Developing Deeper Connections to the Earth through Awareness, and Ritual and Community
My family spends time in the Peruvian Andes almost every year. Each time I am in Peru, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to step into a more grounded relationship with myself and with the earth. My time in the Peruvian Andes shifts the ways in which I experience and connect to the earth. Over the years of spending time in the Andes, I have explored rich and varied ways to engage my sadhana (my spiritual practice) with the intent to experience a deeper connection to nature’s rhythms. I call these Earth Sadhanas.
As a yogi and Ayurvedic wellness coach, I have a strong desire to make offerings of wisdom teachings and practices to help people reclaim their connection to the natural world. I believe that a true path of yoga must go way beyond what we do on the mat and cushion and encompass all of our daily activities and help us reclaim our connection with the natural world.
Yoga and Ayurveda offer beautiful ways to engage a deeper connection and nurture a deeper alignment to the Cosmos, which includes the Earth, the Sky, the Star Filled Heavens and all the Beings therein. Practices to connect to the earth and cosmos are found in almost every traditional culture around the globe and I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn these connections in the Andes.
As I write this from the Andes, my environment is a rural landscape, surrounded by majestic mountains, apus, with views of corn fields, potato fields and quinoa fields. It is a place that nourishes both the body and the spirit. Being in the Peruvian Andes teaches me a lot about how humans can interact and connect to their natural environment. Here the landscape is considered animate and sacred and everyday people venerate Mother Nature. People here are still connected to the agrarian calendar and live in rhythm with the cycles for planting, harvesting, and nourishing the land. They know where their food comes from and are actively engaged in the food system.
Life at 13,000 feet
I’ll give you an idea of what this is like: When I'm in Peru, I often spend time with Quechua families from highland communities. These people live at about 13,000 feet. They live in simple but beautiful, traditional adobe homes, made of the earth, and painted with beautiful designs in clay paints. In the fields near their home, they grow and harvest corn, potatoes, barley, wheat and quinoa and they have a bountiful garden with herbs, greens, and flowers. Inside their home, their cooking stove is earthen and they cook and heat with wood. They raise alpacas, sheep, cows and guinea pigs. They spin and dye their own wool and the women make incredibly beautiful weavings. They make their own medicines with the native plants of the environment. They live a very rich and beautiful life with a deep connection to the earth.
Ayni, Sacred Reciprocity
One of the most beautiful teachings in the Andean tradition that I have learned is that of ayni or sacred reciprocity. The essence of this teaching is that we as humans are in a dynamic relationship with each other, and with nature. The idea of ayni is that when you give something, you receive something in return. This keeps the balance in the relationship and more than that, it nourishes the relationship.
In the Andes, ayni informs people’s relationships with each other, with their animals, with their fields and with the landscape. This plays out in people’s commitment to helping one another with planting, harvesting and house building. This plays out daily when people sit to exchange coca leaves and chew coca leaves together. As they exchange the leaves, giving and receiving bundles of 3 coca leaves, called a kintu, they are affirming their relationship of mutual support with one another, not only a social nicety, but also a necessity for survival in the high altitudes. People practice ayni daily as they greet their planting fields and offer gratitude, and specifically at the time of harvest when people make an offering to the earth before digging up the harvest.
This is relationship with the sacred landscape and this innate experience of the earth as being a conscious entity with whom you can have a relationship is a very different understanding than we have in modern U.S. culture, where we view the natural world and the earth’s resources as something we can use and take without offering anything in return.
Each time I spend time with families like this, I feel uplifted and inspired to strengthen my connection to the earth.
A Simple Practice to Honor the Earth
Our family and friends in Peru have created a simple and special practicde to honor the New Moon. On our property here in Peru, we felt called to create an offerings of thanksgiving to the Pachamama, Mother Earth on the New Moon. We engage in a simple act of giving thanks for Mother’s Earth’s bounty and beauty and for the majesty of the landscape. We feel deeply grateful and take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the land.
On the New Moon, we gather around the fire pit at dusk to share songs. We offer chicha morada (purple corn drink), coca leaves and sweets to the Earth, and enjoy one another’s company in music and conversation. It is a simple, heartfelt and enjoyable ritual that creates a deeper sense of connection between us as family members and friends, and greater connection and love for the earth.
The summer season has these characteristics: heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity.
These are all attributes of pitta dosha (fire and a little water), which is why summer is considered in Ayurveda to be a pitta season. And, even though some climates are also humid this time of year, the cumulative effect of intense heat is to dry things out, so summer is also considered dry.
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up over the course of the summer season. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will enjoy the summer season more.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season.
For a list and links to healthy seasonal recipes, click here.
Here's a visual of foods to favor and foods to avoid in the summer:
Download the tip sheet here:
Vibrant Living Summer Tips
As summer heats up in your area, Ayurveda has sound advice for staying healthy through the season.
Stay Cool, Calm, Content and Hydrated.
Summer Eating Tips
Summer Living Tips
Interested in more healthy living tip sheets, go here.
