Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My dad just sent me this fabulous video... The Rant of the Cellist

I played cello for 7 years growing up, and remember complaining endlessly about this piece. Thank you Rob Paravonian, you speak for us all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

check out obama's speech!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The 2nd Niyama: Santosa
Santosa is a really important Niyama for me to work on. My affirmation for Santosa was “I focus on the positive and express my gratitude openly and often.” I found myself reflecting on how in our society we (I certainly do this) think we are entitled to a lot. In fact North American’s are less than 10% of the world population, yet we consume more resources than any other continent. Canadian consume more energy per capita than any other country! (We, in Canadians and Americans, are also the largest emitters of green house gases). Although these sorts of statistics seem to be fairly widespread knowledge, most North Americans don’t question them much or think about how they could make things different.
To me, Santosa is about being grateful with what we have and starting to question this sense of entitlement. And for me this questioning has led me to work to find ways to be content with less. Wanting less, not more, is particularly hard right now around the holidays when we’re bombarded with consumerism and encouragement to want want want and buy buy buy. I already realize that I don’t need many of the things I want, I could happily live without them. Realizing this is a first step, but letting go of the want is another step. When I spend more time meditating and doing yoga I notice that this wanting is less dominant than when I spend lots of time watching/interacting with the media on tv and internet. Also when I make an effort to express gratitude it reminds of how blessed I actually am, and that makes me feel more content and less wanting. This also applies to non-material goals. I am full of wants for my future: academic goals, dreams for my career, for a home, for a family someday. Often these dreams take me away from being contended with the present moment. I strive to reach these dreams so much that I forget that what really matters is my happiness and the effect I’m having around me in this present. The main determinant of my future happiness won’t be endlessly worrying about it and preparing for it, but rather learning to be content with where I am in each present moment.
(note: Santosa can alternatively be spelled 'Santosha' or 'Samtosha')

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Wheel of Yoga: Many Paths to Enlightenment

Yoga can be illustrated as a wheel. The tire, encircling the spokes, are the yamas and niyamas. The wheel has eight spokes which are the different paths of yoga: Hatha, Raja, Jnana, Karma and Bhakti. The hub of the wheel is transcendence or enlightenment. This is similar to my view that all religious paths lead to the same God. God is to big to fit into one religion, many paths to see and und. Likewise, there are many paths to follow towards enlightenment.
The path of Raja-Yoga embraces meditation and contemplation. Raja means royal. Its goal is to train the mind to concentrate deeply, and learn to discover the innermost depth of out minds. Eventually it leads towards the discovery of transcendental Reality that is beyond thought. Raja-Yoga is a dualist path which distinguishes many transcendental Selves and Nature.
Jnana means knowledge, insight or wisdom. Jnana-Yoga is nondualistic. It is not the worship of a God outside of oneself, but rather the development of wisdom to encounter and see the divine within. The path to enlightenment through Jnana-Yoga follows for steps:
1. discernment and constant practice of seeing the ever-changing world as it is
2. renunciation and engaging in action without expecting reward
3. the six accomplishments: tranquility/calmness, sense-restraint, abstention of activities that don’t maintain the body or lead to enlightenment, endurance, mental concentration, and faith
4. the urge towards liberation, desire for enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
I identify with Jnana-Yoga’s non-dualistic views more so that Raja-Yoga. Raja-Yoga is dualistic in that is sees the Divine Self as separate from Nature. I believe that the divine is animate in all forms of life, in the trees, the rocks, the stars, and in each and every person on earth.
Hatha-Yoga’s goal is the same, to transcend the ego. Hatha-Yoga however, focuses intensely on developing the body’s potential, “so that the body can withstand the onslaught of transcendental realization” (Feuerstein pg. 29). It is necessary that the body is strong because transcendental states are understood in Hatha-Yoga to have a profound effect on the body, particularly the nervous system. Underlying Hatha-Yoga is the belief that by embodying the divine, in our physically and mentally, we get closer to it. One of the dangers of Hatha-Yoga is to become overly focused and narcissistic regarding the body. It is necessary to always keep in mind the purpose of improving the body: to embody the divine, not to attain some sort of human standard of perfection.
Hatha-Yoga advocates “integralism,” which means that we do not withdraw from life, but rather live fully in it in order to gain enlightenment. This is something that I identify strongly and this path comes to me most naturally. I find my body to be one of the best ways through which to understand, feel, and learn to honour my spirituality. The body’s intricacy and evolution is completely astonishing to me. The way that I breath, my heart beats without me having to do anything is a metaphor for the way that the divine works in our lives, the way the life-force flows effortlessly. But I do also believe that we can become more skilful at navigating this flow of the divine, and learn to channel it in beneficial ways.
Bhakti-yoga is also dualistic in nature. Bhakti means devotion, love or supreme attachment to the lord. In Raja-Yoga the focus is on enlightenment through the cultivation of the mind. In Bhakti-Yoga the focus is on expressing love, devotion and faith to the Lord. This can be expressed through many means such as chanting songs of praise, ceremonial workshop, ritual, prostration. To reach enlightenment, the worshiper enters into the immortal body of the divine in “self-offering/self transcendence.” I do not identify so strongly with this path as others, especially because I disagree with dualism. I do however, love some aspects of it and feel that they bring me closer to God. I am especially learning love chanting and the way that this quiets my mind and helped me peaceful and protected.
Karma-Yoga means freedom in action, it is “Yoga of Action.” In Karma-Yoga the practitioner transcends the ego through selfless service. The idea behind Karma-Yoga is that we are the intention behind our action. So to reach enlightenment we must make every action a sacrifice to God. Gandhi or Saint Mother Teresa are humans who I believe demonstrate true Karma-Yoga. I appreciate the way that in Karma-Yoga we assume responsibility for our destiny. Everything, every obstacle, triumph, pain or love we encounter in this lifetime happens because it is part of our Karma to learn and be shaped by it. I strongly identify with Karma-Yoga. I believe that all beings are divine. By caring, loving, and serving for others (including people, animals, the environment) I am manifesting my care, love and service to God.
I don’t think it is necessary to follow only one path of yoga. For me, Hatha-Yoga and Karma-Yoga feel most natural. However, I think it is also important for me to practice the more introspective path of Jnana-Yoga that emphasizes meditation and cultivation of wisdom as well.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Intro to Pranayama

