• Visual, Aural, or Kinesthetic

    We see with our eyes, we hear with our ears, we feel with our bodies. What we have discovered is that everybody usually has one primary intake pathway, and that affects how they receive information.

    So, what do I mean by that? What I know they have learned in polarity therapy is that we all have different intake pathways.  We see with our eyes, we hear with our ears, we feel with our bodies. What we have discovered is that everybody usually has one primary intake pathway, and that affects how they receive information.

    For example, I am almost completely aural, I live through my ears. It is one of the reasons why I write books.  How this translates in business is when I started working with clients, because I do not need to write stuff down to remember it. I would assume that my client was writing something down while I was talking, that he or she was not listening to me. So, I would take away their pen. Well, when you take away the pen of a kinesthetic person–because writing is how they remember, they learn through their body–now they cannot hear you anymore. I learned I needed to let my kinesthetic clients keep their pens.

    What I want you to think about is consider the intake pathway of the person that you are dealing with.  One way to know this, or to figure it out, is consider what they do for a living. Highly kinesthetic people really understand 3D space.  These are your chefs, your sculptors, your race car drivers.  They know what’s going on, web designers, architects, landscape design.  Highly aural people tend to work with words, again, they are your writers and your editors.  Things like that. Highly visual people, you know, they are your painters, they are your decorators.  They really see the world in a very different way than you do.

    Consider what someone’s intake pathway is, and then alter how you might give them information.  Just a simple trick is, if, you are dealing with someone who is visual, you can say to them, you know what, I see what you are saying. If you are dealing with someone who is aural, it is, like, I hear what you are saying. And if someone is highly kinesthetic, you understand what they are feeling.

    Continue Where Yoga Meets Business with Frances on Omstars

    By Frances Cole Jones

    Frances Cole Jones is the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation and The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World (Ballantine Books/Random House). She also has an app for the iPhone and iPad called “Interview Wow”. In addition to writing and speaking, Frances is the President of Cole Media Management, a media training company focused on cultivating clients’ inherent strengths to develop more powerful communication skills. Prior to founding Cole Media Management, Frances worked at St. Martin’s Press, Viking Penguin, and Doubleday as an editor of commercial nonfiction. The experience of helping authors translate their ideas into books that retain their unique voice is part of what makes her valuable to clients.

  • Parsvakonasana B Pose Guide

    This standing twist of the Ashtanga standing sequence is rather complex with many moving parts. You may find that different teachers approach this pose differently, but each are aiming for the same eventual end. I work this pose by prioritizing three different pieces: the the twist, the foundation, and the hips.

    If you are brand new to this pose, I suggest starting with the back knee down, both knees aligned with about a 90 degree angle. This is a good starting place to end up with the right distance once the legs and feet are in full expression mode. If you feel confident, you can begin with the back leg lifted, but keep it in the parallel position, heel up…. for now. Connect to the front foot as your primary foundation point, and work your opposite arm across the leg, aiming to hook the elbow beyond the knee. Once you get that hook, you can leverage the leg and arm against each other. This establishes a bit of foundational energy and balance control, it also allows you to ratchet your ribcage deeper into the twist. See if you can, reach the floor with the hand, even if it is only fingertips. Press into that connection. More foundational energy. keep the arm across the leg, keep the leg resisting the arm. Remember, the push/pull of that connection is stabilizing energy. As you press deeply into the hand, energy rebounds across the ribcage owning and freeing your twist, reach the upper arm up and over the ear at a diagonal. finally, if you feel stable and if you have accessed your freest twist, bring attention to the back leg. If your knee is down, lift it by reaching the heel back, keeping the hips low, the front knee forward. If that position is stable, find the rotation of the back leg by releasing any tension in the hip joint, roll the thigh externally without dragging the pelvis along. As he hip opens, the heel reaches the floor.

    Piece by piece, bit by bit. Prioritize one element at a time, giving full attention to each without sacrificing the previous. If you loose something along the way, back up, re-establish the previous moment and work there. If this approach doesn’t work for you, try something else! The is rarely an exactly right way to enter a pose. If you understand what the posture is asking of you, and you honor its intention, you will get there!

     

    By Angelique Sandas

  • The Sacred Space Of Yoga

    There is no direct line to growth. It’s a curvy, twisted path through the heart. You might not think you can get any stronger, you might think you’re all alone, you might feel like you’re about to collapse but then you find it, the strength that was always there. Faith and hope lift you up. New friends appear where old wounds are still healing. The winding road is the spiritual path, the way towards the deepest truth of life.

    Practicing yoga doesn’t give you all the answers. Sometimes the practice gives you all the right questions.

    We all need sanctuary sometimes, a safe space where we are held and loved, where our bodies and most importantly our hearts have the chance to breathe and eventually heal.

    For over twenty years, yoga has been my sacred space, a place of worship and reverence. Every single person that continues to practice beyond the initial phase of fascination with the poses has tasted at least a drop of the elixir of true spiritual practice. Yoga is not a hobby, it’s lifestyle built on moral and ethical principles. But more than anything else yoga is a promise of deep and lasting peace — that promise is built on the principles of practice, not the size or shape of your body or perfect abs or the right clothes. As yogis we have the power to define what this community is all about. We can make it the true sanctuary that it’s meant to be or we can cede the moral compass of yoga to corporations that are yoga as a money-maker.

    Your voice as a yogi matters. I don’t believe that we should turn off our social media accounts or never buy another piece of yoga clothing. I also don’t believe we should drink the proverbial Kool-aid that is fed to us in sponsored posts. I don’t have the answers, but I believe we need to learn how to ask the right questions, how to dig deeply to find answers. Mindfulness isn’t a catch phrase to sell products. Mindfulness is a moral and ethical responsibility to do the research and be literally mindful of all your actions, personal, professional, emotional. Before you speak, be mindful of your words. Before you purchase anything, do the research and be sure that the companies you support with your dollars are ones that you truly support through and through. Before you give your attention to anything, including the algorithmicly induced social media feed, be mindful of where you are giving your attention and see if it’s worthy of your time and energy.

