Sunday, March 24, 2013

Restorative Yoga

As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to flex my yoga muscles again. Part of getting back into the swing of things has included trying out a new-to-me yoga studio.

After a very successful, Saturday morning Open class, I decided to rejuvenate myself with a Tuesday night Restorative class. The description on the Area Yoga website sounded like the perfect respite to a long midweek work day. 
"Restorative Yoga is a method in which one holds poses for longer lengths of time with the help of props in order to focus on relaxing and strengthening the muscles. This provides a meditative, slow practice allowing time to go deeper not only into the body, but into the restless mind."
I entered the studio as the teacher, Jenna, was lighting candles that set the class for relaxation. As students filtered in, Jenna let the class know of what props we would need for that class. For those who don't practice, props are equipment or tools used to deepen or strengthen a position. This class we used two bolsters (giant, firm pillows), three blankets and three blocks. We started the class with focused breathing, which eventually turned into alternate-breathing. I hope to touch on breathing at another point during March Un-Madness. I will let you know that I have felt uncomfortable doing alternate-breathing in the past but this time it helped invigorate me and set a flow for the class. Jenna's instructions on breathing were a guide throughout the whole class, which is something I really appreciate. I tend to forget to breath during yoga and like when a teacher helps the class along.

We flowed through three positions for the duration of the hour-and-ten-minute class, holding each position for a good amount of time. To be able to really allow my body and mind to sink into each position was truly restorative. My only problem was that I did not wear enough layers. Brrrr. I was thankful when the teacher came around and placed blankets over our legs and torso to keep the heat trapped. Jenna kept reminding us to let go of anything that wasn't working for us, whether physically or mentally, and I did just that.

We only did three positions but I was surprised by how quickly the class went. When we came up to sitting and gave a final "Ommmmmm", I was all like, what? That's it? I think thats a good sign that my body and mind needed this time to reset itself and probably could use much more. I left the class feeling rejuvenated and hope to incorporate it into my weekly routine.

Have you ever done a restorative class?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Un-Madness

As big college basketball fans know, we are about to enter the time of the season dubbed "March Madness". We'll be moving quickly through the Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight to the Final Four and then, the Championships. It will be non-stop until the championships on April 8. And I'm sure that if you are a fan or if you have some money riding on this, you will be wrapped up in the madness.

My team was knocked out before we even started (Next year, Catamounts!) and to be honest, I am already experiencing some madness not derived from basketball. I have a three course semester that is just approaching midway and, to say the least, I have been overwhelmed with homework, papers, and assignments. Adding to the stress of my school work is my 9-5 job, a two-hour commute every day and a never-ending Winter. Its no reason I've gone slightly mad.

However, I am going to take the next 19 days to un-madden myself. I hope to do this in both spiritual and physical ways. To be honest, I began at the beginning of the month but I wanted you guys to get in on the fun too! I have started to practice yoga and meditate daily. I am taking time to cook healthy, sustaining meals. I am trying to keep my no-electronics-after-nine rule in effect. And so far its been going pretty well but there is definitely more I can do.

Here's where you all come in. If you have any suggestions, tips or tools you use to stay calm and in-check, please share! Leave a comment here on the blog or take part on your own blog. On my end of things, I am going to post a few I methods I use to bust stress, including : mediation, exercise, cooking/baking and therapeutic herbalism. Nineteen days isn't too long, soon enough we'll be at the championships!

Please, do tell, do you find your self feeling a little mad lately? What do you do when you find your madness getting out of control?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An easy fridge clean-out

One of my favorite things to cook in college was big stir-frys. Living with roommates plus significant others plus friends who pop-in for a visit, stir-frys were a simple solution to needing to feed a  large amount of people. It also was very accommodating to different diets and tastes and was very helpful when we needed to use-up produce that was on its last breath.