Anusara yoga is rooted in Tantric philosophy that looks for the good in all things. It is accepting things as they are and then responding with love (to paraphrase John Friend). This viewpoint underlies they way that we see pranayama. Prana, in Sanskrit, means life force that animates all things. Prana can be seen as manifesting in the breath. Yama means restraints or control, so together the word pranayama is sometimes understood to mean control of the life force. Alternatively pranayama could be broken to the too root words prana and ayama. Ayama means to lengthen, stretch or extend, so with using these two root words pranayama means extending and freeing the life force. Doug Keller explains that we can control prana no more than we sit in a rowboat and move the ocean with our paddle. But floating on the ocean of prana we can navigate our way thorough its currents. Some schools of yoga see prana as dangerous and so powerful it may harm us, therefore prana must be controlled so as to not harm. In Anusara we recognize that all is divine and good, including ourselves. We are not separate from prana, it is part of us, so it cannot harm us.
Pranayama, more specifically, is used to refers to conscious expansion of our natural capacity for breathing. There are many forms and techniques of pranayama, or patterns of breathing that are consciously engaged for a period of time. The three most basic forms are Full Yogic Breath, and Ujjayi. They both build upon the natural breath.
Many people breath shallowly, overusing our chest, neck and shoulder muscles rather than the diaphragm. When stress is frequent, this can quickly become a habitual way of breathing, even when a person is not under stress. This is a learned habit, no the natural way of breathing. Natural Breath is breathing fully, starting in lower diaphragm (belly and lower ribs). With this breath the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and it helps the body and mind to relax. Once diaphragmatic breathing is mastered, students can move to full yogic breath, where breath is even and full through the three distinct areas of the torso: belly/diaphragm, mid-chest, and upper chest.
These are the step for Full Yogic Breath:
• To begin, learn to breath into the 3 distinct regions where the breath flows.
1. Bring your hands to rest gently on your belly. Invite the breath to flow all the way down into the hands. Feel the diaphragm expand downwards into the hands with each inhale and contract upwards with each exhale.2. Place the hands on the lower ribs, with the thumbs hooked around towards the back and the fingers spread wide. Feel the ribs expand to the sides and into the hands on the inhale and soften inwards and down on the exhale.
3. Hook the thumbs under the armpits and rest the hands on the upper chest. Feel the chest and collarbones rise on the inhale, and soften downwards on the exhale.
• Practice inviting the breath into each region individually, when you feel comfortable with this, link the three together for the Full Yogic Breath:
• Inhale expand the breath into the belly, continue to expand into the lower ribs, and then all they way up to the collar bones.
• Exhale, draw the belly inwards, the ribs soften down and the collar bones soften downwards.

Ujjayi means “victory from expansion.” Ujjayi breathing is a type of pranayama in itself and is incorporated into other forms of pranayama. Ujjayi breath is characterized by its sound and by its evenness of flow from beginning to end. The ujjayi sound is made by toning the epiglottis in the throat. It is made as if you were making a “haaa” sound to fog up a mirror, but through the nose rather than the mouth. In addition to feeling the evenness of inhale and exhale, with the ujjayi sound you can hear it as well. The softness of the ujjayi sound is calming and in itself can be used as a manta, as a point of focus to take us deeper into meditation. As Doug Keller eloquently explains, “When we focus on the breath, we are listening to and contemplating the true nature of Consciousness as it is spoken through the breath.”
Meditation practice: Describe your meditation practice and what you have learned about yourself through this practice. Of the possible Distractions and Obstacles that hinder the aspirant’s practice of Yoga, which of these challenges do you find most resonates with you and why?

My feelings about meditation are very similar to common sentiment of going to the dentist. I dread it, avoid it, resist it. But doesn’t it feel good to roll your tongue over those smooth, freshly cleaned teeth? Experienced mediators crave meditation; they talk of feelings of deep inner peace it gives them, of nirvana and spiritual ecstasy. I definitely don’t crave meditation yet, but I have an idea of this peaceful feeling. I obtain the feeling about 20% of the time when I meditate. The other 80% of the time I am frustrated, scattered, annoyed. But the chance of the entering into that mental state, where my mind stops churning like a windmill on the prairies, where my body is filled with warmth all the way to my finger tips and toes, where my mind and body both become so still that I can float above them observing from a distance. This is why I am not going to give up on meditation. And the fact that it’s so hard, that I resist it so much is exactly why I need it.
For me it’s still about the end results, going back to the dentist metaphor here, it’s about that clean feeling afterwards. Most of the during is quite uncomfortable, but I do notice a difference in how I feel afterwards. Its like my metatarsals have sprouted roots into some deep warm earth, and my whole body feels giving, heavy and soft. Eventually, I want it all to feel blissful, not just at the end, not just sometimes. Probably unrealistic, and boy to I have a long way to go. We are working with some ADHD here you know.
Many of the common hindrances to meditation are affecting me. My meditation schedule is not very regular because I have a different school schedule each day. This will improve next semester however, when I have no morning classes (So I can always do meditation and yoga as part of my morning routine). I also don’t have a special room to practice in away from noise from the kitchen and living room. These are more obvious hindrances. On a subtler level I am dealing with hindrances of doubt, the desire to talk too much, laziness and aversion from unpleasant feelings (Dvesha).
What I’m learning in meditation is patience, something that the society I live in doesn’t facilitate very nicely. I’m learning that I have weaknesses, that I have anxiety, that I’m not that totally zen yoga teacher that I’d like to project an image of. But I am me, and me now has come a long way since the days in high school when I was on Ritalin and antidepressants. I’ll stick with it (meditation) and I’ll try to spend less time resisting and more time doing, because how much further I have to go is far, inside.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Five Principles of Sivananda Yoga: Explain how does each principle affects and/or supports the other.

The five principles of Sivananda yoga are: right exercise, right breathing, right diet, right mind and meditation, and right relaxation. These five principles are closely interrelated and build upon one another. To me right exercise means regular asana practice (at least 6 days a week) that works all areas of the body including the cardiovascular system, lymphatic system, nervous system and muscular system. Yoga opens up my body and prepares it to receive the breath.
Right breath means that I’m breathing fully and evenly using my diaphragm not just the chest. I find it important for my breathing and for my mental state that I get fresh air every day, rain or shine. I try and walk several kilometres a day. Walking is a form of right exercise and also works my muscular and cardiovascular system. By walking outside I get plenty of fresh air to breath and my lungs feel clean after a walk. Walking can also be a form of meditation and right mind for me. I use the time when I’m walking to and from school to repeat mantras, sing chants and just clear and calm my mind. Meditation is also important for me calming and quieting my mind, and improving concentration. At this time in my practice I find it useful to have a point to meditation on, and that is often the breath. I do this by counting my breaths and practicing different forms of pranayama.
Through right diet the body is nourished for exercise. For me, right diet means following a vegetarian diet with only small amounts of dairy and sugars, no wheat or corn. I staying away from these foods that my body doesn’t digest well and chose whole ancient grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. Eating this way, I have more energy because my body doesn’t have to put so much into breaking down the foods that are difficult for it to digest. Right diet also means drinking plenty of water, often with lemon juice added, and herbal teas. Herbal teas help me to calm my mind for meditation and also to relax.
Right relaxation is the most difficult of the 5 principles for me. I tend to become wound up and anxious easily. I need to constantly remind myself to let my jaw and muscles of my neck and shoulders soften and relax. This tension is worst when I haven’t done enough yoga or had fresh air, when I eat too much sugar or caffeine, and my breathing is in my chest rather than full belly breathing. Through yoga, full yogic breathing, meditation and right diet I am able to assume a relaxed state more easily. Relaxation in turn helps my mind quite, my body be more open, and my body more able assimilate the nutritious food I eat.
Last day of classes today! So I've finished university work until my only exam on the 18th. This means I've got lots of time to finish up all my Yoga Teacher Training assignments and get my full certification. I'll try to post them as I finish each one for your reading pleasure. Feel free to ignore my blog for a few weeks if you're sick and tired of all this yoga stuff!
1. Eight Limbs: In your own words, explain each of the Eight Limbs, and how each limb affects and/or supports the other.
The Eight Limbs where recorded by Patanjali sometime between 150-200 AD. Eight Limbs comes from the translation of the Sanskrit word Ashtanga. The limbs, if followed in order, are a guide to attain enlightenment.
1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyahara
6. Dharana
7. Dhyana
8. Samadi