Our family loves to travel. We spend most of our summers on the go visiting family out of state, camping, and traveling to Peru. We travel by foot, plane, train, bus, car, and taxi. We sleep in airports, hotels, homes, cabins, and tents. I’ve gotten good at traveling, but it hasn’t always been this way. I've always loved the stimulation of traveling – taking in new landscapes, meeting new people, tasting new foods, etc. Yet, getting a good night sleep and keeping my digestion running smooth haven't always been easy.
That’s where the strategies of yoga and Ayurveda come in. Over the years, I have cultivated an effective tool kit of strategies to keep me healthy when I travel. Now, no matter where I am on the planet, I keep my daily routine, and I incorporate strategies, foods and remedies that keeps my body-mind healthy and happy.
These are my best travel tips:
Stay hydrated. This is my number one travel tip. It’s so easy to get dehydrated while traveling. In my experience, dehydration leads to feeling ungrounded, spaced out, grumpy. Dehydration also upsets digestion. I always travel with my water bottle. If it’s cold, I travel with a thermos full of hot water. Ayurveda recommends room temperature and/or warm water rather than cold beverages for sound digestion. To feel at home, I like to travel with a few of my favorite herbal tea bags. .
Travel with nourishing and grounding food. There is nothing worse than being hungry while traveling, and there is nothing worse than being somewhere like an airport terminal or gas station convenience store with no good food choices. I love to try new foods wherever I am, but on travel days, I always bring along my own nourishing food. Fresh fruit, cut up veggies and nuts are a must. Instant oatmeal is great for early morning breakfasts on the go (simply add hot water to a thermos cup). Other options are avocados and fresh bread, par-cooked veggies or salads. To make sure I get my daily dose of greens, I like to bring along super greens powder to add to juice or water.
Support your digestion. Traveling can easily upset digestion. These are some ways I support my digestion while traveling:
Support your sleep. Do you find it hard to sleep in new places? I am a sensitive sleeper. These are the strategies I use to sleep soundly when I'm traveling:
Stick to a routine. No matter where I am, I follow the same morning and evening routine. My routine helps me feel at home wherever I am. These are habits for the morning and evening routine that will keep you grounded and centered anywhere on the planet:
Do yoga. A few poses every day while traveling will help your body feel comfortable and strong. Whether your travel includes lots of plane or car time, or lots of hiking, a few sun salutations in the morning or some supine poses in the evening will refresh, enliven and keep your body from getting stiff or sore. (Yoga on the go? Check out my free yoga resources. You can play them right from your smartphone.)
Use essential oils. Essential oils are great for travelers.
This week I'm going to a local health fair. To share my ideas for spring foods, I decided to create a couple of new infographics. You have probably already heard me talk about smoothies and buddha bowls as great foods for spring. They are great because they are full of fresh seasonal ingredients that are full of prana, life force, and help promote lightening and cleansing of the body. If you are someone who love visuals and needs pictures to help you get these food ideas into your life, you'll enjoy these.
Read more and watch a video about spring season foods and ideas on my blog: Foods to Favor in Spring
What is sattva?
In the yoga tradition, there is a beautiful word, sattva, which stands for the qualities of goodness, balance, harmony and serenity. These are the qualities that yogis aim to cultivate through their practices, and indeed the very qualities that most of us can attest to wanting more of in our lives
Sattva is one of the three gunas or elemental qualities that are described in the yogic traditional texts. The tradition describes how these three elemental qualities make up the essential aspects of nature: energy, matter and consciousness. They are:
We need tamas to slow us down after a long day, to wind down and to rest. But, when tamas rules our bodies, we get sluggish, complacent and even obstinate.
The goal is to bring all three gunas into balance and yet to favor, maximize, and cultivate sattva.
How can we cultivate sattva?
I live a complex life and I bet you do too. I know that on any given day the energies of rajas and tamas will be strong influences on my body mind. It's so common or all of us to get swept away with busy-ness, overwhelm, stress, and frustration. It's also common to become dispirited and complacent with when we experience boredom and tedium.
The best way I know of to cultivate sattva is to build in daily sattvic habits to buffer the rajas and tamas.
Cultivate sattva with these daily habits:
Here in Olympia we are coming out of a week of Snowpocalypse. If you're in my region, you know what I'm talking about! Our region is ill-equipped to deal with a big snow storm, so schools and many businesses were shut down last week. Lots of folks lost power and were snowed in. For our family, it was a stay-cation of sorts. No school, no work, no internet. So, we had lots of family time. We played games, went sledding, walked in the snow, read books, and slept in. After a week of diminished work and school activities, we all felt quite rejuvenated. Despite the obvious discomforts caused by this storm, the week at home was, in many ways, a very pleasurable experience.
Kama - Enjoyment or Pleasure
The word pleasure or kama, in Sanskrit is a concept I am teaching in my yoga classes this week. According to the Vedic teachings, pleasure or enjoyment is one of the 4 Aims of Life. Kama refers to the pleasure of the senses. It is both an aesthetic enjoyment and also an enjoyment of emotional connection and affection. In Vedic teachings, taking time for enjoyment is considered a responsibility of householders. For me last week, this was taking in the simple pleasure of enjoying the rare (in the Pacific Northwest) winter wonderland with my family. This pleasure involved all my senses. I enjoyed the brightness of the snow, and the clear skies with stars at night, crackling of snow and ice under my feet, and the touch of my warmest, puffiest coat and thickest mittens. Because it was more difficult to prepare food, the simplest meals were more satisfying.
