Five steps to a brighter tomorrow

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Five steps to a brighter tomorrow

The future is - humane

For most of us, an end of a cycle naturally calls upon reflection on what was, what is, and what we wish will be. Every ending brings a moment of pause, a moment when we look behind in contemplation of a road behind us. At the end of a year we reflect upon everything that happened; the joyous moments we’ve had, places we saw, people we met, tears we shed, things we accomplished, what we lost, challenges we faced and how we met them, but also upon the people we were; what moved us, what hurt us, what made us happy, what made us sad? Were we loving and compassionate to others and did we create positive resonance with our thoughts, words and actions? How gently did we walk upon this Earth? Were we kind enough? Were we gentle enough? 

Even though we shouldn’t dwell in the past but always face forward, I believe reflecting on what was is important. History is a great teacher, it provides information and insight so we can easier put the pieces of puzzle together, and, even though the future is still unknown, we can use the lessons learned yesterday to create a brighter tomorrow.

When we look at the road ahead, the unseen and unknown, we're full of hope. We envision new, bright beginnings, we hope for new possibilities, visualise a happy future for all. We set intentions, hopes and dreams. But, in order to make our dreams become reality, we need to make space for the change and open to the new, we need to let go, release and detach from the old. Old ways of thinking and doing, believes which don’t resonate with our heart and soul, ideas which don’t ring truth to our higher mind’s ear.

Creating a brighter future for all depends on each one of us. We are all equally important and equally responsible to create a positive change and a brighter tomorrow. To become more humane humans. To survive and thrive as species in equality and abundance for all, stop the destruction of the planet we share with other beings (yet, we are the only ones who destroy it), and save the only home we have. And to do this we need to change our ways of doing and thinking. This may be hard, inconvenient, uncomfortable etc, but it is also the only way to move forward.

It takes opening your eyes, thinking with your head, rethinking your choices, doing some research, abandoning convenience and conformity. But, the beautiful thing is, it really pays out. Not only on a big scale of things, but in our microcosm as well. Kindness and compassion resonates with our hearts and souls, and every small step we take in the right direction brings us closer to our free, loving essence. Below are five steps in the right direction to help the world move forward. 

1. Try a vegan (or vegetarian) diet

Meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest problems our world faces today. From the environmental like climate change, pollution, water use, deforestation etc. to health issues attributed to consumption of meat and dairy which has been scientifically proven for decades now. Not to mention the sheer cruelty of the industry which for some, myself included, is the main reason for a plant based diet. Somebody once said that 'The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world'. I share this sentiment and believe that the first step towards a brighter future for all is, in Einstein's wise words 'widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty', - extending the love and compassion beyond self, family and friends we love. 

I also believe this is the way of the future. New generations are already adopting a plant based diet, many professional athletes are turning vegan and debunking the 'what about protein' myth. And judging by these promising statistics, the world is changing indeed. 

Every time I write or speak about the importance of adapting a more sustainable diet for the benefit of all, I fear my words will cause resistance and an opposite effect. It is in our human nature to defend our ideas, beliefs, our way of life. If change was easy, our world would be a different place. The only thing I can say is please don’t take my word for any of this. Do the research yourself. Watch documentaries (there is actually a playlist of some on my youtube channel), read studies, find answers to all the questions you may have. There is so much empowerment in that. And maybe just give it a try, see how it feels.

I love Veganuary project where you can pledge to go vegan for a month. The website is full of info and answers to some common questions as well as a starter kit and recipes.

 

2. Become a more conscious consumer

Every coin you spend of your hard earned money goes to support an industry you may not want to support. Some of the biggest companies and industries today, whose products fill the shelves of most supermarket giants, became so big and made such profit on the backs of low paid labourers (often children) in some distant lands with poor labour policies, cheap, toxic and bad quality materials or ingredients, huge environmental impact, false advertising and elimination of small producers and more ethical alternatives (Monsanto is a great example of this). They have grown to be giants who now run the world economy because of us. With every coin spent buying their product, we made them billions they can now spend to pay off politicians who pass bills and legislations for them, and pay of studies to back up their case and become even bigger, more unethical with only one thing in mind - profit. Consider this next time you're out to buy anything. And again, don’t take my word for it, do the research. It will empower you to make more conscious choices. Start small, with something you buy daily like food. Buy local, organic, go to farmer’s market instead of supermarkets, find ethical stores in your area. 

(I have been following ethical consumer for a while now, plenty of latest info can be found there of both unethical and most ethical companies.)
 

