Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting enough omega-3's (without fish)

One of my concerns with being a non-fish eating vegetarian is the question of whether I get enough omega-3 fatty acids (“good fats”): Should I eat fish sometimes? Should I be taking fish-oil supplements? My body might need me to put those lox on my bagel and cream cheese?

We’ve heard why omega-3’s are good for us: they help reduce inflammation, reduce risk of heart disease, reduce risk of dementia… not to mention they may help keep protect your telomeres.

The other day my younger sister forwarded me a news alert from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, highlighting a recent study of 14,422 people showing that women on vegan diets do have an expected lower intake of omega-3’s, but they also have greater conversion of plant-based precursors to omega-3’s, and thus they have higher than expected blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

That’s reassuring! That means that our bodies will probably make adequate amounts of omega 3’s from a plant-based diet (which includes walnuts, flaxseeds, plant-based oils).

I was especially glad to see a medical peer-reviewed paper addressing the bigger problem of our diminishing fish supply:
“Current dietary recommendations for maintenance of [adequate omega-3 levels]… are to consume one or more portions of oily fish per week; however, the supply of wild fish is dwindling and efforts to conserve the fish supply are needed.”
(If you haven't yet seen the documentary End of the Line, check it out!):

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interview with David Garrigues

David took the time to answer some questions and I’m very happy to share them here with you here… enjoy!
Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, David Garrigues

How did you first learn about yoga?

I was sixteen and working as a bus boy. The dishwasher was really into metaphysics, supernatural phenomenons, UFO's, conspiracy theories, etc, and one day he told me about Yoga. That afternoon he took me to the local park and showed me Surya Namaskara. From that point on I was practicing Sun Salutations.

Tell us about the path your yoga practice has taken. 

In 1991 I placed 4th in the Seattle Marathon after training rigorously for a few months and my body became completely tight and so I went to an Iyengar Yoga class. I got hooked and started going everyday. Eventually, I found two important teachers who lit the fire of Yoga in me and helped me to choose to make Yoga my life path. Then in 1993 I saw a video of Pattabhi Jois teaching his students (Freeman, Chuck and Tim) and saw in the Yoga Journal that he was coming to LA. I went and studied with him for one month. Then in '94 I went to India and was there almost continuously for two years. At the end of that time Guruji certified me. I went back to Seattle and for ten years ran the Ashtanga Yoga School always returning to India nearly one or twice a year to work with Guruji.

On one of my first visits to India I discovered singing and started practicing Bhakti Yoga by way of music. I now consider myself a practitioner of both Bhakti and Hatha Yoga.

For the past few years, I have started to make a more organized and conscious choice to share what I'm learning through social media: dvd's, cd's, and blogging. All of these media outlets are pushing me to go deeper into teaching as a service and to share what I have been given. And that's where I continually see my future leading, continuing to practice, study and share what I'm learning.

Who have been your greatest yoga teachers and why?

Marie Svoboda, who taught me about the process of going into an asana and that what is most important is the process not the end. She also taught me about rhythm. 

Aadil Palkhivala, who still teaches in Seattle. He is a senior Iyengar teacher and taught me to think creatively and therapeutically about the body. And how to endlessly refine an asana. He also taught me how to appreciate when a magical atmosphere arises in a class. 

Ramanad Patel, who teaches workshops worldwide and taught me about combining Bhakti Yoga and asana work in a class. 

Pattabhi Jois, who taught me everything... how to stand on my own and how to be a complete anchor. And how to be yourself. And how much power we each have. Guruji wasn't playing around or putting on an act. 

What motivates you to practice every day? 

How much better I feel when I practice. And how alive I feel. And how I can finally feel my life force really flow. And the mental places that I go when I practice. The concentration that I can achieve. And also the physical benefits. 

Why do you practice Ashtanga yoga? 

Because Ashtanga Yoga is the only type that can adequately allow me to work with my energy the way that feels right to me. I like how physical it is. I also like the concept of Vinyasa and how working with patterns of the breath is the center of the practice.

What is your daily routine like?

