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Yoga AND Sailing? Yes please!

28 Oct

I’m so happy to announce that I will be co-leading the first retreat hosted by Viveka Yoga, my home away from home in Lachine. From March 10th-17th 2015, The wonderful Marlène Graveline-Leduc and I will be sailing away with a group of sailors/yogis to explore the Exumas in the Bahamas. Marlène and I will be offering 2 yoga classes per day, on different beaches in the Exumas. We will also be offering vegan food and cooking workshops, meditation sessions, and the chance to connect to a powerful community while sailing the open seas!

If you are interested in joining this adventure and becoming part of this community, please get in touch! Spots are extremely limited!

Poster

I see so many parallels between yoga and sailing – living in the moment, letting go of control, listening to your intuition. Living on a sailboat for 7 days will also be an incredible experience in sangha (community) as we share food, share space, and share bathrooms…! I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to share my passions with a group of people in such an exotic locale, and I’m also looking forward to a little digital detoxing. Disconnecting from social media and emails, and connecting to the ocean and sandy beaches will definitely be welcome!

Let’s escape winter together! Mark your calendars for March 10th-17th 2015, and get in touch with us to reserve a spot!

 

 

 

Janu-freakin-ary

21 Jan

Hello January. It’s cold. My feet get cold when I try to wear cool spring boots. I’m dreaming of sun, sandy beaches and heat. In the midst of this cold front, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stay present with winter. I’ve been finding my mind drifting to summer plans, vacations and wishes of flip flops every time I stop to think.

Amidst these feelings, I have been integrating more mindfulness into my daily life by taking the time to enjoy the warm comfort of a hot cup of tea, cuddling in jogging pants and woolly socks, and trying my hardest to become friends with the cold by any means possible. I’ve also become so grateful for the heat of my yoga practice, in a hot room or otherwise. There’s nothing like the feeling of coming out of the cold and into a room heated to 40 degrees to warm you up from the core all the way to the fingers and toes. I also noticed that the minute I enter periods of high stress or challenges, my meditation practice really takes a beating. When I need it the most, I turn away from my daily sit, coming up with excuses not to quiet my mind. This realization coincides perfectly with a new meditation challenge I just signed up for on Tuja Wellness. If you know me, you know my “type A” personality loves a good structured challenge, so I jumped at the chance to join. One of my first yoga teachers, an inspirational and wonderful Montreal-based yoga teacher named Dawn Mauricio, is facilitating the challenge along with a handful of wellness experts. My intention when I signed up is to use this challenge to reintegrate a daily meditation practice to my routine. Check out the challenge here, and join! Let’s do it together!

In other news, my immune system took a beating this Holiday season as everyone around me was all virus-y. I managed to come out of the Holidays with “only” a throat infection, which I fought valiantly with lots of hot water with lemon, ginger, and oil of oregano. (THANK YOU, ERICA, FOR THIS MIRACLE OIL. FOR REAL – MIRACLE WORKER.) These past weeks, I’ve been building my immune system back up with a daily green smoothie, lots of garlic and ginger, and a warm glass of water with lemon to start the day. My favorite smoothie of the moment is a tart combo of greens and fruit. I’m loving it!

Green Kiss smoothie

1 cup coconut water (or more, depending on how good your blender is…)

½ an avocado

1 cup frozen or fresh mango

Juice of 1 lemon (or peel the lemon and throw it in for extra tartness)

1 large handful of kale

1 tbsp ground flax seeds

A squirt of agave nectar (optional)

Throw all ingredients in a blender and blend!

The avocado gives the smoothie a little fat, so it keeps me full longer! It also makes the consistency soooo creamy. I don’t add agave, because I like my smoothies tart, but if you’re not into that type of thing, add some sweetener! The cool thing about green smoothies is you can mix and match lots of different combos. If you don’t have kale, sub for spinach! If you don’t have mango, throw in pineapple! I like using coconut water as a base because it is super hydrating, but you can try your favorite non-dairy milk or just plain water if you are running low on supplies. Having a green smoothie for breakfast gives me so much energy, and also gives me a healthy dose of greens to start the day. If you’re new to green smoothies, start small. Add lots of fruit, and just a little bunch of greens. As your taste buds adjust, start lowering your ratio of fruit, and increasing your ratio of greens. The greener, the better!

Thirty Day Challenge Week 1 – I love myself today (?)

