108 for spring time.

Yesterday was the spring equinox.
So, in yoga tradition, I decided to do a home practice consisting of 108 sun salutations.

I set up my little yoga area. It's so nice to practice at home!
Some of the weekend's party decorations were still up, and they added some nice colour.

Why do 108 sun salutations?
108 is a very important number in Hinduism, astrology, yoga, and even within the Sanskrit alphabet. That is why there are 108 beads on a mala!

Detailed info on 108:
Yoga Journal article.
Some more info here.

I've done this practice a few times before, to welcome in the change of seasons.
It is a really great mental exercise. Around 30-40 is usually the toughest for me.
Once I hit 54 I'm excited because i'm half done, and then 70-108 just fly by!
Great workout for the arms and shoulders too.

Have you ever tried 108 sun salutations?
Happy Spring everyone!!!!

Sunday Morning Bliss

My mat + 
candles +
75 minutes of meditation music +
my own flowing practice
steel cut oats +
fresh ground flax +
blueberries +
favourite green bowl +
wooden spoon.
Some words that spoke to my Sunday-Morning-Loving-Heart:

"The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. 
We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. 
Breathe before it's gone." 
— Rumi 
Happy Sunday everyone.
What makes your Sunday blissful? 

Return of the jedi (yogi).

A while back I was having trouble fitting yoga into my day. I love a morning practice. It really feels the best to me. Yoga on a mostly empty stomach, with the sun rising outside my window (you know, Japan IS called the Land of the Rising Sun) and an energizing ashtanga practice makes the perfect start to a day.

But then Japan happened.

I now have a 40 hour work week. I have to leave my house at 7:45 every morning. And being a teacher, I have to look at least decently presentable (which requires a few minutes of hair smooshing down and water-on-face splashing). I also like to have something hot for breakfast, and I need to pack my lunch, which requires some time in the morning.

For a month I was getting up just before or at 5am everyday --- this allowed me to have about 10 minutes to wake up / drink some tea, and practice for about an hour, then shower and make breakfast. It was great, once I got used to going to bed at 9pm every night. But once winter hit, and the morning sun didn`t come until 7am at earliest, and the apartment was SO cold (no heating here in Japan and bad insulation)—getting out of bed at 5AM was just too difficult.

So, yoga was pushed out of my schedule. At the end of the day, after biking and teaching hundreds of screaming elementary kids with energy levels you can`t believe, the last thing I felt like doing was yoga. My body felt different from sitting in a desk lots. It was dark, and cold, and I just couldn`t find my practice.

But after Christmas, I had had enough. I needed yoga. I love yoga. I wanted to practice. So I just made the time. Practicing afterschool is not my favourite. Not even close. Sometimes I really don`t feel like it. But I do it, at least most days. And it is for the better. So even when I don`t want to, I try to make time for at least a 30 minute practice. My body thanks me for it, that`s for sure.

Now that the sun is rising earlier, and the apartment isn`t so ridiculously cold (5 degrees outside is a warm winter for Canadians, but 5 degrees inside the house is way colder than back home), I want to attempt a morning practice again. This would give me more time to chill after my busy days.

And as you now, I started teaching a yoga class! One thing about being here and being away from my studio back home, is that it has made me realize how much I truly love practicing and teaching. Lately when I practice at home, I feel as though teaching just pours out of me. I think about alignment and adjustments, and breathing and things I want to say. Every week, I cannot wait to teach. Sometimes you need to remove yourself from something to see it clearly, no?

Do you find that your yoga practice ebbs and flows? Do you ever go for a few weeks/months without yoga? I know my practice certainly goes through phases, but the trend seems to be that I always find my way back to the mat, and back to Ashtanga yoga, where I started. Perhaps the big practice of yoga is being in the moment, and accepting the fluidity of your practice, rather than being attached to it. Yoga is not just about the physical practice after all, but about life as a whole, and learning to be present in it.

Less thoughts, happy belly.