3. Explore ethical fashion

Fast fashion is becoming a big problem, from the cruel materials used (leather, fur, feather, wool etc.) to bad labour politics and an environmental impact. Also, dyes, bleaches etc most commonly used are not very healthy to put on your skin. This is a new one for me and I have started to go down this road recently, this was one of New Year resolutions last year. 
It's not as easy or convenient (unless you live in London or Berlin) as these are not your high street brands, but much is available online.

I took some time to do a bit of research, ordered some things online, tried some brands and am happy I made this switch. At the end of this text you can find links to (so far) some of my favourites. I also have an ethical shopping app called ‘good on you’ I love and use to check ratings of fashion brands.


4. Use cruelty free cosmetics

The beautiful truth about being a more aware and conscious consumer / human is that all the good choices you make are not just good for the environment and compassionate to other beings, but also better for your health. It’s a win-win-win kind of a situation. The rule of thumb when it comes to cosmetics is that you shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you couldn't also eat. The skin is our biggest organ and everything we put on it is absorbed into our body, the same as everything you consume.
As far as the animal testing goes, it's cruel and unnecessary. Cruelty free cosmetics is widely accessible everywhere and have been for as long as I can remember. There are so many brands depending on where you live, and since I mostly reside in Europe at the end of the text I have listed some of my favourite EU brands. 

 

5. Consider your waste

I don’t think I need to tell you how bad plastic and other harmful waste is for us, the planet and other living beings inhabiting this same planet. The impact of plastic waste and the fact that in few years there will be more plastic than fish in the Ocean is common knowledge. And if you’ve gone this far in reading this text, meaning didn’t get annoyed, defensive and stopped reading, I am pretty sure you are already doing your bit when it comes to waste. I can bet you recycle, am pretty sure you didn’t take a plastic bag on a market or in a shop for years and you can’t remember when was the last time you bought water etc. in a plastic bottle. But, we can always do more.
Greatly reducing waste is my pledge for this year. I know it will be anything but easy as this year I will be spending at least six months travelling, but it’s a challenge I am willing to take on and I’m sure I’ll write about it soon. Thankfully there are so many inspiring bloggers out there living the zero waste lives I can find information and inspiration in.


Change is a process, and like any other, it takes time to unfold. If you are new to all this, take baby steps, but take them in the right direction. If you are already doing a lot, see how you can do just a bit more. Together we can create positive changes towards a brighter tomorrow. Happy New Year! 
 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 
― 
Albert Einstein

MY FAVOURITES:

Clothes*Mud Jeans for jeans, Kings of Indigo for all things denim. Patagonia is an ethical leader in outdoor wear & surf, All sisters for swimwear and I love Vitamin A for swim and beachwear. For yoga and workout Reebok and Prana are two brands available world wide which are on the good side of things. Adidas (especially Stella McCartney) as well. There's many interesting ethical clothing brands out there like YSTRKnow the originWunderwerk I can't wait to order something from (when I need something) and Mara Hoffman for high fashion brands as well as Stella McCartney, long time vegan and animal rights activist. Love Lanius virgin wool coats. More brands: P.i.C StylePeople TreefinisterreBeaumont organicArmedangelsHTHTthoughtNomads.

All of the above are either European brands or can be ordered from EU shops. There are many more in the US, Canada, Australia etc. but with shipping costs (both $ and environmental) it seems to defeat the purpose of the sustainable idea so I haven't mentioned them. Vitamin A can be ordered from neiman marcus.

Shoes and bags*: For vegan shoes and bags check out Avesu online shop with different brands (I have and love Beyond skin motorcycle boots which are a must have for me, and dressy trainers from Good guys and NaeMatt & Nat for beautiful bags, wallets etc. 

* most of these brands are more expensive then your regular high street brands as their production costs are much higher. But, in wise words of Viviane Westwood 'Buy less, choose well, make it last'.
Zara and H&M are making an effort towards more sustainable fashion and often stock organic cotton clothes. 

Cosmetics: UrtekramLaveraSanteDr.Hauschka - I love Lavera make up, Urtekram shampoos and shower gels, Lavera toothpaste and deodorants, Sante body lotions when I use them (I usually make my own), their small travel size shampoos and shower gels as well as hand creams and deodorants (usually I make my own). I use Bam & Boo bamboo toothbrush. 

