Peaceful Practices for a Smooth Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and as we get closer to the date of marathon cooking and eating,  it is easy for tension to build. Friends, family, food and festivities can offer an opportunity for blissful gatherings, but can also induce a sense of chaos.  Strike the right balance by planning ahead, nourishing yourself, and taking time to soothe your mind and soul. In order to avoid falling into the pit of Thanksgiving overwhelm, follow these simple tips:

Plan ahead. In the days before Thanksgiving, check off as many to-dos as possible. This will help free up the big day for the bare essentials that have to be performed on Thanksgiving. Makes sure you have double-checked your list of ingredients or other supplies to avoid last-minute trips to the store. Prep and cook as much of your menu as possible. For example, make any baked goods ahead of time, prepare stocks and sauces, and wash and chop vegetables so they are ready for immediate preparation the day of. Having a clean house and a set table assures there is no last minute rushing around to do.

Start with a good breakfast. It can be easy to wake up on Thanksgiving morning and to immediately begin bustling around. This year, pause and take a breath before even leaving the bed. Set your intentions for a calm and thankful day. Take the time to enjoy a healthy breakfast in order to fuel your body for the day’s long haul activities. Breakfast doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact in can be prepared the night before. Recipes such as Muesli and Honey Nut Granola can be made ahead of time and enjoyed with almond milk the morning of. Multitask by baking some Spiced Pear and Banana Baked Oatmeal Cups ahead of time and enjoy them for breakfast, as well as a healthy dessert option later in the day.

Begin with a clean kitchen. This tip cannot be stressed enough. Not only is it essential to have clean surfaces, make sure the dishes are all washed and put away. This way all of the tools of the day are ready and waiting. Additionally, make time in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to clean out the refrigerator, including purging old leftovers and wiping down the shelves. You will be glad you’ve saved yourself the headache when the time comes to pack away the leftovers stuffing.

Take a yoga break. The most impactful thing you can do for your own well-being: take some time out to rest and refill your well sometime in your big prepping day.Once the stuffing is in the oven, sneak away for a “yoga nap” of as little as 10 minutes. Try a simple yoga pose, such as legs-up-the-wall (viparita karani), or even just lying on your back and placing your calves on the seat of a chair. Sure, you could fold napkins or iron linens or sweep the floor instead, but your guests will notice your shining, rested countenance much more than your shining kitchen faucet. You will be able to be more present with your guests and actually enjoy their company, and isn’t it what the big day is all about?

Special thanks to Staci Brindle from Natural Epicurean for her collaboration on this article.

The Wealth of Surrender

In the cyclical flow of creation, after all the action and doing, comes surrender and possibility. In a culture that does not honor surrender, making the space to receive the wealth of what we are creating, in any form, rarely happens. We end up always on the go and never in the flow.

It’s Venus night, aka Friday night, and I’m listening to a playlist I created specifically for checking my bank statements. I’ve got some smooth sexy jams, because I practice invoking some goddess of abundance vibes whenever I’m working with my money in this way.

I have my favorite Voluspa candle (Amaranth and Jasmine), that I only use with money dates, burning and I’m standing doing some hip circles to free up some shakti, because honestly, it feels good, and when you feel good, you make better choices. And who doesn’t want to make better choices with their money?

I’ve set a big intention to open my schedule up by dropping some days doing massage to make space to see yoga therapy clients in the Yoga Yoga clinic. Even though I feel confident the universe will support me, I am feeling anxious. It’s a big leap to step toward a dream, and even though I feel called to do it and my intuition is all thumbs up about it, it’s still big.

I can feel myself wanting to do more, or thinking I should be doing this, or shouldn’t it look like this? Maybe I should take more trainings so I know all the things. (If you look at my education page, you will see, my favorite hobby is taking trainings. More trainings is not my problem.) I can feel the sense of flow & guidance starting to restrict.

But then I remember the story of Lakshmi and her lesson of surrendering to the flow and being a choice, no matter what.

The birth of Lakshmi is much like all the mythology, in that it is folded into a larger story, which is a part of a larger story, and so on.

This isn’t the beginning, nor it is the end, but simply a moment in time where some random mischief and miracles took place, and also where a valuable lesson takes place that is often overlooked – but let’s give it some spotlight.