Yama, the first limb, are ethical guidelines or moral commandments that pertain to an individual’s relationship to their environment. They are:
1. Ahimsa: non-harming, non-violence
2. Satya: truthfulness in word, thought and deed
3. Asteya: non-stealing
4. Bramancharya: moderation in all things
5. Aparigraha- non-coveting, non-possessiveness
The yamas facilitate an orderly society, and by following the yamas a person can overcome the lower, more animal natural state and be at peace in their relationships with others and begin the journey towards inner peace. R
The Niyama, with means self-purification by discipline, are the second limb. There are also 5 Niyamas:
1. Saucha: purity
2. Santosha: contentment
3. Tapas: burning desire
4. Svadhyaya: self-study
5. Isvara Pranidhana: dedication to the divine, making everything an offering to the divine.
The niyamas build on the yamas, giving the individual restraints/ethical guidelines in relating to themselves. The Niyamas start with purification of the body and mind (saucha), then move on to focus on contentment (santosa), so that the mind is free and can focus on knowing the love of the divine and the burning desire to unite with the divine (Tapas). Next is svadyaya which is study of the self which is exploring the widsomd and divinity within, and also study of sacred texts that can help us better understand this divinity. Last of the niyamas is Isvara Pranidhana which means dedication and offering to the divine. In Anusara we believe that all is divine, so this means that we are dedicated to all we do in life, and everything we do in life becomes an offering to god.
We practice the yamas and niyamas before asana (physical postures) because when we come to the mat we want to come to the mat with pure minds and pure hearts so that we can fulfil our highest intention in the physical practice (“Don’t bring your shit to the mat”). John Friend once said that when we practice you to fulfill one of two intentions: either to help us recognize the divine with in us or to celebrate that divinity. Asana is just one piece of the puzzle that is enlightenment. Often in western culture we get stuck on asana and never move beyond it. Our asana practice we tone our minds and bodies and is very important, but we must also practice the other Eight Limbs. Asana opens out bodies and makes them ready to practice pranayama.
Pranayama is the rhythmic extension of the breath. In some styles of yoga it is a very controlled approach to breathing. In Anusara we like to think of pranayama as expansion and the emphasis is on more passively welcoming the breath in rather than controlling it so rigidly. Pranayama helps us to purify the energies in the body and purify the mental state, so in that way it is an extension of the niyamas and asana. With pranayama the yoginis breath and mind become one, and it brings her towards the next limb.
The 5th limb is Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior distraction. The senses are free the mind is completely turned inward. In this place, the yogini can move towards Dharana, which is concentration. In Dharana, attention is focused on a single point. Dharana is not concentration for its own sake, but rather this single point of concentration must be purely centred on the divine. To maintain this focus the yogini concentrates on AUM, which is the symbol of universal oneness.
When concentration is sustained it becomes Dhyana, or meditation. When the mind is continuously focused on divinity it transforms to be the likeness of its focus. In dhyana the mind is illuminated like the sun in a cloudless sky. Through profound meditation (Dhyana), Samadi or enlightenment is reached. Samadi is a state of super-consciousness where the self becomes one with the Universal spirit. In this state, the yogini is fully awake and alert, yet she has risen beyond consciousness. There is no “I” or “me”, the yogini is one with the divine in a state of enlightenment. The eight limbs build on one another as a guide to help the yogini progress towards enlightenment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

only one more paper and 2 tests to go!

Here's a paper i just finished for my women and contemporary health class. skim it if you're interested in yoga and mental health...

(note-i'll try to post the appendix one of these days)