So I have been pretty busy lately. As I mentioned in my last super short post, I finally managed to get a yoga class going, and it has brought so much joy to my life! When I was teaching back home in Canada, I knew I enjoyed it, and I felt like it was a good fit for me, but it was not until I was away from it for 6 months, that I truly realized just HOW much I enjoy it. I am barely making any profit at all, but the happy energy and bliss I feel after my weekly class is all I need. I feel peace because I know that teaching yoga is the right path for me. And also, my home practice has become more grounded, which is great!

In other news, I got a car! A super mini-tiny black little bubble car.

It was free from another English teacher who is leaving. All I had to do is pay for the yearly inspection that all cars must go through. A ton of paperwork and insurance setting up later, and I am now mobile! I still ride my bike to work, and to the grocery store, and to the beach. Car does not equal a quick way to replace my bike. But now, instead of spending over $200 a month for me and my guy to get into the city on the train, we can travel for much cheaper. And we can now go on road trips into the mountains. I see many camping and hiking trips in our future.

Also, spring time has come early this year in Japan.

Which means, more time outside on my bike under cherry blossoms (not my photo, but you get the idea), and less time inside on the computer.

Lately, I have been experimenting a bit with my diet (because, like many of you, I always am). For two weeks straight I battled with an intense craving for meat. I have never had such a craving in my life. Figuring that I simply needed some protein, I tried to satisfy these cravings with natto, lentils, tofu, tempeh, and fish. But it would not go away. So after much deliberating I tried some meat---for the first time in a long time. And, it made me feel like a million bucks! I am working right now, on how to incorporate some meat (which my body is loving and receiving very well) into macrobiotic guidelines. Tricky business, that`s for sure.

But sometimes you just need to listen to your body and stop listening to your mind. You know what I mean? I know both Heather and Maggie have recently been enjoying some meat, and have seen some great results. My eats lately are brown rice (mixed up here and there with some buckwheat, millet, and oats), natto, seaweed, veggies, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, flax oil, fish, tempeh (finally found some here!!), occasionally some meat, and a bit of fruit. And of course, some dark chocolate here and there.

My biggest, not to mention continual, struggle is to SLOW DOWN, and NOT OVER THINK. I stopped to consider my eating habits, and realized that I have spent SO much wasted time on deciding if I should/can allow myself to eat something. But the wasted energy doesn`t stop there, because once I decide to eat something, then how much? With what? What will it do to me? Can I mentally allow it?

I wholeheartedly believe that thoughts like this are detrimental to one`s health. So right now, I am trying to listen to my body and decide if a craving is physical or mental, and to just slow down and enjoy something when I am eating it. And also, to not spend so much time thinking about food in general. This is hard when there are so many food blogs I love to read, so if I haven`t been around much lately, it`s because I am experimenting more with letting go of food thoughts.

Sometimes it`s really nice to just go with the flow and eat whatever you first think of. I was in a restaurant the other day, and I just ordered the first thing I saw that appealed to me. I didn`t compare it to other items. I didn`t waste time thinking about calories or if it was on my “ok to eat” list. And you know what? The meal was so much more enjoyable. Way more than if I had scoured the menu looking for the most perfect/allowable thing to eat. It is interesting, because while I do like a splurge once in awhile, most things that I naturally gravitate towards are healthy and nourishing, so that makes me happy.

I am also sure that so many thoughts are NOT good for your digestion, no matter what you are eating! If it has taken you 20 minutes to decide you should just have the salad, but without the dressing, and maybe subbing the croutons for more tomatoes...your body will probably not receive this food very happily. Some times less thinking and worrying, and more croutons (???) are better for you belly, and your soul.

I have noticed here in Japan, that people just seem to eat whatever they want, without worry, and just enjoy it. Whether is raw fish, ice cream, or curry rice. No mental battles going on before eating in this part of the world. And coincidentally, substantially SUBSTANTIALLY less overweight people. Food is big here. People LOVE food. But, they don`t overthink every decision. Now, you may be thinking that “ well, if they aren`t overweight, then of course they don`t need to worry about their food choices so much.”