The ingredients are a simple combination of veggies+protein+carb+sauce. In my stir-fry I used what I had: swiss chard, carrots, onions, garlic, shrimp, brown rice, an egg, ground ginger, soy sauce and sriracha. This is what I had to use in my fridge but other possibilities for the veggies are brocoli, snap peas, peas, green beans, eggplant, etc. For the protein I really like tofu (especially if I am making it vegan) chicken, and beef. Rice is not the only option for your carb. A favorite in college was to use soba or rice noodles. If you can't find these at your local grocery, just use spaghetti! Also, quinoa, barley, and farro work so good and add a boost of whole grains. A combination of different spices and sauces is what pulls the dish together, whether those be traditional, like soy sauce, or you can get creative and make a peanut sauce or use coconut milk, sriracha, honey, ginger, chile flakes and so much more.

 There are two crucial rules to creating a perfect stir fry:
1. Prepare all ingredients prior to getting started
2. Heat your pan as hot as you can

Follow these two rules and you will have an awesome stir fry in no time.

I finished my stir-fry off with a squeeze of lime. Other options for toppings are crushed nuts (cashews and peanuts!), bean sprouts, or chopped spring onion.

What is your favorite quick and easy, fridge cleaning meal? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

February Book Club

I haven't fully expressed my love for reading on this blog, but if you know me you know you can always find me with a book on my person. Living in NYC, I spend a fair amount of time waiting. Waiting for the subway, waiting on the subway, waiting for a table to open up, waiting for a meeting. I find the best way to pass the time is read. So, I do. A lot.

Julie, over at Peanut Butter Fingers, has been having a book club for quite some time now but this is the first time I am participating. The book for the month was Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio. I haven't read anything by her prior to this but I was really intrigued by the summary and that beautiful cover (does anyone else chose things by how pretty it looks?). I'll give you a quick recap and then give my thoughts on the book...

In early May of 1933 a freak snow storm slams the city of Seattle, leaving the streets blanketed in snow.  A mother tucks her three-year-old son into bed, kisses him goodnight, and heads off to work the night shift at a local hotel. When she returns home in the morning, her son is missing with only a teddy bear left behind. Vera Ray begins the incredibly trying, grief ridden task of trying to find her son, Daniel.

Almost a century later, Seattle is, again, facing an early May snow storm. Journalist Claire Aldridge wakes up to snow falling outside her window and an editor calling to get her started on a story. Claire barely has the heart to go to work but when she finds the story of Vera and Daniel, something sparks inside of her. Claire feels a connection to this mother who lost her child and she won't stop at anything to reveal their story.

Blackberry Winter moves between present day and the 1930's, as we get a glimpse at the lives of two women struggling over losing a child. Through the novel we see how one woman's pain in the 1930's can bring another woman back to life.

I found this book completely and utterly heart-wrenching. Honestly, just writing the summary has brought tears to my eyes. Jio has a wonderful way of making you fall in love with her characters. I cheered for Charles and my stomach dropped at any mention of Lon or Josie.  I pined for Vera and held my breath for Claire. Each character was distinct but drew parallels between the main characters' stories.

Another strength in Jio's writing came from her descriptions of Seattle. I have never been there myself, but I felt transported each time I picked up the book. I love to escape into a good book and Jio really allowed me to do this with her writing. By the end of the novel I had a clear visual of each important location and where everything took place. Seriously, I want to go to the Olympic Hotel on my next vacation.

Some minor problems I had with the book did not ruin my overall experience. I found that the book was slow to start. I think that this is, partially, because of the mystery plot line of what happened to Claire that she was so fragile and messed-up from. I feel it would have been a lot easier just to state it and let it be. Instead, we were treated to a couple of chapters of faux-suspense with a non-shocking reveal. I understand the accident has an important link between Vera and Claire but I think it could have been done a little better.

However, by the end I was able to overlook anything I did not like because I was too caught-up with how everything would turn out. I had a pretty good feeling that Josie took Daniel (crazy bird lady, just made sense) but I had no idea who Daniel turned out to be. Those last chapters with the reveal of Daniel and his return to his child home just made me cry. There was something so stunning about watching an old man near the end of life become a child again. It was a perfect resolve to the book.

I would recommend Blackberry Winter to anyone looking for an enthralling read. If you love a mystery/history/self-finding book, then prepared to be inspired and awed.