8 Nov

As we come to the close of Week 1 of the 30 Day self-love and yoga challenges, I realize that a couple of small hurdles have pushed me to practice self-love in completely different ways. Lots of rest, yin practices, candlelit meditations, warm chili and cornbread and nesting under warm blankets wearing fuzzy socks were on the menu. While a small cold kept me away from the studio at the beginning of this week, I’m fully planning on recommitting myself to the challenge of daily in-studio practices for the rest of November! I’m missing the warmth, hugs and smiles of the wonderful Viveka community!

Tonight, I’ll be guiding a workshop at the beautiful Viveka Yoga, focused on Pranayama, or conscious breath. In my 3+ years as a yoga teacher, this will mark my first ever workshop. I’m so excited to share my fascination with the breath, and all the wonderful practices we can engage in to deepen our connection. I’m also nervous – will students want to listen to me talk for close to 2 hours? Will I succeed in sharing and conveying all the wonderful aspects of conscious breathing? Will I crack a [breath] joke that will be met with blank stares? (Worst. Feeling. of. Life.) Building and writing out the workshop this past week has been the best  – I’ve revisited books and guides from my YTT days that i haven’t opened in a while. Throughout the process, i’ve tried to write and construct from a student point of view – as a student, what do I want out of a Pranayama workshop? It’s been really exciting to try my hand at building a workshop for the first time, and i hope the response is positive! The challenge of writing a workshop brought a very interesting aspect to my 30-day self-love and asana challenge. The excitement and challenge of being asked to do the workshop, and the energy surrounding the process have made me nervous and doubtful of my inner voice, my ability to convey my passion. My self-love practice has been put to the test this week, and has helped immensely. The power of positive affirmations is awesome. Instead of falling into the trap of my inner voice becoming my own worst enemy, kicking me when i’m doubting myself, i’ve practiced positive self-speech, and lots of meditation. These practices have made me feel confident, present and excited for the evening ahead. If you’re in the Lachine area at 7:30PM tonight, come join in the breath!

On the topic of meditation, I am so excited that Oprah and Deepak Chopra have released a new free 21 day meditation challenge program! This program is a favorite of mine – both their voices are so soothing, and Deepak’s guidance is incredibly mind-blowing. The challenge starts November 11th, and you can register for free here: https://chopracentermeditation.com/

Also on the meditation front, i’ve fallen in LOVE with Canadian company Tiny Devotions. Their malas are stunning, their jewelery is drool-worthy, and their blog is adorable. They have an incredible post on how to choose a mala, which i found super informative. I own the Amazonite Mala, and i feel like when i wear it, i can take my intentions with me wherever i go. And conquer the world, of course. I love placing it in front of my mat during practice so i can have it in view during particularly challenging asanas, or when my focus is drifting. Check them out, support such a cool company, and send them some love!

All you need is (self) love…

30 Oct
The month of November is shaping up to be quite the month. I’ve previously met November with a bit of dread; one step closer to snow and cold. Not to mention, it’s a month devoid of holidays! Lame-o. This November, I’ve committed to 2 pretty awesome and inspiring challenges, and I’m counting down the days until i get to dive right in!

The first event, Viveka Yoga’s 30 day challenge, challenges you to practice yoga every day for 30 days. Viveka is offering a special price for a month of unlimited yoga, which includes 4 sweet workshops every Friday night. (Shameless plug: I’m teaching the pranayama [breath] workshop on November 8th – be there or be square!) If you are interested in joining, check out the website, and come on down to Viveka on November 1st to register!

The second event, 30 days of Self-Love, is run by the beautiful and inspiring Asami Martens. Asami is a yoga teacher based in Montreal who has orchestrated this event in order to unify people from all around the globe so they may connect, share their intentions and thoughts on love and self-care.  The challenge also starts on November 1st, and the guidelines are simple – commit to 35 minutes or more per day of exercise, and 10 minutes or more per day of meditation. The rest is up to you. These can be your intentions, or you can set additional intentions for your month. Asami will be posting asana [yoga posture] tips, guided meditation videos, yummy recipes, and more throughout the month. Bonus – it’s free to join!

My Self-Love November intentions are the following:

• Do yoga every day (plays into the first challenge! Adding to this, i’d like to incorporate more morning practices…)
• Meditate for 15 minutes a day
• 15 minutes of Sanskrit study per day
• Try an inversion every day (maybe become best friends with headstand again? We broke up for a while…)
• Spend more time outside connecting with nature
• Disconnect from my phone and social media at least an hour before bed every night
• Practice positive thoughts towards myself – self-love!! Every morning as i wake up silently chant “I choose to believe in me” 5 times
• Tell my loved ones I love them as much as I can!
• Listen to my intuition

It is my hope that after 30 days of practicing these simple intentions, they will become habits that i can incorporate into my everyday life. I feel intention setting is an important part of spiritual growth. As we learn to nurture ourselves through the spiritual practice of meditation, positive affirmations and thought, yoga (or any other form of movement that makes you smile) and mindfulness, our sense of connection to ourselves and others heightens and we can live to our fullest potential.