But maybe look at it from the other way: Perhaps, they aren`t overweight, because they don`t overthink their meals, and instead just enjoy what they are eating, when they are eating it. When they are done eating, then don`t think about it anymore, and instead enjoy life. No food obsessing, just generally healthy choices.

If you are overall healthy and balanced in your eating, then you don`t need to worry about every little detail.

So, take it easy. Slow it down, like this cute turtle I found on the net:

Don`t take life (including eating) too seriously. Every second you spend thinking about food, deciding for hours over what to eat, or beating yourself up over something you ate, is a second that could have been enjoyed by stepping into the present moment and accepting it for what it is! Listen to your body. Trust that inner voice (it won`t always tell you to eat the ice cream, I promise). Make the most of your time! Every once in awhile, enjoy your croutons. And maybe just eat the damn cake too?


Question to you: have you ever noticed that the people who seem to be naturally, consistently, and easily healthy and fit, do not spend much time overthinking what they eat?

"Yoga is 99% practice and 1% knowledge"

This is one of my favourite yoga-inspiring quotes ever, by the great Sri Krisha Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga's main teacher.

As I was practicing at home on monday, the phone rang, and as the machine kicked in, I learned from one of my teachers/yoga studio owners that guruji (what we call Pattabhi Jois at our studio), had just passed away at the old age of 93. He has been sick for sometime, and this time was just too much for him.

I was deeply saddened when I heard this news, as even though I never got to meet guruji, as my teacher has, I feel his presence everytime I practice. His teachings come through in my focus during every posture, and everytime I teach (as I recall his wise words). I am so grateful that our world could experience him, as he has made this yoga system accessible for everyone. He is widely credited for spreading yoga in India, as well as to North America. He began studying yoga at the age of 12, from Sri T. Krishnamacharya, the great yogi, who taught some of most influential yoga teachers we know today, such as Iyengar, Patthabi Jois, Indra Devi, and Desikachar. In 1975, Patthabi Jois came to California, and his teachings just took off.

Here is a great website about Ashtanga yoga, and Pattabhi Jois.

My yoga teacher is a direct student of Pattabhi Jois. He was fortunate enough to practice with him for several years in total, and was one of the first people in Canada to be certified to teach by Guruji. I feel so lucky to have this indirect contact with Pattahbi Jois, as his teachings come through in my teacher's teachings, and I hope one day will shine through in mine as well.

My teacher has left to go to India to be with the family, and so I am super busy, teaching a LOT this week and next week (hence the lack of posting).

As I left to teach my class on monday, I thought about what I could say, that would honour the life of this man, this teacher. And the answer can clearly to me. There is no need for special words. All you need to do is practice. He strongly believed that the practice will teach you what you need to know, and will provide you with everything you need. He is most famous for saying, "Practice, and all is coming".

This was his answer to every question:
"Guruji, what do I do in Uphavistha Konasana, to help keep my back straight?" He would respond, "You take practice. All is coming"
"Guruji, how can I make my lungs handle pranayama better?" "You take practice".
"Guruji, what should I eat for breakfast?" "You take practice, all is coming."

It may seem silly, but those simple words ring so true. On my way to the studio, I began thinking about what I have learned from yoga. I have come to realize that yoga is about learning to listen to the body, and once you have heard the voice of your body, it WILL guide you to the right answer. My practice has taught me this. Your body knows what postures you should practice, what to eat, and the answer to every question. Everyone knows you should listen to that voice that warns you about danger, and not brush it off. When you practice, you create that link between body and consciousness, between the physical and mental. The word Yoga itself, means union, or to yoke. All of these thoughts were buzzing around inside me, as I got ready to teach.

I began class with a simple meditation, and let the students know about what had happened. As we sat there, I told them that by being there, and practicing, they were honouring his spirit in the best way they could. We dedicated the class to him, and our opening mantra was so beautiful. The energy in the room was phenomenal. So serene and warm, yet entirely focused. As they lay in savasana, I left them with another of his teachings, one that I love so much:

If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter – if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self.
~Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois

In 11 weeks I'm leaving for...

Can you guess where?

If you like sushi as much as I do, then you probably guessed it: I am going to Japan in only 3ish months! I realized yesterday, that I have been failing to mention this big life change that is coming up right away!

