed, 6 leaves of basil chopped, 1 handful of chopped kelp noodles and 1 stalk of celery chopped leaves included.
Dressing: 1/2 avocado, 1 handful of cilantro, 1/2 peeled orange, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 jalepeno. Blend in Vitamix and mix in with the salad ingredients. Add dulse flakes and Yummy in your Tummy!
Join us on Sunday, 11/24 from 3-4:30 p for tips about how to integrate recipes like this into your diet consistently in order to keep you healthy during the holidays!
Tis the season for pumpkin pie! Here is a wonderful and easy alternative that allows you to indulge without ANY guilt! This is a delicious and nutritious option, giving you your sweet tooth fix as well as good and satisfying nutrients. And the best part is that you can eat it for breakfast and not feel bad!
2 cups of soaked almonds
7 pitted medjool dates
2 pinches of salt
1/3 c water
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it forms a pasty crust-like consistency. Scoop out of the processor and put into a pie pan. Using your fingers, press the crust onto the pan so it covers the bottom and sides evenly. Put into freezer
1 1/2 cup raw pumpkin pieces, cut, seeded and skinned
2 cups of soaked cashews
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 tbs agave nectar or raw
1 tbs pumpkin pie seasoning from Trader Joes
1 tbs GMO free soy lethicin ( I would have preferred to use Irish moss, a more natural and soy-free coagulant but I didn’t have any on hand)
1/3 cup of water
1 pinch of salt
Put all these ingredients in a high powered blender (Vitamix) or food processor. Blend until very smooth consistency. Take the pie crust out of the freezer and place the continents of the blender on top of the pie crust and smooth evenly. Place in the refrigerator to set for 1 hour.
1 can of BPA free coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs raw honey
Put the can of the coconut milk in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Flip the can upside down so the heavy and thick cream sits on the bottom (this is what you use for the whipped cream). Open the can upside down and pour out the liquid that sits on top, put in a cup and place in the refrigerator. Scoop out the hard thick coconut cream and place in a mixing bowl. Add the honey and vanilla and mix thoroughly with an egg beater until a creamy consistency. Once the pie is set dollop the cream on top to your liking. Enjoy!
We all hear how important it is to engage the core when you are moving through various Yoga positions, but exactly how do you know if you are engaging those deep lower belly muscles of support? Our lower belly, or transverse abdominals are imperative muscles of support that help stabilize the lower back, illicit a “lifting-up” sensation out of our joints, relieve neck and shoulder tension as well as help to center and ground us in our movements.
One of the most effective teaching tools for learning where these muscles are, as well as feeling what it feels like when they are turned on (contracted and supporting us), is to make a hissing sound. When you hiss you can feel the band of lower belly muscles below the belly button immediately contract. That contraction not only tells you where they are but what it feels like when they are on. Now see if you can replicate this feeling at the bottom of your ujjayi exhale, without making that hissing sound, but making that velvety rich ha sound of the sealed lip breath. This is how you know your exhale is complete is if you can feel the lower belly turn on like it did when you were hissing. As you inhale see if you can also keep a piece of this lower belly holding you sensation as your breath climbs up and out. And the next exhale take it all the way down till the lower belly generously contracts.
The beauty about this work is that you can use it as feedback. If you are in a pose that you cannot find this lower belly complete exhale contraction sensation, then you might be too deep into the pose, or the alignment of the pose might be off. The goal is to be able to go into a pose with the supportive mechanisms of feedback like your lower belly. If you cannot feel this, back of and explore where you can find it and move from there. Not only will you have your center of gravity and support on your side, but you will also be guided by your complete and expansive breaths.
The idea with our Yoga practice is that every exhale becomes an exercise back to our center, our root, our grounding. Every inhale becomes an expansion from our center. If with every breath, in every posture we can create this lower belly work we will not only be utilizing our core in an effective and healing way, but we will be taking our practice to a very dynamic, active and profoundly stabilizing level.
There are so many benefits to eating seasonal foods. They are the freshest, purest and most succinct with what our body needs foods we can get. Every season, mother nature gives you what you need to be healthy in the form of seasonal foods. Because of the weather change of the fall, this seasons produce is full of antioxidants, a type of phytochemical that helps prevent illnesses from the common cold to cancer and heart disease. Here is a great fall fruit salad that is all raw, vegan, organic, local and filling. This recipe has a rainbow of colors in it as well; the more colors, the more nutrients! Here is the recipe:
1 apple chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 skinned, chopped persimmon
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
1 handful of celery
juice of 1/2 lemon
combine all the ingredients and enjoy!