As your friendly neighborhood vegan, it’s my duty to suggest that you pledge to go veg for 30 days! Or why not practice meatless Mondays for the month of November? Pledge to use only cruelty-free or natural cleaning agents in your home for the month? Give 1 hug per day to someone in your life? Hugs are awesome, and vegan too! 😉

Let’s get on our mats, set intentions, and live November to its fullest! Share your intentions in the comments below if you’d like. Or better yet, join one of the challenges and connect with our communities!

PEACE!

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Recipe testing, new yoga class and post-half-marathon high, OH MY!

27 Oct
I run for Animals!

PETA Pack for the win!

This past month has brought many highs amidst a devastating low. I completed my first half-marathon, despite my stupid knee acting up, and it was one of the greatest personal accomplishments EVER. I raised 750$ for PETA, and completed the race 30 minutes shy of my expected time! Not only was my experience with PETA Pack an incredible one, but the organization and efficiency of the Oasis Marathon organizers and volunteers made Race Day a very special, smooth and inclusive event for everyone. To all my friends and family: if anyone is interested in joining the team next year, please let me know! Let’s start training early, together, and run the race as a group!

As much as i enjoyed my pre-race training, i was happy and excited to return to my yoga practice. When i started training for the half-M, i vowed to continue practicing yoga on a daily basis. I failed. My practice dwindled to once a week (if i was lucky). It was gross. I was gross. My hips were tight, my shoulders were stiff, and i was kind of an emotional wreck. Adding to this was the fact that i was teaching 2 classes a week, which made me feel like a yogic hypocrite. As i entered Moksha yoga for my first class back in 3 months, a look of shame was clearly written all over my face. Even before we prepared for our first downward dog, i knew this class would be a disaster. A wonderful, eye-opening, sweaty disaster, but a disaster nonetheless. By the end of that class, i left the studio with shaking arms, a sore core and the biggest smile ever on my face. I had returned home. Just like returning home after an extended absence, the familiarity of the practice was there, but it was surrounded by change. I embraced the shaking of my legs in Warrior 2, I relished in the screaming of my hips during any and every forward bend we went into. There was so much stiffness in my body, so many points of tension. I felt like i was rediscovering yoga asana all over again. And it was awesome. Though i initially felt frustration at having let my practice slip during training, i have begun to discover that taking a step back, to then revisit my practice, has offered me a whole new journey of self-exploration.

Reuniting with my asana practice has been a welcome addition to my weekly schedule, as has the addition of a morning yoga class to my teaching schedule. Starting next week (November 2nd) I will be teaching a morning yoga class at FlowSpace, a wonderful space in the historic Union Francaise building. If you or anyone in your circle is interested in yoga before work, this class is for you. I’m hoping its proximity to the downtown core will attract 9-to-5ers, as us office workers can always benefit from the awesomeness of yoga! (I don’t know about you, but Computers give me Stiff Shoulders.) It’s better than coffee, i swear! For a look at my complete teaching schedule, please click on the option under the “About” header.

On the food front, I’ve signed on to test recipes for one of my favorite vegan cookbook authors, Terry Hope Romero. I’ll be posting lots of food pics once i start testing; I’m really looking forward to getting started!

To celebrate Halloween, i have tried incorporating pumpkin into soup and desserts. The soup (roasted pumpkin soup) was awesome, the dessert (pumpkin brownies) was a huge fail. I literally had to scrape the pumpkin layer off the brownie crust and throw it out, so as to salvage the brownie part. It was messy to make, messy to eat, and messy to dispose of. I should have known better than to try and change a good thing; brownies are the cat’s pajamas on their own, with no need for a layer of gelatinous pumpkin to dress them up.

The soup, however, was warming and spicy; perfect for crisp fall lunches.

Garlicky Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil

1 small pumpkin

1 full head of garlic (to ward off vampires, of course)

1 medium yellow onion

2 sweet potatoes

1 carrot

1 regular potato

1/2 cup red lentils

6 cups veggie broth

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon of cayenne powder or crushed red chili flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the pumpkin in half through the middle and scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. You can keep the seeds for roasting if you’re into that. Cut the garlic in half through the middle, keeping the white outer layer on. Drizzle olive oil on inside of the pumpkin halves, rubbing it on the flesh. Rub olive oil on the exposed flesh of the garlic as well. Place the pumpkin halves side by side on a parchement-lined baking sheet, flesh side down, with the garlic halves under the pumpkin halves. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, until tender. (WARNING: It’s going to smell soooo good.)

While the pumpkin is roasting, prep your other ingredients. Chop onion into little pieces. Peel sweet and regular potatoes, and chop into small pieces. Peel and chop carrot into small pieces.

Once pumpkin is ready, get out your favorite soup pot. Cover the bottom with a couple of swooshes of olive oil. Throw in the onion. Cook the onion on med-high heat for 5 minutes, until soft. While the onion is cooking, scoop out the flesh from the pumpkin, discarding the skin. Put in a bowl and reserve. In your soup pot, throw in the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes more. Throw in the potatoes, lentils and pumpkin. Take your sweet, delicious roasted garlic bulbs. Grab the bulb halves from the top and squeeze the bulbs out of their skin into the pot. Add all the spices and cover with broth. Turn the heat to med-low and let simmer, partially-covered, for at least 45 minutes. Once the potatoes are tender, you are ready to mash this soup into potage form. Take the cauldron off the heat and grab your handheld masher (electric or potato masher). Mash the soup until it reaches a creamy consistency, or leave it a little lumpy if that’s your thing.

Put pot back on heat, and heat soup on med-low heat for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and enjoy!

You can sprinkle pumpkin seeds or walnuts on top before serving, it gives the soup a delicious crunch.

I wonder if our neighborhood will get many trick-or-treaters? I wonder if the trick-or-treaters will stage a mutiny against me if i give out vegan fruit chews or carrot sticks?

10 days and counting! I love apples.

14 Sep

The Montreal Oasis Marathon is only 10 days away and i am so pumped! As many of you know, i’m running with the PETA Pack to raise money for PETA’s Rescue and Investigations fund. In the past couple of weeks, my fundraising page has seen a flood of donation activity, which pleases me beyond words! I never dreamed i’d be able to raise 500$, and i’ve surpassed my goal with more donations waiting to be registered! The money you have all donated will go a long way in supporting PETA’s efforts to raise awareness, provide support and lead investigations. As Paul McCartney once said: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”. If more people understood and knew what went on behind the scenes at circuses, in zoos, at slaughterhouses, in labs, they would be able to make informed choices when choosing what to eat, what to wear, where to seek out entertainment, and what products to buy. Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss.

Things that ARE bliss:

1. “The Thrive Diet”, by Brendan Brazier. The sports gel recipes Mr. Brazier shares in this book are incredible. More effective than store-bought gels, and so much healthier!

2. My running shoes. My delightful boyf bought them for me as his own personal donation to my racing efforts, and boy do they make me run fast! I think it’s the flashy stripes on the sides…

3. Vegan Break‘s Peanut Butter Chocolate cupcakes. Go make these now. They are sinful. Or ask me to make them for you. I need an excuse to make them again because they are so good. (Christina Vani, for real, go make these now.)

4. Apples.

On the running front, i’ve come across a little speed bump (pun INTENDED!) in my training. I kind of hurt my knee a teensy little bit, and i’ve had to slow down my training. Truthfully, the doctor told me to stop training completely for 5 days. Those 5 days were the longest ever! I couldn’t believe how much my body yearned to run. I kept looking at my running shoes with longing in my eyes. (Again, it might be because of the cool flashy stripes on the side) Now that i have re-embarked in my training, i’m running much slower than before, with no goal or expectations. It takes crazy amounts of willpower to slow down instead of speeding up, to recognize that my body is demanding that i go at a respectful pace. This is where my yoga off the mat comes in. Listening to my body when it comes to yoga is a piece of cake (most of the time…!), but applying the same compassion towards my body when it comes to non-asana (posture) situations is kind of super challenging. Performing to the best of my ability come race day does not necessarily mean beating my best training times. I must let go of the concept of setting personal time records, and concentrate on respecting my body’s limitations, while completing my initial goal, which was simply crossing the finish line and raising money for our animal friends. Whether i cross that finish line in 3 hours or 2 million hours, i know that my family and friends will be at the finish line ready to give my big hugs, i will have raised an insane amount of money for animals, and i will have completed that initial goal of completing the 1/2 marathon. The fact that my team, the PETA Pack, has raised close to 100,000$ as of today, and my fundraising is a part of this awesome achievement, helps me keep this all in perspective. I’m running to make a difference in the lives of countless animals who need our help; my goal is not to run fast, my goal is just to run. To stay present, to be part of something much bigger than my time goals and finish line expectations. Just to run.

