Pose of the Week: Tree

Tree

Tree Pose

VRIKSHASANA

“I felt my body changing and becoming one with the tree. I could feel my roots deepen into the earth, and my branches reaching towards the sun. Being a tree felt every bit as natural as being a human. I was the same but my form had changed. The whole physical universe became fluid, and time and space lost all meaning for me.”

~Darren Main, Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Increases Balance
  • Stretches and strengthens the legs
  • Opens the Hips
  • Helps to relieve Sciatica
  • Rejuvenates the mind
  • Increases focus and concentration
  • Heart opening

Asana Breakdown:

Start off in Samasthiti, equal standing, also referred to as Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Shift your weight into the left foot, rooting down through your mat. Bend the right knee and allow the right foot to find its placement above or below the knee. Beginners may take a variation where the right ankle comes off the ground and finds its seat on the left leg while keeping the right ball of the foot on the mat. I like to start with my hands in heart center to allow my body to find balance easily as I look upon my chosen drishti (gazing point). From here you may lift your arms overhead, as if they were branches. Heart lifts and spreads as the gaze comes towards the thumbs.

Troubles often Encountered:

You may begin to sway here, like trees often do in the wind. Take deep breathes and try to center yourself, focusing on your third chakra, manipura, located in the middle of your solar plexus. If you fall, that’s okay, too. Trees fall all the time, but then they seed and become trees once again. Do they same and find your expression of tree pose.

Variations:

The dynamic tree has many variations. Option one: Keep hands at heart center. Option two: Hands towards the sky with gaze towards the thumbs or eyes straight ahead. Option three: Close the eyes. Option four: Take a twist to your left side with arms spanning out from the shoulders. Option five: Take a twist to your right side.

tree1 tree2 tree3

Contraindications of the pose:

“Avoid doing this posture if you are suffering from migraine, insomnia, low or high blood pressure (those with high blood pressure may do this pose but without raising their hands overhead, as this may further raise their blood pressure)”(Tree).

“I knew in that moment that the tree was Spirit masquerading as a tree, and I was Spirit disguised as a human . I knew for the first time that there was only One that took shape in many.” 

~Darren Main, Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

Sources:

“Tree Pose (Vrikshasana).” Tree Pose. Art of Living, n.d. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.

Main, Darren John. Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn, 2002. Print.

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Let Go of All Your Efforts: The Continual Practice

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When I first found my devotional practice, I have to admit I yearned to be enlightened. For me that was the ultimate goal. The Sutras speak of the Siddhis and benevolence that is obtained by the enlightened and I wanted it so deeply. Ever fiber of my being wanted to know what the great sages know and become untangled from the intensity of day to day life.

When I asked one of my teachers how to become enlightened, he replied,”Enlightenment is like a joke, it’s like a fish looking for water….We are all one, so really, when you think about it, either we are all enlightened or none of us are enlightened.” I sat with knowledge for a long time, understanding it, without knowing how to incorporate it into my life.

As the seasons started to change, I let my practice slip away along with my ideas of enlightenment. Now that I have come back to my practice with new breath, I see that my goals have shifted. Enlightenment is not what draws me back to my practice day after day, I don’t take my breathes with the hope of finding nirvana in the apex. So if enlightenment is not the goal what brings me back?

Well, today when I came to my meditation practice, anticipating my feelings of boredom and reluctancy which often appear halfway through, I recalled Iyengar’s words in Light on Life about how enlightenment is not the goal of yoga. I prepared to lie down for Sivasana and decided just enjoy my time with myself, regardless of whether or not I would enter into deep meditation. As I made myself comfortable on the ground, my awareness went to the sounds around me. At first, I could hear everything clearly and suddenly the noises began to fade until I was no longer present to the happenings around me. I had slipped back into united consciousness. I opened my eyes and realized my efforts and wantings were the very thing that had been standing between myself and my Self. That this practice is indead a practice. It is a practice that yields great rewards, but the rewards are often unanticipated. In the sutras, they say the fruit of yoga sewn from the devotional heart is freedom, and ultimately love. And that is what brings me back. It is the thread that stitches my temperament, fears, and worries into compassion, understanding, and lightheartedness. It is the sweetness between the inhale and the exhale, and those fleeting moments of clarity and truth scattered throughout my day.

My teacher often says, “Let go of all you efforts.” It took my about one hundred times of hearing that before I could, but I suppose that is why they call it a practice.