Here is an article by one of our teachers Kristina Kuzmich that she wrote last year upon her return from volunteering with Bridges Between in Nepal. Join Kristina and Lululemon on October 26 for a day full of sweat, smiles and surprises! All proceeds go to the organization Bridges Between. Beginning at 8:30a for Check-in, there will be Circuit Training and Yoga from 9-10:30a, and then Lunch and Silent Auction at Wine Steals Cardiff from 11-1:30p. DONATE and/or SIGN UP HERE: http://www.crowdrise.com/lululemonbridgesbetween/fundraiser/lululemoncarlsbad
3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
The other day I came across a Facebook feed with a very colorful picture of a women meditating. The caption read, “Begin each day with a grateful heart.”
Instantly I was drawn to it. It is true, we should begin each day with a grateful heart; what a great way to start your day. Then I had a follow-up question that arose: “Why does sometimes the heart not feel that way?”
Perhaps, you know with your mind that you are grateful but how often of that is felt from a place within the heart? Our American way of living is very “go, go, go,” and with the busy of a typical day, often it is only when we take a day off from our routine that we begin to relish from a place of thankfulness.
I just returned from a three-week volunteer trip to the remote villages of Nepal, a third-world country. Before I left for the trip, somehow I had managed to be the busiest I have ever been—with fundraising, teaching, massage work, writing articles and staying present in my relationships.
I knew I was in overload because I had a hard time being in the present moment with each task or person that I was conversing with. I was mentally grateful for the opportunity that lay ahead, and for all those who were supporting me, but I also felt a small block in my heart. It almost felt like if I slowed down to really take it all in that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all my “objectives” — the overloading work I had compiled for myself.
During the trip, I journaled nearly every day. I kept track of our travels, the people we met along the way, my mental and emotional state, and I jotted down any relevant or irrelevant happenings. The more I landed in Nepal, the more I accepted the slow paced lifestyle. The people work hard, but also enjoy themselves, taking breaks for tea, chatting with one another and taking in the beauty around them. There was no television, video games, or techie gadgets to distract the interactions between people.
As the trip went on, I noticed my interest began to shift and my listening deepened. No longer feeling the pull of Facebook or the blinking curser on my computer screen reminding me to write another article, or the voices echoing from the television as someone absentmindedly reads the newspaper and makes dinner.
No. It was simple. It was raw and completely organic, in a very special way. It became apparent to me how much of our technology sucks up our time if we let it; how easy it is to be consumed by an email, a video or even a text conversation when a real person sits directly in front of us trying to connect.
After arriving home to Colorado, my adjustment was a slow one, as I made a conscious decision that I did not want to go back to the full-steam, all engines ahead mode of life I was previously living. Yes, I sure got a lot done, but I was not really in the moment.
When our hearts are in a place of the living present moment, that is when we feel gratitude. We may think we are grateful—and for that we are—but to connect the thinking mind along side the felt state of the heart is powerful. Think of a time in your past when you were really grateful. What were you doing? Who were you with? Did you accomplish something or were you just elated to be in the company of another?
There is a reason why we call yoga a practice, the same can be applied to the practice of gratitude. As we link our breath with the movement of our bodies in yoga asana, we too can link our mental mind of appreciation with our feeling heart of gratitude.
In practicing gratitude, we deepen our relationship to ourselves and to the world around us, and we live more presently in each moment and learn to be okay just the way we are and where we are. Here are three ways to cultivate more gratitude in our lives.
1. Practice patience.
“From cane reeds, sugar,
From a worms cocoon, silk.
Be Patient if you can and from sour grapes will come something sweet”
The first thing I learned in Nepal was that things were done in a very organic manner. I remember on our travels within Nepal from Kathmandu to Phaplu, we were at the airport for the first flight out, but after much conversing between the locals we were informed we would be on the second flight…hopefully. So we waited. And we waited. And then we waited some more. Soon, it became very apparent to me that this is their custom and I could either jump on board or leave.
Learning to be patient in this manner was new. Pleasantly, I began to let go and reside in a place of not really knowing what would be next because what was on the itinerary was not a definitive. The beauty is that I found a sense of gratitude within my heart by going with the flow.
You see, when we are patient, we are more likely to listen. And when we listen more, we really begin to see who we are with, what is happening around us and how it makes us feel inside. Quickly, my world was not just my world anymore. Taking the time to be patient and to absorb my surroundings without judgement, anticipation or control, I felt thankful deep within my heart.
Practicing patience is a way to cultivate more gratitude in our lives. Where can you be more patient in your life?
2. Pause and smell the flowers.
Many moments on the four to six hour hikes held an overwhelming sense of calm and comfort, just in taking steps, one foot in front of the other. Soon the chatter of writing, worrying and/or doing gently drifted away like that of a cloud from a passing storm, and my mind settled into this place of pausing.
I not only knew I needed to be a better friend, volunteer, partner, etc., I desired to be; I wanted deeply to take in the smell of the flowers, to stop and to absorb. My attention for things became sharper and I was even able to approach the world with a wider sense of openness.
Practicing gratitude means to slow down, to pause and to take in moments. How often do we talk on the phone, drive and sip our coffee at the same time? Who is guilty of doing all of that at the same time while steering the wheel with their knee? I am. But what is it worth it? Who loses here? We do. We lose because we do not notice the change of the autumn leaves as we drive or we do not hear the last part of the sentence our friend said on the phone. We lose those great moments to really take in the aromas of life and be truly thankful.
Practicing pausing is a way to cultivate more gratitude in our lives. How can you pause more?
3. Be in the present moment.
No longer feeling the technological distractions of my modern day life, I began to appreciate the simple routine in Nepal. Daily we woke to “bed tea”—hot tea delivered to our tent at 6:30 a.m. It was something that felt strange to me at first, but overtime I not only welcomed it, I actually looked forward to it. I enjoyed the sweet interaction of the porters offering me tea as we greeted one another other with a smile.
Breakfast was eaten as the sun was rising, and I would sit in the cold, blanketed in my down. Soon, we would be on our way to continue building the Cold Food Storage at the monastery with the locals, taking small tea breaks from time to time. With small verbal conversation, we built a community and learned to accept one another, as we were in a raw non-verbal way.
At times patience was needed, while at other times pausing was necessary, taking time to re-evaluate the project. The days were long and when dinner came, all bundled in the mess tent with the stars shining bright above the Himalayan mountains, it became even more apparent of how important the practice of acceptance is.
Ae each night came to an end with time to reflect and journal while wrapped up in my sleeping bag and beanie, I became grounded. The more I accepted the reality of the situation, the more I became aware of the present moment; awareness of where I was right then, of the interactions between people, of who I was deep within.
Kristina Kuzmich in Nepal with Bridges Between
Practicing acceptance is a challenging piece in the journey. It means we must be patient and that we have to slow down. It is hard to appreciate a flower for what it is if we are too busy in the mind thinking of other things.
When the mind is chattering away about this or that, but not taking in the flower, we miss the details of the flower; its color, its texture and its smell. When we embrace acceptance, we are instantly transported to the present moment, allowing us a beautiful opportunity for appreciation.
Practicing acceptance is a way to cultivate more gratitude in our lives. Where can you be more accepting in your life? What takes you away from the living in the present moment?
In lu of the Thanksgiving season, take this opportunity to begin practicing these three ways to manifest and plant more gratitude in your heart. Begin with trying on the coat of patience. You may find that the mittens and gloves of pausing will come more readily to you as you practice. And lastly, when your heart is open and calm, embrace the present moment with acceptance. As we deepen all three of these in our lives, our hearts will soon overfill with the abundance of gratitude; allowing us to spread the richness of such warmth to those around us.
Kristina is a council member as the Director of Public Relations for Bridges Between (BB). To learn more about Bridges Between and helping them complete their goal of completing 10 schools in 10 years (this year marks the third school), click here: www.bridgesbetween.org. In addition to building schools, BB’s education focuses on literacy, health and agricultural growth. Working with the women and families in the rural areas of Nepal, BB envisions a world were all women have access to education.
By Alex Pogeler
I was taking a particularly challenging class the other week and a question popped into my head: What is the most dreaded phrase in Yoga? Is it “Core Work?” “Arm Balances?” “Inversions?” Maybe “Choose a partner for this next pose?” There are so many candidates and all of them have compelling arguments. I however would reject all of these possibilities in favor of one that might not immediately come to mind.
Yoga demands a lot of concentration. Maintaining a steady rate of breath requires focus. Holding a posture for an extended period of time is taxing both mentally and physically. Humans by nature have a limited amount of sensory capacity. When all of our senses are engaged in something as demanding as Yoga, there is a tendency to lose track of time and space. This happens to me all the time in class. I get into a trance-like state where all my attention is fixated on the posture and the breath and I’m not really thinking about anything beyond the poses. When I am in this “Yoga zone” it leads to a great practice but it also sets me up for the cruelest of revelations.
In Yoga everything is done in a balanced and equal manner on both sides of the body. When we do a pose on our right side we complement that with the same posture on our left side. When we engage in a complex flow that encompasses a series of postures on one side we do that same flow of poses on the opposite side. When I am in the Yoga zone and oblivious to anything other than the pose I am engaged in I sometimes have no clue what side I am working on. This is where the cruelest Yoga phrase ever comes into play.