Why am I going to Japan, you ask? Why haven't I mentioned it? Well here's the skinny:

I graduated this past December with a philosophy degree. I know, I know: what do you do with a philosophy degree, right? get RYA certified and teach yoga! This is what I have been doing since last summer, and I am absolutely loving it! I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training over the summer, and just kind of fell into teaching at my favourite studio (dream job! yipee!!). I have been teaching since september, but not so much in the fall as I was finishing off school. Since December I have been teaching more and more, and have found my groove.

That being said, I applied in November for a teaching english in Japan program. It is a year long contract with the government, and they pay for your flight and a nice hefty salary, which will help with my GIANT STUDENT LOANS. I just found out about a month ago, that I was accepted (it's a REALLY long application process). I am pretty excited to be going to Japan, as I love Japanese culture. I have read almost every Haruki Murakami book out there, love the cuisine, and the country just looks beautiful.

Financially wise, going to Japan is a sound decision, as it will let me pay off a large chunk of my debt. Excitement wise, going to Japan is also a great decision! I love traveling, and I'm only 23, so I can pick up with whatever when i'm back. So why have I been avoiding posting about this? Well, I feel as though I'm finally settling into teaching. I'm done school, which is nice, and I'm supporting myself with teaching classes. This leaves me with plenty of time to do other things I like, and basically lead a simple, happy, and stress-free life. Which is nice after a long and mentally draining degree! I keep thinking that it would be so much easier to stay here in my comfortable routine! And I'm hesitant to give up my teaching here. I feel as though i'm still learning so much, I adore my studio, and I love my teachers and students.

My mind was in battle mode for a long time: teach yoga here vs. crazy adventure over there. After much deliberation, and discussion with my guy (I promised him we would go somewhere when I was done my degree), and discussion with my teacher (he said not to worry, that i'll be able to teach yoga in Japan for sure, and they will always be here when/if I come back), I decided to just go for it, and take the position. But somedays I still feel as though I'm being negligent to my "career" by giving up my teaching jobs here, and that I will desperately miss my studio. Any thoughts you guys? Any reassurances or similar situations you've been in?

Whew. After that crazy venting session, I'll leave you with slightly less words, and lots of foodie photos. I've stopped taking photos of my rice because well, it's rice. You've seen it before. On to my veggie-ful eats:

I have been continuing on my ravenous veggie eating path, and am loving it!
I opened one of the salted seaweed bags I bought the other day, and it was super yummy. Basically, you rinse off all the salt, let the seaweed soak for 10 minutes. Rinse and soak again, and then drain. You can then cut it up and do whatever you like with it! I think my favourite way to eat is is to just dice it up small, and toss with a bit of toasted sesame oil, lemon, and a bit of shoyu! Very macrobiotic, and so delicious.

You can't beat seaweed salad:

Because soy bugs me, and this month i'm trying to be nice to my body, no shoyu in this one. Along with my seaweed salad, I made a really quick stir-fry made up of sui choy, broccoli, carrots, kale, bok choy, brussel sprouts...I think that's it. I stir fried it in water, and added some dulse flakes at the end. Once it had cooled a bit, I added flax oil:

I liked it so much I made another one the next day, and added in some seaweed:

And I have been eating copious amounts of these guys (sugar snap peas)right out of the bag:

So I decided to post today about all of this because I just had my first Japanese lesson last night, and got kinda excited... Have any of you ever had to make a hard choice between leaving a "good career and life opportunity" and "going on an adventure"?

Pea Shoots, New moons, and Snow! Oh my!

Hello all you lovelies,

I have been M.I.A. these last few days: busy busy with yoga teaching, cleaning / re-organizing the apartment, and running around.

I have been really diligent with my "health plan" or clean eating, and I feel great! My tummy problems are getting better: I think the acupuncture, herbs, and simple eating is definitely helping!

My eats have been very unimaginative these past few days. Mostly the usual good stuff: brown rice, seaweed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, kabocha(mmm), kale, and collards. And of course, a few green apples, a pear or two, and some berries. Next week...less fruit!