Yoga: A Prescription for Anxiety and Depression

A 2002 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that twenty percent of Canadians experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Due to this high prevalence, nearly all Canadians are affected by mental illness in some way: themselves, a family member, friend, or colleague. The study defines mental illness as “alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning” (Public Health Agency, 2002). This paper will focus on two of the most common mental health issues, depression and anxiety. I will explore how these issues are of importance to women’s health, share why the issue is of particular personal interest to me, and offer an argument for the application of yoga as a solution in treatment of depression and anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illness, affecting 12% of the population (Public Health Agency, 2002). There are a number of anxiety disorders. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about events and activities that occurs more days than not for a period of at least six months. Other anxiety disorders include Specific Phobia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorder. Symptoms related to anxiety disorders include fatigue and poor concentration, palpitations, sweating, gastrointestinal discomfort, and in the more serious cases, Panic Attacks (Public, 2002).
Depression is the second most common mental illness in Canada. Eight percent of adults experience a major depression at some point in their lives (Public, 2002). Some common symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness, sadness and emptiness, poor concentration, loss of interest in normal activities, change in appetite and sleep patterns, decreased sexual desire and decreased energy (Public Health Agency, 2002). Depression can occur at any age, but often appears in adolescence or young adulthood.
The Public Health Agency study explains that research consistently documents rates of depression in women to be twice as high as in men. Another study by Klerman and Weissman found that the risk of depression is consistently two to three times higher among women than among men in all age groups (1989). In 1999 women were hospitalized for anxiety disorders at higher rates than men in all age groups (Public, 2002). There are many possible explanations for the higher prevalence. Some explanations are different biological and social risk factors such as the major hormonal and identity changes that occur throughout the female lifecycle through menarche, childbirth and menopause. Another explanation is that women maybe more likely than men to seek help, so that depression and anxiety in males more often goes undetected.
Whatever the cause for higher prevalence in women, depression and anxiety are of critical importance for studies of women and health. With rates of anxiety and depression so high, the detriments to society are great. Mental illness is costly to individuals, families, the health care system and entire communities. The Public Health Agency study estimates that the economic cost of mental illness was over seven billion dollars in 1993 in health care costs and lost productivity (Public, 2002). Additionally, mental illness can increase chances of other physical illnesses. Prevention and treatment of mental illness should be addressed on a wider scale, beyond just the mainstream medical profession and within the support of whole communities.
There are many complimentary and alternative treatments available for treatment of mental illness. These treatments can be taken alongside conventional medical treatments (pharmacotherapy) or as an alternative for those with milder cases who wish to avoid drug therapies. Some options include psychotherapy and counselling, biofeedback, naturopathy, acupuncture, reiki, and yoga.
Many Canadians associate yoga with the popularized styles of Bikram, Moksha and Power Yoga that focus primarily on a vigorous physical practice. Yoga has much more to offer than an intense workout. Other styles of yoga, such as Iyengar and Anusara, incorporate conscious breathing (pranayama), meditation, and emphasize the therapeutic benefits of physical postures (asanas). It is the Iyengar and Anusara methods that I will be referring to when I use the term “yoga” throughout the remainder of this paper. Iyengar Yoga is a system developed by master B.K.S. Iyengar. It is a form of Hatha Yoga that emphases correct alignment of the body in asanas and is known for its use of props to safely support beginning students. Anusara, which means, “flowing with grace,” is a method of yoga founded by John Friend. It stems from Iyengar’s teachings and similarly emphasizes alignment and the therapeutic benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally. Both Iyengar and Anusara Yoga incorporate pranayama (yogic breathing), but they do so gradually as the body becomes more open.
The therapeutic application of yoga in treating depression and anxiety is of personal interest and concern to me for a number of reasons. I struggled with both anxiety and depression throughout my adolescence and into early adulthood. Yoga has been an important practice for me in dealing with both mental illnesses. I used prescription medications to deal with these illnesses for many years as well as some periods of psychological counselling. These were sufficient treatments, but neither helped me to recover. It is through my practice of yoga, which I continue to do daily, that I no longer need these medications.
In the summer of 2008 I completed my yoga teacher training, based in the Anusara method, and I am now a Certified Hatha Yoga Teacher. During my teacher training I met a number of women who have also dealt with periods of anxiety and depression and have found yoga to be incredibly beneficial in dealing with these illnesses and as a means of recovery. Through my own experience, and the stories of these other women I am encouraged by the prospect of using yoga therapeutically in my work as a yoga instructor to compliment conventional medical treatment for depression and anxiety and even as an alternative treatment in more mild cases. The following sections will explain the findings of published, peer-reviewed studies on the efficacy of yoga in treating mental illness. I will supplement these findings with anecdotal evidence from my own experience and those of my colleagues.
Michalsen et al’s (2005) study investigates the impacts of Iyengar yoga on women’s levels of stress. In this study 24 self-referred female subjects who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed took bi-weekly Iyengar Yoga classes for three months. The study included only females because women manifest a 50% higher prevalence of “frequent mental distress” than men (Michalsen et al, 2005, 556). The results of the study supported the authors’ hypothesis that the yoga course would “result in a reduction of perceived stress and related symptoms of anxiety and depression…as well as increased emotional and physical well-being.” The classes included asanas (postures) that, according to the Iyengar method, are thought to alleviate stress: backbends, standing poses, forward bends and inversions.
At the beginning of Michalsen et al’s study participants had baseline scores of stress, anxiety and depression that indicated clinically relevant stress. Upon completion of the program there was a 50% and 30% yoga-induced improvement for depression and anxiety respectively. Additionally, overall psychological well being improved significantly, by 65%. There were also many reported physical benefits: lower frequency of back pain, headaches and sleep disturbances (2005, 557-8). These findings are suggestive of the interconnectedness of physical and mental well being. The authors explain, “there is growing evidence that perceived stress has a major impact on the initiation and progression of disease, i.e. cardiovascular disease and chronic pain syndromes” (Michaleson et al. 2005, 559). Lastly, there were no adverse effects associated with yoga for all subjects. In light of the positive effects of Iyengar Yoga on stress levels, yoga could be an important tool in preventative medicine, particularly in preventing anxiety and depression in women. Beyond preventative medicine, yoga may be an important tool in treatment.
“Yoga as Complementary Treatment of Depression” evaluated the effects of yoga on patients taking anti-depressants for a minimum of three months and who were in partial remission (Shapiro et. al, 2007). By partial remission the study means patients had self-reported improvement in depression severity through pharmacotherapy, yet still had residual symptoms of depression. The style of yoga taught to participants was again Iyengar Yoga. Classes were taught three times a week for a period of 8 weeks. The classes emphasized inverted postures, gentle backbends and restorative poses which use props to make the postures more passive and relaxing.
The study found significant immediate changes in mood before and after classes: negative moods decreased, positive moods increased and energy/arousal moods increased (Shapiro et. al, 2007, 6). Further the study found that over the course of the session both pre- and post-class average levels of happiness increased. They found that benefits of yoga were felt class-by-class and accrued over time. Lastly, the study observed that yoga not only affected depression, but also “affected psychological and biological processes indicative of improved mental health in general and more effective social behavior.”
The academic studies reviewed above include relatively short and infrequent yoga practices. Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression, and one of the leading practitioners and teachers in the therapeutic use of yoga for depression, explains that you would not take an anti-depressant just once and expect to no longer have symptoms. For yoga to have a significant and lasting effect it should be done regularly. Weintraub suggests, “the very commitment to practice can begin to diminish depressive symptoms” (2004, 59). Unlike using pharmacotherapy, when a woman who is experiencing mental illness practices regularly she is becoming “actively involved in the healing process.” In this she gains a sense of self-determination, which, Weintraub claims, has been proven to positively affect recovery from illness, including depression (2004, 60).