Home cosmetics: (washing, cleaning): Ecover + DIY ;

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chocolate cake with walnuts and oatmeal

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chocolate cake with walnuts and oatmeal

what/
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup ground walnuts
2 bananas
1 large apple
1/2 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 cup water or plant milk
2-3 tbsp agave nectar (you can add more if you like it sweeter, but keep in mind that bananas and apple already contain naturally occurring sugars)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
100 g dark chocolate (optional)

how/

Grind the oatmeal and mix it with ground walnuts and baking soda. Blend all the other ingredients into a smooth liquid mixture and pour it into the bowl with dry ingredients. Mix it all together and, if it is too dry, add some more water or plant milk. The mixture should be soft enough to be easily mixed with a spoon, but not liquid. Transfer the batter into a baking tray and press some dark chocolate chunks into it for some extra chocolaty flavour. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes on 180 °C.

Enjoy!

Luna

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Kapha season and asana practice

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Kapha season and asana practice

With this cold, wet weather, we have entered Kapha season mixed with some cold, windy dry Vata days, so we need to adjust our daily rituals as well as our practice to fight off the imbalances this season can bring. To stay balanced and decrease Kapha, we need more fire and air. In terms of diet, warm and spicy but light food and warm drinks are great for this time of year. I use a lot of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and chilly. Most spices are Kapha pacifying. 

As for the asana practice, this is the time when I really build up my strength and do the work. I do a lot of fiery practice, I work on my balances and transitions as well as backbends but I make sure I am really warm enough before I do anything weight bearing on the joints or before I go too deep in asanas which require flexibility. This is a good time to really give it all you've got on the mat, without the risk of overheating and overdoing it. 
So, here are some tips for practicing on minus something degrees Celsius.

Get up and do it
This is the time we all prefer to stay under the blanket, and, even though we do need be more careful with our energy and rest more, any form of physical movement will reduce the heaviness and sluggishness we may feel this time of year.
I do my morning meditation but I leave asana practice for the afternoon and this feels perfect. Whatever time of the day you find is good for you, that is your perfect time to practice. Listening to the body is always a good idea;). 

Start gently
Start the practice gently, using 50% of your flexibility before you feel the heat building up. Don't skip your Surya Namaskars, they are meant to warm up the body and move the energy around before we start holding asanas. I never (not even in warmer days) jump back or forward in first few Surya Namaskars (too much for still cold ankles and wrists) and never do Chaturanga (too much weight on wrists before they are warm) or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (too deep of an extension, Bhujangasana is better as it warms up the spine gently) in the first two Namaskars. I also keep my knees bent in Uttanasana until I feel my legs are warm enough.

Slow is the key
Rushing through the practice often results in using more the momentum - like in a vinyasa when you run trough Chaturanga - Urdhva Mukha - Adho Mukha instead of moving slow and with the breath, and the flexibility rather than muscle strength. Moving slowly and really working your muscles will not only increase the heat in the body but will also work on your strength. If you have been doing a more dynamic asana practice for some time now but feel you still lack strength, look at how you practice. Do you rush through your vinyasas or do you really use your body? Winter is perfect for practicing slow, mindful transitions from one asana to another as it’s not easy to create too much heath in the body.

Core practice
This is the time when I work on my core strength. Working with the fire element is great now; it decreases built up Kapha and with it heaviness, built up toxins in the mind and body. If you are working on some standing or arm balances, inversions like Pincha or a handstand, more difficult transitions like from one arm balance to another, this is a good time to up your game. 
Finish with some gentle back bends and a nice, long Shavasana.

Enjoy!

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Homemade lip balm

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Homemade lip balm

I love to make little presents for the upcoming Christmas season, and this lip balm is one of my favourites. The best thing about this lip balm is the fact that it doesn't contain any chemicals, actually, it doesn't contain anything you can't eat. Which is the rule I try to live by; if you can't eat it, don't put it on your skin. 

I made enough for ten small glass containers, you can use less if you're only making it for yourself. If you’re vegan and don’t want to use beeswax, use the other option.

What you'll need: 

50g yellow beeswax
30g cocoa butter
30g coconut oil
30g shea butter
essential oil (I used orange) 
Mica powder for color (optional) 

Vegan option:

60g cocoa butter
60g shea butter
20g coconut oil
essential oil + mica powder

How to: 

Melt Cocoa butter, Shea butter and coconut oil in a glass bowl over boiling water. Melting beeswax over steam in a double container was slow and messy so I melted it in a pot on super small flame and it worked fine. I added the oil mixture into melted beeswax and added 10 drops of orange essential oil. Transfer into glass containers (or whatever you'll be using) while hot. And that's it! 
If you'd like to add some color and you can find mica powder (a natural, mineral color), add at the end. I only found light pink mica and used it for half of the balms. 

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Metta meditation - the power of love

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Metta meditation - the power of love

For thousands of years, Vedic Rishis, Buddhist monks, Yogic sages, Tao and Zen masters alike used different meditation techniques on their quest for truth and enlightenment, and for millennia, these sacred, powerful practices, taught in different forms, have been taught and shared mostly behind temple doors, to those walking a spiritual path.

Even though rooted mostly in spiritual traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation techniques we know today, are not necessarily practiced only by spiritual seekers on the path higher consciousness and, ultimately, liberation, but by anyone seeking a peace of mind and relief from stress and anxiety of day-to-day life. Today, meditation is a wide spread practice and various meditation techniques are easily accessible to anyone. And one might say it was a never more needed antidote to many burdens of modern living.

In ancient times people learned by experiencing and doing; much of the knowledge came from observing self and nature, allowing to be guided by intuition and faith, and often simply trying things out; embracing what works, discarding what doesn't. If you know the story of Buddha, you'll know what I mean. Today, we have science. We have smart people with PhD's and MRI machines. Nothing wrong with that, it's all a part of our evolution as species, it is just interesting when science proves what those luminaries; rishis, monks, sages, masters knew all along - meditation is a gateway to higher states of consciousness and to our full human potential. On Patanjali's Eight limbed path for example, meditation, or Dhyana is a final step before Samadhi. 

The science

Since neuroplasticity was discovered (neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning and practice) a whole new field of brain research opened up in all directions, meditation being one of them. I won't go too scientific on you (there are plenty of scholarly articles online), and will stick to the basic facts. Meditation studies have shown that practicing meditation over a longer period of time can decrease stress, anxiety, neurosis and depression and increase concentration, attention feeling of calm, empathy, compassion, emotional regulation, help bounce back quicker from stressful situations, can boost immune system, improve memory and creativity. The list goes on. For all of this to happen, meditation needs to be practiced regularly and over a longer period of time. Many benefits will start to emerge even after a few days or weeks, but for some deeper 'rewiring' to happen, it might take a while.

Different types of meditation activate different parts and networks in the brain producing a distinct effect. Training your brain/mind is same as training your body. If you do only one form of exercise including only the muscles needed for that particular exercise, those are the muscles which will change their structure (increase in strength), but if you want a full body strength, balance, flexibility and agility, you need to change your routine and challenge your body in more ways than one. If you repeat the same, your body will get used it and you may hit a so-called plateau where nothing much changes. Similarly, if you want to get all the different benefits of meditation and not just increase a certain potential, you need to challenge your mind in different ways.
 

Five M's

I have been practicing yoga for two decades now, and every time I step on my mat to do asana practice I include some concentration / meditation practice too, bringing the mind to a one pointed focus, most of the time on the body followed by the breath. I still do this and teach this, but I have picked up some other meditation practices along the way which I love and practice today. My favourite are the five M's: Metta, Mantra, Mindfulness, Movement and Mudra meditation. In this series I will cover each one of them starting with, in my eyes most powerful one, - Metta. Metta simply means loving-kindness and it is simply a meditation in which our main focus is cultivating the capacity for loving-kindness.

This was a meditation practice that changed my life. In my twenties, when I was living in the US during one of my yoga teacher training courses, I stumbled upon a book on Buddhism. This encounter with, what I felt was philosophy of life, resonated so much with me, I kept on acquiring books on Buddhism reading and learning until I felt the need for more and found a Buddhist centre I would go to for talks and meditation sessions. Out of all meditations we did, Metta was the one which resonated most. From today's perspective, I see now how it helped that 20 something year old girl with much internal struggle heal some of her wounds and see the world with different eyes. It helped me realise that the only way to healing oneself as well as the world is through forgiveness, love and compassion. To never forget this Truth, I had Tara, the goddess of compassion tattooed on my back. I still believe that, without love, kindness and compassion there is no healing on any level of our being or on the global level.


How to practice Metta

Use the guided meditation video below first, but once you get the feeling of it, you can find your own way and practice by yourself anytime, anywhere. At the beginning, for a week or two, try to practice daily. It can happen, and very often does, that some uncomfortable feelings like sadness, grief, even anger, come up, but this is normal and a good sign that something within is shifting. If you have a therapist who can help you dig deeper into those feelings and help you integrate them, that is the best way to proceed. There is only so much we can do alone, it's amazing when we can ask for help, meaning we are willing to see, change, receive and finally, heal. 