Of course we experienced the discomforts that come with a big storm, like no power which in our neighborhood also means no water! Luckily we were prepared and were able to ride it out. But, the point I want to make is what could have been a negative experience turned into a very positive experience because we chose to make it that way. It was in many ways, all about mindset. Having an attitude of seeking enjoyment and positivity is a skill and a practice that involves the mind and the body.
Counter-acting our Built-in Negativity Bias
I am reminded by the teachings of Dr. Rick Hanson. Dr. Rick Hanson is a psychologist who studies and writes about the inner skills of personal well-being. Scientists believe that humans have a built in "negativity bias." We are hard-wired to look out for negative experiences and to prevent them if possible. This is an evolutionary trait that has in Rick's words made us more apt to dodge sticks than to chase down carrots. Rick says we are "velcro for negativity" and like "teflon for positivity." By this, he means that we are going to be on the look out for anything negative and any negative experience will "stick to our ribs" more than a "positive experience." In the case of the snowstorms, we are wired to be more preoccupied with the hazards and discomforts of a storm than the silver lining of pleasurable time with family and natural beauty.
Tilting toward the Positive
A big part of my job as a yoga and wellness teacher is to help people's minds and bodies become more resilient by guiding folks realign to what is already good, and build on that. One of my favorite practices that I am teaching this week is Taking in the Good. This is a practice I learned from Dr. Rick Hanson. It is the simple practice of noticing, appreciating and even basking in what is positive, enjoyable and pleasurable in one's life. This basking or soaking in the good involved all of the senses. An example is being outside in the snow or anywhere where you realize you are experiencing something pleasant, and taking the time enjoy the all of the accompanying sights, sounds, feelings, smells and even flavors. By doing so, we begin to slant our mind-body toward more positivity. We can even begin to change our brain! This is neuroplasticity. If we always tilt toward the negative, we become more prone to a negative mindset. Each time, we incline our mind-body toward the positive and pause and appreciate the positive, we build neuro-pathways that incline our lives toward resilience and positivity.
Soaking in the good practice
This is a practice you can do anytime and anywhere. When you become aware that whatever you are experiencing has a pleasant quality, bring your awareness to that experience. If it's early morning and you just poured yourself a cup of hot tea. Take a moment and enjoy the warmth of the mug on your skin. Breathe in the aroma of the tea. Pause, soften and breathe. Let your body relax. Exhale again. Even before you take your first sip, anticipate the pleasure of the warmth and taste of the tea in your mouth. Then, when you take your first sip, linger with the flavors and sensation. Don't rush on to the next task of the morning. Soak in the good for just a few more moments. It's that simple. Fill up your cup with what's good and build on that for the rest of the day.
Thanksgiving is coming right up!
Here is a list of 14 tips for a making your Thanksgiving weekend healthier.
1. Plan to eat your Thanksgiving meal at midday or in the afternoon. This is when your digestive capacity is at its peak. Studies show that eating the bulk of your calories earlier in the day supports maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Plan several delicious plant based sides to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey. For healthy Thanksgiving food ideas, look here, here and here.
3. If you're not hosting, volunteer to bring a healthy dish to your holiday gathering. This way, you'll know that you have at least one healthy dish to put on your plate. Here's a list of healthy plant based Thanksgiving recipes.
4. Eat breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. This has been shown to prevent over-eating later in the day.
5. Sit next to healthy eaters. Find your healthy eating allies and enjoy strength and wellness in numbers.
6. Put veggies on your plate first. Take a larger portion of the healthier foods and a smaller portion of the less healthy foods.
7. Choose your indulgences wisely and enjoy them. There is a time for feasting. Consciously enjoy your dessert!
8. Slow down. Enjoy your food. Savor the flavors. Chew and swallow. Pause. Breathe. Repeat.
9. Focus on gratitude. Studies show that folks who make gratitude a daily practice open the door to more relationships, improve their physical health, psychological health, sleep better, are more empathetic, have better self esteem and mental resilience.
10. Drink digestive teas after your meal. Ginger tea, Cumin, coriander, fennel tea and licorice mint are all great choices. Here are some recipes.
11. When you're done eating, brush your teeth or put a mint in your mouth to discourage yourself from eating more than you need.
12. Move your body after your big meal. Invite your friends and loved ones to take a walk after your Thanksgiving feast. This will give your metabolism a boost and lighten the load.
13. Eat lighter and greener on Black Friday. It's a good practice to pulse between festive meals and simple meals. After a day of rich celebratory eating, dial it back. Think healthy and simple like green smoothies and vegetable soups.
14. Eat before you to the mall. This way, you won't be tempted to indulge in food court while you are doing your holiday shopping.
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!