Anna*, who has suffered from anxiety disorders and specifically from Panic Attacks, found regular practice to be important in maintaining her mental health: “Whenever I feel angry or depressed I know its because I haven’t practiced in a while so I have to practice to feel better. Practicing asanas definitely releases tensions and makes me happier” (A.E., personal communication, Nov. 9, 2008) (*names changed for confidentiality). She also explained that whereas medications and counselling help in the short term, “yoga helps in the long term, not only temporarily.” Nancy*, who has also suffered from Panic Attacks concurs that regularity of practice has been vital to her recovery, “What really changed for me was when I started to do more yoga regularly at home.” In addition to yoga, Nancy sought the help of her family doctor, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, an Osteopath, and a Reiki therapist. She found, “The other medical interventions helped me maybe at 30% but yoga helped me at 70%. Yoga is a tool for everyone to do at their home, in their car, at work… every time they feel the anxiety coming, they can control it.”
A number of studies have show that yoga creates short-term biochemical changes in the brain, for example in cortisol levels (Weintraub 2004, 59; Michalesen et. al 2005). Weintraub explains that over time, these short-term changes build up and cause long-term biochemical changes (62). Over time and regular practice, yoga asanas target the major glands in the body. The hormones in these glands are in part responsible for moods and modes of thinking. Asanas thought to be particularly effective in targeting the master glands (pineal, hypothalamus and pituitary), which naturally stimulate the body and mind, will be examined in following sections and in the appendix.
The evidence of yoga’s success in treatment of mental illness is substantial. Shapiro et al conclude that yoga, as an intervention for depression, is both cost effective and easy to implement (2007, 9). There are a growing number of yoga professionals practicing “Yoga Therapy”. Yoga Therapy is an emerging field of practices that use yoga to prevent, reduce and alleviate mental and physical illness. Practitioners work one-on-one or in group settings, teaching clients how to use yoga postures, breath and meditation to promote healing. There is a need for greater regulation of Yoga Therapy through a professional organization and potentially the government in order to make practitioners more accountable and credible. The International Association of Yoga Therapists is a non-profit organization that promotes Yoga Therapy, but is not a regulating body in itself. An article on their site argues that without high standards for practitioners, therapeutic applications of yoga will be marginalized (Kepner et al, 2004).
In Quebec, some progress has been made in terms of making Yoga Therapy a more credible and accessible form of complimentary care. Heaven on Earth Yoga Institute of Montreal has a training program for Yoga Therapy. After completion of the program, which requires over 500-hours of study in yoga pedagogy and yoga’s therapeutic applications, graduates can register with the Association of Naturotherapists of Quebec (ANQ). By registering with the ANQ, Yoga Therapists in Quebec can give insurance receipts to clients, much like a massage therapist.
Yoga’s effectiveness in treating mental illness is already reasonably well documented. The next step is to regulate the profession in a way that Yoga Therapists are seen as credible by the medical mental health profession so that doctors, psychologists and therapists may refer patients to Yoga Therapists. In addition to one-on-one work between Yoga Therapists and clients suffering from mental illness, yoga classes targeted to those suffering from depression and anxiety should be offered in mental health centres, hospitals, schools, and local yoga studios. A study conducted with 113 psychiatric inpatients at a New Hampshire hospital found yoga to be a useful way to improve mood and reduce stress during inpatient psychiatric treatment (Lavey et al, 2005). Classes targeted towards specific mental illnesses would also potentially provide a safe place for social support from people sharing similar experiences.
This final section will provide an explanation of what yogic techniques are most relevant for dealing with mental illness. In Michalsen’s et al (2005) study the classes focused on back bends, standing poses, forward bends and inversions. Back bends open the chest and improve posture. Often the posture of a person suffering from depression is hunched over. We often embody our mental state through our posture, so addressing muscular patterns in our posture may positively affect mood (Weintraub 2004, 67). By opening and expanding the chest through backbends, the mental state may follow becoming more open and receptive. I would recommend only gentle and more passive backbends in the beginning (Appendix, 5). Especially if a client is dealing with anxiety, the openness of backbends can make students feel vulnerable and much emotion can arise. Standing poses such as the Warrior series help students to cultivate balance and courage both physically and mentally (Appendix, 4). Instructing students to embody someone courageous helps them start to open to this possibility for themselves.
Inversions are perhaps the most important posture for people suffering from depression. Inversions are poses like Handstand, Shoulderstand, and Headstand, where the body is turned upside down. Weintraub explains that inversions increase tone and muscle extension of our postural muscles. So like backbends, inversions support a strong standing posture, which may in turn affect mood (2004, 67). Weintraub also explains a number of other physiological benefits of inversions. When inverted, the blood flow is altered and there is increased blood flow to the brain. The brain is bathed in blood, increasing the availability of oxygen and glucose. Both are important in the creation of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals that greatly affect our moods. All type of inversions can be beneficial for depression and anxiety; however, experienced practitioners have discovered that pressure or stimulation closer to the front of the head (Appendix, 6) may lift a depressive attitude, while pressure on the crown stabilizes the mood in general. Additionally, pressure on the back of the head can be calming and neutralizing, especially beneficial for those suffering from anxiety (Appendix, 7). Inversions are more difficult to practice safely and it is important to learn more difficult inversion poses under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Also, it is important to respect several contra-indications for inversion. Women should not practice them while menstruating, nor should anyone with heart disease or glaucoma (Weintraub 2004, 68).
Forward bends are very useful, particularly for those suffering from anxiety (Appendix, 8). The Women’s Yoga Book explains that forward bends “calm the mind, soothe the nerves, and remove fatigue” (Clennel, 2007, 87). Nancy* explains, “I found it feels better for me and for my mental health if I do lots of forward bending pose, it is more calming and I go deeper into my soul” (N.C., personal communication, Nov. 10, 2008). Nancy also emphasized how much breathing techniques from yoga have helped her deal with anxiety. Julie* who has dealt with an anxiety disorder since her teens explains, “The tool that saved me when learning about yoga was the breathing. When I learned how to breathe and calm my mind I was able to understand and control my anxiety attacks” (J.Y., personal communication, Nov. 14, 2008).
Mindful breathing techniques are an essential part of yoga and may prove to be one of the most useful tools for students working with mental illness. Under stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated (fight or flight response). We start to breath shallowly, overusing our chest, neck and shoulder muscles rather than the diaphragm. When stress is frequent, this can quickly become a habitual way of breathing, even when a person is not under stress. In shallow breathing, too much carbon dioxide is breathed out which changes the chemical make up of our blood and leads to feelings of apprehension and anxiety. This becomes a vicious cycle as the breathing pattern becomes even worse and a panic attack may ensue (Keller, 2003, 20).
By changing their breathing patterns Julie and Nancy found that they could stop a panic attack from developing. By breathing fully, starting in lower diaphragm (belly and lower ribs), the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and it helps the body and mind to relax (Appendix 1-2). Once diaphragmatic breathing is mastered, students can move to full yogic breath, where breath is even and full through the three distinct areas of the torso: belly/diaphragm, mid-chest, and upper chest (Appendix 2). Another technique particularly helpful for dealing with anxiety is counting breaths and making the exhale several counts longer than the inhale. Once experience with full yogic breath is gained, students dealing with depression can work with more energizing techniques such as “breath of joy” (Appendix, 3).
The costs of mental illness are great for individuals, families and society. Given the high rates of anxiety and depression in Canada, particularly among women, mental health care should not be limited to the mainstream medical establishment. Yoga, and particularly Yoga Therapy, is a promising aid for healing from both depression and anxiety. If rigorous professional standards are developed, the value of Yoga Therapy may become more recognized as a mode of complimentary and alternative care. The studies and personal stories recounted in this paper demonstrate that yoga holds great potential in both prevention and treatment of mental illness. Through yoga, I have overcome years of intermittent anxiety and depression. I am now free of prescription medicines to deal with these illnesses. When feelings of anxiety and depression do arise, my strong practice of yoga has given me the tools necessary to deal with these feelings fully and then move on to a more contented mental state.


