Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Southwest Polenta & Black Beans---Vegan and GF

Here's another quick meal, one I like for breakfast because 
it keeps me satisfied all morning.

Makes 1-2 servings
10 minutes to prepare


Olive Oil
Polenta slices (from the roll of cooked organic polenta available at many stores)
Cooked black beans
Fresh chopped tomatoes

Heat a bit of oil in a small skillet.  Sprinkle sliced polenta with cumin powder and place in pan, cooking over medium heat, turning over once, until heated thoroughly.  Add 1/4-1/2 c. drained, rinsed black beans and heat, letting the now-cumin-flavored oil season the beans.  Chop the tomatoes and add, cook for one minute, add chopped cilantro and avocado and serve.

Easy and tasty----you can punch it up with your favorite salsa, chopped green chiles or chile sauce, if you like (note that many New Mexican chile sauces contain gluten). 

If you eat dairy, you can add some cheddar cheese to the polenta slices once the beans are heated and before adding the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Religion & Yoga---Can You Say "Namaste"?

At the end, and sometimes, at the beginning, of many yoga classes, the teacher will often put her hands in a prayer position and utter "Namaste", while bowing to the group.  I regularly do this, as well, but lately I've been thinking about why I do it and what the word and gesture means to me. 

A common translation goes something like this:  "The Divine in me salutes the Divine in you, and when we are together, we are One".  Stated another way, according to Aadil Palkhivala, an esteemed yoga teacher, "The gesture...represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each...the gesture is an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in another."

And right here, I am in trouble. 

Because I'm not so sure about the whole soul thing.  And I'm definitely at odds with presuming that my beliefs---or lack of them--- about spirituality should be extended to my secular yoga students.  I've been following recent news from San Diego, California, where a fundamentalist group is suing a school district for teaching yoga, sponsored by the Jois Foundation, to kids, claiming that the effort is religious education and inappropriate for public schools.  My first thought was "Hogwash!" but having dug deeper into the story and reflecting upon it, I've changed my mind.  

As a kid, I went to a fundamentalist private school and attended the host church.  I was steeped---indoctrinated---in Bible stories, hellfire and damnation, and the idea that I was a tainted being from birth to death.  Each weekly sermon reinforced this mantra: "We sin everyday in thought, word, and deed", and this happened whether we were aware of it or not, and kept happening, despite our attempts to ask God for forgiveness and take Jesus into our hearts.  My religion didn't believe in the handy "once saved, always saved" code of some other conservative groups.  Au contraire---it was a constant worry that if the Rapture happened and I'd just had some kind of inadvertent moral slip (lusting in my heart, for example, like former President Jimmy Carter), I was doomed.  This left me anxious and fearful, and even today, one of the gurus of fundamentalist Christianity, Dr. James Dobson, teaches that parents need to raise "God-fearing" children.  Poor kids.

Like so many of my generation, (see the Pew Forum report on US religious affliation), I dropped out of church altogether, disenchanted with the experiences of hypocrisy I experienced and observed within my denomination.   As the scandals within the Catholic Church have unfolded, and wars continue to be fought in the name of religion, my opinion about the damage religions cause has grown.  

When I discovered yoga, I was soothed by the feeling of coming home to my own body, the supposedly carnal, sinful body I had been taught to scorn. Yoga, along with therapy, gave me the mind-body-spirit healing I craved.  Exposed to Buddhism, meditation, Ganesh and Shakti, I was dazzled by the difference between my old world of religion and spirituality.   I explored Eastern religions, New Thought, and shamanism.  I've had my share of "spiritual highs" over my life, experiences which I now believe are common to most of us and which may only be evidence of our evolutionary biochemistry.

Do we have souls?  Are we Divine?  I don't know, and frankly, at this point in our scientific understanding, no one can support those statements with other than anecdotal evidence. Should the yoga students I work with in secular settings be subject to my views, or to the Hindu-based beliefs of traditional yoga?  In class, I usually preface my stories, sayings, and the pose names, by saying "the ancient yogis believed" or "Classical Yoga states", and in that way, I also have said, "Namaste".   But I'm rethinking all of this lately and from now on, or at least, for the time being, when I say "Namaste", here is what I mean:

“All that is best and highest in me 
salutes all that is best and highest in you.”

And I leave it up to each person to define what is best and highest,
whether Divine, soulful, or simply, human.

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Stew

Standard breakfast foods don't work much for me anymore.  With celiac disease and my . overall wish to skip processed foods and reduce animal products, I find I have to be creative and eat whole foods you might not think of for breakfast.

I came up with this the other day and it was so good, and I was so behind in my blogging, that I thought I'd share the recipe.  This dish has lots of fiber and anti-oxidants.

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Stew
1 t. olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ c. shredded carrots, or 1 chopped carrot
2 celery stalks, chopped

¼--- ½ c. dry red lentils, rinsed
1 T. Italian blend seasoning (be sure it is GF if you are gluten-intolerant)
2 c. chicken or veggie broth
2 c. butternut squash, chunked or diced

In soup pot, saute onion in oil until soft; add carrots, celery, and spices, saute another few minutes; then add broth, lentils and squash. Bring to boil, lower heat, add garlic (best to put this in late in the cooking to save as many of the healthy nutrients as possible) and simmer 20 minutes or until all veggies and lentils are soft and cooked. 

