• A Time To Listen

    We are living in a challenging and powerful time. A bright light is being aimed at our shadows of racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, prejudice, violence, and hate. These elements of our nature have always existed, though sometimes they have changed forms, sometimes hid from view, sometimes remained visible but ignored. Systemic, institutionalized oppressions are being identified and called out. Claims of injustice are beginning to be taken seriously. Evidence via phone cameras brings horrors that have always been experienced by some to the consciousness of the many. Groups are collecting, unifying to bring about change. What certainly may be an increase in hate and violence recently is coinciding with greater illumination of what has always been there.

    The marginalized populations have always known. Women have always known the degree to which they experience harassment, assault, manipulations of power dynamics. People of color have always known that systems of racism were alive, well, and strong. Trans people have always been aware of the dangers they face when confronted with fear and ignorance. Oppressed people are gaining agency in spaces where they had little or none. Now, those of us that have never been affected personally are becoming aware. And now, we are faced with choices. We can continue to bury our heads in the sand, deny and fight the truth, or we can join this building wave, support the voices demanding justice and change, contribute our efforts to something important and right.

    My two children are biracial. While I think of myself as someone who always believed in equality, a feminist and anti-racist, having children that are directly affected by racist ideologies and institutions has certainly made it personal – to a degree. My first son was born six years ago, and at the time I had an idealized view of interracial relationship, and the biracial offspring born of them. My immediate community was diverse and had been for years. I had minimal negative experiences related to my relationship, my friendships, my work, etc. Of the very few I had, I was able to package them up as isolated, fringe, and atypical. Discussions in my personal life or online that became racially charged were a place that I felt comfortable standing up, speaking out. I would passionately share what I believed and then move on with my life.

    As the Black Lives Matter movement gathered strength, and my boys got older, and a new president was elected, I found myself speaking out less and listening more. I began from a place of desire to identify, to myself and others, as non-racist, or anti-racist. It took a while to recognize how self-serving that desire was, and that it literally benefited no one but myself. I decided to only offer my voice when it would benefit the conversation, when it would positively contribute to the fight. In conversations where I used to know exactly what to say, I found myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, to offend, to appear ignorant, or arrogant. I felt helpless. And I think this is appropriate. This has been a part of my process. I gradually came to recognize that I, as a white female, will never, ever know what it is like to exist in our culture as a man, as a person of color, as a non-cisgendered person. I came to acknowledge when and where my voice is not needed, not beneficial, not helpful. As I found myself in spaces, both virtual and real, where important conversations were being had, instead of speaking, I learned to listen.

    I listened to the points of view of bigoted, ignorant, racist people. I listened and heard their beliefs, I learned of their pain, fear, anger. I learned what I shared with them, how I was like them. I listened and learned from the privileged, from the saviors and light workers. I learned that people don’t feel comfortable exploring and acknowledging their darkness – that of their culture and that of their soul. I listened and learned from POC. I came to recognize how little I knew, how little I understood, and how great was my own participation in, and benefit from systems of inequality and dynamics of power and marginalization.

    I am still immersed in this process, but through listening I am coming to acknowledge when my voice should stay silent. There are organizations and forums and conversations where the voices of POC are strengthening and getting louder and finally being heard. In these spaces, my voice is not needed, or wanted, or beneficial. There is nothing I can add to the conversation from my perspective, from my life experience, that produces anything beyond a salve to my own white guilt and sense of helplessness. In these spaces, I can offer myself as a soldier at their command, an additional hand set to a task. I can offer myself as a support to their work.

    There are places I have decided I can affect change, where my voice can be heard. It is in conversations with other white people. There are spaces where POC are not invited, where their voices are silenced. Those people that would not hear a black person, might hear me. A message that would be resisted if coming from a person of color, might seep through the barriers when spoken by me. When I am in a white dominated space and racism is present, my voice needs to be heard. For too long, we have been silent as our uncles tell inappropriate jokes, when we observe our boss passing up qualified employees because of their name, when a random comment by a stranger in line at the grocery store is said a little too loudly. These are the places we should be speaking. Our silence is complicity.

    Each day that passes and my boys get older, I become more and more unsure of how to raise them in this world. I mentioned above that this issue has become a personal one only to a degree. I am limited in my understanding of what they will experience by my whiteness and my gender. I have no idea how they will experience the world as children born of such different truths as mine and their father’s. What I can do now is listen: To the world as new voices and truths rise to the forefront, and to my boys, as they begin to share their world with me. Their experiences will form their truth and will inform my reaction which will, in turn, influence their reality. I will make mistakes, I have already made so many. But if I listen, I may continue to learn something along the way.

    A spiritual practice, like yoga, asks us to be present. To face our challenges, to sit in difficulty and just breathe. We aim to find steadiness and peace in our discomfort, pain, and ugliness. As you struggle to find your place in this time of change and activism, I ask you to take this method of self-study beyond the mat. Stay in moments of discomfort, pain, and ugliness. Don’t avoid the darkness, in fact, seek it out. Join Facebook groups that you wouldn’t otherwise be a part of. Go to community meetings. Go to social venues that stray outside of your usual. Have conversations with people different than you. Stay, breathe – and listen. As you absorb the truths of another’s experience, you will learn where you fit. You will learn how to apply your unique circumstances, perspective, skills, and talents to something important.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Practice With Angelique 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/

  • 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

  • Your body is not a car, it’s a living vehicle

    The key to unlocking flexibility is not just practice, it’s about understanding how to speak the language of the inner body. If you practice the wrong technique over and over, chances are that you will not get the desired result. Practicing a flawed method is like driving in the wrong direction. Hitting it faster and harder will only take you that much further away from the goal. Slowing down and checking the roadmap gives you time to recalibrate your course for the right target. In yoga it’s important to remember that the target is always about the inner state. The yoga of yoga is never the pose itself. The pose is the method of experience, but it’s not meant to be your final destination.

    Every pose requires you to embark on a journey to the innermost regions of your body, mind and soul. There are subtle cues to encourage you along the right path and warning signs to discourage you from making a wrong turn. Yoga is more about learning the language that your body’s own navigation provides than it is about forcing your body into a shape. The first step in yoga is more about listening than it is about telling. You have to “meet” your body and bring your full awareness into the quite space of user the surface of the skin. Only then will be able to really hear the messages that your body sends you. There is a natural intelligence in the body and yoga has the ability to tune you into that ancient and powerful wisdom. I like to think of the body like a car that has been designed by a master engineer. Your body has its own GPS and it comes equipped with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. It has been perfectly formed, but it requires care and the right type of sustenance. Flexibility is evidence of a well-oiled and cared-for machine. At the same time, the body is so much more than just a car. The vehicle of the body is alive itself, so it’s more like a partner on the journey than a static piece of machinery. In order to truly find freedom in the practice you and your body have to walk together in unity as friends and learn to speak the same language.

    So often we treat the body as an adversary and blame it for all our problems. We think our vehicle is flawed because of its size, shape or age. And truly, yoga poses can frustrating, sometimes painful and even lead to injury if performed wrong. The deeper work of the yoga practice is about finding a way to practice while avoiding all the damaging pitfalls of unnecessary pain and traumatic injury. But despite our best efforts it’s not always possible to travel the inner roads with absolute ease and flow. Sometimes you hit a traffic jam. Tightness and stiffness in the body feel like congestion. Everything is blocked and there’s no way forward. Sometimes you can find an alternate route, but most often you just have to sit there and be patient. Honking your horn is a fruitless endeavor only certain to annoy everyone around you, just like getting mad at your body for it’s lack of flexibility is a dead-end. Ramming your car into the car ahead of you is criminal and injurious, just like jamming your body into a pose that your body isn’t ready for is also a kind of assault that leads to pain and suffering. So, what can do you? Sit there. Observe. Practice patience, kindness and tolerance. Focus on the breath. Remain equanimous. Breathe. Surrender. Have faith. When the traffic jam is over it will be over. When body is ready to open it will. Sometimes there are good reasons for traffic just like sometimes there are good reasons that the body isn’t full released. All you can really do is make friends with your body and accept where you are on the journey today.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Join Kino for Heart centered meditations on Omstars

     

  • Raw Vegan Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie

    This was so good I think it was almost criminal. Left over chocolate has never been a problem for me. But if you’ve been wondering what to do with the little bit of left over chocolate, say  from my peanut butter protein balls, then this here, is the ticket.  A simple, healthy, protein enriched chocolate smoothie that will knock your socks off and make you want to drink both of them immediately.

    Recipe for Raw Vegan Chocolate Protein shake

    No cows were squeezed, no sugar was imbibed and no diet rules broken in the making of this quick breakfast to go.