Clennel, B., (2007). The Woman’s Yoga Book. Berkley: Rodmell Press.

Keller, D., (2003). Refining the Breath (3rd ed.). Do Yoga Productions.

Kepner, J., Knox, H., Lamb, T., & Zador V. (2004). Standards for Yoga Therapists? Retrieved Nov. 10, 2008, from htm?ProfileNumber=&UStatus=&AutoID=&LS=&AM=&Ds=&CI=&AT=&Return=../.. /site_Vx2/about/mission.htm

Klerman, G., & Weissman, M. (1989). Increasing rates of depression. Journal of the American Medical Association, 261, 2229-2235.

Lavey, R., Sherman, T. Mueser, K., Osborn, D., Currier, M., Wolfe, R. (2005). The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 28(4), 399- 402.

Michalsen, A., Grossman, P., Acil, A., Langhorst, J., Ludtke, R., Esch, T., et al, (2005). Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three- month intensive yoga program. Medical science monitor, 11, 555-561.

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2002) A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from

Shapiro, D., Cook, I., Davydov, D. Ottaviani, C. Leuchter, A., & Abrams., Michelle. (2007). Yoga as a Complementary Treatment of Depression: Effects of Traits and Moods on Treatment Outcome. Oxford Journals Online: eCAM. Retrieved Nov. 12, 2008, from

Weintraub, A. (2004). Yoga for Depression. New York: Broadway Books.

(c) 2008 Leena Miller

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tarka Dahl with Butternut Squash

For Dahl, in a large pot simmer:
  • 2 C. red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 C. + butternut squash, chopped in 1cm cubes
  • 1 inch + fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • cover with water
For Tarka, fry in a pan until onions are really sizzling and turning golden on the edges
  • 1/4 C + oil or butter
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
Once the lentils are squash are soft, remove the cinnamon stick, and puree until the squash is blended in. (a hand blender works really well).

Remove the Tarka from the heat, and mix in with the lentils, or you can add it on top as a garnish.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teaching Yoga on Erb...
One of my students gave me really affirming feedback after class today. She said, “I love how your classes are always different, the theme is always new.” This was affirming because its something that I put a lot of effort into when I’m planning my classes. When I plan a class I usually start with a theme, often something that’s been on my mind that week. Then I think of poses and imagery I can use in my instruction that help convey my theme. I want every class to feel fresh, and have a different flavour. (Not just for my students, but also because I would find teaching the same thing every class incredibly dull!).
This week my theme was on community and interconnectedness and I had a lot of fun with it. I started off the class with foot stretching exercises that help you realize how the facia in your feet connect to the rest of you body all the way to the crown of the head. Then I incorporated partner poses through the class. This worked really well because in this class most people know each other a bit. It wouldn’t work in every class, but I think everyone had a lot of fun and helped to support each other in their own growth.
Also, the last two weeks I’ve introduced the Anusara invocation to my students and they’ve been really open and receptive to learning it. I can hear a number of them humming it as they leave. It’s pushed me to my edge and taken me a lot of practice to get over my fear of public signing. Thankfully the room I teach in has wonderful acoustics, and I actually don’t sound too bad.
you can hear the chant below...
Aparigraha: non-attachment

For my practice of the 5th yama, Aparigraha, the affirmation I was working with was “I tap into the endless source of love and wisdom rather than clinging to others and material things for fulfillment.” I feel like I’ve been bombarded with lessons of Aparigraha and the lessons of this affirmation these two weeks. I’ve been conciously working with it in my relationships through setting boundaries and remembering my sense of self. And I’ve been forced to work with it in material things… I happened to lose a couple of random things these two weeks, one of them being my favorite green winter hat. I searched all over for it, and have had to let it go. It served me well and was just material, which can be replaced and no doubt will be. The biggest lesson of Aparigraha has been non-clinging to (and therefore letting go of) worries.

One thing that struck me as I was reading about Aparigraha in the Sutras was Iyengar’s commentary that Aparigraha is not just about non-possession/non-hording of physical things but also of “freedom from rigidity of though”. I had never contemplated how holding onto one’s thoughts, and that ideas can be a form of possessiveness, but I can certainly see the truth in this. Over this lifetime I have developed patterns of thinking and ideas that I have held on to as “truth” that may not be such. And that possessiveness of these thoughts, holding on to these patterns of thinking hold me back from developing spiritually, from loving myself and others fully, from connecting with the divine.

This is particularly true in my clinging to worry or obsessively planning for the future.
Whenever something is unpleasant or frustrating in the present my unconscious reaction is to plan/worry about the future, rather than really experience what is going on in that present moment. I’ve got a long way to go in order to overcome this ingrained pattern, but realizing is one step in the right direction. And spending time doing yoga, returning to my breath, slowing down, is another.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ang just turned me on to Canadian photographer Fred Muram.

I want my audience to experience images and video that can be understood within the context of similar experiences that might have occurred within their own lives. As individuals we share so much in common with other people, but we are isolated within our own minds. There is a disconnectedness created between every individual and their surrounding universe that is fundamentally integrated through that person’s ability to accept sensory information and respond with language.
his series, kissing the ceiling is my favorite. here are a few images.

also love the rug series

and this image "some day i will learn how to use these"

Friday, November 14, 2008

playing anthropologist...

well we're actually busy at work, but it felt like a game! my great friend and favorite classmate MHJ and I have spent the semester of our anthropology research method course working on a project on "green consumerism". we conducted 12 semi-structured interviews on green consumerism and how people construct "green identities". the interviews were extremely interesting and insightful and now we're busy drawing out themes and trying to make meaning of it all. one method for drawing out themes is to pull out interesting quotes from the interviews, cut them all up on paper and then pile sort them into categories and themes.

so that's what we just finished in this pic. we started with 117 quotes, all numbered, and read them aloud to each other and figured out how they went together. we used orange sticky notes to mark different categories/themes. once we'd sorted everything, we typed it all up:

SELF IDENTITY: 7,112,114,4,45,107,117,103,72,78,67,40,83 (others perceptions of you: 64,65,43,44,49,33,20)
- communication of green identity
- education and leading by example: 82,81,100,6,41,106,79,31,17,97,16,109,58
- communication of identity through comparison with others (positive or negative): 30,97,113,91,22,32,55
- lifestyle: 89,11,80,26,28,27,62,99,14,37,92,110,93,71,29,56,74
- motivating factors
- personal experience of nature: 51,53,59
- guilt: 36,118,116,84,96,94,85
- interconnectedness of green and other social issues, social responsibility: 2,12,42, 34,35,38,24,104,111,54,57,108,101,23
- personal responsibility: 5,60,76
- hope: 50
- health: 15
- feel good about green: 25,48,69
- knowledge and research: 68,21,102,18,70
- limiting factors: 88
- money: 75,115,77
- suspicion: 66
- convenience: 63,87,39
- not personal responsibility: 90
- problem of consumerism: 1,3,13,10,19,8,9
- hypocrisy: 95,47,73,86

then we drew flow charts and webs of how themes and ideas related.
pretty cool technique! who knew a research methods course could be so fun? (okay, maybe fun is a bit of a stretch, but it certainly isn't as boring as i had expected).

i'll post an abstract of our paper when we're finished.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

playing with yoga outdoors!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The fourth Yama: Asteya- non stealing
The past few weeks I’ve been working on Asteya. My intention has been, “I only take what is freely given to me, for this is bountiful. Particularly I don’t manipulate conversation for my own gains, or bring unnecessary attention to myself.” This is been the hardest yama for me so far. I am youngest child in my family with only one other sibling who is very quiet and introverted. Growing up I loved being the centre of attention in my family. As I matured, this has also become the case in other social settings, though less so in the past few years. Although I don’t fight to be in the centre of attention as I did when I was young, I am still very assertive, and tend to always have something to say. During the past few weeks I’ve tried to be conscious of when I’m stealing other people’s turn to shine or receive attention. I notice that I do it fairly often, especially in conversation with just a few friends. I’ve been trying to let go of the notion that I always need to say something, and allow others a turn to talk rather than always steering conversation in the direction that I want it to go. I think that this has helped me work on being a better listener. Rather than hearing a few things people say, and then cutting in with my own thoughts, I’ve been really trying to hear people out, and then wait for them to solicit a response from me.
Another thing I have to work on for Asteya is just trusting that there is abundance and I don’t need to spend so much energy and time worrying about money and material things. When I really need something it will find its way, or I’ll find a way to live without it. If you live with the mentality that everything you need is within you and all around you, you don’t have to obsess about these wants and desires, and you can work more at fulfilling my true needs: to reconnect with myself and spirit, to give and receive love, to sleep well, to eat well, and to practice yoga.
Big ol' Batch of Pumpkin Muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
2 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp. or 1 c oil
1 1/8 maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 c chocolate chips (optional)

mix dry ingredients
mix wet ingredients
then mix them together
spoon into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 mins

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

election party!!
keeping tally
4 american girls in canada. hysterically happy!

wow, what a night it was. it is a strange, foreign feeling for me- pride for my country, and even my state!

Monday, November 03, 2008

a couple of montreal comedians prank sarah palin. i can't believe they pulled this off!!

she doesn't even know who the prime minister of canada is! if she gets into office with that f*$%@&# maverick tomorrow i will shit a brick. i've got my fingers crossed so tight for obama they might break.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

thanksgiving weekend
pumpkins at the market
pumpkin pie, 100% from scratch. ok, well i guess it didn't mill the flour, but...

i had a lovely thankgiving. my mom came up to celebrate. We spent saturday shopping at the market, doing yoga in th park, cooking (lentil tortier, pumpkin pies, cranberry salad), eating our hearts out with our guests, and taking a nice long walk.

Sunday afternoon it was at least 70 degrees, and i found a lovely spot in the park to read, nap and do yoga.

i'll post the recipe for the delicious tortier sometime soon!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My dad just sent me this great video... if you care as deeply for sarah palin's health and well-being as i do, you might want to check it out.

Monday, October 06, 2008

October 5, 2008
Today was my first class of my 8-week series- it is full! I’ve got 13 signed up, and we fill the space. Its not too crowded though. I'm renting a nice room from Erb St Church. Good energy and lighting in the room, nice windows on one wall. No props though, so that makes teaching a bit harder, there's just some things, like shoulder stand, you can't do without props.

I was really happy with the way the class went. My theme was intention and I think I did the best I’ve ever done at integrating it throughout the whole class. I started with setting your seat with intention, then read a section from John about intention. Next, I invited everyone to bring to mind an intention for the class, and perhaps the whole session. I kept bringing people to their intention when we would come to the top of the mat or in the middle of poses I would invite people to embody there intention. Before savasana I brought the students into a brief meditation. I asked the students to chose one word that sums up their intention. And then hold it in your mind- like your mind is a laser beam pointing to this one point- your intention. I rang a bell once ever minute to bring students back, to their intention, and then ended with 3 rings after 4 minutes. I had a student come up after and said that this meditation and the way we then transitioned into savasana (reclined relaxation pose) was really meaningful for her.
One thing I want to keep working on is my hands on adjustments. I did a good job of stabilizing people in standing poses before adjusting them, but I need to work on them so I can go in and adjust a bit more quickly so I can get around to more people. I think I am getting better at giving verbal adjustments when I see a number of people that could improve on something.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The weekend on Pelee was really lovely. It was great to see friends, enjoy the delicious harvest dinner, and spend some time a bit closer to nature.
This week I'm busy working on all the schoolwork I didn't do over the weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Its been busy week with school and yoga... so to relax I'm heading down to Pelee Island for the weekend with my girlfriends D, L, E and S! Hopefully we'll have great weather, but either way I'm sure it will be a blast. I'll be sure to post some pics when I get back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another reason:

We Can't Afford McCain and Palin's Anti-Science Beliefs

By John Tirman, AlterNet. "Their combined anti-science positions may be devastating for the economy, the environment and our health."

Monday, September 22, 2008

check out my the new website i'm working on for my yoga!
Southern Spiced Roasted Veggies and Quinoa

I'm on a roll with making up recipes here!

(what's quinoa?)

Wash and chop into bite sized pieces, then set aside
3-4 large Kale leaves,

- 2-3 medium sweet potatos
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 6 cloves of garlic

combine veggies them in a bowl with:
2-3 T olive
1 T cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t sea salt

put the veggie mix on a pan and broil until the potatoes are cooked through and everything is getting golden brown, about 30 minutes.

in the mean time, cook 2 cups of quinoa in 4 C water. (its good to rise it first). bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 15-20 minutes until soft and fluffy. Remove from burner. Mix in kale, so it gets steamed in heat of quinoa.

Mix the roasted veggies with the quinoa/kale.
Add 2-3 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 C + chopped cilantro or parsley.

taste and add more cumin, chili, and salt if desired.
Serve warm or chilled. Makes 4-6 servings.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yoga Teacher Training reflection assignment...
6. Opening to Grace
Every day Grace is happening in big and small ways in our lives, through blessings, guidance, coincidence, synchronicity, moments of inspiration, etc. Write about two events that occur in the time span of Module 2 where you are aware of Grace in your life.