    The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention. It’s a discipline of the mind to carefully craft your point of focus. Life will throw you a series of curve balls that have the potential to take you off course. You have to choose to redirect your mind to your goals. Whether it’s a hater who just wont stop leaving annoying comments, a frenemy who puts up a show of love but truly burns with jealousy or a corporation that wants to cut you up and sell you like an object, there are so many distractions on the journey of life. Your heart wants to rant and rave about them. Your mind desperately wants to understand. You may find yourself spending time thinking, reflecting and even stalking the negativity. But you won’t gain any ground that way. You can’t talk reason to someone that doesn’t share the same basis of logic, respect and morality. You can’t play fair with someone who has been stacking the cards in their favor from day one. You just have to walk away. Turn your attention to your own path and leave the past where it belongs—in the past.

    There are an infinite amount of times during my daily yoga and meditation practice that my mind wanders. Whenever I notice it’s gone, I gently bring my mind back to the focal point of the breath and the body. In life, there is an endless onslaught of petty annoyances and big traps that can strand you in destructive way-stations along your journey. It’s up to you to constantly remind yourself of who you are and why you’re here.

    I know who I am and why I’m here: I am a keeper of the sacred fire of yoga, I am a torch-bearer of wisdom, I am here to walk the path that leads to the true light and every step I take lights the path a little bit for another. I am here to change the world and my gaze is set on the brilliance of the eternal, manifesting as light and love in every breath. I am here to burn with the holy vibration of love.

    Why are you here? What do you stand for?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice With Kino On OMstars

  • Same Same but Different and Flipidy-Flip

    If you have ever traveled to Thailand, I imagine you will invariably have come across the saying ‘same same but different’. Seemingly appropriate for almost any situation the interpretation, intended or perceived, may vary from ‘well it’s almost identical, it’s just a fake’ to ‘really it’s nothing like what you are asking for at all, but perhaps it will do’. It is one of my favourite sayings, sitting perfectly alongside the lovely Thai people. As I travel around the world teaching workshops in yoga anatomy, it is not the volumes of anatomical texts that bubble across my consciousness but this simple phrase and how we might explore our human potential with the concepts that percolate through it. In this short blog I’d like to share some of those thoughts and explain what the hell I mean by flipidy-flip.

     

    As you are reading this just take a moment to look around you and absorb the beautiful diversity of the human race. If you are in the right situation you can even cast your eye over the way people perform a relatively simple activity such as walking (of course although we walk for the most part without even thinking about what we are doing, try and get a robot to walk and you may be there for decades). We are all different in the way we look and move but at the same time the similarities are vast. We have the same muscles, bones, joints, internal organs etc. as the person next to us (unless you are missing something or have a little extra).

    Cool, that must mean we can all do the same yoga postures in the same way and reap the same benefits. But hold on a sec, how come Usain Bolt can run 100m in 9.58 seconds and when I ran up the road to catch the train the other day even my jaw started to ache. I also don’t fancy being plonked on an American Football pitch or whipping on a tutu for swan lake. I feel that my individual attributes make me more suited for say walking on the beach. 

    As similar as we are we are not gingerbread men all popped out from the same cookie cutter. If you ignore what we might term decoration; clothes, make-up, piercings, tattoos, hair, eye or skin colour etc. What did you notice as you observed your fellow kind? Height, girth, proportion, age, sprightliness, sluggishness and agility might be a few of the things that were easy to spot. Lurking under the surface we also have the way our bones orientate with each other, muscular tensions, tissue densities, ligamentous laxities, strength differences, degradation and established movement patterns to just name a few. You might even like to add in psychological disposition, past histories, previous injuries and energetic balance (feel free to add you own ideas here). 

    The point is much like playing with the spices in some tasty dish, seemingly small changes to mama’s recipe can have profound results:

    Long slim limbs might make it easy to bind 

    Being super bendy could allow certain postures to be accessed effortlessly but maybe also make it hard to stabilize in others.

    Super strong and you may be tempted to throw out technique and muscle your way through.

    Not strong enough and you might compensate in an awkward way stressing other areas.

    If you have plenty of girth then shifting your centre of gravity sufficiently might be problematic or that bulk might just get in the way in some postures.

    Too skinny and you may get blown over when they turn the fans on.

    You might even have noticed that in your own body not all is equal. Your hips might be happy to play along with your yoga endeavours while your shoulders refuse to co-operate or vice versa. You might be good at folding forward and rubbish at backbending (of course there is no negative weighting in that statement only a description of what is). If you are super diligent and starting to get in touch with the body you may even have noticed that those hips or shoulders that you thought were open, move in some directions much easier than others. That weakling label you gave yourself might be eroded when you find that there are somethings you feel quite strong at or alternatively that super strength normally present seems to be missing in some actions. Sometimes that is meant to be, for example our hips are supposed to flex (think fold forward) much more than extend (taking the leg behind the pelvis) but other times it could be patterns of muscular tension or the way we are built. In further exploration you may have uncovered the fact that your leg rolls one way much easier than the other (that movement is still happening at the hip by the way and in anatomical speak we would say external and medial rotation). Perhaps this happens to be exactly the same as your BFF or maybe it is completely the opposite.

    Doh, what happened to our super simple ‘one yoga practice fits all’?

    Time to call in flipidy-flip. Still awaiting acceptance into the prestigious Oxford Dictionary, flipidy–flip means to throw something into the air, then throw some more stuff up before it falls and see what you have when it all lands back down together. What we are throwing up in the air this time happens to be ideas. Let’s start with some statements that we might have extrapolated from the story so far.

    We are similar but also individuals.

    What one persons needs from their yoga practice might not be the same as someone else.

    We tend to like what we are good at, but that is often not what we need to create balance (OK, I just tried to slip that one in).

    Not every yoga practice will address what an individual requires because it may not use the desired joint movements, directions or strength challenges.

    Some people may have attributes that are either ideally suited or adversely challenging towards performing particular postures. 

    We are not all good and bad at the same stuff.

    We have arrived at this moment in time via many different routes.

    Considering we are different shapes and sizes to start with it is unlikely that we will create yoga postures that look the same or even that such a thing would be desirable.

    That will do for the moment, now we want something else for us to throw up and mix together.

    The human body responds to things it finds difficult by trying to change. For example if we start lifting weights the body attempts to get stronger by adapting the neurophysiology and increasing muscle density. If we stop increasing the weight or repetitions the body will decide that everything is fine as it is. If we want to get increases in our range of motion at particular joints we need to demonstrate to the body that we need it and are going to use it. We mostly get stronger in the actions we perform and not in those we don’t, same same with changes in range of motion. The body also responds much better to variety, not only in evening things out but also in spreading stresses. We can get very good at something we do a lot but may be particularly useless at something we don’t do very much. As an example, I am an Ashtanga practitioner and as such happen to do the balancing posture Uthitta Hasta Padangushtasana (Extended Hand-to-big-toe Pose) quite a bit. On the other hand I only do Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) if I go off reservation, because it is not in the Ashtanga sequences. Hence I am quite good at UHP but complete rubbish at Ardha Chandrasana. Guess which one I should spend some time doing. This idea is quite problematic if you have your sequences are laid out already and you don’t want to mess with them. My best suggestion would be to have a regular play day where you explore different movements and challenges.

    Some students might like to say that their yoga practice is a spiritual practice and that an emphasis on the physical body is misplaced. In answer to that position I would offer that you are using your physical body to move through space within gravity and create yoga postures, consequently this endeavour will create change in the physical body. Better that this change is balanced and what is required rather than just what happens to occur.

    So here we go, let’s throw all this up in the air and see what we get in the flipidy-flip. Similar to reading tea leaves we might all see something different but this is what I see:

    Yoga will initiate change in the physical body. Better to appreciate and evaluate those changes than rely on chance.

    There is a yoga for everyone but it should be what you as an individual need at that moment in time.

    Variation is both healthy and essential for balance and equanimity in the body.

    One size does not fit all, nor should we want it to.

    We should expect that we will be better at creating some postures more than others and even that certain postures may never be achievable due to our particular attributes. We should therefore challenge ourselves but not beat ourselves up or break bits in an attempt to achieve what may be unachievable. (This in no way detracts from the fact that we can be astonished by what we can achieve or that we should not endeavour to soar like eagles.)

    What do you see in the tea leaves?

    By Stu Girling

    Stu Girling, Yoga Anatomy Guru, OmStars teachers
  • Plant-based New Years Eve Appetizers

    We can’t believe 2017 is almost over! What will you be doing when the clock strikes 12? Maybe you’re having a relaxing night in by the warm fire, or perhaps you’re heading out for a night on the town, whatever your plans may be you’ll need to figure out what your going to be eating on the last night of the year! How about your spice up your night with delicious plant-based recipes by Naomi Seifter owner of Picnik Austin! She has pulled together two absolutely amazing dishes just for you and your nearest and dearest to enjoy- Butternut Squash Soup and a Holiday Platter full of incredible flavours with each bite!

    Holiday Platter

    We played around with using yummy ingredients as the ‘bread.’  We used steamed butternut squash, steamed sweet potato, apple, red bell pepper, jicama and cucumber slices.  We also went the traditional route, using bread rounds for the crust.  We wanted to give loose instructions so that you to make this at home with your favorite fillings.  Take ours as a guide, but have fun and make it your own!

    ‘Crust’ Ingredients:

    • 1 large sweet potato

    • 1 butternut squash

    • 1 jicama

    • 1 red bell cucumber

    • 1 cucumber

    • 1 apple

    • Optional: gluten-free bread

    Directions:

    Step 1: Prepare “crust”

    Crust options are: cucumber rounds, gluten-free bread, steamed sweet potato rounds, apple rounds, jicama rounds, and red bell pepper. Mix and match to your heart’s desire! (see image below)

    1. Using a mandolin (or very sharp knife) cut the sweet potato and butternut squash into 1/8 inch thick slices length-wise (see below for reference).

    2.  Steam sweet potato for 5-7 minutes (dependent on how many you put in the steamer at once). You want the potato to be soft but not mushy. You want it to still hold it’s shape.

    3. Steam butternut squash for 5-10 minutes (dependent on how many you put in the steamer at once). You want the squash to be soft but not mushy. You want it to still hold it’s shape.

    4. Place both squash and sweet potato in fridge to cool.

    5. Using a 2 inch round cutter, make your “crust” rounds.

    *Repeat using 2 inch round cutter with other crust materials but do not steam apple, jicama, red bell pepper, or cucumber. These are best served raw! The bread can be toasted to make it crunchy.

    Step 2: Make Fillings

    Curried Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

    Ingredients:

    • 1 15 oz. canned organic chickpeas

    • 1 shallot bulb, minced

    • 1 celery stalk, small dice

    • 2/3 cup apple juice sweetened cranberries, rough chop

    • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

    • 1 tsp. Himalayan sea salt

    • 1.5 cups avocado oil

    • 2 tsp. curry powder

    • 2 tbsp. pecans, finely chopped

    • 1 pinch cayenne

    • 2 pinches paprika

    • himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste

    Directions:

    1. Strain can of chickpeas. Place brine in Vitamix and chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.

    2. To the bowl, add minced shallot, chopped celery, cranberries

    3. To the blender, add mustard, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. Turn Vitamix on low and slowly drizzle in avocado oil to create your homemade vegan mayonnaise (you can skip this blending step entirely by using the pre-made mayo of your choice).

    4. Add ¾ cup of blended mayo to the bowl.

    5. Using a wood spoon, fork, or potato masher, mash the chickpeas for several minutes until the chickpeas break apart and are well incorporated with the other ingredients. *If you prefer, you can use a food processor to speed the process up, although we did not demo this method.

    6. Add curry powder, cayenne, paprika, optional honey, and pecans.

    7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    8. Place in fridge until ready to plate sandwiches.

    Other filling examples:

    Hummus

    Mix a 8 oz. container of hummus with ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper and ¼ cup finely chopped cucumber (reference photo) or other vegetables you prefer. Place on crust rounds of your choice.

    Nut Butter & Jelly 

    Combine equal parts almond butter (or peanut butter) with jelly. Mix together in a bowl. Try with apple or sweet potato crusts.

    Step 3: Arrange Tea Sandwiches

    Arrange tea sandwiches on a plate of your choice and top with any of the following:

    • Black sesame seeds

    • Hemp Seeds

    • Paprika

    • Flavored Salt

    • Garnish of choice

    Add fruit, herbs or decor to plate for extra color and sparkle!

     

    Butternut Squash Soup

    Before Naomi had a team to support her, she did all of the cooking out of her and Kevin’s house. This was a crucial time in our history because not only was Naomi creating the dishes, but she would then be at the trailer all day receiving feedback directly from our customers. That time laid a solid foundation of our food philosophy and helped us to discover exactly what kinds of food our regulars loved. This soup, was created during that precious time.  

    The coconut milk makes for a creamy and dairy-free base, while the spice mixture creates a unique, yet subtle, flavor profile; the ideal balance of sweet and spicy. Choose a veggie broth to make the soup vegan or a chicken broth if that is more your style. We hope you and your loved ones enjoy it as much as we do! Let’s get started…

    Ingredients

    Produce

    • 3 delicata squash

    • 3 apples

    • 3 cloves of garlic

    • 1 yellow onion

    • Olive Oil

    • Himalayan Sea Salt

    Liquid

    • 1/2 cup coconut milk

    • 1 cup apple cider

    • 3 tbsp maple syrup

    • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (we made a shiitake mushroom broth*, recipe below)

    Spices

    • 1/2 tsp turmeric

    • 1/2 tsp paprika

    • 1/2 tsp cayenne

    • 1/2 tsp ginger

    • 2 tsp cinnamon

    • 4 tsp himalayan sea salt

    • 2 tsp black pepper

    Directions

    1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

    2. Cut squash in half and remove the seeds.  Thick slice the delicata squash and large/rough chop apple and onion.  Peel garlic, and lay squash, apple, onion and garlic in a single layer on 2 baking sheets. Liberally apply olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place in oven to roast for 1 hour at 400 degrees.

    3. When roasting is complete, add produce from your 1st baking sheet to your high-powered blender (Vitamix/Blendtec) with 1/2 of the liquid and 1/2 of the spices (everything except salt and pepper – this will be added at the end). Blend and transfer to a large stock pot.  Repeat the blend process for the second batch of produce, liquid and spices.  Transfer to the same pot.  

    4. At this point, soup can either be placed in fridge for later or it can be transferred to the stovetop and heated immediately.  I like to season this soup to taste with salt and pepper when I’m ready to serve it.  As the soup is thick, it can “pop” and make a mess as your heat it up, so it is recommended you use a lid.  An additional note:  If soup is too thick for your liking, feel free to add additional stock.

    5. Enjoy!

    Stock Recipe

    1. To make your own shiitake mushroom broth, add 1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, turn down heat and let simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Final yield is about 6 cups of stock.

    By Naomi Seifter

    Follow Naomi on instagram at @picnikaustin 

    Discover more scrumptious plant based recipes on Omstars

  • Who needs Yoga?

    The imagery of modern yoga has an ethereal edge.  Wherever we look, we see lissome bodies bending into improbable forms, and balancing elegantly on the precipice of medical disaster.  This imagery can lend the impression that yoga is for people who live an ethereal existence, people who may be missing bones, who drift through the atmosphere, and rarely touch ground with their feet.  But these images are incidental.  They do not reflect the profile of the ordinary yoga practitioner.  On the contrary, they do something more interesting.  They reflect our fascination with the contortive potential of the human body, and in doing so, they symbolize, however imperfectly, our inherent admiration for resilience.

    Yogic imagery is remarkably old.  It provides the earliest evidence we have for yoga in the ancient world.  One of the earliest pieces is the Pashupati seal from the Mohenjo-Daro excavation site in present day Pakistan.  It features a humanlike figure with long horns seated in what appears to be Mulabandhasana.  The seal predates the current era by more than two millennia, and represents a civilization about which we understand very little.  The meaning of the seal is veiled in obscurity, and this is usual for artifacts that pertain to the ancient origins of yoga.  Sometimes we can decode their symbology enough to tell a coherent story about what they might mean, but we can only imagine the consciousness in which they were composed.

    Throughout its long and complicated history, yoga has formed countless alliances with  diverse alchemical and soteriological traditions.  In light of the diversity, many scholars now argue that there is no single thing called “yoga” whose tradition we can trace.  And so that may be.  But if we look at examples of yogic imagery throughout the ages—from the ancient seals of the Indus River Valley, to the medieval temple carvings of Tamil Nadu, to the Kalighat paintings of colonial Bengal, and to the crystalline images that stream through our social media channels today—there is always that ethereal edge.  There is always that evident longing to elevate consciousness above our limitations, and so to enrich and expand the human experience.

    This ethereal edge is the common thread to what we recognize as yogic imagery.  And if we can follow that thread through the ages, weaving through countless social and ritual contexts, this is arguably because of the way that what we recognize as yoga practice answers an archetypal human need—the need to be resilient, to be malleable, and to meet the persistent pressures to adapt to the ever changing circumstance of life.  That need has been understood in diverse and often opposing ways, as demonstrated by the Vedic, Tantric, and Advaitic approaches to the problem.  Arguably no single one of these is definitive, but neither can any one of them be discounted.  What is pertinent is the way that each of them answers our felt need to break up our inveterate patterns of conditioning, open our minds and evolve.

    Modern yoga does not cohere around any particular philosophy.  It exists more simply as an open set of practices and techniques for helping us overcome our psychological limitations.  Whatever the promises of yoga practice might be, the most pertinent and most compelling is that yoga allows us to relate more openly to otherness.  The practice teaches us to hold an open space of compassionate awareness for our own thoughts, emotions and memories to unfold, no matter how excessive or threatening they might seem.  Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath, so that otherness can appear within our consciousness, and we can relate to it more openly, without being impeded by our fears and anxieties.  That is, we can receive otherness, and be impacted by otherness, adapting to its reality without having to reinforce any particular idea or image of ourselves in the process.

    The reception of otherness within ourselves helps break up our self images.  And in this sense, the practices of yoga are vehicles for psychical release.  They help us release ourselves from the tangles of thought, emotion and memory to which we so ardently cling.  They help us to let go of things, so that we do not congeal into the imprint of our experiences, but we can continue to change and adapt to our circumstances.  To put it simply, the techniques of yoga help us break ourselves up.  They help us break up the congestion of our delusions and conceits, piercing the armor by which we conceal and protect ourselves from the otherness of the world.  And in doing so, they help us liberate ourselves from the stagnation of our conditioning, so we can open ourselves to new relationships, and new possibilities of experience.

    The orphanage of modern yoga practices from the historical traditions from which they descend is often regarded as corrosive to their potency, but arguably the reverse is true.  However rich and compelling those traditions might be, it remains essential that we translate our experiences with yoga into our own living language, into words that bring those experiences home to us, and engage us as we are.  The elision of antiquated concepts from the language of yoga is therefore an essential and not entirely regrettable aspect of its adaptation to modern life.  Without imposing upon ourselves the arcane limitations of historically distant ideas, we can have a more authentic experience of ourselves through the practice.  The removal of those ideas means that we can give ourselves more room to breathe, more room to settle into ourselves, and more room to follow the currents of awakening that are already flowing through us.

    This is part of the intelligence of modern yoga.  As a global phenomenon, yoga is not bound too tightly to any particular philosophy, nor to any particular conception of the relationship between the human and the divine.  And for just that, it can focus on what is more compelling, namely, the process of breaking up the self, and creating more space for the natural processes of creativity to unfold.  There are, of course, people today who would argue endlessly about the relative credentials of dualism, non-dualism, monism and the like, but the modern yoga movement is largely agnostic on these speculative questions, and understandably so.  In these late modern times, we have no need for the kind of thinking that hangs so breathlessly on these delicate distinctions, and evidence abounds of the problems that arise when we allow that kind of thinking to congeal into certainty.  Moreover, the speculative questions that underlie these distinctions tend to lose their force under the softening influence of the yogic experience, and that experience is really the center of the attraction.

    What holds the attention of most modern yoga practitioners is not any particular view of reality that may or not be encouraged by the practice, but the immediate experience of psychical release that is so warmly invited by each and every breath.  The most intriguing thing about yoga practice is that it works—when we undertake the practice assiduously, without pause, for a reasonable amount of time, we find that we can break into ourselves, creating space within our minds to relate to otherness in a more open and authentic way.  And here is the point—it is only by relating openly and authentically to otherness that we can evolve, for it is precisely in relation to otherness that we express creativity, awareness, compassion, and resilience.

    So the process of breaking into ourselves, and creating space for otherness, is crucial for our psychological development.  And we all could use some kind of internal practice to help make that process unfold, for we all tend to stagnate into our own psychological patterns.  This is perhaps the fundamental problem that yoga practice has always been called upon to solve, the problem of pulling us from the mire of our own conditioning.  This problem is arguably more pressing now then ever.  Modern life, after all, draws us into extremes of isolation, where we shun our collective problems with dangerous apathy.  It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that an unprecedented collective effort is the only chance that we have to reverse our destructive patterns today and resolve the colossal problems of our time.  At this pivotal moment in history, when we have nuclear weapons pointed all over the globe, and our patterns of extraction and consumption are quickly destroying the conditions of human life on our planet, our survival depends on our ability to break our conditioned patterns of thinking and acting, to come out of ourselves, to recognize the stark reality of our crises, and then to join together, with the rest of humanity, to take radical and immediate measures to cope intelligently with our nearly apocalyptic problems.

    Today, we can no longer afford to limit yoga to spiritual purposes.  Yoga is perhaps the most powerful instrument that we have for breaking out of ourselves and overcoming the paralyzing effects of our psychological conditioning.  On the same account, we can no long afford to restrict access to yoga, or create divisions within yoga that reinforce that archaic and destructive “us-versus-them” mentality.  What we think of as “real” yoga might not be for everyone (or anyone living now for that matter) but everyone today needs the kind of provocation to openness and change that even the more popular forms of yoga can inspire.  The real yoga is not the one that comes down to us through this or that authority, but the one that rattles us out of our delusions, draws us out ourselves, and exposes us to the fact that we are not isolated from one another, but bound together inextricably, and tasked to find ways of living together that express our basic resilience, kindness and generosity.

    The popularization of yoga, whatever its drawbacks might be, can help to inspire this kind of realization, by giving us simple and compelling methods for breaking up our mental congestions and our practical stagnations, and dissolving the individual and collective delusions that obscure our deeper and more loving nature.  This is something that we can all support without reservation, if we can only set ourselves aside, and look at the bigger picture.  Instead of creating more divisive hierarchies, more elitist obscurations, or more structures of restricted access and protected privilege, we should work together to churn the collective mind, uncover the potent essence of yoga, and then allow it to flow, so we can share it with absolutely everyone.

    By Ty Landrum

    Have you tried Ty’s Ashtanga course on Omstars? He explores techniques and tips for jumping through and jumping back, the energies of prana and apana in practice and also teaches a full primary series practice as well! Stay tuned for more articles and courses from Ty on omstars, but in the meantime you can read more of Ty’s brilliant articles on his website tylandrum.com!

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • Plant-based recipes for the holiday season

    Preparing a warm and delicious meal with family and loved ones this holiday season can be a wonderful time to reconnect, spend quality time together and to catch up on the year gone past. Although this time of year can one of indulgence, there are always ways to include healthy and equally scrumptious food options! Nourishing ourselves with consciousness made food during busy times can help to ensure we stay energized and balanced. We’ve teamed up with the incredible Lee Holmes to offer you some amazing plant-based recipes for the upcoming holiday season!

    Pistachio Minted Cranberry Quinoa

    Serves 4-6

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 zucchini (courgette), sliced

    • 1 eggplant (aubergine), cut into bite-sized pieces

    • 4 garlic cloves, whole

    • 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, plus extra, for drizzling

    • Celtic sea salt

    • 270 g (91/2 oz/1 cup) cooked quinoa

    • juice of 2 lemons

    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

    • 1 bunch of mint, leaves only, plus extra, to serve

    • 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro), leaves only, plus extra, to serve

    • 1 pomegranate, seeds only

    • 2 avocados, peeled, stones removed and sliced into wedges

    • 4 small spring onions (scallions), chopped 125 g (41/2 oz/1 cup) slivered almonds

    METHOD

    Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).

    Place the zucchini, eggplant and garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for about 35 minutes.

    Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

    Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest and the olive oil. Combine well.

    Place in a salad bowl with all the other ingredients and serve topped with extra mint and coriander leaves.

     

    Kale, Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Speedy Jam Jar Dressing

    Serves 2-3

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 bunch kale, chopped into slices

    • 1 whole lemon

    • 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    • Pinch of CelticSea Salt

    • 1 Avocado Pitted

    • ¼ cup pine nuts

    • 1 cup strawberries washed and quartered

    Speedy Jam Jar Dressing

    • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    • 2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

    • 1 tsp. sugar free mustard

    • ½ shallot, diced

    • Pinch Celtic Sea Salt

    • 1 TBS wheat free tamari

    METHOD

    • In a large bowl place lemon juice and olive oil and stir then massage it into kale leaves adding a pinch or two of sea salt. Keep massaging until leaves are soft and dark green

    • Add remaining ingredients and toss

    • To make the dressing whisk all ingredients together

    This recipe can be stored in the fridge in a covered container for up to 4 days.

     

    Layered Quinoa Trifle Recipe

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 100 g (31/2 oz/1/2 cup) quinoa

    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    • pinch of Celtic sea salt

    • 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) unsweetened almond milk

    • 1/2 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

    • 6 drops stevia liquid, or 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup

    • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds

    • 2 bananas, sliced

    • 130 g (43/4 oz/1/2 cup) coconut yoghurt

    • 4 tablespoons coconut flakes 110 g (33/4 oz/1/2 cup) mixed berries

    • 1 teaspoon almond butter, melted

    • 1 tablespoon chia seeds, for sprinkling

    Method

    • Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse with cold running water for 2–3 minutes, moving the seeds around with your hand to ensure that the seeds are well rinsed and any residue is removed.

    • Bring 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water to the boil in a large saucepan.

    • Add the quinoa, return to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to low for 12–15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

    • Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

    • Place the quinoa in a bowl and stir through the cinnamon and salt.

    • In a saucepan over medium–low heat, warm the almond milk for 3–4 minutes.

    • Stir in the vanilla and stevia or rice malt syrup.

    • Add a couple of spoons of quinoa to four glass jars, or glasses.

    • Mix through the almond milk and follow with layers of slivered almonds, banana slices, yoghurt, coconut flakes and berries. Repeat until the jars are full, with berries as the top layer.

    • Top with the melted almond butter and chia seeds.

    By Lee Holmes

    Follower her on instagram @leesupercharged 

    Check out Lee’s website superchargedfoods.com

    Check out more plant based recipes on our Wellness channel

  • Blow your mind with Meditation

    To me, the popularity of the war-time phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ seems out of place in one of the most prosperous and war-free societies in the world. In our connected, fully wired 24-7 society, it can be hard to switch off.  Our normal rhythms are easily out of sync and ‘stress’ has become an everyday word.

    As a lawyer, I remember hearing stories about how – before email – documents took days, if not weeks, to be passed around by hand, typed and re-typed with corrections handwritten in different colours – now it takes seconds to ping an email to everyone and complex contracts can be marked up overnight with tracked changes. The pace of modern life is sometimes astounding. 

    It’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and pressures of modern life.  Meditation is an antidote; a route to perspective and calm, to navigating the hectic traffic we experience in all areas of our lives. Meditation can change how we work, it can improve our health, and it can affect how we relate both to ourselves and to others.  Beyond a mechanism for coping with stress, mediation can be a vehicle towards finding more meaning, purpose, depth and connection in our lives.

    The mind is a surprising instrument. So powerful that science has yet to understand more than the basics of how it fully functions. But then, trying to understand ourselves has always been a tough, yet valuable pursuit.

    Our minds (along with our bodies) have developed over millions of years of evolution to give us the best chances of survival in a sometimes hostile world. Our brain is rewarded with pleasure – with substances such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – when we do something that evolution would suggest is survival-enhancing. And, of course, the other side of the coin is pain when our survival is threatened.   When we sit in meditation and train our attention, we are acting against many of the reactionary tendencies that we have developed as a result of evolution.    

    Our evolutionary tendencies have helped us to survive so far, but some of them now lead us to overreact.  We have, for example, developed a bias towards negativity, giving far more weight and attention to negative events and emotions than positive ones.  And, particularly, under stress, we overestimate and ‘dial up’ the perceived ‘dangers’ around us. The evolutionary ‘down’ that we sometimes experience after the ‘high’ of being with a partner, is designed to draw us towards that person helping us to mate and procreate. But if that evolutionary tendency is too strong in us, our neediness may get activated and end up pushing the person away. Meditation helps us to temper the reactions that evolution has set in motion, so in that sense it is going against some of our evolutionary instincts.  But maybe, that’s what’s needed for us to evolve even further.

    Previously the purview of monks and lamas, meditation is now being used by the likes of Google, hedge fund managers  and MBA students to boost their performance. Scientific research supports many health benefits of meditation mainly associated with stress reduction, and ability to focus.  Cautiously promising research in its early stages even suggests that meditation may have some effect on a cellular level on patients in remission from cancer. Further evidence is needed to confirm that. So, maybe, in terms of health and focus, meditation is giving us an extra edge. 

    Meditation affects the quality of your attention and where you place it. And, as Stanford scholar and international meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace, PhD explains in his book The Attention Revolution, ‘Our perception of reality is tied closely to where we place our attention’. What we focus on shapes our experience and the things we ignore, pale into insignificance for us. In 2012, Usain Bolt says he won the 100 meters in 2012 by concentrating on his strength on “concentrating on his strengths” (execution) rather than his weaknesses (his poor start). Meditation allows us to choose where we place our attention.  That, in turn, gives us more control over how we shape our lives.

    Meditation also helps us to navigate our emotions. Neuroscientists debate whether regions of the brain perform specific functions or whether a more interconnected view is more accurate.  It is, however, established that the amygdala (emotional centres) play a huge role in the fear response. In order to deal with the fear-causing – at an evolutionary level read ‘life threatening’ – situation, we dissociate. We stop using the logical, decision-making functions of our brains. I interviewed Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of bestseller, The Female Brain. She described this to me beautifully, using the analogy of a car with the clutch being pushed in. When we are in a state of stress and fear, the gears are unable to engage with the decision-making functions of our brains.

    Of course, modern day stressful situations are not always related to mortal danger. And, in a non-life-threatening situation such as work, most of the decisions we make would probably benefit from some logical engagement! Awareness developed through meditation can help break the cycle and get you back there. 

    Meditation helps us to press ‘pause’ on our reactive patterns. It gives us perspective and choice. This allows us to be cool under fire.  In this sense, it helps to blow the patterns that have been deeply ingrained in our minds out of the water, leaving us clearer, calmer and more available for genuine meaningful connection.  Any takers?

    By Mia Forbes Pirie

    Watch Mia’s course, Intelligent Start, on Omstars

    Join Mia’s 5 day meditation challenge and see how meditating for as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference to your day https://intelligentchange.life/five-day-challenge/ or be part of Mia’s small Facebook “Not too Perfect”  Yoga & Meditation community https://www.facebook.com/groups/379578869076090/

  • Forbidden Curry

    Dive into this incredibly delicious curry recipe with fragrant spices, and rich flavours. Warming your body as the winter season approaches, this recipe is also packed with health benefits from it’s key ingredients. Black rice is extremely high in a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins, Black Rice is also rich in iron and, according to Chinese herbal medicine, considered to nourish and replenish your blood. Curry and Turmeric are a great choice for people that are suffering from arthritis as Turmeric itself has long been known for it’s anti inflammatory traits. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 Organic Cauliflower
    • 2 Organic Zucchini
    • 2 cups of Forbidden Black Rice (makes extra rice.)
    • 2 cups Coconut Milk
    • 1 heaping tbsp of Almond Butter
    • 2 tbsp of your favorite curry powder
    • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • pinch of black pepper
    • pinch of pinch himalayan salt
    • Coconut oil

    Directions

    Rice

    It is best to soak forbidden rice overnight allowing the rice to remove surface starches that cause the rice to stick together.   If this is not possible be sure to rinse well 3 – 4 times.  Place the rice into a large pot with twice the amount of water.   I usually eyeball it to look where the water line falls on the pot.  Once ready put pot on the stove with rice in it.  Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 30 – 40 mins.  When it is close to finishing I usually add a little bit of Coconut oil, dash of pink salt and black pepper.

    Mixed Veggies

    I like the simplicity of pairing two types of seasonal vegetables.  Begin with chopping the Cauliflower into smaller pieces, prepare the pan by adding a little bit of water to cover the bottom.  Add chopped cauliflower and cover on medium.  Once The cauliflower is softening up a bit, add the chopped garlic and chopped zucchini.   The zucchini will cook very quickly so time with the cauliflower.

    Curry

    Begin the curry by add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the bottom of a sauce pan.  Put on low and add 1 tsp of coriander seed.  You will here the seeds pop once this happens turn off the burner.  Allow the oil to cool down.  good thing to do now is start prepping the veggies.  Once oil has cooled poor Coconut Milk in. Allow this to heat up.  Once it is close to boil add heaping tbsp of almond butter and curry powder.  Take the heat back down to med low.  Allow this to simmer for 15 mins, stir occasionally.  Finish it with a dash of pink salt and black pepper to taste.

    Plating

    Very simple plating.  Begin with a bed of the black rice.  Next add the Cauliflower, Zucchini and garlic.  Then pour a desired amount of curry over the top.  Finish with chopped cilantro.

    Health Benefits

    Forbidden Rice 

    This medium-size heirloom rice is treasured for its delicious roasted nutty taste, soft texture and beautiful deep purple color. Extremely high in a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins, Forbidden Rice is also rich in iron and, according to Chinese herbal medicine, considered to be a blood tonifier.  A new study shows that a spoonful of black rice bran or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries.