But wait! There were a few sneaky little devils that snuck their way onto my plate...No.....not chocolate (I wish)...but something almost as good (??)! Sneaky Devil no 1.: dandelion greens (no photo, sorry). These buggers are plenty bitter, but are also plenty good for you, and your liver (and according to my holistic health practitioner, my liver and blood are "weak" as a result of the pill) bring on the bitter greens! Sneaky Devil no.2: Pea Shoots! I randomly picked these up at the grocery store, and sure am glad about it! They taste just like crisp peas! mmmmm. Great steamed for just a few moments!

In other news, I spoke to my acupuncturist about my "health plan" for the next month, and we decided that according to my current body imbalances, perhaps instead of a week of only brown rice, I might do a week of steamed veggies, with a bit of a liver cleanse each morning. I'll post more about this in the next few days!

I have been really really low energy this week, and i'm definitely convinced it is partly due to the new moon! In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, we don't practice on moondays (full or new moon). The reasoning is that because our bodies are made up of such a large percentage of water, we are affected my the moon cycle just like the tides! On new moons, our energy is downward moving. We might feel more grounded, and just generally a little bit less active. New moons are great days to work on hip-openers! On full moons, we don't practice because we have TOO much energy. Everything is upward flowing, and we are more likely to injure ourselves. Just ask any nurse...full moons are when people go crazy! And it is best to practice yoga when we are slightly less crazy, and slightly more balanced :)

And why the title, "Pea Shoots, New moons, and SNOW! Oh my!" you ask?? Well because I live in Canada (arctic wasteland), where it SNOWS on April 23rd! Wow. I was just getting used to throwing on a skirt on the way out the door to it was back to scarves and mittens. Oh well! I guess there are worse things than snow in April, right? Does it ever snow in April where you are from??

Great Eats This Past Week instead of spending my time blogging this past week, I spent my time preparing, cooking, and enjoying delicious food.

Starting out with last weekend, here are some photos:

Unfortunately (fortunately...hehe) I enjoyed a delicious latte, made with unsweetened almond milk, dark italian espresso, and flavoured with a bit of honey and cinnamon.

I then moved onto what looks like a typical macrobiotic breakfast: greens, squash, veggies, and rice with seaweed and seeds! Macrobiotic breakfasts are definitely wonderful at re-balancing the body (especially after indulging in a massively wonderful latte).

Posting the photo reminds me of how much I enjoyed that latte, but also how CRAZY I felt after drinking it! I drank that bad boy down, and then did a quite intensive yoga practice at home. My body was definitely not used to such a large amount of caffeine, and while in some ways I felt that it made me more open in my practice (easier to bind in some poses), I was sweating like crazy, and actually felt quite light headed. I tried to just move through the coffee-party going on in my nervous system, but I actually got so light headed and jittery that in the middle of the seated postures I had to get up and eat a bit of brown rice I had in the fridge, just to calm my body down. So...lesson learned: coffee tastes wonderful, but should be enjoyed in SMALL quantities, or perhaps not very often at all, or at least eaten with something hearty to balance it out. are a few snacks I enjoyed:

Yes. That's right. When I get desperate I snack on frozen veggies. And you know what? They are DELICIOUS! Frozen corn and peas taste wonderfully sweet, and are crunchy enough to trick my mind into thinking that i'm eating something bad for me. You should try it!

Looks like I also made some cocoa-oats, with some pear cooked in with it.
Step 1: Mix up cocoa powder, spices (i'm guessing my usual: loads of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of cayenne). Add a bit of water or cold liquid, sometimes I used almond milk or amasake until it can be stirred into a paste.

Step 2: Then boil pears/apples on the stove, after ~5 mins add in oats and oatbran and cook until desired thickness. Then stir into cocoa-liquid-delicious-paste in bowl, and top with whatever your heart desires:

Looks like this one had some COCOA BLISS thrown on top. I can't keep my paws off of that stuff (see previous post). It is SOOOO good. It melts into the oatmeal and blends perfectly. And it also tastes great off the spoon, for a morning kick before yoga!