September 21, 2008
Since I’ve moved back to Waterloo at the beginning of September, it’s been really great reconnecting with old friends here. However, I’m connecting with new people in university classes, in yoga classes, even on the bus in ways I hadn’t for years.
I remember when I was a child I made friends so easily- I would meet someone on the playground or on a camping trip with my family and instantly have a new playmate.
But somewhere between then and now, I became hesitant and scared of meeting new people, I was closing inwards.
However, something shifted during the my YTT. I feel much more open-hearted and less afraid of people and of making friends. In the YTT I discovered how we're not all so separate as I used to think. Connecting with others just starts with an open-heart and a smile. It something that takes practice for me, but its become more effortless again, like it was when I was a child.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

big batch of ginger-peace-almond muffins

mix and let it sit to get gelatinous
1/4 C ground flax and 2/3 C water

in a large bowl mix:
4 C flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
1-2 T cinnamon
4 T fresh grated ginger
1 C ground almond
1/2 veg or olive oil

to the flax mix in:
1/3 c pure apple butter
1/3 + C pure maple syrup

mix the wet and dry ingredients. then add 4 C chopped peaces.
spoon into muffin tins, and then sprinkle with cinnamon

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eve Ensler, the American playwright, performer, feminist and activist
best known for "The Vagina Monologues", wrote the following about Sarah

Drill, Drill, Drill

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was
a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of
drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular
thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness
or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one
in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so
comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life
trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against
them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin
choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this
choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical
to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the
earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options,
opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous
choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates
the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas
that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the
impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately,
this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept,
the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor.
In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets
better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting
of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution
and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to
take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in
Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the
bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women
who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should
have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I
imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many
babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she
has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with
people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of
ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well
be the next president of the United States . She would govern one of the
most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting
rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot
hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private
right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when
war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in
his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the
undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this
election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the
future not just of the U.S. , but of the planet. It will determine
whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever
uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards
dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence
through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we
go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in
alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will
determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we
build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether
America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear,
fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your
power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall
after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when
I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of
domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless
repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent.
I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the
floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between
nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we
call life?

Eve Ensler
September 5, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sad stat of the day:
In North America, humans now spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors and a further 5 percent in cars, leaving only 5 percent of the time when they are outdoors (Leech et al, 1996)
I'm not sure if this is waking time or based on 24-hour day. But still, we need to be outside more, trees and earth and sky is so much more inspiring than four walls and furniture!!! enjoy it while you can before it gets too cold! (if you're reading from somewhere in N. America that is). This stat is pretty accurate for me in the winter, but this summer I often spent 4-5 hours outside everyday.

I got this stat from an interesting report on Urban Ecosystems and Human Health that i'm reading for my Environment and Resource Studies course called "Building Sustainable Communities"

Monday, September 15, 2008

This evening I made up two recipes all by myself!
(the soup is an attempt to replicated something i had a veg resto in montreal- my variation is a bit more complex, might i say, more delicious?)

Sweet and Savory Beet Soup
6-8 beets (less if they're really big ones, more if they're tiny)
1 small head of garlic
1 large leek, thinly sliced up to the start of the dark green park
1 small onion, chopped
5 C water + 1.5 vegetable bullion OR 5 C vegetable stock
1 C brown (french) lentils, rinsed
2 T pure maple syrup
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
1 T fresh parsley (or 1 t dried)
1 T 1 T fresh rosemary (or 1 t dried)
1 T fresh thyme (or 1 t dried)
1-2 cups green or yellow beans, cut into bit sized pieces (optional)

1. Rap the beets (washed but not peeled) and the head of garlic in tin foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour at 375 degrees. (toaster ovens are great for this!)
2. Meanwhile, prepare other ingredients
3. Sauté the leek and onion in a bit of olive oil for several minutes until tender
4. Peel and chop the beets into bit-sized pieces and squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins.
4. Add the beets, garlic, stock, maple syrup, lentils, pepper, and herbs to the leek and onion.
5. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
6. 5-10 Minutes before serving add the green beans and continue to simmer.

Brown rice and lentil pilaf
1 small onion, chopped
1 pepper, any color will do, chopped
a handful of mushrooms, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 C brown rice (rinsed)
1 C brown/french lentils (rinsed, check for pebbles!)
4 C water
1/2 t sea salt or vegetable salts
1/2 t thyme
a dash of pepper

1. Sauté the vegetables until tender in vegetable or olive oil
2. add spices, rice, lentils and salt.
3. bring to a boil uncovered
4. once boiling, reduce to low temperature and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the rice and lentils are tender.

and serve with love...

tell me what you think if you have a chance to give them a try!

(image from

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Savory Sun-dried Tomato bread or muffins

3 C flour ( i used a combo of slept, kamut and chickpea flours)
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 T cumin seeds
2 T+ ground cumin
1/2 T cayenne (optional)
1/2-3/4 C finely chopped sun-dried tomato
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 C water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium boil. Then slowly add the wet ingredients until a thick sticky dough forms. Place into oiled muffin tins or a bread pan and bake at 350 (20-30 mins for muffins- until knife comes out clean), or 40-50 mins for bread.

(for a variation you could try adding kalamata olives, maybe 1/2 C olives and less sun-dried tomatoes.)
I taught my 2nd class today in Waterloo Park. I was really nervous for some reason that few people would show up- which turned out to be futile, because 14 people came. (Including Joan Schaner- who after my class let me know that she wants me to teach at her studio- hoorah!!). I think I was able to offer a meaningful experience for students, and got good feedback after class that people felt different/better after the class and had fun. I kept my theme simple, talking about staying centred in the midst of transition. I think this was good, and it connected to where most of my students, who are area also university students, feel this week because it’s the start of a new semester. I shared the theme from my heart by talking about how my personal practice had helped me feel grounded and centred through the week. At the end of the class I invited everyone to take a moment to set an intention to take yoga into their week; for example, by being more mindful about their posture, by posing to take a deep breath in a difficult situation.
My sequencing was ok, but I think if it weren’t for the strong theme and my enthusiasm it wouldn’t have held together on its own so well. I taught some difficult poses like navasana and bakasana. It was my edge to teach these in the park to intermediate/beginners with no props. I think I could have done a better job if I could have given assists and variations using props. I did a demo for bakasana and thought I was clear about the main points, but when people came into the pose they weren’t applying them. So, I need to find more ways to say the same things and repeat it a few times. Or for more visual learners I could have demoed one correct pose and another incorrect pose to accentuate the key points. Over all though, it was a good class and I felt a really positive vibe and response from the group. One thing I really appreciated was that people lingered to chat with each other and ask me questions- it feels really good to be facilitating the building of community- KULA!