Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Practice of Having Fun: The Work Pose

In a world where technology has made things so easy, I’m always interested when someone takes the longer road to accomplishing a task. It isn’t always necessary but it is refreshing.

I spend my days like most people in my part of the world, tapping the screen of my phone, instantly connecting and communicating, pressing buttons for heat, lifting faucets for water. Life is easy. However, I still enjoy sitting down and hand writing a letter or growing my own food from seed or playing the telephone game using two paper cups and a string with my daughter. It requires some work but it’s so much fun.

I appreciate when someone decides to shy away from cutting edge technology and try something a little old school.

Kiesza2014

Kiesza

In light of that, I’m sharing a video called “Hideaway” by an up and coming star named Kiesza. Her music could be classified as techno-pop or house. The amazing thing about the video is that they shot it all in one take. Like Dillon’s Subterranean Homesick Blues or Weezer’s Sweater Song or Feist’s 1234 before it, the artist lets the camera roll through one full performance. No cuts, no edits. It is what it is.

In the video we follow Kiesza dancing down a NYC street. In her choreography she pays homage to early Madonna, Michael Jackson, and if I’m not mistaken, Solid Gold dancers. We even get treated to a little roger rabbit, running man and What’s Happening? ReRun style pop and lock. This girl knows her stuff and executes her moves beautifully.

I challenge you to watch this and not smile. Whether Kiesza’s music is your cup of tea or not, the amount of coordination, technique, talent and joy that went into this video cannot be ignored. It obviously took work.

The end result reminds me that a bit of extra work can be so much fun.

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The Powerful Pose: Practicing Gratitude

gratitudeThere is power in giving thanks.

The act of saying “Thank you” to someone acknowledges the effort or thought that person put into you. It makes that person feel appreciated. They understand that you understand what they did. It strengthens the relationship and paves the way for more positive interactions. ScienceOfRelationships.com does a good job of exploring that dynamic.

But, what about offering up thanks to the universe? Why is it so important to say “Thank you” to a higher power?

Expressing gratitude validates all the fate, luck, fortune, blessings that arrive at your door. When we stop to acknowledge what we have to be grateful for, we give ourselves the ability to see what is positive in our lives. Just being aware of what is good, draws more good to you. That is powerful.

Gratitude is not about the material. It is about training the mind to see what truly holds value. buddha quote

Practicing gratitude is a form of self love. It is a moment to appreciate all of the good in all of the winding ways it has come to you. Just like thanking people in your life for their help or thoughtfulness builds trust and love, practicing gratitude creates an ability to more readily recognize the positive. Like any skill, if it is not practiced it can become weak or forgotten.

If you don’t stop to consciously be grateful, you might very well overlook something worthy of your gratitude. That would be a shame.

Initially, moments to be grateful for do not always look like good fortune. They can arrive unexpectedly, sometimes in the form of a complete disaster. Often it is those disasters that shed light on tremendous strength or understanding or truth. Only when we stop to reflect and be grateful, can we decipher the value.

gratitude

Here are 6 steps to a daily practice of gratitude:

1. Pick or create a quiet moment.

2. Envision one thing for which you are grateful.

3. Let all other thoughts fall away.

4. Allow yourself to feel the joy related to that thought.

5. Say aloud (or form a complete thought), “Thank you for _____________.”

6. Repeat daily.

 


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The Nishime Pose: The Practice of Waterless Cooking

nishime vegetablesLast May I wrote a post about cooking with a clay pot. I discussed the discovery of cooking for myself in my 30’s, inspired by a gift from my sister. It was a cookbook called The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter. As a result, my first foray into cooking was 100% macrobiotic. Now, I am an omnivore, although I eat more like a vegetarian than a carnivore. I spend the majority of my cooking time with vegetables.

One of my favorite dishes that has stayed with me from my macrobiotic days is Nishime Vegetables. Every time I have served this dish my guests have marveled at this smooth, buttery, sweet, salty, vegetable dish. They simply cannot believe it doesn’t have any butter in it. For those of you unfamiliar with macrobiotic cooking please do not be put off by the use of mildly exotic ingredients. They are the key to the perfect comfort food result.

Here is a quick cheat sheet on a few of the less familiar ingredients:

Kombu: a sea vegetable that comes in thick wide strips. It helps to soften the vegetables and adds to the buttery consistency of the dish. I buy mine at Whole Foods.kombu

Daikon: a long white root vegetable, also known as a Japanese radish. If you eat a lot of sashimi you will often find it shredded on your dish as a condiment. In macrobiotic cooking it is believed to help dissolve fat in the body.

diakon

Parsnip: Ok, ok. You know what a parsnip is, but I feel like giving this often over looked root vegetable a little love. They are easy to throw into recipes like mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Next time you are in the supermarket grab some of the carrot’s cousins.

parsnips

Shoyu: the Japanese word for soy sauce. Here is my favorite brand.

shoyu

I am sharing Jessica Porter’s recipe word for word because I have never found a reason to tweak it.

Nishime Vegetables

Also known as “waterless cooking,” nishime-style cooking involves hearty, sweet vegetables steamed slowly in their own juices. What results is a potful of chunky, delicious, fall-apart vegetables that go down like butter. This dish has a centering effect on the body and mind and is unbelievably simple given the level of satisfaction it produces. If you are feeling scattered and out of sorts, use nishime to come home to yourself. Make nishime vegetables at least a couple times a week, using different vegetables depending on the season.

  • 1-inch piece dried kombu
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thick wedges
  • 6 inches diakon, cut into thick rounds
  • 3 medium parsnips, cut into thick diagonal slices
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch “logs”
  • Spring water
  • 1/2 teaspoon shoyu

In a heavy pot with a heavy lid (preferably enameled cast iron) place the dried kombu. Add the onion. Layer the diakon, carrots, and parsnips, respectively. Pour roughly 1 inch of spring water into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 10-15 minutes or until carrots are soft. Season with shoyu and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove the kombu and discard or slice into thin strips and return to pot. Serve.