    Curry Powder

    Curry powder is a mixture of spices. It is well noted that the most powerful healing herb in the powder is turmeric which gives it a yellowish color. Curry is most known to Fight Alzheimer’s and degenerative diseases. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry powder is being seriously looked at by scientists as a tool that fights Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the culprits in Alzheimer’s is a dangerous plaque that debilitates victims ability to function properly. Curcumin effectively blocks this plaque, subsequently protecting the brain. It should be noted that India, a country famous for its use of curry powder in several dishes, has an Alzheimer’s rate that is four times lower than the U.S. Curry is also known to block genes that are responsible for the trigger and spread of some forms of cancer. Curry and Turmeric are also a great choice for people that are suffering from arthritis. Turmeric has long been known for it’s anti inflammatory traits.

    Coriander Seed

    In addition to medicinal properties, coriander has many qualities that benefit general, daily health. It is great for digestion, relieves gas, prevents nausea and is an excellent source of fiber. Anti-inflammatory properties not only aid in digestion as well, but also alleviate arthritis. Coriander works to detoxify the body and also protects against Salmonella bacteria. Similarly, it can be used both internally and topically to ward of allergic reactions.

    Almond Butter

    The number one health benefit of almond butter is that it is good for the heart. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are the type of fats that reduce levels of cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart ailments. Almond butter is a sweet and tasty dessert that will not do any damage to your blood sugar levels. In fact, it can even help control levels of blood sugar in your body by reducing the sudden increase in blood sugar and insulin which usually happens after you eat a carbohydrate-packed meal. This makes it an ideal part of the meal if you are suffering from diabetes. Oxidative stress is a common problem in today’s society. Free radicals that do cellular damage to your body are present everywhere. This is why it is important to have proper intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and flavonoids, which fortunately can be found in almond butter. Almond butter, thus helps protect cells from oxidative stress and reduces the risk of heart disease and other ailments associated with it.

    Cilantro

    Cilantro is most often cited as being effective for toxic metal cleansing and rightfully so, as this herb is a powerful, natural cleansing agent. The chemical compounds in cilantro bind to toxic metals and loosen them from the tissue. Many people suffering from mercury exposure report a reduction in the feeling of disorientation after regularly consuming large amounts of cilantro over an extended period. Cilantro is also antibacterial and antifungal.  It aids in lowering blood sugar levels, so it is very useful for people suffering with diabetes.  Cilantro has also been studied for it positive benefits as an anti anxiety remedy. Made as a tea or along with food, it helps reduce stomache gas and is a great option for bloating.

    Turmeric and Black Peppers synergistic effects

    Turmeric has long been studied for its anticancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and tumor-fighting activities known in nutrition-speak as anti-angiogenesis. The active agent in the spice is a plant chemical, or polyphenol, called curcumin. One problem with turmeric is its low bioavailability when eaten on its own.The solution is to combine with black pepper. Adding black pepper to turmeric or turmeric-spiced food enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine.

    By Adam Kenworthy

    Follow Adam on Instagram (@adamkenworthy) where he’s constantly posting new and exciting dishes, drinks and snacks and check out his facebook page for some more long form recipes in the meantime. We’re thrilled to be launching a full course on Omstars with Adam in the new year!

    Tune into Omstars for more recipes on our Wellness Channel

     

  • Ustrasana: the subtlety of heart-opening

    Not every yoga pose needs to bring you to edge of limits. Some poses lay the technical and anatomical foundation for deeper practice. It’s crucial that you apply healthy alignment principles in the foundational poses if you seek to maintain your practice over the course of your lifetime. If you jump in with all heart and zeal but forget to use wisdom and intelligence, chances are you’ll push too hard and miss out on the subtlety of your yoga practice.

    Backbending is a both challenging emotionally and physically. As such, it truly demands that you learn optimal technique from the beginning. If you try and force your backbends not only will you prevent your spine from opening but you may experience an entirely preventable injury. The beauty of backbends is that they energize the small micro-muscles of the back and stimulate the nervous system. Not to mention that in a healthy backend every single muscle of the entire body is involved.

    The process of backbending can be thought of as bending over backwards with the entire body. As the muscles of around your spine lift and create space around the vertebrae, the front body lengthen, the legs engage, the pelvic floor firms, and the shoulders and chest open. On a more internal level, the digestive system is cleansed, the cardio-vascular is stimulated and the nervous system is enervated. Finally on an energetic level, the vital life essence known as Prana is pushed upwards along the central channel, often bringing heat, emotions and rarefied states of consciousness to the surface. You will only progress to the deepest levels of realization within the inner body once the basics of alignment are set up well. Ustrasana, translated into English as the Camel Pose, is the perfect backbend to establish your awareness of anatomical and alignment.

    Starting off in Downward Facing Dog, step or jump your feet forward to a kneeling position. Place the knees hips’ width apart. If your backbend is relatively open leave the toes pointed, but if your backbend is relatively tighter then curl the toes under and use the strength of the feet for more foundation. Internally rotate the hip joints and gently activate the inner thigh muscles to adduct the femurs. A gentle internal rotation allows the sacrum to be free and helps keep the glutes soft. Activate the pelvic floor and send the hips forward, opening the fronts of the hip joints and releasing the psoas and hip flexors. Inhale as you draw the lower abdomen in and lift the rib cage away from the hips to maximize the space between the joints of the spine. Exhale bend each each of the joints of the spine in to extension and facilitate a soft arched back. Nutate the sacrum and distribute the bend equally throughout the entire spine. Place the heels of the hands on the heels of the feet, roll the shoulders forward to internally rotate the humerus and send the sternum up and forward. Allow the trapezius muscles to come up and support the neck pillow as you comfortably drop your head back and gaze towards the nose. Stay for five breaths. With each inhalation create space both physically and emotionally. With each exhalation surrender into that space in every way possible. Come out of the pose in the same methodical way that you entered, reversing the instructions and maintaining space and support for every joint of the body. Move with symmetry and awareness. Never force.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Watch Omstars Yoga Encyclopedia episode on Ustrasana