For the sake of time, let’s say: The king of the gods, Indra, was not concerned with trivial formalities and ceremony. He was apparently rude to a short-tempered, and obviously underestimated super sage, who was so insulted by Indra’s actions, he was all, “Oh no, he didn’t”, and cursed the gods, making them mortal.

Gods are mortal? If you’re thinking demon hijinks on the rise, you are correct.

All hell breaks loose and demons are doing what demons do, terrorize and destroy.

To save the world, Brahma, another god, suggests that all gods work together with the demons to churn the milk ocean to retrieve the amrita, also known as, the nectar of immortality.

I’m not really going into all the details about how everyone helped out, gods and demons, and all the magical things that came out of the churning.

Workshops and/or series with Ana Pila Cruz & Jamie Waggoner are great sources for experiencing the stories and myths in person or look for the Devata Mentorship with Libby Cox and Ana Pilar Cruz.

For our story, we will fast forward to the churning of the ocean. Everyone is pitching in, gods and demons, hoping to trick the other and keep all the amrita to themselves. Shiva, Vishnu and the whole gang are all working together, doing their part. This churning causes a whirlpool in this milky ocean.

Well, at the bottom of this ocean, meditating comfortably and happily, is the Goddess Lakshmi. She’s sitting on a lotus flower (obviously, because what else would a goddess sit on at the bottom of the ocean), just beaming with love.

Lakshmi, being the goddess of beauty and bounty, sits back and surrenders to the flow. You could say, she was open to receive a new experience and with faith, chose to ride the current and float to the surface.

Yes, the amrita was retrieved and yes, the gods fooled the demons and the gods became immortal again, but our story comes back to Lakshmi.

Surrounded by the gods and demons, all desiring her for themselves. She is a radiant goddess born of the ocean. As Sally Kempton describes her, she wears a rose-colored sari, has golden skin, lustrous dark hair and large almond-shaped eyes filled with love.

Imagine a scene from The Bachelorette. The Goddess, a breathtaking beauty and the suitors have all just churned a huge mountain in milk ocean but are still ready to impress and they’re all trying their best to catch her eye.

But Lakshmi, she only has eyes for Vishnu, and she chooses him as her consort.

Even in her birth, we can see the power and ease that comes with the divine feminine. She did not swim to the top or stress about what would be at the surface when she finally arrived. She used the energy that was around her and surrendered to the flow.

This is the feminine super power.

Just like what happens with our menstrual cycles.  The mature egg simply flows down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. The egg isn’t racing to meet the sperm, nor is she worried if anyone will show up or not. The egg just goes with the flow, sending out a chemical signal to let the sperm known she’s ready to receive.

The sperm, racing to the be one of the first ones to the egg, surround her and the egg, oh yes, just like Lakshmi, she chooses which sperm to allow in. And that choice creates and sustains human life on this planet.

We need both the masculine and the feminine to create everything, including wealth.

We live in a culture dominated by the masculine, the solar and the driven. When not tempered with the feminine, the lunar and the receptive, we can feel like we are just spinning our wheels, going after the things we are “suppose” to strive for & then find ourselves burnt out and broke.

We are not designed to be “producing” all the time. There is a flow and cycle to everything.

For me, I have set the intention, I have done the work, I am present and mindful and now it’s time to surrender to the flow and receive this new experience.

Learning how to leverage currents within us and around us will bring wealth, clarity and pleasure towards all areas of our lives.

Join me Sunday July 9th for a special edition of the Spirituality of Money Course: Women & Wealth at Yoga Yoga North at 2 p.m. This 2.5 hour workshop will introduce the cyclical nature to creating wealth in all areas of your life. We will explore money mindfulness practices, how to do less & earn more, fine tuning your magnetic frequency, and more.

Can’t make it on Sunday? Don’t stress. Luckily, for you, I’m all about that abundance lifestyle and sharing the wealth. Here are some practices you can start right now, to plug potential money leaks and to shift how you engage with your money.

