Saturday, October 15, 2005

Flying with David Swenson

Last night, from 7-9:30 pm, I joined 40+ other yogis & yoginis at a studio in Shinjuku to learn about Ashtanga yoga with David Swenson. The theme of last night's class was "The Physics of Flight" and we focused on the five ingredients necessary for having an Ashtanga practice: breath, vinyasa (flow), drishti (focus), bandha (body valves) & asana (postures). Whew, when I write it out like that there's a lot going on in the body when you do yoga.
For the purpose of this post, let me just focus on one of these 'ingredients,' the breath. The breath is the thread that holds all 5 of the ingredients together. It's the one thing that, if we don't have it, we don't have a yoga practice at all. Last night David said, "the minds is more difficult to control than the wind." And from the Upanishads (sacred yoga texts), "he who has control over his breath has control over his mind." What does this mean for us when we approach the mat? Do we even need yoga in order to reign in the breath/mind? Yoga is a tool for learning to control the breath, and it takes time but eventually you can learn to inhale and exhale with the movement. That's where the idea of 'flight' comes into play. The breath allows you to glide, or flow, or fly, easily between poses.
Clearly there are other ways to flow/fly in life. You can paraglide, skateboard or race cars. Yoga is an accessible, safe way to fly. And all you need, really, is your body. And to do that one thing you've done a handful of times while reading this post: breathe.


Yoga Garden

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Eat Your Colors

Salsa, bell peppers, and guacamole... a painless way to eat your colors.
Lately a lot of people have been asking me about the "yoga diet" and how they can extend their practice into their eating. The yoga diet is pretty simple; little or no meat, fresh vegetables that are naturally in season, and nothing too spicy or jarring to the system. It's quite striking sometimes, you can read a yoga text from a thousand years ago describing the proper diet and it's almost identical to the FDA's multi-million dollar food pyramid.

Anyway, I've been reading about how important variety is in your fruit and vegetable choices, and it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out how to get this percentage of Vitamin D and that amount of anti-oxidants and enough of the "good cholesterol," which I still don't really understand. So I was reminded of that big movement a few years ago, "Eat Your Colors."
This movement really stuck with me because it said to use your eyes instead of a chart to achieve a healthy diet. By having a table of many bright, varied colors, you are providing the right balance of nutrients for the body.

The science behind "eat your colors" is that the same things that make fruits and vegetables bright and colorful are also really good for us. These chemicals are called "phytonutrients" and have been closely linked to the anti-oxidant process.

Whatever the science says, the colorful approach to food is tasty, energizing, and nice to look at. I find that certain styles of cooking, especially Mexican, lend themselves well to this approach. So the next time you're in the produce section, try to get a full spectrum of color in your basket, and a full spectrum of nutrients in your body!

If you want more details about phytonutrients, I found this site very informative.


Yoga Garden