Sweet Potato Feta Mash Up: Get Up Close & Personal With Your Food

Sweet Potato Feta

Ingredients

1 cup Spinach

1 tsp Coconut oil

3-5 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 medium size Sweet Potato

1/2 cup Quinoa

Toppings:

Pine Nuts

Feta Cheese

Cranberry

Makes 1-2 servings

Hello dear friends! Here’s a meal that is dear to my tastebuds: it’s easy, quick, curbs cravings, and is so good for you!

Okay, so here’s how it goes: Pull out a medium size pot for the Sweet Potatoes and fill with water. Wait for it to boil. Take 1 cup of water and put it in another pot. Turn the stove on high and wait for water to boil as well. In the meantime, take out your coconut oil and put it in a frying pan on medium heat, add your spinach, season with salt, pepper, soy sauce, cover pan with a lid and let the spinach begin to steam. Stir occasionally. By now, your water for the quinoa is boiling, add quinoa and bring temp down to low, cover pot with lid. Sometimes I like to add a dollop of ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil to the water with the quinoa. Peel and cut sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes. Once your water has boiled, add in sweet potatoes. Cover with a lid, if you want. Wait for the sweet potatoes to become nice and soft so that when you stick a fork in them it easily breaks in half. This process takes around 15 minutes. After your sweet potatoes have been placed in the water, check on your spinach, it’s probably done. Take off heat, leave lid on to preserve moisture and warmth. Check quinoa, when the water has steamed off and all the granules are soft and the “tail” of the quinoa can be seen, take it off heat and place in serving bowl. Add spinach on top. Once the sweet potatoes are ready put sweet potatoes through a strainer. Add coconut oil on top of them. Put on serving dish, season with salt and pepper. Top with Feta, Cranberry, and Pine nuts.

Bon Appetit!

Pose of the Week: Bird of Paradise

bird of paradise

Bird of Paradise

SVARGA DVIJASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens legs, hips, quads, and pelvis.
  • Opens the shoulders
  • Increase balance and body awareness
  • Strengthens Core and Abdominals
  • Lengthens the hamstrings

Asana breakdown:

Traditionally, I get into this posture from a variation of extended side angle. I take my hand that is placed on my thigh and reach it under my leg and bring my other hand to grasp it, coming into a bind, Utthita Parsvakonasana (Bound Extended Side Angle). From here, I take my back leg and bring it to the front of my mat, squaring both of my feet. Keeping in mind that I will pour my weight into the leg which is not bound by my hands, I find my drishti (gazing point) and slowly begin to rise up, keeping my bound leg bent. Once my spine is fully erect, I root down through my standing leg. Noticing my foot and toes, allowing them to unclench and find the four corners of the foot. I then draw my shoulder blades closer together, allowing the collarbones to lift and spread away from one another. Once I feel stable in my foundation and my gaze is locked on my drishti, I will extend the bound leg towards the sky. ❤

Troubles often encountered:

It is in the troubles or difficulties with this pose I feel most like a bird. For me, if I have not focused my mind and taken my awareness to the breath, I will begin to wobble, hop (with my leg raised), or loose my balance. My advice here is to release the pose. Come into Tadasana (Mountain) and take some grounding breathes. Assess why you are trying to get into this pose: is it ego or curiosity? Find your root through your mat and pour all of your energy into the quality of your breathe. The quality of the breathe will be the defining factor in all of your asanas, especially more difficult or new pose. When you are ready, reproach the asana with integrity and respect. Find your gazing point and come into your full expression. If you don’t get it on your first try, warm up the legs more with more hip openers and remember why we call it a practice.

Sources:

“Bird of Paradise – Svarga Dvijasana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

Editor, YJ. “Bird of Paradise: 5 Steps to Master This Standing Pose – Yoga Journal.” Yoga