Getting Healthy in the Kitchen
Do you fancy yourself a cook? A foodie? A health enthusiast? A locovore? According to habit change expert, James Clear, every action you take casts a vote for the person you believe you are. Do you go for burgers or go for beets? Do you opt for pop tarts or for parnsips? Do you meal plan or do you default to frozen entrees? When you change your habits, you change your identity. The actions you take daily, weekly, and seasonally in your kitchen cast big votes for the type of body you have now and the kind of body you are going to have in 3 months and in 3 years.
I call myself a cook, a foodie, a health enthusiast and a locovore. It probably started in my teens when I would turn my mom's kitchen upside down experimenting with recipes and food ideas. This identity was solidified in my college years when I worked at the vegetarian collective restaurant name the Che Cafe on the campus of UC San Diego. I made the weekly Indian lunch special, I worked the early AM sandwich shift, and I served food for the Wednesday night All You Can Eat special. Anyone who knows me knows I love to cook and prepare healthy, local food.
If you want to be a healthy person, start to ask yourself, what would a healthy person do in the kitchen?
In this post, I share with you a lot of habits and ideas about how to make the most out of your time in the kitchen each day, each week and each season. I call this kitchen sadhana. Sadhana is a word from the yoga tradition that translates as a practice aimed at evolution. The habits I do in my kitchen cast votes for my future health and well-being. What I put into my body eventually becomes my tissues, my thoughts and my actions.
I define kitchen sadhana as:
A weekly kitchen sadhana will help you:
Seasonal Kitchen Tasks
These are tasks to do about every three months.
Weekly Kitchen Tasks
These are weekly tasks to prepare for good nourishment for the week ahead. These can be customized depending on the season and what you like to eat.
Kitchen Tasks for the Evening
More suggestions for Kitchen Sadhana Success:
Want to learn more about healthy habits and how to get implement them? Check out the Vibrant Living Habits course. This course runs three times a year.
It's hot. Summer cooking can be a challenge because it's hard to feel like being in the kitchen. In the summer, I want to eat well, but spend a minimum amount of time in the kitchen. Buddha Bowls and salads are my go-to dishes for summer. They are seasonal and they will keep you cool (we don't want to ignite your pitta-heat) and satisfied.
I love to cook, and I'm an improviser. I love to search the web for new ideas and recipes and I love to see photos of tasty new dishes. Basically, I use the recipes as guides, not dogma. In this post, I'll share recipes I've enjoyed from the web and my own ideas around what else you can do to adapt them.
The idea of the "buddha bowl" is a bowl that combines veggies and whole grains (and omit the grains if you don't do grains) and add other sauces and condiments. The sky is the limit with these. Think quinoa, couscous, brown rice, wild rice, millet, etc. as a base. Add greens, sliced raw veggies, sauteed or steamed veggies, Add proteins like tofu, tempeh, garbanzo beans, black beans, hummus, chicken, salmon or egg. Top with flavorful sauces like peanut sauce, tahini sauce, green goddess dressing. etc. Add other goodies like saurkraut, sliced avocados, sesame seeds, nuts, cranberries.
Here are a few basic buddha bowl recipes to get you started:
Of course. It's summer. Eat your spinach, lettuce, argula, kale, chicory, dandelions. These all cool, detox and give you light and lively nourishment for summer. Salads are easy to make and the key to a yummy salad is the dressing. If you have a blender, you can blend up several salad dressings on the weekend and enjoy them all week long.
Here are some great salad recipes and salad dressing recipes:
Want to talk about what kinds of food are best for you? Take advantage of Annie's offer for free personalized wellness strategy session.
A wellness strategy session is an opportunity to explore where you are with your health and where you want to be. Together we discuss your current situation and create a strategy for your optimal well-being.
I offer FREE 30 minute wellness sessions for those wishing to explore their wellness evolution. Interested? Contact me.
Mark the shift from winter to spring
As yogis, we take our cues from nature. Despite the current human trend to disconnect from nature as we spend increasing amount of time in cars, computers and buildings, we are part of nature and our physiology is deeply affected by the natural rhythms. As yogis, we practice being tuned in to our breath and body. Alignment is what we do in yoga, and the transition into a new season is an invitation to align our physiology with the season. In the spring, there is a natural urge to make a clean, fresh start.
The equinox marks the shift from winter into spring. The weather is gets warmer. The daffodils start to bloom. There are blossoms on the cherry trees. The trees are leafing out. My kale plants have started growing again. Birds are chirpy. Depending on where you live, the warmer weather may come earlier or later, but March marks the transition into spring.
The winter weather in your area may have been mostly cold and dry or cold and wet. In either case, you were probably eating more filling and heavier foods, more fats and proteins, to keep your body nourished. Now, that it’s spring, there is a natural craving for lighter foods. You may be already feeling this.
How to eat to as you move into spring
I recently made a video with my friend and colleague, Alexandra Epple, about how to eat as we transition from winter to spring.
Spring, the season to detox
The body’s need for the heavier, rich foods of winter shifts to a desire for light, dry, simple foods that digest easily. Maybe you’ve noticed your cravings change. The arrival of the warmer weather often is accompanied by the desire to eat less of the heavier substantial foods of winter, and the desire to eat lighter foods such as fruits, fresh veggies and salads. This is the body’s way of telling you it’s time for a SPRING CLEANING.
