Archives for posts with tag: yoga

I have a recipe that will add such deliciousness and ease to your day.

It is a quick tomato sauce with incredible tang and richness and it was given to me by my yoga instructor and friend who is committed to helping the world stress less, Chitra.

The tomato sauce recipe is as simple as this.

  • Pour a nice amount, like 1 tablespoon, of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
  • Add a little garlic and gently brown.
  • As the garlic is browning, slice cherry tomatoes in half.  Put a little X at the round end of each half, if you want.  Place each tomato cut side down in the pan.
  • Add a little fresh or dried rosemary.  Allow to quickly simmer into a delicious sauce.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
  • A couple ways to use this sauce include; in a toasted baguette with cheese or over roast vegetables, such as cauliflower.
Thank-you, Chitra!  Peace and Namaste.

chill cat

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

in addition to exercise, rainbow cat adds joy to my winter

A few years ago, I decided to kick up my workouts during the winter so that I would feel great during that dark season.  And guess what? It worked! My moods were great with the addition of a magic ingredient called exercise.  For about an hour each day, I worked out in classes that I enjoyed. It helped me lower my stress levels during the day and I slept better at night.  Suddenly my digestion began to improve.  Among other things, I also got into shape for the summer.

I think my experience is somewhat universal; at least this is the case where I workout.  Something I noticed happening in most classes is that people walk in looking like zombies.  Okay, no, maybe they are zombies: slow moving, often frowning, grunting and a little out of it.  By the end of the class, everyone has livened up.  People are laughing and chatting. You can tell they just received an energy boost.

It can be difficult to place workouts into my schedule; but experience has taught me that when you make the time for exercise, you get the reward of more energy and efficiency.  This has a positive impact on everything in the rest of life.

If I  feel really run down, then I can choose a more restorative workout such as yoga or meditation. If I am sick, I respect others’ health and choose to do this at home. If I am just a little tired, then I go to class, take it easy and listen to my body.

Other things that help me feel great in the winter are fish oils high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Low blood levels of Omega 3 fatty acids can contribute to depression, so I make sure to get enough of this. I prefer to get this through the food I choose to eat. In a pinch, I can resort to supplements. In terms of supplements, I take vitamin D3, around 2000IU per day because studies show that it can help.

Eating right can go a long way to improving moods.  For me, I feel best if I eat lower carbohydrate foods. I take particular care to avoid sugar, gluten and dairy. I also minimize alcohol consumption. I do focus on eating plenty of good quality protein along with green and brightly-coloured vegetables.

Working out in the great outdoors and getting enough light throughout the winter are tried and true methods of improving moods as well.

There are many ways of approaching any one problem.  Don’t feel that you have to tough it out.  Seek out experts, be savvy and find ways to make it better.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Guest Contributor Beata Sobolewski shares her transformation from a person who takes yoga classes to becoming a yoga instructor.

A few weeks ago I finished a course to become a Yoga Instructor. This journey, which spanned five months, would open my mind to a world of possibilities. From the lessons I learned to the people who I met, I have walked away with a grander meaning of life. I did not have much yoga in my life prior to the course, but now it is part of my daily living.

Yoga showed me the union of mind, body and spirit. Yoga introduced me to the things around us we cannot always see but greatly influence our lives; Einstein and other great philosophers spoke about the great-interconnected world in which we cannot always perceive with our five senses. Yoga allows you to tap into this world of potentiality. I’m beginning to understand that as a human being each one of us is an energy being of pure potentiality.

We have been conditioned from childhood to believe that we are not powerful beings and are meant to live a mundane life of 9-5 five days a week. Throughout the course and what my instructor quoted as “the Unlearning Process”, I began to shake off some of these beliefs. If I had learned some of these attributes in my earlier years, I feel I would have greatly benefitted. However, I still greatly appreciate this knowledge. It is never to late to learn if one is open-minded and willing to stir up some beliefs.