 

T-22 days… It’s crunch time… literally.

2 Sep

I’m actually eating cashews and almonds as i write this. They’re delicious, unsalted and nutritious. Did you know that almonds are “a rich source of vitamin E, containing 26 mg per 100 g (Table). They are also rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins, essential minerals and monounsaturated fat (see nutrient table), one of the two “good” fats which potentially may lower LDL cholesterol. Typical of nuts and seeds, almonds also contain phytosterols, associated with cholesterol-lowering properties.” (Thanks, Wiki…) I love almonds. Everyone should eat more almonds.

When i embarked upon this whole 1/2 marathon journey, I considered myself a wholesome, vegan eater who was in decent shape. Daily yoga did my body gooooood! Two months into training, my body feels incredible. I feel like a well-oiled machine. A well-oiled, somewhat sore machine, but well-oiled nonetheless. Running is hard! It’s not just the physical aspect, but the mental part is quite the challenge. Usually, my long runs are on Sundays. Last weekend, i was slated for a 9 mile run for the Sunday, but had plans all day. I decided to modify my schedule so i could do the run on Monday. I charted my course on Google Maps. The result i got blew me away. 9 miles is FAR. 9 miles is from my apartment all the way to Des Pins and St-Denis, and back again! Anyone who knows Montreal, knows this is not a distance to scoff at. Not one to back away from a challenge, i laced up my new runners (which by the way, are so awesome.), charged up my ipod, and took off.

I WILL finish the race, thanks to my awesome Asics!

During the course of this training run, current Sara HATED afternoon Sara for plotting this course. There were hills. Lots of hills. Hills going through Westmount, hills along McGill, hills everywhere. My calves were screaming, my bum was sore, my brain was sending curse words to my soul. It wasn’t solely a challenge on a physical plane. No, no, no. My brain was tormenting me, not with words of encouragement, but with bad words. At the beginning, i was intimidated. Then i remembered the yogic philosophy i repeat to my students time and time again in yoga classes: just breathe. Listen to your breath. Stay in the present and breathe. In. Out. Inhale, exhale. Just breathe. This mantra seems quite obvious, maybe a little foolish to some, but it’s what helped me continue. When i reached my halfway point, even though i was solo, i jumped and fist pumped the air. People stared, but their attention was quickly diverted to a man across the street throwing garbage on a wall. That man’s distraction allowed me a couple of seconds of victory dancing. (Thank you, dear Montreal and your eclectic people.) After that halfway mark, it was smooth sailing back home. Many experience runner’s block at the end of the race, during the last couple of miles. Having not run the full 1/2 marathon yet, I have no experience with the “wall” many hit. However, i am taking my yogic breathing with me, and hopefully will be able to overcome it by concentrating on the breath. Though 9 miles was extremely intimidating at the onset, completing it while running non-stop gave me a huge boost of confidence for the race on the 25th of September.

Though training takes up much of my thoughts, my heart and soul hold dear the real reason i am running this race. This past week, i have been humbled and rendered speechless by the donations that have been pouring into my personal page. As a proud member of the PETA Pack, i am running this race to raise money for the Rescue and Investigations fund of PETA. My parents were the first to donate, and donate they did. My parents are 2 of the most compassionate people i know. Though my father teases me constantly about my vegan diet, i know they respect and admire my decision to live a more compassionate lifestyle. Many associate PETA with veganism, though they raise awareness on so many other subjects and investigations. By contributing to my PETA page, my parents have helped in a HUGE way to build dog houses for dogs chained outside by neglectful owners, to help retire and save animals beaten and neglected in zoos and circuses, to help finance spay and neuter services for low income neighborhoods, etc. Animals have no voice to ask or plead for help, yet they are neglected, beaten and used for our own gain every day. As many of you know, animal rights and the fight for their humane treatment is a cause so dear to me, so the donations many of you made have warmed my heart. I have even received an anonymous donation from someone who has never met me,  sending me such kind words of encouragement. These gestures are what encourage me to run further during every training. Running 13 miles seems intimidating at first, but remembering that i am running for a cause much greater pushes me forwards. Thank you to everyone that has donated, your money will go a long way. If you have not yet donated, and would like to, please visit my personal page here! You still have time before the big day! September 25th is around the corner!