Journal. Yoga Journal, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

When Life Gives You Lemons

We’ve all had those days…. The sours days that you wish you could just delete from the record or a string of really bad days that leave you feeling beaten and dejected. And sometimes it seems like everything just rubs you the wrong way. As a yogi, or as someone generally trying to be a decent person, when someone aggravates you almost want to skip over the anger. We try to cool our ego with compassionate lessons we’ve been taught: “Oh, we’re all one,” “They are just mirrors of my personality, so I’m really just aggravated by myself,” “They are doing the best they can,” etc. But, regardless of our best efforts we may still feel anger, and that anger turns to guilt and self-hatred. Before we know it, we have turned on ourselves. Unable to offer the same compassion and forgiveness that we are trying to give to someone else. And as the ego continues to churn out terrible thoughts, we are left with a choice: to either continue to run the hamster wheel of hatred until it spins out of our control, or find it with in ourselves to be with our emotions as they are. Sure, it is true we are all one and we are only hurting ourselves if we fail to see the fault within others is also a fault within ourselves. But if you can acknowledge that and, further more, accept those emotions as they arise, well…that is power my friend, and true self love. We do not have to be the angelic, passive, everything-is-always-fine yogi, because that is not our truth. Part of the beauty of yoga is being able to be firmly rooted in Satya (truth) and our truth is that we are beautiful human beings who are doing the best we can at our own level of awareness at any given moment. We find our lemonade in the sweetness of our own truth, emotion and owning ourselves as we are, regardless of whether or not we label that state of being as good or bad. So own your anger, and your bad days, and sit with it the thoughts and emotions as they arise with in. See what part is you, what part of it is ego, take the passive state as the observer, and when the anger and frustration ensue? Own it. Love it. And make lemonade.

Gourmet in 20: Lemon Salmon and Side Salad

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I, myself, am a salmon junkie. For a pescatarian it’s my version of a steak. So here is my super easy, 6 ingredients or less, 20 minutes recipe:

Ingredients

1/4-1/2 lb salmon per person

1/2 a lemon for each person

A pinch of Salt

Side Salad

(Make it how you want! Pick as many or as few as you choose)

Head of lettuce             Cilantro             Avocado

Carrots                         Salt

Onion                           Pepper

Pine nuts                     Bell Pepper

Cabbage                     Parmesan

Add: Choice of Salad Dressing

To start: Turn the oven to 365 degrees. Get out a baking pan ( 8″ by 8″ or 9″ by 9″), pull out some handy, dandy tin foil and roll out enough to cover the base of the pan, but also to create a makeshift cover over the salmon. Place the Salmon on top of the tin foil, squeeze 1/4 a lemon on top of each slice, and sprinkle salt over each cut. Then, fold tin foil over salmon so that it is not touching it, but creating a bubble around it. This will keep the moisture in and help it to bake faster. Once the oven is ready, stick it in, and set the timer for 10 minutes. While the Salmon is cooking, pull out salad fixings and begin a choppin’! Salads can be as fun or as boring as you’d like! In this go round, I made the salad with red leaf lettuce, white onion, cilantro, avocado, pine nuts, cabbage, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Once your 10 minute timer goes off, open the open and open up the tin foil, exposing the salmon. It should look about halfway cooked: some parts cooked and some not. Place it back in the oven, with the tinfoil open and set oven on broil for another 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes has gone by, your salad should be done and so should your salmon! If the salmon needs a little while longer, turn on oven and let it coast until it’s reached desired finish. Once you’ve taken the salmon out, squeeze the rest of you lemon over it and sprinkle a bit more salt.

Enjoy ❤

Journal Entry: For Those Who are Afraid of the Dark

7/11/15

As I begin my practice, cloaked by wet darkness, I take an inhalation of sweetness and of earth. I light a candle in front of me: signaling the internal flame that is with in us all. My breathes feel heavenly and a joy is sparked with in. I feel in love. My body tingles with awareness and sensation.

I dive in deep into my first Down Dog, feeling a supreme and exhilarated heaviness in my upper lip. I can feel my skin. I can feel my IMG_2453body. Tears of joy cup my eyes: It feels like coming home. A true contentment surrounds me: I am doing whatI love, a practice that loves and cares for me. I let my drishti (gazing point) be the darkness. I side with it, acknowledging the universe with in. Acknowledging that there is darkness within me that is so often overlooked by the light. A darkness
as infinite and as vast as that which lies outside my window. And then it occurs to me that the darkness I look out upon is a deep, loving teacher and a true, compassionate friend. I realize I do not hate the darkness. Its deep shadows do not scare me. In fact, I feel welcom
ed to it and all of it’s loud, lightless beauty. And then there is a shift within. One that feels uninhibited and unchallenged by the dark and shadowy part of myself I have long denied. The parts of me that seep out, screaming for attention, but most of all to be understood. I see a part of me that wants to be known and loved and taken care of, even when there is no light to shine upon it. When there is only feeling, sensation, thought and sound. I hear it within me. And it feels safe and it feels nurtured by the breath.