The greatest thing yoga did for me is to allow me to have an open mind. I’ve come to realize that not one person has the answer; this is a journey of self growth. We all have our own interpretations of situations, but by being able to listen to everyone and not always judge, we are beginning to change some of the programming of the Ego self.

The Ego, I learned, is the greatest illusion in our lives. “We are the same being in different disguises” is a quote spoken by my instructor that I always review and keep in my mindset. This quote is powerful, and when repeated frequently changes self-perception and perception of the people around us. The Universe is a living organism with full awareness of itself. The five senses allow us to have the illusion that we are all separate individuals when we are really all interconnected in a web of life.

I’ve learned that life is holographic and when you affect one part of the hologram you also affect all the other parts. We can see the pain, insanity and chaos in the world around us. This is due to the fact that people are lacking self-love and knowledge of who they really are. If we knew, then we would not be harming our planet and ourselves. We are a global family and a new system needs to be implemented to fix some of our errors. I feel Yoga is a tool that can help heal the world we have created through our misperceptions about our reality.

I believe our world is a reflection of what we have inside of ourselves. When we begin to purify ourselves, we begin to purify our environment and everything around us. Yoga shows not to repress our pain, but to acknowledge, accept and forgive it. Truly we are Energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. We are infinite and timeless. It is only the identity in our life that creates the world around us. I began to learn this is for a higher purpose and it is part of the one divine mind. This false ego keeps us trapped in our own delusions and blocks truth from the “real self”, which is not of the physical world. Yoga has allowed me to reclaim some of my true self beyond the physical means around me. We are more than the job, car, money, bank account, and title in society. Beyond the things we think make us happy lies a world of truth. Life has a natural flow and we must give to receive, love to be loved and care to be cared for. Our fears, anxieties and confusions are created due to the lack of knowledge about our true identities. This reality of our true self is kept purposely from us in order for us to rely on a system built of fear of our world and ourselves.

Within five months of my Yoga journey I am beginning to reclaim some of the power I have within me. However, this is not an easy process, it is a life-long work. As human beings on a physical journey, we have many layers that need to be undone and cleansed. I have greatly benefited physically and mentally on my journey to become a yoga instructor. A reward is that once I have started to find my own inner peace, I may then do the same for the people around me. It is a great gift to be able to teach people about this metaphysical world they may not have been previously introduced to.

I will forever be grateful for this experience, and now know the journey will not end here. The choice is ours about who we decide to be in the world, and I am grateful that yoga is allowing me to get to know my true self.

Montreal, Canada 

Bikepath in parc Lafontaine, towards the south...

Parc Lafontaine... a place for springtime (and year-round) jogging...

Several months ago I spent a couple of hours in the gym injuring myself. How did I injure myself? In between running on the track and doing some weights, I used a stubborn elliptical machine for half an hour, and then I used a stairmaster afterwards. The inflexible machinery, made for a certain body with a particular stride and length of legs and arms, created a big ball of stress that centred on my knee. This stress was compounded by a tough workout on the stairmaster. I hurt myself from overuse on these machines that day. The injury created an awful tension in my left knee… so I lost a lot of flexibility and strength. I babied it, naturally, so that it became standard for me to limp slightly. I didn’t run anymore.

In the last couple of months, however, I have been attending regular yoga, dance, and classical stretch classes. I haven’t done very much “free elliptical” (that’s my term for the machines that allow you to choose your own stride, rather than having an awkward one prescribed to you) nor have I set my sights on anything like a stairmaster. I avoid the rigidly paced elliptical machine like the Plague. I have been using some free weights and doing a few lat-pulldowns every once in a while. That’s been pretty much it for exercise lately. Anyhow, the other day, I thought that I’d improved enough to allow myself a little run on a treadmill. I booked in about a half an hour on the treadmill, and maybe 20 minutes of that was spent jogging or running.