Going back to science, Metta meditation fires up parts of the brain in charge of compassion, empathy and altruistic behaviour. With the increase of emphatic concern, we witness a decrease of personal distress and start seeing a bigger picture, shifting from the ego self to broadening our circle of compassion to all life. And when the change starts to happen from within, the world around us starts to change too because we start seeing the bigger picture, we take charge, we no longer blame but rather find ways to create positive change for the good of all.

I believe our essence is compassionate and kind, but due to traumas, disappointments and stresses of everyday life, we build walls and take on arms slowly forgetting and ultimately detaching from our true nature. This detachment causes unhappiness, depression, anxiety etc. Metta meditation is a daily reminder of our true nature and the more we practice it, the closer we get to living from the heart as free, open, loving, happy beings.

 “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Albert Schweitzer

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raw carrot cake with white chocolate cream

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raw carrot cake with white chocolate cream

what/

{for the base}
300 g carrot
150 g dates
20 g flax seeds
100 g sunflower seeds
100 g almonds

{for the cream}
270 g cashews
70 g cacao butter
50 g coconut oil
80-100 g agave nectar
250 ml water

how/
Grind the flax seeds. Put all the ingredients for the base into a food processor and process them into a somewhat homogeneous and well-bound mixture that is not completely smooth, but rather has small chunks of everything. Press the mixture into a cake mould and let it sit at the room temperature so that the flax seeds absorb the water. In the meantime, make the white chocolate cream: melt the cacao butter and coconut oil over a double boiler and put them into a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend it until you get a fully homogeneous and very smooth texture. Pour the cream into the mould on top of the base layer and put the cake into the fridge for at least a few hours, or until the cream thickens.

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beetroot soup

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beetroot soup

beetroot soup

what/
120 g beetroot
30 g cashews
75 g celery root
1 garlic clove
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 pinch Himalayan salt
1 pinch caraway seeds
5-6 black peppercorns
400 mL water

how/
Dice the beetroot and celery. Put all the ingredients into a bowl or a saucepan and pour 400 ml of boiling water over them. Let it sit covered for around 10 minutes. Blend everything in a blender until you get smooth texture. Serve the soup with toasted sunflower seeds. You don't have to but it's nice :) 


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Soaking seeds

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Soaking seeds

what and how/
Seeds that we use in our diet (most common ones being nuts, grains, seeds of pseudo-cereals and legumes) need to be properly soaked before consumption, to deactivate phytic acid in them.
Soaking should be done in slightly acidic water above body temperature. For achieving the acidity, a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar should be added to the water. 
Usual soaking time for most of the nuts is around 8 hours, while soaking time for most of the cereals is 2-4 hours (if you want to consume them raw, it's good to soak them for 8 hours as well, or, even better, to sprout them) and for legume seeds it is usually 8-10 hours. After soaking the water should be discarded and the seeds should be rinsed with clean water.

why/
Phytic acid is a chemical compound that the plants use as a storage form for phosphorous. It is found in greater quantities in the seeds. In human digestive system, phytic acid forms complexes with minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, inhibiting their absorption in human body. That way our body discards the precious minerals rather than making them its building material. For that reason, phytic acid can be called an ''antinutrient''. By soaking the seeds, we activate enzymes called phytases, which are naturally responsible for decomposition of phytic acid. 

what if/
I will not write much about soaking grains and legumes as I don't normally use them in my diet (ok, I will write about buckwheat - a pseudocereal - in one of my next posts). But here is one interesting and useful information - oats don't have enough of their own phytases to decompose all their phytic acid, and that's why it is useful to add a little bit of some other grains (buckwheat, wheat, spelt, kalmut) to soak with them, so that their phytases could neutralize phytic acid from oats.

also/
This was just a very brief talk about soaking seeds. If you want to know more details, there is plenty of scholarly articles you can find on the internet. Explore!

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Fearless heart

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Fearless heart

Full moons (next in two days) can be a great time for exploring the heart and observing what sits heavy on our heart, which emotions arise, what thoughts. Is there space for softness and lightness, for love and compassion? Or is something closing the flow of life (love) in the heart creating heaviness and disconnection? And what needs to be released to allow the flow?

Feelings like anger, guilt, shame lie heavy on our hearts. We often hold on to them as a defence mechanism, we are afraid to let go of this defence as we don’t want to go through the same experience that brought those feelings in the first place, so we choose the road we’ve already travelled because, we don’t know what lies ahead if we choose another path this time around.

Somewhere we all know living in comfort zone is living from fear, and living from fear is not living fully. Fear blocks the flow of life in every part of our being, it's ego’s little helper making sure we’re not free. Moreover, fear is how we’re ‘put in place’ by the society, by the establishment. With fear comes judgment, false believes, separation, disconnection from our true essence and from all other beings, from everything pulsating with life. Letting go of fear, step by step, day by day should be a daily practice for all of us. Only by letting go of fear can we invite more freedom, compassion, lightness and love.

Full moons invite for a more grounded, slow practice and, if I practice or teach on full moon days, I will choose a very Earthy practice picking asanas which ground. But today I had a slow, heart opening practice, not going too deep, rather allowing the heart to open gently and giving time to observe everything that comes up. And things did come up. Something I was struggling with for a while finally came to light. Something which laid heavy on my heart. There is always some pain related to letting go of something. Like tearing off a band aid you had on for years and had adopted as a part of you. Even though it isn't. It made me think of the Stockholm syndrome - developing a sense of trust or even affection to emotions which hold you hostage. It's not always easy to free ourselves of this hostage situation, but if we want freedom, it is necessary. 

You can finish your practice with Abhaya Hridaya, the ‘fearless heart’ mudra. This is one of my favorite mudras and I use it often when I practice. As the name suggests, this Tantric mudra can increase the flow of energy in the heart giving us courage to act from our fearless heart. To let go of all which blinds us and binds us. To no longer be a hostage. It grounds scattered feelings and thoughts and brings us back to the heart centre.

To practice Abhaya Hridaya mudra cross your wrists in front of the heart, then interlock the little, ring and index fingers and connect the tips of ring finger and thumb. You can use this beautiful mudra today if you feel the energy of this full moon, or anytime while practicing asana or meditating, even in daily life whenever you feel disconnected, fearful or unsettled.

Sending love your way!

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Beetroot hummus

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Beetroot hummus

what/
2/3 cup cooked chickpeas
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 small beetroot
5 cherry tomatoes
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 small lemon
1 garlic clove
2 pinches himalayan salt
1 pinch black pepper

how/
Put all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add some more water if needed and blend everything well. Enjoy it with a slice of your favourite bread!

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Asana basics - Plank

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Asana basics - Plank

Plank is a great base for so many asanas which require core stability and strength in the arms, like Chaturanga Dandasana, Bakasana, headstands and even handstands. Planking every day can be very beneficial in building power in your core and stability in your body and can be done every day, on and off the yoga shala mat (at home, in your office etc.).

Don’t - the slouching plank

Plank is a very strong position in which you should feel your whole body should be active. If it isn’t, this can be a result. Gravity does what it does and, if we don’t pull up, it will pull down like in the photo on the left where the head is hanging down, as well as chest and hips resulting in this banana shape plank.

Do - the neutral plank

Lift the back of the head as you want to touch the ceiling, push the floor with your hands, engage the abdominal wall to lift the hips, activate gluteus (booty) and legs.

This is a more neutral plank, which means that, if we look at it sideways and turn it on the feet, it resembles Tadasana (the most anatomically neutral asana) with arms forward. For more power in the core you can try the variation below.

Do - the strong plank

To access more power in the core, arch your back a bit more, creating a flexion in the spine and activating abdominal muscles more as it takes more effort to pull away from the gravity. You will feel the activation of your anterior chain (muscle groups lining the front of your body) muscles more than the posterior, but the back muscles are also working hard to stabilise the position.

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Carob cake

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Carob cake

what/
250 g white spelt flour (T630)
200 g ground carob
100 g sunflower seeds
400 g carrot
100-150 g dark muscovado sugar
270 ml water
zest of 1 orange
2/3 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
2/3 tsp bicarbonate soda
6 tbsp olive oil

how/
Put sliced carrots, sunflower seeds, muscovado sugar, oil and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Mix the rest of the ingredients - spelt flour, carob, baking soda, orange zest and cinnamon - in a bowl and pour the mixture from the blender inside. Mix it all well. Pour the batter into a baking mould and bake for around 60 minutes at 175 °C. You can check if the cake is ready by sticking a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean, you can take the cake out of the oven. After taking the cake out of the mould, let it cool down wrapped in a kitchen cloth to preserve the moisture and keep its soft and juicy texture.