So at the end of a particularly challenging flow of poses there is an inner sense of relief and accomplishment. I congratulate myself at the same time that I thank my lucky stars I don’t have to go through that same series again. Now if I am in a mental state where I have no idea which side we are working on I can sometimes be lulled into a false sense of completion. I will be basking in my victory when I hear the instructor say one thing I don’t want to hear: “Now the other side.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. There’s nothing worse than the cruel realization that all the effort and energy I put into that last exhausting flow of poses I have to conjure up again for the other side.
It’s perhaps the most demoralizing aspect of Yoga yet I think it teaches a valuable lesson at the same time. Namely to keep your ego in check and hold off on that victory parade until you are sure that both sides are done.
Catching up with Alana Bray, owner of Yoga Bound in Carlsbad
ERIN LEHN FLORESCA
Most of the people we know have one thing in common—we never learned how to move in a way that is healthy for our bodies. In fact, for many of us, our daily, habitual patterns actually do more harm than good. “Depending on the ergonomics of your life, many of your movements could be gradually progressing into a stress injury,” explains Alana Bray, owner of Yoga Bound in Carlsbad, California. “That is, unless somewhere along the way you learned how to live inside your body and move with the proper mechanics.”
And that is exactly what Bray did years ago when she received her Yoga Therapy training at the Loyola Marymount University Yoga Therapy Rx program. In this program, Bray studied under Sherry Brourman, an internationally-known physical and yoga therapist and author of the book Walk Yourself Well. “We learned how to walk properly and to use the way we walk as a healing method,” says Bray. “We also learned how to do the same with yoga movements.” Bray also assisted Brourman with yoga therapy classes in Los Angeles. “The classes were mostly filled with people who had major injuries or who were recovering from surgery. I learned about all of the potential movements that people do throughout the day and how to analyze a person’s gait,” recalls Bray. “Through yoga, I was then able to teach students how to live inside their bodies with more awareness.”
“It’s a very holistic way of thinking about our bodies,” says Bray, who knows the healing power of yoga therapy firsthand. Bray’s passion for teaching yoga therapy was ignited soon after her own yoga injury. “I sustained a shoulder and back injury while doing yoga,” she recalls. “And, naturally, I looked to yoga to heal myself.”
The healing power of yoga doesn’t end with the movements, though. The healing breath combined with yoga postures further increases the body’s natural healing capabilities. “If you are breathing in a way that is symmetrical, and consists of long, flowing, deep breaths you engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is a very healing state,” says Bray. Yet most people, according to Bray, are shallow breathers. “Movement that doesn’t incorporate proper breathing doesn’t open the body up to healing,” says Bray. “And that is what is so beautiful about yoga. It is a very healing modality that touches everything.”
Those who take Bray’s classes at Yoga Bound will find that she is very committed to teaching people to be accountable for how they move and live. “I teach my students how to stabilize their bodies and stay connected and present,” she affirms. In fact, all of the teachers at Yoga Bound are focused on teaching “conscious movement”. “All of our yoga students learn proper movement techniques,” says Bray. “It’s not just movement for the sake of movement. We teach you how to live inside your body and be in the moment.”
Not only do the students learn how to be present in their bodies, but they get the opportunity to do so in a welcoming, homey environment—a darling old cottage that was converted into the studio. “We’re a very caring community,” says Bray. “We all support one another. We want our students to feel safe and relaxed when they come here and to know that they are an integral part of the Yoga Bound family.”
There are classes for all levels at Yoga Bound. Vinyasa classes Levels (1-2/3) are offered several times daily, along with Yoga Therapy classes five times per week. “The Yoga Therapy classes are tailored to each student’s specific injury,” says Bray. “It’s an intelligent class where we get the chance to support an injury, rather than aggravate it.”
Yoga Bound also offers a mini Yoga Therapy program geared toward other yoga instructors. The next class, which will be accredited, is being held in the spring of 2014. In addition, the studio offers several other yoga and meditation classes. “My mom and I also teach a bi-monthly class on how to ferment foods, like sauerkraut,” says Bray.
Bray’s passion for yoga knows no bounds. She encourages everyone, no matter where they practice or what style of yoga they choose, to incorporate yoga into their life. “The most important thing is to practice it consistently,” she says, “at the very least, do yoga twice a week to see results. It’s such a gift to give to yourself; to really learn how to connect with your body and support your body in a healing way.”
Yoga Bound is located at 3043 Harding Street in Carlsbad. For more details, call 760-720-9642 or visit YogaBoundForLife.com.