Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dallas does Vegan

Holiday time is a wonderful time for families to get together and enjoy. For some it is tough because family time may feel like obligatory torture, but for me and my family, it is awesome, outstanding fun and joy! This year we spent the Holidays in Dallas, and it was truly magnificent. My family in Dallas loves to laugh, loves to eat, loves to make hilarious jokes, and shares in the genetic love for a healthy sense of humor with a hint of sarcasm, which I thrive on at times. It is good to be able to laugh at yourself once in a while, and when you are surrounded by like minded people, it makes the experience so much funnier!

While I maintained my vegan diet, and stuck to my daily yoga every morning, I used the opportunity to enlighten my omnivore relatives to leave the dark side and come to the healthier, higher energy, youthful glow, energized, global consciousness, animal loving side for good - vegetarian, I did experience backlash. Luckily for me, the Indian diet has many healthy, delicious vegan options, and my family members are amazing chefs. Since I have many family members who do eat meat, I have always been compassionate and understand how habits, marketing and comfort can dictate a persons dietary habits. While you may not want to read every label, it doesn't hurt to be more aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Also, when facts prove that the acidity level, toxicity level, hormone and chemical processing that goes into an omnivore diet can affect your complexion, your ability to withstand sickness, increase your chances of cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and heart disease....well it doesn't hurt to eat some veggies once in awhile. I enjoyed the ribbing from my family, and was happy to highlight the long term benefits from a more alkalized diet, especially since I could use myself as an example. I have to admit I ate more than I usually consume during the Holidays, and loved every vegetarian bite. My amazing cousin Roshni (our designated family chef) was kind enough to bake delicious vegan brownies for me one night which I enjoyed and shared. Thanks Roshni! We had a great organic market called "Sprouts" literally down the block from the house, and my cousin Ambily took me there so I could stock up on my favorite foods: Kale, Spinach, Avacados, nuts, Cucumbers, grapefruit, bananas, berries, and of course Coconut Ice cream from "So Delicious" in Peanut Butter Chocolate swirl!!! Yea, I said Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl folks!!! Even my hard core Omnivore relatives enjoyed that one!! I may have enjoyed it a little too much myself, as I seem to have come back with a 5lbs extra winter coat, but worth every delicious inch.

On my last day in Dallas, my Amazing cousin Ambily, took me to a cute, wonderfully delicious vegan restaurant in Dallas, called Spiral Diner. Thanks Ambily! Although they had amazing food options, we went after lunch, so we ate dessert and had yummy Coconut based Vegan Strawberry ice cream, and took vegan dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and vegan snicker doodles (which I never knew what a snicker doodle was until now), and vegan pumpkin cheese cake, in a take away box. That evening 20 of us ventured to the Cheesecake factory, so while I feasted on my salad & sweet potato fries, I also got to enjoy some Vegan Cheese cake when it came to desert time. Thanks to my family, Y'all made the Holidays such an amazing experience!!! Haven't had a christmas this good in years!!!
Pictured: Ambily and myself at Spiral Diner in Dallas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Partner Yoga in Group Classes

As I have mentioned before, in life, in NYC, we tend to feel like we are all alone. We cling to our yoga mat, and forget that we are sharing in the vibrational energy of others around us. While it is wonderful to dive deep into the spirit on our mat, sometimes sharing the experience with another person can be incredible. When we share, we can go deeper, we can support, we can encourage, we can feel love, we can feel support, and we can have fun! Every once in awhile I like to reconfigure the mats in the middle of a yoga class, and have students work with a partner. This builds community, helps synchronize the pranayama energy, and it's fun! A wonderful tool for instructors to use when designing a yoga class. It's important to remind people that this world is there to support us, but we must be open to that love to and be able to give that love back, in order to receive it.
Photo: Saturday level 1 yoga @ Bamboomoves, BX

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best New Kids Book Ever!!!

Are you looking for the perfect gift for a child, or a child at heart? Look no further! I have written and illustrated a soon to be NY times Best Seller, "The Yoga Adventures of Priya and Pooch ~ Indian Treasure". It is a story about a little girl and her puppy who go to India in search of treasure, explore yoga, eat healthy snacks, and learn. The book has brightly colored illustrations, pages with interactive yoga poses, and potential for discussion topics. Possible discussion topics or activities include: Special life moments, body movement, adventures, animals, counting, breathing, healthy eating, treasures, geography and much more!!! In the times where we are living, with obesity rates growing rapidly, and physical education cuts being made to the school system, it is important for us all to join together to inspire health to the younger generation. As a former NY State Teacher, with experience in the grade 1 and 4 classroom, once upon a time, I was disappointed with how the Education system has phased out Physical Education classes, Arts classes, and Especially music classes, but rather than complain, I decided to "Be the Change I wish to See in the World" as Gandhi asked us to do. It is my passion to inspire young and old to take the best care of their bodies, minds and spirits. Yoga and Music provide both, and improve our vibrational frequency, which translates into improving our ability to be attuned to the gifts of this Universe! It is a wonderful tool for parents or educators to inspire health and wellness, literacy, and fun in kids, as well as deepen bonds! I have tested the book out with Kids from ages 3 to 10 and the kids at heart from 20 to 70 and the unanimous consensus is, WE LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! I also have found from my experience teaching kids yoga with children diagnosed with special needs like Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Sensory Integration and ADHD that this book helps them to focus their energy, and they LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! This book is the first in my darling series of Yoga Adventure books starring Priya and Pooch, the books will have companion music that promises to be fun and engaging. The original music is part of my roster of music that I use with my kids yoga classes, and even adults start to sing along after one time through. Be part of the movement, and inspire wellness with me. If you would like to order books, they can be purchased online at blurb.com ($15.95) or purchased at Bamboomoves, BX $10, and soon to be in various NYC Yoga Studios. You can also email me at zogayoga@yahoo.com if you would like to order bulk orders for your yoga studio. This book is more than an amazing Holiday Gift, it is a Lifestyle of health, wellness and JOY! Thank you to all who have already purchased the books! ~ Namaste

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Officially a Yellow Belt Black Stripe

Another amazing surprise from the incredible family I have at Harmony By Karate, my yellow belt. This week is promotion week at Harmony by Karate. It is exciting for the Sensei's, Sempais, the kids and the parents, as all their hard work and dedication is recognized with the promotion ceremony. While I was helping with the kids class, teaching them some yoga stretches, Sensei Joseph asked me to confirm the spelling of my last night. He is so sneaky and casual, I just told him no "s" at the end of my last name, and carried on with the jumping jacks that we were going into. When the ceremony time commenced, I stood on the side of Sensei John, passing the new belts to Sensei Joseph, and watched as the kids classes stood awaiting their belts and certificates. Finally, after everyone was awarded, and applauded, Sensei John called my name! Since I was awarded my yellow belt black stripe awhile back, Sensei John made it official with my certificate, and reintroduced me to the parents and caregivers who stood by watching. I have been awarded My Yellow Belt Black Stripe Certificate of promotion in Chowakai Karatedo of Japanese Origin. What an incredible honor! I know that I am blessed to be in the company of Harmony by Karate because of the regular compassion, kindness and genuine dedication I witness every week. As a former NYS teacher, I look for excellence in fellow educators. Regardless of if you teach in a school, yoga studio, martial arts, wherever the venue, it is important that you connect to the spirit of the student. When I look for a teacher, a colleague, or a team I want to be working with, I always search for people who share the same qualities and standards of excellence I strive to adhere to, and people who inspire me to be better. I look for people who inspire, have creativity, have fun, understand students, practice what they teach, create classes with relevance to humanity, have humility, and most importantly have compassion, and these are qualities I see in all the staff at Harmony By Karate. Sensei John himself teaches such relevant philosophies to his students, and has been part of a national Anti-Bullying campaign that has recently been featured on the Oprah Radio Show. Thank you to everyone at Harmony by Karate for being part of my journey, for teaching me so much, and for promoting me to Yellow Belt Black Stripe, it truly is an honor. Once again, I left the dojo full of smiles!
Picture: Sensei John awarding me with my Certificate of Promotion

Yummy Babycakes

Somehow, since I tend to create Yoga Chakra Workshops that involve Vegan Cakes, people have this silly idea that I have a sweet tooth? I guess anything is possible. While I eat more greens regularly, I do enjoy a decadent dessert. Growing up with an Austrian Godmother, who loves dessert and a Mom who made the world's best chocolate cake (literally), I always enjoyed baking myself, and sometimes eating a baked good. I am not a fan of the over sweet icings, the overload of sugars, and since I am an animal lover and practice conciousness towards my planet, I prefer the Vegan Desserts. Vegan Desserts are better for our body, and our world. One of my Yoga students has been buzzing about a Vegan-Gluten Free Bakery on Broome St, Downtown. I checked out the website for "Babycakes", and after my yoga student nearly broke her cheeks with her smiles about the place, I decided to head down to check it out. After teaching Yoga on Wall St, Tuesday night, I took a cab to Babycakes. The trip and purchases were primarily for investigative/research purposes of course. I walk into the place and I am met with a lovely young lady gives me the inside scoop on her personal favorites! We wind up chatting and I find out she is in Anusara Yoga Teacher training, with Vira Yoga, Elena Brower. Small World, this summer I was helping to assist Elena teach the rained out Central Park Yoga, and Elena has a bass player (Garth Stevenson) who went to school with me at Berklee College of Music, and I'm a yoga teacher. I love meeting random yoga enthusiasts in the city, especially in Vegan Eateries. She turned me onto the cupcakes, which I intend to share, a caramel donut (which my yoga student insisted I try), and a complimentary brownie! So far I have eaten a cupcake and a brownie, and I must say that it was super duper yummy!!! The chocolate tasted incredible, and so far the only contender for my moms "world's best chocolate cake"! The Glutten free is garbanzo bean flour, they sweeten with agave, and add a pinch of Babycakes Lovin! If you have not been there yet, you must head down and feast on the deliciousness of conscious decadence! Thank you Babycakes for coming into my life, my heart, and most importantly my tummy!

Ohashiatsu Advanced 2 finals week

Ten days of Ohashiatsu Advanced 2 finals week! We are in a flood of Tsubo points, meridians, sedation and tonification techniques, and much more under the brilliant guidance of Ohashi himself. If you have not familiarized yourself with Ohashiatsu, it is a brilliant body work modality for everyone. This modality was developed by Ohashi to help diagnosis of the body, treatment of the body, and be easy for the practitioner long term. With very little effort of the practitioner, the receiver gets a fantastic treatment. This is Ohashi's last Advanced one class in NYC, as the international school is branching out into new and exciting teaching methods. I am so happy to be part of the experience. We are learning so much information, being tested, practicing, and improving each day. Special thanks to Jaja our wonderful registrar hero who has helped many of us, and also gave me an amazing private session the other day. Special thanks to Maureen, Millie, Jean Pierro, Livia, and Kumiko, our Ohashiatsu instructors for helping Ohashi to create such an amazing experience. Many Many thanks to Ohashi for everything he is sharing. Ohashi is a wealth of knowledge, and watching how he is in constant learning mode, always diagnosing people at random, and practicing his art is true brilliance to behold. It is important to learn from a teacher who practices what they teach, but when you get to learn from the creator themselves, it's even better.

Yoga Class with Brilliant Live Cello Music

Monday night 7:45 at Bamboomoves is normally a wonderful sweaty Level 2 Vinyasa Yoga class. We usually have a fun variety play list of music to carry us through the flow from Eddie Vedder, Madonna, The Grateful Dead, Radiohead, Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, my own original music and much more. Last night, we were so blessed to have the brilliant Live Music Talent of Bamboomoves member, Elizabeth Glushko. We set up a space for her in the front corner of the studio, and everyone else was close near the back on their mats. As string instruments relate to the vibrational energy of our second chakra, Swadhisthana, we worked on opening this energy. The energy that heals our reproductive system, reinforces grounding, awakens sensual energy, creates fire in the body, awakens passion and much more! While the flow was not as challenging as usual, it was synchronized harmony, as myself and Elizabeth fed off of each others energy. The live music itself was echoing in our sacral area, and allowing us to open our hips, and deepen our poses. People were sweaty from the heat of this sensual chakra, and experienced the power of vibration. In general, everyone left with a glow, and towards the end of class we worked on some further dextox with a Tsubo point treatment, as it relates to Ohashiatsu. One student, Sara who came in with back pain was very sensitive to the Liver 4 point that also helps with sciatic back pain. She and a few other students also noted how the focus of the class, helped alleviate her back pain. When we practice yoga with the awareness of our subtle body (Chakra system), miraculous things take place, and last night I am happy to say I participated in a miraculous class. Thank you Elizabeth for gracing us with your talents, come back anytime! Thank you students for being present, and enjoying the experience!
Photos taken by Jody Concepcion

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Power of Ideas

While Yoga is an ancient practice that teaches Mind Body Spirit connection, in the Western world, we need to utilize the Power of Ideas to enhance this connection. Whether it is as a student or teacher, approaching the yoga class with a fresh mindset, and free of body hang ups can be a challenge. If you live in NYC, you may be fresh from a crowded sub way, late on rent, dealing with drama at work, or various other colors of NYC living, therefore using the power of ideas is key. Ideas or thoughts inspire life. What you think, you become. If you approach your practice from a perspective of lack you will only gain little growth. If you approach your practice from a perspective of ego, you will never achieve the spiritual bliss that can be gained from a humble practice. These powerful ideas should be parallel in your life, meaning approach life with an abundance and humble mindset. When we are compassionate as teachers, we receive compassion from students, when we are inspiring, we wind up being inspired by our students. When we give from a loving thought process, we spread the vibration of love, and we in a karmic way receive love. The most powerful idea one can have is the idea of LOVE. Even when faced with a bully, or a negative situation, allow yourself to look from a perspective of compassion, gratitude for your own awareness of love, and behold how the energy shifts. When contemplating how to structure a yoga class, a play list, a private session, a workshop, a retreat, teacher training, or even setting a dedication/intention for your own personal practice, have the number one idea be LOVE, and allow the practice to unfold with the Power that it naturally is. Keep spreading the vibration with the awareness of the power of ideas. Whatever idea you have about your life, will translate into vibrational reality. This theory is Yogic, Spiritual (most religions agree), and Scientific. We all are vibration, mirror neurons, so be mindful who you associate with, and what you are focusing your mind on. Next time you are on your yoga mat doing tree pose with your mind on your Holiday Shopping List, you will experience the Power of Ideas. The Power of your ideas creates the melody of your life.
Photo taken by Jody Concepcion

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Karma Side Kick to my own Mouth

Thursday night is here. Finished my Ohashiatsu Final Exams, taught some yoga, assisted teaching the Kids Karate class, and waiting in my Gi for the adult Karate class to begin. I am chatting with Sensei John at Harmony by Karate, when we realize that it's time for me to be in Karate class. I notice Sensei Oscar is in the Dojo, YEAAAHHH!!! Sensei Oscar gives a fun class, that is moderately challenging and conscious of breath work. I walk towards my friend Sensei Joseph, full of smiles, and notice Sensei Adam is here too??? Sensei Adam gives the "Challenging Class", which is putting it gently. I don't know why, clearly the Bronx is rubbing off on me, because I literally joyfully, blurt out to Sensei Adam "Sensei Oscar is teaching class, HA HA HA", and Sensei Adam kindly responds "Actually Sensei Oscar is here to take class, and I will be teaching class". Everyone laughs at me, I attempt to hide my blushing face in the cupboard as I realize that I "Karate Side Kicked my own foot" in my mouth so hard! So Sensei Adam is all smiles, apparently the reaction of class being hard is a compliment.

The night before I taught the ever famous, and challenging "Yoga-laties" "Zoga-laties" soon to be renamed again, and often referred to as "the Torture Class"at Bamboomoves, so my body was feeling every aspect of tonight's Karate class. The entire experience is Karma at it's finest! Ironically, Sensei Adam does a lot of exercises we do at Bamboomoves during "the Torture class". After we did burpees, push ups, pull ups, mountain climbers, wall squats, and dive bombers, he announced that we will be "Grappling". HUH? Come again, Sensei Adam? Sempai Ferrihah quickly motioned that we will be partners, YEAAA! Without a moments hesitation, Sensei Adam decides he will make the partners. I am put with Sensei Joseph (yeaaaahhhh, my wonderful friend!). Sensei Joseph looks at me with his intensity, and calmly says "I'm gonna take you down to the floor". Pardon me? HUH??? Umm Jo Jo? My nervous giggle begins, and quickly I am brought down to the floor. Sensei Joseph proceeded to "grapple" me through how to get out of the situation. It was amazing! The energy that I am blessed to enjoy at Harmony by Karate is evident in every student, Sempai, and Sensei. While I am the only one with the Yellow Belt in the primarily Black Belt adult class, they all take time and kindness to show me how to improve and better myself in the Karate style they are practicing. Thank you all for making Karate such an amazing experience, and thank you Sensei Adam for another wonderful class.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crown Chakra Workshop Bliss

The last Chakra Workshop of the year happened over the weekend at Bamboomoves. We explored the Crown Chakra. While most workshops have related Yoga poses, chants, live music, and vegan yummies, this workshop was slightly different. We opened the energy in the Root Chakra first, and did a Chakra Voyage, going through each Chakra with light Yoga, and meditation. We allowed ourselves to detach from all the baggage of the past year, which is important for this final chakra. Detachment, forgiveness, and letting go are key to finding spiritual bliss, and liberation. Finally, we explored the Crown Chakra with headstand, mudras, meditation, and trust yogic exercises. Since this chakra does not have a coinciding instrument (aside from the silence after the sound of Om), we let everythig go into blissful silence. With the colors of violet, and the lotus petal opening on top of our heads we enjoyed and dove into bliss. Since the chakra is related to intuition and fasting, those invited picked a yummy vegan treat out of a bag (using their intuition), and took it home, only to enjoy the next day, after a night of fasting. While we missed some folks due to illnesses, and end of the year Holiday parties, Thank you ladies who attended for sharing your amazing energy. As with every chakra workshop, we had a blast, deepened our knowledge of the subtle body, and deepened our yoga practice in a traditional sense.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ohashiatsu Advanced 1 Class

The Ohashiatsu Advanced 1 class completed studies under the guidance of the wonderful, Millie. This is a beautiful modality of body work (Ohashiatsu) that provides the most results to the receiver, with least chance of fatigue to the giver. We learn to diagnosis the body based on Hara, Meridians, and various means of Observation. At present, the class is in an intense 10 day study with Sensei Ohashi himself, studying Advanced 2 classes. Body Work healing is a wonderful tool for Yoga Instructors. Sensei Ohashi has developed a lovely method to treat the body in a way that the giver is receiving too!