This is a great time to do a CLEANSE or DETOX. You may have access to a reliable and appropriate CLEANSE OR DETOX, such as a mono-diet or a juice cleanse, but anyone can DETOXIFY THE BODY by simply adding more of the flavors of pungent, bitter, astringent tastes found in seasonal, bitter greens, berries, ginger, turmeric and simply prepared veggies and vegetable soups.
How to live and eat for spring
To balance the COOL DAMPNESS of spring, we want to INTRODUCE foods, flavors and experiences that are:
If we do this, we will be less likely to experience COMMON SPRING IMBALANCES such as
Let’s talk food!
TASTES TO FAVOR AND ENJOY IN THE SPRING:
FOODS TO FAVOR:
FOODS TO REDUCE:
Suggested Spring Meals:
LUNCHES AND DINNERS:
More adventures in spring season eating
Need some recipe suggestions? Here's a collection of plant based recipes.
Do you have a spring recipe or tip to share? Contact me.
Happy Spring Eating!
Move your body. Lighten up. Reduce stagnation. Lose winter weight.
Spring is the easiest season to UP YOUR EXERCISE GAME. After the winter, your body is STRONG and ready for ENDURANCE. Physical activity improves circulation, increases heat and results in a feeling of LIGHTNESS. It’s a good time of the year to push yourself physically with a more intense workout. It’s easier to work out hard in spring than in winter.
Prioritize EXERCISING DAILY preferably first thing in the morning, outside as much as possible. Be mindful of your individual constitution with regards to exercise. Different bodies need different types of exercise. YOGA, WALKING, TAI CHI, QI GONG, JOGGING, DANCING, HIKING, and BIKING are all great forms of exercise. What kind of movement do you like?
Exercise outside in the AM if possible. Why?
Morning according to Ayurveda is governed by the Kapha (earth and water) dosha. It is a HEAVY, SLOW TIME. In the morning, the body is stiff. Blood oxygen levels are low. The body vibration is a little stagnant and dull. At the same time, your body also has a ton of potential energy from a good night’s sleep. If you get moving, you put that potential energy in motion for the rest of your day.
Move your body in the morning to build a strong vibrational field for your day and start the day feeling: LIGHT, GROUNDED, ENERGIZED, and OPEN.
5 reasons to exercise in the morning:
Spring time yoga tips:
Morning movement, make it so easy you can't say no. Try this morning yoga practice:
Want to improve your wellness this spring?
I offer complimentary 30 minute wellness strategy sessions for individuals interested in exploring their wellness. In a thirty minute session, you can expect to get clear on your health goals and take away at least one action step to get you started moving in the direction of greater wellness. Sign up for a session here.
Don’t you hate it when you realize that you’ve been living life in the fast lane, being too busy, feeling stressed, not eating well and not resting enough, and you wear down on your immune system and you end up sick. Let’s not let that happen! Here are some ideas to help you build your immunity this season.
According to Ayurveda, ojas is the life sustaining vitality that promotes immunity in the body. I think of it as your energy reserves and deep immunity. Ojas is responsible for sustaining your physical health, mental clarity and emotional well-being. When you have a lot of ojas, your cup is full. You are a picture of health. Your eyes are bright. You look well-rested and content. You build ojas by good wholesome living. When you are living in the fast lane, you spend your ojas quick. Burning the candle at both ends is a sure way to deplete your energy reserves.
Fall is an important time to build ojas. Here is a list of simple ways you can do this:
Restorative Yoga is a great way to build immunity and replenish yourself.
Here is a simple 11 minute restorative yoga and pranayama practice you can to build your immunity:
Eat for the season.
I so appreciate how Ayurveda offers guidance for living in sync with the seasons of the year and suggests adjustments for diet and daily activities to stay healthy and balanced.
If we don’t live in alignment with the seasons, we can easily fall into imbalance and dis-ease. When we understand the nature of the season and how to adapt, we can weather the changes and thrive.
Ayurveda calls fall a “vata” season. Vata is characterized by the elements of air and either. Autumn weather is changeable, varied, windy at times, cold. Just like this week. Some of the qualities of this season are: light, dry, cold, rough, mobile, subtle and clear.
In the summer, when it was hot, you probably enjoyed your water and drinks on the cooler side and favored lighter foods like melon, cucumber, and salads to stay cool and light. But, now that the weather is cool, dry and light, it’s time to enjoy the opposite.
In the fall season, favor warmer, slightly heavier, mushier, and even oilier foods and warm drinks that will nourish you and keep you feeling grounded in this season of change.
On Sundays, I do a kitchen practice I call Kitchen Sadhana, the practice of nourishment. For my Kitchen Sadhana Sunday, I organize my kitchen, shop for the week ahead, make a weekly meal plan and do food prep.
What’s in season is what you should be eating.
Think apples, cranberries, fresh brussel sprouts, cauliflower, delicata squash, romanesco broccoli, rutabaga, rainbow carrots, leeks and beets. My garden still has loads of kale and there are still some dandelion greens to be found.
These are some of dishes I’m enjoying this fall:
Need some seasonal recipe ideas? Check out my Vibrant Living Recipes Web page, a collection of curated recipes for healthy eating.