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The Tao Porchon-Lynch Pose: The Practice of Living

tao porchon-lynch

Tao Porchon-Lynch posing for Robert Sturman

Tao Porchon-Lynch. You have probably heard of her. She has become the yogini face of aging gracefully.

I have recently become preoccupied with her story. I watched a video of Tao speaking at a TEDx event. It was titled “There is nothing you cannot do.” She was fascinating. Her natural enthusiasm was contagious. Her lithe movements and physical ability defied her age.

I googled her and discovered hundreds of current photos and links to articles about her advanced age. But that wasn’t what I was interested in, I wanted to see her in her youth or middle-aged. I wanted to see a 30 or 40-something Tao Porchon-Lynch. What did she wear? How did she move? Did she care for children? Did she work?

I researched and got answers to my questions. I also came upon this photo.

tao porchon lynch

Wowza

I was delighted. I mean, this is a woman with some chutzpah. The more I read, the more I found her age to be the least interesting thing about her. Everyone is subject to aging, it is the decisions and the choices she made throughout her life that makes her fascinating to me.

Looking at the way she lives her life, it doesn’t surprise me that she is thriving at 96 years old.

At the age of eight she came across some boys practicing yoga on the beach in India. She joined in. At the time, her Aunt (who was raising her) discouraged her from practicing yoga, stating that it was for boys and not a proper activity for a girl. She didn’t listen and pursued the practice anyway. Was she just being a defiant child or did she intuitively know the direction she wanted to take? I don’t have the answer and I’m not sure it matters, but that decision began a pattern.

Each time she was given a standard or an expected limitation, she disregarded it and carved her own path. She made choices that allowed her to defy statistics and beat odds. She is amazing and not just because of her age.

She inspires me to reflect on my own choices and ask: When have I let other’s expectations set my standard?  Have I blindly done what was expected of me simply because it was expected. Or worse, when have I decided that I couldn’t do something because of someone else’s limits? These questions are helpful. Especially now, with middle age settled resolutely on my doorstep. Often there is a predisposition to consider pushing boundaries the territory of youth. Tao Porchon-Lynch reminds me that healthy rebellion and good gut instincts can thrive at any age.

I think the lesson we should be learning from Tao is not how to age, but how to live.


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The Flash Fiction Pose: Not My Typical Post

In my yoga practice, I try to switch things up to keep it interesting. When I find myself less than mindful or engaged in my practice, I do something to re-inspire myself. I might try a new studio or seek out a different type of yoga. I try to breathe some new life into it by creating change. It works.

This weekend I found myself less than enthusiastic about my blog. I was uninspired. I thought about drumming up a guest blogger or finding a reason to skip a week. Those options felt like a cop out. I needed inspiration. So I went to my fellow bloggers and looked at what they were doing. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for.

My inspiration came in the form of The Tipsy Lit Flash Fiction Contest. Tipsy Lit is a blog that seeks out gritty, raw writing – something very different than what I have been doing here. The challenge to Flash Fiction is that it is short with a 500 word limit. Below you will find my submission, a figurative splash of cold water on the face of my sleepy blog.The Flash Fiction Pose

Timothy’s Escape

The room came slowly into focus as Timothy surfaced from his nod.  Seeing the low drop ceiling with creeping stains he remembered he was in Yvette’s sagging bed. To his right, he noticed she had gathered his works on the night table in a neat pile.  Last night had been a desperate sweating scramble to get his dope.

Getting up, he was careful not to wake Yvette, whose wet snores ripped through the room.  Everything about her repulsed him.  Her stick thin, bruised legs and ridiculous choice of crop tops that allowed her bloated mid-section to bunch and jiggle with every move. Her stringy ponytail worn on the side of her head in an effort to appear youthful that only succeeded in making her look demented. The way she clung to his arm, throwing back her head in a throaty laugh that exposed her missing molar and ended in a wheezing cough.  And especially the way she would turn her fleshy and worn face to him thrilled and expectant.

Her apartment harbored the aroma of cat pee cloaked in cheap air freshener.  There was a cat that lived there but Timothy had yet to see it. It hid under the couch and let out a low growl if anyone came near.  A cage in the living room housed two parakeets that constantly squawked and furiously batted their wings.  Then there was Butch, an old crooked dog with cataracts and breath like a sewer. When the animal was awake, he shuffled behind Timothy from room to room.

Since they met, Yvette clung to Timothy. She shared her disability checks and rationed out her dope.  He came and went as he pleased and she never complained as he drank all her beer.  When he showed up on her doorstep at 3 a.m. shaking for a fix, she welcomed him in.

Now he needed to get out of there.  Timothy moved into the kitchen where she kept her purse and flipped on the fluorescent light. Squinting in the winking glare he found her wallet and pulled out the bills. Stuffing them in his pocket he reached for the light switch and stopped short.

“Jesus, Butch, I almost stepped on you.” Butch was laying on the kitchen floor panting hard.  His water and food bowl were empty. Timothy crouched down, folding his tall bony frame to scratch the old mutt behind the ears. “You thirsty buddy?”

He filled one bowl with fresh water and scooped kibble into the other.  While he was at it, he got water and food for the cat and the birds too. He felt for the animals. He couldn’t imagine being trapped like that.

When he was done he moved quietly back into to the bedroom and eased open Yvette’s top dresser drawer.  He found the white baggy he was looking for and tucked it in his sneaker. Without looking back, Timothy walked through the fetid rooms fleeing into the fresh pink dawn of the morning.