Looks like the next day I also had a macro-oriented breakfast (I really do need to branch out):

Ooooh!! Then I had a China Town Adventure and came home with some great goods:

Check out the monstrous bag of Dried Mushrooms (Witches' Butter or Snow Fungus): mushrooms have great healing properties in Chinese Medicine, and are known to balance blood sugar, detox the liver, and stimulate T-cells (relating to our immune system).

I also picked up some longan berries which are great for calming nerves and helping sleep problems. And how could I resist the best priced, and FRESHEST, softest, reddest goji berries in town!?? Goji berries are wonderful for the liver, eyes, and digestion!

The next morning was ABSOLUTELY perfect:
While I was doing yoga, some beautiful bunnies (correct term: hares) decided to spend some time outside my balcony eating grass and playing. As if yoga couldn't get any better!? Yoga plus bunny-watching!? A match made in heaven.

Then I decided to cook up one of those weird dried mushrooms I bought the day before>. You just soak them in some luke-warm water for 5-10 minutes, then steam or boil for a few minutes. If I remember correctly, I added them ontop of my usual quick-boiled breakfast veggies. Although it wasn't displayed, i'm sure my usual rice bowl was lurking there somewhere.

Looks like I also had to have some COCOA-BLISS oats with COCONUT BUTTER on top. As if Artisana Cocoa Bliss wasn't the best thing ever!?? Well, it was so good that I went back to the store and bought the coconut butter. I'll post a picture later of it. It is 100% coconut. Not just the oil. All it is is blended coconut, and it tastes FABULOUS!

Later on, sometime in the week? Can't remember when exactly, I made a green smoothie Even though it doesn't look green, it was filled with delicious ingredients.

"Green Smoothie"
Blend up the following, and enjoy out of a fun-shaped glass:
Large handful of spinach
1 banana
1 pear
handful of frozen berries
squeeze of lemon
a bit of water
1/4 of an avocado

SATURDAY MORNING markets are my favourite!
I woke up and looked in my fridge. Although my brain was telling me otherwise, what I really and truly wanted was something simple, and satisfying, to take me through the yoga class I had to teach. So I ate some brown rice with flax oil. Nothing fancy, but truly great.

I was just about to leave, but my HORRIBLE chocolate addiction won out, and I tasted some great chocolate I picked up the night before.

I am a chocolate snob---I can only enjoy dark chocolate. I usually don't even like 70% too much because I find it too sweet. But I was at an earth-friendly store the other day, and I had never seen this brand of chocolate before, so I thought i'd give it a whirl. It was truly delicious, and the cocoa nibs on the bottom were DIVINE.

This little beauty gave me some glorious yoga-teaching energy, and I can't wait to try another one soon!
Before my class, I had time to run to the Saturday Farmer's Market.

I forgot to take a photo of my stash right away, so the photo is from now, with half the stuff gone. I left with:

* a GIANT buttercup squash, which I am so excited to try
* 2 beautiful blue bowls handmade by this cute couple
* some THAI basil (which will show up in the stir-fry photos next)
* some new green called tat soi, which is kinda like bok choy
* a big ass bag of carrots
* some beets
* and a bag of baby red potatoes for my boy-wonder

I came home from class, and for lunch me and my guy made another "green smoothie" and decided to use my glorious new bowls for a light lunch of organic blue corn tortilla chips, homemade guacamole, and salsa. The lovely glass of milk in this photo was for my guy. It looks so good---sometimes I do miss that creamy consistency that milk provides. Nothing can really replace dairy and get that same texture.

We went for a LOVELY walk through the river valley, and camped out on a blanket in the sun for hours. After spending 5 hours outside, we were ravenous, and came home to make a thai-inspired stir fry:

In the mix was:
- ginger
- lemon grass
- cayenne
- canned straw mushrooms
- canned baby corn
- canned bamboo strings (they were out of the shoots)
- LOTS of fresh thai basil from the market
- a can of light coconut milk

We enjoyed this served over lots of brown rice! mmmmm sooo good! nom.nom.nom.
so much good food...