My Top 5 Ways to Plug Money Leaks:

  1. Create Pleasure Around Finances:
    When sitting down to look at your bank statements, light a candle, play music that feels good, and give gratitude for whatever you have, even if in the red. The Goddess, Lakshmi is associated with abundance, beauty & pleasure. They fuel each other and you always make better decisions when you feel good.
  2. Check in with your Gut:
    Your body knows before you do and she’s trying to tell you something. Pull up your latest bank statement and look at each thing you spent money on. Giving each item 1-3 breaths, and ask yourself how did spending this feel? Remember why you spent it, the people involved, what it was for, and what category. Listen to your body and notice if you feel expanded or contracted. A purchase that feels contracting could be a money leak. Be mindful of how you feel when spending your money.
  3. Count Your Blessings:
    Giving gratitude for your blessings also includes your bills. Your bills are not suppose to be a punishment; They are simply a company requesting payment for delivering you a specific value. Hate paying your electric bill? How about that a/c you’re enjoy during the summer? I’m in Austin, it’s basically 100°f. That’s a blessing I’m always happy to pay for. This is not my idea, I’m not sure who started this concept, but many money mavens reframe bills like this and I’ve noticed a huge shift. Kate Northrup, Author of Money: a Love Story, suggests labeling all bills: invoices for blessings already received.
  4. Choose Your Words, Wisely:
    Mantra means “to train the mind”, specifically the words we think or say. If your mantra is always “I can’t afford that or I live on a _________ salary, that’ll never happen.” That mantra will slow and sometimes stop the flow of money. Instead, change your mantra, train your mind, focus your energy with something like: “I’m choosing not to spend my money on that right now, or I am currently directing my money towards ___________. ” Be at choice and focus on what you want. Try creating your own empowering money mantra.
  5. Conscious Clarity:
    Money loves clarity. Energy goes where we focus and where we are clear, and since money is just energy the same can be said of our finances. Often when plugging money leaks, we focus on what is leaving, what we pay, but we give little focus to what is coming in. This means submitting your invoices in order to be paid, knowing when checks & auto-deposits should be arriving, and knowing when and how you get paid.

Now, over to you. As you look at where you spent your money last month, see what made you feel contracted or expanded, what purchase makes you feel the most expansive?

Let me know in the comments below. I’ll post my most expansive moment there.

Why You Should Grow Your Own Food

Rhonda is a local organic gardener who shares her passion for empowering others to grown their own food in an upcoming workshop, “Get Growing! Planting your Fall Garden,” on August 28 at Yoga Yoga Westgate. She is a teacher at Yoga Yoga and shares her love of food and gardening as the Gardening Yogini.

Today, we live in a fast-paced world and rely almost exclusively on others for our food. Grocery stores, warehouse and convenience stores provide commercially grown and prepared, non-perishable, pre-made, pre-packaged foods. These foods can be highly processed with added fats, sugars, preservatives, and chemicals used to increase the shelf life. Even the fresh produce offered is frequently grown hundreds of miles from where it is sold. There is not much “local” in the food we buy locally.

It used to be a more common practice for people to have their own gardens, and enjoy home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. In 1918, however, the first self-serve grocery stores began in the United States. So began the demise of the home garden.

The ease and convenience of grocery stores has caused us to lose touch with what goes into (and on) our food. The amount of pesticides sprayed on our food can be dramatic. We are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals on a daily basis. Studies have shown there is a clear intersection between how food is produced and the impact on public health. The only sure way to know what’s on our food is to grow it ourselves.

For the past five years, I have been a gardening educator at a local Montessori school and I was constantly amazed how many kids had no idea where their food comes from. When asked where their food comes from they replied, “H-E-B.”  They had no idea that a carrot grows underground, flowers on pea vines turn into pods with peas inside, or what a broccoli plant even looks like. By exposing children to gardening, they can explore where their food comes from and learn to appreciate it more! Kids are five times more likely to eat vegetables when they have grown it themselves. If you have trouble persuading your children to eat their vegetables, give them a shovel and have them help you in the garden.

We live in a culture of generations of people who have misplaced their connection to the earth, the seasons, and the environment. We are losing our innate desire to nurture and feed our bodies with healthy, fresh, unadulterated foods we have grown. Having a garden, however, can be a positive step to put you in control of where your food comes from. It makes you an active participant in what you put into your body from seed to table.There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of going out to your garden, harvesting what is ready and preparing it for you and your family the very same day.