You could also change the spices and make with curry powder for an Indian-type stew.  Enjoy in good health!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Middle-Aged Women Are the Most Stressed

If you are a middle-aged woman, you probably didn't need to see this news clip

(ABC News--Most Stressed Out Person in America)

to know the truth of this statement:  You are a member of the most stressed group of people in the US.  Job, family (sandwiched between your kids and your own, or your partners', parents, health and money concerns....a seemingly endless to-do list---all add up to feeling tired and overwhelmed.

This is a dangerous state for women, since stress contributes to heart disease (the #1 killer of women in this country) and myriad other serious illnesses.  

Now that I've made you feel worse, let me offer an antidote:  YOGA

A simple, twenty-minute practice of physical yoga---stretching and deep breathing---added to your day, releases tension, toxins, and tightness.  You don't have to be flexible or thin (but, by the way, yoga can help you become more so of both).  You don't have to be a vegetarian or a Hindu.  All you have to do is take a beginners' class or watch a short beginners' yoga video (AM-PM Yoga Video is a good place to start) to learn a few basic movements.  A little practice---possibly after your very first practice---and you'll start reaping the rewards of greater calm and peace in your mind, and greater ease of movement in your body.  

Does it start and stop there?  No, not necessarily; in fact, not for the majority who begin practicing yoga.  Most enjoy the feelings so much that they add more minutes to their practice.  Many find that a bit of meditation, maybe starting with just five minutes a day, brings even greater benefits of well-being.

But if you haven't ever practiced yoga, it is fine to start small----a few minutes, a few simple movements, some deep breathing---and see how you feel.  Add this into your already packed life. 

Do it for yourself most importantly.  And as you do, you will likely find that you are better able to "be there" for your family, more focused while at work, calmer in any of the storms of your life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Making You Stronger

This is a wonderful short video --- for all those dealing with cancer---you rock!  

Inspiring video from the infusion room

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yoga and Exercise for Cancer Recovery

"Exercise is one of the most positive things a breast cancer patient can do for herself.

Yoga is not only a great physical exercise, but also a wonderful stimulant for the mind
and spirit." - Dr. Joan Kroener , Breast Oncologist, Scripps Clinic, La Jolla,CA

There is a tremendous amount of evidence that exercise keeps us healthier and aids in recovering from illness.  If you are living with cancer or in remission, now is the perfect time to start adding more movement into your daily routine.  You don't have to jog or do Zumba, although those are great fitness activities if they appeal to you.

ANY movement is better than none, but if you have recently had surgery or are experiencing pain, discuss your exercise/movement plans with your health care provider before beginning.

If you are fatigued, any movement might seem too much to manage.  And yet, just getting up and walking around your home can help send a fresh supply of oxygen throughout your systems, improve circulation, and give you a confidence boost. 

Yoga, in particular, is a mind-body practice that has proven highly beneficial to woman in treatment and recovery.  A study at UCLA validated that women with breast cancer who engaged in a three-month, twice-weekly yoga practice decreased fatigue and depression compared to a group of breast cancer patients who didn't participate.

You can find yoga teachers throughout the country, as well as on-line resources, to  help you start or modify a practice at home.  A group class of breast cancer patients/survivors is a wonderful way to add yoga and peer support as you make your cancer journey.




You are Worth It

You Can Do This

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thinking It So

In my yoga classes. I always lead students into several balance poses, such as Tree or Dancer's.  I see the usual responses---a few get into the pose and gain stability, while many hop around and struggle, getting into, and out of, the pose, hurriedly and repeatedly, never really finding that place of balance and ease.  Their facial expressions reflect frustration, self-judgement, and striving.  

Aside from any commentary I might make about dropping the ego, letting go of the need to be perfect, and ceasing to compare themselves to the person next to her, I often have them stop and stand in Tadasana/Mountain Pose with their hands in Anjali Mudra at their heart.  I ask them to close their eyes then, take some cleansing breaths, and visualize themselves, step-by-step, moving into the pose on their other foot and leg, with ease, grace, and strength.  Once they have seen themselves standing stably in the pose, I cue them to open their eyes and move into It. Sure enough, that extra minute of visualizing and the calming effect of the breath enables many more of them to find their balance and hold the pose smoothly.

Brain science is now confirming what many of us, regardless of our field, have known intuitively.  What we can imagine is played out in our brains as though we are actually engaged in the physical act.  Many athletes have been using this simple technique to improve their competitive performance.  You and I can use it in yoga, in creating art or a new product, and in healing ourselves.  Adam, the Dreamhealer, http://dreamhealer.com/ leads powerful workshops on how to use visualization to generate literal healing responses in our bodies.  I've taught his techniques to my clients and students dealing with cancer and serious conditions, as a way for them to become more active participants in their healing.

We've heard for years that humans only use 10% of our brain's capacity; thinking and visualizing new behaviors and new ideas may well be a step in accessing some of the rest of it.

This short video explains the mechanics and is worth watching.  Then take a moment and think about what it is you wish to create to be healthier, more expressive, more skilled.  Do this over and over, combine the seeing with real practice, and you will experience real and positive results.