Luna

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Nature is the greatest teacher

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Nature is the greatest teacher

Everything that exists is an intricate part of the whole, all life is intertwined. This unifying principle can be observed everywhere we look. It’s raining outside as I’m writing this - the rain came from the vapour lifted up from the earth by the air after the sun has warmed Earth’s rivers, seas and oceans. The rain brings water back to the earth to nourish the plants and help seeds grow. Seeds which were planted into the Earth with the help of gravity, wind, water or animals. Animals feed on the plants nourishing themselves and fertilise the earth with what remains. Animals and humans breathe in oxygen provided by plants, while giving back carbon dioxide plants need to live, thus creating yet another cycle. Everything has its role, everything has its place, everything is in perfect balance.

Nature indeed is the greatest teacher. It teaches us about interconnectedness of everything, about the laws of cause and effect, about the complexity of balance. Nature’s constant cycles reveal a rhythm of death and rebirth like day and night, moon cycles and seasons. It teaches us about the necessity of change how change brings about balance and renewal. Nature teaches us about co-dependency; everything is connected and us, humans are nothing more or less than a part of the whole. It teaches us the importance of every drop of rain in this ocean we call life.“Each one of us, not only human beings but every leaf, every weed, exists in the way it does, only because everything else around it does. The individual and the universe are inseparable.” ~Alan Watts

All we need to do is become observant, tune in and see that, these laws which existed long before we have, still apply to everything around us as well as to ourselves. And all the knowledge is already within each and every one of us. It is just covered under a pile of illusion and delusion. We forgot, but if we silence the noise, it is possible to remember.

The five great elements

Ayurvedic and yogic sages understood these profound truths and looked to the nature for answers and inspiration. In their quest to understand the complexity of nature’s ways, they observed the nature, learned from it and developed theories inspired by it. One of them is the theory of Pancha Mahabhutas, or five great elements. The theory of five elements states that all existence is comprised of five elements: Akash (Ether or Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Jala (Water) and Prithvi (Earth), and that everything is a manifestation of the interplay of those elements or rather qualities they represent. As human is a part of the whole, a microcosm within a macrocosm, this applies to our own existence too.

According to Ayurveda, a disruption in balance of elements causes disease and imbalance on all levels of our being, so understanding the qualities of each element, the fragile balance between them, what happens when a quality is missing etc, can give us profound insight into ourselves and help us find equilibrium on all levels.

Integral Vinyasa yoga I teach is very much rooted in the theory of Pancha Mahabhutas, in nature and its cycles. Everything I teach is inspired by organic, natural, fluid qualities of nature, and in this, what is intended to be a four-part blog, I will try to unveil the qualities of each element, as I see them myself, as I have learned from it myself, hopefully inspiring you to integrate this understanding in your daily life and in yoga practice, on and off the mat.

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butternut squash and sweet potato soup

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butternut squash and sweet potato soup

what/

300 g butternut squash
150 g orange sweet potato
40 g parsley root
2 large garlic cloves
1 small onion
2 pinches himalayan salt
small pinch of nutmeg
small pinch of ground chili
25 g sunflower seeds
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
~ 500 mL water (you can use more or less, depending on how thick you prefer your soup)

how/

Peel the sweet potato, squash, onion and garlic and slice them into small pieces. Wash the parsley root and slice it. Put the sweet potato and parsley into a pot with 500 ml of water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer on low heat for 7-10 minutes. Then add the squash, onion, chili and nutmeg and let it all simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add nutritional yeast and salt. Blend the soup in a blender or with a stick mixer until smooth.

Luna

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Olive & wild fennel tea

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Olive & wild fennel tea

Olive leaves are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as their immune boosting and blood pressure lowering effect.
Sweet fennel aids digestion and relaxes gastrointestinal system, but it also and makes the tea more delicious and gives balance to olive leaves' slight bitterness.

All in all, a healthy and tasty combination! That and much, and more in a cup of simple, herbal tea. To make it, I just poured hot water over fresh olive leaves and fennel herb and let it sit covered for 5-10 minutes.

Cheers!

Luna

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How to... Chaturanga Dandasana

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How to... Chaturanga Dandasana

Chaturanga Dandasana is one of those asanas you either love and enjoy it’s challenges, or hate and avoid or fly through it as soon as possible. Translated form Sanskrit Chaturanga Dandasana means four-limbed staff (stick) asana, and the name reveals much of what this asana should looks like, as well as it’s intention.

