Yoga’s Guide to Gifting

It’s the Holiday Season, so the Internet is cranking out the 2016 Yoga Gift Guides with lists of mats, clothing, and anything bearing the word namaste including but not limited to, wall art, wine glasses, and throw pillows.

I find the yoga gift guides ironic because gift giving is actually extremely “unyogalike”.  We Western yogis are into gift giving; however, our ancient Hindu friends recommended that we refrain from exchanging gifts for any reason.

They believed that the act of giving a gift often bound or obligated the recipient to some future action, expectation, or reciprocation. Gifting disturbs the neutrality of a situation or a relationship–and yogis are all about neutrality and equanimity.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have a Christmas List and I have yoga stuff on that list; this is just one of those times when I have trouble reconciling my yoga practice, which is 90% physical exercise and 10% spiritual inquiry, with my Christian practice which is, 90% Midwestern Lutheran and 10% Northern California Liberal Democrat.

For a technical read on what Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has to say about gift giving, I will give you this:

The five yamas, a fundamental component of Ashtanga Yoga, are considered codes of restraint, abstinence, and self-regulation, and involve our relationship with our external environment.

Aparigraha is the fifth Yama and the one raining on your holiday gift giving parade. It basically says that we should not give gifts and that we should not possess anything beyond what we need for our daily bodily existence. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that your gift list doesn’t include anything that is absolutely necessary to sustain life.

Resource: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:30 and 2:39

Luckily, I’m a German Lutheran and my people basically invented Christmas as we know it today. So, you are welcome for the ideas about the Christmas tree being INSIDE the house, stocking stuffers, and gingerbread.

And the 90 percent of me that is Lutheran has prepared a yoga gift guide for anyone with a new age Western Yogi on their shopping list.

Förliche Weihnachtenchten and Namaste!

YOGA GIFT GUIDE 2016

Manduka GO Play Yoga Mat Bag

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Jade Fusion XW Yoga Mat (5/16″ x 28″ Wide x 71″ Long)

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Yoga Crow Mens Swerve Shorts w/Odor-Resistant Inner Liner

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Yoga Joes

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Himalayan Singing Bowls

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Yoga Mat Bag Red Flowers Handmade

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Personalised Premium Notebook Journal Diary

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Namaste Wine Glass with Namaste Gift with Bag

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Monogrammed Yoga Towel

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This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

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Pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin completely unnecessary.

I admit that fake news circulating on social media made me question everything I thought I knew about pumpkin pie; one of my top 5 favorite foods. Could it be that I had gone my whole life without having a “real” pumpkin pie? Had I been duped by canned pumpkin puree?

Obviously,  I was going to have to make a pie from scratch from fresh pumpkins to convince myself I hadn’t missed something critical. And now that that is out of the way, I can check it off of my culinary bucket list and go back to using canned “pumpkin”, thank God.

Here is how I did it:

Bake the pumpkin

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After gutting the pumpkin and chopping it up into quarters, put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover it tightly with foil, and then bake it at 325 degrees for 1 1/2-2 hours. Just this step alone takes longer than it would take you to make an entire pie using canned pumpkin. Just thought you would like to know.

Puree the pumpkin

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Once the pumpkin has cooled enough for you to be able to touch it, cut away the orange rind and put the pumpkin meat into your food processor for a good blending.

Strain the pumpkin

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You will then need to strain the processed pumpkin until it achieves the consistency of canned pumpkin. This took 3 hours.
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3 hours of straining through cheese cloth pulled out 3 cups of liquid. You can’t skip or rush this step or you will have pumpkin soup instead of pie.

Finally,make your pie

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I use the pumpkin pie and pie crust recipes from my Joy of Cooking cookbook, but use whatever your go-to recipe is. Your pie will likely be more yellow than it would be if you used canned pumpkin.

Serve and eat

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In the end, we had a fresh pumpkin pie that tasted just like a canned pumpkin pie. This is clearly a situation in which food engineering in favor of convenience is serving humanity very well. Also, one of my guests asked me what was wrong with the pie; it seemed to be the wrong color; Sigh.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

All Natural Yoga Mat “Cleaner”

Unfortunately, scientists have done studies to confirm what we already strongly suspected, which is that our yoga mats are little better than petri dishes. And, thanks to science, now we know:

  1. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi really flourish on the porous rubber material of yoga mats. Here’s a sampling of what turned up in testing: regular old fungi, like ringworm and athlete’s foot, viruses including strep, flesh-eating strep, and a variety of staph, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Nice!
  2. Our all natural essential oil infused mat washes aren’t going to cut it when it comes to killing what lives on the petri dish we call our yoga mat. You will need Lysol or bleach for that. Boooooo!

I bring this up because I recently returned from a yoga retreat in Mexico to which I brought my own mat (because I know what lives on communal yoga mats and prefer to stick to my own brand of funk).

I clean my mat from time to time by wiping it down with a wet towel, but our yoga studio is incredibly clean and I’m the only one using the mat, so I try not to get to up tight about it. But when I unrolled my mat after it had been subjected to a week of humidity, sweat, trail dust, bug guts, and gecko poop, I had to admit that I might just need to recycle it and buy a new one.

I use Jade Harmony yoga mats. Their open cell rubber construction makes them extremely grippy and absorbent, and they are eco-friendly. Their one draw back is that cleaning them with anything but a warm water wipe down will dry them out very quickly.

“The really important thing is to NEVER use other [other than warm water] cleaning products or essential oils on your mat. Unfortunately most cleaning products adversely impact the natural rubber in our mats, causing it to break down and dry out. Essential oils pose an entirely different issue, causing your mat to lose its grip and break down over time, as its open cell rubber pores get clogged up and damaged.”–Jadeyoga

So with that said, I went ahead and ignored Jade’s advice and whipped up a homemade mat cleaner–recognizing that I was in no way actually sanitizing it. At least it would look and smell clean and if the cleaning ruined the mat, I would just consider it a cost of the yoga retreat and move on.

Make Your Own Mat “Cleaner”

What you’ll need:
Spray bottle (2-4 oz in size)
3/4 cup distilled or spring water
1/4 cup Witch hazel or white vinegar
1-2 drops Tea tree essential oil
1-2 drops Essential oil of your choice (sandalwood or eucalyptus is my choice)

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup or bowl, mix well then put it into your spray bottle. To clean your mat, wipe it with a damp towel, spray, and wipe again. Allow it to hang dry before rolling it back up.

My advice, as someone who is completely unqualified to give advice is that a yogi:

  1. Use their own mat and never share
  2. Be sure to thank your immune system.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

Ways in which real life is NOT like a yoga retreat

This is my seventh full day in the real world since returning from the Haramara Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. I have spent the last week acclimating to my surroundings and reflecting on just how much my actual life is not at all like a yoga retreat.

I did yoga everyday, all day.

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Because yoga went all day; 8:30 am-9:00pm

I slept through the night, every night.

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I got a solid 9 hours of sleep every night; no 2:30 am negotiations with a toddler about the circumstances under which he will agree to go back to bed.

I walked.

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This was the walkway down to the beach from the upper trail and it is a great example of the walking you do at this retreat center. In real life, I spend 2 hours a day commuting by car; not here. Haramara is set on a 12 acre mountainside parcel with a beach at the bottom. Hike uphill you will if you want to eat, get to the pool, or do yoga.

I peed alone.

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My casita did indeed have a beautiful bathroom just for me as well as some strategically placed restrooms throughout the property. I used those bathrooms without a toddler accompanying me or my 10-year-old chatting me up through the bathroom door.

I ate in peace.

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I should do a BLOG post solely about the cuisine at Haramara. Not only was it world class, but I ate it without getting up to cut someone’s food in to tinier pieces, clean up spilled milk, or to do the dishes.

I socialized.

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In general, if I’m not working, I’m wrangling kids, which doesn’t leave much time for actual adult socialization. Our retreat group consisted of people from the ThreeDogYoga studio in Santa Rosa, CA so we were starting with familiar faces rather than complete strangers. It took me a day or two to remember what people talked about if it wasn’t kid or work related.

I watched an entire sunset.

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Start to finish.

I thought deep thoughts.

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While not a “silent” retreat, the immersion program included some strategically placed times of noble silence. This is the thing I miss most now that I’m back in the fray–time to process without the background noise or competition for my attention.

I appreciated.

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Being away from my people made me appreciate my people. For a parent, it is really hard to pursue personal interests or maintain a level of sanity without solid support. I was able to escape to Mexico only because my sweet husband was willing to keep the trains running on time while I was gone. A week without the chaos of everyday life gave me time to reflect on just what an amazing partner he is and how much I truly love the life we have together–but next time, I’m bringing him with me, because I mean, just look at him;-)

I do what I want (sometimes).

On Sunday, my friends from ThreeDogYoga and I are leaving for a yoga retreat at Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico.

Unlike a standard vacation, it seems a yogi needs to have “reasons” for going on a yoga retreat. And for every reason there is for going, there are at least three reasons for not going on a yoga retreat; believe me, I have been talking myself out of yoga retreats for YEARS.

Here is a sampling of some of my reasons for NOT going on a yoga retreat sooner
1–It seems like way too much yoga
2–I get incredibly homesick (yes, I know that I am a grown woman)
3–My work and family schedule just can’t accommodate it. How will everyone live without me for 5 whole days?
4–Yoga retreats are expensive and a luxury. It’s not fiscally responsible.
5–My husband can’t go with me and if I’m going on vacation I should probably go with him.

The Internet of Yoga is more than happy to provide lists and lists and lists of reasons for attending a yoga retreat. And while most of those reasons seem fairly legitimate, I have to say that none of those reasons are really MY reason for going. 

Some reasons the Internet says you should go on a yoga retreat
1–Take your yoga practice to the next level
2–Expand your meditation practice
3–Digitally & nutritionally detox
4–It is part of your yoga teacher certification
5–Because you really need a break

If you are a human being, it has probably been a really long time since you felt like you could do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it.

If you honor your responsibilities and value your livelihood and relationships than there is an endless list of things that come before you and what you want to do. A yoga retreat in Mexico is probably not on that list.

That is life and it is the life we love and willingly created, blessed with rewarding careers, happy homes, sweet and loving spouses and kids, pets, friends and neighbors, and extended family. But, these blessings don’t maintain and nurture themselves. You have to be there to water all that green grass day in and day out. Who will water that grass if you are in Mexico?

Yes, I’m heading to Haramara to expand my yoga practice and to explore yoga teacher training, to detox, and do whatever else the Internet says goes on there.

But if I’m really being honest, I would have to say that going on this retreat is a way of proving to myself that I can still do what I want sometimes. Work will still be there, my husband will forgive me for leaving him alone for 5 days, and the kids will survive.

P.S.–I’m already homesick.

This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com