LA Times Festival of Books

This weekend I attended the LA Times Festival of Books, why this is the first time I have attended is still perplexing to me. There were a slew of authors I wanted to meet and hear speak. It was impossible to catch each and every one, but I was fortunate to see a few of my favorites.

When I first arrived, I was overwhelmed and in awe of all the book-related amazingness around me. I spent a good amount of time perusing the incredibly affordable books for sale, and brought home one or two…or more.

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The first author I saw was Alicia Silverstone, who was there to promote her new book, The Kind Mama. I have Alicia’s book, The Kind Diet and enjoy many of the recipes and tips she shares in the book.

Alicia gave a great interview on the book and proudly promoted a vegan lifestyle. She graciously answered audience Clueless related questions, and my own question about what book helped her in her transitioning to veganism (The Food Revolution, by John Robbins).

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13819374434_e53a0d21c6_oAfter getting my book signed, I rushed over to the incredible line for the John Green signing. I really wanted to hear him speak, but when I went to get in line for his interview, it was already packed and my hopes were dashed. However, I was told that he would be signing each and every book after his talk.

The line to meet him was insane. It was packed with teenagers and I knew I would be waiting for a few hours. Although it was a test in patience, I was happy to see so many kids exciting about meeting an author and reading books in line (!!!).

I waited in line for 3 hours! My husband was awesome and went to get provisions. The festival had a great selection of vegan options! This helped sustain me through the wait. 

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Although my chat with him was short, I was struck by what a genuinely nice guy John Green was. He looked tired (who wouldn’t, after signing books for 3 hours?!), but committed to sign each and every book there. He was apologetic about the wait time and thanked me when I told him I loaned my book out to my students all the time.

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I missed Ruth Ozeki’s interview, but I made it over to her tent, just in time to get my book signed. This picture came out awfully blurry, but it was great to meet her.

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I walked around the festival a little bit more, but was pretty wiped out and the events were winding down. We refueled at The Veggie Grill (so necessary), before heading home.

Santa Fe "Chicken" Sandwich

Santa Fe “Chicken” Sandwich

Buffalo Bomber

Buffalo Bomber

This was such an amazing event and I am still baffled that it was FREE! Now that I am not a newbie anymore, I will have a better plan for next year and be more strategic about meeting and seeing more authors. It was such an amazing experience and I will definitely return next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 in Books-March

1. Lipstick Jihad

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This has been in my to-read pile for about two years now, and I was interested to read about the perspective of an Iranian American who moved back to Iran. This book took me about two weeks to get through, there were parts I really enjoyed and parts that seemed to drag.

It’s obvious that is a journalist and would often describe Iran in a journalistic manner. I was more interested in hearing a personal perspective of her move and the journalistic tone threw me off. However, at times, she did give more of her personal account and reflected thoughtfully and emotionally about the identity shift, and how that related to when she lived in California and when she lived in Iran. Those parts I loved and learned from. I wish the whole book came from that personal perspective.

2. Waking

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This book is a memoir by a paraplegic man who was in an accident when he was a teenager and became a yoga instructor as an adult. This is the current selection for my book club and I was very interested in the subject matter. This book was amazing. I was hoping it would not be a typical, “inspirational” memoir and it wasn’t, it was thoughtful, honest and such an interesting perspective about yoga. I found it fascinating to read about how someone who could not feel half of their physical body was still able to connect with it, and still able to guide other people into a deeper connection with their whole body. I highly recommend this book.

3. Don’t Believe Everything You Think

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This book gave an explanation and analysis of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisatvas, by Togmay Zangp0, it also contained personal excerpts from various people who had examples of how they had applied the principles to their life. I love the explanations given by Chodron. She breaks things down very simply, but poignant. It helped changed my perspective on how to view people who treat us badly, and helped me think a little deeper about attachment.

What did you read in March?

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30 Day Yoga Challenge: A Recap

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I am really glad I did the 30 day yoga challenge, hosted by Inner Evolution Yoga. I started thinking about the challenge in the middle of February, and was debating back and forth whether or not to participate, because work had been pretty hectic during the last week of February. I am so glad I decided to join the challenge. It seems like once I made up my mind about it, everything fell into place. I definitely learned that when I made yoga a priority everyday, it would somehow fit in my schedule. I often find myself creating reasons why I cannot do yoga, in reality, it can usually be squeezed somewhere in there, in some form.

The numbers breakdown:

  • 7 home practices
  • 23 practices at a yoga studio
  • 1 class at another studio
  • 2 workshops attended
  • 6 restorative practices
  • 6 yin practices
  • 10 hot yoga classes (level 1-2)
  • 2 Beginner’s classes
  • 3 Community classes
  • 1 Partner class
  • 4 pounds lost

The main thing I learned from this challenge was how much I actually need Yin slow, deep stretch classes and Restorative yoga classes. Often times, I would know that on a certain day, a vigorous, flow class was not what my body needed. I would just stay home instead, to “rest.” However, through this challenge, I realized how beneficial it was to still make time for myself and find the benefits in devoting time to stretching, breathing, relaxing and just being. It definitely made a difference in how I handled stress. I felt much more calm and centered.

One of my favorite classes was the Friday night Candlelight Restorative class. I found this to be such a nice way to let the week melt away. It was healthier than relaxing with a bottle of wine (which is how I used to unwind from my week), although I still reserve the right to do that, once in a while.

liberationThe slow, deep stretch classes also helped me open up more in my hips and find freedom in my back. It definitely helped to have those classes to balance out the running I have been doing, to train for the upcoming half-marathon.

I still enjoy the challenge of a flow class, and I have found so much more connection to my mind and body in those classes, but that is not ALL yoga is about for me, anymore. There will always be that part of it, for me, but I am fortunate to be discovering SO much more and I think it is fascinating how I will never stop learning or growing in my practice.

This month I also taught more classes than I ever did before. I generally teach one class per week, but I subbed quite a few classes this month. I was worried that this may drain me or burn me out of the challenge faster. I found the opposite to be true. I found teaching re-energized! There were a few classes I felt tired at the beginning, but by the half-way point, I was completely recharged and felt better when finished. It was such a cool experience to teach different types of classes, at different times.

What’s Next?

I have decided to complete another 30 days! I am committing to do some form of yoga everyday for the month of April. I felt so many benefits in March, and I am not ready to stop!

April gets a little more hectic with work, again, so I will probably be doing a lot more home practices using my new best friend, YogaGlo. I am seriously in love with this site. I love the variety of classes, and how you can select the length of class or teacher of your choice. I kicked off the first day of April with a delicious, Restorative at home class, and plan to keep it up each day of this month.

I look forward to what these next 30 days will bring!

 

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30 Day Yoga Challenge-Week 4

30 day

This was my last week of the 30 Day Yoga challenge! I kicked it off with an 11 mile training run, for Run Through Redlands on Sunday morning. I definitely felt a little more fatigue throughout the week, so I tried to balance out taking intense, hot classes, with slower and more relaxing classes.

Day 22-Pranayama and 90 minutes of hot yoga.

Day 23-Yin class. This challenge is really teaching me how much I need yin, and I am coming to embrace it in a new way. I really needed this yin class, after my morning run.  We did both Dragon and Pigeon pose (two poses that I talked about hating, but needing in this post).

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I was shocked to find that I was able to get into both poses much easier than before, and found a little bit of a deeper stretch. It showed me that I need to continue working these poses, because my body definitely needs them.

Day 24-This was my first day back to work after being off on Spring break, for one week, and I kept the momentum going with 90 minutes of hot yoga.

Day 25-I was feeling tired in both my body and mind, so I decided to stay home and do a Restorative practice on YogaGlo.

Day 26-I was incredibly tired this day, and had originally planned to stay for the class that is taught after I teach my Beginner’s. However, half-way through the day, I was dragging so much and decided to do a home practice, and get to sleep early.

My husband and I did a fun partner’s class on YogaGlo, before I headed off to teach. It was actually tons of fun and we plan on doing a whole lot more partner sequences at home. It helps to get into some stretches a little deeper and gives you a different way of relating to your body.

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Day 27-I went to an amazing beginner’s yoga class and refocused on some basics.

Day 28-I was looking for some more work this day, so I did 90 minutes of hot yoga.

Day 29-I did a super fun Inversion workshop, taught by the awesome Leanna. Leanna is a great teacher, who shows you how to work up to inversion poses. She makes them so much less accessible and intimidating and gives options for all levels of students to work towards inverted poses.

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Day 30-I MADE IT! I celebrated with a morning Beginner’s class, then stayed at the studio for the 30 Day Challenge celebration!

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I learned so much this month and saw improvements in my practice in a variety of ways.

My next post will give a recap of my thoughts on these past 30 days.

 

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Yoga and Grief

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Today, marks two years since my dad was shot and killed. This is not something I have talked a whole lot about here in this space, it has been a deeply personal, emotional experience and some details will be left only within my family, the part of this that I want to share today is how yoga and meditation have and are helping me through grief, trauma and loss.

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In March 2012, I was participating in Inner Evolution Yoga’s first ever 30 day yoga challenge. This month was pivotal in transforming my yoga practice. It helped me develop a stronger at home practice, find time for yoga in each day and feel the full benefits of a daily practice.

I went to yoga on March 28th, 2012, like I had each other day that month, went home for the evening and fell into a blissful sleep, only to be woken up to find out my dad had been shot. I found out a few hours later, what I already knew instinctively, as soon as I heard the news, he did not make it.

I spent the next hazy hours trying to make sense of the major shift that just occurred from underneath me and coming to the stark realization that I was next of kin and was expected to make some major decisions, and soon. Fortunately, my family was extremely supportive and helpful, and we moved through the arrangement process as smoothly as one can move through something of that magnitude.

I had barely slept, and around 4:00PM on March 29th, I remembered yoga and the 30 day challenge. I was at my mom’s house at the time and said, “I guess I won’t be able to finish the challenge.” My mom looked at me and firmly told me to go, that I needed to continue with it and had done what I could for that day. My mom doing that gave me permission to start a path to healing.

I remember driving up to the yoga studio that evening, and parking in the similar spot I had the night before and realizing how different everything was, from a mere 24 hours before. The whole world had changed around me, and I was a completely, shattered mess. I walked into the studio that day absolutely broken and shaken to my core, and in deep need of healing.

I approached that first class back in a whole different way than I ever had before. I was incredibly vulnerable and completely surrendered to a process I did not quite understand yet, but I trusted. I felt safe at Inner Evolution Yoga. Philip and Sandrine (the owners), plus many of the other instructors have created a safe, loving community, that I felt OK to be vulnerable and broken in. The only thing I felt I had control of that day, was my breath, so I worked on my yoga breathing in a completely different way, than I ever had before. I had never before realized how important that breath was, and I used it to keep me anchored.

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I finished that first 30 day challenge and instead of being stronger, more fit and zen at the end, like I thought I would be, I was in numb disbelief, stressed, shattered and confused.

I needed yoga.

The next few weeks were a blur of funeral arrangements and planning. I went to yoga the morning of my dad’s funeral. I attended the 5:30 AM class and tried to wrap my head around the day I had to face. I continued to use my breath, which was really the ONLY thing I could work on and felt I could control. I completely fell apart as soon as I got in my car to go home. Yoga had opened me up and my emotions spilled out. This was SO incredibly needed after trying to maintain some semblance of strength to accomplish all the planning.

I was able to completely let my emotions bleed through, and then I was ready to face a day I did not think I would see so soon. At 28 years old, I had to eulogize my father. I had to bury him. Falling apart that morning allowed me to garner some inner strength (that came from who knows where) and move through the day with courage. If you have ever had to be a planner of a funeral, you know that the day itself is not about you grieving. It is about keeping a schedule, making sure everything is executed as planned. The funeral is still a bit of a blur in my memory. I remember feeling dizzy and overwhelmed, but trying to keep everything on track.

After the funeral, I knew I needed to face the situation and I knew I could either cope with this mountain of emotions positively, or negatively. I could easily bury my feelings and ignore them. I could drink them away and commiserate or stuff them with fatty foods, as they came up. I will not lie, I did a fair amount of all the above throughout my journey, but, I knew I had to do better. I decided I would not ignore these feelings and situations, but face them, sit with them, breath through them and process.

gained from meditation

Grief became a chore for a while, but one I knew needed to complete, to keep my head and heart healthy. I scheduled times of day to cry, I sat in my meditation corner and used my breath to help me sit with feelings. The first feeling was an overwhelming sense of anger that surrounded me like iron shackles. I am not an angry person by nature, and I wanted to get rid of these unhealthy feelings as quickly as I could. But, I also tried to find peace with this being part of my healing process, and I breathed through the feelings, till eventually, those shackles released.

In the absence that anger left, sadness poured over me, till I nearly drowned. I was frequently weepy, despondent and oh, so sad. I would sometimes get down on myself for this. I like being a fun, good-natured person, and again, this felt foreign. Meditation helped, once again, with sitting with my feelings of sadness.

The sadness still is, and always will be there, but not as prevalent. Currently, I am working through loss. I really came to cherish and need meditation to help me be OK with my current situation. Instead of letting thoughts of “I wish…” “It could’ve…” “If only…” pervade my thinking, like they once did, I begin to meditate more on “It is” and become more accepting of where I am and finding the peace in that.

I used meditation to help me with the nightmares I was experiencing. I was constantly re-enacting my dad’s death in my head, even though I witnessed none of it. The horrifying images I would try to suppress through the day would break through at night. I started avoiding sleeping and was exhausted. I begin bringing those images in while I meditated and practiced breathing through them and finding peace with releasing them from my heart and mind. I did not need them, they were not serving me, forcing my mind into that level of trauma was not doing a service to my dad, he would not want me to go through that and it would ultimately not bring him back. Meditation helped me let that go.

I approached yoga in a whole new manner. I no longer went to class for a good workout. I went to connect deeper with my breath, body, spirit and heart. I went to find peace, even amongst challenging poses, which helped me find peace when I was not on my mat. I go still, again and again to discover myself more and constantly improve.

Yoga gave me the courage and strength to face the road I had to travel, and continue to travel. It helped me find peace, even in turmoil. It helped me be OK with a new reality, and instead of my mind spiraling to a place of anxious suffering (as it is prone to do), meditation and yoga have helped steady it.

Yoga worked for me. I will not pretend like it is the path for everyone to deal with grief and loss, I can only share the benefits, in my own life. I am happy to answer any questions you might have, about how it could potentially benefit you.

My dad was always proud of me. Some days, when I miss that, I remind myself, with assurance in my heart, that he would continue to be proud of the trail I struggle to stay on.

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New Juice Recipes

Ever since completing a 5 day juice cleanse, back in January, my husband and I have been keeping up with a 1 day juice cleanse, every Monday. A once per week juice cleanse has been a nice way to keep up with gentle detoxing, and keep us MUCH more mindful of how we eat. Most Sundays, our kitchen looks like this:

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I still like the recipes I used during the 5 day juice cleanse, (I posted them here), but I have been experimenting with a few new ones, so I do not get sick of the same ones, over and over.

A few of my new favorites:

1. Apple, turmeric, carrot and lemon

I have heard about all the health benefits of turmeric and wondered how it would taste in a juice, since I knew it had a spicy flavor. I went to a juice bar in Venice Beach, and tried an apple turmeric combo that was amazing! I added the golden beets and carrots for a little more sweetness:

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The golden beets add a beautiful, yellow coloring and have a sweet taste:

100_1622Juice with all the ingredients:

13359971705_f443c957b9_o2. Grapefruit, orange, carrot and ginger:

I am calling this California juice because it had so many beautiful, refreshing, citrus notes.

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As soon as I tasted it, I was inspired to begin singing the theme song for this show. I was surprised I remembered all the lyrics. Please tell me you do too!

3. Strawberries, melon, watermelon and mint:

This one was on the sweeter side, which is not always my favorite. It was refreshing and flavorful and could happily be enjoyed with some added rum :)

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Big Vegan Breakfast Burrito

I have had a craving for about one month for a HUGE breakfast burrito, the kind my mom used to make for me on the weekends, with her homemade tortillas. My mom gave me a dozen of her tortillas, last week. Unfortunately, they did not last long enough for these burritos, but they kept the craving alive.

I made shiitake bacon using this recipe. Maybe it’s been such a long time since I have had bacon, but it tasted EXACTLY like bacon to me. It confirmed a theory my husband and I often toss around, that people do not necessarily like meat…they like seasonings. It’s rare that anyone eats just meat, without any spices or sauce. They like those tastes, and they can easily be added to plant based products, for a similar outcome. I am very interested in testing this theory out, with the shiitake bacon, on a bacon lover. Anyone interested? :)

This fat burrito contained: shiitake bacon, soyrizo (sauteed with tomato and onion) and grilled potatoes. I topped the filling with loads of ketchup and tapatio:

big ass burrito Do you have any childhood favorites that you have veganized?

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