Need reminders for what to do to stay healthy in Autumn? Check out How to Live Vibrantly in Autumn Tip Sheet.
Happy Autumn Eating!
Three months of being away = a very weedy garden
When we got back to Peru, we returned to a garden full of raspberries and weeds. We enjoyed eating the raspberries straight off and bush and adding them to smoothies, but what do I do with all that green stuff? I mean, the dandelions, thistle, plantain, and dock and more. They had three months to grow uninterrupted and were strong and mighty and prolific. A few years ago, I only saw them as ugly invasive weeds and I dug them all up and threw them onto the compost pile right away. That was before I knew about the health power of wild invasives.
The Mighty Green Weeds
Dandelions are some of the healthiest greens around. And, they’re all around! In your yard and garden, along roads and pathways, in fields. Here’s a list of their benefits:
Ayurveda is all About Embracing What’s Seasonal - Balance the Heat of Summer with Bitter Greens
Bitter greens like dandelions grow abundantly all summer long and their bitter flavor is exactly what is needed to balance the heat of summer. According to Ayurveda, like increases like, and it’s opposite reduces. So, hot salsa will make you feel hotter, but bitter greens like dandelions will actually cool you off.
What To Do with all those Dandelions
You can enjoy dandelions all summer long and include them in your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here’s some ways to enjoy dandelions:
Enjoy your summer bitters!
Here at Vibrant Soulful, as a yogini, mother, educator and community member, I aim to serve householder yogis. By that, I mean YOU, if you you are a worker bee, wage earner, parent, family member, community member, or otherwise engaged in the marketplace of life. The path of yoga is meant to serve you in becoming more and more capable in fulfilling your roles as a householder while engaging in an authentic and fulfilling spiritual practice.
The Householder Path and the Renunciate Path
You see, in the Yoga tradition, there are two Distinct Paths to God/Spirit: the Householder Path and the Renunciate Path. The Householder Path is the path for those living in the world, in the marketplace of life, as householders. Householders follow the path of pravritti - the outwardly manifesting path, the path that opens out of the Great Consciousness, from oneness into difference and diversity, into you and me and into all of the colors and textures of the world. Yoga practices help householders develop their skills so that they can be better in the workplace, in the family and in the community.
By contrast, the Renunciate Path is the path for those who wish to let go of possessions, leave the marketplace of the world behind and engage in ascetic practices. Renunciates follow the path of nivritti– the inwardly manifesting path, away from diversity and difference back into oneness. Both householders and renunciates can equally experience the beauty of diversity and the fulfillment of oneness, but the end goals of practice are different. The aim of a renunciate is to dissolve the ego completely, to let go of everything and to merge into oneness letting everything else go, while the aim of the householder is to develop and maintain a healthy ego, a healthy sense of self, to be able to be of greater service in the world.
Know why you’re practicing! Know what you want to accomplish.
If you’re a householder who practices yoga, you want yoga practices for personal and planetary evolution. You want your yoga to provide you with tools to help you: be a great parent, a productive businesswoman, an effective writer, an inspired artist, etc. Use your yoga practices to help you hone the habits of health, self-care, communication, expression, aesthetics, productivity, care-giving, education, stewardship and ethics. These, among, many others, are householder skills that the world needs for planetary evolution.
To find classes and courses based on yoga and Ayurveda and aimed toward helping householder yogis live inspired and productive lives, visit Vibrant Soulful Courses.
The strength of your yoga is most tested in your intimate relationships.
Many years ago, I read Judith Hanson Lasater’s book: Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. In it, there is a quote that has stayed with me and that I have never forgotten:
For me, the strength of my yoga is not necessarily tested during my practice of poses or breathing techniques but in my intimate relationships. Here, my angers, attachments and fears are not so easily hidden under a mantle of denial, accomplishments or achievements.
- Judith Hanson Lasater
When I first read this quote, I wasn’t a mom, but the quote rang true. Now, I’m a mom of two teens and the quote couldn’t hit closer to home. Parent or not, intimate relationships challenge us. I may feel quite the yogini when I sit for meditation and do my pranayama practice upstairs in my bedroom, but what happens when I go downstairs and get the kids ready for school and find that they aren’t up and dressed? Do I maintain my yogic poise or do I scream?
I talk a lot about how yoga is about connections. In this post, I want to share with you my adventures with family meetings, basically how having family meetings helps us improve in communicating our emotions, needs and desires and they help us learn to support one another in our collective and individual evolution.
Enjoy a simple meditation practice to get more connected to yourself and the world around you.
Over time on the yogic path, we get more connected. Yoga and Ayurvedic practices are meant to help us connect more deeply to ourselves, to the people around us and to the earth. Practices such as this guided meditation below help us explore and connect to our inner and outer landscape,
The Yoga and Ayurveda traditions describe the Five Great Elements that make ourselves and all life and matter on this planet. These are known as the pancha mahabhutas and they represent the foundational aspects of nature and matter. They are: space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements are acknowledged and revered in traditional cultures around the world. Yogis use practices to draw on the energies of these elements to bring more balance and harmony into our lives and into the world.
