Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yogis and Hurricane Sandy

Sending love and light to all my friends and students in NYC after this recent hurricane Sandy shook up the North East.  People all over the world have sent prayers as they watched the floods of 14 feet of water took over Battery Park, Subways become flooded, and estimated 38 deaths, 32 ft tall waves clearing the West Side Highway, and intense winds shaking buildings and witnessing the power of Mother Nature. 

For some yogis, the belief of Lord Shiva being disturbed from his meditation and dancing (Tandava) which brings on destruction to the Universe, and thus brings on the hurricane like winds.  For some people the theory of HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) could have brought on this natural disaster.  For some, the belief that the full moon increased the destructive forces of the tides.  Sadly, for many people there was doubt in the power of mother nature because of the previous Hurricane Irene.  While it is now being called a tropical storm, there is no doubt that a lot of destruction was the result of this disaster. 
Double Rainbow over Manhattan day after Hurricane Sandy

New Yorkers stocked their homes with Emergency lights, candles, food, and bravery.  While Ashtanga Yogis adhered to the rule of no practice on full moon days, hatha/vinyasa yogis enjoyed the extra time to explore their home practice, and non-yogis embraced prayer and love on their path to enlightenment. Some Yogis posted videos on Social media of yoga at home, chanting, candle lit meditation and also the destruction that surrounded their homes.

While prayers worldwide go out to all the people of NYC, NJ and the various counties that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, it is now a time to rebuild.  This may be community yoga classes, Karma Yoga of volunteering to help clean up the city and helping neighbors, or just extending gratitude to all the people who made it a safe experience.  Like in our lives, we go through periods of destruction only so we can be stronger and shine brighter.  Like our yoga practice calls for union of mind-body and spirit, these challenges (both external or internal) are never meant for us to get discouraged, but rather to persevere, breathe, and continue our practice of uniting the mind-body and spirit.  Wishing all the people who were affected by this hurricane peace & love ~ Om Namah Shivaya.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OMmmmm Donuts

With the dry- cold season of autumn, we are whirling in the Ayurveda Dosha of Vata.  We are dissolving in this season and letting go.  While it is best to eat warm foods that are easy to digest and avoid the Kapha indulgences, sometimes we all may get a craving for something sweet.  As long as we do things in moderation, there is no sense in depriving yourself.  If we all could approach our bodies as a system of science, with the understanding that the foods that we consume are fuel, nourishment and heal our bodies we all will avoid many bumps in the road of health.

So back to the indulgences.  All over North America are coffee shops with an assortment of donuts.  Normally donuts high in sugar, and fried.  What about making our own donuts, only baking them?.....sounds pretty yummy to me.

Nowadays you can purchase muffin trays, and donut trays that have the hole already.  Regardless of what shape you choose to use, here is the recipe.

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tbs Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (optional) *
4 Tbs Vegan Margarine
1 Flaxseed Egg (1Tbs Ground Flaxseed + 3Tbs Water - let it sit out for 4 minutes)
1/2 Cup and 3 Tbs Vanilla Coconut Milk (non dairy milk)
1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 tsp Coconut Extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Love

* If you want them to be Red Velvet Donuts just add 1tsp Red Food Coloring
** If you want to add more fibre to the recipe you can add some flax seeds, and or Beet Pulp from your juicer.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray donut pan with no-stick spray. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and shredded coconut. Stir and combine.

In a different bowl, combine melted margarine, flaxseed egg, non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, and extracts. Stir to combine. Add in red food color (optional – see note).

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Don’t over mix!

Fill donut pans with batter. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pans and let cool.

Once donuts are cooled you can add a frosting, but frost the ones you plan to eat, because frosted donuts do not store very well:
2T non-dairy cream cheese
2T vegan margarine
1C powdered sugar
2-3tsp warm water

* option for cocoa to give chocolatey flavor
* unsweetened coconut flakes for topping

Makes 8-10 donuts depending on your tray.  Serve with a smile and ENJOY!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meditation & Mindfullness

Recently I made the decision to cancel all teaching engagements for the remainder of the year.  While I am grateful for all the amazing invitations to teach and I look forward to more opportunities to share the practice of yoga, I wanted to help a dear family member who is transitioning to the next life.  For those who know me, my each day begins with prayer, meditation and yoga, which is usually followed up with more yoga, happiness, healthy eating and adventure.

This was a chance for me to put my practice to the test.  What I learned so far in 3 weeks in a hospice, bedside 24hr, is the power of yoga and meditation.  We all have challenges in life, whether it is job, family, grieving, personal relations, and the intensity of every challenge is only determined with how we focus on it.  Do we give more attention to our complaints, sadness, failures, or do we give attention to our faith, victories and blessings?  Many times we hear that life is our creation, our thoughts determine the days.  I agree 100%.  We enable every aspect of our journey.  We choose what we allow in our story.  So regardless of the challenges, let us look at it as lessons.  Along with that, begin every day with some meditation and prayer.  We have 1,440 minutes in a day so we can spend 10 to 20 minutes with silent prayer, pranayama and meditation.  This is a chance for us to quiet all the noise that we allow to take presedence.  We can breathe in gratitude for life, and exprience the peace within us that exists in all of us.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali highlights 1:3, Tada Drastuh Svarupe Avasthanam.  When fluctuations of consciousness cease, the Drastuh meaning seer or witness swells in his own splendor/nature. 

For many people Meditation and Mindfullness is a daily practice.  Forbes online news journal recommends meditation for busy people: http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterbregman/2012/10/13/if-youre-too-busy-to-meditate-read-this/2/

For some people who say that they cannot meditate, I say if you can sleep, if you can watch tv, if you can breathe..... you can meditate.  The ultimate goal of meditation or Dhyana is to quiet the mind and we can do this with focus/concentration or Dharana.

Five simple meditation techniques include:

1. Sit quiet and reflect on blessings, allowing every breath to be a breath of gratitude.
2. Sit quiet and recite your favorite prayer. mantra, or affirmation.
3. Sit quiet and focus on an object, candle, or deity.
4. Listen to guided meditation music.
5. Place crystals on your body, or in your hand and just breathe. Be mindful of the crystals you choose to use as they have their own specific metaphysical properties.

For those who are interested in embracing a meditation practice feel free to visit my website www.zogayoga.com and contact me.  There are some guided meditations available on my Youtube Channel Ambriali.  I am now offering online meditation certification courses via skype.  The benefits to meditation are endless and some include alleviating stress, bring peace of mind, increase consciousness, deepen faith, increased joy, inner healing, psychic awareness, improved intuition and so much more.

Yoga with the Incredible Renee Diamond

During the summer I was fortunate to be teaching an amazing Zoga Yoga 200Hr Yoga Teacher Training in NYC, and made some time to take a yoga class for myself, with an incredible teacher, Renee Diamond.  For a long time I heard about Renee from another awesome Yogini/Inspiration, Tao Porchon Lynch.  Tao had mentioned numerous times that my energy reminds her of Renee and she was surprised we did not meet.  So finally, I met Renee.
Ambria and Renee Diamond after Diamond Fit Flow Yoga at Equinox

Renee Diamond is a powerhouse lady with a finesse for teaching.  I went to Equinox in Greenwich and Scarsdale to take her class.  The first attempt was not successful as I was late, and she was teaching her diamond cuts class, which was more like group fitness.  I watched from the window as this incredible teacher was smiling, leading, and encouraging people to get into the fun cardio-intense workout, and it reminded me of the Zoga-Laties class I once taught.  She appeared to have awesome energy and gave attention to every student!  The other thing that caught my eye was her funky pants.  Since Tao had mentioned her name a few times, I was hoping that before I leave NYC, I will get the chance to take her class.
Ambria and the AMAZING Tao Porchon Lynch

So I went to Greenwich and made it in time to her yoga class.  The class was packed.  We arrived just on time and she welcomed both my friend and I to take some tennis balls.  I was excited as I love when teachers bring unique things to class.  The class began with her guiding us where to place the balls on the sides of our spine, as we would roll through the most therapeutic floor vinyasa flow/massage I have experienced in a long time.  From there she guided us through more restorative and hip opening yoga asana.  She introduced students to a way to alleviate bodily tension in a cost effective way, because anyone can get a tennis ball and roll on it.  Basically using our own body weight allows us to control, but we also used these little massage balls while flowing through some yoga asana.  We placed the balls aside and went through some more yummy yoga asana.  Renee encourages students to use variations of asana that suit their ability level without pushing and with focus on breath.  The class had such a beautiful energy, and Renee's verbal cues were extremely precise.  From start to finish everything Renee took us through was with purpose/intent to take us out of our own minds, out of the reality of our bodies being in a busy gym, and bring us to the most incredible Savasana ever.  Without question everyone felt safe in her class, knowing that this is a person who has years of experience studying the human body, mind & spirit.  Once again, I was also struck by her awesome funky pants.  After class I thanked her for a wonderful yoga class, and we spoke of Tao, yoga, and she laughed and mentioned she had the same yoga pants as me.  She mentioned that she thought I was a long time yoga practitioner or yoga teacher by my practice, and I said yes to both.  I am so grateful to have finally met Renee and taken her class.  Though I am not a member of Equinox, and moved from NYC to pursue invitations of teaching in India, Europe etc., Renee invited me as her guest anytime I am in NYC, thank you Renee!!! This incredible teacher is someone I had recommended to my students in the past because of the referral from Tao, but now I recommend her because I have had the good fortune to take her awesome class.

Renee was one of the most gracious yoga teachers I have taken class with in a long time.  Her knowledge of the body is inspiring, and her ability to articulate it to a packed class of students is brilliant.  Thank you Renee and Equinox for bringing another incredible experience to my journey.

For more information about this amazing Yogini Renee Diamond, please visit her website: