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! 










Body Heal Thyself

The term yoga therapy is a misnomer. I’ve heard before that it’s the product of yoga teachers injuring themselves in the practice, which clarifies the confusion somewhat.  Because yoga in and of itself IS therapy. 
The primary series of Ashtanga Yoga is called “Yoga Chikitsa,” or yoga therapy. Of course now, amidst Naked Yoga and Hot Yoga and Modo Hot Yoga, we also have “yoga for arthritis” and “yoga for back pain,” “yoga for chubby people” and “yoga for eating disorders.” These distinctions assume the existence of their opposition: that some yoga is bad for your back, some yoga is harmful to people with arthritis, and so on and so forth. This is not the case. Yoga in general, yoga asana and the other limbs are a healing modality. You cannot separate back pain from arthritis or a spiritual void from overall fitness. Yoga does it ALL. The key is to practice with awareness.
Yoga as I understand it originated with one teacher and one student. Not one teacher and 100 students in a hot room, scantily clad, in front of mirrors. Thus the practice was geared towards the individual. We see this today in the Ashtanga Mysore tradition as well as in classes influenced by B.K.S. Iyengar: two of the world’s most influential yoga teachers. This style of teaching requires tremendous wisdom and experience on the part of the instructor, as well as humility, commitment, and discipline by the student. This is a somewhat uncommon equation.
Teachers today are taught the basics and are capable of leading a general class to a large group. But additional instruction requires several years of study and hundreds of hours of training. Fortunately, there is a workaround.That workaround is you. 
YOU are your Guru.
I’ve experienced the profound healing power of the practice, and I’m offering here a method for using yoga as a diagnostic tool for healing. I’ll offer my experience as an example.
Years ago I strained a ligament in my wrist. Ligaments don’t typically return to their original state of tension due to the limited amount of blood flow to that area. So I’ve endured an ongoing cycle of flare-ups and cool downs, triggered by a strong vinyasa practice. 
I recently committed to daily Ashtanga Yoga, heavily laced with Surya Namaskar from beginning to end for 90 minutes. It’s impossible to do with wrist pain. Or so I thought. It was once an assumption that degenerative discs would cause back pain. But studies have since shown that there is no direct correlation between this disc disease and back pain. Not everyone with disc impairment has pain, and many people with back pain have healthy disks. On this basis, I decided I would not take no for an answer. That is, I will not accept irresolvable back pain or ongoing wrist pain for life. Instead, I’ll use the wisdom of my body and the brilliance of the practice to solve the issue. 
It worked. 
I stepped on the mat during a flare-up and slowed every movement down. I went deep inside the wisdom of my body with a magnifying glass and began to move through Surya Namaskara Where did the pain begin? In Downward Dog? Not so much. Top of a pushup? Getting closer. And when I found where the ache began, I stepped two paces back from that place and observed what the healthy wrist was doing. 
Why does one hurt and not the other? 
I had read in many books and heard from many teachers to “spread the weight evenly across the palms” in these postures. For me, doing that caused pain. I neglected the wisdom of my own body and kept pushing on in a manner that was causing harm. So I stopped. I tuned in. I listened to the language of my muscles and ligaments and bones . . . I let the healthy wrist teach the struggling one what it was doing wrong. And I adjusted. 
Of course it didn’t all end there with wrist pain abolished forever. But that’s not because I didn’t know the solution or had given up on finding one. It’s because once I learned the solution, I then had to put it into practice. 
It’s not easy to break out of old habits, whether that means changing the way you interact with your spouse or taking a new stance in Downward Dog. They are both the same: each requires mindfulness, willingness, and discipline, ongoing commitment and faith.
Yoga is a Diagnostic Tool
Note: This recipe for healing can be applied to ailments of any kind: body, mind, or spirit. I have used the example of wrist pain as it offers the most straight-forward template; many people have pain somewhere in their body.
Step 1. Determine the problem. If you’re unsure what the real issue is, you are not likely to find a solution. Wake up to your life and tune in to the messages being sent to you. In this case, a hypermobile ligament was the problem. 
Step 2. Use the profound wisdom of your body and the introspective capacity of the practice to reveal a solution. Turn off your thinking capacity momentarily, stop analyzing, remembering, or reasoning. Watch. Observe. Listen. The answer is within you. Work to the edge of your pre-pain capacity . . . and then brush up against that edge. What happens in the microseconds between no pain and pain… that’s where the blockage lies. That is your sticking point. In this example, from high-plank, bending the elbows just 10 degrees initiated pain. So the issue rested somewhere in that 10 degree range. 
Step 3. Live the solution. You have the answer, now use it. You must apply the solution to your daily life, not theorize about it, not tell others how they should do it, but act upon it yourself. Only then will transformation occur. The shift occurred when I focused absolutely on the purposeful execution of Chaturanga. The wrist became my drishti . . . the focal point for meditation. And with that, my body began to heal. 

It works, it really does. But only if you do it. 


Holy Mula Bandha!

This pose, Navasana, was an incredible challenge for me, even years after consistent practice. Even coming from a fitness and weight-training background, trying to straighten my legs was near impossible. I didn't get it. That is . . . until I found Mula Bandha.

Often we hear talk of core strength in yoga class, which can easily be misinterpreted for tight abs and that infamous six-pack you see on the cover of magazines. But real core strength is that which allows Ashtanga practitioners to "float" effortlessly, near magically, between postures; it supports the lower back and incites self-confidence. It consists of engaging the deep core muscles of the pelvic floor.

For clear instructions on how to engage Mula Bandha, or to determine whether you're doing it correctly, check out this video by my favourite yogini, Kino MacGregor.


Let me know if this helps! 

Nelson Mandela: A Tribute


Soul Captain
With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the heart of the universe paused to miss a beat. Mandela undoubtedly led one of the most extraordinary lives of our time: from his early days as an amateur boxer to a charismatic political lawyer, he brought leadership to epic proportions, surviving 27 brutal years in prison before becoming the first democratically elected black president of Africa and playing a critical role in ending apartheid. Philanthropist, political activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner, prominent spokesperson in the battle against AIDS, author of several books, and father to six children are just a few of the many hats that Nelson Mandela might don on any given day. To say the man is a legend would be a profound understatement.

And although not considered a yogi in the traditional sense of the word, few would argue that Mr. Mandela espoused the virtues of yoga. Faith, determination, and the steadfast resolve to remain steady on the path are key ingredients in the recipe for liberation.
I cant wholeheartedly say that yoga has given me the discipline to keep marching on when tired (marching out of bed to go meditate is a challenge some days), the courage to speak out against injustices (a Starbucks order gone wrong topped the list this year), and the strength to evolve from hardships survived (sub-zero temperatures can be called a hardship!). Such traits would serve any of us well.

But I do know for certain that the mere reference to such a man, his triumphs and victories, his struggles and failures, instills within me the firm resolve to do what it takes to get the job done, to stand up for what I believe in, to welcome perceived obstacles as benchmarks for growth along the way. And that is the mark of a guru: they inspire you to live up to your potential, whatever that may be.
In the words of the great man himself, As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Nelson Mandela

For lighting the way for so many and for showing us that circumstance is not the determinant of fatethat anything is possiblethank you, Nelson Mandela. Rest in peace.

Neti Pot: What They Won't Tell You



All manufacturers of Neti Pot and neti-type products should be required to put a warning label on the box: Do not neti within 3-6 hours of being seen in public.



It has taken months of introspection to arrive at a place where I could comfortably share this experience. It was $5 Friday, the busiest class of the week. There I was in all my teaching glory, performing for the masses (about 15 people), a touch of irreverent pride building . . . when out of nowhere, a salty solution ran across my lip and onto the mat.

Indeed, I had practiced the great cleansing technique --neti-- just hours before.
I didn't see it coming (or feel it running).


My response? Holy CRAP!! "Everyone get down! Down Dog! Down Dog!" This was a social faux pas extraordinaire!

I ordered (gently lead, in yogic terms) students to get into Dog Pose and Hold, Breathe, Reflect, while I wiped my nose and madly scanned the room for Kleenex. Or paper towel. A rag. Someone's rolled up socks. Anything! Please!

I spoke of the calming effects of the practice, the goal of moving beyond our small (nose dripping) self to that larger being deep within (does their nose not drip?). Until the gushing emergency came to a slow halt and all that remained was a sparkle of pink Himalayan salt.

I brought students gracefully into Upward Facing Dog like a skilled pilot who narrowly avoids a crash.
 
The moral? Don't believe every picture you see. Just because the model is smiling,
doesn't mean it's risk free.