In this blog, I share with you a simple meditation practice is designed to guide you into an experience these 5 elements both within you and in the world around you. This practice will leave you feeling both grounded and expansive.
To listen, simply click below.
P.S. Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think of this guided meditation practice.
I recently came back from a week in the Peruvian jungle, right on the edge of Manu National Park. It was amazing. I was enchanted by all of it: the monkeys, the birds, the insects (their form and sounds, but not their bites!), the exotic and fascinating jungle plants, the camp and fecund heat, the awe of the Amazon basin extending out beyond the confines for our lodge, and the allure of the unknown and uncharted territory beyond the river. I began the trip with all my yoga habits in check, but in the end, the jungle turned out to be the perfect disruption to my tidy yoga life.
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
tejasvi navadhitam astu
OM shanti, shanti, shanti
May we be protected together.
May we be nourished together.
May we create strength among one another.
May our study and practice be filled with brilliance and light.
May there be no hostility between us.
Om peace, peace, peace.
This is one of my favorite mantras, and one the one I most often chant when I lead a class.
This mantra is an affirmation of my commitment to learning and practicing within the context of a supportive community. I do yoga to evolve myself and to evolve humanity. I believe all humans evolve faster in a group than on our own. Plus, having community helps me stay accountable for my actions and growth. When the path is tough, I have buddies who have my back. Together we share the challenges and the gifts of our study and practice. Together we bring more light into the world.
Do you want to be part of a supportive yoga community? Join my Vibrant Soulful Yoga Tribe, an innovative yoga platform where you are a member of a worldwide tribe of yogis dedicated to living a more vibrant, soulful life. You have access to hundreds of practices and can access from anywhere in the world, and you’re part of an online forum where members share their experiences, questions and insights.
Monthly membership is now open. Find out more here!
If you’re reading this, you probably practice yoga asana or meditation either in a group class or on your own. So, I ask you, is your yoga practice a sadhana?
Sadhana is a word we throw around a lot in yoga. Let’s unpack it a bit. There are a few definitions that I find helpful:
The literal definition of sadhana as "a means of accomplishing something.”
This is a good starting place. I practice yoga as a means of accomplishing something, and I bet you do too. What do you mean to accomplish with your yoga? Think about it:
Do you want a stronger, more supple body? A clear mind? A state of steadiness and ease? Are you healing from an injury? Are you looking to manage anxiety or stress? Are you trying to focus on a project? There are many reasons many people practice and the more clear you are on your intent the more effective your practice will be.
Now, let’s look at another definition of sadhana. Sadhana can be defined as a daily spiritual practice aimed a change of consciousness – a deepening of one’s awareness of one’s self and the world.
Ah!, This definition points to another word we use a lot in yoga, svadhyaya, or self study and inquiry. We practice yoga to know ourselves more fully at root and core, so that we can become more conscious of ourselves and the world around us.
And, now my current favorite definition of sadhana. This one is from Maya Tiwari, a beautiful brahmacharini, yoga and Ayurveda teacher, author and founder of the Wise Earth School.
“Sadhana is a Sanskrit word whose root sadh means to reclaim that which is divine within us, our power to heal, serve, rejoice and uplift the spirit. Sadhana practices encompass all our daily activities, from the simple to the sublime - from cooking a meal to exploring your inner self through meditation. The goal of sadhana is to enable you to recover your natural rhythms and realign your inner life and daily habits with the cycles of the universe.”
I love this definition because it expands the usual definition of yoga practice and goes way beyond what we do on the mat. You and I both know that yoga is a way of life. The practices of yoga are as much about what we do in our workplace, in our kitchen, in our bathrooms and bedrooms and with our core peeps as they are about what we do on our mats and on our cushions.
May the offerings on this website and on this blog help you develop a true sadhana, a path of practice that helps you accomplish the things you wish to accomplish in this world, that gives you the tools to know yourself more deeply and that connects you to the rhythms of nature and the cosmos.
Interested in exploring, defining and creating your own personal sadhana? Join my Vibrant Soulful Yoga Tribe Online Membership. it goes live this week!
It’s not your typical online yoga program. Yes, you’ll get great weekly yoga asana practices, and practices that are in chunkable form that you can use anywhere!.
You’ll also get guidance in developing a toolbox of transformative practices including instruction in meditation, breathwork, chanting, intention setting, personal inquiry practices and more!
I’ve spent the past month developing the May content for this platform and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s turned out. I believe it is some of my best yoga teaching, and I’m thrilled that it can be shared widely and can be purchased for a really affordable monthly rate.
The May 2017 Vibrant Soulful Yoga Content includes:
Find out more here!
Morning yoga, anyone?
I practice yoga every morning. Even if I only have 10 minutes, I get on my mat to move my breath and body. This ensures that my day gets off to a good start.
I remember when I finally committed to a morning yoga practice. I had already been a yogi for many years. I knew how much better my life was when I practiced yoga regularly. (And, I knew how much worse it was when I didn’t!). But I didn’t have a regular morning practice. In fact, I rarely practiced yoga or exercised in the morning before work. I mostly practiced yoga in the evening.