I went faster, faster, and faster. I felt like I could fly, again. It was a liberating feeling, a wonderful experience. I hope to be able to run through the Parc Lafontaine again this spring… there is nothing quite like flying amongst the blossoms and singing birds. Makes me even more glad to be alive.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Iggy, my cat who likes to stare at things.

I have a cat whose name is Iggy. He likes to stare at the wall. I can relate to this; whenever I need to step away from the distractions of my life, I will stare at something. This can prove to be a little awkward when I’m out in public. In that case it is good to find somewhere to sit, then close my eyes for a minute. Iggy doesn’t have this problem, because he is an “inside-cat”.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this right now. My rationale is that I am in a Post-Yoga-Class state. This morning I had my first yoga class of 2011, after a month’s break. My mind is clear, my breath is easy and focussed, my spine and arms and legs and fingers and feet and… everything that makes up “me”… feels good. I had intended to write about the braided rug that I am slowly working on (it’s quite a long process, being the sole crafty or creative thing in my life that I would define as a “hobby”), and as my eyes were looking up from this computer screen towards that rug, I saw Iggy. Staring at the wall. This reminded me of the state of my mind during yoga class this morning and that’s that.

braided up and ready to go...

So, this rug is composed of pieces of unused, discarded t-shirt material that I rescued from the landfill during my employment in “the fashion industry”. I worked as a sample-cutter in the sewing room of a large corporation for about a year and a half. Each garment that was designed for this company required several pre-production samples in order to pass muster, before being manufactured in China. Hence there was a lot of waste, and this sewing-room went through a lot of fabric.

At one point I decided to tuck away scrap pieces of fabrics to take home, rather than throw into the trash. The company had a lip-service “Green” policy, in that they put up dozens of posters encouraging staff to use only one paper-towel when drying their hands in the washroom. I reasoned with myself that if I should get in trouble for taking trash away from the company, that I could plead “Logic” and win. I could point out the blatant irony of all those posters, asking that people save little pieces of paper, while in the meantime we tossed out what amounted to sheets of fabric every day. As it turned out, I didn’t need to plead anything because shortly thereafter I quit.

it began... and one day it shall end.

It didn’t take long for me to amass a big sack of scrap t-shirt material at home, and I began braiding pieces together. I would just cut about an inch-wide strip, tie similar-toned pieces together, and then braid. I made several meters of braided t-shirt material. This was the easy, fun, simple, relaxing part of the craft. The more difficult task was in sewing it all together. I basically just began to wind the braid around itself on a table, stitching as I went, on one (the ugly) side. I would tuck the tied ends to the ugly side, to make sure it looked good on the top side. Of course when I began, it grew very quickly so I felt motivated and satisfied. As the circumference of the circle expanded, though, it was slower work. This is why the project remains unfinished. At the moment it exists as a sort of “decoration” in my home rather than an actual rug.

branching out... something other than a circle to stave off boredom

I do like the idea of making something out of nothing, though, and I consider this rug to be a potential Family Heirloom. In a while perhaps I’ll share with you a photograph or two of myself doing yoga on this rug, or of my cat sitting on it and staring at the wall…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Canadian Santa Claus drawing from 1875

Santa seems to be reminding us that sharing is one of the most important things to do during Christmas

When the heat of the season is upon us, there are a few ways we stay cool.

Break it down into little tasks. Decide to do a couple things every day and stick to that.

Be realistic as to what you can accomplish in a particular time-frame. It might be lovely to have a home bedecked with every imaginable DIY project out there, but if it is a total stress to accomplish, is it really worth it in the end?  A few branches and a couple candles are great seasonal décor items that require minimal effort to put together.  One plate of freshly homemade cookies (or choco-almo date balls) is always impressive.

Take time to relax. Take a bath, listen to relaxing music, watch your favourite seasonal movies or go out to dance.

Make more time for yourself and drop some things off “the to-do list”. Do I really need to make THAT many types of cookies? Do my guests care if my bathtub is sparkling or not?

