Yoga for Your Feet

This week in my public classes, we've been focusing on the feet in the yoga poses. I get really excited about these classes because your feet are SO important in any pose where the feet are the primary connection with the earth - they are the foundation so they affect the alignment of your whole body. Beyond the physical alignment of your body, the feet also strongly connect to the energetic alignment, and are a fundamental component of the proper engagement and use of mula bandha, which keeps the energy of the body light and contained (I'm going to be writing a longer more detailed post on mula bandha soon, or if you're super interested, theres an entire book on the topic Moola Bandha the Master Key). 

Energetically, your feet also connect to muladhara chakra through mula bandha, which is considered to be connected to the earth element. While the base chakra (muladhara) is considered to be the most connected to earth, technically the bottom three chakras of the spine, including sacral and navel are also considered to be connected the earth (the sacral connecting to the element of water and the navel connecting to the element of fire). The heart is the meeting point of earth and spirit, which we can connect to through deep breaths. When we look at the colours that correspond with the lower earth chakras; red, orange, and yellow, they are the colours of autumn. Autumn is a season that naturally draws us back down to the earth, the feminine, the yin side of things. Connecting to these lower body chakras through the feet and legs as we shift towards the season of Autumn can help us attune to and utilize this grounding energy, which is especially nice after all the excitement and movement of summer.

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Along with the energetic connections in the feet, they are also the start of the fascia system in the body. By releasing the tension in the feet, you release tension through your whole body.

You can start to notice how the positioning of your feet affects your body by coming into a simply standing forward fold. As you let your head go and your spine relax forward, start to shift where your weight is in your feet. In a forward fold, the tendency is to lean back into the heels. See what happens in your spine and how much you are able to let your head relax by shifting your weight a bit forwards into your feet, whilst still keeping your heels grounded. 

Because the feet carry us everywhere we go, they can be quite tight. Like anything in the body, they need a balance of flexibility and stability, both of which you can work on in your yoga practice. 

These poses work on opening up the feet:

Flexibility - Vajrasana

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Vajrasana means 'little thunderbolt' - whether that is due to the shape of your body or the sensation in your feet, thats up to you. There are many variations - however these three are a good place to start, especially if you are new to them they will be more than enough as far as intensity goes. For the first variation, tops of feet come to the floor, and your heels and knees work towards each other. The goal is to sit on your heels, and place them between your sitting bones, however if this causes discomfort in your knees, its a good idea to support your hips, and place a pillow or a blanket in between your hips and heels until there is no discomfort in your knees. If there is discomfort in your feet - you're doing it right. Notice your upper body while you're in the pose - try and relax your ribs in towards your spine and let your hips be heavy on your heels. As always breathe deep!

The second variation, toes are tucked, and there is the same goal of bringing the knees and heels together. Again, you can place something between your hips and heels if there is any discomfort in your knees. 

Third variation, tops of feet come to the floor, take right knee a bit further back than your left. Bring the top of your right foot into the arch of your left foot. Start to walk your hips back to your heels. Eventually right heel will rest in the inside of your right sit bone, and again you can aim towards letting your hips be super heavy on your heel. Make sure your repeat on your left side.

These poses can be super intense, but its good to think of them like giving yourself reflexology. After you've done one or all three, come back into a forward fold and notice the difference, and how opening up your feet has affected your whole body!

 

Stability - Standing Poses

Standing poses are a great way to build stability in the feet, which is just as important as mobility!

A good way to stabilize your feet in standing poses is by lifting and spreading your toes in standing poses:

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While lifting the toes, keep the big toe mound grounding down. Lifting the toes in standing poses is a great way to build stability in your feet through strengthening your arches. You can actually build arches in your feet if they've fallen using this technique. You can lift the toes in almost every pose, lunges like this one, warrior one or two, and if you really want a challenge, single leg balances, like tree pose or half moon. 

Another way to build stability in the feet is standing on a block for your standing poses. 

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You can do any standing pose on the block, however tree pose is a good place to start. Doing the pose standing on a block will really challenge your foot to stay steady. Focus on a feeling of lifting up through the foot (I find lifting the toes helps with this) and feel all those wonderful stabilizing muscles working hard to keep you steady! 

Give these a try and let me know how they feel  - hope you all have a wonderful day! 

xo,

Piper

Trees are Sanctuaries

One of my favourite poems about natures magic <3 

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"Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness."

- Herman Hesse

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Constructing Your Reality

I am familiar with the use of positive language and constructive framing after many years of leading yoga workshops, retreats and teacher trainings. These offering's have always, and continue to be, focussed on providing tools to help access the unlimited potential that exists within us. Manifesting means getting clear on a direction and focus that you want using attention, intention, and hard work to create it. 

In my studies at Simon Fraser University this past spring, I was reintroduced to the concept of constructive framing. In an academic sense, framing relates to how information is presented through a certain lens or perspective, which in turn, affects how we as receivers of that information interpret it. 

Constructive framing means presenting information in a way that is offering a solution to a problem, or saying what you want to happen rather than what you don't want to happen. What a refreshing reminder to find this theme that I work with in the Yoga world in academia as well! 

I had the opportunity to explore this concept in greater depth in one of my classes called Leadership in Sustainable Community Development. Throughout this class, students were asked to partake in a 21 day personal change project. This project included choosing something to take on as a practice for the three weeks. I was very excited about this, and as someone who likes to take on things 110%, I was thinking about things like zero waste or no single use anything for the 21 days. Other classmates had ideas like 21 days of meditating.

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When I presented my idea to my teacher, he was supportive, but also reminded me that so much thinking around sustainability surrounds what we have to give up, rather than what we have to gain. This really stuck with me, and inspired me to approach my 21 day challenge a bit differently. I decided to take on a 21 day challenge of constructive framing, where I would only use constructive language in my life. This meant no complaining or dwelling in problems, and always using solution based, open language. I consider myself to be fairly positive, but was interested to see how this played out in my everyday. 

As it turns out, it was WAY harder than I thought to use only constructive language. Especially in social situations, where I felt like if someone was complaining, I had to mirror it. My first week of the challenge was very observatory, seeing how much I actually didn't use constructive language and got stuck dwelling in the problem space.

Feeling a bit defeated after the first week, the second week I actually ended up just not talking as much, and listening more. Not talking as much gave me space to think about what I actually wanted to say or create, rather than acting on impulse. I also found that in order to be a more active participant in what I was saying, it was so necessary to stay regular with my yoga and meditation practices, which at that point in the business of the semester, were not quite as regular. It was as simple as five minutes meditation when I woke up and 20 minutes of conscious movement and breath sometime in the day so that I felt centered and present. 

By week three, I was able to find my voice a little bit more, exploring the art of constructive framing and speaking based on what I wanted to happen or create. I realized that, in social situations, people didn't even notice when I didn't engage in complaining and just listened, and that the whole energy of the conversation was able to shift towards a more constructive, positive direction when I used constructive framing.

The results were incredible, and still are integrating into my being. Yoga and the practice of Satya (truthfulness) teach us that our thoughts become words and our words become reality - so finding the truth within what you want to create is of the utmost importance.

 

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, sutra 2.33 Vitarka-badane Pratipaksa-bhavanam states that unwholesome thoughts can be neutralized by cultivating wholesome ones, and that we have the power to choose our thoughts. Our thoughts (and words) have the power to manifest as our reality. 

After experiencing first hand again and again the power of constructive framing, I invite you to to explore the power of your own words and thoughts. The practice of constructive framing is a potent one, and a worthwhile endeavour and companion in working to create the life of your dreams. 

The OG Green Soup

Today, I took a break from packing for a pretty epic and exciting West Coast tour, to prepare a nourishing and delicious lunch.

Its no secret that festivals, while providing you with incredible experiences, can also be draining and tiring. Staying mindful of your food and lifestyle choices before, during, and after the festival - can ensure that your energy and stoke levels stay high as you enjoy all that the experience has to offer.

I first fell in love with home made soups in Peru, where they were a daily occurrence in our meals provided by our host families. Soups are so easy to prepare and so nutritious - and were really the gateway into my culinary adventures and interest in cooking. 

The first soup that I really got into was a creamy green soup. The recipe has evolved over time, into a vegan, gluten free delight. Here is my current variation that I whipped up with what I had on hand. 

THE OG GREEN SOUP (serves 1-2)

{Gather}

- 1/2C Frozen Peas

- 2C Frozen Greens (spinach, kale, chard etc)

- 1/4C Chopped Zucchini

- half thumb of chopped fresh ginger

- half thumb of chopped fresh turmeric

- 1T chopped fresh parsley (optional - if you're into parsley)

- Black Pepper

- Cumin

- Paprika

- Sea Salt

- Just under a half cup of water or home made vegetable broth 

- 1/4 of an avocado 

- 1T Hemp Seeds

- 1/4C Homemade Almond Milk

{Method}

  • Combine first 10 ingredients in small pot. 
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes, until your greens turn bright green
  • In a blender or food processor, combine avocado, hemp seeds, and almond milk.
  • Add soup mix to avocado mix and blend until smooth and creamy [*note: DO NOT use a NutriBullet for this recipe - make sure your blender/food processor is safe to put hot liquids into]
  • Pour into 1-2 bowls and enjoy!

xo

Have Patience for the Impatient

Today, as I taught my end of the week, one of my favourite, restorative Yoga class; there was a disturbance amongst the group of seasoned regulars.

A new face, who was not ready to soften, not quite ready to let go.

She rustled, fidgeted, and sighed loudly. 

At first, this annoyed me. 

She was disrupting this peaceful space, the deep state of relaxation that my regulars have become so familiar with. I tried to ignore her, put her rustling into the background of my own holding of space for the class. 

Then I saw myself in her. 

I remembered a time where I was that new face, the one who thought that softening was for the weak and letting go was for those who got left behind. I smiled. 

When we got into a very supported Supta Badha Konasana, and she refused to use support, I went over to her, smiled, and placed her legs in a blanket, straightened her head. 

For the first time, I saw her soften, and for the rest of the class - she maintained stillness in every pose.

It is so easy to ignore things that we find unpleasant, annoying, and mostly - the things that we ourselves have been trying to ignore and displace about ourselves. 

We are constantly provided with mirrors - people who show us the qualities about ourselves that both we want to see and we want to ignore. 

It is easy to see the mirror of what we are fighting internally, and block it out.

The work is in seeing that mirror, smiling, and reaching out to lend a helping hand to those who are on the same path as you. Saying, "i'm in the same boat - here is a paddle."

Fight impatience with patience. Fight meanness with kindness, and most of all, fight hatred with love. 

"Be the light you wish to see in this world"

Truly. 

 

Happy Wednesday!

I love food, and I especially love when what I eat energizes me for a day full of adventure. 

This is why I love green vegetables. Spinach, Kale, Chard, Arugula - all make daily appearances in my life, and keep me going like the energizer bunny. 

I get asked frequently how one can include more vegetables in their diet - I am always coming up with new ways to eat greens especially. Here is one of my favourite salads of the moment - I hope you enjoy! 

 

Warm Falafel Massaged Kale Salad

You will need:

  • Food Processor/Blender
  • Non-stick or Cast Iron frying pan

For the Falafel:

  • 1 Can of Chickpeas (or 1 cup if you’ve soaked and cooked your own - more on that coming!)
  • 2T Olive Oil 
  • 2T Ground Flax Seeds

For the Salad:

  • 2 Fresh Kale Leaves
  • Handful of Arugula (optional)
  • 1/4 of an Avocado
  • 1/4 of a Lemon
  • Sauerkraut to taste (organic preferred!)
  • Fresh Sprouts (optional)

For the Dressing:

  • 1T Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1T Good Quality Olive Oil
  • 1/2 of a Lemon
  • 1t Nutritional Yeast (optional)
  • Splash of Water
  • Sprinkle of Salt 

(wisk all of these ingredients together or wiz together in nutri bullet)

 

Method

  • Wash your hands! (you are about to get up close and personal with your kale)
  • Put Chickpeas and olive oil in food pressor/blender (I used my Nutribullet), and blend until smooth. Move to a bowl and stir in ground flax seeds, mixing until the seeds combine. 
  • Form mix into small falafel like patties, and place on warm (medium heat) frying pan. (this recipe will make about six - so you’ll have leftovers for another salad!)
  • Cook until brown on each side (about 5 minutes per side)
  • While the patties cook, prepare the salad
  • Remove stem of kale from the kale leaves and chop the kale into bite sized pieces
  • Place kale pieces into bowl and add avocado and fresh lemon juice. Massage avocado and lemon juice into kale until the kale becomes soft. Think happy thoughts, infuse your kale with love. Add in a arugula at this point, mixing just until the arugula is covered in the avocado mix as well. 
  • Put a delicious amount of Sauerkraut on top of the kale mixture
  • Add 2-3 warm falafels and drizzle with tahini dressing
  • Sprinkle black lava sea salt and sprouts and viola - lunch is served!


I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do - happy Wednesday! 

Chocolate Covered Saturdays

Those who know me, know that I LOVE chocolate. If i'm not snacking on it, i'm usually wearing it (which isn't so bad - raw cacao is quite nourishing for the skin!).

While I do believe its acceptable to eat chocolate every day (the dark & delicious kind!), I felt like this blog needed a day dedicated just to my favourite food group. Saturdays are a perfect day to nestle into your kitchen and create some yummy treats for the week or to share with friends!

So here it is, your first chocolate covered Saturday.

Today I made a recipe which I have been wanting to try for a while now, from Deliciously Ella. This recipe takes all of my favourite things and turns them into another one of my favourite things - Brownies!

Growing up, Brownies were a big part of my families Sunday dinners. My mom had the classic brownie recipe dialled - and while I still enjoy the OG every once and awhile - they are a bit more packed with refined sugar, flours, and of course butter. 

These brownies are delicious AND nutrient dense - making them an awesome fix for your sweet tooth. They have so many healthy ingredients you could probably eat them for breakfast and not feel bad - and they are just as ooey, gooey, and delicious as mom's - without the sugar crash later. 

I hope you enjoy these Sweet Potato Brownies as much as I did! Happy Saturday!


Gluten Free Sweet Potato Brownies (Makes 10 Brownies)

- 2 medium to large sweet potatoes 

- 2/3 of a cup of ground almonds 

- 1/2 a cup of buckwheat or brown rice flour (I used buckwheat flour)

- 14 medjool dates (I used 10 because I felt weird about using that many dates)

- 4 tablespoons of raw cacao

- 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

- a pinch of salt

Start by pre-heating the oven to 350F, then peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into chunks and place into a steamer for about  twenty minutes, until they become really soft.

Once they are perfectly soft and beginning to fall apart remove them and add them to a food processor with the pitted dates – this will form one of the sweetest, creamiest, most delicious mixes ever!

Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, before mixing in the sweet potato date combination. Stir well.

Place into a lined baking dish and cook for about twenty minutes, until you can pierce the brownie cake with a fork bringing it out dry. Remove the tray and allow it to cool for about ten minutes – this is really important as it needs this time to stick together! Remove the brownies from the tray, leaving it another few minutes before cutting them into squares – then dig in and enjoy!