I am always busy and doing things. I don't like to feel that I'm wasting my life. I don't consciously keep a schedule but my day is always consistent. If I have to teach Mysore class I wake up at 4AM and practice. Sometimes I can squeeze in some classic Indian scales. I teach at 7AM and when I'm through I go home and eat a whole grain breakfast (sweet brown rice cream, oatmeal, cream of wheat.) Then I either sing again or I begin my writing for the day. At this time I am also double tasking by cooking a macro meal (pressure cooking brown rice, slow cooking vegetables, burdock, Kimpira). But either way I will be singing or writing until I eat at 3PM. This is when I usually take a two hour break. A break usually involves some reading, a cat nap or helping my partner Joy on her film projects. But at around 5PM I start revving up again, answering emails, sometimes Joy and I will film, but most days I'm writing until its time to sleep at around 10pm. I don't need a lot of sleep, never have.

Tell us about your diet.

I practice a wide macrobiotics. Because I'm not sick so for me the macro diet does not need to be narrow. But I also have a Yin disposition and therefore, am inclined towards Yin foods (sugar, alcohol, caffeine) so I have to be very conscious to eat the Yang foods my body needs in order to be balanced. The most hearty Yang foods are short grain brown rice, burdock, turnip, daikon, carrots, and then cooked for hours. One of the things I love about the macro diet is that you do put a lot of energy into making the food but in the end you have an amazingly tasty and healthy dish. Its not like you spend hours in the kitchen making Fettucine Alfredo, where the result is tasty food, but also super high in fat. 

What are 3 pieces of advice you would give serious yoga practitioners about their diet?

I've said it before: The diet is the final frontier for a Yogi. Its a lot easier for people to acclimate to waking up and going to bed earlier, or being more physically tired throughout the day, but eating a proper diet is really challenging. My advice is more on how to transition into a healthier diet.

#1 Be kind to yourself when your transitioning into a healthier diet. This is where most people have trouble. If you start off too extreme… cutting out everything you enjoy and just eating brown rice and turnips, you will probably not hold the diet. It takes a long time to change your diet so transition slowly. In the beginning eat the occasional slice of cheese and slice of cake.

#2: Get onto whole grains. Buy a pressure cooker and a grain meal and learn to use them. The food tastes a whole lot better.

#3: Most importantly, make a very careful study of how the food you eat affects your practice. You really have to study this because you want to have an optimum practice each day. This means you have to feel when your body system and digestion is ready to practice. So when your practicing take note of how you feel and what it was that you ate yesterday. And then if you observe carefully and long enough your practice will teach you what you need to eat.

What advice do you have for people interested in starting a yoga practice? 

I'm biased but I think that Ashtanga is the best practice. And the way to learn Ashtanga is to find a teacher who teaches Mysore. Sign up for the month and follow their instruction. If you can't get access to a teacher then a dvd can do it. Also, make an intention within yourself to honor your body. If you want to start a Yoga practice you need to realize that Yoga is a large path. There's a lot to it. Its a discipline that takes several years to understand and get established in, and in the beginning, you don't have to understand very much of it. You only have to make a start. Start small and simple and see how you feel and see where that takes you. And continue to feel what's happening and value what you feel. Don't do too much too soon. And be careful not to get swept away by your ego trying asanas that your body is not ready for because you can get hurt.

What advice do you have for people with busy schedules who must maintain a home practice? 

1: Have a consistent time that you practice.

2: If you only have the energy to do ten minutes, five minutes, one Sun Salutation, then just do that. Again, you have to be kind to yourself. Because that one sun Salutation will carry you onto the next morning when you may feel like doing the entire Primary.

How has your practice changed over the past 10 years? 

My body has aged. I've slowed down some. I value breathing and simplicity much more. My focus is way deeper, way more subtle, as well as my breath. I still love practicing but for very different reasons. Now, I love the very moment that it's happening rather then what I'm going to get out of it when I'm done. 

How do you see your practice changing over the next 10 years?

I don't know what's in store and I'm happy about that. I only know that I will be doing it and it's bound to get deeper and take me to new places that I've never gone. And I'm excited about that. 

What is your biggest fear?

I tried to just think of one but this is what came out: That for whatever reason people can't relate to my experience. That I haven't gone deep enough. That I haven't applied myself enough. I'll run out of time before I've gotten the chance to really find my wisdom. That I can't face and accept my ugliness and join in healing around that.

Who have been the most influential people influencing your health habits?
  • Pattabhi Jois 
  • Marie Sbavoda 
  • Macrobiotic teachers (AnneMarie Colbin, Herman Aihara, Michel Abehsera)
  • My mom 
  • Jung 
  • Patanjali 

If you could tell a room of thousands of people one piece of life advice, what would it be? 

You have an incredible reserve of life force within you that is meant to be positively channelled to heal yourself and the world. So face whatever demons that block you and use your power to heal and move life forward.

What do you wish you could go back in time and tell your 25-year old self?

Don't be afraid. You have so much power and so much talent just go for it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Traveling yoga

It’s especially important for me to keep up my yoga practice while traveling... the busier and more exhausted I am, the more I need it.

Two solutions I’ve found for doing yoga while traveling far from my yoga home: 1) checking out local yoga studios when possible (not always possible), and 2) carrying with me a yoga DVD (always possible). 

I've recently been carrying David Garrigues’ Ashtanga Yoga DVD. David moved to Philly over a year ago and has had a huge influence over my practice -- breath, bandhas, food, jumpbacks, handstands, backbends, taking rest when I need it. Check it out: 

The DVD has a led primary (perfect to do at home or in a hotel room with the heat cranked up), a second led primary with more detailed instructions on postures and modifications (great for new students), and an added bonus are short video-interviews with some answers to questions I've always wondered about, for example: 
  • Is Ashtanga yoga aimed towards young and healthy people? “Anyone any age can do this practice, but depending on your strength, your age, your commitment, your kinesthetic awareness of your body, your time, how much you work, what kind of things you have going on in your life… you’ll have to modify and adapt and make the practice your own.” 
  • Does the strict traditional Ashtanga yoga practice blunt our creativity and individuality? “We do set sequences and so it’s all laid out and all mapped out. And yet, within that, every person creates their own practice… You learn your own style… you access your potential and creativity.” 
  • How does the Ashtanga yoga practice change over time? "The practice is going to change. There are so many different ways it can change: It can be a wave, it can be a struggle, it can be ascending and soaring, it can be a circle, a spiral, it can plateau, it can feel like its going down and staying down, but then it’ll go back up.” 
Check back in tomorrow for a special interview with David!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Travel. Yoga. Coffee.

Hello from Seattle!!! I'm here attending a great primary care research conference, meeting lots of people and lots of ideas. 

I love this quote and think about it whenever I travel:
"Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it." ~Cesare Pavese
For me, there are two additional essentials that I cling to while traveling: yoga and coffee. Two things that help me quickly meet people and make friends in a strange city.

I love being able to fly to a new place and immediately find an ashtanga mysore community: people that speak my language! Yesterday, I went to a led primary class at the Samarya Center (amazing place and mission), and this morning to Troy Lucero’s mysore class. 

I'm still processing everything I learned with Troy this morning (he knew I only had one day there and nicely gave me a TON of attention!). Some quick notes: 
  • Standing poses: Ground my heels so much so that I lift my toes and ball of foot (I naturally do the opposite and actually lift my heels). In Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle), work on barely touching fingers to the ground (engages legs, core, and bandhas much more). 
  • Navasana: Traditionally, navasana was paired with handstand, but for some reason this has been taken out over the years. They both work on the same thing: the core of the body. Practice going into handstand between each navasana.
  • Handstands: Wow we did a lot of handstand work this morning... handstands on a ramp, handstands on bars, handstands on a block, handstands on one block under one hand, handstands on sandbags. 
  • Acroyoga: Right before Kapotasana, Troy "flew" me in the air (he lay on the ground, his feet on my sacrum)... loosening up my back and quads to prep for the deeper backbends. Amazing. 
  • Tick-tocks: After backbends, he brought me over to the ramp and had me practice handstand to backbend and back to handstand. Really hard... need to find a ramp/hill at home and practice this on my own.
I love how he has toys all over the room like blocks, bars, ramps, straps, and how he encourages freedom to make the practice what you need it to be (the room was full of people doing things that I had never seen before). As he said while helping me with my handstands: "Yoga is really just about waking up." I definitely walked out of there feeling awake (and shaky, haha).

After practice and before heading back to the conference, it was time for some more Seattle coffee, which I just can't get enough of! It's the perfect way to both reminisce with old friends and connect with new ones (especially in the cozy rainy Seattle weather). 
My trip wouldn't be complete without a trip to the first Starbucks EVER!! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What are you learning?!

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~ Plato
Still sore… and thinking how Plato would have liked the Ashtanga yoga practice.

I’m doing the same asana practice that I’ve been doing for years, but there’s something about working with David Keil this week that’s bringing it to a new level. This is why I love having many different yoga teachers: tiny tweaks can change everything.

A few things David K has brought to my attention this week:
  • Keeping my mouth closed throughout entire practice (I thought I had been doing this but now realize I haven’t)
  • Focusing on hamstrings in the standing foundation poses (my tight hamstrings have led to some recent back pain)
  • Using my fingertips in nakrasana (This pose is so hard for me! See below)
  • Doing handstands immediately after backbends (and starting to think about going from handstand to backbend and back up to standing) 
Any other Y2 people reading this: please share what you're learning! One downside to this mysore-style practice is that I can’t hear everything the teacher tells other people!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A glimpse

David Keil is in Philadelphia for the week and I am LOVING practicing with him (check out his yoga anatomy blog!). His adjustments are like no other, and I am feeling wonderfully sore.

I read this quote on naturally nina's blog this morning, and it perfectly described what I felt during practice today:
“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things, and still be calm in your heart.” ~Unknown
There can be so much chaos when I'm getting into a pose, but once I get there, and if I stay there, and especially if a teacher keeps me there, that noise can quickly quiet. Yoga gives a glimpse of the possibility of calm amidst chaos, something we all could use more of off of our yoga mats...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend highlights

Weekend highlights: Friday evening girls wine & cheese night, running the "loop" (half-marathon 2 weeks from today!), Sunday morning mysore practice, cleaning out my in-box, de-cluttering my desk, La Colombe coffee, getting ready for my upcoming trip to Seattle/Portland (excited!).

I also found a new book to add to my reading list: The End of Overeating, by Dr. David Kessler:

"Back 50 years ago, the tobacco industry knew that smoking was harmful. If you look at how we were successful with tobacco, we changed how people viewed the product. We changed it so people now look at a cigarette and say, 'Boy, that’s a deadly, addictive, disgusting product.'
What we need to do, is to change how we fundamentally look at food, and ask ourselves, ‘Is that food nutritious? Is that going to provide the kind of nutrition I want?’ You have to be able to fundamentally change how you look at the food. One way to do that is to realize the extent to which you are being manipulated.
If you value being healthful, if you value eating nutritiously, if you say 'that is the kind of food that I want, that is not the food that I want"… then you can be free. Then, in essence, and only then, have you really re-programmed your brain.'"
~Dr. David Kessler (from this video)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

5 ways to practice yoga and SAVE money

This is my older sister, Kim, who brought me to my first Ashtanga yoga class.  

My older sister, Kim, first introduced me to Ashtanga yoga and the Mysore practice. She’s also my personal finance expert (check out her book, Generation Earn, that just came out!).
Even my baby niece likes it!

My financial situation can be simplified as follows: I’m a student, I have a lot of debt, and I place high value on a consistent yoga practice and healthy food (both expensive!).

One of my biggest criticisms of the yoga industry is the high cost, which prohibits many people from actually practicing yoga. I am convinced there is another way... a way to make it possible for everyone to practice yoga, regardless of how much money one earns.

With the help of my sister’s wisdom, we’ve come up with 5 ways to practice yoga and actually SAVE money. I know there are more so please comment with your ideas!
  1. Practice at home. Invite your yogi friends over to practice and create your own yoga community. Turn up the heat and adjust each other when you need it. Estimated savings: $50-150/month.
  2. Say no to new yoga clothes. Wear your old shorts and tank tops to practice (I always think practice feels better in old clothes anyway). You can practice in anything... you don’t need fancy yoga outfits (no one is looking at you and no one cares!). You can always ask for hand-me-downs (or check out low-cost stores like H&M or Forever 21). Estimated savings: $25-50/month.
  3. Give the gift of yoga. Holiday time is coming up, and instead of spending lots of money on store-bought presents, come up with some creative (and more meaningful) yoga-inspired gifts. Some ideas: Teach a free yoga class to friends or family members that have been wanting to try yoga. Make inspirational yoga-related collages using your old magazines. Frame your drawings or photographs of people. Make your own eye-pillows (Caitlin’s brilliant idea!). Estimated savings: $100-300/year.
  4. Socialize with your yogi friends at home. Instead of going out for expensive brunch/meals/drinks after practice, invite yogi friends over for good old potluck. If everyone contributes a little something (wine/veggie treats), a feast is born! Estimated savings: $50/month.
  5. Make time for your yoga practice. Yoga helps with concentration, anxiety, stress, pain, and more... helping you spend your money and time more wisely and in line with your values. Estimated savings: Priceless!