Cook simply, for example soups and wraps.  Even if I am making the full traditional Christmas lunch, I try to prepare some things ahead of time so that I am not overwhelmed on the day when everyone is together in my home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Working together can be part of the celebration.

Keep your regular routines in place, but spice it up here and there whenever it will be fun to do so! For example, if you really want to make reindeer-shaped pancakes, then do it! However if “everyone expects” you to make reindeer-shaped pancakes and you’re not feeling up to it, then do something from your “Christmas Fun List” when you do feel so inspired.  These activities and projects can be enjoyable, enlivening processes that help us find joy in the dark of winter.  If it is not, don’t do it.

Know that it’s not all going to be ruined if everything is not in place. It will be ruined if you have a nervous breakdown.

Stick to a budget. It is obvious that dealing with outrageous credit card bills in January, while trudging through the dark of winter, will not be pretty.  Everyone will still love you even if they don’t receive gifts that are completely beyond your budget.

Order things online. For example, we can order things online through Etsy and send them to loved ones.  Easy-peasy stress free gift giving.

If you are feeling emotionally frazzled, take a break from sugar, alcohol, grains containing gluten and dairy. Buy a big bunch of kale, some brown rice and the protein of your choice.  I know that this is the last thing we want to hear right now, but sitting down to simple meals helps to create peace.

We take time to chat with friends. Calling up a therapist can also be a good idea.

Take it outside. Take a walk after meals, go skating, go skiing.  Get a good dose of fresh air and take the time to exercise every day.

If you can, Don’t Drive. Notice how coo-coo it is out there right now? Avoid being outside during rush hours.

Try some fun things that could become new traditions… an example: three of my family members would go to Mass on Christmas eve. Two of us would not. My brother and I would make healthy pizzas while everyone else was away, play Beatles music very loudly and sing along, do our own thing. Then when everyone else came back, the music would change to soft carols, and we’d all share a nice supper together. My brother and I were assigned a task: “Make Supper” but it was made to be fun.

The last entry reminds me of that Dar Williams song, The Christians and the Pagans.  Taking on others and their religious expression, choice of profession, lifestyle, political leanings, etc., during the holiday creates a great deal of stress.  While being gracious towards others tends to be perceived as near-miraculous, often it can help a great deal in reducing stress.

Write a letter to Santa.

Two words: Take Out.

One word: Yoga.

Natasha Henderson and Tammy Schmidt, keeping the stress to a minimum in Montreal.

Thanks, Natasha, for sharing your experience with getting active and staying in shape.  Since my experience is somewhat similar, I want share it.  When I moved to the big city of Montreal, things changed a great deal for me as well.  I no longer drove a car as much.  In fact I don’t own one!  If I need something these days, I simply walk to pick it up and then carry it home.  If I need to get somewhere further away, I walk a couple blocks and then take the metro.  All of this walking adds up to a lot more exercise in my life.

Unfortunately, all the tempting foods Montreal has to offer definitely add up.  It seems like every few blocks there is a shop with beautiful croissants, wines or cheeses. La vie est belle!

At some point, I realized that walking was not enough exercise for me. And so, I tried the running thing.  I loved being outside, but I didn’t stick to the plan.  My next idea was to join a gym.  Gyms are practical because they are not at the mercy of the weather. Plus, ‘plans’ and gyms go hand-in-hand.

I decided to join a Y (remember the old YMCA?). I thought that the Y would be right for me. When I first joined, I was actually intimidated by all of it.

Luckily, there are two parts to the gym.  The large weight training gym is super-serious: clanging metal, grunts and grimaces, the thunder of weights dropping to the floor, people whacking punching bags and cold looks and struts from muscle bound folks.  I did not feel like I belonged there.  The second, smaller weight-training gym is plus chill. There are only machines and hardly any free-weights to throw around. The people there want to work out, but in a chill setting.