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups cold filtered water

    • 2 -2 1/2 frozen bananas

    • 2 scoops vanilla or chocolate raw vegan protein powder (I used Sunwarrier)

    • 1 tbs raw cacao powder

    • 1 cup coconut yoghurt (make your own using the recipe from my course on omstars)

    • Ice cubes

    • 3 tbs Homemade chocolate warmed to liquid (to serve)

    Method

    Blend all ingredients except the chocolate sauce. The quantity should measure 4 cups on the side of your jug. Add ice cubes to make up the difference in volume. Blend until slushy, stopping to mix with a wooden spoon. Pour a little chocolate down the sides of the mason jars for garnish but reserve most of the chocolate sauce for the top. Pour the frapped smoothies into the mason jars and drizzle on the chocolate sauce. Because the chocolate has been made with cacao butter it will harden into a nice top which you can crack off and eat.

    So delicious. Seriously, stop everything and savour this smoothie to make the moment last.

    By Natalie Prigoone

    Follow her on instagram @thegreatuncooking and visit her website thegreatuncooking.com for more raw food recipes or create incredible dishes, smoothies, dips, snacks and more alongside Natalie on Omstars.

    Learn more recipes with Natalie on Omstars

  • Yoga for Parents

    We are a product of our environments.  We are a product of our parents.  Monkey see, monkey do.  What are your little monkeys observing in the day to day?  Posture is no little thing on the list of providing our children with happy, healthy and safe lives.  But, if we are constantly revolving around a sedentary life, how can we lead by example and show them how to move through this life with healthy posture?

    Since the internet and cell phones became a household and even an individual norm things have shifted, quite literally.  We sit too much, in cars, on the couch, at school and at work.  We are sitters. For the sake of our children, we need to become movers and shakers again.  For the sake of ourselves, we need to change this idea of “back breaking” work and do things with posture and muscular support that allows us to work hard without “breaking your back.”

    Two quick steps in the right direction:  

    1 Sit more. Wait, what?! Let me explain: Not on a chair, not on a couch, not with a screen and not with a slouch.  Dr. Suess rhymes aside, we need to squat.  We need to squat and work the posterior chain that gets neglected.  The backside of the body needs more attention and the spine needs that support. Six packs are pretty and all, but you know all the sayings: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep.  Bark with no bite.  

    2 Posture, posture, posture.  This is where having a Yoga practice gives you an upper hand.  Practice at home and practice in front of your kids.  Their incredible human brain will process and digest what they are seeing.  I’ve always said it is no wonder every mother and father thinks that their child is a genius…humans are amazing!  Lead by example and show them correct posture.  Telling them to sit up straight means very little if they have never seen it before.

     If the above is a rant about the asana of Yoga then below is my little rant about the awareness of Yoga.  

     Processing information is hard, especially when you are learning rapidly, growing rapidly and experiencing heightened emotions that are relatively new.  You might think I’m talking about you at this point, but I’m actually referring to children.  When you stare at them in disbelief because they are reacting with such intensity, remember that it is all very real to them and they are experiencing those emotions inside no matter how irrational it seems to an adult.  It is very overwhelming and takes age and time to process in a more socially acceptable manner.  I know this from personal experience.  I too was once a child.  Seriously though,  often times reflection can be the easiest path to compassion.  You don’t just get off the hook as an adult either, this is a life long battle of thinking before you act or even thinking about how you act.  Yoga teaches us patience and that life itself is a practice.  One more time:  Life itself is a practice.  Practice makes progress.  Practice what you preach.  Lead by example.  Awareness.  I guess I was talking about you after all.

    By Holly Fiske

    Join Holly and Omstars for her #upsidedowniscomingtotown Instagram Challenge starting December 3rd, follow her on instagram @upsidedownmama and check out her website www.upsidedownmama.com to learn more about Holly and her beautiful clothing line!

    Watch this space for the release of Holly’s course Upside Down Yoga

  • Yoga for Kids with Lexi Hidalgo

    Welcome Lexi Hidalgo to the Omstars family as she releases her 11 episode course, Yoga for Kids. At 16-years-old, Lexi is Florida’s youngest certified yoga teacher, who found her passion for sharing yoga with kids at a young age. Through her course Lexi shares her excitement for teaching, practicing and getting your whole family involved in the practice of Yoga. Yoga has so many benefits to offer kids of all ages and through Lexi’s course she shares her own personal insight and experience through a variety of different classes. From introductory yoga flow, to motivating meditation practices, yoga flows for young athletes and so much more. Lexi draws on her own experiences as a teacher and truly understands the physical and emotional benefits that yoga offers to young people as they transition through different stages of life. Lexi’s course shares this knowledge and makes sure everyone is having fun at the same time! 

    Meet Lexi…

    What impact has Yoga had on your life?

    Yoga has changed my life. I found yoga 3 1/2 years ago and I didn’t know it would lead me where I am now! Before Yoga came into my life I spent years involved in competitive cheerleading, and I needed change- I just didn’t know what that change might be. All through my middle school years I felt lost and had zero self confidence because I believed everything people told me. After practicing yoga consistently during the end of middle school, I finally felt a connection and love for myself that didn’t exist before.

    How did you feel after your first Yoga class?

    The first time I did yoga, I was completely in love with everything about it. Not just physically but mentally. It inspired me to become my own person and at that moment I felt that I wanted other people to have the same opportunity to experience this powerful practice, one that I knew could help people discover themselves. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher, at only thirteen it wasn’t something my family, friends, or anyone expected to hear from me. I was okay with it, okay with doing something different, something unexpected. After 8 years I left all star cheerleading and continued on with 7 months of yoga teacher training. The experience of teacher training was incredibly transformative for me and in those 7 months, this experience created a new and a better me.

    What was it like being on a teacher training at 13?

    Yoga teacher training not only taught me about yoga it taught me to see the perfection in people, the perfection in myself and completely disregard anything else. Being 16 I feel like I’ve discovered who I am and I know that as the years go by I will only discover and learn more about myself. Since my certification I’ve continued to have accomplishments and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Overall, my point in this story is that you can never be to too young or too old to chase your dreams, to reach your maximum potential. We can all change this world and I know we’re going to do it. 

    We’re so excited to have Lexi as one of our newest hosts on Omstars offering classes for your whole family. Not only is Lexi teaching young people about yoga and the physical benefits, she also invites a deeper purpose of taking the lessons they learn in class off the mat and into the rest of their day.

    To learn more about Lexi you can follow her on Instagram @lexxyoga and check out her website for upcoming events and classes at www.lexxyoga.com.

    By Anna Wechsel

    Watch Yoga for Kids with Lexi on Omstars

     

  • Sweet Potato Chili

    For everyone around the world experiencing the arrival of cooler weather, you’re probably craving something warm and filling to cozy you up on those rainy or snowy grey evenings. That’s where this Sweet Potato Chili recipe comes in handy.

    Sydney’s currently in this weird half winter/half spring state where somedays are so warm your only option is to wear a swim suit, and other days are so cold you wouldn’t even dream of going outside. On one of those freezing days in Bondi as I watched the palm trees bend and sway dangerously in the insane wind, I got a craving for a big bowl of chili.

    I enjoyed this healthy, protein packed meal so much that I obviously had to share it with you all! It’s not very spicy and has a mild, tomatoey flavor. If you prefer your chili to have more of a punch, add in an extra table spoon of the chili powder and paprika. This recipe makes a HUGE amount–be aware!! You’ll have leftovers for days! It’s best shared with a friend or loved one under a warm blanket 🙂

    Sweet Potato Chili

    -two sweet potatoes, diced

    -four Yukon gold potatoes or two Russet potatoes

    -one can (~14 oz) whole corn kernels, drained

    -one can (~14 oz) kidney beans, drained

    -one can (~14 oz) black beans

    -4 carrots, cut into dimes

    -2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes

    -2 tbs chili powder

    -1.5 tbs paprika

    -1 tbs sugar

    -1 tbs salt (plus more if you need it after taste testing

    -1 tbs garlic

    -1 tbs cumin

    -1 tbs cracked black pepper

    -.5 tbs vegan cocoa powder

    Optional

    -2 cups rice, cooked

    Raw Vegan Cashew Cheese, for garnish

    -fresh lemon

    -fresh spinach

    After you’ve prepped your veggies, toss them in a large pot. Pour in the cans of crushed tomato, kidney beans, black beans, and corn. Add in your spices and seasonings. Mix together until the spices have been evenly distributed throughout the chili. Make sure the potatoes and carrots are covered by the liquid. Cover and let simmer for about thirty minutes. The chili is done when it smells fragrant and aromatic, and the potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Enjoy on top of rice and fresh spinach with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dollop of my easy Raw Vegan Cashew Cheese!

    Devyn Howard

    Follow her on instagram for more plant-based inspiration, @diningwithdevyn and check out her website to learn more about all things vegan www.diningwithdevyn.com

    Watch the latest episode of Seek Up: Vegan For Life with Devyn & Kino