Fresh vegetables from the garden taste better, keep longer and contain more vitamins and nutrients. Store bought tomatoes are a far cry from the vine-ripened tomatoes you can grow yourself. Carrots are sweeter. Fresh picked lettuce in a salad is hands down better than bagged pre-cut salad mix. Think of your garden as your very own personal grocery store full of things you and your family love to eat.

I grew up in Colorado and like many of you from up north, I thought growing food only happened from mid-May until early September. Lucky for us, the Austin weather we all love means that we can grow food year round!  In case you missed that, YOU can grow food year-round. How awesome is that?!?

Grow what you like to eat in your garden. Start small. What is your favorite fresh herb? Fresh herbs can be expensive to buy but easy to grow and add amazing flavor to your recipes. What’s your favorite vegetable? Planted in September, broccoli, for example, is a powerhouse producer that you can keep harvesting until March.

Gardens offer hope. They bring joy. Create community. As we observe a tiny seed grow into a plant and give us food we see first hand the magic of life.

Plant the seeds of health and wellness. Let your garden empower you to make positive lifestyle changes and grow patterns of healthy eating. Bring on the plants and fill your plate with fresh vegetables from your garden.

Be In Your Own Field – My Experience at A Women’s Retreat with Jenn Wooten & Angie Knight

Whenever, in the course of a visualization exercise or in a yoga nidra practice, I am asked to imagine a safe space that feels like home, I always picture an open field, calm and peaceful, surrounded by trees. And, this time last year,  when I arrived at the Margaret Austin Center for my first weekend women’s retreat with Jenn Wooten and Angie Knight, I saw before me and recognized the field of my lucid dreams. And it was every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined.

I’d waited for years to attend this retreat:  difficult years of childbearing and rearing, and of very painful personal growth. Last October, finally, my babies were big enough for me to sneak away for a much-needed weekend of solace and renewal under the guidance of two of my most beloved teachers.

Thirty or so women – of all ages and life stages – gathered on the beautiful grounds. We selected bunks, rolled out our mats, and settled in for three days of good company, good food, yoga, lounging in the sunshine and, perhaps, a few life-changing revelations.

If you’ve ever been in Jenn or Angie’s class, you know that they each possess a remarkable ability to hold space: to make you and your humanity feel seen and welcomed, even as you are held in the midst of a cohesive group of people. Their gift is to bestow dignity and compassion onto everyone who enters into their presence. Being on retreat with them felt like an extension of being in class: an invitation to learn how to bestow these gifts upon ourselves, and an offer of very practical tools to help us do so.

The theme of last year’s retreat was The Yoga of Being. We were asked to examine what it feels like to be in a state of doing vs. a sense of being, and how the many roles that we each play–mother, partner, wife, daughter, friend, colleague, teacher, writer, student, etc–can obscure our essence and prevent us from making an authentic connection with life as it is.

On Saturday morning, we did an exercise that had a profound impact on me. After our morning practice, Angie instructed us to take nothing but a blanket to sit on, go out into the dew-filled morning, and find something to give our full attention to. She read us this quote by Henry Miller: “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” I walked to the mown edge of the field, put my belly down onto the earth, and put my nose down to the world. I lay transfixed for the whole allotted fifteen minutes, staring at a single blade of grass on which beaded a single fat droplet of dew, the sunlight shining through it clear and hard. When I heard the sound of the gong calling us back to the practice space, I put my face down to the earth and inhaled deep the clean, sweet green smell. I returned to the group utterly changed–an essential piece of myself having been returned to me.

Once we had gathered back together inside, Jenn told us how she watched us all venture out to find something to pay attention to. After making a joke about us all looking like slightly disturbed adults, standing confused and blinking into to the sun, she said: “You were each in your own field.” Each of us had left behind a life and its litany of roles to come, be seen and held in a safe place, so that we could find a way to return to, and learn to be in, our own fields.

We go on retreat not so we can escape our cares and our tasks, but to be reminded of who we are beneath the many roles we play. Spending time in a state of being, we can experience our essence. The, with that connection restored,  we can return home and see our own life again with fresh eyes.

I’m looking forward to returning to the Margaret Austin Center this October 16th to 18th, to get replenished and refreshed by Jenn & Angie’s wisdom, compassion and humor. And to be reminded of what it feels to be in my own field, that I may re-enter the stream of my life and be more alive and present to its gifts.