Looking back, I didn’t know what I was missing! It wasn’t until I become a mom (nearly 18 years ago!) that I developed a morning yoga practice. (If you’re a mom, you know how time gets compressed and personal time becomes extremely precious when kids come along.) After I had kids, I realized that if I wanted a daily practice, I better do it in the morning while my husband was around and could be with the kids, because if it wasn’t going to happen then, there was an extremely high chance that it wouldn’t happen later because I would be too tired.
So, I committed. And I haven’t looked back. Doing a yoga practice each morning is key for getting my day off to a vibrant start.
(Read on and and I’ll share a link to a yoga practice you can do tomorrow morning!)
My top reasons for doing an AM yoga practice:,,
I just got back from a week in Mexico. Part family vacay and part retreat. I spent several days of quality time with my kids, my parents, my sister and her family which was totally awesome. After that, I dove into four days of retreat with my Ayurveda and health coaching teacher and the tribe of yoga health coaches that I’ve been hanging out with online for the past couple of years. Nothing like a powerful group of women invested in collective evolution and co-creative leadership meeting in the flesh to catalyze deep transformation. Things went deep - fast! When folks like this show up ready to dive into their work and up-level their personal and collective vibration, big shifts can happen quickly. That’s what happened to us. It didn’t take long for us to start to show off our super powers. Sure, we were all yogis and health coaches, but among us, we discovered we were also standup comedians, masters of improv, artists, authors, storytellers, networkers, belly dancers, intuitive healers, energy workers, musicians and even a cyclops!
Do you know your Z.O.G.?
I know I’ve written about it lots already, but I’m invested in helping folks uncover and articulate their dharma, or life purpose. To do this, you have to get crystal clear on your ZOG, that is, your zone of genius. I first read about zone of genius from Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap. (He didn’t call it a ZOG, but my friend Elise coined the term last week on our retreat, and I love it.) Gay Hendricks writes about the different zones in which we spend our time.
Stress all Around
We are living in stressful times. Stressors are everywhere, every day: hectic mornings, long to-do lists, power struggles with kids or partners; work commutes with traffic; discontent clients, colleagues, and bosses; long work hours; tight schedules; unpaid bills; challenging interpersonal dynamics; and so on. Maybe our parents’ generation was able to leave stress at the workplace. But, today with smart phones and social media, there are fewer boundaries and less down time. Take all of this and then add in a traumatic life event like a death of a loved one, a job loss, a divorce, or the current presidential election (if you’re a progressive like! me!) and life can seem pretty darn stressful.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that your stress is costing you BIG in terms of your physical health, mental and emotional health and in your core relationships, but just in case you’ve forgotten, I’m here to remind you that stress disrupts every major system in the body.
Chronic stress predisposes you to:
The physiological effects of just one stressful event in a day last a long time in the body. Anytime you experience a significant stressor, your body’s fight or flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) kicks in and bathes your body with cortisol and adrenaline so that you can battle the saber toothed tiger that is running toward you. But, of course, there is no saber toothed tiger, you just forgot to send off that one email. Long after your stressful experience has passed, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol still linger in your body, wreaking havoc on your digestive system and causing inflammation.
Self Care Habits for Stress
As a health coach and yoga teacher, it’s a major mission of mine to help folks unravel their stress. Whether it’s in a yoga class or in a health coaching program, I want to help people move away from stress and toward ease.
Who are you becoming in 2017? What’s stirring in you right now? What does it feel like?
This is an exercise in naming your word for 2017. By this, I mean to name the quality that you want to be operative in your body and mind this year. If you’re not sure, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting and journaling about it. Make sure you don’t just ask your head. Ask your heart and body as well. Make sure there is agreement and integration.
To do this, close your eyes. Pause soften and breath. Release the lower half of your body into the support of the earth. Exhale down into your sits bones, your pelvis, your legs and your feet. Feel the earth beneath you. Then inhale, and draw the breath up through the central channel of the body, what yogis call the shushumna nadi. Take the breath all the way up to the crown of your head, toward the sky. Now, spend a few breath cycles moving the energy up and down the length of your spine to clear this channel. After a few rounds of breath, inhale and breath into the front of your body and feel into your individual desire to evolve and move forward in life. Then, exhale and breathe into the back side of your body. Lean back energetically, feeling into the mystery that is the universe. The universe has your back. Create an attitude and inner stance of receptivity and curiosity. Notice how you feel. Notice what is stirring in you. How is that you desire to feel in this next year? Drop that question down into your body and notice how the body responds. Let the answer bubble up without forcing it and take notice of the words that arise.
The word could be:
CLARITY, EMPOWERMENT, EASE, EXPANSION, COMPASSION, COMMUNICATION, CONNECTIVITY, HUMILITY, LEADERSHIP, WISDOM, EMPATHY, STABILITY, GROUNDEDNESS, SELF-CARE, KINDNESS… or..?
What is the word for you? Once you feel it, really feel it. Taste it. Smell it. See it. Touch it. Feel into it from a cellular level. Name it and embrace it. Write it down. Put it in a prominent place where you can see it every day.
Then, create for yourself a plan so that you can make this word truly operative.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.