Snowyoga – snow salutation…on the slopes…

I do this all the time while riding.  It keeps me loose and calm and in my body.  This is not a beginner sequence, yet it can be worked up to fairly quickly with a little practice…I hold each pose as long as feels right and feel my breath breathing.

I drop to my knees (i wear soft knee pads, highly recommended…) and come into camel.  One arm at a time may be more accessible…

 

(belly hugged in, tailbone tucked, shoulders rolled back, sternum lifting to lengthen lower back, hips and thighs pressing forward – care not to crunch lower back or collapse neck,  I find it helps to breathe into the lower lungs if i get short of breath in this pose)

When coming out of camel, use lower abdomen strength and bring up both shoulders at the same time, head comes up last.  Brings hands forward to hands and knees, and then press back into downward dog.

(the board helps lengthen your calves.  belly strength lifts the hips up taking weight off your hands, while pressing into hands and leaning back into the board.  make sure you are on a good angle with a little edge so you don’t slip,  belly hugs into your body)

Rock forward into a pushup and then let the hips roll forward into an upward dog.

(belly hugs in to protect lower back – don’t collapse into your lower back, shoulders or wrists.  my pants are bagging up…yet my tailbone is tucked.  shoulders roll back and the sternum opens forward)

Then I come back into child’s pose.

(hips to heels, forehead/helmet on ground, belly between legs,  rest and feel it)

People have stopped to ask me if I am alright while in this position… : )

Yes, yes I am…

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Snowyoga – one foot in…

At the lift…who cares whose looking if it helps you ride…

 

(Belly hugged in, tailbone tucked down, slightly squeezing legs together to create an inward spiral, shoulders rolling back as sternum opens forward…you can lift your arms if you like…)

Take your time with this one, too far too fast could ruin your day…  ; )

 

Queen of the Mardi Gras

2/21/2012

It’s dawn on Mardi Gras Day and I am on a plane headed to New Orleans.  But I’m not going to see the parades, I am headed straight to see the Queen herself.  She lives, for now, on the banks of the Tchefunkte River overlooking the Cyprus knees and Spanish moss of the bayou in Mandeville, Louisiana, named for the beautiful trellising flowers that spring like weeds from the muck of the Mississippi Delta.

She lives, for now, in the beautiful body we have called Great Judy ever since I birthed my son 11 years ago, and she didn’t want to age herself by being a great aunt.  Why not be just great?  It stuck, and Great Judy she is.  As she sits, unable to move her once vibrant body, now ravaged with the final stages of ALS, a mysterious disease that slowly robs her body of its ability to function.

Only a week ago she was still riding around full tilt on her scooter, feeding the birds and squirrels and doves and ducks, scattering piles of bird seed around her lawn, inadvertently sprouting baby sunflowers in her path.   At this point she can mostly only type short texts on her phone and ipad.  There are these great programs where you can record your voice before you lose the ability to talk, and then as you type it speaks your message in your voice.  But Judy didn’t do this, she waited too long, unwilling to accept that no “witch doctor” might be able to cure her and restore her back to herself.  It was only a month or so ago that she was still only seeing an acupuncturist and a chiropractor and refusing to accept the diagnosis of ALS.  Maybe just as well, our allopathic priests don’t have any special magic to fix this one either.  At least she learned a lot about her dantien, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the seat of the chi, the life force, three finger-widths below the navel.  And maintained as comfortable a state as she could living inside her body that was slowly dying.

So instead, a computerized man’s voice speaks for her while she types.  She didn’t want to use the female voice, because it made her sound too “bitchy”.  My mother offered to lend her voice to the task, to which Judy kindly refused.  Judy’s voice is now gone, that unique accent that was a little bit southern drawl and a little bit New Orleans and a little bit little girl and a little bit gravely – yet not really any of those things – just 100% Judy Porter Beier.  I can still hear it in my head, and I hope I always can, saying Neissy, and “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck”.  Always with a little bit of a benevolently cackling laugh.  Which is beautiful.  That we have to remember her sound in our minds, the resonance of how she touched us all still reverberating in us, even as her form is passing.  How her laugh, her smile, her presence, in our memories, will always be a part of who we are.  Those of us lucky enough to get be part of her coven.

For Judy is a bit of a white witch, in only the best sense of the term.  She has the uncanny ability to know all kinds of things she could not know other than receiving some kind of divine guidance.  In her case the wisdom comes from Jim, her guardian angel, who gives her advice and keeps her and her family safe from harm.  You can think what you like, and Judy knows what she knows.  How else can you explain how she knew to warn her son to not get abducted in Las Vegas, which he nearly did?  I don’t care if it can be explained or not.  I’m listening to Judy.

One of my cousins wrote on Judy’s Facebook page on Judy’s 64th birthday, just 5 days ago – I always wanted to be you when I grew up.  There are a lot of us who feel that way.  Judy embodies a grace that is as authentic as it is unique.  She holds onto her beauty naturally, and by any means necessary.  Her whole existence is her work of art.  Whether you agree with her, are in awe of her, are envious of her, or not – her methods and mannerisms are honest.  As a little girl I thought she was the prettiest, funniest, most exciting person I had ever dreamed of.  What great good fortune I was born the niece of Judy Porter Beier!  I have always counted this as one of my strengths.

We have come to help her die.  To hold her hand as she lets go of trying to hold onto something that is passing.  My mom flew down the day after Judy’s birthday when we got the call that Judy had turned for the worse.  My sister drove 12 hours yesterday, by herself, without stopping except 3 times to use the bathroom and get some gas.  Judy’s daughter spent most of the night throwing up with her baby son, not because she was in a Mardi Gras parade yesterday or even because they have a stomach flu, we don’t think, we think it is because of nerves.

For our grandfather, Judy and my mother’s father Preston Servos Porter, died in the wee hours of the morning the day after Mardi Gras Day, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  He was 64.  And he could have been arguably the king of the Mardi Gras, at least to us.  We grew up going to the parades on Veterans Highway in Metairie, sitting in little wooden box seats my papa built atop ladders so we could see the floats above the crowds.   Our mamas could stand behind us and smile at the men to throw us beads.  And we had the prettiest mamas around, so we got lots of beads.

I knew nothing of the other side of Mardi Gras until I got older, and must say, was pretty disillusioned.  My childhood Mardi Gras was all family and fun and love.  My granny was purple, my mama was green, Judy was gold.  Papa P. Papa Porter, our grandfather, would bring his conversion van to the Lakeside Shopping Center and park it under the big movie sign so we would know where to find it.  My granny would cook red beans and rice and we would stay all day.  And as this Mardi Gras sun rises and Judy is 64 and dying, we all feel the writing is on the wall.  We have all come to help her die, to hold her hand as she leaves this Judy Porter Beier body that has stopped working.  And yet we will always remember her exactly as she always was.  Alive.

I feel ready for this as I sit here writing on an airplane and yet I am comforted by playing with words, trying to hold this in my hand like I can control it, the reality of it still in the future.  She is still here for me to muse about.  Yet at this point she has surrendered, her body has gone to a place where she knows now it isn’t coming back.  No amount of money, or doctor, or love is going to change that.  She jokes about this in her playful way of attuning to the humor in everything, illuminating the comedy in this tragedy in what my mom, her older sister, would call typical Judy fashion.  “Have we figured out how we’re going to kill me?”

Why not laugh?  Why not be great?  It’s happening anyway and we may as well go through it with joy.  Because this is our life and as far as we are able to know it may be our only one.  Even if it’s not, why waste this precious moment?  No rehearsal, this is it.

We are not going to have a funeral, we are going to do it here and now while Judy is alive. Honor her now while she can be present, taking the jazz funeral ideal to another level.  Instead of lamenting her stay of only 64 years we will give praise for all she has done in that time.  And she has made a good go of it.  We have been concerned that she has been in denial about her illness for the past few years, that she is not embracing death.  And yet she lived with hope the whole time and never gave up in fear.  With a disease like this there was nothing that could have been done anyway, it has always been a matter of time.

This whole time Judy has been embracing life.  Up until there is no choice but to embrace death too.  My little sister has recently moved to the south herself and has taken up singing a country song that urges us to “Live like you were dying”.  She sings it to me when I get stuck in my own personal dramas and fears, to put things in perspective.  And when I look at Judy I am reminded, even in the face of death, to live like you were living.  And what great good fortune it is to born the niece of Judy Porter Beier.  May I carry on from here.

unwinding

Yoga can help unwind the tension in your body.  Once you have learned some postures and start to feel comfortable in your body’s knowledge and awareness of safe alignment, you can start to let the postures flow through you spontaneously to specifically release the particular way you hold tension.  One of the great benefits of cultivating a personal practice.

Red Lentil and Kale Stew – Masoor Dal

In cooking, as in life, all innovation is adaptation.  We take in what has already been done and, working with whatever we’ve got, tweak it with the spice and flavor that makes it uniquely our own.  And then others take the baton from us and it just keeps going.  It’s how we evolve.

I have been making a variation of this recipe since my son was a baby and I was fortunate enough to discover Cynthia Lair’s book, Feeding the Whole Family.  I’m pretty sure I was introduced to this book from Amanda Soule, aka Soulemama of Soulemama.com, when we were new mamas trying figure out how to feed our new families.  In Lair’s book she gives credit for the recipe to an Indian restaurant in Seattle called Silent-Heart-Nest, who calls the soup Masoor Dal (the Indian name for red lentils).  From inspiration to innovation, we just keep going.

One of my favorite variations adds kale – shocking, I know.  And asafetida – which I discuss in an earlier post as well, and is optional in this recipe. I also add nigella, or kalonji, delicious little black seeds that give a pungent and authentically Indian flavor to the stew, also optional.  They are purported to have numerous medicinal properties, including relieving gas…hee hee…which helps with any lentil or bean product.  The cumin seeds help in this way too.  I have found nigella seeds at Concord Mart in Concord, NH, and they are available online.

You could use curry powder again, although starting to build your toolbox of individual spices will allow you to customize the flavor more to your unique taste.  Like ready-made clothes in India, curry powder will do, but when you get a garment custom tailored to your shape, it really fits you.

I often cut out the onions and garlic that are in Lair’s recipe.  While they taste delicious, through time I use them less and less in my own food because they are so strong.  Unless i want them as medicine to ward off a cold.  Asafetida and nigella seeds add some of the pungency that the onions and garlic would impart, and feels easier to digest.  I also add in ginger juice and jalapeno, which also add a peppery-ness, and help promote digestion too.

You can use olive oil in this recipe to make it vegan, although the butter or ghee (clarified butter) gives a delicious creaminess and also makes the lentils softer and easier to digest.  To make your own ghee, try this recipe from Vasant Lad at the Ayurveda Institute in New Mexico. http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/ghee_recipe.htm

A trick I learned to know if the ghee is done is to take a clean strip of paper and dip it into the butter.  Ghee is used in oil lamps, so if the paper burns clean without sputtering when lit, it is now free of milk solids and is ready to be taken off the heat.  I like to do this over the sink and then douse the paper with the faucet.

Playing with my food is one of my favorite things to do, and I encourage you to do the same.  If you are a beginning cook, follow recipes to a T to start to get an understanding of how foods work together.  Yet realize that your lentils may be slightly bigger than mine or your ginger juicier or your kale more tough.  We have to adapt to what we have to work with.  And as you start to get a hang of it, experiment, a lot.  Sometimes I take a little bowl of soup out and try adding a certain spice or vegetable or condiment to taste it before adding it to the whole pot.  Once it’s in, there’s no taking it out…

Once of my teachers, Parvathi Nanda Nath Sarasvati (Kirin Mishra) says that it is our responsibility to allow what we learn to distill through us and transform into the unique interpretation that we are able to offer to the world.  Of course, this is my interpretation…

So make the best food your mouth can imagine!  From our own experience is where we find what we have to share.

Red Lentil and Kale Stew – Masoor Dal

2 teaspoons oil, butter or ghee

—–

1 Tablespoon cumin seed

1 Tablespoon nigella (optional)

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

Large pinch asafetida (optional)

¼ teaspoon cayenne

OR

3 Tablespoons curry powder

—–

½ -1 whole jalapeno (optional, depending on taste)

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

2 cups red lentils

8 cups water

4 cups kale, stemmed and chopped into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon sea salt

Optional, if using individual spices:

2 teaspoons oil, butter or ghee

2 teaspoons cumin seed

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 inch ginger root

1/3 cup cilantro (optional – leave out if you are feeling cold)

Sesame oil to taste (optional)

Cooked rice or quinoa if desired

Heat on medium high a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients.  Add oil, butter or ghee.  Add one cumin seed, when it pops add the rest along with the nigella.  When aromatic add the rest of the spices Or add curry powder.  Stir.  Add jalapeno if using.  Stir again.

Add diced tomatoes, stir.  Cook together for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile wash the red lentils.  Add them to the pot, stir to coat.  Add 8 cups of water.  Stir to blend.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer about 40 minutes.  Stir often to keep from sticking to the bottom.

Prepare kale by stemming – holding the bottom stem in one hand and stripping the leaf from the stem from bottom to top with the other hand.  Chop into bite sized pieces.  Wash and add to stew.  Cook until both kale and lentils are soft.  This time will vary.  Add more water if necessary – bringing the heat up until the water boils then returning it to a simmer.

WAIT until the lentils are completely soft before you add the salt.  Or they will never completely soften.  This is true with beans too.  Learn it now and save yourself some trouble.

Heat oil, butter or ghee and melt, then roast cumin and mustard seeds if using.  Add to stew.

Grate ginger on the small holes of a cheese grater and then squeeze juice into stew.  Taste.  Add some of the gratings – I do about ½ of what is there – if you want more gingery spice.

Chop cilantro, if using, and add to stew.  Blend well.

Serve alone in a bowl or atop rice or quinoa.  Top with more cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil if desired.

Serves 4 with some leftovers.  Maybe.  I always make a large pot like this so I don’t have to cook again right away.

Moving into Downward Dog

Preparation for downward dog and a good way to warm up to begin your physical yoga session. Suitable for beginners or anyone who wants to ease into their practice. Once you learn the sequence, do it on your own at your own pace as desired to keep yourself limber, strong and balanced. Enjoy!