Move Into the Fall Season with Grace and Balance

The seasons have officially changed from Summer to Fall, a predominantly Vata time of year. The Fall season and Vata dosha share the qualities of dry, light, cold, rough, mobile or windy, subtle, and clear. Because the qualities that are arising externally are also arising within, keeping the system in balance through these changes is important. If we do not adjust accordingly, the Vata energy within can accumulate, enter the circulatory system, and result in imbalances. Some of those imbalances can manifest as dry lips and skin, excessive thirst, hoarseness of the voice, gas, bloating, constipation and  psycho-emotional tendencies toward restlessness, spaciness, worry, anxiety, and fear.

According to Ayurveda, the qualities that are shifting and rising externally with the change of the seasons will also shift and rise within us. By paying close attention to the qualities that are presenting themselves, and heeding the ancient wisdom and science of Yoga and Ayurveda, we can move into and through the Fall season with grace and balance. The main principle of Ayurveda is that “like increases like,” so applying the opposite qualities of the Fall and Vata season into your daily routines can help the body and mind maintain health and well being.

Think warm, stable, heavy, slow, smooth and liquidy when it comes to yoga, diet, and lifestyle choices. Here are a few Ayurvedic tips to support you physically, physiologically, and mentally as you transition into and through the Fall season. Although seasons vary from region to region, here are some general guidelines to follow when the Vata qualities start to present themselves:

  • Stay warm and avoid drafts

  • Go to bed early and get plenty of rest

  • Eat warm, moist, and heavier, oilier foods that are local, fresh, and seasonal (think soups, stews, casseroles, and one pot meals)

  • Sip on warm water upon waking and throughout the day and avoid cold, iced drinks

  • Stay calm, focused, and grounded with the help of Vata pacifying asana, pranayama, and meditation

  • Maintain a regular routine doing such things as waking, eating, sleeping, and exercising roughly at the same times everyday

  • Take regular self-care breaks

  • Apply oil to the head and body before bathing

  • Engage in nourishing, loving relationships

  • Choose warm, calm, and quiet environments

Being aware of and adapting to seasonal qualitative changes will help you make the best choices to stay healthy and balanced. As with any diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine, one size does not fit all. Although these suggestions can help anyone manage their way through the Fall season, everyone has their own unique constitutional make-up with presenting states of balance and imbalances. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a Yoga Therapist or Ayurveda Wellness Consultant to get a personalized routine that fits your unique psychological and physiological makeup, and takes into consideration your present state of balance or imbalance.  A seasonal routine that’s right for you will create and maintain a healthy balance in body, mind, and spirit, which will make the adjustment into the Fall season smooth, stable, and pleasant.

Write, and All is Coming: Yoga and the Creative Self

When I practice yoga, I often find myself having a conversation with dead poets. When the instructor at the head of the class says, “Let go of your thoughts about the day,” I think of William Wordsworth intoning, “The world is too much with us.” Entering a restorative pose, I hear the echo of Walt Whitman’s invitation to “lean and loafe at my ease.” When I ask my own yoga students to mindfully transition to the next pose, I silently impart the blessing of Lucille Clifton: “may you in your innocence / sail through this to that.”

Call me crazy, but I’ve never thought twice about the muse’s voice in my mind. I am a poet and words follow me throughout my day—to the grocery store, to school pick-ups and drop-offs, into downward facing dog. No big whoop. Lately this voice seems to be insistent on making visits during and after my yoga practice, when the beginnings of poems often arrive like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud. It happens with such frequency that I get miffed when I don’t get a full-seven minute savasana, because sometimes that is the only point in my day where I get to sit with the muse.

So what is it with yoga and creativity? How do they connect?

One way to understand the link between the two is found in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali defines yoga as “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind,” and one of the biggest benefits of yoga is that it can bring us into a deep state of semi-conscious rest. This state, afforded to us by savasana, pranayama, or meditation after a physical practice, allows us to integrate the effects of yoga and map them on the body and mind. In doing so, Patanjali says, we gain access to our essential self – that place where consciousness and creative power meet.

Yet it’s not just Patanjali touting the benefits of stilling the mind to get in touch with this power. Studies in neuroscience have also advocated mindful rest as a way to access the creative self.

In her decades-long study about the secrets of the creative brain, leading neuroscientist Dr. Nancy Andreason found that the creative mind is most associative and active when preceded by a restful state. She wrote in The Atlantic, “When eureka moments occur, they tend to be precipitated by long periods of preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed.”

By achieving a state of rest and letting the mind calmly drift, we allow the brain to forge new pathways and make unexpected connections. In this associative state, the mind is more free to create and discover rather than following the same old patterns or thought. From this, Andreason argues, stems the creative genius of scientists like Isaac Newton and writers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Sylvia Plath. Anyone who has been struck with just the right phrase or idea in the twilight moment before sleep or just upon waking can attest to the power this phenomenon.

The challenge always seems to be waking up enough to write it down before the idea has vanished to dream or the rest of the day.

In addition to promoting this kind of semi-conscious rest, the practice of yoga also has a lyrical aspect to it. By linking breath and movement (one of the classical definitions of the word vinyasa), yoga asks us to turn inward and look deeply into the self. When we cultivate this awareness, we are better able to understand our relationships with ourselves, our habits (samskaras), each other, and the rest of world. Some yogis extend that awareness to forge a spiritual relationship. Creative writing can do all of the above too, and it can be its own kind of meditation on a subject.

Writing and yoga both promote this awareness of self and what lies beyond the self, and they can provoke even bigger questions about mystery and the unknown, whether in the worldly or spiritual sense. If you’ve ever found an elusive solution to a problem while in asana, felt the hair on your body prick up during meditation, or floated away to some Pink Floyd-inspired astral landscape while in savasana, chances are you have plugged into this creative state of mind through your yoga practice.

Romantic poet John Keats called this state of consciousness “negative capability,” where the writer or artist sits with mystery without trying to find reason in it. To investigate the unknown—to discover something new about our bodies or minds and transform according to what we learn—is one of the reasons many of us practice yoga.

To be a yogin is to live in negative capability.

We can learn that sometimes it is enough to simply ask the questions about ourselves and the world without receiving an answer. I decided long ago that I may never achieve full lotus pose, but I certainly can ask my body each day to consider padmasana, and there is value and art in the asking.

The progenitor of Ashtanga yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois, said of yoga, “Practice, and all is coming.” This leads me to a final point about yoga and creativity: they both require you to show up. The yoga maxim “apply butt to mat” rings true for creative writers and painters alike, who have to make a practice of putting pen to paper and brush to canvas. Pablo Picasso famously spent the last half of 1957 painting version after version of his vision of Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. The 57 paintings that preceded his final portrait underscore art as the product of dedicated practice, and they lend a fascinating window into Picasso’s creative process as works of art themselves.

To support and explore the intertwined practices of yoga and creative writing, I’ve developed a seven-week workshop beginning September 29, at Yoga Yoga North, that combines asana, meditation,  readings of poetry and yogic philosophy, and writing exercises in order to access the creative self.  Each week, we’ll engage in thematic asana practice and meditation to reach a state of creative consciousness, then explore topics such as writing about place, breath and the poetic line, writing from the heart, and experimenting with perspective and voice, just to name a few topics.

“The Poetry of Yoga” workshop is a rare opportunity for me to put two passions into conversation and see what they have to say to each other. But even more, this is an opportunity to plumb the depths of the creative mind using yoga practice and philosophy as guides, exploring what happens when we precede our writing practice with asana and meditation.

Art, like yoga, requires discipline. Many days I’ve sat down at my desk and written for hours without a clear direction or product to show for it beyond a sore lower back. Sometimes I show up on my yoga mat and can only do half of what I physically accomplished the day before. I’m OK with that, because in each case, it is my practice that will lead to the next poem, the next essay, the next asana. I just have to show up and then trust the poem will be there.

In other words: write, and all is coming. Practice is the best avenue to creativity I’ve found.

Cooking Together for Yogis: Integrating Ayurveda

My journey connecting food and yoga has been an unexpected one. Growing up, I never would have imagined myself teaching plant-based, health-supportive cooking and Ayurveda to yoga practitioners. My family was a middle-of-the-spectrum American family and it wasn’t until I went to college that I even began to hear of yoga. Of course, at the time, I held the common misconception that yoga is all about exercising and becoming more flexible. But, one of the things we find through Yoga and Ayurveda is that everything is personal.