Inhale: Sweet tenderness and divine strength fill me. And in this moment I know I am loved, I know I am safe, I know I am beautiful, strong and powerful. I know I have purpose and that my time is now, and that all of the ultimate and unlimited potential is inside of me being carefully molded by the divine to fulfill my life’s work. And that clarity will come. And that it is within. And that what is with in is truth.

Jai Guru Dev ❤

Honey Lime Shrimp Tacos: A Vacation for the Taste Buds

Shrimp Tacos

For those shrimp-haters, partial-to-shrimp, or straight-up shrimp lovers out there, here is the meal for you!

I, myself, am not a lover of shrimp…until this meal. Super quick, super easy. The meal breaks down to about $3.60-$5.50 per taco (keep in mind the shrimp is the most expensive part for us who live inland) and you can make around 4-6 tacos. They were SUPER delicious, took less than 20 minutes to make, and were surprisingly filling!

So here’s the break down:

Ingredients

Honey Lime Sauce:

1-2 limes

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Pepper

2-3 tsp Honey Dijon Mustard

Tacos:

1 lb Shrimp

1/2 Red bell Pepper

1/4-1/2 White Onion

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Pepper

Taco Accessories: 

Corn (or Flour*) Tortillas

1/8-1/4 cup Cilantro

1/8-1/4 cup Purple Cabbage

1 Avocado

Wanna make it? Here’s how:

Start a pot of water for your shrimp and wait for it to boil. While waiting, take a frying pan and use your choice of oil (I used Olive, other options include: Vegetable, Coconut, etc.) Cut up your Bell pepper and Onion (long-ways) and begin to sauté them in the pan. Once warm add a pinch of salt and pepper. By now, your water should be or is about to boil. Add shrimp. Keep an eye on them! As soon as they turn pink, turn off the stove and strain them. Allow your bell pepper and onion to continue sautéing until they have become a juicy, carmelized color. Once they are finished, remove from heat. I like to add the veggies to the pot containing the shrimp so they are covered in the juice. Cut up Cabbage, Cilantro, and avocado (if you haven’t already you clever chef you ;). Make the sauce by squeezing the limes into a small bowl, add mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Use reminisce of oil in frying pan or add more, if needed. Add tortillas and heat on low. Be sure to flip them a few times, until they are soft and of desired heat. Once your tortillas are ready to rock, feel free to load that baby up!

And Voula! Boom! Tacos.

Enjoy ❤

Light on Life

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Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.   ~Bhagavad Gita

The last year of my life has been a mixture of both great pain and great wonder. I started the year off in Nosara, Costa Rica where I was certified by Marianne Wells in Hatha yoga. When I came back home from this delightful experience, I was fully immersed in my practice. Every day, with great enthusiasm and devotion, I took to the mat. Intermingled with knowledge of Ayurveda, holy texts, meditation and chanting, I had a daily routine which would last up to two glorious hours. I was in love. Yoga consumed every part of my life with welcome arms and moments of ecstatic and spontaneous elation. 

As the summer blossomed I was working a series of three jobs, an internship, and I volunteered as yoga instructor. My practice was evident in my life, in my manner and in my speech, but my actual time on the mat began to diminish. It was not until the fall, once school had begun, that I lost touch with my practice. Papers began to take president over breath work and sitting in lecture halls replaced my practice of asana. As you can imagine my elated nature began to deflate and my energy began to dwindle. Five months passed like this until my well was dry and I was feeding off of what felt like my own soul. My absence of practice had left a void in my life that lead me into the depth of the shadow self. My kind and patient nature became one of depression, confusion, and unruly ego-feeding. Thus creating a life of discomfort.

The following summer began to bear the fruit of my shadow self: every aspect of my life could no longer be served by my absent practice and demanded modification. My life at work, my choice of career and how to pursue it, my relationships, and my living situation were all up for grabs by the hands of change. It seemed pain was within every encumbered decision and clarity was no where to be found. In Iyengar’s book Light on Life he writes a passage which explains the intricacies of suffering titled Pain: Finding Comfort Even in Discomfort. He begins this section saying, “Pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain do you see the light. Pain is your guru. As we experience pleasures happily we must also learn not to lose our happiness when pain comes” (Iyengar 47). It was with this knowledge that my perspective began to adjust. I remember one of the first ways this knowledge was re-introduced to me. I was invited to an Ashtanga yoga class that was taught by my soon-to-be mentor. I didn’t know it at the time, but this class was one of the first dominos to fall in the series of events that would lead me back to my spiritual practice. During this class, the instructor lead us into what seemed to be a version of Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold), only in this variation we were instructed to heal-toe our feet as far away from one another as bearable and lower our forearms to the floor. The pain was real and mind consuming; the kind that stops your breath from flowing with ease and causes your body to shake. I look up to hear my teacher say, “This pose is just like life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

In Light on Life and on the mat a new concept had been introduced to me: the idea that intense, heat building yoga was not solely meant to tone the abs or strengthen the legs, but also to create an uncomfortable sensation that teaches us to go beyond the visceral pain of they body and enter into the meditative mind. As yogis, we do this because “practice is not just about the pleasurable sensations. It is about awareness, and awareness leads us to understand both the pleasure and the pain” (Iyengar 48). Recently, I have been able to gain elements of this lucidity. I have begun a mental practice which reminds myself when I reflect on a trying moment that it has passed: it is no longer something the mind has to endure. Thus, I am able to take the role of the observer and can allow the rumination to dissipate and, consequentially, ease the tortured nature of the mind. Iyengar and the reintroduction of my practice has reminded me that “If you can adapt to and balance in a world that is always moving and unstable, you learn how to become tolerant to the permanence of change and difference” (Iyengar 48). Including those pieces of change that carry elements of hardship and mental or emotional suffering.

When I first came back to my practice, I would go to classes where the teacher would by chance say something to the effect of giving gratitude for your life or this breath and it would cause me to cry, for I knew I had spent the last several months forsaking my life. My mind was so wrapped in the webs my ego had spun, I could not even see past the illusion long enough to be grateful for one breath. Surely, it is no coincidence these experiences happened on the mat. Yoga seems to have a way of putting a bright mirror in front of ourselves, which can unveil shocking and painfully disagreeable qualities. However, “It is not just that yoga is causing all of this pain; pain is already there. It is hidden” (Iyengar 49). Even so, the presence of pain can be a welcome visitor. Iyengar moves to speak in this passage about the difference between good and bad pain. He describes good pain as something that is arduous and leads you towards greater growth, compassion and understanding, whereas bad pain can be misdirected, disheartening, and selfish (Iyengar 50-51). As Iyengar expands on his ideology of pain, I am reminded of my favorite poem by Rumi titled The Guest House. In one of his verses he muses: “Be grateful for whatever comes [A joy, a depressions, a meanness,/ some momentary awareness comes/ as an unexpected visitor]/ because each has been sent/ as a guide from the beyond.” It is for this reason these experiences of pain have become my most cherished moments of my life. I have begun to see new love for the parts of me that harbor pain and darkness because they are the reason I no longer have to be afraid of it. Iyengar says “There are only two ways to confront pain: to live with the pain forever or to work with the pain and see if you can eradicate it” (Iyengar 49). These bouts of circumstance that have elicited pain in my life have caused me to see that there is no way out, but through. Like the variation of Prasarita Padottanasana, the things that can elicit some of the greatest pains are not only temporary, but can also lead to the greatest of joy. And again I am reminded why I practice yoga, “not just for the enjoyment…[but] for ultimate emancipation” (Iyengar 52).

Citation:

Iyengar, B.K.S. “Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom Paperback – September 19, 2006.

As I am, As you are

Hello World!

My name is Aama Iaolani. I come from the great lands of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I have created this blog as a sanctuary and authentic view of my life. My journey so far has had some interesting twists and turns that I am sure will continue to ensue. I find a lot of blogs, marketing, and social media are shallow and may not gleam the wisdom people are searching for. Wisdom cannot be ensured on my end, however, I can definitely promise to tell you the truth. You know that silly, cliche quote, “Just be yourself because everyone else is already taken.”? Well it’s true. That’s why it’s a cliche right? So here it goes: my story for all its worth. On this blog I will feature yoga poses of the week, nutritious and delicious recipes, as well as the true truth I experience in my day to day life concerning love, yoga, & health.

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