How Old Are You? The Rule of Age 5


Most will agree it takes all types of people to make the world go round. Imagine how bored we would be if we all shared the same dreams, goals, interests, and belief systems. That's part of what makes life so interesting. 

That being said, if your'e someone who aspires to reach tremendous goals, achieve the life of your dreams, and wake up every day with a  bounce in your step a twinkle in your eye, and anticipation for things to come, then it's absolutely necessary, in fact critical, to avoid spending time with people who have not developed beyond age five.

AGE-V.

Let me clarify. I'm not saying that kids are a hindrance to success--hardly! They can be our most creative co-conspirators. What I am saying is there are certain people (adults) who have not developed beyond the age of five. These are the Angry folks, the Gossipers, the Entitled ones, and the Victims. All 4 species are toxic to those seeking to do great things. They're like kryptonite to superman, a catholic cross to vampires, rich people to robin hood... or something like that. You get the point.

I'll tell you why. 

Angry People: Anger is an energy that sucks the life out of the person expressing it (or worse, not expressing it and fuelling every cell of their being with resentment), but it drains the joy from surrounding people, as well. I'm not suggesting it's unhealthy to be upset. But there's a difference between momentary reactions, and a free-floating anger that lies waiting for any opportunity to explode. 

Gossipers: If you find yourself talking negatively about someone just to fit in or contribute to a conversation, chances are, you'd be better off leaving the table. Gossiping and attacking others is the poor person's means of raising self-esteem. And besides that, it doesn't work. 

Entitled People: People who are entitled can have all the blessings in the world but don't realize it. They think that just being born presupposes their right to any luxuries and opportunities afforded them. The concept that food, good health, and a loving family are gifts is foreign to the entitled person. 

Victims: Perhaps the most draining of all are people who refuse to look on the bright side, who seem incapable of rising to the challenge and adventure of life. The victim mentality keeps you stuck wallowing in the depths of self-pity, making remarks like "Why me," or "It's just SO hard," and "Life's not FAIR." Wah!  Again, it's natural and even healthy to voice these sentiments once in while--but when you do, ask yourself, how does this serve me? How does it feel to be a victim of the world? 

Remember, we all get stuck in these ruts once in a while. The willingness to even consider that yo've acted as though you're AGE-V proves you're on the path of higher consciousness. Notice how you feel after gossiping. Does it feel good to "deserve" things that aren't given to you? Or is the reward in taking action and claiming something you've worked hard for? Are you a victim of  the circumstances of life, or are you ready to OWN your power, claim your brilliance, and make your mark in the world? Reach for the stars.

It's up to you to,

Just Breathe, Believe, and Achieve! 

Raise Your Hands

Yoga Challenge Day 3/40

Master BKS Iyengar says that it is impossible to be depressed when "your armpits are open." What he means by this is that when your arms are raised in stretching or initiating your first sun salutation of the day, you will feel energized, hopeful, perhaps even joyful.

Don't take my word for it; try for yourself.

Today, pay attention to how you feel as you enter Tadasana (Mountain Pose) standing at the front of your mat. Bring your arms alongside your body or in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position) at your heart's centre. Close your eyes for a moment. Go inwards.

Then open your eyes, and as you take a beautiful deep breath in, reach your arms overhead, bringing your palms to touch. Lift your gaze upwards towards your thumbs. Exhale and return to your starting position.

Try this 3 or 4 times, or even 5,  inhaling your arms overhead, taking as much space and oxygen as you can, and exhaling to return to your starting position.  Synchronize breath and movement.

Please feel free to share your experience with us on Facebook and/or Twitter!

As always, Breathe, Believe, Achieve!

4 Reasons to Salute the Sun

In India, where yoga originated, sun salutations were typically done facing the East, towards the rising sun. The sun was revered as a life-sustaining energy, demanding awe, respect, and worship. It was also considered a symbol of the divine light of our own inner consciousness. 
4 Reasons to Salute the Sun Each Day

1. Makes You Smile. Today we can take the daily rise and fall of the sun for granted. Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) is an excellent way to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and a feeling of deep inner peace that arises when you connect with your higher self. 

2. Counts as Meditation. The sequence of postures connected synchronistically with the breath creates a moving meditation. If you find just sitting still is intimidating, you might start here: focusing on your breath while going through the motion of Surya Namaskara.

3. They're Self-Sufficient. This full-body sequence takes the spine through its full range of motion (add some side bends to ensure lateral stretching occurs). Once learned, this full-body practice can go with you anywhere, anytime. For an invigorating workout, try doing 10 or so in a row! 


4. They Establish Personal Power! Set your intention, take action, and follow through. This is the pattern for success in all endeavours. Committing to one sun salute a day is the perfect way to start a home practice that is accessible enough to ensure success, yet challenging enough to reap great rewards. 

As Always,

Breathe. Believe. Achieve! 


I've inserted a video of my favourite yogini, Kino McGregor. She does 5 rounds of Surya Namaskara A, progressing to jump backs (not necessary, but a good challenge!). 
Hold Downward Dog for 5 breaths. Enjoy! 



How to Break Up Without Breaking Down

The wonderful thing about challenging life circumstances is they give us an opportunity to . . . ugh . . . GROW! But not only that, they are real-life experiments by which you can see whether your yoga (any spiritual practice) is fulfilling its intended purpose: to relieve suffering.

Nothing challenges a positive state of mind like heart-wrenching heartbreak. I was thrilled to be given the chance to see myself through one of late. I'm proud to say that I went from fetal position, barely breathing, to rare reminiscing in just two short weeks. I attribute this to yoga and meditation,  which have provided me with mental discipline.

If you're enduring anything of the like but don't have those tools readily available, here's the short version of how to break up without breaking down.

1. Go through your home with a fine-toothed comb, gathering all sentimental items (including trinkets or jewellery and especially his clothes) and dispose of immediately. Burn incense to clear the house of stagnant energy.

2. Invest in yourself. This is best done with book splurges or shopping sprees. Tally up enough toys and your attention will quickly shift to your mounting debt, leaving little concern for the insignificances of lost love.

3. Train your mind to focus. Now, this is the key. In mastering this discipline, you will not require any shopping sprees, rebound relationships, or self-help books to move on. Why? Because the sadness is ALL IN YOUR HEAD. This does not suggest it's imagined, but that--to the contrary--your reality exists within the frenzied halls of your mind. Watch your thoughts and the second they veer towards nonsensical versions of "I'm unlovable" or "I'll always be alone" or "He was so perfect," immediately shift gears and focus on a more pleasant reality: "Damn, life is good." "I'm healthy, happy, free to do what I love, and open to my next adventure. Bring it on!"

I'm here to tell you the absolute truth:Train your mind and you can enjoy a sense of deep inner peace and contentment, untouched by ANY outside circumstance or situation.

In addition to proving the capacity of yoga to lift you out of the self-pitying dumps and carry you to higher levels, I also learned a fascinating lesson:

The person you fall in love with is NOT the same person you dump (or who dumps you). This is an important revelation for several reasons. Nothing is more gut-wrenchingly discerning than looking at someone you [think you] love and thinking, "Who ARE you?" And I don't mean this in a "I can't believe you wear holey socks" kind of way. I mean in that unnerving Shakespearean foreshadowing- the-climax-of-a-great-tragedy kind of way. Solution: I highly recommend any serious relationship undergo at least one mock breakup. Hold tight for a couple of weeks. Take space. See what new character traits develop.

Perhaps most importantly, wish your beloved health, healing, and the same capacity to move on. For after all, we're all just handling this thing we call life in the best way we know how.

Posture of Surrender

"Trust that where life carries you is exactly where you are meant to be. Let go of all your resistance and move into a posture of surrendering to whatever is unfolding. Doing so is one of the ways you will ensure that you will walk the path of your destiny, your true path." Robin Sharma 

Vegan Granola Clusters

Ingredients

1/2 cup sunflower seeds (soaked)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup rolled oats
5-7 large dates
1/2 cup almonds (toasted)
1/4 cup walnuts (broken into pieces)
1 cup kasha (toasted oat groats)
1/2 cup oat groats (soaked)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 almond flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp raw almond butter
cinnamon to taste
Himalayan sea salt to taste
1/2 cocoa nibs (raw)


Preparation
Soak the dates for a full day and save the date water
Soak the sunflower seeds and oat groats for a few hours

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
Pit the dates and blend to a smooth paste, adding date water as needed. Set aside. 

In a pan on low heat, add apx 3 tbsp coconut oil and 2 tbsp raw almond butter. Once melted, add chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, and soaked oat groats. Toast lightly. 

Add the toasted mixture to the bowl of dry mix. Stir well. Pour into a baking pan, add the cocoa nibs, and sprinkle with salt and cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes, stir, and bake for another 30 minutes. 

Remove the box and set aside to cool. 

Once the mix has cooled, add the date paste, one spoonful at a time, and stir into clumps. Continue until the date paste is gone. Bake for another 20 minutes at the same temperature.

Allow the mixture to cool and store in the fridge. 
Enjoy!

This can be eaten on its own as a snack, with vegan yogurt topped with berries, and as cereal with coconut milk. 

What's On Your Mind?

Don’t Lie! 

The question, “What’s on your mind?” is a common one. The familiar response is typically heard: “Not much.” This is (in 99% of cases) an outright lie uttered by well-meaning truth sayers, albeit unintentional. They may think they know what they’re thinking, but really they’re aware of just a fraction of the ceaseless redundancy that plagues this abstract concept referred to as mind.

For this to be true, for “not much” to be on one’s mind, a great obstacle has been overcome. It is saying, in essence, I am meditating. Now, consider the last time you uttered this response or heard it from someone else. Was the respondent wearing the face of a monk, detached from cares like finances and health and relationships that belong exclusively to the lowly realm of the material world? It’s possible. But not likely. What was more likely meant is, “I’m distracted,” which is —if anything— the opposite of meditation. 

Meditation teachers instruct that in sitting, we become a witness to our thoughts. We should watch them like clouds floating by on a warm sunny day. “Don’t buy into the story,” they say.  "Just notice it and move on." 

I’m proposing something different. 

I propose we don’t watch our sometimes asinine sometimes violent thoughts with the awe of a child lying in a field among dandelions. No. I suggest we assume great curiosity and interest, that we adopt the attentiveness of a surgeon working to save the life of her patient. Meditation is that powerful. It can “save” your life. 

But how can we know “what’s on our mind” if we don’t study the screenplay of thoughts that comprise the movie of our life? We cannot. These unknown thoughts drive our behaviour, deepen unhealthy patterns, keep us from reaching our infinite potential. They create bewilderment and frustration, evidenced in the words, “How could I do this AGAIN?!”

The next time you sit, and if you don’t sit yet, please do start--the next time you sit, don’t just watch floaty clouds in the sky. Notice them. Pay attention. See them as a message from the divine about the life you are creating for yourself. What conversations arise, what sitcoms re-play? Do you "re-see" biased news channels designed to instill fear? Do you feel sad after replaying an interaction with an old friend? You will soon notice, perhaps with some discomfort, that what you say, how you say it, what you watch, and with whom you associate are all pieces of a puzzle, nestling together to create the image that is your life. 

The picture you create is entirely up to you. Choose wisely. 

Air Squat Challenge

The Air Squat: No, there is no jumping or flying required. Just a simple squat from standing. No equipment needed, no weights needed, just yourself and a desire for a strong core and fit legs. In yoga, it is something like Utkatasana, although not typically done 100 times in a row each day for one month.

I guess that's why it's a challenge!

Tips: To make the air squat more challenging, work towards bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. The classical Utkatasana does have the arms raised over head, but this won't be necessary for the squats. Keep your hands on your hips or extended out in front of you for balance.

To join the community of 100 squats a day for 30 days, Friend me on FACEBOOK (Eryn Kirkwood)! We're there waiting for you! The more support the better. 

Uninspired is the Way to Go

I’ve been thinking a lot about this path to self-realization, enlightenment, self-betterment, and the like. I meditate daily, practice yoga, read the ancient texts, don’t indulge in meat-eating, alcohol abuse, or illicit drug use. And lately I’ve wondered why. Or why not, as the case may be.
I mean, if the truth is that “Right here and now, I am perfect, just where I need to be, a manifestation of the divine”— then what’s the point of going to all this effort to improve?
Maybe the cold has numbed the part of my brain that obsesses about excelling. Perhaps it’s living in Ottawa where, day after day, we endure snowstorms and snow squalls, temperatures of -40 and colder, ice storms and freezing rain, white outs, black ice, and snow days. It’s “only” been four months, but as far as my tolerance is concerned, I might as well be living in the North Pole. 
I mean think about it, how many people do you know who have retreated to their igloo in the North Pole to spend decades in meditation searching for God? Not many! Did Buddha sit in a snowbank year-round, hoping to avoid frostbite? Did Jesus trek thousands of miles in snowshoes and his $1500 Canada North parka in search of sinners to heal? I don't think so. Because the God of the North Pole is Santa Claus. Consumerism. Here, we shop to survive. 
Inspired. Motivated. Passionate. Enthusiastic. Driven .  . .  All of these things sound like so much…. well, WORK. Self-betterment and self-improvement? Bestselling author, rockstar teacher, floating Ashtanga yogini? Really—who cares! Survival is the way to go. I’ve decided that laying on the couch for hours at a time, snuggling a chihuahua and watching Netflix by a hot fire, fuelling my inner self with chocolate and jellybeans (yes, they are vegan) . . . well, that may be as good as it gets. 
And as far as enlightenment is concerned, if it feels half as good as a cozy deep sleep, the processed-food-induced slumber of a large vegan pizza consumed all on my own, well, I’m okay with 'half as good.' In fact, half-as-good feels pretty damn great right now. 
Or maybe it’s time for a new dream: one that is free of thigh-high galoshes and insulated snowsuits; one where “it’s cold out” means bring jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. A dream littered with orange trees on the front lawn and year-round fruit that’s in season.

That’s my motivation today: develop a new dream. Until then, survival via Netflix it is. 

Protein-Packed Hot Chickpea Salad

For those who think eating healthy has to be complicated, think again. 

You will need:
image from veganinbellingham.com

1 can sweet corn niblets
*1.5 cups chick peas (sprouted for maximum nutrition)
1 cup organic quinoa
handful cherry tomatoes 
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 red pepper
5 broccoli crowns
onions, olives as desired
salt to taste
handful baby spinach

Instructions

1. Steam one cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water  for apx. 20min. 
2. Cook the soaked chick peas for about 5 minutes on high heat. Strain.
3. Combine the corn and chickpeas with 2 tbsp vegan butter in a saucepan on medium heat for 3 minutes. Do not overcook. The idea is simply to warm the peas and corn. 
4. Add the quinoa, corn, and chickpeas together in a large glass bowl. Mix. 
5. Add halved tomatoes, chopped red pepper, onions, olives, and broccoli crowns to the mix. 
6. Add a small handful of baby spinach to the combination, mix, and serve! 

Stores in the fridge for a couple of days. Serves about 4 people. This can be served warm or cold.

Option: I often fill my bowl with spinach and top with the quinoa mixture. It's a simple way to pack in some greens, and it tastes delicious!


Enjoy!