It was after a 5 A.M. morning kirtan practice, with a bunch of Hare Krishnas I was hanging out with in New York City, that I had my first asana experience. (I had originally come to their ashram the free vegan food they served, but their kindness and knowledge was icing on the cake!) They had exposed me to Bhakti Yoga before, but not asana. I can’t recall what exactly we did but I do remember being very tight in my muscles. I knew this about myself already, yet it wasn’t until this moment that I understood I have the ability to tap into my body to recognize how I feel. At the time, I didn’t take this any further. And, honestly, I saw the whole morning as my one-time “now I’ve tried it” yoga experience.

However, in December a few years later, that all changed. A good friend of mine was completing a yoga teacher training in New York and the hosting studio was having a holiday special for beginners: $10 for 10 days of unlimited classes. I thought, “sure, I’ll do it, just so I can maybe understanding this thing he talks about all the time.” I can still clearly recall one of the things he said during this discussion: “Dude, I don’t do yoga to become more flexible, but to be calmer. You need it, too.” I wound up hooked. I know I’m not alone in saying that it just felt so good. And, yes, I was calmer, too.

All of this led me to enroll in the 900 hour Professional Culinary Program at the Natural Epicurean in 2012. After ordering all the required textbooks, I was skimming through the one on Ayurveda, eager to learn more. I came across the pages on the three doshas and felt compelled to call up my aforementioned friend to ask him which one he thought I was (even though it’s more complex than just being or having a dosha). When I asked, he said, “Pitta dominant with vata out of balance.” He was, of course, spot on.

Doshas, if you’re unfamiliar with the sanskrit term, are the three different types of dispositions that make up one’s personal constitution. While learning about Ayurveda in my culinary training, I had a similar feeling as that during my first asana experience. With just a meal or two tailored to my personal constitution (my dosha), I quickly began to feel and understand that the food I eat can truly help tap into the internal body.

So, what do these anecdotes from my life have to do with yours? My story, like yours, is just some of the billions of stories out there and none of us have the same journey. Which is precisely why I bring it up. Yoga and Ayurveda are very intimate and personal experiences. I may be nothing like you but there are shared tools, skills, and techniques that can be utilized by all of us. And we’ve finally created the perfect program to teach them.

Cooking Together For yogis is a program that combines Yoga and Ayurveda to bring greater balance into our lives. We hear Ayurveda spoken of as the ancient medicinal practice from India. The word itself is actually Sanskrit for “science of life,” and many times it’s paired with yoga as a “sister science,” but the truth is they really are one. We all come to yoga for different reasons: whether it’s to gain flexibility, stabalize emotions, find mental clarity, or, for the most devoted, achieve enlightenment. To do this, Ayurvedic practices will inherently become part of one’s yoga practice.

While Ayurveda is a holistic science, cooking is an important component. Actually, a majority of what Ayurveda looks at is what we consume, whether it’s food, drink, emotions, ideas, etc. And since we are all different, Ayurvedic cooking prepares food for our unique selves. Think of your yoga practice: do any of our bodies look the same in a pose? Absolutely not! Especially when we start to bring in blocks, bolsters, blankets, and straps. Ayurvedic cooking is the same. Some of us are slow-moving and might require warmer and more stimulating foods to arouse the body. Others might already be active and fiery and require more cooling and grounding foods. We use these descriptions in both a physical and mental sense. After all, one of the common definitions or goals of yoga that we hear is the unification of mind and body.

In the Ayurvedic kitchen, we find many key yogic concepts carrying over. As we start to gain experience cooking, making meals for ourselves and others becomes a practice. There is intention towards what and how these meals are prepared. We become mindful of our ingredients and cooking methods. Our unique constitutions lead to modifications. We balance our tastes to bring stability into our lives. And, of course, we can start to relax and feel good.

I invite you to join us on the mat and in the kitchen to gain a deeper understand of yourself. Whether you’ve been practicing yoga for 10 days or 10 years, there is knowledge and skill to be gained. Each of us is unique, and I hope we can foster this uniqueness to learn, grow, and cook together.