Due to much of the weight in the upper body, Chaturanga builds strength and stability needed for arm balances, so if you would like to progress to arm balances, this is a good place to start. Since Chaturanga is a part of Surya Namaskars and connecting vinyasas, so we usually just flow through the pose, but this doesn’t mean we should do it quickly. Quite the opposite, you’re reap all the benefits of Chaturanga only by slowing it down.

Before you build enough power in your arms for all the Chaturangas in one practice, build towards it slowly by using suggested modifications below.

Plank as preparation

Use Plank to prep and to find your Danda (staff, stick). Puah your hands agains the floor to avoid hanging at your shoulders, pull your lower belly in to avoid hanging at your hips and creating an arch on your lower back. Engage your legs and feel strength and power in your whole body. Plank is like a Tadasana with arms forward, your whole body should support the position, no muscle groups should be working more than others.

Chaturanga Dandasana alignment tips

When you find your stability in Plank, bend your elbows and lower SLOWLY down to Chaturanga using your full exhale. Try not to change your body alignment, keep your elbows close to your torso and bend your elbows so they align with your shoulder. Higher is better than lower. You don’t need to get the 90° angle, it’s a more challenging option if you have flexible, healthy wrists.
Look down rather than up to avoid spine extension (neck extension usually causes the rest of the spine to extend), pull your lower belly in, elbows in and body strong.

Modification - Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana

Ardha Chaturanga or half Chaturanga, is a good option to build towards full asana. It will build strength and teach your body proper alignment without shortcuts. This is also a good option for when you get tired and can’t pull off a full asana, much better than dropping your shoulders down or losing your core, which usually happens.
Simply just drop your knees down first, but stay high with your shoulders (aligned with elbows).

Adaptation with props - Chaturanga with blocks

If you tend to drop your shoulders low, or are unsure where your shoulders are, use a block to teach your body where it needs to go and what it needs to do.
Use it under your shoulders to stop you from dropping too low for a few Surya Namasakars, hold a few moments to notice what happens in the body and where to you lose stability first. Don’t lean too much on the blocks, rather use them as a guide.

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Yoga shala etiquette

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Yoga shala etiquette

A few things you should or shouldn’t do in a yoga studio…

Be on time

Those first moments on the mat are very important. They sometimes define the rest of your practice and how much you can let go of your day/week and tune into the presence. Being a few minutes late to a class and walking in while everybody’s sitting (or standing) still, disturbs your peace as well as everybody else’s. But, being on time doesn’t only mean not being latte. It also means being too early. 20 minutes is plenty time to sign in, change, roll out your mat and prepare for your class. Arriving 30 min early means you will either disturb the class before and their Shavasana time, or you will disturb the teacher while he/she is changing, lighting candles, incense and generally preparing for the class.

Respect the sacred space

Leave your shoes at the space provided and turn off your phone. Yoga studios are a clean, quiet, sacred space where people come to unwind and find an hour of peace. If you talk loudly, on the phone or with someone, if you gossip, talk about negative things like politics etc. understand that this will disturb someone. One thing is if you do that at a bar, another in the yoga space.
Never walk on other people’s mats unless there is no space between them at all. And that is usually not the case. One’s yoga mat is one’s sacred space, not to mention the fact it’s a space where you lie down or put your face down at times.

Come clean

Nobody smells nice in a yoga class when all that sweat and toxins are coming out. But, a few easy tricks can help:). And no, they do not include using lots of perfume (another no-no).
So… Shower before the class if you can, use a deodorant before the practice and wear cotton. Wearing those special technology sports materials that keep you dry while all the sweat stays on the surface, can make you go from fresh smelling yogi to that person that nobody wants to practice next to, in ten minutes.

Put the mats/props away

Nowadays yoga mats are not such a rear find, and are not so expensive considering you will use them for a years to come, so getting your own mat just seems like a right thing to do. However, if you do decide to use the studio’s mat or props (brick, strap, pillow, blankie..), wipe the mat and put everything back same way you found it.

Respect the silence

Yoga studio is not a church, so, you don’t need to be completely silent or whisper. Chatting in changing rooms or at the desk is normal and a part of socialising, but keep the subjects light and positive. And ones you sit down on your mat, it’s time for silence and inner reflection. Try to just sit and listen to your breath before the class starts. You can chat with your friends in the changing room latter. After Shavasana, try to stay peaceful and quiet. Perhaps you could even take that peaceful feeling home with you, perhaps leave your phone off for an hour or two, smile and hum your favourite mantra on the way home…
Unless, of course, you’re afraid people will think you’re crazy. Which they probably will, but, who cares?:)

Namaste.

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