I went to the chill gym, worked out on the elliptical machine, did a few weights, maybe ran a little. That was it.  I would sign up for 40 minutes of elliptical. My legs moved round and round, my arms back and forth, all on one spot. To make things interesting for myself, I would make my legs move in a backwards motion.  Ooooo.  Side-to-side was not an option. There was no interaction with others when I went to this gym. It was too chill! I felt like there was no care or concern for anyone in the room.  The whole thing was impossible without my Ipod!    I thought this is what people were supposed to do: suffer and then reap the benefits.  In my mind, I was there to burn calories.  It all boiled down to simple math: calories in, calories out.  One expends calories while clocking hours on the machines at the gym.  I did this like a hamster on a wheel for over a year!  How boring!!!

Then, I had some major life changes. I needed to switch it up.  Without getting into the details, life was telling me to take new paths and focus on what I really want. Now!  I was afraid to go to the classes.  All of my excuses were lame; what if I can’t do it? What if I look stupid? What if I don’t know anyone? What if etc.?   The need to change gave me courage. I ended up taking all the classes I had been missing out on.  I tried everything I wanted to try!  Cardio Cycling, Cuban Salsa, Yoga, Pilates, Pilates on the Ball, Classical Stretch, African Dances, Latin DancesBelly Dancing, Bollywood Bhangra, Dance Cardio, Zumba, even Hip Hop!  I think it is amazing that we have so many classes in one Y!

In the first Cuban Salsa classes I was stepping on other people’s feet.  Part of the hilariousness of it all was that I was trying to do dance moves with huge shoes built for stability while running and not for fancy foot work in a salsa class!  Talk about embarrassing!  It was seriously hard to keep up and get the routines.  I initially gave myself little anti-pep talks.  “Tammy, you might like dancing, but kid, you might never really dance.”  I was starting from the very beginning.  I had to attend five classes before I could do anything that even resembled dance.  The shoes probably didn’t help!  Through all of this, I discovered that movement was so much more than the simple math of calorie-burning.

I feel like  my plan has evolved past calories in, calories out.  I am continuing with dance classes, classical stretch and yoga classes.  I stick to it because these classes offer more than an elliptical machine could.  This is not to say that I will never set my feet on a treadmill or elliptical trainer again.  They just aren’t a part of my ‘plan’ anymore.

I love my plan. First of all, I like the social aspect.  In only a few weeks I met people who have become some of my best friends.  It’s easy to go to class if I know that I will see my friends there.  Not only that, I am being led by inspiring athletes that encourage me to go for it.  I feel very lucky to have met such people so committed to and excelling in their interests.  Trust me, this really helps me stick with my plan.  Secondly, it is personal.  I work through a great deal of emotional tangles when I move my body.  I work through issues of the ego; I let go of comparisons and I re-learn important life lessons (like, practice generally pays off!).  I experiment with new ways of approaching the world with confidence.  If I know it, I try to own it.  My plan is a work in progress.

While claims are made about how exercise is  a great way to balance moods and reduce seasonal blues, I believe that there is a particular joy that comes with dance.  It is fun to know how to dance, right party people?  And I have never felt so relaxed than after a yoga class.  I think that learning routines – some of which are based upon very old dances and yoga poses – is good for my brain and my body.  I feel like I am becoming more centred through all of this both personally and socially.  My simple plan to “get some exercise” in a social setting helps me widen my connectedness to the world. This lets me approach the world in totally new ways.

Why have these yoga poses and dances stood the test of time?  One day it just struck me; I had an epiphany about that very question.  Herbalists have many plant remedies that help to break up various forms of stagnation in the body, from the lymphatic system, to the respiratory system to the circulatory system to the digestive and reproductive systems.  My epiphany was that movement in these particular classes are just as important for breaking up stagnation.  It is good for you!  Even from an herbalist’s perspective!  When I shared this with my dance teacher she exclaimed emphatically, “Of course, the body was meant to MOVE!”

Yeah, it is as simple as that.  No matter what, we need to move.

By: Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

%d bloggers like this: