Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Different Styles of Yoga

Vinyasa, ashtanga, kundalini, hatha, many styles of yoga, but what is best for you?

There are so many different lineages and styles of yoga that it can be pretty overwhelming, especially as a beginner. Here is a brief breakdown of the most popular styles of yoga out there for your convenience. See which style best resonates with you and then attend a class in your area!

All styles of yoga stem from the same basic principles. Each style is based on the same physical postures (called asanas) with particular emphasis.

Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the physical types of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.

Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa, which means breath-synchronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching that's done at the end of class.

Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next. In yoga terminology, this movement is called flow. Ashtanga is also the inspiration for what is often called Power Yoga. If a class is described as Power Yoga, it will be based on the flowing style of Ashtanga, but not necessarily keep strictly to the set Ashtanga series of poses.

Based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S Iyengar, this style of practice is most concerned with bodily alignment. In yoga, the word alignment is used to describe the precise way in which your body should be positioned in each pose in order to obtain the maximum benefits and avoid injury. Iyengar practice usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow). Also, Iyengar practice encourages the use of props, such as yoga blankets, blocks and straps, in order to bring the body into alignment.

The emphasis in Kundalini is on the breath in conjunction with physical movement, with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards. All asana practices make use of controlling the breath. But in Kundalini, the exploration of the effects of the breath (also called prana, meaning energy) on the postures is essential.

Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this style is more generally referred to as Hot Yoga. It is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.

Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara combines a strong emphasis on physical alignment with a positive philosophy derived from Tantra. The philosophy’s premise is belief in the intrinsic goodness of all beings. Anusara classes are usually light-hearted and accessible to students of differing abilities. Poses are taught in a way that opens the heart, both physically and mentally, and props are often used.

This style of yoga emerged from one of New York’s best-known yoga studios. Jivamukti founders David Life and Sharon Gannon take inspiration from Ashtanga yoga and emphasize chanting, meditation, and spiritual teachings. They have trained many teachers who have brought this style of yoga to studios and gyms, predominantly in the U.S. These classes are physically intense and often include some chanting.

Integral yoga follows the teachings of Sri Swami Sachidananda, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s and eventually founded many Integral Yoga Institutes and the famed Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. Integral is a gentle hatha practice, and classes often also include breathing exercises, chanting, kriyas, and meditation.

The first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center was founded in 1959 by Swami Vishnu-devananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda. There are now close to 80 locations worldwide, including several ashram retreats. Sivananda yoga is based upon five principles:
1. Proper exercise (Asana, focusing on 12 poses in particular)
2. Proper breathing (Pranayama)
3. Proper relaxation (Savasana)
4. Proper diet (Vegetarian)
5. Positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (Dhyana)

I've been practicing yoga for over 18 years now and I've always been drawn to Hatha yoga. My teacher training was in classic Hatha yoga. However, I began studying and practicing Sivananda yoga about a decade ago on my own and it still is what resonates the most with me. As I'm progressing with my practice I do find myself designing more challenging Vinyasa flow classes because I enjoy the whole dance of yoga. It's so beautiful! Contact me on my website or via Facebook to ask about taking one of my classes.

What is your favorite style of yoga? Please share below-

Information adapted from Ann Pizer's Yoga Style Guide

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CYH's Songs of the Moment: The King Of Limbs, Radiohead

...Slowly we unfurl, As lotus flowers...

I arrived home from India (pictures and blog coming soon) to the good news that Radiohead was releasing a new album. I will be honest, I'm on the fence about it. Of course, I love it because it's Radiohead and to me (and many other fans) they can do no wrong. However, I do find this album to be almost incomplete, lacking interest. Their albums are always so precious and filled with gems. Little By Little, Feral and Lotus Flower stick out to me, but nothing really jumped out as a gem. It is by no means their best work, nowhere near any of their previous albums. I say this, and am upset that they released the album, wishing they gave it a little more time, at least a few more songs...but then I go about my day with the songs stuck in my head, aching to hear it again. So, the songs and album are growing on me. Either way, I love the fact that I'm on the fence about it, because its forcing me to listen over and over again allowing me to fall back in love with them all over again (smitten smile on my face, looking up towards the sky, sighing...).

Anyway, this video is totally awesome. Thom Yorke's interpretive dance moves are always so right on with his music (how else would you dance to their music?!). I've always enjoyed watching him let go at his shows, allowing the music to flow right through him, moving his body however it's telling him to. This video is a full 5-minutes of his awkward and totally free moves. I LOVE it!!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Wedding in Colorful Chennai, India

I have returned home, safely, from my second trip to India. This trip was to South India, Chennai, for my friend Bob & Deepthi's wedding. It was a truly incredible experience dazzled with color and beauty. My mendhi is almost completely faded from my hand and feet, I've got just a few more days of my malaria medication and I'm still scratching a few mosquito bites that haven't yet healed. My experience in colorful India is still fresh in my mind and luckily, I've got the pictures and a full journal of thoughts to forever remind me! 

Traveling is always enlightening. Exploring a place like India is all the more enlightening on a number of different levels. Being away from home allows me to appreciate all that I am blessed with (down to every little last thing: privacy, clean(er) air, having safe, warm water to bathe in, etc.) and reminds me of how precious each and every moment of my life is.

It is impossible to be unmoved by
India. Once you visit, you'll never be the same again. I learned this after my first trip back in Spring of 2009 to Mumbai, and have been reminded of it once again. India is a land of contrasts and diversity. It's a complete assault to all 5 of your senses each and every moment that you are there. It's intense, wonderful, depressing, frustrating, filthy and mind-blowing all
at once! The roads are overcrowded, chaotic and have no sanitation. People are buzzing everywhere amongst massive amounts of dust and blasting heat. Walking down the street is totally overstimulating to both your eyes and nose. You'll pass men in their crisp white button-down shirts wearing scuffed up sandals with dirty feet, women in their gorgeously intricate saris, and naked children playing in the dusty streets. You'll walk through smells of something sweet and musky immediately followed by thick, hot car exhaust, then get a whiff of something spicy cooking accompanied by th

e gagging smell of human and/or animal feces. And that may all happen within just a few seconds of each other! For me, this aspect of India brings so much awareness to the fact that I'm ALIVE. It's so easy to get enveloped in our daily/weekly routines that we glide through many of our days on autopilot. My consistent yoga practice has brought awareness to so much of my life, but it never hurts to keep on being reminded to BE HERE NOW.

My favorite shots from both of my trips are the portraits I was able to snap. Each person smiles so genuinely, radiating light. They truly smile directly from their heart! 

(Pictures from top to bottom = The beautiful mendhi painted on my hand, my twin cousins and I in our traditional Indian clothes on the day of the wedding ceremony, two ladies enjoying the ocean's loveliness as the sun was setting in Pondicherry.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dark Chocolate = Healthy Chocolate!

I'm preparing a nutrition seminar on all of the health benefits of chocolate and it's all I've been thinking about, studying and eating lately! I've never been a chocolaholic, but I do enjoy a good bite of dark chocolate each day for my health.

Recent studies say dark chocolate -- not white chocolate or milk chocolate -- is good for you! What is it about dark chocolate? Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body. Dr. Andrew Weil has dark chocolate included in his anti-inflammatory food pyramid!! How exciting is that?!
Taste the Chocolate

Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it. Professional chocolate tasters have developed a system for tasting chocolate that include assessing the appearance, smell, feel and taste of each piece.
Go for 70% Dark Chocolate
You should look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel or other flavorings. Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings. These fillings are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate. Be sure to look for a brand that contains at least 70 percent cocoa.
Skip the Milk
It may taste good but some research shows that milk chocolate, or washing your chocolate down with a glass of milk could prevent the antioxidants being absorbed or used by your body.
But On The Negative Side...
1. Chocolate may trigger headaches in migraine sufferers. Sorry guys.

2. Chocolate is considered dangerous to animals because it contains a stimulant called theobromine, which they can't digest. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are even more dangerous because they contain higher concentrations of the substance. This applies whether chocolate is in candy bar form, or an ingredient in cake, cookies, puddings or ice cream. If a pet becomes ill after eating chocolate, take it to the vet immediately.

3. Even though it may be healthy, dark chocolate can be very caloric. Savor and enjoy a
a day, not a bar!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Heart Healthy Food for Superbowl Noshing

I'm SO not into football, in fact, I strongly dislike it (sorry!!). However, the Superbowl has always excited me. Not that I actually watch or understand anything that goes on besides the halftime presentation or the fantastic commercials, I've just always LOVED preparing yummy, fun food to sit in front of the TV and nosh out to! My microwaved bagel bites with ranch dressing days are long gone (heavens, those little artery packers were so darn-good with that ranch!), so I've had to be a little more health conscious in my snack preparing. That's why I'm sharing my favorite plate of Heart Healthy Nachos for you to enjoy just as much as I do!!!

Who ever said that nachos always have to have cheese or meat? Silly! This recipe is so flavorful, I promise you won’t miss the animal products. The creamy guacamole, heart-healthy beans, salsa and fresh cilantro create a satisfying array of flavors for this simple, healthy snacking dish. Best part, because it's so heart healthy, you'll have a taste of some of the not so heart healthy dishes without feeling guilty.

Lauren's Heart Healthy Nachos
1 (BPA-free) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 (BPA-free) can pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
dash of cumin
dash of chili powder
dash of cayenne pepper (if you're feelin' feisty!)
approx. 3-4 heaping tablespoons of all natural salsa
1 avocado
½ lime
handful of fresh cilantro chopped
sea salt to taste

Beans/Salsa: Beans, beans they're good for your heart...heat beans in small pot on low/med heat. Stir in dash of cumin, chili powder, cayenne and sea salt. Stir in salsa for another moment or two, until everything is warm.

Guacamole: Mash avocado in bowl with fork. Squirt half lime into bowl adding fresh cilantro and continue to mash together.

Spread chips out onto dish and pour the beans and salsa onto them. Spoon guacamole over everything. Top with more fresh cilantro. Park your bum in front of the tube and ENJOY! (This is one of the VERY few times I'll actually condone eating while watching TV - HA!)

*Feel free to use this same recipe, but instead of pouring ingredients over chips, stuff into a whole wheat wrap with some brown rice for a healthy, filling burrito.

Benefits of Pinto Beans: Pinto beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. Pinto beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, pinto beans provide virtually fat-free, high quality protein. But this is far from all pinto beans have to offer. Pinto beans are also an excellent source of molybdenum, a very good source of folate and manganese, and a good source of protein and vitamin B1 as well as the minerals phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Pintos are a great replacement for red meats. A half cup of cooked pinto beans will provide about 120 calories and 10 grams of protein, without the saturated fat.

Benefits of Avocados: Avocados have gotten a bad rap because of their fat content. However, fat is a macronutrient much need by the body. Fat insulates the body, helps transport hormones and is a source of stored energy. Remember, it is the quality of fats that you take into your body that needs attention. Avocado is a quality source of monounsaturated fats which aids the absorption of its fat soluable vitamins E and K. It is important to note that avocados also contain B vitamins and Vitamin C and its potassium content is three times that of a banana!

Green Mountain Gringo Strips: I recommend serving with Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Strips and/or salsa. Their chips are great tasting, all natural using non-GMO corn and gluten free. The salsa is all natural with little to no additives or preservatives. You can find them at any health food store, and at most supermarkets.

What does GMO mean? Genetically Modified Organism is the most common usage (though 'manipulated' or even 'mutated' might also be appropriate!) The acronyms GEO (Genetically Engineered Organism) or simply GM or GE are also used. Genetic engineering is a radical new technology that forces genetic information across the protective species barrier in an unnatural way. Why be concerned? One of many good reasons is that these laboratory-created mutations are unlabeled, virtually untested and on grocery shelves everywhere.

Please let me know how you enjoy, and may your favorite team win!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ginger/Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

This is such a tasty winter recipe. Make a double batch to share with friends, or freeze for those nights you don't feel like cooking! Add your favorite whole grain for some texture, some greens on the side and you are set with a super easy, quick meal. When cooked, these sweet veggies can quench any sweet tooth and keep you grounded and connected with what's important around you. I enjoy throwing a handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds along with some goji berries into the soup for some added texture and nutrition!

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock OR organic chicken broth (even better, bone broth)
2 cups filtered water
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
5 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, diced (add more if you want a 'warmer,' spicier soup)
sea salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in saucepan on low.
Add onion and cook until soft - about 2-3 minutes.
Add stock and water, followed by sweet potato, carrot and ginger.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until veggies are tender - about 15 minutes.
Place in blender and process till smooth and creamy.
Add salt and pepper to taste (or a splash of ume plum vinegar!)

Benefits of Carrots:
Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.

CYH: Song of the Moment - He Doesn't Know Why by Fleet Foxes

Amongst all of the wonderful new music we've been blessed with lately, this still remains one of my favorite Winter albums ever since it was first released in 2008. If I could have, I would have embedded the entire Fleet Foxes album on here. It is by far one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time.

Download and/or listen to their new song, here. New album out this Spring. Eeee!